Sep 232019
 
 September 23, 2019  Posted by at 10:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Paul Gauguin The Seine at the Pont d’Iena 1875

 

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)
Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)
British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)
No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)
Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)
Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)
Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)
Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)
Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)
World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

 

 

“..21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming..”

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)

There are more Americans expecting an economic downturn now than there were just before the start of the Great Recession. A Gallup poll released Friday painted a gloomy picture: people are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economy and bracing for a recession. • 49% of poll participants said a recession will likely arrive in the next 12 months. In October 2007 — two months before the Great Recession began — 40% of poll participants felt the same way. • For the third straight month, a growing share of Americans said the economy is deteriorating, going from 37% in July to 48% in September. At the same time, fewer people said it’s improving, slipping from 54% to 46%. • Republicans are rosy and Democrats are downbeat: 21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming in that time. Independents were evenly split.


Gallup noted it conducted the poll from September 3 to 15, as the latest round of Chinese tariffs took effect, but before the latest interest rate cut. Consumer perceptions weren’t totally glum. Though 49% of people told Gallup a recession is either fairly likely or very likely, another 50% said a recession isn’t too likely, or not likely at all. After all, there’s still a record-breaking 10-year bull market and a 3.7% unemployment rate, which is around a 50-year low. Like consumers, market experts are also divided. Some brush off recession talk, but others say a downturn will happen by the end of 2020.

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“If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick.”

Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)

“Calculation Error,” which Bloomberg terminals sometimes display, is an apt metaphor for the current state of central bank policy. Both Europe and Asia are now awash in $17 trillion worth of negative-yielding sovereign and corporate bonds, and Alan Greenspan suggests negative interest rates soon will arrive in the US. Despite claims by both Mr. Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell concerning the health of the American economy, the Fed’s Open Market Committee moved closer to negative territory today — with another quarter-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, below even a measly 2%.

Negative interest rates are just the latest front in the post-2008 era of “extraordinary” monetary policy. They represent a Hail Mary pass from central bankers to stimulate more borrowing and more debt, though there is far more global debt today than in 2007. Stimulus is the assumed goal of all economic policy, both fiscal and monetary. Demand-side stimulus is the mania bequeathed to us by Keynes, or more accurately by his followers. It is the absurd idea, that an economy prospers by consuming and borrowing instead of producing and saving. Negative interest rates turn everything we know about economics upside down.

Under what scenario would anyone lend $1,000 to receive $900 in return at some point in the future? Only when the alternative is to receive $800 back instead, due to the predicted interventions of central banks and governments. Only then would locking in a set rate of capital loss make sense. By “capital loss” I mean just that; when there is no positive interest paid, the principal itself must be consumed. There is no “market” for negative rates. The future is uncertain, and there is always counterparty risk. The borrower might abscond, or default, or declare bankruptcy. Market conditions might change during the course of the loan, driving interest rates higher to the lender’s detriment. Inflation could rise higher and faster than the agreed-upon nominal interest rate. The lender might even die prior to repayment.

Positive interest rates compensate lenders for all of this risk and uncertainty. Interest, like all economics, ultimately can be explained by human nature and human action. If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick. Every theory of interest contemplates positive interest paid on borrowed capital. Classical economists and their “Real” theory say interest represents a “return” on capital, not a penalty. Capital available for lending, like any other good, is subject to real forces of supply and demand. But nobody would “sell” their capital by giving the buyer interest payments as well, they would simply hold onto it and avoid the risk of lending.

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150,000 Brits stranded, as are 140,000 Germans. 50,000 stranded in Greece alone.

British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed on Monday, stranding hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers around the globe and sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history. Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said it was a matter of profound regret that the company had gone out of business after it failed to secure a rescue package from its lenders. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said Thomas Cook had now ceased trading and the regulator and government would work together to bring the more than 150,000 British customers home over the next two weeks. “I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years,” Fankhauser said in a statement released in the early hours of Monday morning.


“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.” The government and aviation regulator said that due to the scale of the situation some disruption was inevitable. “Thomas Cook has ceased trading so all Thomas Cook flights are now cancelled,” the CAA said. The demise of Thomas Cook marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies that started life in 1841 running local rail excursions before it survived two world wars to pioneer package holidays first in Europe and then further afield. The firm now runs hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation.

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Who are UK firms/factories going to sell their cars to?

No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)

The European car industry has warned of catastrophic effects of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would have a “seismic” impact on making cars in Europe. In a rare joint statement, chiefs from 23 automotive business associations across Europe joined forces to caution against a brutal exit from the bloc by Britain, where auto giants BMW, Peugeot PSA and Japan’s Nissan have factories. “Brexit is not just a British problem, we are all concerned in the European automotive industry, and even further,” said Christian Peugeot, head of French automotive industry association CCFA in the statement.

Reaping the benefits of the EU’s single market, carmakers have supply chains that criss-cross the English Channel and Britain is the destination of around 10% of vehicles assembled on the continent, according to industry data. British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has rattled nerves with his vow to leave the European Union on 31 October come what may – with or without a trade deal with Brussels. “The UK’s departure from the EU without a deal would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel,” the joint statement said.

A chaotic Brexit would land a “severe” blow against the industry’s just-in-time supply chains that stretch across international borders and depend on zero administrative hassle, the associations warned. “The EU and UK automotive industries need frictionless trade and would be harmed significantly by additional duties and administrative burden on automotive parts and vehicles,” said Bernhard Mattes, the head of Germany’s auto lobby VDA.

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Catch 22: tell the world everything will be fine in no time, but without causing prices to plummet.

Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)

[..] the WSJ reported that it may take “up to eight month”, rather than 10 weeks company executives had previously promised, to fully restore operations at Aramco damaged Abqaiq facility, suggesting the crude oil shortfall will last far longer than originally expected. The official reason for the delay: the supply-chain is unable to respond to the Saudi needs. Specifically, Aramco is” in emergency talks with equipment makers and service providers, offering to pay premium rates for parts and repair work as it attempts a speedy recovery from missile attacks on its largest oil-processing facilities.” Following a devastating attack on its largest oil-processing facility more than a week ago, Aramco is asking contractors to name their price for patch-ups and restorations.

In recent days, company executives have bombarded contractors, including General Electric , with phone calls, faxes and emails seeking emergency assistance, according to Saudi officials and oil-services suppliers in the kingdom. “One Saudi official said costs could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, the WSJ reported. The unofficial, and more likely, version: Aramco is unhappy with how quickly oil prices dropped after the “Iranian attack”, and since its objective from the very beginning – especially with its IPO looming – was to get oil prices higher, and with its reputation to prevent “outside shocks” in tatters, it is now creating its own bottlenecks in restoring output.

Hinting at the second explanation is the fact that until now, Saudi officials and Aramco executives had been consistent in communicating statements aimed at reassuring oil markets that the state-owned company will recover quickly while continuing to supply customers as usual. Just yesterday, Aramco’s CEO Amin Nasser reiterated production would be back to its precrisis level by the end of the month. “Not a single shipment to our international customers has been missed or canceled as a result of the attacks,” he said.

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Rightly so. Same goes for Trump, of course.

Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)

President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his call for former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with Ukraine to be investigated amid reports of a whistleblower who is said to have raised concerns about the president’s interaction with a foreign leader who may have been Ukraine’s president. “Now the Fake News Media says I ‘pressured the Ukrainian President at least 8 times during my telephone call with him.’ This supposedly comes from a so-called ‘whistleblower’ who they say doesn’t even have a first hand account of what was said,” the president tweeted Sunday evening.

“Breaking News: The Ukrainian Government just said they weren’t pressured at all during the ‘nice’ call. Sleepy Joe Biden, on the other hand, forced a tough prosecutor out from investigating his son’s company by threat of not giving big dollars to Ukraine. That’s the real story!” he added. On Friday, multiple outlets reported that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son Hunter Biden during a July call. Trump has not denied that he urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. Earlier Sunday, speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump insisted there was no quid pro quo involved in the talks with the Ukrainian president, calling it a “perfect conversation.”

Instead, Trump has questioned why the media is not paying more attention to the Democratic front-runner’s actions. He also criticized the whistleblower, saying the official had caused a “false alarm.”

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No, I do remember.

Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)

Scroll back to August 2016. The Trump versus Clinton campaigns are in full swing, polls give the Democrat a win, but the Republican is not far behind. So, a pair of Ukrainian officials – a US-linked MP and the head of a freshly created anti-corruption bureau – conspire to illegally leak to the US media material about an ongoing probe into ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and his party. At least that’s how a Ukrainian court in October 2018 described what they had done. In particular, the two leaked photos of a handwritten ledger allegedly showing cash payouts by Yanukovich’s party with the name of Paul Manafort on it.


The same Manafort who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time and was later tried and sentenced for tax evasion and bank fraud as part of the Robert Mueller investigation. There are serious questions about how reliable this leaked ledger was in the first place and how extensive the conspiracy was. The two Ukrainian officials may have acted alone, or on behalf of senior figures in their government wishing to score some points with the perceived future leader in Washington. There are claims of some coordination with people in DC, or rather, the DNC. Whichever the case, one thing is clear: what the Kiev court described was a case of foreign interference in the American election.

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Ted smokes the good stuff.

Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)

Ted Cruz insists Tehran’s grand dream is to nuke American cities and that Iran nuclear deal is to blame for the attack on Saudi oil facilities. The argument was mocked for making no sense, but the hawkish US senator doubles down. The Texas legislator and one of the most vocal cheerleaders of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran went to the pages of New York Post on Friday to warn the public of an imminent danger. More international sanctions against Iran may soon be dropped under the 2015 nuclear deal, which means Tehran is drawing closer to obtaining nuclear weapons that “could incinerate American cities with a single flash of light.”


America must act now and invoke the so-called snapback mechanism outlined the nuclear deal to keep the sanctions in place and also cut Iran entirely from the global financial system, Cruz said. If you are somewhat puzzled by this line of argument, you are not alone. After all, how can Trump use the nuclear deal, from which he withdrew in the first place, to cudgel Iran more? And what Tehran may hope to win by killing millions of American civilians even if it had the capability to do it?

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Just became an interesting court case.

Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)

Facebook has invoked its free speech right as a publisher, insisting its ability to smear users as extremists is protected, but its legal immunity thus far has rested on a law which protects platforms, not publishers. Which is it? Facebook has declared it has the right, as a publisher, to exercise its own free speech and bar conservative political performance artist Laura Loomer from its platform. Even calling her a dangerous extremist is allowed under the First Amendment, because it’s merely an opinion, Facebook claims in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Loomer. But Facebook has always defined itself as a tech company providing a platform for users’ speech in the past, a definition that has come to appear increasingly ridiculous in the era of widespread politically-motivated censorship.


Now, the not-so-neutral content platform has redefined itself as a publisher equipped with a whole new set of rights, but bereft of the protections that have kept it safe from legal repercussions in the past. “Under well-established law, neither Facebook nor any other publisher can be liable for failing to publish someone else’s message,” Facebook’s motion to dismiss Loomer’s defamation suit reads, justifying its decision to ban her from the platform. It also points out that terms like “dangerous” or “promoting hate” cannot be factually verified and are thus constitutionally protected opinions for a publisher, while also claiming it never applied either term to Loomer, despite banning her from its platform under its “dangerous individuals” policy.

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Lavrov’s long speech at UN this week, via Dmitry Orlov.

“Sergei Lavrov is a world-class diplomatic heavyweight and Russia’s foreign minister. As the saying goes, if you don’t deal with Lavrov, you’ll end up dealing with Sergei Shoigu, defense minister.”

World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant. It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West.

Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Interpreting the past in such a manner also means that some of our partners see the establishment of a transatlantic link and the permanent implanting of the US military presence in Europe as a major achievement of the post-war system of international relations. This is definitely not the scenario the Allies had in mind while creating the United Nations.

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Bruce Springsteen turns 70 today.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 182019
 
 September 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Henri Matisse Antibes 1908

 

Fed Concludes First Repo In A Decade Amid Liquidity Panic (ZH)
Big Banks Score Win As FDIC Proposes Easing Post-Crisis Derivatives Rules (R.)
Oil Steadies After Saudi Pledges To Restore Output Lost In Attacks (R.)
Without Accountability, There Can Never Be Trust in Our Government (Cates)
House Panel Asks Boeing CEO To Testify October 30 on 737 MAX (R.)
Ethiopian Crash Victims Want 737 MAX Documents From Boeing, FAA (R.)
Editorial Mistake My Ass (Mish)
Democrats Urge New Probe Of Kavanaugh, Impeachment Inquiry (R.)
Trudeau Reassures Allies Amid Alleged Spying Case (BBC)
Catastrophic Effects Of Working As A Facebook Moderator (G.)
US Government Is Suing Edward Snowden For His Book Profits (Verge)

 

 

Oh yeah, let’s save the bankers again….

Fed Concludes First Repo In A Decade Amid Liquidity Panic (ZH)

Update 4: It’s over: after a torrid 30 minutes in which the NY Fed first announced a repo operation, then announced the repo was canceled due to technical difficulties, then mysterious the difficulties went away just minutes later, at precisely 10:10am, the Fed concluded its first repo operation in a decade, which while not topping out at the $75 billion max, was nonetheless a significant $53.15 billion, split as follows: • $40.85BN with TSYs as collateral at a 2.1% stop out rate • $0.6BN with Agencies as collateral at a 3.0% stop out rate • $11.7BN with Mortgage-backed securities as collateral at a 2.1% stop out rate. While the Fed did not disclose how many banks participated in the operation, it is safe to say it was a sizable number.


Worse, the result from today’s unexpected repo operation, we can now conclude that in addition to $1.3 trillion in ‘excess reserves’, a Fed which is now cutting rates and will cut rates by 25bps tomorrow, the US financial system somehow found itself with a liquidity shortfall of $53 billion that almost paralyzed the interbank funding market. Oh, and for those wondering why the Fed did a repo, the answer is simple: it did not want to launch QE just yet. But make no mistake, once repo is insufficient, the Fed will have no choice but to escalate to the next step which is open market purchases. Which brings us to the bigger question of how long such overnight repos will satisfy the market, and how long before the next repo rate spike prompts the Fed to do the inevitable, and restart QE. At least president Trump will be delighted.

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And while we’re saving their multi-million bonuses, let’s throw them some more bones,..

Big Banks Score Win As FDIC Proposes Easing Post-Crisis Derivatives Rules (R.)

A U.S. banking regulator on Tuesday proposed easing a rule requiring banks to set aside cash to safeguard derivatives trades between affiliates, marking one of the biggest wins for Wall Street lenders under the business-friendly Trump administration. The proposal, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, could potentially free $40 billion across the nation’s largest banks, according to a 2018 survey by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), the global trade group that has been lobbying for the rule change for years.


The proposal is subject to public comment and will likely face resistance from Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups, who have warned that chipping away at regulations put in place following the 2007-2009 financial crisis could sew the seeds of the next one. Countries across the globe introduced a slew of rules to rein in the global over-the-counter derivatives market after big bets on credit swaps brought firms including Lehman Brothers and AIG to their knees.

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Was there any damage at all? Didn’t I read that they hit a bunch of empty tanks?

Oil Steadies After Saudi Pledges To Restore Output Lost In Attacks (R.)

Oil prices were little changed on Wednesday, steadying after Saudi Arabia said it will restore by the end of the month production lost in weekend attacks on its facilities. Prices plummeted 6% on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the country had managed to restore oil supplies to customers to where they stood before the attacks on its facilities that shut 5% of global oil output by drawing from its huge inventories. But tension in the region remained elevated after the United States said it believed the attacks on the world’s top oil exporter originated in southwestern Iran. Iran has denied involvement in the strikes.


Brent crude oil futures were flat at $64.55 a barrel by 0732 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures were down 15 cents, or 0.1%, to $59.19 a barrel, after sinking 5.7% on Tuesday. “Considering limited spare (production) capacity outside Saudi Arabia and risks of renewed attacks on Saudi energy infrastructure, a risk premium is likely to stay on oil prices in the foreseeable future,” UBS analysts said in a note. Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday that average oil production in September and October would be 9.89 million barrels per day and that the world’s top oil exporter would ensure full oil supply commitments to its customers this month.

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Not sure Bill Barr is your man.

Without Accountability, There Can Never Be Trust in Our Government (Cates)

The Watergate scandal, at its heart, was about political operatives working on behalf of the Nixon administration (informally known as “The Plumbers”) attempting to plant bugs in the phones of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, so they could spy on key Democratic campaign communications. A little-remembered fact is that bugs had been successfully planted earlier; the burglars were returning to plant a new set in the phones because the first set never worked properly. It was during this second foray into DNC headquarters in the middle of the night that they were caught by an observant security guard.

So the Watergate scandal was based on an attempt to spy on political opponents, but no evidence ever surfaced that any successful spying was actually done. The first set of listening devices never functioned, and the operatives were caught while trying to replace them. That won’t be the case in the Spygate scandal, because this wasn’t an off-the-books dirty tricks group like The Plumbers running an operation against the Trump campaign. This was the federal government itself, making use of the official engines of its intelligence and law enforcement agencies and surveillance courts to spy on a political campaign and, then, a presidency. And it’s because this scandal is so much worse than Watergate that the persons responsible for it must be held accountable for their actions.

[..] The crimes here amount to a deliberate attempt to subvert the federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and turn them into political engines of partisan policy to shield political friends and destroy political enemies. After covering up serious crimes committed by their political friends, these key government officials used their offices to manufacture crimes to use as a pretext to investigate and punish their political enemies. Unless this behavior is punished with the utmost severity, no one will ever be able to place trust in the federal government. The ball of accountability will soon end up in the court of U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

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I for one have little faith in Congress in this case. Not that I have much faith in Congress in general.

House Panel Asks Boeing CEO To Testify October 30 on 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee formally asked Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Tuesday to testify on the now grounded 737 MAX that has been involved in two deadly crashes since October 2018 that killed 346 people. The panel’s chair, Representative Peter DeFazio, also asked John Hamilton, the chief engineer of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division, to appear. Both executives have been asked to testify on Oct. 30. Last week, DeFazio asked Muilenburg to make several employees available for interviews as part of a congressional probe into the design, development and certification of 737 MAX aircraft. “Boeing has received the Committee’s invitation and is reviewing it now. We will continue to cooperate with Congress and regulatory authorities as we focus on safely returning the MAX to service,” a Boeing representative said in a statement.

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But will they get them? Boeing will just claim they would reveal company secrets.

Ethiopian Crash Victims Want 737 MAX Documents From Boeing, FAA (R.)

A lawyer for victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 said on Tuesday he wants Boeing Co and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to hand over documents about the decision to keep the Boeing 737 MAX in the air after a deadly Lion Air crash last October. A week after Lion Air Flight 610 nose-dived into the Java Sea, killing all 189 aboard, the FAA warned airlines that erroneous inputs from an automated flight control system’s sensors could lead the jet to automatically pitch its nose down, but the agency allowed the jets to continue flying. Five months later, the same system was blamed for playing a role when ET302 crashed on March 10, killing all 157 passengers and crew and prompting a worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX that remains in place.


“The decisions to keep those planes in service are key,” Robert Clifford of Clifford Law Offices, which represents families of the Ethiopian crash victims, said at a status hearing before U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago. Nearly 100 lawsuits have been filed against Boeing by at least a dozen law firms representing families of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims, who came from 35 different countries, including nine U.S. citizens and 19 Canadians. Families of about 60 victims have yet to file lawsuits but plaintiffs’ lawyers said they anticipate more to come. Most of the lawsuits do not make a specific dollar claim, though Ribbeck Law Chartered has said its clients are seeking more than $1 billion.

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The entire Kavanaugh thing is empty, just two women trying to sell a book. Trump said he should sue them. But as a Supreme Court judge, perhaps he shouldn’t.

Editorial Mistake My Ass (Mish)

As details emerge in the New York Times Kavanaugh scandal, it’s very clear the NYT repeatedly made serious errors On September 14, the New York Times resurrected unsubstantiated and graphic rumors about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a purposeful smear article Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not. The article was by disgraced NYT authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly to promote their upcoming book “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.” I do not normally report on sleaze but to understand what the NYT did, I have to. Here is one controversial paragraph: “We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.”


