Nov 152019
 


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)
‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing
US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)
Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)
Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)
Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)
Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)
Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)
Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)
Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)
Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

 

 

I saw yesterday that she had used the word “Bribery” and kept wondering why she all of a sudden switched to it. CNN of all places gives the answer: it’s right there in the Constitution, while Quid Pro Quo is not. Her legal team must have been frantically deliberating. And free beers for the genius who found this.

And today we’re back to closed door sessions? Huh?

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal constitute “bribery” and that Trump has admitted to it himself. She’s the latest and most high-profile Democrat to use that word when describing Trump’s conduct on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Trump has called “perfect.” “What the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I’ve said it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Why is it bribery?
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” she said.

What does the Constitution say?
Getting technical, bribery is just an example of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” But it’s one of only two specific examples the Constitution lays out.

Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, BRIBERY, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

[..] Coming up Friday
Public hearing #2 — Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine.
Private hearing — The committee will also take closed-door testimony from David Holmes, the State Department employee who overheard Trump’s call with Sondland on July 26.
Private hearing — The committee will work Saturday to depose OMB official Mark Sandy behind closed doors. He’s the first official offering testimony from the agency, which was responsible for releasing the security aid for Ukraine.

Read more …

Pelosi also thinks Americans don’t know what quid pro quo means.

‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump. “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,” Pelosi told reporters. Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry.


Lawmakers had called the president’s moves a “quid pro quo,” but have recently appeared to shift to a focus on more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters. Asked to further elaborate on her statement regarding bribery, Pelosi said, “Well, you know we’re talking Latin around here — e pluribus unum, from anyone, quid pro quo, bribery, and that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceeding.” “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections — that’s bribery,” she said. Pelosi continued to assert that Democrats still have not made a decision about whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president.

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So that’s the ennd of that one?

US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Thursday that U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland did not explicitly link military aid to Kiev with opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Interfax Ukraine reported. Trump and his allies are accused by Democrat opponents of freezing nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Biden, Trump’s main rival for the 2020 presidential race. “Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Prystaiko’s comments came a day after William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified in the first televised hearing of the impeachment inquiry.

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Obviously, they will call/subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff and The Whistleblower

Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be called as a witness in a Senate impeachment trial if the House votes to impeach President Donald Trump. During an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Nov. 13, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’d call Schiff to testify. Graham also said he wouldn’t let the impeachment trial be based on hearsay alone. A trial also wouldn’t be held if the whistleblower doesn’t testify, he said. “Let’s say they get 218 votes. Here’s what I promise the country. We’re not going to try the president of the United States based on hearsay. So any resolution setting up a trial in the Senate, I’m going to make sure that hearsay cannot be the basis of an impeachment allegation,” Graham told host Sean Hannity.


“If you invoke the hearsay rule, what would be left? “A trial in the Senate, to me, should not legitimize what’s going on in the House. No American is denied the right to call witnesses on their behalf, except for Donald Trump. No American is accused of wrongdoing anonymously, except Donald Trump. What they’re doing in the House is a danger to the presidency itself. “So any trial in the Senate needs to make sure that you can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, because that’s a danger to the presidency itself. And secondly, any trial in the Senate must expose the whistleblower so the president can confront his accuser. I will not accept a trial in the Senate until I know who the whistleblower is.”

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When one propagada tool fact-checks another.

Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)

I wanted to know what President Trump was hearing about day one of the televised impeachment hearings. So I decided to mute all my other TVs and just watch Fox News on Wednesday night. I heard White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham say that “today was a joke.” I heard Donald Trump Jr. say “it’s insanity.” I heard Jeff Sessions ask, “Where’s the beef?” Here’s how I would sum up everything I heard from Fox’s prime time hosts: Wednesday’s hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a “disaster” for the Democrats and a “great day” for the Republicans. Impeachment is “stupid.” Impeachment is “fake.” There’s nothing impeachable here. There’s no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.

The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I’m sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That’s one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much – because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump. I decided to write it all down because of something that CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote earlier in the day. “Don’t expect viewers, listeners, and readers of right-wing media to walk away from Wednesday’s impeachment hearings with a different opinion of President Trump’s behavior,” Darcy said. “In fact, it’s possible they might be more convinced than ever that Trump did nothing wrong. Why? Because right-wing media has largely – and unsurprisingly – focused on the moments in the hearing favorable to its preferred narrative.”

