Nov 182019
 
 November 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  28 Responses »


Salvador Dali Cubist self portrait 1926

 

Leaked Report Concludes Russia May Have Influenced Brexit Vote (AP)
Hong Kong Police Storm Into University After Violent Standoff (ZH)
Another Chapter in the Democrats’ 2020 Clown Car Disaster (Taibbi)
Morrison Told Schiff Panel: Nothing Improper During Trump-Zelensky Call (ZH)
In Trump-Nixon Impeachment Comparison, Pelosi Raises Specter Of Resignation (R.)
Pelosi: Trump’s Conduct Is ‘So Much Worse’ Than Nixon’s (NBC)
About Trump (Sylvain Laforest )
Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino (USAW)
China Quietly Bails Out Another Bank (ZH)
Airbus Exec: Boeing’s 737 MAX Grounding Benefits No One (CNBC)
Pictures of Prince Andrew Partying and Sweating (DM)
Against Economics (David Graeber)

 

 

Britain’s RussiaRussia craze continues. This concerns a bunch of Russian oligarchs with British citizenship who have donated to the Tories, and they are conveniently labeled “Russia”. For all we know they may be sworn enemies of Putin. And even if they’re not, they’re also not “Russia”. When the Brits show us Skripal, we can talk.

Leaked Report Concludes Russia May Have Influenced Brexit Vote (AP)

Questions about the British government’s failure to release a report on Russia’s interference in the country’s politics have continued to dog Prime Minister Boris Johnson as critics said leaks from the document raised concerns about the security of next month’s election. The report from Parliament’s intelligence committee concludes that Russian interference may have affected the 2016 referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, though the impact is “unquantifiable,” the Sunday Times reported. The committee said British intelligence services failed to devote enough resources to counter the threat and highlighted the impact of articles posted by Russian new sites that were widely disseminated on social media, the newspaper reported.

Emily Thornberry, the opposition Labour Party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the leaks raise questions that deserve answers ahead of the December 12 poll. “Boris Johnson therefore needs to clear up the confusion, spin and speculation around this [intelligence committee] report by publishing it in full at the earliest opportunity,” she told the Times. “If not, people will rightly continue to ask: what is he trying to hide from the British public and why?” Johnson’s government has said it needs more time to review the security implications of the report. It says it will release the report after the election.

Critics have alleged the report is being withheld because it shows Russians have made large donations to the Conservative Party, which is seeking to win a majority that would allow Johnson to push his Brexit deal through Parliament. Security Minister Brandon Lewis dismissed the criticism. Asked about Russian donors to the campaign, Lewis told Sky television on Sunday that all contributions are reported to the proper authorities and the donors in question all have British citizenship.

Read more …

Developing story with some seemingly contradictory “facts”.

Guardian: 800 protesters “trapped”. “Teargas stops protesters escaping despite president of Polytechnic University assuring them of safe passage.”

Hong Kong Police Storm Into University After Violent Standoff (ZH)

Update 3: As the AP reports, local police charged demonstrators at Hong Kong Polytechnic University early Monday in a bid to end a lengthy standoff with protesters who had occupied the campus for a week, even though the local police later denied they had, in fact, raided the campus. As the WSJ adds, pro-democracy activists who had spent the night at barricades outside retreated inside the university, while those already inside campus buildings hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks at elite and riot police, who stormed the campus through the main entrance.

“Several protesters had been perched on higher floors and used a large slingshot to launch Molotov cocktails. The entryway and areas around the university’s perimeter were quickly engulfed in flames. One protester shown on live-streamed video from the site fired an arrow at the officers. Police appeared to arrest a small number of demonstrators as they advanced, but it was unclear how many students remained inside.”

Update 2: Sky News in a breaking report says officers have been given the ‘green light’ to use lethal force if needed against ‘rioters’ deploying lethal weapons at student protester-occupied Polytechnic University. According to the report: “Hong Kong protestors have fired arrows and hurled petrol bombs at police, as they seek to keep control of a barricaded university. Warning they were authorized to use “lethal force”, officers threatened to use live bullets if rioters continued. The territory continues to suffer some of its worst unrest in six months of demonstrations.” Throughout the weekend and into Monday the campus is resembling a war zone. And as protester tactics escalate, including shooting at police with bows and arrows, and launching petrol bombs via sling shots off buildings, HK police gloves are now coming off.

The battle over student protester-occupied Polytechnic University grew more violent over the weekend and grabbed headlines Sunday after a police officer was wounded by an arrow and a riot control vehicle attempting to disperse what HK authorities have labelled ‘rioters’ was set aflame by dozens of Molotov cocktails. Chinese state media has now labeled the student protesters “terrorists” and has urged police to deploy live fire given the students themselves are in possession of deadly weapons.

Read more …

Deval Patrick is candidate no. 28.

Another Chapter in the Democrats’ 2020 Clown Car Disaster (Taibbi)

People like Bloomberg and Patrick seem to believe in the existence of a massive electoral “middle” that wants 15-point plans and meritocratic slogans instead of action. As befits brilliant political strategists, they also seem hyper-concerned about the feelings of the country’s least numerous demographic, the extremely rich. A consistent theme is fear (often described in papers like the Times as “concern”) that the rhetoric of Warren and Sanders might unduly upset wealthy folk. “I don’t think that wealth is the problem. I think greed is the problem,” Patrick told CBS This Morning. He added that “taxes should go up on the most prosperous and the most fortunate,” but “not as a penalty.”


What does that mean? Should we impose higher taxes on the rich but include a note from the IRS saying, “It’s not because we don’t love you”? Along with an alarmingly high number of press figures, politicians like Patrick seem to be trapped in an “electability” concept that hasn’t made sense since the Reagan-Bush years. Outside of a few spots on the Upper East Side and in Georgetown and L.A., the “center” has been gone a long time. From Donald Trump to Sanders to Warren, the politicians attracting the biggest and most enthusiastic responses in recent years have run on furious, throw-the-bums-out themes, for the logical reason that bums by now clearly need throwing out.

Read more …

He said this last month. Schiff didn’t exactly quote him on it. Help me here: who was the guy Schiff told to reconsider his statement weeks ago? Anyone remember?