The NYT later added this correction. “The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.” Making matters worse for itself, the NYT came out and blamed it all on an “editing error”. Reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly said in an interview on MSNBC that they wrote in the draft of their Sunday Review piece that a woman who Kavanaugh was said to have exposed himself to while a student at Yale had told others she had no recollection of the alleged incident. Their editors, they say, removed the reference. “It was just sort of. . . in the haste of the editing process,” said Pogrebin.

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But this is where the non-story leads to. Kamala seeks a way to reinvent her campaign, the rest just follows.

Democrats Urge New Probe Of Kavanaugh, Impeachment Inquiry (R.)

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Tuesday urged a House of Representatives panel to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while a Democratic lawmaker filed an impeachment resolution in the wake of new allegations of sexual misconduct by the conservative judge when he was in college in the 1980s. The moves by Harris, one of 20 Democratic presidential candidates, and Representative Ayanna Pressley, a progressive on the left of the party, signaled impatience among some Democrats with congressional leaders unenthusiastic about pursuing Kavanaugh’s impeachment, though their efforts appeared unlikely to spur action.

Harris said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the panel should “hold Mr. Kavanaugh accountable for his prior conduct and testimony.” Nadler on Monday faulted the FBI’s probe of prior sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh ahead of his narrow confirmation by the Senate in October 2018, saying in a radio interview it “apparently was a sham.” But Nadler also said his panel had its “hands full” with investigating Republican President Donald Trump. In her letter to Nadler, Harris suggested the House Judiciary Committee could create a task force and retain outside counsel if it did not have the time or resources to pursue an inquiry of Kavanaugh now.

Harris and several other Democratic presidential candidates called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment after the New York Times published an essay over the weekend detailing what it described as a previously unreported incident of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. Others include former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke.

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Only a Five Eyes spy chief. And whaddaya know, there’s Bill Browder again. See from yesteday: The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded.

Trudeau Reassures Allies Amid Alleged Spying Case (BBC)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to reassure allies in the wake of an alleged spying case with possible international implications. A senior intelligence official was charged last week with violating national security laws. Cameron Ortis had access to information coming from Canada’s global allies, the RCMP national police force said. Canada is in close contact with its intelligence partners over the case, Mr Trudeau says. “We are in direct communications with our allies on security,” the prime minister said while campaigning in Newfoundland on Tuesday. “We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.” Canada is a member of the Five Eyes – the intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.


Mr Ortis, who was a director general with the police force’s intelligence unit, is accused of breaching the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code. The charges filed against him include the “unauthorised communication of special operational information”, possessing a device or software “useful for concealing the content of information or for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information”, and breach of trust by a public officer. [..] Mr Ortis was looking into allegations that Russian tax fraudsters had laundered millions of dollars through Canada, a US financier told Reuters. Bill Browder, a high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he had met Mr Ortis twice in Canada in 2017 after alerting the RCMP to the matter.

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What exactly would you say is Facebook’s role in our society? How about in your life?

Catastrophic Effects Of Working As A Facebook Moderator (G.)

They describe being ground down by the volume of the work, numbed by the graphic violence, nudity and bullying they have to view for eight hours a day, working nights and weekends, for “practically minimum pay”. A little-discussed aspect of Facebook’s moderation was particularly distressing to the contractors: vetting private conversations between adults and minors that have been flagged by algorithms as likely sexual exploitation. Such private chats, of which “90% are sexual”, were “violating and creepy”, one moderator said. “You understand something more about this sort of dystopic society we are building every day,” he added. “We have rich white men from Europe, from the US, writing to children from the Philippines … they try to get sexual photos in exchange for $10 or $20.”


Gina, a contractor, said: “I think it’s a breach of human rights. You cannot ask someone to work fast, to work well and to see graphic content. The things that we saw are just not right.” The workers, whose names have been changed, were speaking on condition of anonymity because they had signed non-disclosure agreements with Facebook. Daniel, a former moderator, said: “We are a sort of vanguard in this field … It’s a completely new job, and everything about it is basically an experiment.” John, his former colleague, said: “I’m here today because I would like to avoid other people falling into this hole. As a contemporary society, we are running into this new thing – the internet – and we have to find some rules to deal with it.

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Pay him in Bitcoin.

US Government Is Suing Edward Snowden For His Book Profits (Verge)

The Justice Department has filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden that would recover all proceeds of his recently released memoir, the department announced on Tuesday. The charges coincide with the official publication of the book, which is titled Permanent Record. Snowden’s memoir was allegedly not submitted to the CIA or NSA for pre-publication review, a required practice among former employees of intelligence agencies. As such, the department considers the book a breach of Snowden’s fiduciary obligations, and names the publishers as co-defendants in the suit.


Given the still-classified programs and materials discussed in the memoir, it is unlikely that the book would have been approved for publication by the agencies. Snowden remains a de facto fugitive from the US government, and would likely face charges under the Espionage Act if he returned to the country. But the new civil case could nonetheless cause problems for Snowden, potentially enjoining his publishers from releasing any of the proceeds from the book. Crucially, the suit does not seek to block the release of Snowden’s memoir, as doing so would be illegal under the First Amendment.

Read more …

 

From Notes on the Next War, 1935

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 162019
 
 September 16, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Night fishing at Antibes 1939

 

Oil Explodes 20% Higher, Biggest Jump On Record (ZH)
Trump Says US ‘Locked And Loaded’ As Iran Blamed For Saudi Attack (AP)
Netanyahu Approves New West Bank Settlement 2 Days Before Polls (AFP)
Liquidity Dies in Darkness (Rivelle)
‘Very Difficult’ For China’s Economy To Grow 6% Or Faster: Premier Li
China’s August Industrial Output Growth Grinds To 17.5-Year Low (R.)
General Motors Faces Strike By Almost 50,000 Staff (BBC)
OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Files For Bankruptcy Protection (R.)
Industrialized Militaries Are A Big Part Of The Climate Emergency (IC)
Farming Subsidies Destroy The World (G.)
The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner (Craig Murray)

 

 

It went down a little after, but then the war threats started.

Oil Explodes 20% Higher, Biggest Jump On Record (ZH)

Shanghai Oil futures are halted limit up.


Source: Bloomberg

With traders in a state of near-frenzy, with a subset of fintwit scrambling (and failing) to calculate what the limit move in oil would be (hint: there is none for Brent), moments ago brent reopened for trading in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack on the “world’s most important oil processing plant”, and exploded some 20% higher, to a high of $71.95 from the Friday $60.22 close, its biggest jump since futures started trading in 1988. As Bloomberg notes, “for oil markets, it’s the single worst sudden disruption ever, surpassing the loss of Kuwaiti and Iraqi petroleum supply in August 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor. It also exceeds the loss of Iranian oil output in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Furthermore, in light of news that the Saudi outage could last for months, this could be just the start. As a reminder, according to Morningstar research director, Sandy Fielden, “Brent could go to $80 tomorrow, while WTI could go to $75… But that would depend on Aramco’s 48-hour update. The supply problem won’t be clear right away since the Saudis can still deliver from inventory.” Of course, should Aramco confirm that the outage – which has taken some 5.7mmb/d in Saudi output after 10 drones struck the world’s biggest crude-processing facility in Abqaiq and the kingdom’s second-biggest oil field in Khurais – will last for weeks, expect the crude juggernaut to continue until the price hits $80, and keeps moving higher.


Source: Bloomberg

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Does any of this make any sense to you?

Trump Says US ‘Locked And Loaded’ As Iran Blamed For Saudi Attack (AP)

The U.S. government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south. Iraq denied Sunday that its territory was used for an attack on the Kingdom and U.S. officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The U.S. officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out. The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent U.S. senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence. “Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. “When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding.”

[..] “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo wrote. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” [..] U.S. officials previously alleged at least one recent drone attack on Saudi Arabia came from Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias. Those militias in recent weeks have been targeted themselves by mysterious airstrikes, with at least one believed to have been carried out by Israel. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments.” “The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said in a statement.

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We can only hope they don’t give him his majority.

Netanyahu Approves New West Bank Settlement 2 Days Before Polls (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved a new settlement in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, two days ahead of a closely fought election as he seeks to boost turnout among his right-wing base. The approval came as Netanyahu and his main opponent Benny Gantz vied to mobilise supporters. Netanyahu has made a flurry of announcements in recent days as part of his efforts to continue his reign as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. On Sunday, the cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement, the premier’s office said.


All settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not. Around 30 families live in the outpost, which was established in 1999. [..] Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh dismissed the entire cabinet meeting as illegal and called on the international community to “stop the Israeli madness aimed at destroying all the foundations of the political process”. Israeli anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said: “The government continues to show blatant disregard for reaching a two-state conflict-ending agreement with the Palestinians.”

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“Trouble is, while loanable funds can be created without limit, the things that can be purchased with these funds is finite.”

Liquidity Dies in Darkness (Rivelle)

If democracy dies in darkness, so does liquidity in that embodiment of economic democracy, i.e., the capital markets. When information is scarce, investors must color in between the lines. That which is not known nor well quantified must be assumed or modeled. The door is therefore open to different investors reaching quite different conclusions about the underlying value of an asset leading, of course, to illiquidity. More so perhaps than any other in history, this cycle is the wellspring of the theories and actions of the central bankers who, in their infinite wisdom, determined that they could model interest rates better than markets could price them. Central banks have flooded the system with what they call “liquidity” but which are actually nothing more–nor less–than electronically conjured “loanable funds.”


Under the banner of “doing whatever it takes,” trillions in loanable funds were created so that now $17 trillion in global debt is priced to yield less than nothing. The magic trick of inverting economic logic with negative rates results from the capacity of the central banks to create unlimited quantities of loanable funds at no cost. Trouble is, while loanable funds can be created without limit, the things that can be purchased with these funds is finite. But, “free money” not only makes loans cheap, it also erodes the capacity of lenders to ask for such reasonable terms as traditional loan covenants and basic financial disclosure.

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Preparing the people for bad news?!

‘Very Difficult’ For China’s Economy To Grow 6% Or Faster: Premier Li

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said it is “very difficult” for China’s economy to grow at a rate of 6% or more because of the high base from which it was starting and the complicated international backdrop. The world’s No.2 economy faced “certain downward pressure” due to slowing global growth as well as the rise of protectionism and unilateralism, Li said in an interview with Russian media which was published on the Chinese government’s website, gov.cn. China’s GDP grew 6.3% in the first half of the year, and Li said the economy was “generally stable” in the first eight months of the year.