On the OTHER cable news channels, 8 p.m. host Tucker Carlson said, “it was like Christmas and New Year’s and the Super Bowl all put together.” Carlson seemed reluctant to cover Wednesday’s news, calling the hearings “stupid” and the importance of the impeachment inquiry “questionable.” Grisham called it a “joke” while others made jokes — Christian Whiton said witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent, both veteran public servants with impressive resumes, “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.” mIt didn’t end there. The witnesses were insulted all evening long. And Grisham said foreign service officials who are resisting Trump’s policies should resign.

Later in the hour, Carlson mocked news outlets for taking this once-in-a-generation impeachment inquiry seriously. “The media went completely bonkers today,” he said, while the on-screen graphic alleged a “MEDIA MELTDOWN.” He agreed with his guest Larry O’Connor, who said America doesn’t have a free press because the press is made up of “political activists.”

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5 days old but relevant because of Lacalle’s claim that China has only 0.25% worth of its money supply in gold. China also has a dire thirst for dollars. What’s going to back that crypto?

Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)

A state-owned cryptocurrency is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. The main reason why citizens want to use cryptocurrencies or gold is precisely to avoid the government or central bank monopoly of money. For a currency to be a world reserve of value, widespread means of exchange and unit of measure, there are many things that need to happen, but the first pillar of a world reserve currency is stability and transparency. China cannot disrupt the global monetary system and dethrone the US dollar when it has one of the world’s tightest capital control systems, a lack of separation of powers and weak transparency in its own financial system. The U.S. dollar is the most traded currency in the world, and growing according to the Bank of International Settlement. The Yuan is 4% of the currency trade.


This is because the financial balance of the US is the strongest, legal and investor security is one of the strongest in the world, and the currency and capital markets are open and transparent. Unfortunately for China, the idea of a gold-backed cryptocurrency starts from the wrong premise. China’s own currency, the Yuan, is not backed by either global use nor gold. At all. China’s total gold reserves are less than 0.25% of its money supply. Many say that we do not know the real extent of China’s gold reserves. However, this goes back to my previous point. What confidence is the world going to have on a currency where the real level of gold reserves is simply a guess? Furthermore, why would any serious government under-report its gold reserves if it wants to be a safe haven, reserve status currency? It makes no sense.

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The smear has worked wonders.

Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)

The authors John Le Carré and William Boyd are among a string of public figures declaring they refuse to vote Labour because of its association with antisemitism. In a letter to the Guardian, they said: “To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government.” Both Le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, and Boyd have previously expressed strongly anti-Brexit views. They joined others including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who has previously been sympathetic to Labour, the actor Simon Callow , and the historians Antony Beevor, Tom Holland and Dan Snow. Trevor Phillips, a former Labour politician and ex-chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the Tell Mama group fighting Islamophobia, also said they could not vote Labour.

The letter said: “The coming election is momentous for every voter, but for British Jews it contains a particular anguish: the prospect of a prime minister steeped in association with antisemitism. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has come under formal investigation by the EHRC for institutional racism against Jews. Two Jewish MPs have been bullied out of the party. Mr Corbyn has a long record of embracing antisemites as comrades. “We listen to our Jewish friends and see how their pain has been relegated as an issue, pushed aside by arguments about Britain’s European future. For those who insist that Labour are the only alternative to Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, now, it seems, is not the time for Jewish anxiety.

“But antisemitism is central to a wider debate about the kind of country we want to be. To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government. Which other community’s concerns are disposable in this way? Who would be next? “Opposition to racism cannot include surrender in the fight against antisemitism. Yet that is what it would mean to back Labour and endorse Mr Corbyn for Downing Street.”

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Of course it is. 20 million dead. Never forget. Show respect. Without those 20 million lives lost we would all be goose-stepping.

Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)

As Russia prepares to celebrate the May 2020 anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, President Vladimir Putin said that a visit from Donald Trump would be “the right thing to do,” even during an election campaign. Trump’s re-election campaign will be in full swing next May, when Russia marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet and allied victory over the Nazi Germany. While the US president’s opponents will likely still be hammering him on his “friendliness” with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader told reporters on Thursday that a visit from Trump would be fitting. Even as part of the election campaign, that [visit] would be the right thing to do. But it is not for us to decide. The American president will make this decision.