Morrison Told Schiff Panel: Nothing Improper During Trump-Zelensky Call (ZH)

A former top national security adviser to President Trump told a secret impeachment panel that he believed nothing improper occurred during a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky, according to a transcript released over the weekend. NSC official Tim Morrison, who was on that phone call, expressed this narrative-killing opinion to the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee last month – which would have undermined recent public testimony by several US officials who said that President Trump abused his office when he asked Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden and matters related to the 2016 US election. That said, Morrison also testified that US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, was involved in an effort to encourage Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden – though he could not say whether Trump was involved in those efforts.

“I’m still not completely certain that this was coming from the President,” Morrison testified to House Democrats. “I’m only getting this from Ambassador Sondland.” During a closed-door deposition as part of the House impeachment inquiry, Morrison was asked, “In your view, there was nothing improper that occurred during the call?” “Correct,” he answered as he was testifying under oath.” -Epoch Times. Morrison replaced former NSC official Fiona Hill, who resigned from her position on July 19, days before the infamous Trump-Zelensky call. He says that the word “Burisma” never came up during that call, referring to the Ukrainian natural gas company which employed Hunter Biden on its board [..]

Trump asked Zelensky to investigate this, as well as allegations that Ukraine was involved with the hacked DNC server as well as the only firm allowed to look at it, Crowdstrike. Morrison also testified that the Trump administration withheld foreign aid from Ukraine due to Trump’s general skepticism toward foreign aid, and a “concern that Ukrainians were not paying their fair share, as well as concerns [that] our aid would be misused because of the view that Ukraine has a significant corruption problem.”

Read more …

I’m getting the impression this is Pelosi’s PR team speaking. That switch to “bribery” gave it away. Is “resignation” another term they checked with a focus group?!

In Trump-Nixon Impeachment Comparison, Pelosi Raises Specter Of Resignation (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is amplifying her unfavorable comparison of President Donald Trump to fellow Republican Richard Nixon, saying that disgraced president at least cared enough about the country to leave office before his impeachment. The top Democrat in Congress told reporters last week that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election “makes what Nixon did look almost small.” In a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday, she alluded to Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate scandal involving a break-in at Democratic Party headquarters and the subsequent cover-up.


“I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue,” Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” [..] Pelosi for months resisted calls from her more liberal Democratic lawmakers to initiate impeachment proceedings, but said Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy compelled her to open the inquiry against the president.

Read more …

They’re starting to intimidate witnesses.

Pelosi: Trump’s Conduct Is ‘So Much Worse’ Than Nixon’s (NBC)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s conduct is “so much worse” than that of former President Richard Nixon, adding that Trump is insecure about being an “imposter.” Pelosi spoke with CBS’s “Face the Nation” days after House impeachment investigators conducted their first public hearings. Three more days of public hearings are scheduled for this week. “I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower,” Pelosi said of the CIA employee whose complaint about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine led to the impeachment inquiry. “The president can come before the committee and speak all the truth that he wants … He has every opportunity to make his case.”

“But it’s really a sad thing,” Pelosi continued. “What the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did. At some point, Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue.” Since the House launched its impeachment inquiry in September, multiple Trump administration officials have alleged that Trump tied U.S. aid to Ukraine to an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Republicans have defended the president by pointing out that the aid was eventually released and Ukraine never announced an investigation into the Bidens. But Pelosi and other Democrats have said that, by conditioning aid on the investigations, Trump was attempting to commit bribery.

“The whistle was blown, the whistle was blown, and that was blown long before we heard about it,” Pelosi said. “Don’t forget that in-between all of that came the inspector general. An inspector general appointed by President Trump. And the inspector general said this was of urgent concern. That is what intervened.” Speaking with “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said Republicans have offered up “a whole bunch of defenses that don’t make sense.” “Lots of crimes can be committed … by the boss hinting and giving direction,” Himes said. “Corrupt people don’t always say, ‘Hey, here’s the signed contract.’ What has already developed from second-hand witnesses is that this aid was withheld as a condition.”

Even more Trump administration officials are set to testify publicly in the impeachment probe this week, including E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who Himes said is a first-hand witness to Trump’s conduct, having been tasked with carrying out his wishes. While Sondland’s initial October testimony largely absolved him from any wrongdoing, he submitted additional testimony in November acknowledge that he did deliver a quid pro quo message to Ukraine. Acknowledging that Sondland’s credibility is in question, Himes said it “was not lost on Ambassador Sondland what happened to” Trump associates Roger Stone and Michael Cohen “for lying to Congress.” “My guess is Gordon Sondland is going to do his level best to tell the truth because otherwise, he may have a very unpleasant legal future in front of him,” Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

Read more …

Nice find by Tyler, an article by Sylvain Laforest. Not saying I agree with it, but he tickles some pre-conceived “virtues”. Anyone who calls Trump the ultimate anti-narcissist knows he’s in for tons of derision. Laforest is okay with that.

“Donald simply doesn’t care if you like him or not, which makes him the ultimate anti-narcissist, by its psychological definition.”

About Trump (Sylvain Laforest )

Let’s make one thing clear: to the establishment, Trump isn’t mentally challenged, but he’s definitely seen as a possible nemesis of their world. Ever since he moved in the White House, Trump has been depicted as a narcissist, a racist, a sexist and a climate-skeptic, loaded with shady past stories and mental issues. Even though an approximate 60% of the American people don’t trust medias anymore, many have bought the story that Trump might be slightly crazy or unfit to rule, and the statistic climbs even higher when you get out of the USA. Of course, Donald isn’t doing anything special to change the deeply negative perception that so many journalists and people alike have about him.

He’s openly outrageous and provocative on Twitter, he sounds impulsive and dumb most of the time, acts irrationally, lies on a daily basis, and throws out sanctions and threats as if they were candy canes out of an elf’s side bag in a mall in December. Right away, we can destroy one persistent media myth: the image Trump is projecting is self-destructive and it’s the exact opposite of how pathological narcissists act, since they thrive to be loved and admired by everyone. Donald simply doesn’t care if you like him or not, which makes him the ultimate anti-narcissist, by its psychological definition. And that’s not even up for opinion, it’s a quite simple and undeniable fact.

His general plan exhales from one of his favorite motto: «We will give power back to the people», because the United States and its imperialist web woven over the world have been in the hands of a few globalist bankers, military industrials and multinationals for more than a century. To achieve his plan, he has to end wars abroad, bring back the kids, dismantle the NATO and CIA, get control over the Federal Reserve, cut every link with foreign allies, abolish the Swift financial system, demolish the propaganda power of the medias, drain the swamp of the deep state that’s running the spying agencies and disable the shadow government that’s lurking in the Council on foreign relations and Trilateral Commission’s offices. In short, he has to destroy the New World Order and its globalist ideology. The task is huge and dangerous to say the least. Thankfully, he’s not alone.

