Dec 262023
 
 December 26, 2023  Posted by at 10:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , ,  28 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Jacqueline in Turkish costume 1955

 

Biden Handling Of Southern Border To Cost Him 2024 Election – Congressman (JTN)
Thousands Join Huge Migrant Caravan In Mexico Ahead Of Blinken Visit (BBC)
Confiscating Russian Assets Would Be ‘Cataclysmic’ For Dollar – Robert Shiller (RT)
Biden Is Destroying The Dollar – Russia’s Top MP (RT)
Netanyahu Outsmarted by Wily Biden? No, Biden Is the One Being Played (Crooke)
Despite Its Shortcomings, UNSC Vote Will Tie Israel’s Hands (Bhadrakumar)
New York Times Sparks Outrage Over Running Op-Ed By Hamas Mayor (NYP)
Ukraine Accuses New York Times of ‘Working For The Kremlin’ (RT)
Security Guarantees For Kiev Are ‘Just A Scrap Of Paper’ – Medvedev (RT)
Behind the Democrats’ Efforts to Regulate the Supreme Court (ET)
MEP Brands Von Der Leyen ‘Frau Genocide’ (RT)
Germany Uses The Weapon Of Climate Change Against Its Own People (Marsden)
The 4 Major Battlefronts in Trump’s Ongoing Ballot Dispute (ET)
And So Ends an Era (Kunstler)

 

 


Christmas in Jerusalem (1921), back before the Nakba, when the three Abrahamic faiths lived side by side in peace in the Holy City.

 

 

Trump Xmas

 

 

Trump

 

 

 

 

Sowell warning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“..GOP members of Congress have never been in a stronger position for border security and they cannot compromise now..”

Biden Handling Of Southern Border To Cost Him 2024 Election – Congressman (JTN)

As the 2024 presidential election nears, Republicans are sharpening their attacks lines on the chaotic and insecure U.S. southern border, seeing it as one of President Joe Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities. Many in the GOP have been urging the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden to pass legislation titled H.R.2, also known as the “Secure the Border Act.” This bill would immediately resume construction of the wall on the southern border, supply border patrol agents with resources and invest in technology for border security. “The Senate has literally sat on it,” Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., said on the Just the News, No Noise TV show. “The president has sat on it. The president has no intention of making this into law. As a matter of fact, to the point where they say ‘we’re not even going to combine it with other things that we want, because we don’t want any compromise in securing our border.'”

“This comes at a great political cost to him, and he is going to lose the election on this single issue, if nothing else,” said McCormick, a Marine combat veteran and emergency room doctor before he joined Congress. According to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in October, there have been a total of 736 terrorist suspects stopped at the border in fiscal year 2023, part of the 3.2 million people who have attempted to enter the country illegally. A poll earlier this month found a whopping 79% of Americans believe the situation at southern border is either an “emergency” or a “major problem.” According to a poll conducted by Monmouth University last week, 69% of those surveyed said they disapproved of Biden’s job when it comes to immigration.

Former Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said that GOP members of Congress have never been in a stronger position for border security and they cannot compromise now. “Right now we have our own war that we’re fighting,” Morgan said on the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show. “I use that word intentionally: war. We’re fighting it on our own borders, and the cartels are our enemy.” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., recently announced he would be bringing articles of impeachment against Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his response to the southern border crisis. Rep. Eli Crane, R-Az., told the John Solomon Reports podcast he thinks that Speaker Mike Johnson should hold out and get all of H.R. 2 in the budget deal.

“I’m the type of guy that believes that we could get a lot more than we normally get if we actually were willing to stand and fight,” Crane said. “I don’t usually see that from the Republican Party. It’s one of my many, many frustrations. “It’s not that there’s not plenty of good people in the party. I think that there’s just this attitude that we have to continually capitulate and kick the can down the road.” Morgan also slammed Senate Republicans who signal they want to compromise on border security.

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“The number of people apprehended at the US southern border exceeded two million both in the 2022 and the 2023 fiscal years.”

Thousands Join Huge Migrant Caravan In Mexico Ahead Of Blinken Visit (BBC)

Thousands of migrants have set off on foot from southern Mexico in an effort to reach the United States border. Around 7,000 people mainly from South and Central America, including thousands of children, are estimated to have joined the migrant caravan. They left just days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to discuss how to curb mass migration with the Mexican president Several border crossings have recently been closed due to a migrant surge. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said US President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, shared concern about the “dramatic” increase in migrants crossing their joint border. The number of people apprehended at the US southern border exceeded two million both in the 2022 and the 2023 fiscal years.

In September 2023 alone, US Border Patrol apprehended more than 200,000 migrants crossing the US-Mexico border unlawfully, according to US Homeland Security figures. The latest migrant caravan left from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, near the country’s southern border with Guatemala, on Christmas Eve. Its leaders carried a banner reading “Exodus from poverty”. Local media said that most of the migrants were from Cuba, Haiti and Honduras, but some came from as far away as Bangladesh and India. Many said that they had decided to join the caravan after waiting for months for transit permits. The migrant rights activist Luis García Villagrán, who is accompanying the caravan, said joining the mass trek north was a last resort for many of the migrants who had been stuck in Tapachula. “The problem is that the southern border [with Guatemala] is open and 800 to 1,000 people are crossing it daily. If we don’t get out of Tapachula, the town will collapse.

“We tell the Mexican state that it has left us no other option but to take the coastal highway and walk as far as we can get,” he said. The migrants covered some 15km on the first morning, after setting off at dawn on 24 December. One Honduran migrant said he had left his home country to escape a criminal gang which had threatened to kill him. José Santos told Reuters news agency: “I was scared so I decided to come to Mexico hoping I’ll be allowed to go to the US.” On Friday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was willing to work again with the US to address concerns about migration. The Mexican leader is due to meet the US secretary of state on Wednesday. Their meeting comes at a time when the surge in immigration is a hot political topic in the US with pressure mounting on President Biden to stem the flow across the US southern border.

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“If America does this to Russia today… then tomorrow it can do this to anyone..”

Confiscating Russian Assets Would Be ‘Cataclysmic’ For Dollar – Robert Shiller (RT)

The dollar’s standing as a reserve currency would be jeopardized if the West confiscates frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, Nobel Prize-winning economist and Yale University professor Robert Shiller said in an interview with Italian news outlet La Repubblica published on Sunday. According Shiller, seizing the assets would give the global community, especially countries which, like Russia, “convert their savings into dollars and thus entrust them in the reliable hands of Uncle Sam,” grounds to doubt the US currency. “If America does this to Russia today… then tomorrow it can do this to anyone. This will destroy the halo of security that surrounds the dollar and will be the first step towards de-dollarization, which many are increasingly confidently leaning toward, from China to developing countries, not to mention Russia itself,” the economist warned.

“I can’t convince myself that this [confiscation of Russian assets] is the right way,” he explained. “In addition to the fact that this will be confirmation for the Russian leader that what is happening in Ukraine is a proxy war, it could paradoxically turn against America and the entire West,” Shiller explained, adding that the situation would likely turn into “a cataclysm for the current dollar-dominated economic system.” Overall, he said that while he sees some moral ground for using Russian assets to aid Ukraine, there is too much risk and “too many unknowns” with regard to the impact of such an action. Shiller is known for his research in financial markets, financial innovation, behavioral economics, macroeconomics and real estate. In 2011, he was named one of Bloomberg’s ‘50 Most Influential People’ in Global Finance, and in 2013, he received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his empirical analysis of asset prices in 2013.

The EU, US, and their allies have frozen roughly $300 billion of Russian foreign exchange reserve assets since last year as part of a sanctions campaign over the Ukraine conflict. Western nations have been mulling ways to use the funds to aid Ukraine for the better part of a year. While no specific plan has so far been finalized, last week’s media reports indicated the US recently stepped-up discussions on the matter with its allies. Washington reportedly wants to “legalize” the confiscation of Russian assets by recognizing Western countries as injured parties in the Ukraine conflict. Russia considers both the initial freezing of its assets and plans to confiscate them unlawful. Speaking to reporters last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that any country considering the move should understand that it would face an immediate mirror response from Moscow.

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“In an effort to ensure their financial security other states will now more actively abandon the dollar..”

Biden Is Destroying The Dollar – Russia’s Top MP (RT)

The US has lost its economic dominance, Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel on Sunday. Attempts to regain it by unleashing “military conflicts, sanctions and trade wars, organizing terrorist attacks and destroying the European economy” have not brought Washington the desired results, according to Volodin. Russia’s top lawmaker called the dollar the only remaining instrument of US influence. However, other countries are increasingly abandoning it because Washington is using the greenback as a weapon in a “political battle.” He added that US President Joe Biden was depriving his own country of its “last advantage,” since such threats do not build confidence in either the country itself or its currency.

The global trend towards using national currencies in trade instead of the dollar began to gain momentum last year, after Ukraine-related sanctions cut off Russia from the Western financial system and froze its foreign reserves. “In an effort to ensure their financial security other states will now more actively abandon the dollar as the world reserve currency,” Volodin wrote. Amid sweeping sanctions on Russia, which have proved ineffective, the US is “hysterically threatening to disconnect banks around the world from their financial system for violating them,” he added. Moscow significantly ramped up the use of national currencies in its foreign trade last year, moving away from the euro and dollar in international transactions. The share of both in Russia’s export settlements fell from 96% in early 2022 to 17% this past September, according to the central bank.

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“..Netanyahu knows the Houthis: They will not be deterred by Biden’s maritime flotilla. They will, rather, relish drawing the West into a Red Sea quagmire.”

Netanyahu Outsmarted by Wily Biden? No, Biden Is the One Being Played (Crooke)

Biden smirked and responded, “I know”, when told by a guest that Netanyahu is drawing the U.S. into a civilisational conflict – and further that Netanyahu blames him (Biden), complaining that the White House wants to block Israel from getting at the root of the problem, by harping on about Gaza and the ‘day after’. In practice, what Netanyahu is doing is simply mounting a classic flanking manoeuvre – attempting to circumvent Biden by pointing to the ‘broader conflict’ with Iran: ‘Why are you pestering me about Gaza when there’s a monumental conflict raging’, suggests Bibi in exasperation? “This is not only ‘our war’ but in many ways your war… This is a battle against the Iranian axis… now threatening to close the maritime strait of Bab Al-Mandeb… It is the interest … of the entire civilized community”, Netanyahu has said – not very subtly.

Biden’s reaction is a smug smile, hinting that he thinks he can outplay Netanyahu (‘the fox’). This is Biden’s approach: He aims to disarm Netanyahu’s allegation of an obstructionist U.S. through a parade of top-level visits that reiterates his unstinting support Israel – and to pre-empt Bibi, through insisting that he (Biden) will take care of the non-Gaza issues (Hizbullah, Yemen etc.). So, the U.S. is assembling a maritime force to confront AnsarAllah in Yemen; the Biden Admin will act to sanction violent settlers in the West Bank; it is warning Baghdad to rein-in the Hashad al Sha’abi; and his envoys in Beirut are trying to forge a ‘diplomatic agreement’ that will include the withdrawal of Hizbullah’s Radwan Forces to the other side of the Litani River in southern Lebanon, and also deal with the unresolved border disputes between Israel and Lebanon.

Biden prides himself on being a hugely experienced foreign policy actor – and thinks himself too wily for Bibi’s tricks. But maybe, Netanyahu – for all his many faults – better understands the Region? Biden clearly is being played. Even though he fails to recognize it. Netanyahu knows that ‘no way’ will Hizbullah disarm, and withdraw to north of the Litani. He knows this, and thus can wait out Biden’s diplomatic failure, before saying that the approximately 70,000 Israeli citizens displaced from the northern towns in the wake of 7 October need to ”go home”, and that if the U.S. cannot remove Hizbullah from the border-fence, then Israel will do it.

Netanyahu is using Biden’s diplomatic Lebanese initiative to build European justification for an Israeli operation in a few weeks’ time to push Hizbullah away from the border with Israel. (An Israeli operation against Hizbullah has been in the works from the outset of the Gaza war). Netanyahu knows too that control over settler violence in the West Bank lies not with him, but is in the hands of his partners: i.e., Ministers Ben Gvir and Smotrich. Neither he, nor Biden can dictate to them – they have been quietly increasing the squeeze on West Bank Palestinians for months. And finally, Netanyahu knows the Houthis: They will not be deterred by Biden’s maritime flotilla. They will, rather, relish drawing the West into a Red Sea quagmire.

Like it or not, Biden’s tactic of containing and pre-empting regional escalation through the U.S. itself becoming lead actor – in lieu of Israel – is clearly drawing the U.S. deeper into conflict. Does Biden believe that the Houthis will just quietly ‘roll-over’ because the Gerald Ford is anchored off Bab Al-Mandeb, or that Hizbullah will accept instruction from Amos Hochstein? The second way that Biden is being outplayed is through him seeing the Israeli problem as ‘just Bibi’ – indulging in personal politics. Of course, it is true that the Israeli PM is moulding Israeli politics to his own survival needs; yet pause a moment to consider what President Herzog said on Tuesday during an interview facilitated by the Atlantic Council, a leading Washington-based think tank.

Herzog has long been viewed as distinctly ‘dovish’ and ‘Leftist’ by the Beltway foreign policy establishment – prior to the war – compared to Netanyahu. In the interview, Herzog said: “We intend to take over the entire Gaza Strip and change the course of history”. He said that the current conflict is a clash of “a set of civilizational values” and he cast Hamas (in pure Manichaean terms) as a “force of evil”, adding that Israel would no longer tolerate Gaza being a “platform for Iran – driving everyone into the abyss of bloodshed and warfare”. Not much daylight then between him and the PM then.

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“..the permanent members of the Security Council should cast vetoes only under “rare, extraordinary situations to ensure the council remains credible and effective.”