However, Putin added that at the moment, no formal meeting with Trump is on the agenda. While Soviet Russia and the United States shared the burden of defeating Nazism, cooperation with Moscow is anathema to Washington seven decades later. Trump’s announcement last week that he “would love to go” to the commemoration was met with howls of derision from Democrats and to a media still clinging to the fictional idea of “Russian collusion.” Though Trump noted that the celebration falls “right in the middle of campaign season,” he said “it’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war.”

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“..the estate should start by committing ALL of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund.”

Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)

The executors of the estate of Jeffrey Epstein said on Thursday they had asked a judge to approve the creation of a proposed fund to compensate women the financier was accused of having sexually abused. The executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, said in a statement that the fund would create a “voluntary, confidential, non-adversarial alternative to litigation”. Epstein, 66, died by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell on 10 August, two days after signing a will and putting his estimated $577m estate into a trust. He had been arrested in July on federal sex trafficking charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. His estate is facing about a dozen lawsuits from women who say Epstein sexually abused them, many while they were underage.

The proposed compensation fund, which must be approved by a US Virgin Islands court, would be overseen by administrators including Jordana Feldman and Kenneth Feinberg, who have worked on compensation funds for victims affected by 9/11. Women who choose not to take part in the program would still be allowed to pursue their claims against the estate in court, according to Thursday’s statement. It was not immediately clear how much money would be available for the victim compensation fund. The attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represents one of the women suing the estate, expressed skepticism of the plan.

“Given that this latest fund was launched without our input or consent, we will keep an open mind because we are supportive of attempts to fairly compensate these survivors, but both the estate and the new administrators have a lot to prove,” she said in a press release. Another lawyer, Brad Edwards, said the estate should start by committing all of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund. “If the estate is placing all estate assets into the claims program for victims, then it is a step in the right direction,” said Edwards, who represents multiple alleged victims. “In the meantime, we intend to get the filed cases to trial quickly. Either way, justice for our clients, without delay, is our goal.“

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Wonder what that MH17 “trial” is going to look like next year.

Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)

A website obsessed with blaming Russia for everything – using Google Earth to support its airtight theories – has been infiltrated by Russian agents, according to a Ukrainian MP and former minister. But does it even make sense? Our strange saga begins with a very level-headed Facebook post penned by Ukraine’s former minister of veteran affairs and current member of parliament, Iryna Friz, who expressed deep displeasure with a recent Bellingcat ‘investigation’ revealing that Ukraine’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs had ties to far-right figures (oh no, who could have guessed?). In her post, Friz accused Bellingcat of regurgitating an “exclusively Russian narrative” that there are “fascists in Ukraine.” This can mean only one thing, according to the Ukrainian lawmaker.


“There are all signs that people from the Russian FSB have infiltrated [Bellingcat]. I otherwise cannot explain for myself the fact that they coordinate their work with Russian outlet the Insider, which is controlled by Lubyanka,” she wrote, referring to the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service. Friz even went so far as to suggest that Bellingcat should probe staff with “Russian names.” In an open letter responding to the damning allegations, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins politely pointed out that it employs no Russians – only two Ukrainian-Americans. Higgins further contested the notion that reports of Ukraine’s dangerous far-right were manufactured by the Kremlin, citing a 2018 report from the US State Department and an investigation by US-backed Freedom House.

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Steve is still chasing Nordhaus. Don’t think I’ve seen a reply from the man.

“..we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.”

Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

William Nordhaus was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics for “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”. This implies that he worked out what global heating means for our economy, given what climate scientists say will happen to our planet. But Nordhaus’s predictions of what global heating will cost the earth are dangerously at odds with the science. In his Nobel Prize lecture, Nordhaus described a 4°C increase in global average temperature as “optimal” — that is, the point at which the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change are balanced. In a subsequent academic paper based on this lecture, he stated that “damages are estimated to be 2 percent of output at a 3°C global warming and 8 percent of output with 6°C warming”.

This is a trivial level of damage, equivalent for the 6°C warming case to a fall in the rate of economic growth over the next century of less than 0.1% per year. Nordhaus’s conclusions are based in part on the simple but wayward assumption that the weak relationship between temperature and GDP within the US today can be used to assume how future global temperature rises will affect the economy. For example, the coldest state in the US is North Dakota, with an average temperature of 4.9°C and a high GDP per head – US$67,000 in 2018. Slightly warmer states such as New York (9.0°C, US$73,000) tend to have higher GDPs, while the hottest state – Florida, at 22.1°C – has a lower GDP (US$43,000). This implies that past a certain point, higher temperatures reduce GDP, but the relationship is very weak: huge changes in temperature result in relatively small changes in income.