Read more …

John Rubino is one of the first, and most loyal, fans of the Automatic Earth. Seeing this video makes me think I should really start talking more about finance again. If only because after all, that’s where we come from. But having watched how the Fed et al have distorted and erased what are still called markets, I started to look elsewhere -as well- for what was interesting.

Fed Fears Next Crash Fatal – John Rubino (USAW)

Rubino explains, “Every sector of the U.S. economy is so over indebted I don’t see how we go on much longer. The Fed is desperately trying to prolong this thing. We are running trillion dollar deficits now, and what that is for is to keep the system from falling apart. We are 11 years into an expansion, a record. This is the longest bull market in history, and this is the longest economic expansion in history. . . . These guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next recession, but they are afraid that the system is so highly leveraged that even a garden variety three quarters of a percent of negative growth and a garden variety of 20% drop in stock prices might be fatal. The system might not be able to handle that because it would cause so much damage and there are so many different places that can blow up that the system would spin out of control. We would get 2008-2009 again but on steroids because the numbers are so much bigger this time around. So, they want to avoid that at all costs.”


Rubino points out, “Fear is the enemy in a fiat currency system. Everything is based on our assumption that the guys in charge know what they are doing and that the confidence in them is good. You take that away, and they let us see them sweat, and it’s over. There is no real bottom for the dollar, euro or the yen. Their intrinsic value is zero. When the economic players out there in the global financial system realize that the central banks of the world are out of ammo, and nothing these guys do is going to fix our problem, then all hell breaks loose. . . . What worries me about today’s world is that everything falls apart all at once, and there is no way to fix what went wrong. . . .We have a lot of examples of governments doing crazy things when everything falls apart.”

Read more …

Harbin’s biggest problem: it trades on Hong Kong’s stock exchange. You know, HK dollars.

China Quietly Bails Out Another Bank (ZH)

Harbin Bank, which is one of the biggest banks in China’s northeast with 622 billion yuan in assets as of June 30, 2019, and trades on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, becomes the fifth bank – after Baoshang Bank , Bank of Jinzhou, Heng Feng Bank, and Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank – to be bailed out by the state, and will be 48%-controlled by two government entities after six private shareholders shed their stakes, according to a bank statement issued late on Friday. Total consideration for the shares involved came to almost 15 billion yuan, or around $2.1 billion, the bank said, though it described the transactions as transfers rather than stock sales, which is to be expected if the bank was being bailed out instead of actually selling a viable stake.

As has been the customary case, the bank didn’t provide any reason for the transactions in the statement, and Chinese bank regulators made no comment on the action. And, as was the case with at least one previous bank “rescue”, Harbin Bank was connected to a former oligarch who disappeared not that long ago amid allegations of massive fraud. Indeed, as the WSJ reports, the bank is among a handful of financial businesses in China linked to once-powerful tycoon named Xiao Jianhua who in early 2017 disappeared amid a wave of prosecutions of big private investors. Businesses owned by some of those people, including Wu Xiaohui’s Anbang Insurance Group Co., have also since become government-owned.

[..] So why did Harbin Bank fail? In its financial report for H1 2019, Harbin Bank cited deteriorating asset quality – read surging bad loans – as well as intensified competition for deposits and higher borrowing costs in money markets as China’s economy slows. Yet, paradoxically, the near-insolvent lender also said it recorded a profit of 2.18 billion yuan, or about $311.1 million, though that was off about 16% because of, drumroll, more-aggressive write-offs of bad debts. Which goes to show that corporate earnings reports in China are as “credible” as all other Chinese economic “data.”

Read more …

He said it straight-faced, I’m sure.

Airbus Exec: Boeing’s 737 MAX Grounding Benefits No One (CNBC)

Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer forcefully rejected the notion that his company is benefiting from the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet while speaking to CNBC during the Dubai Air Show. “I really need to correct that cultural belief. This does not benefit anyone in this industry, the least of which would be Airbus,” Scherer told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Sunday. “It’s a tragedy, it is an issue for Boeing to resolve, but it is not good for competitors to see problems on any one particular airplane type.” The 737 Max [..] grounding has forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights, driven up costs and dented airlines’ profits. To make up for the expected loss in services, Boeing in the second quarter took a $4.9 billion after-tax charge to compensate airlines but final amounts are unknown because regulators haven’t yet lifted the grounding.


Boeing and Airbus, often described as holding a duopoly over the large commercial airline industry since the 1990s, each own approximately half of that market. Orders for each company’s airliners, however, are expected to be smaller this year as the industry faces headwinds including a slowing global economy, climate change and safety concerns. Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace group, cut its delivery expectations for 2019 as it grapples with manufacturing delays at its recently expanded plant in Hamburg, Germany. It now plans to deliver “around 860” planes this year, down from an original target of between 880 and 890. It recorded an adjusted operating income of 1.6 billion euros ($1.78 billion) for the third quarter of 2019.

Read more …

Andrew said in the Saturday interview that he didn’t party, didn’t show personal displays of affection, couldn’t sweat and only went out wearing a suit and tie. Well, now he’s got the Daily Mail on his trail. They have a lot of pictures of him doing exactly that.

Pictures of Prince Andrew Partying and Sweating (DM)

Prince Andrew is facing an extraordinary backlash over his interview, which Prince Charles’ former PR chief Dickie Arbiter described as: ‘Not so much a car crash but an articulated lorry crash’. Mr Arbiter said he must ‘take a break’ from royal duties, adding: ‘What charity wants a VIP guest with this hanging over him?’ Viewers described watching Andrew’s grilling from behind the sofa and through their fingers as he denied having sex with Virginia Roberts because he was in Pizza Express in Woking and suggested that the world-famous picture of them together could be faked. Miss Roberts’ evidence that he sweated ‘profusely’ during sex were explained away by claiming a rush of adrenaline while being shot at during the Falklands conflict in 1982 made it impossible for him.