Despite Its Shortcomings, UNSC Vote Will Tie Israel’s Hands (Bhadrakumar)

The adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday with focus on a pause in the fighting in Gaza to allow for the delivery of more humanitarian aid can be seen as a turning point in the tortuous journey toward imposing a sustainable ceasefire. But a caveat must be added that the ultimate litmus test lies in the implementation of the UNSC resolution, as the past history of such resolutions on Palestine does not give cause for optimism. In fact, Israel’s defiance was in full view already. As the Security Council passed the resolution, Israeli forces pushed ahead with their offensive into Gaza on Friday and ordered residents in Al Bureij — an area in central Gaza where Israel had not previously focused its offensive — to evacuate. Israeli military’s chief spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Thursday: “Our forces continue to intensify ground operations in northern and southern Gaza.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres was spot on when he told reporters after the resolution was passed that “a humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare.” The resolution itself is the outcome of week-long intense negotiations between the United States and the Arab countries that sponsored it — the UAE and Egypt, in particular — to settle for the lowest denominator, which meant accepting a Washington-friendly text that enabled the Biden administration to evade responsibility for another veto, for the third time since 7 October. Unsurprisingly, the US negotiators brazenly resorted to pressure tactics by drawing on their usual diplomatic tool box — blackmail, arm-twisting and ultimatums — to water down the text to the extent that important provisions relating to a ceasefire and a UN mechanism to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and ensure its monitoring were abandoned.

And, yet, the US abstained in the vote at the end of the day, registering its reservations — principally, that the resolution was silent on the attack by Hamas on 7 October. The unkindest cut of all is that the resolution accommodated the US diktat to replace the language describing an immediate cessation of violence with an ambiguous phrase calling on the parties to “create conditions for a cessation of hostilities.” The wording meets the Israeli requirement to have a free hand to continue with its barbaric military operations.This anomaly, coupled with the absence of any reference to the condemnation of indiscriminate attacks by the Israeli military against civilians almost delivers the wrong signal that the Security Council is effectively becoming an accomplice to the destruction of Gaza — a misnomer that agitated Russia so much that it proposed a last-minute amendment to replace the phraseology in the resolution: “to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” with the unambiguous call “for urgent steps toward a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Russia’s demand for an immediate ceasefire was in line with a resolution overwhelmingly passed by the UN General Assembly recently, but the Americans would have nothing of that sort. The unfortunate part is that the Arab sponsors of the resolution caved in to US blackmail to veto the resolution. What transpired between the protagonists behind the scenes is not known. The paradox is that, in reality, the Americans themselves were desperately keen to avoid casting a veto — the third in as many months — that would have made a mockery of President Joe Biden’s bombastic remark in his September speech at the UN last year that the permanent members of the Security Council should cast vetoes only under “rare, extraordinary situations to ensure the council remains credible and effective.”

All indications are that the US is acutely conscious of finding itself “diplomatically isolated and in a defensive crouch,” as the New York Times put it in an acerbic commentary on the Biden administration’s plight as “an increasingly lonely protector of Israel … (that) puts it at odds with even staunch allies such as France, Canada, Australia, and Japan.” The commentary says that what rankles most is that first, when the US seems to have green-lit a massive Israeli military response to 7 October “without guardrails,” it: “painfully confirmed to many in the (global) south this sense that there was a double standard” — and second, even more, “the Russian strategy works, because beyond the United Nations what everyone sees is Russia standing up for international law — and the US standing against it.”

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“.. it is imperative that we listen — whether we like it or not — to other voices..”

New York Times Sparks Outrage Over Running Op-Ed By Hamas Mayor (NYP)

The New York Times ran an op-ed Sunday by Hamas’ handpicked Gaza City mayor — prompting outrage on social media from Israel supporters who slammed the Gray Lady for amplifying “Jew hate.” The essay by Yahya R. Sarraj published on Christmas Eve comes amid fury over Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s social media post that denounced Israel as a violent occupying force and likened Jesus to Palestinians. Sarraj’s op-ed — titled “I Am Gaza City’s Mayor. Our Lives and Culture Are in Rubble” — condemned Israel for “caus[ing] the deaths of more than 20,000 people” and for destroying or damaging “about half the buildings” in the Gaza Strip. The Times’s decision to grant a platform to Sarraj, who was appointed mayor of Gaza City by Hamas in 2019 after a career in academia, sparked an immediate backlash from many on social media.

“I wonder, would NYT also publish an op-ed from Al-Qaeda justifying 9-11? Of course not, but there is no red line to this paper’s Jew-hatred,” tweeted Arsen Ostrovsky, an International Human Rights lawyer who describes himself on X as a Zionist. “Unbelievable. This is a Hamas-appointed Mayor,” another X user wrote, adding: “They slaughtered and raped their neighbors and have the nerve to represent themselves as victims?” Others slammed Sarraj for ignoring the Hamas massacre that led to Israel launching its assault on Gaza. “Literally a member of Hamas, you have no shame or dignity NYT,” wrote an X user. Some did defend the Times for giving voice to Sarraj. “As much as I know so many ppl are angry and upset that the @nytimes published this letter from the Mayor of #Gaza, Yahya R. Sarraj, it is imperative that we listen — whether we like it or not — to other voices,” wrote an X user with handle Keep The Stroke.

“But let’s be clear, Yahya Sarraj, was intricately aware of the tunnels being build under #Gaza. As we all know, Sarraj probably would have been killed and/or family threatened, if he didn’t tow the line. Either way Sarraj was complicit in what has befallen Gaza.” Israel launched a massive military campaign in Gaza following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas gunmen which left around 1,200 soldiers and civilians dead. Scores of Israeli soldiers and civilians also were taken hostage and remain in captivity in the Gaza Strip. Times critics also pointed out that former op-ed page editor James Bennet was forced out after the paper’s staffers were outraged over his decision to green-light a guest column by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Cotton used the op-ed in the summer of 2020 to call for a forceful military response to crack down on rioting by Black Lives Matter and Antifa demonstrators in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

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More NYT. Busy holiday season.

Ukraine Accuses New York Times of ‘Working For The Kremlin’ (RT)

The journalists covering the Russia-Ukraine conflict for the New York Times have been recruited by Russian secret services, Kiev’s information warfare agency has said on Monday. The state-run Center for Countering Disinformation (CCD) made its statement while blasting the NYT for its recent article about the prospects of peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev. “In order to write this text, the Russian Federation has used American journalists who were recruited during their work in Russia,” the CCD said in a statement on social media, without elaborating. The story published by the New York Times on Saturday lists its Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovski, together with staff writers Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, in the byline.

The article cited “two former senior Russian officials close to the Kremlin,” as well as US and international officials, as claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been signaling through intermediaries since at least September that he is open to a ceasefire that freezes the fighting along the current lines.” The report further claimed that the Kremlin was using “back-channel diplomacy” to indicate that the Russian leader “is ready to make a deal.” The CCD criticized the Times for their story angle, suggesting that Moscow might be sending a “signal” with the aim of “preventing further military aid for the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the West.” It also said the story was likely aimed at “boosting the rating” of former US President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection against Joe Biden. Trump said on the campaign trail that he will easily end the conflict if he returns to the White House.

“One shouldn’t forget that Russia is playing a game of ‘peace’, while investing more in its defense industry and building up its army. There is no mention of it in the article, obviously,” the CCD said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also dismissed the report as “incorrect,” reiterating that Russia’s military strategy towards Ukraine remains unchanged. He added that Moscow would engage in negotiations “exclusively for the achievement of its own goals.” The negotiations broke down in the spring of 2022, with Russia accusing Ukraine of abruptly walking away from previously agreed-upon terms. Ukrainian officials have since stressed that talks can only resume if Russia recognizes Ukraine’s 1991 borders. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it is impossible.

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“Here’s the drill: we won’t take you into NATO, we don’t want war with Russia, but on an individual basis, do whatever you like.”

Security Guarantees For Kiev Are ‘Just A Scrap Of Paper’ – Medvedev (RT)

Western security guarantees for Ukraine are themselves useless but could pave the way for a NATO military base in the country, which could trigger a direct clash with Moscow, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday. The security declaration, which was first adopted by members of the G7 group in July, promises military assistance to Kiev, as well as frameworks for enhancing Ukraine’s defense industrial base and intelligence sharing. Moscow has denounced the document as an “encroachment on Russia’s security.” Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, called Kiev’s plan to convince the EU to provide it with security guarantees a new push “to create an anti-Russian consensus.”

At the same time, he suggested that the declaration “has no added value whatsoever.” “This is just a public statement, which means it is a useless scrap of paper,” he said. According to Medvedev, however, the document paves the way for the signing of bilateral security agreements between Kiev and its Western backers. Those deals could lead to arms production cooperation, military training, and other programs beneficial to the “neo-Nazis” in Kiev, he said. Such a deal could even entice some “crazy” Western country to set up a military base in Ukraine, he added. “Here’s the drill: we won’t take you into NATO, we don’t want war with Russia, but on an individual basis, do whatever you like.” This could open the way to a large-scale conflict involving a NATO country and Moscow, Medvedev believes.

“When Russia strikes such a base – and this will inevitably happen because the military personnel of the base came specifically to fight us – will the alliance countries be ready for a collective response?” he asked. The ex-president suggested that in this particular case Article 5 of the NATO Treaty – which stipulates that an attack on one member of the bloc is an attack on the entire alliance – leaves “a lot of wiggle room.” NATO could “respond together, or could leave the country that owns the base in Ukraine to go at it alone,” while the retaliation itself could be by military or other means. The ex-president’s comments come after Andrey Sibiga, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s office, said that six EU members – Austria, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Malta – have yet to support security guarantees for Kiev, adding that he was sure that they would eventually get on board.

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“That’s almost the definition of ‘lawfare’—using the legal system to wage war on your opponents. You pack the court by knocking off a Republican or two.”

Behind the Democrats’ Efforts to Regulate the Supreme Court (ET)

Democrats’ push to impose a code of conduct on the U.S. Supreme Court is driven by their desire to exert power over a court that hasn’t been ruling their way on key issues, legal experts say. Democrats and their left-wing activist allies have been incensed over the past two years as the court sent abortion matters back to the states, axed affirmative action in college admissions, bolstered gun rights and public prayer, backed a website designer’s right not to promote a same-sex wedding, and strengthened private property rights while weakening the government’s regulatory powers over the environment. Several experts told The Epoch Times that the left cannot accept the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, so it will keep agitating against it and try to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

So far, the activism has propelled the court to adopt its first-ever formal code of conduct, issued on Nov. 13, but Democrats say it’s a toothless gesture and won’t fix what they say is a court that’s overly sympathetic to business interests and conservative causes. “The court’s new code of conduct falls far short of what we would expect from the highest court in the land,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “While the code of conduct prohibits the appearance of impropriety, it allows the justice to individually determine whether their own conduct creates such an appearance in the minds of ‘reasonable members of the public.’ This is something that justices have repeatedly failed to do over the last few years.” To remedy the supposed crisis at the court, Mr. Durbin backs the proposed Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act of 2023, which his committee approved on a party-line vote in July.

The proposal, which Republicans have denounced as unconstitutional, would create a system allowing members of the public to file complaints against justices for violating the proposed code of conduct or for engaging “in conduct that undermines the integrity of the Supreme Court of the United States.” Among other things, it would also impose mandatory recusal standards and create a panel of lower court judges to investigate complaints against the Supreme Court. Democrats are proposing their code of conduct “so they can control the Supreme Court,” said Steven J. Allen, a distinguished senior fellow at Capital Research Center, a watchdog group. “They’re doing this to get rid of one or more Republican appointees so they can be replaced,” Mr. Allen said. “That’s almost the definition of ‘lawfare’—using the legal system to wage war on your opponents. You pack the court by knocking off a Republican or two.”

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“..while cheerleading a “brutal apartheid regime that she calls a ‘vibrant democracy..”

MEP Brands Von Der Leyen ‘Frau Genocide’ (RT)

Irish MEP Clare Daly has called European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “Frau Genocide” over the EU’s stance on Israel’s military operation in Gaza. She went on to claim that contrary to its professed adherence to democracy, the bloc tramples on the will of the people when it runs counter to its own agenda. Daly, a left-wing politician representing Ireland’s Independents 4 Change political party, said from the European Parliament podium on Sunday that von der Leyen was “elevated to power without a single vote from the citizens.” She went on to accuse the EU Commission president of “swooping in and overriding the foreign policies of elected governments” in recent months, while cheerleading a “brutal apartheid regime that she calls a ‘vibrant democracy.’” The lawmaker concluded: “With defenders of democracy like that, I think I speak for many, many citizens of Europe, when I say: ‘Nein, danke! No, thanks, Frau Genocide!’”

Earlier, Spanish Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra accused Brussels of inaction in the face of what she called “genocide” in Gaza. Media reports also indicate that hundreds of EU staffers slammed von der Leyen for unconditionally supporting Israel. In a speech marking the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding in late April, von der Leyen praised the country as a “vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East.” Following the deadly incursion by Hamas on October 7, Israel launched a massive military operation against the Palestinian Islamist group based in Gaza. Soon after the hostilities broke out, von der Leyen had the Israeli flag projected onto the European Commission building in Brussels as a gesture of solidarity. She reiterated her support when meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also in October, the Irish Times reported that at least 842 EU staffers had signed a letter denouncing the commission’s stance on Israel. The document reportedly accused von der Leyen of giving a “free hand to the acceleration and legitimacy of a war crime in the Gaza Strip.” According to the Palestinian health authorities, at least 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since early October, more than half of them children and women. The Hamas raid, which set the spiral of violence in motion, claimed 1,200 lives. The militants attacked, among other places, an open-air music festival, gunning down and abducting participants. The total number of people, both Israeli and foreign nationals, that the radicals took hostage that day was originally around 240, with dozens released since as part of multiple swaps with Israel.

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There is more to the article.