If it were true that this weak relationship could be applied to global temperature change, then global warming would indeed be nothing to worry about. However, the relationship between temperature and GDP within one country today tells you absolutely nothing about how the world will change if global temperatures rise by 10°C. This can be hard to grasp, since we’re talking about the truly unknown – humanity has never experienced global temperatures that high. But we can assess how unrealistic Nordhaus’s work is because it predicts exactly the same damages for a fall in global temperature as it does for a rise. It predicts, for example, that both a 4°C rise and a 4°C fall in temperature would reduce global GDP by 3.6%.

The average global temperature during the last Ice Age was 4°C cooler than today. There’s no way we can accurately predict what GDP would be in such a cool world today, but we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.

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Oct 092018
 
 October 9, 2018  Posted by at 9:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Ford Madox Brown Finding of Don Juan by Haidee 1873

 

 

World Leaders ‘Have Moral Obligation To Act’ After UN Climate Report (G.)
US Economists Win Nobel Memorial For Work On Climate And Growth (G.)
Nobel Prizes in Economics, Awarded and Withheld (NC)
The End Of The World Will Save Theresa May From Brexit (Ind.)
Stock Markets Stage Sharp Sell-Off Amid Fear Of Italy-EU Budget Fight (G.)
QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan (WS)
Higher Rates Will Hurt Stocks Far More Than You Think (SA)
Pakistan Seeks Bailout From IMF (WSJ)
IMF Not Concerned About China’s Ability To Defend The Yuan (R.)
Sharp Slowdown In Consumer Spending Cools UK Retail Sales (G.)
Google Drops Out Of Bidding For $10 Billion Pentagon Data Deal (R.)

 

 

Groundhog Day. They just want to get (re-)elected. Which won’t happen if they tell people to cut their driving and flying.

World Leaders ‘Have Moral Obligation To Act’ After UN Climate Report (G.)

World leaders have been told they have moral obligation to ramp up their action on the climate crisis in the wake of a new UN report that shows even half a degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes. But the muted response by Britain, Australia and other governments highlights the immense political challenges facing adoption of pathways to the relatively safe limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures outlined on Monday by the IPCC. With the report set to be presented at a major climate summit in Poland in December, known as COP24, there is little time for squabbles. The report noted that emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 in order to keep warming within 1.5C.

That means decisions have to be taken in the next two years to decommission coal power plants and replace them with renewables, because major investments usually have a lifecycle of at least a decade. Mary Robinson, a UN special envoy on climate, said Europe should set an example by adopting a target of zero-carbon emissions by 2050. “Before this, people talked vaguely about staying at or below 2C – we now know that 2C is dangerous,” she said. “So it is really important that governments take the responsibility, but we must all do what we can.” The UK, which has gone further than most nations by cutting its annual emissions by 40% since 1990, will need to step up if the more ambitious goal is to be reached.

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Both think adapting to climate change is easy.

US Economists Win Nobel Memorial For Work On Climate And Growth (G.)

Two American economists at the forefront of work on climate change and the role of governments in boosting growth have been jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Memorial prize for economics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were being honoured for their research into two of the most “basic and pressing” economic issues of the age. Nordhaus made his name by warning policymakers during the first stirrings of concern about climate change in the 1970s that their economic models were not properly taking account of the impact of global warming and he is seen as one of the pioneers of environmental economics.

The Yale economist was honoured a day after the latest UN warning on global warming said that urgent and unprecedented changes were needed to keep climate change to a maximum of 1.5C (2.7F). The co-winner – Romer – is seen as the prime mover behind the endogenous growth theory, the notion that countries can improve their underlying performance if they concentrate on supply-side measures such as research and development, innovation and skills. [..] Responding to news of his award, Romer said it was perfectly possible for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, in line with the latest recommendation of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Once we start to try to reduce carbon emissions, we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated. The danger with very alarming forecasts is that it will make people feel apathetic and hopeless.