A royal source claimed last night he has told his mother the Queen that his appearance on the BBC Two Newsnight special was largely a ‘great success’ – but a friend told the Mail he ‘regretted’ not expressing sympathy for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims in his disastrous TV interview. Today former royal protection officer said it went so badly for Prince Andrew it should spark a police investigation. In another infamous set of pictures taken on the French Riviera in July 2007, the Prince looks wild-eyed as he parties with American socialite Chris Von Aspen. The blonde interior designer can be seen licking Andrew as the pair cavorted together.

More clips from 2008 show him wandering around a party thrown by wine tycoon Claude Ott, heading to the dance floor with two women as techno music plays out. The Prince appears to look worse for wear as he enjoys the party, hair dishevelled and shirt untucked.

Read more …

Graeber is always an interesting read. But not one I can do justice in this format, if only because of the length of the essay.

Against Economics (David Graeber)

There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist. A good example is the obsession with inflation. Economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability. We must be constantly vigilant over the dangers of inflation. For governments to simply print money is therefore inherently sinful. If, however, inflation is kept at bay through the coordinated action of government and central bankers, the market should find its “natural rate of unemployment,” and investors, taking advantage of clear price signals, should be able to ensure healthy growth.


These assumptions came with the monetarism of the 1980s, the idea that government should restrict itself to managing the money supply, and by the 1990s had come to be accepted as such elementary common sense that pretty much all political debate had to set out from a ritual acknowledgment of the perils of government spending. This continues to be the case, despite the fact that, since the 2008 recession, central banks have been printing money frantically in an attempt to create inflation and compel the rich to do something useful with their money, and have been largely unsuccessful in both endeavors. We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please support the Automatic Earth on Paypal and Patreon so we can continue to publish.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

 

 

Feb 232019
 


Henri Rousseau The sleeping gypsy 1897

 

A Fed Pivot, Born Of Volatility, Missteps, And New Economic Reality (R.)
Get Out Of The Bond And Stock Market, Put Your Money In Cash – Stockman (MW)
Global Sovereign Debt Will Top $50 Trillion This Year (ZH)
Mueller Won’t Deliver Report To DOJ Next Week (Hill)
Schiffting to Phase 2 of Collusion (Strassel)
‘Even Nixon Wasn’t Like Him’: Trump’s Bid To Upend Russia Inquiry (G.)
Great Investigations (Kunstler)
Theresa May Must Go In Three Months, Cabinet Ministers Say (G.)
UK Food Imports From EU Face ‘£9bn Tariff Bill’ Under No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Dianne Feinstein Snaps At Group Of Environmental Activist Children (ZH)
The Cold War in Tech (Barron’s)
Silicon Valley Wants In On It Pair Of Gene-Edited Chinese Twins (ZH)
China Blocks 17.5 Million Plane Tickets Due to Lack of ‘Social Credit’ (Ind.)

 

 

The folly of our times. The Fed has completely destroyed America’s market system, and thus its economy, and they are treated as wise men. There are no markets left, there are no pensions left, there’s only the Fed.

A Fed Pivot, Born Of Volatility, Missteps, And New Economic Reality (R.)

The Federal Reserve’s promise in January to be “patient” about further interest rate hikes, putting a three-year-old process of policy tightening on hold, calmed markets after weeks of turmoil that wiped out trillions of dollars of household wealth. But interviews with more than half a dozen policymakers and others close to the process suggest it also marked a more fundamental shift that could define Chairman Jerome Powell’s tenure as the point where the Fed first fully embraced a world of stubbornly weak inflation, perennially slower growth and permanently lower interest rates. Along with Powell’s public comments, Fed minutes, and other documents, the picture emerges of a central bank edging towards a period of potentially difficult change as it reviews how to do business in light of that new reality.

[..] Concern that years of solid economic growth and falling unemployment would inevitably rekindle inflation or threaten financial stability have been a staple of Fed debates, but had largely disappeared by the Fed’s Dec. 18-19 meeting, according to a review of Fed meeting minutes and officials’ public statements. It was a conclusion hiding in plain sight. After a year when the Trump administration pumped around $1.5 trillion of tax cuts and public spending into a full employment economy, the Fed in 2018 would miss its 2 percent inflation target yet again.

“I hate to say we were right,” Dallas Federal Reserve president Robert Kaplan told reporters on Jan. 15 in Dallas. “But we have been warning for quite some time that…the structure of the economy has changed dramatically.” Technological innovation, globalization, and the Fed’s commitment to its inflation target all held down prices, and “those forces are powerful and they are accelerating,” he said.

Read more …

Dave Stockman, too, keeps referring to markets. Stop it. A market has a definition, a function, based one-on-one on price discovery. And that simply ceased to exist.

Get Out Of The Bond And Stock Market, Put Your Money In Cash – Stockman (MW)

[..] thus far the market has bounded higher after shaking off a withering decline toward the end of 2018 that culminated in the worst Christmas Eve drop on record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.4% since that time, breaking above a psychologically significant at 26,000 level on Friday, while the S&P 500 has advanced 19.5%, the Nasdaq Composite has risen 22.4% and the small-capitalization focused Russell 2000 index has returned more than 25%, according to FactSet data. Much of that gain has been underpinned by a Fed that has signaled that it is likely to slow a reduction of its $4 trillion balance sheet as soon as this year and a willingness to wait before increasing borrowing costs further. Both of those plans had been cited as a source of friction for markets.

However, Stockman has said a yawning deficit and an economic expansion in the U.S. that is making history for its length are signs that a reckoning my be at hand. He says easy-money days cannot last and has ramifications for all, arguing that the Fed must normalize its policy, at some point: “My point is, it’s finally catching up with us. We’ve gotten by with this for 30 years ‘cause the Fed has been monetizing the debt — buying bonds hand over fist. When Greenspan arrived, the balance sheet of the Fed was $200 billion; at the peak it was $4.5 trillion,” he told Cavuto, referring to former Fed boss Alan Greenspan. “We need to wake up and smell the roses here. We’re in year 10 of the longest business expansion in history.

We’re increasing the deficit at the very wrong time. They say it’s $900 billion this year it’ll be $1.2 trillion of borrowing at the same time that the Fed is beginning to shrink its balance sheet, which means they’ll be dumping bonds into the market,” he said.

Read more …

All that new debt and still pension systems are being fully gutted.