Germany Uses The Weapon Of Climate Change Against Its Own People (Marsden)

German farmers rolled into Berlin on their tractors last week to have a very public word with the managers who have revoked their long-standing discount – a subsidy on diesel fuel, which powers their farm equipment. It seems that up until now, the government figured that feeding Germans was important enough to support, outweighing any ‘green’ obsessions. But that all changed abruptly for reasons that have little to do with the climate change agenda and more with its desperation for spare change. The drama kicked off when Germany’s coalition government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz found itself in a bit of a bind recently. Team Scholz had quietly moved €60 billion from a Covid-19 pandemic support fund into a green energy transition fund.

The opposition noticed and finked to the court – which told Team Scholz to put the cash back because the sneaky move was a blatant violation of a law that had been ushered in under former Chancellor Angela Merkel specifically in an effort to ensure that the government was never able to bury itself in debt. Whoops, too late. Subsequently finding themselves underwater on the overall annual budget by an estimated €17 billion, they set about looking for ways to plug the hole. Farmers, Team Scholz apparently figured, can at least be bilked for cash on the pretext that the government tax subsidies for the sinful diesel fuel that powers their equipment deserve to be canceled – sacrificed on the altar of climate change. It all sounds so virtuous, and not at all like scrambling to compensate for a major screwup.

Scholz is presiding over the only major economy set to shrink this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. He stood there with a grin on his face beside US President Joe Biden last year ahead of the Ukraine conflict, as Biden said that Washington would “take care” of the Nord Stream pipeline network (Germany’s economic lifeline of cheap Russian gas). Maybe Scholz was just daydreaming about how green Germany would be without gas. But there’s nothing like getting mugged by the harsh economic reality of German deindustrialization due to a lack of affordable energy to wipe the smirk right off one’s face. So with Germany now strapped for cash, surely it’s time to really get radical about focusing on the most critical interests of the average citizen’s daily life – Ukraine, Ukraine, and Ukraine.

“We are forging ahead with the climate-neutral transformation of our country. We are strengthening social cohesion. And we are standing closely by Ukraine’s side in its defense against Russia,” Scholz said, as parliament agreed on a budget deal. “However, it is clear that we will have to make do with significantly less money to achieve these goals,” he added. No doubt Germans were thrilled to know that Ukraine wouldn’t be going without – unlike Germans. In addition to taxing farmers, jacking up the carbon tax on things like fuel will help get the job done, the government figures. Way to rip off French President Emmanuel Macron’s failed plan that sparked France’s Yellow Vest movement, which gave rise to months of violent unrest. Looking forward to seeing what color vests Germans end up choosing. Green would be fitting.

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There are 3 more fronts.

The 4 Major Battlefronts in Trump’s Ongoing Ballot Dispute (ET)

4. Who Can Sue to Disqualify Trump? Several of the lawsuits seeking to disqualify President Trump have come from a long-shot Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro, who has acknowledged he doesn’t expect to win the 2024 presidential election. In Arizona, a federal judge dismissed Mr. Castro’s lawsuit, saying that it lacked “standing” and failed to show that he was personally impacted in a way that would allow him to bring a lawsuit against President Trump. Judge Douglas Rayes held that while Mr. Castro was likely to appear on Arizona’s ballot, that prospect didn’t “convince the court that Castro is genuinely competing with Trump for votes or contributions, or that he has any chance or intent to prevail in that election.”A judge in West Virginia similarly ruled on Dec. 21 that Mr. Castro lacked standing to challenge President Trump’s candidacy. The Colorado case, meanwhile, stemmed from a group of voters.

The majority in Colorado’s Supreme Court decision allowed the suit, but the dissent argued that the mechanism by which they brought the case was flawed. Related to courts’ enforcement powers is how state law allows judges to review decisions by secretaries of state. This can vary according to state, meaning that voters challenging President Trump may be more or less successful in certain states. In her dissent, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Maria Berkenkotter argued that her state’s voters didn’t show they had a “cognizable claim for relief.” She and the other two dissenting justices held that their colleagues had read the Colorado election code too broadly. The case involved multiple provisions of Colorado law. Section 1-1-113 of Colorado law directs a district court such as Judge Wallace’s to issue an order resolving challenges that voters or political parties bring to prevent an entity such as the secretary of state from breaching their duties.

The plaintiffs in this case sought to prevent Secretary of State Jena Griswold from placing President Trump on the state’s Republican primary ballot. Another section (1-4-1204(4)) builds on that provision by clarifying the timeline for adjudicating that challenge. More specifically, it requires that the challenge must be brought five days after the candidates’ filing deadline, while the court must hold a hearing within five days and issue its conclusion within 48 hours of the hearing. Justice Brian Boatright said in his dissent that the legal timeline was too constricted for a case such as President Trump’s. “It is no mystery why the statutory timeline could not be enforced: This claim was too complex,” he wrote. “The fact it took a week shy of two months to hold a hearing that ‘must’ take place within five days proves that section 1-1-113 is an incompatible vehicle.

“Dismissal is particularly appropriate here because the Electors brought their challenge without a determination from a proceeding (e.g., a prosecution for an insurrection-related offense) with more rigorous procedures to ensure adequate due process.” Yet another section of Colorado code (1-4-1201) dictates that state primaries “conform to the requirements of federal law and national political party rules governing presidential primary elections.”
What that means in practice was disputed by Justice Berkenkotter. “Did the General Assembly intend to grant Colorado courts the authority to decide Section 3 challenges? Based on my reading of [Colorado law], I conclude that the answer to this question is no,” she wrote. She went on to argue that “the term ‘federal law’ [in Section 1-4-1201] is ambiguous at best.”After discussing some of the legislative history, she concluded that “the term ‘federal law’ is most certainly not an affirmative grant of authority to state courts to enforce Section 3 in expedited proceedings under the Election Code.”

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“..It’s all one big status-acquisition hustle, the seeking of hierarchical privilege by any means necessary..”

And So Ends an Era (Kunstler)

You may have noticed that our country, formerly a republic of sovereign individuals, has become one great big racketeering operation run by a mafia-like cabal with Marxist characteristics — or, at least, Marxist pretenses. That is, it seeks to profit by every avenue of dishonesty and coercion, under the guise of rescuing the “oppressed and marginalized” from their alleged tormenters. Apparently, half the country likes it that way. Much of the on-the-ground action in this degenerate enterprise is produced by various hustles. A hustle is a particularly low-grade, insultingly obvious racket, such as Black Lives Matter, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and “trans women” (i.e., men) in women’s sports. Some of the profit in any hustle is plain moneygrubbing, of course. But there’s also an emotional payoff. Hustlers and racketeers are often sadists, so the gratification derived from snookering the credulous (feelings of power) gets amplified by the extra thrill of seeing the credulous suffer pain, humiliation, and personal ruin. (That’s what actual “oppressors” actually do.)

Categorically, anyone who operates a racket or a hustle is some sort of psychopath, a person with no moral or ethical guard-rails. Hustles are based on the belief that it is possible to get something for nothing, a notion at odds with everything known about the unforgiving laws of physics and also the principles of human relations in this universe. Even the unconditional love of a mother for her child is based on something: the amazing, generative act of creating new life, achieved through the travail of birth. Have you noticed, by the way, that the birth of human children is lately among the most denigrated acts on the American social landscape? The flap over Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, is an instructive case in the governing psychopathies of the day. I wish I’d been a roach on the tray of petit fours and biscotti brought into the Harvard Overseers’ board-room when they met to consider the blowback from Ms. Gay’s unfortunate remarks in Congress, followed by revelations of her career-long plagiarisms.

The acrid odor of self-conscious corruption in the room must have overwhelmed even the bouquet of Tanzanian Peaberry coffee a’brew, and not a few of the board members must have reached for the sherry decanter as their shame mounted, and the ancient radiators hissed, and their lame rationalizations started bouncing off the wainscoted walls. Apparently, Ms. Gay did not miss an opportunity to cut-and-paste somebody else’s compositions into everything she published going back to her own student years in the 1990s. She even poached another writer’s acknowledgment page. This is apart from the self-reinforcing substance of her published “research” justifying the necessity for DEI activism, for which she has become first an avatar and now a goat. The dirty secret of this perturbation — and the whole Harvard Board knows it — is that Claudine Gay’s career has been about nothing but careerism, and that this is also true of so many on the faculty and administration at Harvard, and surely at every other self-styled elite school from the Charles River to Palo Alto that had joined in the DEI mind-fuck.

It’s all one big status-acquisition hustle, the seeking of hierarchical privilege by any means necessary, including especially deceit, the politics of middle-school girls. Thus, you see on display both the juvenility of elite higher ed and its use of the worst impulses that prevail in social media, stoking envy, hatred, avarice and vengeance as the currency for career advancement. Claudine Gay was notorious earlier, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, for wrecking the careers of faculty members (Ronald Sullivan, Stephanie Robinson, and Roland G. Fryer, Jr.) who refused to play the game like middle-school girls. She had no mercy.

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Assange

 

 

 

 

RFK jr

 

 

Chickdog

 

 

Frank Dean

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in wartime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 282020
 


Dorothea Lange Abandoned cafe in Carey, Texas “Carey is fast becoming a ghost town of the Texas plains.” 1937

 

New York Times Mysteriously Obtains Trump Financial Records (RS)
New York Times Fails at Outlining President Trump’s Taxes Again (CT)
Project Veritas Uncovers ‘Ballot Harvesting Fraud’ In Minnesota (NYP)
Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension (AP)
As Mueller Probe Fizzles, Anti-Trump Cabal Hatches New Collusion Tale (Smith)
COVID-19 Patients Who Get Enough Vitamin D Are 52% Less Likely To Die (DM)
New Covid Fines Of Up To £10,000 Come Into Force In England (G.)
Amy Coney Barrett: A New Feminist Icon (Pol.)
Federal Judge Gives Temporary Reprieve To TikTok (NBC)
Azerbaijan & Armenia Carry On Fighting Over Contested Nagorno-Karabakh (RT)

 

 

Will we ever find out who leaked Trump’s tax returns from Cyrus Vance’s offices? And does anyone still care that this is highly illegal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZeroHedge Nothing Illegal

Balding tax returns

 

 

The New York Times once upon a time had intelligent journalists with a lot of integrity working -hard- for it. Now they go an yet another fishing trip looking to catch something illegal, but they fail, and still try to dress it all up as something terrible. No pride, no integrity.

New York Times Mysteriously Obtains Trump Financial Records (RS)

The New York Times reports that it has obtained President Trump’s ‘tax information” going back “over two decades.” The leak is from New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., or one of his underlings. We know Vance has obtained all of the financial records Trump had on file with Deutsche Bank, his primary lender. We know Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena. And, via the New York Times, we know that these records go back into the 1990s or, in the parlance of the day, “over two decades.” If the New York Times is correct, Trump’s finances being something of a hot mess is not a shocker. Trump has been on the edge of bankruptcy before and has employed mighty financial kung fu to stay solvent.

[..] From the tenor of the article, they think the revelation that Trump was getting a $72.9 million tax refund and only paying $750 in federal income taxes will be damaging. I really doubt that will be the case. There are things in this story that lead me to believe that either the people writing it are stupid or they think you are stupid. For instance: “In fact, those public filings offer a distorted picture of his financial state, since they simply report revenue, not profit. In 2018, for example, Mr. Trump announced in his disclosure that he had made at least $434.9 million. The tax records deliver a very different portrait of his bottom line: $47.4 million in losses.” These two things are not incompatible, and the fact that you declare earnings on a report that asks for earnings and not profit is not deceptive. The technical term is “compliance.”

By far, the most notable thing about this story is the willingness of the New York Times to engage in election interference by timing their release within 60 days of the election (that’s the standard, right? 60 days?). That and the role that seems to have been played by the Manhattan DA’s office in leaking records ostensibly demanded from Deutsche Bank as part of a criminal investigation to facilitate a political hit. The fact that a district attorney’s office is using such records as part of a political attack on the President within 60 days of an election is unprecedented (that’s the word, right? unprecedented?). The actions by Vance or his office virtually guarantee that any tax returns released to that office will find similar use as political ammunition.

There is a good chance that this story was intended to launch much closer to the election had the scope and extent of Hunter Biden’s financial shenanigans and the degree to which the ChiComs have their tentacles sunk into Sundown Joe not come to light…and will get even more light, I suspect, on Tuesday night. When the dust settles on this, I think the story is going to be “very rich guy with a fascination for high-risk business ventures pays lots of brilliant tax lawyers and accountants a crap-load of money to minimize and avoid (but not evade) income taxes and says he makes more money than he really does to golf partners.”

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Excellent question from sundance: “Now let’s figure out how DC politicians making $200k/yr are able to become multi-millionaires while holding office..”

New York Times Fails at Outlining President Trump’s Taxes Again (CT)

Once again the New York Times attempts to make an issue out of President Trump’s real estate holdings working as a tax shelter and reducing income taxes. In the article the Times completely obfuscates the way income taxes are strategically offset by depreciation, mortgage interest and the entire reason why real estate ownership is viewed as a business. John Carney writing for Breitbart gets it: […] So imagine our guy took out an $8 million mortgage at five percent, paying $2 million cash. Now he’s got to pay $400,000 in mortgage payments. He wants to make at least that much so he charges tenants an aggregate of $425,000, which after upkeep comes out to $410,000 of net income. (Remember, if the bank didn’t think he could make more in rent than the mortgage payment, it probably wouldn’t have lent him the money.)

“The interest payment on the loan–let’s call it $390,000–is deductible from his income, leaving him with $20,000 in net income. He gets to keep that and pay no taxes on it, however, because he still gets to apply the $370,000 depreciation charge. He tells the IRS he lost $350,000. Under our tax code, ordinary business expenses can be deducted in the year they are incurred. But when a business pays for a long-lasting item expected to produce income–like machinery, vehicles, or an apartment building–it is considered a capital investment. Instead of getting to write-off the cost all at once, the business is required to write it off over the course of decades. After the 1986 tax code, this was set at 27.5 years for residential real estate.” d

Anyone who has ever operated a business knows that offsetting income is one of the primary reasons to be self-employed. Additionally, the Times completely skips over the tens-of-millions in payroll taxes paid by the Trump organization and tens-of-millions in property and sales taxes paid by all of the various Trump properties. In the commercial real estate market it is common sense to offset income tax liabilities with a host of valid annual expenses, long-term capital depreciation and mortgage interest payments. With over 500 individual business entities within the Trump organization the ability to offset income in one asset with expenses in another is simply good accounting.