“One problem today is that people think protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they want to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Humans are capable of amazing accomplishments if we set our minds to it.” [..] Nordhaus has been a prominent advocate of the use of a uniformly applied carbon tax as the best way to put a true cost on the use of burning fossil fuels and so reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The committee that awarded the prize said he was the first person to design “simple but dynamic and quantitative models of the global economic-climate system, now called integrated assessment models (IAMs). “His tools allow us to simulate how the economy and climate would co-evolve in the future under alternative assumptions about the workings of nature and the market economy, including relevant policies.”

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This is useful h/t Yves. Peter Dorman on how Martin Weitzman, who has a far more aggressive take on economics and climate, was snubbed so Nordhaus’ light version would get the attention.

Nobel Prizes in Economics, Awarded and Withheld (NC)

Nordhaus was widely expected to be a winner for his work on the economics of climate change. For decades he has assembled and tweaked a model called DICE (Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy), that melds computable general equilibrium theory from economics and equations from the various strands of climate science. His goal has been to estimate the “optimal” amount of climate change, where the marginal cost of abating it equals the marginal cost of undergoing it. From this comes an optimal carbon price, the “social cost of carbon”, which should be implemented now and allowed to rise over time at the rate of interest. In his first published work using DICE, from the early 1990s, he recommended a carbon tax of $5 a tonne of CO2, inching slowly upward until peaking at $20 in 2085. His “optimal” policy was expected to result in an atmospheric concentration of CO2 of over 1400 ppm (parts per million) at the end of this planning horizon, yielding global warming in excess of 3º C. (Nordhaus, 1992)

Over time Nordhaus has become slightly more concerned with the potential economic costs of climate change but also more sanguine about the prospects for decarbonized economic growth, even in the absence of policy. In his latest work he advocates a carbon tax of $31 per tonne in 2015, increasing at 3% per year over the following century. This too would result in more than 3º warming. To give a sense of how modest his suggestion is, consider that, in the same paper, Nordhaus calculates that the most efficient carbon tax to limit warming to 2.5º is between $107-184 per tonne depending on assumptions. The target of the Paris Accord is 2º, and most scientists consider this an upper bound for the amount of warming we should permit.

What do these “optimal” tax numbers mean? Based on the carbon content of gas, each $1 carbon tax translates into a one cent tax on a gallon of gas at the pump. If we adopted Nordhaus’ suggestion for carbon pricing, the result would be minuscule compared to the year-to-year fluctuations in energy prices due to other causes. In other words, while his prize is being trumpeted as a statement from the Swedish bankers on the importance of climate change, in fact he is a key spokesman for the position, rejected by nearly all climate scientists, that the problem is modest and can be solved by easy-to-digest, nearly imperceptible adjustments to energy prices. If we go down his road we face a significant risk of a climate apocalypse.

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The benefits of climate change.

The End Of The World Will Save Theresa May From Brexit (Ind.)

Brexit has been in its “something will turn up phase” for some time now and possibly, at last, something has. This is meant to be Theresa May’s “Hell Week”, with important post-Brexit proposals to be published in both Brussels and the UK, both of which will of course necessitate demented rows within her own party (current “strategies” include threatening to vote down the Budget), but Hell Week could hardly have got off to a better start. The most sensible reading of Hell Week is that it looks likely to end with May agreeing to keep the UK in the EU’s customs union until 2022. In the circumstances, the prime minister will not have failed to notice that, according to this morning’s report from the UN’s IPCC, that is a mere eight years before all of the planet’s inbuilt life preserving systems are currently scheduled to turn against humanity in act of vengeance that will be swift and total.

To borrow briefly from the probability-based lexicon of the climate science community, let’s take a look at the likelihood of Brexit being concluded by then in any meaningful way. Even in the unlikely event of Britain voting to leave the European Union, right up until around 8am on 24 June 2016, the latest point at which it was all meant to have been sorted out was 24 June 2018. But when David Cameron decided not to trigger the two-year Article 50 process “straight away” as he had consistently claimed he would, but resigned instead, that date was eventually pushed back by May to 29 March 2019, expanding Brexit by 37.5 per cent.

Then, in March 2018, the Brexit “transition period” was agreed to last until until 31 December 2020, and now, just seven months later, that deadline has been extended until the next general election in 2022, a further eighteen months. At the most conservative estimate, that gives Brexit a rate of expansion of around two hundred per cent, or four years for every two. If the depth to which it can be kicked into the long grass can be maintained on this exponential gradient, May has every reason to be optimistic that tornadoes of sulphuric gas will be moving freely over the Irish border long before she has to deliver any acceptable proposals for how to avoid the reintroduction of customs infrastructure across it.