“For China to maintain growth of 6% or more is very difficult against the current backdrop of a complicated international situation and a relatively high base, and this rate is at the forefront of the world’s leading economies,” Li was quoted as saying. Analysts say China’s economic growth has likely cooled further this quarter from a near 30-year low of 6.2% in April-June. Morgan Stanley says it is now tracking the lower end of the government’s full-year target range of around 6-6.5%.

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4.4% it is.

China’s August Industrial Output Growth Grinds To 17.5-Year Low (R.)

The slowdown in China’s factory and consumer sectors deepened in August, with industrial production growing at the weakest pace in 17-1/2 years, a sign of increasing weakness in an economy lashed by trade headwinds and soft domestic demand. Production rose 4.4% in August year-on-year, slower than the 4.8% growth in July. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast output would rise 5.2%. August’s data is the slowest growth since February 2002. [..] The data also showed retail sales growth at 7.5%, below the 7.9% expected in a Reuters poll and the 7.6% increase in July.


Fixed-asset investment for the first eight months of the year rose 5.5%, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with a 5.6% rise forecast by analysts. Data last week showed factory-gate prices fell at their fastest pace in three years and analysts predict that producer deflation will continue to worsen in the coming months. It also follows a factory survey that showed activity shrank for the fourth straight month as the U.S. trade war dragged on. China’s imports of unwrought copper also fell 3.8% year-on-year in August, a metal with wide use in infrastructure, power and consumption.

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America’s dying unions.

General Motors Faces Strike By Almost 50,000 Staff (BBC)

Almost 50,000 General Motors workers have been called out on strike after the car giant failed to reach a pay and conditions deal with the United Auto Workers union (UAW). “We do not take this lightly. This is our last resort,” UAW vice-president Terry Dittes told reporters in Detroit. The sides had set a Saturday night deadline to reach agreement. The strike – from midnight (04:00 GMT) on Monday – is the first at GM, America’s biggest carmaker, since 2007. In that strike, a two-day stoppage cost $300m (£240m). The union’s previous four-year contract with GM expired this weekend, and the two sides had been holding negotiations on wide-ranging issues, including wages, healthcare, profit sharing, and job security.

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Right after the Sackler family had transferred their billions to safe locations.

OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Files For Bankruptcy Protection (R.)

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday night, succumbing to pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits alleging the company helped fuel the deadly U.S. opioid epidemic. Purdue’s board met Sunday evening to approve the long-expected bankruptcy filing, which the company is pursuing to restructure under terms of a proposal to settle the widespread litigation. Purdue, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in a federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, reached a tentative deal to resolve lawsuits with 24 states and five U.S. territories, as well as lead lawyers for more than 2,000 cities, counties and other plaintiffs, the company said.


Two dozen states remain opposed or uncommitted to the proposed settlement, setting the stage for contentious legal battles over who bears responsibility for a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017, according to the latest U.S. data. Thousands of cities and counties, along with nearly every state, have sued Purdue and, in some cases, its controlling Sackler family. The lawsuits, seeking billions of dollars in damages, claim the company and family aggressively marketed prescription painkillers while misleading doctors and patients about their addiction and overdose risks.

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I’d rather have a look at overall pollution, not just emissions.

Industrialized Militaries Are A Big Part Of The Climate Emergency (IC)

A British doctor who co-authored two studies on the environmental impact of U.S. military operations in Fallujah said that the city’s population suffers “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.” Much of this impact can be blamed on the use of depleted uranium munitions by U.S. forces. Despite vowing to cease their use, a study by the independent monitoring group Airwars and Foreign Policy Magazine found that the military continued to use the toxic munitions during its most recent bombing campaign in Syria. The fact that fossil fuel emissions have been the major driver of climate change adds another grim irony to these wars.


For decades, the heavy U.S. military footprint in the Middle East has been justified by the need to preserve access to the region’s oil reserves. The industrial extraction of those same reserves has been one of the major drivers of global carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, we have been killing, dying, and polluting to ensure our access to the same toxic resource most responsible for our climate disruption. It took this perfect symmetry between industrial warfare and industrial exploitation of the earth to bring about the unspeakable emergency we now face.

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$1 million every minute. And look at the sugary crap we’re eating.

Farming Subsidies Destroy The World (G.)

The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report. Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser. The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says.

The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves. “There is incredibly small direct targeting of [subsidies at] positive environment outcomes, which is insane,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, principal at the Food and Land Use Coalition (Folu), the collaboration of food, farming and green research groups that produced the new report. “We have got to switch these subsidies into explicitly positive measures.”

He said the true global total was likely to be $1tn a year, as some subsidies are difficult to quantify precisely: “That trillion dollars of public funding is available and is a massive, massive lever to incentivise the farming community across the world to act differently.”

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“..all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the UK have hidden behind will evaporate.”

The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner (Craig Murray)

We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation. He will receive parole from the rest of that sentence, but will continue to be imprisoned on remand awaiting his hearing on extradition to the USA – a process which could last several years. At that point, all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the UK have hidden behind will evaporate. There are no charges and no active investigation in Sweden, where the “evidence” disintegrated at the first whiff of critical scrutiny. He is no longer imprisoned for “jumping bail”.

The sole reason for his incarceration will be the publishing of the Afghan and Iraq war logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, with their evidence of wrongdoing and multiple war crimes. In imprisoning Assange for bail violation, the UK was in clear defiance of the judgement of the UN Working Group on arbitrary Detention, which stated:

“Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge. The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the UK has ratified,”

In repudiating the UNWGAD the UK has undermined an important pillar of international law, and one it had always supported in hundreds of other decisions. The mainstream media has entirely failed to note that the UNWGAD called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a source of potentially valuable international pressure on Iran which the UK has made worthless by its own refusal to comply with the UN over the Assange case. Iran simply replies “if you do not respect the UNWGAD then why should we?”

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Sep 152019
 
 September 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Marcel Duchamp About young sister 1911

 

Israeli Attacks On Syria Halted After Russian Threat To Shoot Down Jets (ZH)
US, Israel Talk About Mutual Defense Treaty – Trump (RT)
Netanyahu’s Plan to Escape Trial (Haaretz)
US Blames Saudi Oil Strikes On Iran, Not Houthis (BBC)
Global Spare Oil Capacity In US Hands After Saudi Outage (R.)
US Stands Ready To Tap Emergency Oil Reserve After Saudi Attacks (R.)
London Upper Tribunal Rejects La Repubblica’s Assange Docs Appeal (Maurizi)
Johnson Is A Liar Who Only Backed Leave To Help His Career – Cameron (G.)
US To Hit EU With Billions In Tariffs After Victory In Airbus Case (Pol.eu)
Italy’s New Government Lets Charity Ship Head To Italian Port (R.)
World ‘Losing Battle Against Deforestation’ (BBC)
The Spy Who Failed (Ritter)

 

 

What Putin tells Netanyahu, he also tells Trump at the same moment. A red line in the sand. This is the new world order.

Israeli Attacks On Syria Halted After Russian Threat To Shoot Down Jets (ZH)

According to reports in both Israeli and Arabic regional media, Israel this past week was preparing to expand major airstrikes against “Iran-backed” targets in Syria, but Moscow imposed its red line. The Independent has published a story describing that Russia’s military in Syria threatened to shoot down any invading Israeli warplanes using fighter jets or their S-400 system. The Jerusalem Post, citing sources in the UK Independent (Arabia), writes just after the latest meeting in Sochi between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin: “According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli airstrikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S400 Anti-aircraft missiles.


The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice, and that during August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S300 missile battery is placed.” Netanyahu’s hasty trip to meet with Putin on Thursday – even in the final days before Tuesday’s key election – was reportedly with a goal to press the Russian president on essentially ignoring Israel’s attacks in Syria. Citing further sources in the British-Arabic Independent Arabia, The Jerusalem Post continues: According to the Russian source, Putin let Netanyahu know that his country will not allow any damage to be done to the Syrian regime’s army, or any of the weapons being given to it… Israel sources cited by the Arabic newspaper described Netanyahu’s attempts to persuade Putin as “a failure”. This in spite of Netanyahu telling reporters after the meeting that his relations with Moscow were stronger than ever.

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Israel is going to defend the US?

US, Israel Talk About Mutual Defense Treaty – Trump (RT)

The US and Israel are discussing a mutual defense treaty that would further cement the already “tremendous” alliance between the two countries, President Donald Trump has revealed. “I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries,” Trump tweeted. Trump voiced not-that-veiled support for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Israel. “I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!” Trump wrote.


The support surely comes in handy, as Netanyahu’s backing appears to be quite shaky. The September 17 polls are the second snap legislative elections this year after Netanyahu failed to form the government back in April. The outcome of the upcoming vote is hard to predict, as Netanyahu’s party, Likud, has almost equal support as their main opponent the Blue and White led by Benny Gantz, opinion polls show. Netanyahu was quick to respond to Trump’s announcement, lauding the prospects of the alliance and managing to call the US president a “friend” twice in a single tweet.

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Netanyahu wanted to bomb Syria to support himself in the Sep 17 Knesset elections. Putin said we’ll shoot down your jets.

Netanyahu needs victory in the election to keep himself out of jail. He may be indicted by mid-October. Trump might want to reconsider who he’s friends with.

Netanyahu’s Plan to Escape Trial (Haaretz)

Immediately after the last election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined to members of his inner circle a plan to extract him from facing trial. The plan was based on obtaining immunity from the Knesset and passing legislation to prevent the High Court of Justice from removing that immunity. If his bloc wins 61 Knesset seats next week, Netanyahu will presumably resort to this rescue plan. For him it will be the Day of Judgment. “Stop being frightened. It’s time for them to be frightened,” Netanyahu told his confidants, referring to justice officials, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who have decided to indict him in three cases, subject to a hearing.

Netanyahu told his confidants why he insisted on his destructive plan, telling them he had lost all confidence in the legal system on all levels – the attorney general’s office, the state prosecutor and the court system. “They want me in prison,” he told one of his cronies, noting that if he were indicted that would indeed be the result – not because he had crossed a red line, but merely due to the jurists’ collective hostility toward him and his ideology. Netanyahu appears to wholeheartedly believe himself to be a victim, framed by prosecutors and that Mendelblit, who is weak, doesn’t believe in them at all, but couldn’t withstand the pressure.