Additionally, President Trump donates his $400,000 government salary back to the U.S. government. So to accuse President Trump of only paying $750 in income taxes totally ignores all of the other donations and tax payments he makes. In practical terms no President before Trump has ever had his actual business portfolio so deeply connected to the success of the American economy. It doesn’t cost the American taxpayer a dime to have President Trump in office…. Now let’s figure out how DC politicians making $200k/yr are able to become multi-millionaires while holding office. Anyone?

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It’s getting serious. O’Keefe says they have been filming this for months.

Project Veritas Uncovers ‘Ballot Harvesting Fraud’ In Minnesota (NYP)

A ballot-harvesting racket in Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis district — where paid workers illegally gather absentee ballots from elderly Somali immigrants — appears to have been busted by undercover news organization Project Veritas. One alleged ballot harvester, Liban Mohamed, the brother of Minneapolis city council member Jamal Osman, is shown in a bombshell Snapchat video rifling through piles of ballots strewn across his dashboard. “Just today we got 300 for Jamal Osman,” says Mohamed, aka KingLiban1, in the video. “I have 300 ballots in my car right now . . . “Numbers don’t lie. You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots. . . . Look, all these are for Jamal Osman,” he says, displaying the white envelopes.

“Money is the king in this world . . . and a campaign is driven by money.” The video, posted on July 1, was obtained by Project Veritas and included in a 17-minute video expose released Sunday night. Under Minnesota law no individual can be the “designated agent” for more than three absentee voters. The allegations come just five weeks before a presidential election plagued with predictions of voter fraud. Both President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have warned that the increased use of mail-in ballots, due to COVID-19 concerns about in-person voting, are vulnerable to fraud, especially when unsolicited ballots are mailed to all voters in certain states.

Project Veritas’ investigation in Minneapolis will pour gasoline on the fire, only 48 hours before Trump debates Joe Biden in the first presidential debate Tuesday, addressing topics including election security. “Our investigation into this ballot harvesting ring demonstrates clearly how these unscrupulous operators exploit the elderly and immigrant communities” said James O’Keefe, founder and CEO of Project Veritas. The alleged involvement of Ilhan Omar, a controversial member of the Squad, and frequent Trump target, is claimed on camera by two people in Veritas’ investigation, including whistleblower Omar Jamal, a Minneapolis community leader and chair of the city’s Somali Watchdog Group.

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First of how many?

Appellate Court Halts Wisconsin Ballot-Counting Extension (AP)

A federal appeals court on Sunday temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Donald Trump in the key presidential battleground state. As it stands, ballots will now be due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until Nov. 9. Democrats sought more time as a way to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots. The Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and allied groups including the League of Women Voters sued to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots after the April presidential primary saw long lines, fewer polling places, a shortage of workers and thousands of ballots mailed days after the election.


U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Sept. 21 that ballots that arrive up to six days after Election Day will count as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. Sunday’s action puts Conley’s order on hold until the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court issues any further action. [..] State election officials anticipate as many as 2 million people will cast absentee ballots to avoid catching the coronavirus at the polls. That would be three times more absentee ballots than any other previous election and could overwhelm both election officials and the postal service, Conley wrote. If the decision had stood it could have delayed knowing the winner of Wisconsin for days. The Republican National Committee, the state GOP and Wisconsin’s Republican legislators argued that current absentee voting rules be left in place, saying people have plenty of time to obtain and return their ballots.

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Second installment of a two-part excerpt from Lee Smith’s book “The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President”.

“According to the story the CIA officer and his colleagues would tell, Trump was again in league with a foreign power to defeat a rival candidate. They rotated Ukraine in for Russia and Biden for Clinton.”

As Mueller Probe Fizzles, Anti-Trump Cabal Hatches New Collusion Tale (Smith)

Just two days after the curtain dropped on the Mueller investigation, Ciaramella was rebooting the collusion narrative. According to the story the CIA officer and his colleagues would tell, Trump was again in league with a foreign power to defeat a rival candidate. They rotated Ukraine in for Russia and Biden for Clinton. The operation’s personnel drew from the same sources as the Russia collusion operation — serving officials from powerful government bureaucracies, the CIA, Pentagon, and State Department, as well as elected officials, political operatives, and the press. Therefore, the process was also the same: The actors would work the operation through the intelligence bureaucracy and the media to start an official proceeding, in this case an impeachment process. The play was set to begin.

Ciaramella first expressed his concern to a CIA lawyer. Frustrated that his action wasn’t moving quickly enough, he turned to the intelligence community inspector general responsible for oversight of all 17 of the nation’s agencies. On August 12, he filed a whistleblower’s report with ICIG Michael Atkinson. It was a version of the dossier, allegations based on second- and thirdhand sources. Steele said that his information came from anonymous Russians; Ciaramella claimed his came from unnamed Americans. “In the course of my official duties,” wrote Ciaramella, “I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. elections.”

He even replicated a key feature from Steele’s memos that helped the FBI obtain the FISA warrant. The dossier alleged that the Trump campaign had agreed to two Ukraine-related quid pro quos. One, in exchange for the hack and release of DNC emails, the Trump team would sideline Ukraine as campaign issue. Two, in exchange for dropping Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia, a Putin ally promised Trump advisers energy deals. Ciaramella also alleged a Ukraine-related quid pro quo. His August 12 report added a detail missing from the July 26 memo. He claimed in his document he’d learned earlier in July that Trump had “issued instructions to suspend all security assistance to Ukraine.” With this, the CIA official had planted the seed that would grow into the basis of the impeachment charges brought against Trump:

The president had withheld foreign aid in exchange for something that would benefit him personally — an investigation of his political rival. Ciaramella and his confederates had simply taken the boastful blunder Biden made in front of the Manhattan audience and hung it on Trump. Now he was the one using U.S. aid to secure a favor from a Ukrainian president. It was an audacious move, but the Ciaramella dossier was also a defensive maneuver. “It was born out of desperation,” says one of his former colleagues. “He wasn’t just trying to protect Biden,” says the source, a former senior Obama administration intelligence official. [..] When he finds out Trump may get the Burisma investigation restarted, he’s worried for himself, too.”

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And 54 percent less likely to catch coronavirus in the first place. And if you do anyway, zinc hinders virus (RNA) replication in your cells. Two simple and cheap ways to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

COVID-19 Patients Who Get Enough Vitamin D Are 52% Less Likely To Die (DM)

People who get enough vitamin D are at a 52 percent lower risk of dying of COVID-19 than people who are deficient for the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ new research reveals. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the immune system and may combat inflammation. These features may make it a key player in the body’s fight against coronavirus. Rates of vitamin D deficiency are also higher in some of the same groups who have been hardest hit by coronavirus: people of color and elderly people. It’s by no means a causal link, but suggests that vitamin D could play a role in who gets COVI-19, who gets sickest from it, and who is spared altogether.

Boston University’s Dr Michael Holick found in his previous research that people who have enough vitamin D are 54 percent less likely to catch coronavirus in the first place. Following on that work, he and his team have found that people who don’t get enough of the vitamin are far more likely to become severely ill, develop sepsis or even die after contracting coronavirus. Because vitamin D deficiency is common in people with other disease that raise coronavirus risks, it’s impossible to say exactly how many lives would be spared if we all got our daily dose of the sunshine vitamin. But we know that about 42 percent of the US population is vitamin D deficient. If that rate held true for the more 203,000 Americans who died of coronavirus, perhaps some 85,000 would have fared better with improved vitamin D levels.

In Britain 20 per cent of the population suffer from the deficiency, according to the British Nutrition Foundation. When the rate is applied to the UK’s 41,936 deaths from coronavirus, it suggests 8,387 of them could have been helped with improved levels of Vitamin D. ‘This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19,’ Dr Holick said. Dr Holick and his colleagues took blood samples from 235 patients admitted to hospitals in Tehran for COVID-19. Overall, 67 percent of the patients had vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL.

There isn’t a clear marker for the ideal level of vitamin D, but 30 ng/mL is considered a sufficient. Anything below that is ‘insufficient,’ but won’t necessarily have broad-ranging health consequences, while levels below 20 ng/mL are considered ‘deficient.’ About 60 percent of elderly people living in nursing homes, for example, are thought to be vitamin D deficient. The most likely explanation is that they simply spend too much time indoors. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D. When we are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in rays of sunshine, it reacts with cholesterol in our skin, triggering the production of vitamin D. In an increasingly indoor world, rates of vitamin D deficiency have climbed.

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Behind a paywall, the Times reports pub curfew does not apply to bars in Parliament. Way to go.

New Covid Fines Of Up To £10,000 Come Into Force In England (G.)

A new, more robust chapter in English coronavirus regulations begins on Monday, with fines of up to £10,000 for people who refuse to self-isolate when asked, and enforcement including tip-offs from people who believe that others are breaching the rules. The changes come with the duty to self-isolate moving into law. It becomes a legal obligation if someone is told to do so by test-and-trace staff, but not for those simply using the Covid-19 phone app, which is anonymous. At the same time, the government is introducing a new system of payments of £500 for people on lower incomes who are unable to work because of the mandatory 14-day self-isolation, a system being implemented by councils.

The two-pronged approach, intended to create better compliance with self-isolation rules, was described by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, as “imperative” in helping keep down coronavirus infection rates. According to a health department statement setting out the new system, local authorities are expected to have their test-and-trace support schemes up and running within two weeks, with those self-isolating before then given backdated payments as needed. However, the Local Government Association, which represents councils, has warned it will be “challenging” for these to be set up at speed, adding that “urgent clarity is needed about how councils will be reimbursed for costs of setting up these schemes and the payments themselves”.

To be eligible for the payment, people must have been told to self-isolate by test and trace – having tested positive for coronavirus or being in close contact with someone who has – as well as having lost income as a result, and be recipients of one or more of a series of benefits, including universal credit, income support and housing benefit. Those who do not self-isolate when told to could face fines, which start at £1,000 and rise to £10,000 for repeat offences, or those who instigate breaches of the law, such as an employer who orders or permits people to come to work when they should not. Test-and-trace call handlers will check on those told to self-isolate, with police taking a role in areas or groups seen as high risk, as well as acting on tip-offs from neighbours or others who spot suspected breaches, the government announcement said.

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We need tolerance of people who do not think exactly like we do.

Amy Coney Barrett: A New Feminist Icon (Pol.)

Amy Coney Barrett has been praised for her topflight legal mind, even by those who disagree with her. At 48 years old, she is poised to help shape the court for a generation or more. But that’s not all her elevation to the high court has the potential to accomplish. Barrett’s expected confirmation should serve as a catalyst for rethinking the most powerful social movement in the last half century: feminism. Over the last week, as Justice Ginsburg’s body laid in repose outside the Supreme Court, the nation has rightly celebrated Ginsburg’s trailblazing 1970s legal advocacy, one which pushed both law and culture to reexamine the ways in which women had been pigeonholed as caregivers and men as providers. The late justice’s antidiscrimination wins opened up a new era in which both men and women could respectably and responsibly engage in both avenues of fulfillment, according to their personal talents and circumstances.

But Ginsburg also viewed abortion rights as central to sexual equality, and her leadership helped give rise to a movement that remains laser focused on abortion to this day. Yet rather than make women more equal to men, constitutionalizing the right to abortion as the court did in Roe has relieved men of the mutual responsibilities that accompany sex, and so has upended the duties of care for dependent children that fathers ought equally to share. Barrett embodies a new kind of feminism, a feminism that builds upon the praiseworthy antidiscrimination work of Ginsburg but then goes further. It insists not just on the equal rights of men and women, but also on their common responsibilities, particularly in the realm of family life. In this new feminism, sexual equality is found not in imitating men’s capacity to walk away from an unexpected pregnancy through abortion, but rather in asking men to meet women at a high standard of mutual responsibility, reciprocity and care.

At Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein tellingly remarked, “You are controversial because many of us that have lived lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems, and Roe entered into that, obviously.” Barrett’s life story puzzles older feminists like Feinstein because bearing and raising a bevy of children has long implied retaining a traditional life script — like staying home with the children — that Barrett has obviously not heeded. To be sure, few mothers of seven could become federal judges, never mind Supreme Court justices. Barrett – “generationally brilliant,” according to her Notre Dame colleague, O. Carter Snead — is likely alone in this set.

It all seems so unlikely: She has risen to the pinnacle of her profession while at once being “radically hospitable” to children, as Snead has described her. An enigma to many, she doesn’t easily fit into any ideological box. If we’re really intent as a country on seeing women flourish in their professions and serve in greater numbers of leadership positions too, it would be worthwhile to interrupt the abortion rights sloganeering for a beat and ask just how this mother of many has achieved so much.

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Much ado about an app. China’s worried about the source code.

Federal Judge Gives Temporary Reprieve To TikTok (NBC)

A federal judge granted a temporary reprieve Sunday to TikTok, the short-form video app that was facing a Trump administration-imposed midnight deadline that would have prevented users from downloading it. The order from U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols of Washington, D.C., allows U.S. app stores to continue offering downloads. Nichols did not rule on a second, more comprehensive ban that would halt U.S. companies from working with TikTok. In a statement, TikTok said that it was pleased with the ruling and that it “will continue defending our rights for the benefit of our community and employees.”


“At the same time, we will also maintain our ongoing dialogue with the government to turn our proposal, which the president gave his preliminary approval to last weekend, into an agreement,” it said. TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, struck a deal with Oracle this month to move the company’s headquarters to the United States. The software giant would oversee its operations. Walmart is also involved in the deal. TikTok has been under scrutiny from the Trump administration for nearly a year over concerns that the Chinese government could gain access to American users’ data. President Donald Trump said in July that he would ban the app. Trump said this month that he had given his “blessing” to the deal and that he had approved it in concept.