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Not the only issue.

Stock Markets Stage Sharp Sell-Off Amid Fear Of Italy-EU Budget Fight (G.)

Global stock markets staged a sharp sell-off on Monday amid growing concerns over a budget showdown between Italy and the EU and the prospect of weaker growth in the Chinese economy. Italian borrowing costs jumped and the euro dropped on foreign exchanges as the war of words between Rome and Brussels escalated, while shares on Wall Street and other major international markets declined amid growing concerns over the US-China trade war. Italian bond yields jumped by as much as 30 basis points to the highest levels since early 2014 after the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, attacked the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the economics commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, as enemies of Europe.

Speaking at a news conference with the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, he said the country would not cave to pressure from the financial markets or retreat from its plan for government spending. “We are against the enemies of Europe — Juncker and Moscovici — shut away in the Brussels bunker,” he said. Brussels has told Italy it is concerned over the plan because it would mean the nation running a larger budget deficit – the gap between income from taxes and government spending – than previously planned for the next three years. Rome is to submit its draft budget to the commission, the EU’s executive arm, which will check whether it is in line with EU rules by 15 October.

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When the easy money goes, how do we keep the bubbles inflated?

QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan (WS)

As of September 30, total assets on the Bank of Japan’s elephantine balance sheet dropped by ¥5.4 trillion ($33 billion) from a month earlier, to ¥537 trillion ($4.87 trillion). It was the fourth month-over-month decline in a series that started in December. This chart shows the month-to-month changes of the balance sheet. Despite all the volatility, the trend since mid-2016 is becoming clear: Abenomics became the economic religion of Japan in later 2012, and “QQE” (Qualitative and Quantitative Easing) was an integral part of it. So has the “QQE Unwind” commenced? Are central bankers, even at the Bank of Japan, getting cold feet about the consequences?

At BOJ policy meetings, concerns have been voiced over the “sustainability” of the stimulus program, according to the minutes of the July meeting, released on September 25. So the BOJ staff “proposed measures to enhance the sustainability of the current monetary easing while taking into consideration, for example, their effects on financial markets.” And “flexibility” has been proposed as solution to those concerns. The minutes reiterated that the BOJ would continue to buy Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) in “a flexible manner” so that its holdings would increase by about ¥80 trillion a year. But this is precisely what has not been happening, in line with this “flexibility.”

Over the past 12 months, the BOJ’s holdings of JGBs rose by “only” ¥26.2 trillion – not ¥80 trillion. And they declined in September from the prior month (more in a moment). Shortly after the minutes had been released, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, once the most reckless among the money printers, changed his tune and said in a speech that, “in continuing with powerful monetary easing, we now need to consider both its positive effects and side-effects in a balanced manner.” The Fed has already whittled down its balance sheet by $285 billion since it started its QE unwind last October. The ECB has tapered its QE from a peak of buying €85 billion a month to buying €15 billion currently and will end it altogether in December. The discussion has switched to raising rates and unwinding QE.

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Like the graph.

Higher Rates Will Hurt Stocks Far More Than You Think (SA)

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell thinks the economy is awesome. And he has no problem telling us so. What Powell will never discuss, however, is the “way-too-low-for-way-too-long” stimulus that the central bank engaged in to get here. In particular, the Fed has kept the neutral rate of interest far beneath the rate of inflation (CPI) for an entire decade. Consumers, corporations and Uncle Sam predictably borrowed as if there’d never be consequences. What consequences? Asset bubbles. Stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles, cryptos, alternatives, everything. Straight across the Ouija board.

Perhaps ironically, we have seen this streaming video before. “Too-low-for-to-long” rate policy in the previous economic expansion (11/01-12/07) created an environment whereby the quality and the quantity of household mortgage debt became toxic. Granted, mortgage debt is less of an issue in the current credit cycle. Nevertheless, total household debt levels may not be sustainable at higher average interest costs. Meanwhile, the federal government is making households look downright responsible.