In his interviews with the police Netanyahu acted like a hunted man. “It’s a wacky conception,” he told national fraud squad chief Koresh Bar-Nur in January 2017. Bar-Nur came to Netanyahu’s residence with a team of investigators to question him under caution on Case 2000, involving a bribery deal Netanyahu allegedly negotiated with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes.

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Trump was talking about lifting sanctions on Iran and then this happens?! That smells like Assad attacking his own people with chlorine just as things were getting better.

US Blames Saudi Oil Strikes On Iran, Not Houthis (BBC)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for Saturday’s drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities. He dismissed a claim by Yemeni Houthi rebels that they had attacked the two facilities, run by state-owned company Aramco. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the strikes had reduced crude oil production by 5.7 million barrels a day – about half the kingdom’s output. Correspondents say they could have a significant impact on world oil prices. TV footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield. The Saudis lead a Western-backed military coalition supporting Yemen’s government, while Iran backs the Houthi rebels.


If the rebels were responsible for the attacks, their drones would have had to fly hundreds of miles from Yemen into central Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile experts are investigating whether the attacks could have been carried out from the north – either by Iran or its Shia allies in Iraq – using cruise missiles rather than drones, the Wall Street Journal reports. Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated in recent months. since US President Donald Trump abandoned a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities last year and reinstated sanctions. In a tweet, Mr Pompeo said there was “no evidence” the drones came from Yemen. He described the attack as “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

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The US and Saudi Aramco (its IPO is near) stand to gain most if oil prices shoot up.

Global Spare Oil Capacity In US Hands After Saudi Outage (R.)

An attack on Saudi oil facilities on Saturday is believed to have disrupted half the country’s production capacity, making the United States the only real holder of the global supply cushion via its ability to raise own output or to soften sanctions against other major oil producers. Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on the extent of damage on its oil production but industry sources have said some 5-6 million barrels per day (bpd) or 5-6% of global supply have been affected. Saudi Arabia, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ de-facto leader and largest producer, has been long seen as the custodian of the world’s spare oil capacity.

Spare capacity is the extra oil a producing country can bring onstream and sustain at short notice, providing global markets with a cushion in the event of natural disaster, conflict or any other cause of an unplanned supply outage. Industry sources have said Saudi Arabia will be able to restore supply within days. A prolonged supply outage will have a major bullish impact on oil prices, which in turn will spur further gains in U.S. shale production. The United States has briefly overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world largest crude exporter this year, only a few years after removing a ban on oil exports because of large needs at home as the world’s largest oil consumer.

Analysts have repeatedly underestimated U.S. output growth gains with the country now producing around 15% of global supply. Besides the United States, the only countries which have significant spare capacity are Iran and Venezuela.

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Only to replace it with much more expensive oil?

US Stands Ready To Tap Emergency Oil Reserve After Saudi Attacks (R.)

The Trump administration is prepared to tap U.S. emergency oil reserves if necessary after drone attacks shut oil output in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, a Department of Energy spokeswoman said. Energy Secretary Rick Perry “stands ready to deploy resources from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves if necessary to offset any disruptions to oil markets as a result of this act of aggression,” spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed credit for Saturday’s attacks on two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility Abqaiq.


Perry directed department leaders to work with the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) “on potential available options for collective global action if needed,” Hynes said. The IEA said on Twitter earlier in the day that it was in contact with Saudi authorities and other major oil-producing nations, and that markets for now are well-supplied. The United States has occasionally coordinated with the IEA on collective draw downs of oil from international reserves. The SPR, held in heavily-guarded underground storage caverns on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, currently holds nearly 645 million barrels, or about the amount the United States consumes in a month.

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Where are the British people protesting this?

London Upper Tribunal Rejects La Repubblica’s Assange Docs Appeal (Maurizi)

The press does not have the right to access the full set of documents on the Julian Assange case. That is what judge Edward Mitchell finally ruled in an appeal taken to the London Upper Tribunal by la Repubblica, after we have spent the last four years trying to access the full documentation to investigate the Assange case and factually reconstruct it.

In an extremely technical judgement just made public and which the judge himself characterises as “unusually long”, Mitchell rejects our legal arguments and states that he believed public knowledge of Mr Assange’s case would not have increased if it was known that the CPS held information from the US State Department or Department of Justice. A rather incredible argument considering that the entire Assange case revolves around the role of the United States authorities, who want to get their hands on the WikiLeaks founder, extradite him to the US and jail him for life: establishing whether the British and US authorities discussed this possibility from the very beginning is crucial.

[..]Our attempt to access the documents has been hindered and hugely delayed in every jurisdiction. However, the very few documents we have obtained so far have allowed us to unearth crucial information. They provide indisputable evidence of the UK’s role in helping to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which kept Julian Assange arbitrarily detained since 2010, as established by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD). In fact, it was the UK Crown Prosecution Service which advised the Swedish prosecutors against the only judicial strategy that could have brought the Swedish rape investigation to a quick closure: questioning Assange in London, rather than trying to extradite him to Stockholm. It was the Crown Prosecution Service which tried to dissuade the Swedish prosecutors from dropping the case in 2013. Finally, it was the Crown Prosecution Service that wrote to its Swedish counterpart: “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request” and destroyed crucial documents, even though the case is still ongoing and very controversial.

When we tried to shed light on these facts, to understand why the British authorities acted this way and why the Assange case was not “just another extradition request”, we ran up against a true rubber wall, so much so that we were forced to sue the Crown Prosecution Service. Our first appeal to the London First-tier Tribunal was rejected: the judge established that the press has no right to access the documentation, because the need for the British authorities to protect the confidentiality of the extradition process outweighs the public interest of the press to know. Today, Judge Edward Mitchell has rejected our appeal to the Upper Tribunal. At this point it is not clear who will be able to introduce some transparency and oversight in the Assange case, considering that the press is not allowed to do so.

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Selling a book.

Johnson Is A Liar Who Only Backed Leave To Help His Career – Cameron (G.)

Boris Johnson is a liar who only backed the Leave campaign to help his career and Michael Gove was a “foam-flecked Faragist” whose “one quality” was disloyalty, David Cameron writes in his memoirs. The former prime minister poured vituperation on both his former colleagues Priti Patel, the current home secretary, and Dominic Cummings, the No 10 adviser, in extracts from the book published on Sunday. In what may be Cameron’s most explosive allegation yet, he effectively accused Boris Johnson of mounting a racist election campaign by focusing on Turkey and its possible accession to the EU. “It didn’t take long to figure out Leave’s obsession,” he writes. “Why focus on a country that wasn’t an EU member?


“The answer was that it was a Muslim country, which piqued fears about Islamism, mass migration and the transformation of communities. It was blatant.” Then Cameron echoes the explicitly racist Conservative campaign slogan used in Smethwick in 1964: “They might as well have said: ‘If you want a Muslim for a neighbour, vote “remain”.’” In Smethwick, Peter Griffiths had been elected as Conservative MP on the slogan “If you want a n**** for a neighbour, vote Labour.” Cameron writes that Johnson’s claims of concerns about British sovereignty were “secondary to another concern for Boris: what was the best outcome for him?”

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Get ready for more fun.

US To Hit EU With Billions In Tariffs After Victory In Airbus Case (Pol.eu)

The United States has gotten the green light to impose billions of euros in punitive tariffs on EU products in retaliation for illegal subsidies granted to European aerospace giant Airbus. Four EU officials told POLITICO that the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of the U.S. in the long-running transatlantic dispute and sent its confidential decision to Brussels and Washington on Friday. The decision means that U.S. President Donald Trump will almost certainly soon announce tariffs on European products ranging from cheeses to Airbus planes. One official said Trump had won the right to collect a total of between €5 billion and €8 billion. Another said the maximum sum was close to $10 billion.


The decision sets the stage for a showdown between Europe and Washington just as the EU is transitioning to new leadership under incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan. In unveiling her team on Tuesday, von der Leyen signaled a robust approach to transatlantic disputes on trade and other issues with the Trump administration. aWashington has previously announced it would follow through with tariffs if it won the case in Geneva and has prepared a list of EU exports worth a total of $21 billion. The U.S. can choose products from that list and then tax them at different rates in order to claw back the total amount of damage resulting from the EU subsidies.

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After EU nations agreed to take the refugees.

Italy’s New Government Lets Charity Ship Head To Italian Port (R.)

Italy’s new government allowed a French charity ship to bring ashore 82 migrants on Saturday in an apparent reversal of the uncompromising, closed-door policy of the previous administration. However, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who heads the 5-Star Movement in the governing coalition, said the Ocean Viking was only being given access to the southern island of Lampedusa because other European states had agreed to take in many of those on board. The government formally took office on Tuesday, promising a fresh approach to migration following the hardline clampdown on rescue ships introduced by former interior minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League.


Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that “several EU countries” had agreed to take in the Africans aboard the Ocean Viking but did not give further details. The ship is run by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders. It picked up the migrants off Libya earlier this week and had asked both Italy and Malta for permission to dock. Recent such requests from other boats had been rejected, leaving migrants stranded at sea for prolonged periods. The center-left Democratic Party (PD), which has replaced the League in the ruling coalition, applauded the announcement that the vessel had been given access to Lampedusa.

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As long as it pays more to cut and burn trees than to grow them or just leave them alone, this is inevitable.

World ‘Losing Battle Against Deforestation’ (BBC)

A historic global agreement aimed at halting deforestation has failed, according to a report. An assessment of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) says it has failed to deliver on key pledges. Launched at the 2014 UN climate summit, it aimed to half deforestation by 2020, and halt it by 2030. Yet deforestation continues at an alarming rate and threatens to prevent the world from preventing dangerous climate change, experts have said. The critique, compiled by the NYDF Assessment Partners (a coalition of 25 organisations), painted a bleak picture of how the world’s forests continue to be felled.


“Since the NYDF was launched five years ago, deforestation has not only continued – it has actually accelerated,” observed Charlotte Streck, co-founder and director of Climate Focus, which co-ordinated the publication of the report. The report says the amount of annual carbon emissions resulting from deforestation around the globe are equivalent to the greenhouse gases produced by the European Union. On average, an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018. Tropical forest loss accounts for more than 90% of global deforestation, with the hotspot being located in Amazon Basin nations of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

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Your must read for the Sunday. Excellent. You’ll know a lot more about the CIA in Moscow, and in the US elections.