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This is real war. Stop it.

Azerbaijan & Armenia Carry On Fighting Over Contested Nagorno-Karabakh (RT)

Intense hostilities between Armenian and Azeri forces continued overnight along the border of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Both sides claimed local victories and reported inflicting heavy casualties on one another. Azerbaijan and Armenia, two historical rivals, kept on fighting throughout Sunday night and Monday morning despite mounting calls from international leaders to hold fire and disengage troops. There have been skirmishes “of different intensity” overnight on the Nagorno-Karabakh border, a spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry reported earlier on Monday. “The adversary resumed offensive using artillery and armor, including the heavy flamethrower system TOS,” the official revealed.

The Armenian military are deterring the attack, “inflicting significant losses on the enemy in manpower and equipment.” Baku, meanwhile, blamed its arch-nemesis for targeting civilian-populated areas. On Monday morning, Armenian forces have been shelling Terter, a border town of roughly 19,000 people, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry told the media. “Proper measures” will be taken if the bombardment doesn’t stop, the ministry warned. Previously, Baku suggested at least 550 Armenian soldiers were killed or injured in the Azeri “counteroffensive,” along with dozens of tanks, howitzers, and air defense systems lost in action. Yerevan promptly rebuked the claim as “unfounded.” Nagorno-Karabakh itself reported a loss of 31 Armenian soldiers in the fighting.

The lingering hostilities broke out previously on Sunday morning. Yerevan accused Baku of using combat aircraft and heavy artillery to bomb targets within Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region administered and populated by ethnic Armenians but claimed by Azerbaijan as part of its territory. Baku, in turn, said it had counter-attacked in response to Armenian “provocations.” Both sides – which have fought on numerous occasions since the Soviet Union’s demise – sent reinforcements to the frontline and blamed one another for targeting civilians.

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“We are victims of the post-Enlightenment view that the world functions like a sophisticated machine, to be understood like a textbook engineering problem and run by wonks. In other words, like a home appliance, not like the human body.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

 

 

 

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Jul 152020
 


Gas prices, Roosevelt and Wabash, Chicago 1939

 

Study Sees Harmful Effect Of Coronavirus Antibodies In ICU (SCMP)
US Base On Japan’s Okinawa Confirms 36 More Coronavirus Cases (R.)
Fundamentally Unsound (Hussman)
‘Jaw-Dropping’ Global Crash In Children Being Born (BBC)
I Still Believe This Will Be #Ourfinesthour (Ben Hunt)
Bari Weiss: Twitter is Editing the New York Times (ZH)
Eric Weinstein Takes Flamethrower To New York Times (ZH)
Banks Stand To Make $18 Billion In PPP Processing Fees From CARES Act (IC)
Trump Ends Preferential Status For Hong Kong, China Vows Retaliation (R.)
Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Top 350 Planes In First Half Of 2020 (R.)
Qantas Cancels All International Flights Until March 2021 (ZH)
US Mortgage Delinquencies Suddenly Soar at Record Pace (WS)
Judge Rejects $18.9 Million Harvey Weinstein Sex Abuse Settlement (R.)
Damage to the Soul (Craig Murray)

 

 

We seem to have stopped setting new daily records for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tapper

Sessions

 

 

And why not? Let’s make it more confusing, why don’t we? Most if not all vaccine trials are based on observing increased antibodies.

Study Sees Harmful Effect Of Coronavirus Antibodies In ICU (SCMP)

Antibodies generated by the immune system to neutralise the novel coronavirus could cause severe harm or even kill the patient, according to a study by Dutch scientists. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a fork-shaped molecule produced by adaptive immune cells to intercept foreign invaders. Each type of IgG targets a specific type of pathogen. The IgG for Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, fights off the virus by binding with the virus’ unique spike protein to reduce its chance of infecting human cells. They usually appear a week or two after the onset of illness, when the symptoms of most critically-ill patients suddenly get worse.

A research team led by Professor Menno de Winther from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands said they might have found an important clue that may answer why the IgG appears only when patients are ill enough to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). The scientists found that the blood from Covid-19 patients struggling for their life on ventilators was highly inflammatory. They observed during a series of experiments that it could trigger an overreaction of the immune system, destroy crucial barriers in tissues and cause water and blood to spill over in the lungs. When Winther and his colleagues compared the blood from Covid-19 patients to those battling other diseases in the ICU, they discovered that Covid-19 patients had a disproportionately large amount of Sars-CoV-2-specific IgG.

These antibodies “strongly amplify pro-inflammatory response”, they said in a non-peer-reviewed paper posted on preprint platform bioRxiv.org on Monday. When Winther applied the pure form of these antibodies directly to healthy blood and tissue cells, nothing happened. But when combined with a giant immune cell called macrophage, which forms when the body senses an infection, the IgGs caused the macrophages to implode, releasing a large amount of inflammatory molecules known as cytokines, causing “striking” destruction, said the researchers.

[..] A Chinese government epidemiologist based in Shanghai said the Dutch paper confirmed “what we suspected for a long time”. Several studies from China have also found the destructive role played by the macrophages in severely ill patients and proposed potential drugs that could suppress the cytokine storm. But the roles of antibodies could be more complex than what have been described, according to the researcher. For instance, it remains unclear whether vaccine-induced antibodies, which are supposed to contain some highly specific neutralising IgGs, will have the same effect in the very early stage of infection.

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“36 more COVID-19 cases among U.S. military in #OccupiedOkinawa, bringing the current total to 136. This gives the U.S. military a COVID-19 rate 200 times larger than Okinawa Prefecture.”

US Base On Japan’s Okinawa Confirms 36 More Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at U.S. military bases on the island, Kyodo News said on Wednesday. The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the U.S. military’s virus prevention measures.

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Small part of a seemingly endless investor piece.

Fundamentally Unsound (Hussman)

My impression is that while the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 is likely due to accessory proteins of the virus that knock down respiratory defenses, the lethality of COVID-19 (the resulting disease) is largely due to infiltration and retention of highly inflammatory blood cells into lung tissue, that then degrade, perforate, and cross through the alveolar-capillary barrier. The result is cell damage to alveoli (the air sacs that the lungs use to exchange oxygen with the blood) and to vascular linings, so that fatality is driven by the combination of oxygen deprivation and thrombosis. This is not the flu. In recent weeks, we’ve seen rapid outbreaks in Florida, Texas, and several other states, largely in the same places where protective measures like distancing and masks were disregarded. This isn’t really a “second wave.” It’s more like the start-stop profile of local outbreaks that was predictable even in February.

The only surprise is that it has involved entire states, because somehow, well-understood features of epidemiology and cell biology have become subjects of wildly ignorant political debate. Having written on the urgency of containment beginning on February 2, when the U.S. had only 5 cases and zero deaths, watching this predictable, slow motion train wreck has been excruciating. It is increasingly clear that the primary mode of transmission for SARS-CoV-2 is exhaled air from infected individuals. There’s some evidence that toilet bowls and hospital floors also act as reservoirs for expelled viral particles, but unless you’re regularly sticking your hands into toilet bowls or wiping them on hospital floors, the most likely way to acquire the virus is from expelled air.

The half-life of suspended (“aerosolized”) particles in a room without much ventilation is over an hour, and while some masks clearly provide better filtration than others, even cloth and bandana-type masks substantially reduce the number and distance of expelled particles. So even the crudest mask will reduce the viral load to others. A good analysis of a super-spreading event in Washington State at a Skagit Valley Chorale rehearsal concluded, “the risk of infection is modulated by ventilation conditions, occupant density, and duration of shared presence with an infectious individual.” Exactly. Yet even taking basic protective measures for oneself and others seems to be a problem. When people imagine that not wearing a mask in an indoor public place is somehow an expression of their “individual freedom,” or that it’s “hurting the economy,” they’re not only endangering everyone else – they’re also ensuring that much more stringent measures will be necessary later in order to avoid mass fatalities.

It’s exactly the weak, dismissive response – especially early on, but then encouraged almost daily – that has put U.S. fatalities ahead of every other country on Earth. Indeed, researchers at Harvard recently estimated that “Between 70% and 99% of the Americans who died from this pandemic might have been saved by measures demonstrated by others to have been feasible.” Meanwhile, across 22 countries, there’s an 80% correlation between non-wearing of masks and number of deaths-per-million. That correlation is higher than for the percentage of elderly and the percentage with high body-mass index. Containment measures are critical when and where transmission rates are high.

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A different world.

‘Jaw-Dropping’ Global Crash In Children Being Born (BBC)

The world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers. Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born. The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. [..] Japan’s population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century. Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe.


They are two of 23 countries – which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – expected to see their population more than halve. “That is jaw-dropping,” Prof Christopher Murray told me. China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place. The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.

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“We the People? We the Pack.”

I Still Believe This Will Be #Ourfinesthour (Ben Hunt)

Back in early April, I wrote this about our battle with the coronavirus: “There is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States. And I know you won’t believe me, but I tell you it is true: This will be #OurFinestHour.” Since then, our leaders have totally botched the Covid-19 war-fighting effort. I mean our leaders at every level of government and of every political stripe, and I mean that it has been spectacularly botched. Covid-19 is now endemic within the United States, meaning that it is neither effectively contained nor effectively mitigated. Meaning that it is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Meaning that tens of thousands of Americans get sick with this disease every day, and between 500 and 1,000 Americans die. Every day.

It didn’t have to be this way. As I write this note, Germany – a large country with a federal political system and the 4th largest economy in the world – is reporting two Covid-19 deaths today. Two. Japan – an even larger country and even larger economy – is reporting one Covid-19 death today. One. But here’s the thing. Yes, our political leaders have been a horror show. God knows I’ve been railing about them for months. But there’s another awful truth at work here. We the people have failed our nation more than the politicians. In fact, I honestly don’t believe we still have a nation. We have a country, of course, but that’s just an administrative thing … here are the borders, here is your social security number, here are the rules for how we do things.

A nation is both less than a country and much, much more. A nation is the meaning of a country. A nation is the embodiment of We the People. It’s not that I think being an American has no meaning. It has a lot of meaning to me. It has a lot of meaning to many people. It has some meaning to almost everyone. It’s that being an American no longer has a shared meaning. [..] I knew that high-functioning sociopath politicians would continue to do their high-functioning sociopath thing, where with one hand they pump out culture-porn telling us that what really matters is our attitude towards Goya beans or Columbus statues, and with the other hand they pump out TRILLIONS of dollars into a money-laundering scheme we like to call “monetary policy”. All while MILLIONS of Americans are getting sick and MILLIONS of Americans are out of a job and TENS OF THOUSANDS of Americans are dead. I just never thought we would embrace this evil – and that’s what it is – in our heart of hearts.

Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

That’s from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. I know he’s been canceled, but I don’t care. I think he’s great.

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I don’t read the New York Times, and don’t know Bari Weiss. From what I see, I don’t believe Weiss is the finest person on the planet. But she confirms why I don’t read the NYT. In early 2016 I noticed them posting 10 mostly flimsy anti-Trump pieces a day, and I thought: I don’t like Trump, but I don’t need you to make up my mind for me, and that’s what you want to do. Question though: why did it take her another 4.5 years?

Bari Weiss: Twitter is Editing the New York Times (ZH)

The internal schism at the New York Times has claimed yet another staffer, as opinion editor Bari Weiss has left the paper and penned a scorching resignation letter denouncing the Times as nothing more than an echo chamber for ‘woke’ activists masquerading as journalists who believe dissent has no place on the platform. “But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else”. -Bari Weiss

As a refresher, the Times newsroom erupted in chaos following the decision to publish an Op-Ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), in which he suggested that the Trump administration should deploy the military to quell violent race-riots gripping the country following the death of a black suspect while in custody of Minneapolis police. An internal schism formed within the Times, with younger ‘woke’ staffers insisting that such ‘wrongthink’ has no place on the platform, while others defended the decision to publish Cotton’s divergent opinion. In the end, the woke mob won; the Times added an editor’s note conveying regret for publishing it – which was accompanied by the resignation of editorial page editor James Bennett (who Weiss writes ‘led the effort’ to reform the paper after the 2016 election).

Which brings us back to Bari Weiss, who came under intense fire by her NYT colleagues after she laid out what was going on in the newsroom in a Twitter thread, which ultimately defended the decision to publish Cotton’s op-ed. In her Tuesday resignation letter, Weiss excoriated the Times. “My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.” -Bari Weiss

Weiss described the Times as a hostile work environment, and slammed the paper for allowing “this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public.” “Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery,” Weiss writes, adding “But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times.” “Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.

What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.”

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“That is obviously true but I’m sorry we can’t say that here. It will get me strung up.”

Eric Weinstein Takes Flamethrower To New York Times (ZH)

Eric Weinstein, managing director of Thiel Capital and host of The Portal podcast, has gone scorched earth on the New York Times following the Tuesday resignation of journalist Bari Weiss. Weinstein describes how The Times has morphed into an activist rag – refusing to cover “news” unpaletable to their narrative, while ignoring key questions such as whether Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring was “intelligence related.”

“At that moment Bari Weiss became all that was left of the “Paper of Record.” Why? Because the existence of Black Racists with the power to hunt professors with Baseball Bats and even redefine the word ‘racism’ to make their story impossible to cover ran totally counter-narrative. At some point after 2011, the NYT gradually stopped covering the News and became the News instead. And Bari has been fighting internally from the opinion section to re-establish Journalism inside tbe the NYT. A total reversal of the Chinese Wall that separates news from opinion. This is the paper in 2016 that couldnt be interested in the story that millions of Americans were likely lying to pollsters about Donald Trump. The paper refusing to ask the CIA/FBI if Epstein was Intelligence related.

I have had the honor of trying to support both @bariweiss at the New York Times and @BretWeinstein in their battles simply to stand alone against the internal mob mentality. It is THE story all over the country. Our courageous individuals are being hunted at work for dissenting. Before Bari resigned, I did a podcast with her. It was chilling. I‘d make an innocuous statement of simple fact and ask her about it. She‘d reply “That is obviously true but I’m sorry we can’t say that here. It will get me strung up.” That‘s when I stopped telling her to hang on. So what just happened? Let me put it bluntly: What was left of the New York Times just resigned from the New York Times. The Times canceled itself.