Long after the Great Recession ended, the country averaged $1.07 trillion in deficits (2010-2017). We’ve now hit $21.5 trillion in our national debt. Uncle Sammy’s bar tab won’t be getting smaller anytime soon. The new tax law, which has provided a near-term kick start for economic growth (GDP), will keep the trillion-dollar deficit train running for years to come. None of this would be so ominous were it not for the rapid-fire advance of interest expense. Interest expense alone accounts for 11% of the federal budget. Just interest. No debt repayment. Tack on higher interest rates to new borrowing needs? Pretty soon interest expense will surpass the money that goes to the Department of Defense (13.6%).

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Belt and Road. Silk Road.

Pakistan Seeks Bailout From IMF (WSJ)

Pakistan, the flagship country for China’s global infrastructure building initiative, said Monday that it needed a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, amid growing concerns that Beijing’s program is pushing recipient countries into financial crisis. The fiscal constraints of an IMF program would also undercut the promises made by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new government, which include millions of new jobs and the establishment of a welfare state.

But a ballooning trade deficit and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves left the Pakistani government no other choice, officials said, after markets were spooked by the government’s recent suggestions that it might try to make do without the fund. “Uncertainty was growing and the stock market was falling,” said Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the Information Minister. “We decided to end the uncertainty.” The Pakistani request for an IMF loan could further test already-strained U.S.-China relations. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the U.S. didn’t want to see any IMF lending to Pakistan “go to bail out Chinese bondholders or—or China itself.”

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Growing at 6.9%(?) and still in need of pretty extreme support. I’d be concerned.

IMF Not Concerned About China’s Ability To Defend The Yuan (R.)

IMF Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld said on Tuesday that he was not concerned about the Chinese government’s ability to defend its currency despite the recent depreciation of the yuan. “No, I don’t think it’s a problem,” Obstfeld said when asked about the issue on the sidelines of a news conference at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali. But Obstfeld also told the news conference that Beijing would face a “balancing act” between actions to shore up growth and ensure financial stability. China’s yuan currency has faced strong selling pressure this year, losing over 8% between March and August at the height of market worries, though it has since pared losses as authorities stepped up support.

On Tuesday, China’s central bank fixed the yuan’s official mid-point for trading at 6.9019 per dollar, edging close to the psychologically important 7.0 barrier and helping to send Asian stocks to a 17-month low. A U.S. Treasury official on Monday repeated that the Trump administration was concerned about the yuan’s recent weakening as the department prepares a semi-annual report on currency manipulation due out next week. Obstfeld said financial markets have overly emphasized short-term movements in China’s currency, adding that the yuan has often quickly recovered from periods of volatility in recent years.

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Reading this, I kept thinking: what sharp slowdown? Where is it? Not in the numbers…

Sharp Slowdown In Consumer Spending Cools UK Retail Sales (G.)

Britain’s retailers experienced a sharp slowdown in consumer spending last month, bringing to a close the World Cup-inspired summer spree on the high street. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the accountancy firm KPMG, growth in total sales dropped to the weakest level in almost a year. Total sales grew at an annual rate of 0.7% in September, compared with 2.3% growth during the same month a year ago. The BRC said this was the lowest growth rate since October 2017. Excluding new store openings, like-for-like sales dropped by 0.2% in the year to September, compared with a 19.9% increase for the same period a year ago.

The latest snapshot for the retail sector comes before the important autumn and winter shopping periods, vital for industry profits, when sales of gifts and electrical goods are lifted by the Black Friday sales event in November and shoppers buying Christmas presents. Retailers have been hit hard by a combination of problems that have led to job cuts and store closures across Britain. The ongoing shift to online shopping has increased competition, while sluggish wage growth and high levels of inflation have damaged the spending power of British households. Sales of stationery, footwear and clothing fell last month, while retailers sold more computers, jewellery, furniture, home accessories and food.

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If this doesn’t scare you…

Google Drops Out Of Bidding For $10 Billion Pentagon Data Deal (R.)

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, without elaborating. Google said in a statement “we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.” The principles bar use of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) software in weapons as well as services that violate international norms for surveillance and human rights.

Google was provisionally certified in March to handle U.S. government data with “moderate” security, but Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp have higher clearances. Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI. Google had been angling for the deal, hoping that the $10 billion annual contract could provide a giant boost to its nascent cloud business and catch up with Amazon and fellow JEDI competitor Microsoft. That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies. But thousands of Google employees this year protested use of Google’s technology in warfare or in ways that could lead to human rights violations.

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