The Spy Who Failed (Scott Ritter)

Oleg Smolenkov was a controlled asset of the CIA. While he was given certain latitude on what information he could collect, generally speaking Smolenkov worked from an operations order sent to him by his CIA controllers which established priorities for intelligence collection based upon information provided by Smolenkov about what he could reasonably access. Before tasking Smolenkov, his CIA handlers would screen the request from an operational and counterintelligence perspective, conducting a risk-reward analysis that weighed the value of the intelligence being sought with the possibility of compromise. Only then would Smolenkov be cleared to collect the requested information.

It is not publicly known what prompted the report from Smolenkov which Brennan found so alarming. Was it received out of the blue, a target of opportunity which Smolenkov exploited? Was it based upon a specific tasking submitted by Smolenkov’s CIA handlers in response to a tasking from above? Or was it a result of the intervention of the CIA director, who tasked Smolenkov outside normal channels? In any event, once Brennan created his special analytical unit, Smolenkov became his dedicated source. If Smolenko was in this for the money, as appears to be the case, he would have been motivated to come up with the “correct” answer to Brennan’s tasking for information on Putin’s role. By late 2016, Western media had made quite clear what kind of answer Brennan wanted.

Every intelligence report produced by a controlled asset is subjected to a counterintelligence review where it is examined for any evidence of red flags that could be indicative of compromise. One red flag is the issue of abnormal access. Smolenkov did not normally have direct contact with Putin, if ever. His intelligence reports would have been written from the perspective of the distant observer. His report about Putin’s role in interfering in the 2016 election, however, represented a whole new level of access and trust. Under normal circumstances, a report exhibiting such tendency would be pulled aside for additional scrutiny; if the report was alarming enough, the CIA might order the agent to be subjected to a polygraph to ensure he had not been compromised.

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Jul 292019
 


Odilon Redon Fallen angel 1872

 

A New US Oil Production Peak Looks Imminent (Robert Rapier)
China’s Wobbly Giants (Fortune)
Business Lobby Group CBI Says UK, EU Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit (BBC)
Johnson Told No-Deal Brexit Will Crush Domestic Policy Plans (G.)
More Than 4 Million In UK Are Trapped In Deep Poverty (G.)
Ratcliffe Tapped To Replace Coats As US Spy Chief (R.)
Work On Production Line Of Boeing 737 MAX ‘Not Adequately Funded’ (BBC)
Insulin Is Our Oxygen: Bernie Sanders Rides Another Campaign Bus To Canada (G.)
Papadopoulos To Head To Greece To Retrieve $10,000 Payment (Fox)
US Wants To ‘Make An Example’ Of Assange In Jail, UN Expert Claims (SMH)

 

 

Cheap money blows bubbles, but…

A New US Oil Production Peak Looks Imminent (Robert Rapier)

The resurgence of U.S. oil production over the past decade diminished OPEC’s control of the global oil markets. In less than eight years, U.S. oil production climbed from under 6 million barrels per day (BPD) to more than 12 million BPD. This surge is arguably the only reason oil prices today aren’t above $100/barrel (bbl). OPEC’s current strategy seems to be to wait for U.S. production to begin declining so they can begin to regain control of the oil markets. They may not have to wait all that long.

In last week’s article, I covered the slowdown in oil production growth in the Permian Basin. This is the most important oil-producing region in the U.S., but of course it isn’t the only one. And while most of the coverage of the resurgence of U.S. oil production has been primarily focused on shale oil and tight oil, U.S. offshore oil production has also made a big jump. Over the past decade, Gulf Coast oil production in the U.S. rose from about 1.2 million BPD to about 2.0 million BPD.


Thus, I thought today it might be instructive to look at the trends in total U.S. oil production. Note that in the previous graphic, it looks like production may be starting to turn down right at the end of the time frame. In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported a slight downward trend in U.S. oil production since May. The key question is whether this is an anomaly, or the beginning of a sustained trend. Applying the same analysis that I did last week to Permian Basin production – which looked at year-over-year production changes – it becomes clear that overall U.S. production growth is declining even faster than Permian Basin production growth.

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“.. state-owned enterprises account for 80% of the revenue generated by Chinese companies..”

China’s Wobbly Giants (Fortune)

In China, publication of the Fortune Global 500 has become a major media event. Companies advancing even a place or two rush out press releases. Those making the list for first time bask in the achievement; this year’s most notable Chinese debutant, smartphone maker Xiaomi, celebrated by doling out $24 million in stock to its 20,000 employees. The 2019 list gives Chinese firms something special to crow about: the number of Chinese firms rose to a record 129, including 10 from Taiwan, overtaking the 121 firms from the United States.

[..] the most striking characteristic of China’s presence on the Global 500 remains the overwhelming—and growing—dominance of state-owned firms. A calculation by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post found that, if firms from Hong Kong and Taiwan are excluded, state-owned enterprises account for 80% of the revenue generated by Chinese companies on the 2019 list, up from 76% last year. Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the prevalence of state-owned behemoths among Chinese firms “reveals more weakness than strength.”

He questions whether firms like Ping An Insurance Group (No. 29) and Huawei Technologies (No. 61) are truly private; doubts the veracity of financial results reported by China’s state-owned firms; and notes that Chinese SOEs are mostly sleepy monopolies. The vast revenue of state-owned Chinese companies on the Fortune 500, he concludes, “primarily represents waste.” Former Financial Times China correspondent Richard McGregor offers a more nuanced explanation for the ascendance of China’s state-owned giants in his new book Xi Jinping: The Backlash. For China watchers, the entire book is a must-read, but this excerpt published recently in The Guardian, summarizes Richard’s account of how and why Xi sought to bolster state-owned enterprises at the expense of private enterprise.

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What is it, 100 days until Halloween?!

Business Lobby Group CBI Says UK, EU Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit (BBC)

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned the government that neither the UK nor the EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. “While the UK’s preparations to date are welcome, the unprecedented nature of Brexit means some aspects cannot be mitigated,” said the CBI. It has published practical steps it says the UK, EU and firms can take. A government spokesman said the UK has increased the pace of planning for no-deal. The CBI had previously said leaving the EU with a deal was essential to protect the economy and jobs. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made Michael Gove responsible for planning a no-deal Brexit. Mr Gove has said the UK government is currently “working on the assumption” of a no-deal Brexit.


He said his team still aimed to come to an agreement with Brussels but, writing in the Sunday Times, he added: “No deal is now a very real prospect.” The CBI’s report What Comes Next? The Business Analysis Of No Deal Preparations advises what measures businesses can take to reduce the worst effects. The advice is based on a study of existing plans laid out by the UK government, European Commission, member states and firms. “And although businesses have already spent billions on contingency planning for no deal, they remain hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost and complexity,” the CBI says. “Larger companies, particularly those in regulated areas such as financial services, have well-thought-through contingency plans in place, though smaller firms are less well prepared.”

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They’re stuck on the backstop: “Johnson may well find that having left one political union, he spends an increasing proportion of his time trying to keep another together..”

Johnson Told No-Deal Brexit Will Crush Domestic Policy Plans (G.)

Boris Johnson’s ambitious domestic agenda would be crushed by the pressing needs of the emergency that would follow a no-deal Brexit, a new report by a Whitehall thinktank has concluded. The Institute for Government (IfG) warned there is “no such thing as a managed no deal” and the hard Brexiters predictions of a “clean break” from the EU will not materialise. Johnson will begin his first full week in Downing Street by ramping up planning for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, with more than £1bn to be announced within days for preparations by Sajid Javid, the chancellor. He sent out a raft of cabinet ministers over the weekend to talk about “turbo-charging” preparations as part of a publicity blitz, making clear that the UK will be heading for no deal unless EU leaders agree to replace the Irish backstop.

The new prime minister is also heading to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the coming days to promise to “strengthen the union”, but he faces a difficult meeting with Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, on Monday as she warned over the weekend that she cannot sign up to his no-deal Brexit strategy. In its report on no deal, the IfG predicted that the union of the United Kingdom would come under “unprecedented pressure” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with Northern Ireland “most acutely affected”. It said that legislation to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland with immediate effect would be needed to get through a no-deal Brexit if the devolved government is not restored by the end of October. “Johnson may well find that having left one political union, he spends an increasing proportion of his time trying to keep another together,” it said.

[..] In another sign of the uncertainty Johnson faces, the owner of Vauxhall warned on Sunday that it will close its Ellesmere Port plant with the loss of 1,000 jobs if Brexit renders it unprofitable. “No deal is a step into the unknown: the prime minister’s second 100 days will be even more unpredictable than his first,” the report says, adding that the EU is unlikely to agree to negotiate any “side deals” to soften the impact. “Rather than ‘turbo-charging’ the economy, as Johnson has suggested, the government is more likely to be occupied with providing money and support to businesses and industries that have not prepared or are worst affected by a no-deal Brexit – as well as dealing with UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens here, who have been similarly caught out,” it says.

[..] Dominic Cummings, the mastermind behind Vote Leave, who has been hired as Johnson’s special adviser, has been tasked with delivering Brexit “by any means necessary”. In a meeting with fellow special advisers, he made it clear that he believes No 10 can outmanoeuvre parliamentary critics of no deal and force Brexit to happen by 31 October. However, leading former cabinet ministers – Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart – are all preparing to join the cross-party battle to make sure parliament has a say on the form of the UK’s departure. One source close to the group said Cummings’s confidence of being able to proceed with a no deal if necessary was “misplaced”, while another former cabinet minister described the senior No 10 adviser as a “master of disinformation and spin”.

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While all attention and funding goes towards Brexit…

More Than 4 Million In UK Are Trapped In Deep Poverty (G.)

More than 4 million people in the UK are trapped in deep poverty, meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline, locking them into a weekly struggle to afford the most basic living essentials, an independent study has shown. The Social Metrics Commission also said 7 million people, including 2.3 million children, were affected by what it termed persistent poverty, meaning that they were not only in poverty but had been for at least two of the previous three years. Highlighting evidence of rising levels of hardship in recent years among children, larger families, lone parent households and pensioners, the commission urged the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action to tackle growing poverty.