As a separate Hong Kong exists in name only, the New New York Times and affiliated “news” is now the chief threat to our democracy. This is the moment when the passengers who have been becoming increasingly alarmed, start to entertain a new idea: what if the people now in the cockpit are not airline pilots? Well the Twitter Activists at the @nytimes and elsewhere are not journalists. What if those calling for empathy have a specific deadness of empathy? Those calling for justice *are* the unjust? Those calling “Privilege” are the privileged? Those calling for equality seek to oppress us? Those anti-racists are open racists? The progressives seek regress? The journalists are covering up the news?

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Anyone surprised?

Banks Stand To Make $18 Billion In PPP Processing Fees From CARES Act (IC)

Banks will make out with $18 billion in fees for processing small business Paycheck Protection Program relief loans during the pandemic, according to calculations by Amanda Fischer, policy director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive economic think tank. That’s money taken directly out of the overall $640 billion pot of funding Congress allocated to the program it created as part of the CARES Act. “If we did it through a public institution, there would be [more than] $140 billion left,” Fischer noted, as opposed to the $130 billion still up for grabs. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is releasing an analysis of the government response to the pandemic as soon as this week.

The fees compensate the banks for some of the costs that come with processing loans — call center time to handle business owners’ questions, employee hours spent on processing paperwork for both loan and forgiveness applications — and some of the risk they shoulder if any of the loans they extend end up being fraudulent. But there is no credit risk; if business owners who qualified for PPP loans later default, the Small Business Association takes the hit, not the banks. “Basically it’s free money,” Fischer said. For some banks, this money represents a hefty windfall. New Jersey-based Cross River Bank’s estimated $163 million haul would be more than double its net revenue last year. JPMorgan Chase could make $864 million.

The fact that banks are siphoning money off of the relief program is thanks to the fact that the United States had no existing public infrastructure ready to quickly get money out to struggling businesses when the pandemic hit. Fischer characterized it as “a failure of preparedness,” adding, “We should have invested in better systems.” The Small Business Association, which is running the PPP program, has long been criticized for struggling to process emergency relief quickly during past natural disasters. So when the time came to respond to the coronavirus crisis as fast as possible, the SBA was in no position to do it itself, and Congress mandated that the loans be run through banks instead. There weren’t many other options. “It’s hard to build the plane while you’re flying it,” Fischer said.

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Preferential Status for Hong Kong now equals Preferential Status for China. The US doesn’t have much choice.

It was also fun to read that the WHO team will NOT visit the Wuhan lab.

Trump Ends Preferential Status For Hong Kong, China Vows Retaliation (R.)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the former British colony, prompting Beijing to warn of retaliatory sanctions. Citing China’s decision to enact a new national security law for Hong Kong, Trump signed an executive order that he said would end the preferential economic treatment for the city. “No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” he told a news conference. Acting on a Tuesday deadline, he also signed a bill approved by the U.S. Congress to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new security law.


“Today I signed legislation, and an executive order to hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong, Trump said. “Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” he added. Under the executive order, U.S. property would be blocked of any person determined to be responsible for or complicit in “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Hong Kong,” according to the text of the document released by the White House. It also directs officials to “revoke license exceptions for exports to Hong Kong,” and includes revoking special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.

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A 737 MAX costs $110 million a piece.

Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Top 350 Planes In First Half Of 2020 (R.)

Boeing customers canceled orders for 355 of its 737 MAX jets in the first half of 2020, the U.S. planemaker said on Tuesday, as the damage done by the jet’s grounding and the coronavirus crisis to the airline industry continued to mount. The planemaker, which has now been striving to get its once best-selling MAX planes back in the air for more than a year after two fatal crashes led to its grounding, said airlines and leasing companies canceled another 60 orders for the jet last month. Deliveries in the first half of the year also sank by 71% to just 70 planes as customers canceled or deferred shipments due to the collapse in air travel from coronavirus-led travel restrictions.


Deliveries are financially important to planemakers because airlines pay most of the purchase price when they actually receive the aircraft. Boeing said it handed over 10 aircraft in June, up from four planes in May, and six jets in April. [..] After adjusting for jets ordered in previous years but unlikely to be delivered currently, Boeing has now lost 784 net orders this year, rising from a loss of 602 net orders as of May end.

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Since Rainman, Qantas has been known for its safety.

Qantas Cancels All International Flights Until March 2021 (ZH)

The prospects for a V-shaped recovery in airlines are looking dim. The latest indication of how slow things are getting back to normal in the industry is Australian-based Qantas Airlines pulling all of its international flights off its website this week. The airline is cancelling routes to New Zealand until September 1 and flights to other international destinations have been cancelled until March 28, 2021 – nearly another year away – according to the Daily Mail. “All international and sale flights have been removed from the website until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “There are some international flights in the system but they are not currently operating.”

Flights are still available through the airline’s partner airlines like Emirates, British Airways and Cathay Pacific. But Qantas wants to prevent new bookings from being made on its own airline. Flights that have already been booked will proceed as planned. The move comes weeks after the airline cut 6,000 jobs, representing 20% of its workforce. The company’s CEO has also predicted that international flights wouldn’t resume until July 2021. “We have never experienced anything like this before – no-one has. All airlines are in the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced,” he said last month. “Revenues have collapsed, entire fleets are grounded and the world biggest carriers are taking extreme action just to survive.”

The decision to halt international flights comes after the airline’s decision to also ground its double decker A380 planes for at least three years and to retire six Boeing 747s. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said in June that Australia’s borders would probably remain closed for another 4 months.

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US housing is under serious threat. That’s a serious theat to the entire banking system. Which will be bailed out.

US Mortgage Delinquencies Suddenly Soar at Record Pace (WS)

OK, it’s actually worse. Mortgages that are in forbearance and have not missed a payment before going into forbearance don’t count as delinquent. They’re reported as “current.” And 8.2% of all mortgages in the US – or 4.1 million loans – are currently in forbearance, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But if they did not miss a payment before entering forbearance, they don’t count in the suddenly spiking delinquency data. The onslaught of delinquencies came suddenly in April, according to CoreLogic, a property data and analytics company (owner of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index), which released its monthly Loan Performance Insights today. And it came after 27 months in a row of declining delinquency rates. These delinquency rates move in stages – and the early stages are now getting hit:

Transition from “Current” to 30-days past due: In April, the share of all mortgages that were past due, but less than 30 days, soared to 3.4% of all mortgages, the highest in the data going back to 1999. This was up from 0.7% in April last year. During the Housing Bust, this rate peaked in November 2008 at 2%: From 30 to 59 days past due: The rate of these early delinquencies soared to 4.2% of all mortgages, the highest in the data going back to 1999. This was up from 1.7% in April last year. From 60 to 89 days past due: As of April, this stage had not yet been impacted, with the rate remaining relatively low at 0.7% (up from 0.6% in April last year). This stage will jump in the report to be released a month from now when today’s 30-to-59-day delinquencies, that haven’t been cured by then, move into this stage.


Serious delinquencies, 90 days or more past due, including loans in foreclosure: As of April, this stage had not been impacted, and the rate ticked down to 1.2% (from 1.3% in April a year ago). We should see the rate rise in two months and further out. Overall delinquency rate, 30-plus days, jumped to 6.1%, up from 3.6% in April last year. This was the highest overall delinquency rate since January 2016 (on the way down). These delinquency rates are the first real impact seen on the housing market by the worst employment crisis in a lifetime, with over 32 million people claiming state or federal unemployment benefits. There is no way – despite rumors to the contrary – that a housing market sails unscathed through that kind of employment crisis.

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How sick is that US “justice system”? “..it would leave Weinstein’s victims with typical awards of just US$10,000 to US$20,000, while setting aside US$15.2 million for defence costs..”

Judge Rejects $18.9 Million Harvey Weinstein Sex Abuse Settlement (R.)

A US judge on Tuesday rejected a proposed US$18.9 million civil settlement for women who claimed they were subjected to sexual abuse and workplace harassment by the disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan said the preliminary settlement would be unfair to women who Weinstein raped or sexually abused, because it treated them no different from women who had merely met him. He also criticised a plan to set aside money to help Weinstein and the board of his former studio pay defence costs. “The idea that Harvey Weinstein could get a defence fund ahead of the plaintiffs is obnoxious,” Hellerstein said at a hearing.


A settlement would have resolved class-action litigation by Weinstein accusers, and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit accusing Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and their bankrupt Weinstein Co of maintaining a hostile work environment. Elizabeth Fegan, a lawyer representing nine Weinstein accusers, had argued that “all of the women were in the zone of danger” created by Weinstein, justifying class-action treatment. [..] James’ office will review the decision. “Our office has been fighting tirelessly to provide these brave women with the justice they are owed and will continue,” a spokeswoman said. The settlement drew objections from women who said it would leave Weinstein’s victims with typical awards of just US$10,000 to US$20,000, while setting aside US$15.2 million for defence costs. Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer representing six objectors, said he was pleased Hellerstein “swiftly rejected the one-sided proposal.”

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Talk about a sick justice system.

The format of Craig’s article is a bit hard to rhyme with that of the Debt Rattle. I tried. Do read the whole thing.

‘To have extradition decided on the merits of one indictment when the accused actually faces another is an outrage. To change the indictment long after the hearing is underway and defence evidence has been seen is an outrage. The lack of media outrage is an outrage.’

Damage to the Soul (Craig Murray)

In a truly extraordinary twist, Assange is now being extradited on the basis of an indictment served in the UK, which is substantially different to the actual indictment he now faces in Virginia if extradited. The Assange hearing was adjourned after its first full week, and its resumption has since been delayed by coronavirus. In that first full week, both the prosecution and the defence outlined their legal arguments over the indictment. [..] this is about switching to charges firmly grounded in “hacking”, rather than in publishing leaks about appalling American war crimes. The new indictment is based on the evidence of a “supergrass”, Sigurdur Thordarson, who was acting a a paid informant to the FBI during his contact with Wikileaks.

Thordarson is fond of money and is a serial criminal. He was convicted on 22 December 2014 by Reykjanes District Court in Iceland of stealing over US $40,000 and over 13,000 euro from Wikileaks “Sunshine Press” accounts by forging documents in the name of Julian Assange, and given a two year jail sentence. Thordarson is also a convicted sex offender, and was convicted after being turned in to the police by Julian Assange, who found the evidence – including of offences involving a minor – on Thordarson’s computer. There appears scope to doubt the motives and credentials of the FBI’s supergrass. The FBI have had Thordarson’s “Evidence” against Assange since long before the closing date for submissions in the extradition hearing, which was June 19th 2019.


That they now feel the need to deploy this rather desperate stuff is a good sign of how they feel the extradition hearing has gone so far, as an indicator of the prospects of a successful prosecution in the USA. [..] Then, to our amazement, the prosecution did not put forward the new indictment at the procedural hearing at all. To avoid these problems, it appears they are content to allow the extradition hearing to go ahead on the old indictment, when that is not in fact the indictment which awaits Assange in the United States. This is utterly outrageous. The prosecution will argue that the actual espionage charges themselves have not changed. But it is the indictment which forms the basis of the extradition hearing and the different indictment which would form the basis of any US prosecution.

Read more …

 

 

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Nov 212019
 
 November 21, 2019  Posted by at 1:49 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  35 Responses »


Salvador Dali Figure at a window 1925

 

Below is a private email I received a few days ago from an Automatic Earth reader and that I would like to share with you.

Watching (some of) the impeachment inquiry this week and last, I again get the same feeling I’ve had for some 4 years now, which is something we all know -metaphorically- from the Godfather.

The Democrats and the Republicans are like two -of the five- families, let’s say the Barzini family and the Tattaglia family (we’ll leave the Corleones be), which are both utterly corrupted and lethal predators, and I wouldn’t want to choose between them. But that’s not made easy.

In this metaphor, the Tattaglia family appears to have both the intelligence services and 95% of the media on their side, which keep telling their readers and viewers that the Barzini family are much worse than the Tattaglia family. That’s what I see when I look at the impeachment inquiry, and the comments in the press surrounding it: they all, the Democrats, the media and the FBI/CIA et al, are trying to convince everyone that Don Barzini is the anti-christ and the Tattaglia family are fine upstanding Americans.

What I have been doing over the past years is to try and restore some balance to that picture. But I still get -perhaps not surprisingly- accused of being a right-wing Trump supporter. Because you’re either with us or with them. And 95% of the press is apparently still not enough; they want me to join in as well.

And yes, maybe I’m stupid, maybe you shouldn’t try to go against such an overwhelming majority of the press. But at the same time, the picture they paint makes no sense to me. And besides, I want the press to give me news, facts, not try to make up my mind for me. I would like to do that myself.

But that’s where the biggest change has occurred. In the past, you could read articles in the New York Times, Guardian or WaPo, and watch CNN, and come away with the impression that you had been provided with news. Today, you no longer can, because all of it is seeped in propaganda.

Still, that’s how the press make their money these days. As I wrote quite some time ago, Trump Sells Better Than Sex. Writing and saying bad things about him is their meal ticket. For four years and change they’ve been insisting that the next story would be the bombshell (talk about a deflated word) that would sink Trump, that it would be The BIG ONE, as I wrote yesterday. And sure enough, all their comments on Gordon Sondland’s testimony yesterday say it again.

This has nothing to do with my opinion of Donald Trump (and perhaps not even theirs), it’s about the process, and how it has changed, likely to a large extent because of the pressure exerted on the old media by internet and social media. Trump is the best thing that ever happened to the old guard’s finances. They willingly gave up on half the American population, because the other half can’t get enough of Orange Man Bad narratives. Looks like a risky gamble, but they were truly desperate. One should wonder if they really want Trump gone, because what then?