Global Sovereign Debt Will Top $50 Trillion This Year (ZH)

It has been one week since the US Treasury revealed that the national debt had topped $22 trillion (only 11 months after it had topped the $21 trillion threshold). And as the US budget deficit shows no signs of shrinking thanks to the Trump tax cuts and the death of the Obama-era budget sequester that has allowed for an expansion of federal spending (with more presumably on the way once the Trump infrastructure plan comes into focus), S&P warned on Thursday that worldwide sovereign debt could reach $50 trillion this year. According to Reuters, S&P predicted that governments will borrow some $7.78 trillion this year, up 3.2% since 2018 (the US will constitute more than $1 trillion of that all by itself). That’s a 6% increase in the total debt pile from the year before.

Most of this borrowing will be rolling over long-term debt. “Some 70 percent, or $5.5 trillion, of sovereigns’ gross borrowing will be to refinance maturing long-term debt, resulting in an estimated net borrowing requirement of about $2.3 trillion, or 2.6 percent of the GDP of rated sovereigns,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Karen Vartapetov. Governments, like corporations and individuals, took advantage of low interest rates around the world to step up borrowing in the wake of the financial crisis. Now, with borrowing costs expected to rise, these long-term burdens will become more burdensome to service. And with central banks slowly beginning to allow their inflated balance sheets to run off…

Read more …

No collusion.

Mueller Won’t Deliver Report To DOJ Next Week (Hill)

Special counsel Robert Mueller will not deliver his report to the Justice Department on Friday or next week, a Justice Department official told The Hill. The news comes amid broad speculation that Mueller’s probe into Russia’s electoral interference is wrapping up, with several news outlets reporting Wednesday that newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr was preparing to receive Mueller’s final report as soon as next week. The highly anticipated report is expected to cap off a sprawling, nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, a probe that has ensnared multiple former Trump campaign officials and associates.

Next week is already slated to be a busy week in Washington, with former longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen appearing for testimony on Capitol Hill and several other major hearings and votes set to take place. President Trump is also slated to travel to Vietnam next week for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. It remains unclear when Mueller will ultimately wrap up and submit his final documentation, though Friday’s news indicates the end of the investigation is at least a week away.

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow since May 2017, weathering constant attacks from Trump, who views the investigation as a “witch hunt” and has long denied allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. In the course of his investigation, Mueller has unveiled charges against more than two dozen Russians for hacking Democratic emails and committing fraud in an elaborate plot to use social media to meddle in the election. The special counsel has also charged six Trump associates with making false statements, illegal foreign lobbying, financial violations and other crimes. However, none of the charges have alleged a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russians to interfere in the election.

Read more …

“No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who?”

Schiffting to Phase 2 of Collusion (Strassel)

There’s been no more reliable regurgitator of fantastical Trump-Russia collusion theories than Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. So when the House Intelligence Committee chairman sits down to describe a “new phase” of the Trump investigation, pay attention. These are the fever swamps into which we will descend after Robert Mueller’s probe. The collusionists need a “new phase” as signs grow that the special counsel won’t help realize their reveries of a Donald Trump takedown. They had said Mr. Mueller would provide all the answers. Now that it seems they won’t like his answers, Democrats and media insist that any report will likely prove “anticlimactic” and “inconclusive.” “This is merely the end of Chapter 1,” said Renato Mariotti, a CNN legal “analyst.”

Mr. Schiff turned this week to a dependable scribe—the Washington Post’s David Ignatius—to lay out the next chapter of the penny dreadful. Mr. Ignatius was the original conduit for the leak about former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador, and the far-fetched claims that Mr. Flynn had violated the Logan Act of 1799. Mr. Schiff has now dictated to Mr. Ignatius a whole new collusion theory. Forget Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos—whoever. The real Trump-Russia canoodling rests in “Trump’s finances.” The future president was “doing business with Russia” and “seeking Kremlin help.”

So, no apologies. No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who? What’s mind-boggling is that reporters would continue to take Mr. Schiff seriously, given his extraordinary record of incorrect and misleading pronouncements. This is the man who, on March 22, 2017, helped launch full-blown hysteria when he said on “Meet the Press” that his committee already had the goods on Trump-Russia collusion. “I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Mr. Schiff declared then. Almost two years later, he’s provided no such evidence and stopped making the claim..

Read more …

Perhaps even more than politicians, it’s the media that will keep the collusion tale alive. They wouldn’t know how to make money anymore if they didn’t.

‘Even Nixon Wasn’t Like Him’: Trump’s Bid To Upend Russia Inquiry (G.)

It was yet another bombshell report for a president already ensnared in multiple investigations against his campaign, administration and family members. This time it had to do with hush money paid to women to silence them from speaking about alleged affairs they had with Donald Trump. According to a New York Times report published this week, Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, his controversial acting attorney general, if he could install a loyalist at the helm of the investigation into the hush money.

Although Whitaker declined Trump’s request, the story has raised fresh questions over whether the president was seeking to obstruct justice and how the reported move fits into a broad pattern of Trump attempting to interfere with an investigation concerning himself. Since taking office, Trump’s fixation on the federal inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election – and potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow – has spurred a series of actions that could now imperil his presidency and prospects of a second term.

From high-level firings to public misstatements, Trump’s repeated steps to undermine the investigations that have clouded his two years in office paint a picture of a president who is his own worst enemy, legal experts say. “It is quite clear from all the evidence that the president has had the intent to obstruct this investigation,” said Andy Wright, a former associate counsel to Barack Obama and the founding editor of the legal blog Just Security. “It’s been in plain sight.” “It’s a fundamental abuse of power for the president to be trying to shut down an investigation in which he has a personal stake – both as a potential target himself and his political allies and family members,” he added.

Read more …

Jim stays on message. I changed the headline from Great Expectations to Great Investigations.

Great Investigations (Kunstler)

Meanwhile, their antics may be eclipsed by the now inevitable inquiry around the misdeeds carried out by public officials in Act I of the show: the Russia Collusion Ruse. Based just on the current Andy McCabe book tour, there will be an awful lot to get to, and it is liable to be far more compelling than the nonsense conjured up by the Three Stooges. Mr. McCabe, in his quest to hand off the hot potato of culpability to his former colleagues, and to sell enough books to pay his lawyers’ retainers, has neatly laid out the case for his orchestrating a coup d’etat within the FBI. It’s an ugly story, and it’s all out there now, like so much spaghetti hurled against the wall, and it won’t be ignored.