The commission’s chair, Philippa Stroud, a Conservative peer, said there was a pressing need for a concerted approach to the problem. “It is time to look again at our approach to children, and to invest in our children as the future of our nation,” she said. Campaigners said the commission showed austerity had undermined two decades of anti-poverty policy. “By cutting £40bn a year from our work and pensions budget through cuts and freezes to tax credits and benefits, the government has put progress into reverse,” said Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

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He was strong in the Mueller hearing.

Ratcliffe Tapped To Replace Coats As US Spy Chief (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican who strongly defended him at a recent congressional hearing, to replace Dan Coats as the U.S. spy chief. Coats, the current U.S. director of national intelligence who has clashed with Trump over assessments involving Russia, Iran and North Korea, will step down on Aug. 15, the president said as he announced his decision on Twitter. “John will lead and inspire greatness for the Country he loves,” Trump said, thanking Coats “for his great service to our Country” and saying an acting director will be named shortly. The post of director of national intelligence, created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, oversees the 17 U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies, including the CIA.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House of Representatives intelligence and judiciary committees, defended Trump during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday about his two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice. Ratcliffe also accused Mueller of exceeding his authority in the report’s extensive discussion of potential obstruction of justice by Trump after the special counsel decided not to draw a conclusion on whether Trump committed a crime. The congressman agreed that Trump was not above the law, but said the president should not be “below the law” either.

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“My family won’t fly on a 737 Max.”

Work On Production Line Of Boeing 737 MAX ‘Not Adequately Funded’ (BBC)

A former Boeing engineer has told the BBC’s Panorama programme that work on the production line of the 737 Max plane was not adequately funded. The aircraft is currently grounded after two crashes which killed 346 people. The 737 Max is the company’s fastest selling plane and has earned the company billions of dollars in sales. Boeing denies the claims and says it’s committed to making the 737 Max one of the safest aircraft ever to fly. Adam Dickson worked at Boeing for 30 years and led a team of engineers who worked on the 737 Max. He said they were under constant pressure to keep costs down. “Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety,” he says. “The culture was very cost centred, incredibly pressurised. Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the aeroplane.”


Mr Dickson said engineers were under pressure to downplay new features on the 737 Max. He said by classifying them as minor rather than major changes, Boeing would face less scrutiny from the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration. “The goal was to show that those differences were so similar to the previous design that it would not require a major design classification in the certification process. There was a lot of interest and pressure on the certification and analysis engineers in particular, to look at any changes to the Max as minor changes.” He said that downplaying the changes reduced scrutiny in a way that could impact safety. Now even his own family have fears about the plane’s safety. “My family won’t fly on a 737 Max. It’s frightening to see such a major incident because of a system that didn’t function properly or accurately.”

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“How does it happen 10 minutes away from the American border in Michigan, people here are paying one-10th of the price for the vitally important drug they need to stay alive?”

Insulin Is Our Oxygen: Bernie Sanders Rides Another Campaign Bus To Canada (G.)

When Hunter Sego realized the insulin he needed to manage his Type 1 diabetes cost more than $1,400, he called his mother in a panic. His family had insurance. He did not believe it was possible a one-month supply of “life saving” medication could cost so much. The price tag was correct. Then a student and football player at DePauw University, he began to ration his insulin, using a quarter of what had been prescribed. He lost weight. His grades dropped. He struggled on the field. Fortunately, his mother found out and stopped him from rationing his insulin – a practice that is increasingly common and potentially deadly.

On Sunday, Sego and his mother, Kathy, drove seven hours from Indiana to join a caravan of roughly a dozen patients with Type 1 diabetes on a bus to Canada with Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Americans – wearing glucose monitors on their arms and shirts that said “diabetic” – set out to buy insulin for a fraction of its cost at home. Sanders’ northern sojourn, a trip his campaign sponsored, was designed to highlight the rising cost of prescription drugs in the US, which the senator said was the result of “incredible corruption and greed” on the part of the US pharmaceutical industry.

“How does it happen 10 minutes away from the American border in Michigan, people here are paying one-10th of the price for the vitally important drug they need to stay alive?” Sanders asked, calling the disparity a “national embarrassment”. In his remarks outside of the Olde Walkerville Pharmacy in Windsor, Sanders vowed that as president he would appoint an attorney general to investigate the pharmaceutical industry for what he described as “collusion” between the major drug companies. “Prices go up and up and up at the same level for the same companies,” he said. “So what you do is you throw these people in jail if they engage in price-fixing.”

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How many agents are going to be on his tail?

Papadopoulos To Head To Greece To Retrieve $10,000 Payment (Fox)

Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo in an exclusive interview that he is heading back to Greece to retrieve $10,000 that he suspects was dropped in his lap as part of an entrapment scheme by the CIA or FBI — and federal investigators want to see the marked bills, which he said are now stored in a safe. Papadopoulos said on “Sunday Morning Futures” he was “very happy” to see Devin Nunes, R-Calif., grill former Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the summer 2017 payment during last week’s hearings — even though Mueller maintained, without explanation, that the matter was outside the scope of his investigation.

“I was very happy to see that Devin Nunes brought that up,” Papadopoulos said. “A man named Charles Tawil gave me this money [in Israel] under very suspicious circumstances. A simple Google search about this individual will reveal he was a CIA or State Department asset in South Africa during the ’90s and 2000s. I think around the time when Bob Mueller was the director of the FBI. “So, I have my theory of what that was all about,” Papadopoulos added. “The money, I gave it to my attorney in Greece because I felt it was given to me under very suspicious circumstances. And upon coming back to the United States I had about seven or eight FBI agents rummaging through my luggage looking for money.”

According to Papadopoulos, “the whole setup” by the “FBI likely, or even the special counsel’s office,” was intended to “bring a FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violation against me.” The FARA statute played a key role in the prosecutions of former Trump aides, including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Papadopoulos previously told Bartiromo in May that he wanted authorities to take a look at the money trail. “I actually want Congress, [Bill] Barr, [DOJ Inspector General Michael] Horowitz, and [U.S. Attorney John] Huber to review the bills because I still have the bills and I think they are marked,” Papadopoulos said. “These bills that are still in Athens right now must be examined by the investigators because I think they are marked and they’re going to go all the way back to DOJ, under the previous FBI under [James] Comey, and even the Mueller team.”

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But the torture just continues…

US Wants To ‘Make An Example’ Of Assange In Jail, UN Expert Claims (SMH)

The United States government has promised that Julian Assange will get a fair trial on espionage charges, rejecting the accusation of a United Nations expert that the administration “intends to make an example of him” with excessive charges and jail time. It has challenged the assessment of the expert, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, that Assange would “be exposed to a real risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” if he ended up in a US jail. But Melzer has warned that extradition to the US would severely and dangerously worsen Assange’s already fragile psychological state.

The WikiLeaks founder is in a London jail awaiting a legal fight against extradition to the US, where he has been charged with conspiracy to receive and disclose top secret documents allegedly obtained from army whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010. Assange’s team are expected to argue he will not receive a fair trial if the extradition takes place, and that extradition would be dangerous to his health – arguments bolstered by the damning independent report from Melzer. In May, after visiting Assange in Belmarsh Prison for an interview and psychological examination, Melzer concluded that the US, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador shared responsibility for the “psychological torture” of Assange.

On Sunday new details emerged of Melzer’s conclusions, after the publication of letters that Melzer sent to the respective governments of those countries. The UN Human Rights Commissioner also published two responses received from the US and Sweden which strongly rejected Melzer’s claims and arguments. In his letters, Melzer gave new details of Assange’s prison regimen. At the time of his visit Assange was shut in his cell for about 20 hours a day, eating all his meals in the 2 metre by 3 metre space with “a bed, a cupboard, a note-board, basic sanitary installations, a plastic chair and a medium sized window”. Melzer called for Assange to be given access to the prison library and gym, and expressed concern that his situation “severely hampers his ability to adequately prepare” for his legal fight.

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Jun 252019
 


Pablo Picasso Minotauromachie 1935

 

Interest Rates Don’t Need To Rise Much To Cause Recessions Now (Colombo)
The Federal Reserve Is About To Create A Lot More Zombies (MW)
The Solution to Trump’s Iran Mayhem (FFF)
Iran Says New US Sanctions “Permanent Closure” Of Diplomacy (AFP)
Oil Prices Drop Amid Demand Worries, But US-Iran Tensions Support (R.)
Provoking Iran Could Start a War, Crash the Entire World Economy (Pieraccini)
House Party (Jim Kunstler)
Three Years After The Brexit Referendum, What Has Changed? (Coppola)
Firms Fear For Deliveries In Shipping Pollution Shakeup (R.)
‘Climate Apartheid’: UN Expert Says Human Rights May Not Survive (G.)

 

 

The shadow Fed Funds rate is already rising sharply. Wiggle room approaches zero.

Interest Rates Don’t Need To Rise Much To Cause Recessions Now (Colombo)

As a result of debt growing faster than our underlying economy, America’s debt as a percent of GDP soared from just over 150% in the early-1980s to approximately 350% in recent years. This higher debt burden is the reason why our economy simply cannot handle interest rates as high as they were before 2008. Particularly worrisome is the fact that U.S. federal debt is at a record of over 100% of the GDP (vs. 62% before the Great Recession), which will make it a much greater challenge to keep the economy afloat in the coming recession:

As the Fed Funds rate chart below shows, the interest rate threshold necessary to trigger recessions (recessions are designated by the gray bars) keeps falling as our debt burden increases:

Though many optimists are quick to point out that the benchmark Fed Funds rate was only increased from 0% to 2.5% during the current tightening cycle, the reality is that the current tightening cycle is even more aggressive than the past several cycles when the Fed Funds rate is adjusted for quantitative easing (this is known as the shadow Fed Funds rate). According to this methodology, interest rates have increased by the equivalent of 5.41% in the current cycle versus just 3.62% before the 2001 recession and 4.26% before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009:

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It’s like hearing my own echo.

The Federal Reserve Is About To Create A Lot More Zombies (MW)

Long-term interest rates just fell off a cliff. And if you think they can’t keep falling, think again. Albert Edwards, a strategist at SG Securities, pointed out in a recent note that none of the experts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal at the start of the year predicted 10-year Treasury yields would fall below 2.5%. Current level: 2%. I guess we can toss those forecasting models out the window. He adds that mainstream economists have been saying for years that long-term rates would never end up at zero percent. Yet rates in Europe are now negative. People are paying half a percent a year for the privilege of lending money to the government of Switzerland. Even in the U.S., 10-year rates adjusted for inflation are only 0.29%. A generation ago, they were typically 2% or better.