As I said, I thought I’d share that mail. The author said it’s okay. I deleted anything that could identify him. And of course I’m curious to know what you think about his words (and mine).

 

 

Hello Ilargi,

I just read Moonraker’s comment about your “right wing talking points”.

This is, once again, tiresome and ridiculous. Just as when people call you a pro-Trump, or whatever similar. Derangement syndrome, or Maoist frenzy, or headless chickens, many descriptive phrases apply to these reactions to anything with a link to common sense.

What amazes me is how unhinged the mainstream view of the world has become. And I am grateful to find a healthy measure of sanity in TAE.

Since 2014 I have been watching a major onslaught of disinformation, starting around Maidan, and later moving into overdrive with Trump. I think the man is a piece of junk, but the mainstream reaction to him has a distinct Orwellian feel (when the progressive ‘Our Values’ crowd starts singing Thank God we have NATO, the CIA, the Deep State… you know your Boeing 737 MAX is flying upside down).

The Narrative about Trump, especially here [in Canada] through our PC media class, is perfect, smooth and shiny, just like a brand new Tesla or a tale you read to your child in bed at night.

Trump may be crazy, I don’t know – but for sure our reaction to him has been erasing our sanity. This [is] both painful and entertaining to watch.

Our collective delusion about anything that matters (Trump, Russia, finance, energy, the rape of our planet, etc.) is IMO the greatest show on Earth. And it is on great display on TAE, including the remarkable Comments section. I have come to love the smell of it in the morning.

So yes Ilargi, please, keep up the good work!

 

 

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Aug 192019
 


Piet Mondriaan Self portrait 1918

 

Guardian columnist Owen Jones, a self-described left activist and socialist, was attacked in the streets of London at 2 am Saturday morning in what he himself describes as “a blatant premeditated assault” by a bunch of guys. He says he was kicked, punched, but then saved by the friends he was with, and nothing really happened to him. Or he would have taken photos and published them. Owen was fine, before and after. But his pride was not.

No pictures of black eyes or anything, but a brick load of indignation. No matter that in Britain, people are attacked all the time, certainly at that hour, in bar fights, in knife fights, people die every weekend. But for some reason Owen Jones thinks his role in this is special. That the incident happened because of his political views, and because the far right is getting more aggressive.

From Jones’s own Guardian:

 

Owen Jones Attacked Outside London Pub

The Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones has been physically assaulted in London while celebrating his 35th birthday with friends. In an attack he called “a blatant premeditated assault”, Jones said he was kicked, punched and thrown to the ground by a group of men in the early hours of Saturday morning. He said that he and his friends went to a pub and left at 3am.

“We were about 30 metres away, saying goodbye to each other, when four men charged directly towards me: one of them karate kicked my back, threw me to the ground, started kicking me in the head and back, while my friends tried to drag them off, and were punched trying to defend me. “It was clearly a premeditated attack and I was their target. They all attacked me and only assaulted my friends when they tried to defend me.

“In the past year I’ve been repeatedly targeted in the street by far right activists, including attempts to use physical assault, and homophobic abuse. I’ve had a far-right activist taking pictures of me, and posting threatening messages and a video. “Because of this, and escalating threats of violence and death, I’ve had the police involved. My friends felt it was a matter of time until this happened. Give the context, it seems unthinkable that I was singled out for anything other than a politically motived premeditated attack.”

 

A second article in the same Guardian appeared on Sunday:

 

Owen Jones: Attackers Targeted Me For My Politics

Jones said: “I’m just a symptom of a wider phenomenon, an emboldened, increasingly violent far right.” He said he believed there had been a “dramatic escalation” in the level of threat faced by him and others in the last eight or nine months. He said far-right protesters were being radicalised by what he described as “hate preachers” in politics and in some parts of the media.

“We all know who the hate preachers are: one of them is the most powerful man on earth, the occupant of the White House. But there are also multiple politicians and people in the mainstream media who deliberately stoke tensions, who demonise minorities and who demonise the left,” he said.

[..] “The far right are trying to achieve political ends through coercion and violence, so there’s no way I’m going to change. Yes, I’ll take precautions, but I’ll be at my protests, fighting against racism, for socialism. What could I have done? Not had a birthday thing? Of course everybody should be vigilant, but I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not changing my politics.”

 

I’m not sure (but of course I wasn’t there and I’m not in Jones’s shoes), but given the time of day, his ‘celebrity’ status and the fact that he’s openly gay, I could imagine this was not about politics. Not that that’s the crucial point in this, which is that everybody should be able to have a birthday party and be left in peace.

I must admit I smiled when I read that Jones said his attackers “charged out of the pub with military precision”, and then ostensibly failed to hurt him even a little bit. That sounds like either the most inept right wing militant unit ever, or they were all just piss drunk.

Still, calling Trump a hate preacher is also demonizing, and I do wonder why Jones feels that is appropriate while other comments are not. The Proud Boys vs Antifa ‘party’ this weekend in Portland, Oregon would seem to establish this, at least in the US, as a two-way street, but I’m not even going to try to convince both sides that there may be some blame in their camp too.

Because I think the following is much more important in the Owen Jones story. A few lines from the first article referenced above say:

 

Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer, said: “We deplore the outrageous attack on Owen Jones that took place late last night. Violent assaults on journalists or activists have no place in a democratic society.”


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of “solidarity” to Jones. He said: “Owen believes it was politically motivated, and we know the far right is on the march in our country. “An attack on a journalist is an attack on free speech and our fundamental values.”

 

Look, neither Katharine Viner, nor Owen Jones, nor the Guardian as a company, nor Jeremy Corbyn, have any right whatsoever, none, zilch, to present themselves as defenders of journalism or journalists. The reason for that is dead simple, and it consists of only two words: Julian Assange.

Jeremy Corbyn sits in the British parliament, while Assange sits in a high-security prison designed for terrorists, and those two things should never happen at the same time, lest Corbyn loses the right to speak. Hereby lost. And pretending to be a defender of journalism while a man who has won dozens of international awards for … journalism, rots away a few miles from that same Parliament, is too ridiculous to even talk about.

Owen Jones writes for the Guardian, and knows exactly what his employer has done to Julian Assange. And he can whine about an ‘attack’ on him all he wants, but there’s a journalist who’s really under attack, life-changing, life-threatening, if not lethal, and I have never seen Jones speak up for him. So spare us the hollow talk about hate preachers. It’s your own employer and your own government who preach hate.

As for The Guardian, it has been engaged in a vile anti-Assange smear campaign for many years, perhaps culminating in, but by no means limited to, the article last November that claimed Trump’s one-time adviser Paul Manafort had visited Assange many times in the Ecuador embassy, which was thoroughly debunked but never withdrawn or corrected.

Publishing an article such as that while you know it to be a bag of lies, makes you unfit to talk about journalism, period, for the rest of your lives. Sure, many of your readers may believe in you, and in what you tell them, after you’ve fed them smear and falsehoods for so long. But even if they believe you, that still doesn’t make you a news organization, it makes you a propaganda outlet. It makes you a pitchblack stain on your profession.

 

Australian journalist Mark Davis worked with Assange and the Guardian on the publication of the Afghan war logs in 2010. He recently spoke out about those days. And added a nice little -legal- twist to the story.

 

Australian Investigative Journalist Exposes Guardian/New York Times Betrayal Of Assange

At a Sydney “Politics in the Pub” meeting on Thursday night, award-winning Australian journalist Mark Davis revealed new first-hand information exposing the extent of the betrayal of Julian Assange by the Guardian and the New York Times, and refuting the lies both publications have used to smear the WikiLeaks founder.

Davis recounted his experiences documenting Assange’s life in the first half of 2010 for programs screened on the Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Using excerpts from the documentary “Inside WikiLeaks,” the journalist explained that he was present when WikiLeaks worked closely with media partners, including the Guardian and the New York Times, in the publication of the Afghan War logs.

[..] Davis said the assertions by Guardian journalists that Assange exhibited a callous attitude towards US informants and others who may have been harmed by the publication of the document were “lies.” David Leigh and Nick Davies, senior Guardian journalists, who worked closely with Assange in the publication of the logs, have repeatedly claimed that Assange was indifferent to the consequences of the publication.

Their statements have played a key role in the attempts by the corporate media to smear Assange, and dovetail with US government claims that the 2010 publications “aided the enemy.” In reality, the US and Australian militaries have been compelled to admit that release of the Afghan war logs did not result in a single individual coming to physical harm.

Davis explained that he was present in “the bunker,” a room established by the Guardian to prepare the publication of the documents. “Nick Davies made the most recurring, repetitive statement that Julian had a cavalier attitude to life. It’s a complete lie. If there was any cavalier attitude, it was the Guardian journalists. They had disdain for the impact of this material.”

[..] Davis explained that despite the vast technical resources of the Guardian and the New York Times (NYT), it was left to Assange to personally redact the names of informants and other individuals from the war logs, less than three days before scheduled publication. Davis said Assange was compelled to work through an entire night, during which he removed some 10,000 names from the documents.

“Julian wanted to take the names out,” Davis said. “He asked for the releases to be delayed.” The request was rejected by the Guardian, “so Julian was left with the task of cleansing the documents. Julian removed 10,000 names by himself, not the Guardian.”

Davis refuted the attempts by the Guardian and the Times to downplay their central role in the publication of the leaks. He stated that the relationship between the corporate reporters and Assange was not that between journalists and their source. Rather, both outlets were intimately involved in preparing the publication of the documents.

This included, Davis said, the Guardian assigning a technical division to prepare the entire set of logs in a publishable and searchable format on the WikiLeaks website. Davis explained that even in 2010, the Guardian and the NYT had employed “subterfuge” to shield them from any legal repercussions over the publication. Despite the explosive contents of the leaks, they had both insisted that WikiLeaks should publish first.

This, Davis stated, would allow them to claim that they were not primary publishers of the material, but were merely reporting material that had been released by WikiLeaks. This was the equivalent of the publications “pushing Julian out to walk the plank,” he said. “Julian’s in jail now because of that subterfuge.”

Tellingly, Davis stated that this plan was disrupted as a result of technical issues on the WikiLeaks website. The Guardian and the Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories, reporting on WikiLeaks’ supposed publication of the logs, despite the fact that they had not yet been placed on the WikiLeaks website.

WikiLeaks published the documents two days after they had been reported by the corporate publications. “WikiLeaks did not publish for two days,” Davis said. The Guardian and the Times had “reported a lie. They set Julian up from the start.”

Davis’s claim potentially has significant legal implications. The espionage charges, under which the Trump administration is seeking to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him, include among their offenses WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan war logs.

Davis’ timeline, however, indicates that the Guardian and the New York Times were in fact the initial and primary publishers of the material. These publications, which are pillars of the media and political establishment, are “in the frame” for the supposed offenses that the Trump administration is seeking to prosecute Assange for. As Davis bluntly declared, “If Julian’s in jail, they should be as well.”

 

I’m sure the fact that this last article was published on the World Socialist Web Site will only add to the fun, if not credibility, of it, for self-described socialist Owen Jones.

But -more- seriously, you can’t let the most decorated journalist of your time wither away in a concrete box designed for Hannibal Lecter, and at the same time preach about some threat to journalism and the freedom of speech. Because if you do, you ARE that threat.

 

 

 

 

Apr 062019
 


Raphael The school of Athens 1509-11

 

Allow me to start with a question: Has anyone seen any of the main newspapers and networks who went after Donald Trump for 3 years accusing him of colluding with “the Russians”, apologize to either Trump, or to their readers and viewers, for spreading all that fake news now that Robert Mueller said none of that stuff was real, that they all just made it up?

I’ve seen only one such apology, albeit a very good and thorough one, from Sharyl Attkisson for The Hill. But one is a very meager harvest of course. With over 500,000 articles on collusion published on the topic, as Axios said -leading to 245 million social media ‘interactions’, shouldn’t there be more apologies, if only so people can hold on to their faith in US media for a while longer?

 

Apologies to President Trump

With the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe now known to a significant degree, it seems apologies are in order. However, judging by the recent past, apologies are not likely forthcoming from the responsible parties. In this context, it matters not whether one is a supporter or a critic of President Trump. Whatever his supposed flaws, the rampant accusations and speculation that shrouded Trump’s presidency, even before it began, ultimately have proven unfounded. Just as Trump said all along. Yet, each time Trump said so, some of us in the media lampooned him.

We treated any words he spoke in his own defense as if they were automatically to be disbelieved because he had uttered them. Some even declared his words to be “lies,” although they had no evidence to back up their claims.We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s “treason.”

As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment. And when we corrected our mistakes, we often doubled down more than we apologized. We may have been technically wrong on that tiny point, we would acknowledge. But, in the same breath, we would insist that Trump was so obviously guilty of being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet that the technical details hardly mattered. So, a round of apologies seem in order.

 

It’s a shame Attkisson refrains from labeling the whole decrepit circus as “fake news”, even if she says it’s just that, in different words. It’s a shame because the term “fake news” can this way remain connected to Trump, something the mainstream media really like. Because it allows for the media to cast doubts on the Mueller report, and for the Democrats to cast doubt on AG Bill Barr.

But they, the MSM, CNN and the NYT, are the ones who, as Robert Mueller has proven, have been spreading fake news all that time, not Trump. And if you would suggest they apologize, they’ll tell you that you’re too early, wait for the report to be released, or that Bill Barr is holding tons of stuff back, or that Mueller didn’t have access to elementary info, or that Trump is a really bad person or or or.

Their reputations would be lost forever if they issue a mea culpa, and apologizing constitutes a mea culpa, so that’s not going to happen. And they all think their credibility remains sound and alive, because they live in echo chambers where they don’t have to listen to anyone prepared to cast any doubt on their credibility.

I first said it years ago: in the new -digital, social- media age, the mainstream media have only one chance of survival: report the naked truth, and be relentless about that. There are a billion voices who can write up rumors, slander, smear and other falsities, but none have the organizations to find out the truth.