There are many other spaghetti wads already plastered on that wall ranging from Hillary Clinton’s Fusion GPS hijinks, to Loretta Lynch’s written assurances to the Clinton campaign that the email server matter would be dropped, to the rather complete failure of the FISA process, and much much more that needs to be ventilated in a court of law. I suspect that Barack Obama and his White House confidents will enter the picture, too, sooner later, and to the great dismay of his partisans who do not want to see his legacy tarnished. Whatever your view of all these dark events, it would be pretty awful for the country to have to see him in a witness chair, but it may be unavoidable. Ditto Hillary, who is liable to go all Captain Queeg-y when she finally has to answer for her campaign’s turpitudes.

Read more …

Can both major parties in Britain dissolve in just 4 weeks time?

Theresa May Must Go In Three Months, Cabinet Ministers Say (G.)

Cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe Theresa May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the Guardian understands.Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year. May wants to stay in place for long enough after Brexit to secure a political legacy beyond the fraught negotiations. But some ministers believe she should announce the timeline for her departure “on a high” after the local election results, paving the way for a Conservative leadership contest over the summer.

Brexiters in the cabinet are keen to see a new leader take over for the next stage of the negotiations with the EU, which May has already pledged will involve more active involvement for politicians rather than advisers. The hardening mood among cabinet ministers on the timeline for her departure will place further pressure on May before a critical week of Brexit talks and votes amid a febrile climate in Westminster. On Thursday the Guardian revealed that remainer ministers emboldened by the departure of three MPs to the Independent Group (TIG) were threatening to rebel against her leadership to prevent a no-deal outcome – daring her to sack them.

And in a fresh blow to May, three cabinet ministers publicly say they would back moves to delay Brexit if she fails to get her deal through parliament. In a joint newspaper article, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, the justice minister, and the business secretary, Greg Clark, say they want to ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal on 29 March. And they insist they are prepared to defy the prime minister and join those MPs pushing for an extension to article 50 if there is no significant progress next week.

Writing for the Daily Mail on Saturday, they argue that a no-deal Brexit would wreck the country’s economy and put its security at risk. “If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the European Union on 29 March,” they write. “It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 29 March. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit.”

Read more …

Both May and Brussels appear to think they stand to gain from a no-deal Brexit. Maybe that makes it more likely than we think.

UK Food Imports From EU Face ‘£9bn Tariff Bill’ Under No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The government is expected next week to spell out its plan to mitigate a potential £9bn food-price shock from a no-deal Brexit, as analysts predict the cost of staples such as beef, cheddar cheese and tomatoes could soar. With just over a month until the Brexit deadline, the Department for International Trade is expected on Monday to publish a list of new import taxes, or tariffs, that will apply to 5200 products, including food and clothing, should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal. The relationship with the EU is key to the price of food because nearly one third of the food eaten in the UK comes from the bloc. At this time of year the situation is more acute because, with UK produce out of season, 90% of lettuces, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit is sourced from, or via, the EU.

“Food and drink tariff rates will be higher than those in any other supply chain,” says Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy firm Retail Economics. “All stages within the food supply chain will experience increased costs, with retailers hit disproportionately as processed goods attract higher duties than raw materials and semi-processed goods.” In 2017 the UK bought about £34bn of groceries from the EU, which arrived on supermarket shelves and at factory gates without being hit by customs duties or other trade costs. But if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both will fall back on the World Trade Organisation’s “most favoured nation” tariffs, which means they must pay import duties on each other’s trade. On that basis the UK’s 2017 EU food imports would come with a hefty £9.3bn tariff bill on top, according to Retail Economics’s analysis.

Read more …

Having been there for 30 years is not exactly a positive thing, given how much things have deteriorated in that time. Hand it over to the kids, they couldn’t possibly do worse.

Dianne Feinstein Snaps At Group Of Environmental Activist Children (ZH)

Armed with an impassioned letter and memorized talking points, the children belonging to three Bay Area environmentalist groups (Sunrise Bay Area, Youth Versus the Apocalypse, and Earth Guardians San Francisco) implored Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. The Senator responded: “Ok, I’ll tell you what. We have our own Green New Deal.” The video skips forward to the children warning Feinstein that “some scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around” – referring to a conclusion by a recent UN-backed report that man-made climate change will become irreversible if carbon emissions are not significantly reduced over the next 12 years (which Ocasio-Cortez turned into “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”).

“It’s not gonna get turned around in 10 years,” responded Feinstein – drawing a harsh rebuke from an angry chaperone. “Senator if this doesn’t get turned around in 10 years you’re looking at the faces of the people who are going to be living with these consequences,” said the adult – as one of the children chimed in “the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people and for all the people!” Feinstein was not amused. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say “it has to be my way or the highway.” “I don’t respond to that,” shot back Feinstein. “I’ve gotten elected. I just ran. I was elected by almost a million vote plurality. And, I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit. -Dianne Feinstein

One kid shot back “I hear what you’re saying but we’re the people who voted you. You’re supposed to listen to us, that’s your job.” “How old are you?” challenged Feinstein. “I’m 16. I can’t vote,” said the girl. “Well you didn’t vote for me,” replied the Senator.

https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/status/1099075460649107458

Read more …

The new fight for control of the world. Orwell International Inc.

The Cold War in Tech (Barron’s)

Cisco Systems, an early Silicon Valley success story, has become one of the nation’s top tech exporters. Today, roughly half of the networking giant’s sales come from outside the U.S. As foreign countries sought to catch up with U.S. connectivity, Cisco helped plug them in. But a wave of nationalist thinking has put Cisco—and most of its peers—in an uncomfortable position. Earlier this month, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins described the current climate as “one of the more complex macro, geopolitical environments that I think we’ve seen in quite a while with all the different moving parts.” It’s likely to get worse.

While investors are cheering indications of progress being made toward a resolution of trade issues between China and the U.S., the battle for tech supremacy between the two global superpowers shows few signs of abating. Even as the White House was negotiating on trade with Beijing, it was also contemplating a U.S. ban of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies, essentially China’s version of Cisco. As President Donald Trump was tweeting about the importance of 5G on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pushing U.S. allies to ditch Huawei. This is a fight that is not going to end anytime soon. For years, U.S. officials have worried about Chinese equipment being used to infiltrate U.S. networks and businesses for possible espionage and theft of intellectual property.

Even a resolution of the trade war won’t quell those fears. “The perception is that too much of the information- and communication-technology supply chain is centered on China,” says Paul Triolo, who focuses on global technology policy issues for risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. “If we are in a conflict and using infrastructure built by China, they could theoretically hit a button and shut off everything.” “After 30 years of saying companies should optimize supply chains and move some abroad, now we are saying it’s a security concern,” he says. “Adjusting to that is jarring.”

Read more …

The sort of thing you know someone will always try, no matter what laws are invented. And it’s not about Silicon Valley, it’s about the CIA through big Tech.

Silicon Valley Wants In On It Pair Of Gene-Edited Chinese Twins (ZH)

A pair of Chinese twins who were gene-edited for resistance to HIV may also have ‘supercharged’ brains, along with possible resistance to age-related cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a controversial experiment led by Chinese scientist He Jiankui, the embroys of seven couples had their genes “edited” using a tool known as CRISPR. By removing a gene called CCR5, Jiankui sought to create a natural immunity to HIV – which requires CCR5 to enter blood cells. Based on new research, however, Jiankui may have also left the twins, Lulu and Nana, with improved memory and enhanced cognition, according to MIT Technology Review. They may also enjoy some degree of protection from Alzheimer’s Disease and other maladies which are rapidly being linked to chronic inflammation, as some groups of mice without CCR5 – or who have been given CCR5 inhibitors, experience less severe dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says UCLA neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva, whose lap discovered a link between CCR5 and the brain’s ability to form new connections. “The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva, adding that the exact effect on the girls’ cognition cannot be predicted, which is “why it should not be done.” Jiankui’s human experiments drew harsh rebuke after news of Lulu and Nana’s birth in late October or early November, and has reportedly been fired from his position at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China. Jiankui says there are more gene-edited babies on the way.

Silva tells the MIT Technology Review that “because of his research, he sometimes interacts with figures in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who have, in his opinion, an unhealthy interest in designer babies with better brains.” When word of Jiankui’s experiment went public, Silva says he immediately questioned whether enhanced cognition was the real goal of the experiment. “I suddenly realized—Oh, holy shit, they are really serious about this bullshit,” said Silva. “My reaction was visceral repulsion and sadness.” He Jiankui acknowledged that he knew about the potential cognitive benefits of removing the CCR5 gene discovered by the UCLA team during a Q&A session, though he said “I am against using genome editing for enhancement.”

Read more …

Brave new world: gene-edited superhumans controlled through embedded technology. That Orwell guy appears smarter by the day.

China Blocks 17.5 Million Plane Tickets Due to Lack of ‘Social Credit’ (Ind.)

The Chinese government blocked 17.5 million would-be plane passengers from buying tickets last year as a punishment for offences including the failure to pay fines, it emerged. Some 5.5 million people were also barred from travelling by train under a controversial “social credit” system which the ruling Communist Party claims will improve public behaviour. The penalties are part of efforts by president Xi Jinping‘s government to use data-processing and other technology to tighten control on society. Human rights activists warn the system is too rigid and may lead to people being unfairly blacklisted without their knowledge, while US vice-president Mike Pence last year denounced it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life”.

Authorities have experimented with social credit in parts of China since 2014. Points are deducted for breaking the law, but also, in some areas, for offences as minor as walking a dog without a lead. Offences punished last year also included false advertising and violating drug safety rules, said China’s National Public Credit Information Centre. It gave no details of how many people live in areas with social credit systems. [..] The ruling party is spending heavily to roll out facial recognition systems, and human rights activists say people in Muslim and other areas with high ethnic minority populations have been compelled to give blood samples for a genetic database. Those systems rely heavily on foreign technology, which has prompted criticism of US and European suppliers for enabling human rights abuses.

Read more …

May 042018
 


Gutzon Borglum Mount Rushmore, Repairing Lincoln’s nose 1962

 

 

Dr. D figured his last missive was a bit heavy handed. So he went for something lighter this time. A penance, a doctor’s guide: “It’s hard enough to find a candidate that will even promise to do something right so it doesn’t help that they do the opposite 90% of the time.”

 

 

Dr. D:

Who wrote “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal”? Jefferson, a slave owner.

Who was one of the most ardent Abolitionists? Alexander Hamilton.

Was he a slave owner? Yes.

Who won the election of 1824? No one, it was decided by the House of Representatives.

So which party lost? None: all four candidates were Democratic-Republicans.

In response, Andrew Jackson, a slave owner, created the Democratic Party.

Jackson created the Democratic Party as an anti-bank, anti-oligarch, states-rights platform the Tea Party would recognize.

Martin Van Buren, a Democrat, created the first concentration camp for Cherokee Indians in 1838.

Those 17,000 Cherokees owned 2,000 slaves.

Did Lincoln create the Republican Party? No, it was an amalgamation of failed parties: Lincoln was their 1st candidate.

What was the Lincoln campaign of 1860? Non-interference in state slavery.

Why? The decision of Dred Scott in 1857, a slave owned by abolitionists in a state he did not reside. Overturning 250 years of history, the case determined that no slave could ever become a citizen, i.e. freed.

Who was the best known Confederate General? Stonewall Jackson.

What did he do when he sided with the Southern cause? Freed his slaves.

Who else was a top Confederate General? William Mahone.

What did he do? He was the creator of the most successful interracial alliance in the post-war South. His name was purged first by Southern Democrats (for integration), then by modern Democrats (for being a Confederate).

 

Woodrow Wilson (D) ran an anti-collectivism, limited government, anti-monopoly, anti-bank campaign in 1912. He created the Federal Reserve and is known for founding the modern welfare state.

Wilson was re-elected on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” He immediately forced the reluctant nation into WWI.

Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge during the Crash of ’21, demanded economic aid and bailouts, but Coolidge, “the great refrainer,” refused. The market immediately recovered.

Hoover was President during the Crash of ’29. He gave unprecedented bailouts to help the economy recover. It never did.

Roosevelt campaigned against Hoover for being “ the greatest spending Administration in peacetime in all our history.” He outspent Hoover tenfold.

Did Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” the greatest stimulus and spending program up to that time, end the Great Depression? No. It was going strong in 1939.

What did Roosevelt campaign on? He promised to keep us out of war in Europe.

Who was Time’s Man of the Year in 1938? Adolf Hitler.

Who was Man of the Year in 1939? Joseph Stalin.

1942? Joseph Stalin.

 

Wars under “anti-war” Democratic Party: 93 years, 46.5%. 625K deaths since 1864.

Wars under “pro-war” “Republican” Party: 107 Years 53.5%. 12K deaths since 1864.