Well, it looks like they gave up on that one chance. Russiagate has made it crystal clear that the MSM would rather make a quick buck than investigate, that money and political views trump veracity any day where they operate. So stick a fork in them and turn them over; they’re done.

 

April 1 was the perfect moment to add it all up, and the Babylon Bee did exactly that:

 

CNN Publishes Real News Story For April Fools’ Day

Fooling thousands of readers in a prank that the cable news organization said was “just for fun,” CNN published a real news story for April Fools’ Day this year. The story simply contained a list of facts, with no embellishment, editorializing, or invented details. The story also didn’t cite shaky “anonymous sources” and only quoted firsthand witnesses to the event. It was completely factual without any errors whatsoever. Baffled CNN fans immediately knew something was up.


“I was reading this story, and I was like, ‘Wait, what is this?'” said one man in New York who relies on CNN for his fake news every morning. “They really got me good. Then I looked up at the calendar and I realized I’d been duped. A classic gag!” “Those little rascals!” he added, shaking his head and laughing goodnaturedly. “As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”

 

We could stop right there. What’s to add? It sums up America to the core. Then again, perhaps not quite yet. How about we add this from the BBC?

 

Is Facebook Winning The Fake News War?

For the people contracted by Facebook to clamp down on fake news and misinformation, doubt hangs over them every day. Is it working? “Are we changing minds?” wondered one fact-checker, based in Latin America, speaking to the BBC. “Is it having an impact? Is our work being read? I don’t think it is hard to keep track of this. But it’s not a priority for Facebook. “We want to understand better what we are doing, but we aren’t able to.”


[..] While there are efforts from fact-checking organisations to debunk dangerous rumours within the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook has yet to provide a tool – though it is experimenting with some ideas to help users report concerns.

 

Right, Facebook Fights Fake News. Right. 533,074 web articles on Trump-Russia collusion pre-Mueller report according to Axios, and 245 million ‘interactions’ -including likes, comments and shares- on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s say 100 million on Facebook.

How much did they catch as fake news in their valiant efforts? Not “the Russians” spreading fake news, but the New York Times? How about none? How many times did Facebook shut down the New York Times? Rachel Maddow? None. But Robert Mueller says all those articles about collusion were fake news.

Those reputations are gone forever. Nobody serious will ever again believe anything these people say. Oh, their own subscribers will, but they don’t count as serious people. They swallowed all the nonsense for all of that time. Get real.

 

Talking about reputations: I decided to try and follow the trails of the Steele dossier earlier, because I think if you figure out the road that dossier has traveled, who has been pushing it etc., you can get a long way towards finding out how how Russiagate came about.

I turned to Wikipedia first, where “Steele dossier” automatically becomes “Trump-Russia dossier”. I read the intro, and it was already so clear where Wikipedia stands on this: not on Trump’s side. Impartiality does not count as a virtue there either. And I know that this stuff is written by third parties, but does Jimmy Wales really want to devalue his life’s work for party politics?

Right below the intro of the very long entry, a familiar name pops up: Luke Harding, and I’m thinking HAHAHAHA!

Luke Harding, after making a mint with his book Collusion, which Robert Mueller has singlehandedly moved into the Fiction section of the bookstore, and co-writing Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy last November, which Mueller fully discredited, is presented as a source for an entry about collusion? Oh boy.

A few paragraphs down I come upon the name Victoria Nuland, and again of course I think HAHAHAHA, what kind of source is she? Nuland became notorious for colluding with John McCain on Maidan Square in Kiyv, and she has less credibility than Harding, if such a thing is possible. A Nuland quote from the Wikipedia article:

 

“In the middle of July [2016], when he [Steele] was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, ‘This is not in our purview’.” “This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”

The entry continues:

 

It has remained unclear as to who exactly at the FBI was aware of Steele’s report through July and August, and what was done with it, but they did not immediately request additional material until late August or early September, when the FBI asked Steele for “all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI.”[57][56]

According to Nancy LeTourneau, political writer for the Washington Monthly, the report “was languishing in the FBI’s New York field office” for two months, and “was finally sent to the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.”, in September 2016.[65]

Meanwhile, in the July to September time frame, according to The Washington Post, CIA Director John Brennan had started an investigation with a secret task force “composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI”. At the same time, he was busy creating his own dossier of material documenting that “Russia was not only attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, they were doing so in order to elect Donald Trump … [T]he entire intelligence community was on alert about this situation at least two months before [the dossier] became part of the investigation.”

 

Ergo: the fully deranged Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, gets the dossier to the FBI, where nothing happens with it despite Nuland’s insistence that it shows terrible things going on, until someone (McCain?!) gets it to Brennan, and then the ball gets rolling.

There’s all these people in the Hillary sphere of influence who pick it up, in the media, the House, and the FBI and CIA. Because the campaign decides a story about prostitutes peeing on a bed where Obama once slept can a be a winner, and by July 2016 a few nerves had started twitching. The entire machinery shifted into gear right then and there.

The index to the entry contains some 350 links to articles, almost all by the usual suspects and with the usual angles. It all oozes collusion. An exception is Bob Woodward in January 2017:

 

‘Garbage Document’: Woodward Says US Intel Should Apologize Over Trump Dossier

Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday” the dossier was a “garbage document” and that Trump’s point of view on the matter is being “under-reported.”Woodward said the dossier should never have been presented at an intelligence briefing and it was a mistake for U.S. intelligence officials to do so. “Trump’s right to be upset about that … Those intelligence chiefs, who were the best we’ve had, who were terrific and have done great work, made a mistake here.


And when people make mistakes, they should apologize,” said Woodward. Meantime, Woodward’s former partner in reporting on the Watergate scandal, helped report the news about the dossier on CNN last week. Carl Bernstein defended the reporting on the dossier, dismissing Trump’s contention that it was “fake news.” Bernstein argued that U.S. intelligence saw fit to present the material to President Obama and President-elect Trump.

 

“Mistakes” by the intelligence chiefs? Hard to believe, if you’ve followed Brennan, Clapper, Comey in the past 2 years.

Not sure I’m going to finish reading that Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier. What’s the point? It’s fantasy advertized as fact in order to make money. It’s misleading, it’s fake and it seeks to damage people. It would appear we’d be better off discussing what fake news is (and what is not), and to not stick the label to everything Trump says, or the $50 million spent on the Mueller probe will have been entirely wasted.

What we can learn from it is that we can no longer trust the media we once had confidence in. Those days are gone and they won’t be back. They’ve been lying for a long time for their 30 pieces of silver, and once your credibility is gone, it’s gone for good.

That, by the way, is why we need Julian Assange so much, because we know he doesn’t lie. But of course that little fact has also already been buried in a big pile of fake news.

Orwell would be delighted.

 

 

Jun 282017
 


Willem de Kooning Police Gazette 1955

 

The best comment on the June 13 Jeff Sessions Senate testimony, and I’m sorry I forgot who made it, was that it looked like an episode of Seinfeld. A show about nothing. Still, an awful lot of voices tried to make it look like it was something life- and game-changing. It was not. Not anymore than Comey’s testimony was, at least not in the sense that those eager to have these testimonies take place would have liked it to be.

Comey shone more of an awkward light on himself rather than on Donald Trump, by admitting that he had leaked info on a private conversation with the president he served at the time. Not quite nothing, but very little to satisfy the anti-Trump crowd. It’s just that there’s so many in that crowd, and most in denial, that you wouldn’t know it unless you paid attention.

To cut to the chase of the issue, it’s no longer possible -or at least increasingly difficult- to find coverage in the US -and European- press of anything related to either Trump or Russia that doesn’t come solidly baked in a partisan opinionated sauce.

For instance, I have a Google News page, somewhat personalized, and I haven’t been able to open it for quite some time without the top news articles focusing on Trump and/or Russia, and all the ones at the very top are invariably from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, The Hill, Politico et al.

But I am not interested in those articles. These ‘news’ outlets -and you really must ask whether using the word ‘news’ is appropriate here- dislike anything Trump and Putin so much, for some reason, that all they do is write ‘stuff’ in a 24/7 staccato beat based on innuendo and allegations, quoted from anonymous sources that may or may not actually exist.

In the case of Russia, this attitude is many years old; in the case of Trump, it dates back to him announcing his candidacy. And that’s funny, because when you think back to who else was a GOP candidate, how can you not wonder if Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush would really have been better presidents than Trump? The Trump presidency is not an indictment of the man himself, but of the entire US political system.

You only need to think back of the Republican hopefuls who got beaten in the primaries, or the Democratic candidates on the other side of the isle. There are 320 million Americans, and that was the cream of the crop? What does that say about the state of the union? That’s very much true about Trump as well: is that the best you can do?

It’s the story behind the multiple veils, the -political- policy choices of the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post, that is perhaps the most interesting part of this. Their anti-Trump stories are certainly not. They’re utterly boring repetitive propaganda material. Still, there are also reasons behind this that have little to do with politics.

With the advent of the interwebs, the MSM were always going to have a challenging time. As time passed, it became clear they were going to have to compete with 100 million other voices. And while the established media have clear advantages, it was never going to be an easy task. For one thing because unlike most of these 100 million voices, the traditional media have a lot of overhead, fixed costs etc.

They can establish their own web presence, but not much about that is obvious. Some have moved behind a paywall to manage costs, others focus on ads. But none of that really works well. Ad revenue is not enough to keep the vast machinery going, and a paywall limits readership.

Ergo, the MSM has to focus on both 1) what makes it strong, and on 2) what sets it apart from the ‘new competition’. That does seem evident, and it’s therefore surprising that they have elected to do the opposite. A choice that will inevitably hasten their demise.

I’ve long thought that the only way the MSM can survive in the age of the interwebs, for as long as they can indeed survive, is to be uncompromisingly objective, perhaps even to stay away from opinionating, period. Because all other areas, everything that is subjective, will be taken over, and often already is, by the millions who write and post their own opinions on social media.

And no-one will be able to make up their mind any longer about what’s real or not if they can’t figure out from reading between all these lines what is true or not. That is a battle the media establishment cannot win. So it’s more than a bit surprising that it is exactly that which they have elected to pin their futures on.

Media organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post have over a long time built the contacts, the revenue (for now) and the resources to do what newer media can not: that is for instance, to assign a team of good and smart researchers and/or writers to difficult topics that may take months to cover satisfactorily. It just so happens that is what their entire business model was always based on.

But they’ve thrown it away. They’ve chosen to compete with the entire world, who can all write and all have opinions, in the shadowy realm of fake news, anonymity and mud-slinging. But the opinion of a Washington Post writer, or even its editorial staff, is just another opinion. That’s not where they can stand out. That they can only do in truth-finding. And then they choose not to.

Mainstream media are not short on content, but they ARE short on news. What they do is opinion, propaganda, and that’s not what they’re there for. Both they themselves and their readers should be very worried about that. Because news gathering and dissemination is a vital function in any democratic nation. Taking it away leaves a big hole.

And they’re pouring out so much of the same stuff that even if inside the echo chamber the audience just can’t get enough of it, those on the outside get pushed ever further away. The distance between these groups of people keeps growing, and that’s not what media should be doing, let alone aim for.

There comes a point when people will say: we get it, you don’t like Trump, but we don’t need to see that repeated 100 times a day, and certainly not if you don’t provide facts to base your preferences on. Outside the echo chamber that has already happened. I haven’t read anything in the New York Times or Washington Post forever. If I can’t trust them to write facts on Trump, I can’t trust them, period.

They already have so much going against them. Sales of paper copies are under relentless pressure, because they’re a day old when they’re published, and nobody needs to wait for their news that long anymore. Another kind of pressure comes from the fact that a huge part of their subscribers are older, and the younger stay away from print.

The Hill, a smaller member of the MSM, ran a story over the weekend which said CNN, one of its “brethren in crime”, is clamping down on stories about Russia. All stories have to go through the senior editors now. CNN the next day fired 3 people over one of the many stories. How about the rest? Did they all meet those ‘rigorous editorial standards?

With that Hill piece, you think: someone’s trying to save face… But The Hill would have to come clean about its own coverage of the topic to regain any credibility. As for CNN, have you watched those guys on TV lately? They’re like a firing-squad. Henchmen don’t ask questions either.

Before I forget: Does anyone think there would have been a Special Counsel appointed if the anti-Trump echo chamber press had not incessantly came up, and still does, with new narratives about President Trump, his campaign, his advisers, his staff, and all of the above’s links to Russia? For which to this day no proof has been revealed?!

I find it hard to fathom. I even think it is possible that the feeding frenzy will cost Trump his presidency, not because of evidence but because of neverending innuendo. The frenzy has shown no signs of letting up, and it can continue because it feeds on itself.

While it’s strange that the MSM should risk their own credibility and even survival to be competing, as I said, with a 100 million other ‘sources’, a fight that it can never win, in the short term they have established a loyal echo chamber following that has even ‘miraculously’ increased their subscription numbers.

The flipside of that is they have lost half of their potential readers, but they got so many more from inside the chamber in return that the bottom line looked good. But at some point you will have to prove something, if you want to live. And very little of the ‘material’ on both Trump and Russia has turned out to actually be wearing clothes.

Then again, once you’re inside the chamber, it’s hard to leave. Which is a disgrace for America in all its facets, but there’s not easy way back out. There’s only one, and it’s more out of reach than perhaps ever before: that of the truth, which only the MSM have the resources to provide on a consistent and wide-ranging basis. But they’ve rejected the truth.

They will find out soon enough that the echo chambers are all booked full, with nutjobs and snake oil salesmen. Why they would want to be thrown in with that crowd, who knows? Sure, a quick profit can work miracles. But then you die.

The entire drama has caused an enormous impoverishment of the American media landscape. And it never had much, if anything, to do with news.

The best way to illustrate what’s really going on is probably in these graphs. The negative ‘reporting’ about Trump is off the scale (don’t miss German TV network ARD’s 98% score):

 

 

But when it comes to bombing the Middle East, all the ducks get in line. As ducks do. As behooves ducks. Even when it comes to Trump, they can’t hide their true nature.

We’re done here.