Who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Republicans 80% vs. Democrats 69%.

Who filibustered it? Southern Democrat Strom Thurmond.

Who signed it? Lyndon Johnson, a southern Democrat.

Where did Thurmond go? The GOP, who had voted against him and against southern segregation.

What did Richard Nixon campaign on? “Law and Order” and a “secret plan” to exit Vietnam. He immediately bombed Cambodia and was later impeached for a burglary.

Who said “the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now” and “Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested will help create a new job and a new salary” ? John F. Kennedy.

Who gave the greatest modern tax cut? John F. Kennedy (income and capital gains, signed by Johnson).

Who most increased the postwar Federal deficit? Ronald Reagan 186%.

Who most increased taxes? Ronald Reagan, 1982 (as % of GDP, excluding Obamacare and Johnson’s one-year tax).

 

Who called young blacks “Superpredators”? Hillary Clinton, 1996.

Who put the most black men in jail? Bill Clinton, under the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act.

Who cut welfare most? Bill Clinton, 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Act.

Who was called the first “Black President”? Bill Clinton (“white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” –Toni Morrison, 1998. I swear this is true).

What was George W. Bush’s platform? Smaller, less-invasive government, lower taxes, and no foreign wars.

Who are the Neoconservatives? “Liberal hawks who became disenchanted with the pacifist foreign policy of the Democratic Party”.

Where did these Liberal Democrats finally prosper? Under G.W. Bush and on Fox News, e.g. Bill Kristol.

 

Which President won the Nobel Peace Prize? Barack Obama. (As did Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter)

What was his legacy? War every day of all eight years, with +50,000 official strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria and unofficial attacks in Ukraine, Sudan, Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, and elsewhere, as well as 3,000 drone deaths.

Wow, anything else? Due to his intervention, Obama, the first black president, caused the creation of an open-air black slave market in Libya.

Who campaigned advocating a Syrian no-fly zone expected to cause WWIII with Russia? Hillary Clinton (D).

Who campaigned for peace talks and de-escalation with Russia? Donald Trump (R).

Who sent 164 missiles into Russian ally Syria? Donald Trump (R).

Who advocated against the recent attacks? “Far-right” speakers Rand Paul and Tucker Carlson of Fox News.

Who advocated for the attacks? “Left” speakers Fareed Zakaria, and Rachel Maddow with left media Slate and Mother Jones.

What was the actual breakdown? 22% of GOP supported Syrian airstrikes in 2013 vs 86% for the same strikes in 2017.

And on and on. Got it? Know which side you’re on? History, party platforms, personal beliefs, economy, all clear?

 

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

P.S. Mark Twain never said this.

 

 

Jul 232017
 


Ford Madox Brown King Lear and Cordelia c1851

 

Mea culpa. Yesterday I wrote Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?, and not long after publishing it, I figured I missed the target I was going for. Not 100%, and it’s not all bad, as people’s reactions have confirmed, but…

The thing is, Trump’s nomination of Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director was not the main point of my piece. Tempting, because everybody knows the Queen song, but not the main one, and it certainly shouldn’t have been the title of the piece.

So, sorry for that, and let me try to correct. The much stronger point, in my ever so humble view, that I hit on yesterday is the connection between Donald Trump and William Shakespeare. In fact, I think that from now on we should all see Trump in that light. Simply because it fits so … fittingly.

Not because I would call Trump mad, that is far too easy a view. But because his story, both as it unfolds today and in its history, has so many classic Shakespearean elements. And when we look at our world through the glasses of the ‘Old Bard’, we will see it in a different light. As in: Trump could be a man in the process of going mad. Or he could not.

Not that it’s just about Trump. Richard Nixon looks, if anything, way more Shakespeare material than Da Donald. Though, admittedly, we can oversee Nixon’s entire history, while Trump’s is ongoing (he has promise), and Shakespeare is all about development, about what happens to people as they go through what happens to them.

Macbeth and King Lear describe the trappings -and much more- of power. How power corrupts, and not only absolute power. How sociopathic character traits make people seek power, and how it -often- destroys them. But also how outside forces influence them, in -just as often- highly destructive ways.

That’s not to say that Shakespeare, if he were alive today, would have written a play about Trump. I don’t know that, we don’t. I do think he would have found it hard to stay away from Nixon, but that’s just a guess, even if Tricky Dick seems to have all the required boxes ticked off.

The Bard of Avon might have opted for Hillary Clinton’s story instead of Trump’s. Hers has most if not all of his ingredients, power, corruption, murder, treason, trust -and the lack thereof-, madness -inborn, inbred and developing-, gossip, innuendo, conspiracies, scheming, backstabbing, the lot. That’s not trying to single out Hillary, it’s just saying that all these power-seeking tragedies have the same elements.

Shakespeare situated Macbeth in Scotland, Hamlet in Denmark and King Lear in Britain, while the latter play was highly influenced by Sophocles’ Oedipus (Rex), which is set in Greece. Location is for once not essential -sorry, real estate guys-, power corrupts everywhere, and in more or less the same ways and sequences.

Apart from the entire list of people in his camp, some of which get thrown out from time to time, the Trump narrative also relies to a great extent on all the outside people trying to bring him down. It’s hard to see how Shakespeare could not have loved that. Fair is foul and foul is fair, but now with the three witches in Macbeth’s opening part -the media, the commentators?!- having chosen sides from the beginning.

Hillary as Lady Macbeth? Again, tempting, but we’re not Shakespeare -or Sophocles-. Putting too much emphasis on any of the specific traits of characters from 400+ or 2000+ year-old plays doesn’t look like the way to go. For one thing, Shakespeare wouldn’t have wanted to repeat himself. It’s the overarching themes and characteristics that count. What the hunger for power did to people then, and what it does to them now.

If only we had someone to write today’s stories, today. But those writers, the ones that can gaze inside their own narratives, don’t come around very often. And when they do, they write about long-ago narratives and conspiracies. Good thing we can learn from them regardless because many things about our species never change. In a few words: what the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare and many others taught us is that Power equals Tragedy. And that’s eternal.

Moreover, since our media is failing us in unprecedented fashion, Shakespeare looks like our best bet if we want to understand what is happening in Washington. Or Brussels, Berlin, Beijing. Think entertainment value. What else are you going to do? The Bard’s original audiences reportedly threw eggs and tomatoes at the stage.