Western economists used to say that zero percent rates were a weird and unique thing you only saw in Japan — like people eating raw puffer fish and hoping not to die. It would never catch on over here, they said. But they already have. Today European rates are even lower than those in Japan. When U.S. rates first collapsed in 2011-2012, we were assured it was a freak one-off event and was never going to happen again. When it happened again in 2016, we were told it was, well, a “two-off” event that was certainly never going to happen a third time. Now it’s happening a third time, and I guess we’re waiting for the official line on why, once again, this is just a temporary derangement and nothing to worry about.

But the Bank for International Settlements says there is something to worry about, and it’s the reason that economic growth, inflation and interest rates can’t get off the ground: zombies. No, I’m not making this up. The BIS says there are way too many zombies around, and they’re killing the economy, and it’s all the fault of low interest rates. We’re talking “corporate zombies,” of course. The BIS found that, ever since the 1980s, falling interest rates have made it easier and easier for bad companies with lousy management and terrible products and dismal prospects to stay in business long after they should have gone the way of all flesh. These “zombie” companies can stay alive — or whatever the correct term is for zombies — if they can just keep borrowing.

And when money gets cheaper, that’s great for zombies. Lower interest rates are correlated with rising numbers of zombie companies, the BIS found. And there are a lot of zombies around. The BIS reckons no fewer than 12% of the non-financial companies on major developed stock markets could be “zombie” companies, at least by a loose definition. This is an epidemic. In the early 1990s, the figure was about 2%.

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“Restore America’s founding principles of a limited-government republic and its founding foreign policy of non-interventionism. That’s the way to restore peace, prosperity, morality, harmony, normality, fiscal responsibility, and freedom to our land.”

The Solution to Trump’s Iran Mayhem (FFF)

Should the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to a man who resolves his own crises and then chooses to kill innocent people with sanctions rather than bombs as a way to achieve a political end? Even a blind man can see that Trump’s actions toward Iran have been entirely belligerent, all with the aim of squeezing the Iranian citizenry and bullying their government officials into complying with his dictates or else face a “defensive” U.S. bombing attack. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of what happened here. Iran entered into a deal with the U.S. government under the presidency of Barrack Obama. Pursuant to the deal, Iran would agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and the U.S. government would lift the brutal U.S. sanctions that were impoverishing and even killing the Iranian citizenry.

Complying with the agreement, Iran gave up its nuclear weapons programs, fully expecting the U.S. government to comply with its end of the bargain by lifting its sanctions. Then Donald Trump entered the presidency and proceeded to immediately tear up the deal, knowing full well that Iran had compiled with it with the expectation that the U.S. government would fulfill its end of the bargain. Not only did Trump not lift the sanctions, he doubled down and began enforcing them even more brutally than Obama had. In other words, Iran was double-crossed by the U.S. government operating under Trump. (I wonder if North Korean officials are noticing this.)

[..] The problems began when the U.S. government abandoned its founding policies of a limited-government republic and non-interventionism and instead became a national-security state and embraced a foreign policy of empire and interventionism. This is what gave the country a huge, permanent military establishment, both domestically and in foreign countries. It also gave the nation assassinations, torture, coups, regime-change operations, alliances with dictatorial regimes, installation of dictatorial regimes, sanctions, embargoes, illegal invasions and occupations, undeclared wars, wars of aggression, terrorism, a war on terrorism, out-of-control spending and debt, and, of course, the destruction of American liberty and privacy.

[..] There is but one solution to all this mayhem: Restore America’s founding principles of a limited-government republic and its founding foreign policy of non-interventionism. That’s the way to restore peace, prosperity, morality, harmony, normality, fiscal responsibility, and freedom to our land.

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Sanctions as a military tool. May not be that wise.

Iran Says New US Sanctions “Permanent Closure” Of Diplomacy (AFP)

Iran said Tuesday US sanctions on its leaders represent the “permanent closure” of diplomacy with Washington, after President Donald Trump tightened the screws on a nation he has threatened with “obliteration”. “Imposing fruitless sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy is the permanent closure of the path to diplomacy with Trump’s desperate government,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet. Washington imposed new sanctions against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Monday ahead of blacklisting Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later this week, its latest salvo in a tense standoff that has raised fears of a regional conflict.


“Trump’s government is destroying all established international mechanisms for keeping global peace and security,” he added. Tehran and Washington broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 over the hostage crisis at the US embassy in Tehran following Iran’s Islamic revolution. US President Donald Trump also imposed new sanctions Monday against top Iranian military chiefs, pressuring the country it has threatened with “obliteration” if a war breaks out.

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Oil prices fall in this climate. That’s remarkable.

Oil Prices Drop Amid Demand Worries, But US-Iran Tensions Support (R.)

Oil fell on Tuesday amid concerns over the outlook for crude demand, but prices were supported after Washington announced new sanctions on Iran amid mounting tensions in the Middle East. Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 34 cents, or 0.5%, at $64.52 a barrel by 0639 GMT. They dropped 0.5% on Monday. U.S. crude futures were down 24 cents, or 0.4%, at $57.66 a barrel. The U.S. benchmark rose 0.8% in the previous session. Brent climbed 5% last week and U.S. crude surged 10% after Iran shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday in the Gulf, adding to tensions stoked by attacks on oil tankers in the area in May and June. Washington has blamed the tanker attacks on Iran, which denies having any role.


U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, taking an unprecedented step to increase pressure on Iran after Tehran’s downing of the drone. “This would appear to effectively rule out any talks or negotiations to end the crisis,” said Tom O’Sullivan, founder of energy and security consultancy Mathyos Advisory.

Read more …

Derivatives and oil again.

Provoking Iran Could Start a War, Crash the Entire World Economy (Pieraccini)

As if the political and military situation at this time were not tense and complex enough, the two most important power groups in the United States, the Fed and the military-industrial complex, both face problems that threaten to diminish Washington’s status as a world superpower. The Fed could find itself defending the role of the US dollar as the world reserve currency during any conflict in the Persian Gulf that would see the cost of oil rise to $300 a barrel, threatening trillions of dollars in derivativesand toppling the global economy. The military-industrial complex would in turn be involved in a war that it would struggle to contain and even win, destroying the United States’ image of invincibility and inflicting a mortal blow on its ability to project power to the four corners of the world.

Just look at how surprised US officials were about Iran’s capabilities to shot down an advanced US Drone: “Iran’s ability to target and destroy the high-altitude American drone, which was developed to evade the very surface-to-air missiles used to bring it down, surprised some Defense Department officials, who interpreted it as a show of how difficult Tehran can make things for the United States as it deploys more troops and steps up surveillance in the region.” The US dollar-based economy has a huge debt problem caused by post-2008 economic policies. All central banks have lowered interest rates to zero or even negative, thus continuing to feed otherwise dying economies.

The central bank of central banks, the Bank for International Settlements, an entity hardly known to most people, has stated in writing that “the outstanding notional amount of derivative contracts is 542 trillion dollars.” The total combined GDP of all the countries of the world is around 75 trillion dollars. With the dimensions of the problem thus understood, it is important to look at how Deutsche Bank (DB), one of the largest financial institutions in the world, is dealing with this. The German bank alone has assets worth about 40 trillion dollars in derivatives, or more than half of annual global GDP. Their solution, not at all innovative or effective, has been to create yet another bad bank into which to pour at least 50 billion dollars of long-term assets, which are clearly toxic.

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Don’t know what to call it? No worries, mate, Jim can help.

“..as if Mr. Biden might have been mistaken for a waiter in the senators’ dining room, with its old fashioned-ways and renowned bean soup.”

House Party (Jim Kunstler)

As the first of 12 presidential debates blows in at mid-week like an evil patch of bad summer weather, twenty candidates vie for the position of Ole Massa on the Democratic Party plantation, and the air is gravid with bad vibes. One highly-favored entry, Mayor Pete (Buttigieg) of charming South Bend, Indiana, stepped into (and tripped over) a big fresh patty of mule poop over the weekend at a “town hall” meeting that was called to address the June 16 shooting of one Eric Logan, 54, by a police officer dispatched to check out “a suspicious individual going through cars” at 2:30 a.m. The officer said the suspect came at him with a knife. The officer failed to switch on his body-cam, or so the police department said. Conclusions were jumped to. Then, in the wee hours just before Mayor Pete’s June 24 town hall, another black man was killed and 10 other people wounded in the shoot-up of a watering hole called Kelly’s Pub.

God knows what that was about — no police were involved in the shoot-up — but Mayor Pete caught the blame for it, of course, and the Sunday town hall meeting turned into a shriek-in by outraged “community” members. He was hardly allowed to admit his failures, issue apologies, and promise to do better. After the ordeal, Mayor Pete struggled to hold in his tears talking to the media. No doubt he will be pressured to keep ‘splainin’ these matters until either his campaign folds up its tent or he is anointed at the national convention in Milwaukee.

Leader-of-the-Pack (in the polls, anyway) Joe Biden stepped into it perhaps even deeper than Mayor Pete last week when he bragged about how well he was able to work with the old southern segregationist fossils, Herman Talmadge (GA) and James O. Eastland (MS), who were still around in the senate when “Uncle Joe” first came on the scene decades ago. “We didn’t agree on much,” the former Veep said, “but we got things done.” What’s more, the candidate averred, going perhaps a bridge too far, Senator Eastland “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” as if Mr. Biden might have been mistaken for a waiter in the senators’ dining room, with its old fashioned-ways and renowned bean soup.

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The divide has widened enormously. So much so that Brexit has become very dangerous.

Three Years After The Brexit Referendum, What Has Changed? (Coppola)

No-one should be fooled by the British media’s attempts to present this contest as a presidential battle like that between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is nothing of the kind. The people of the U.K. will have no say in who leads them. That will be decided by about 160,000 Tory party members, mainly old, white, rich and male. Representative of the population of the U.K., they are not. Both leadership candidates have offered tax policies designed to please these people. Boris Johnson’s proposal to cut taxes for the very rich and pay for it by raising payroll taxes was described by The Economist as “a shameless bribe to the elderly and prosperous Tory party members who choose the leader.”

Jeremy Hunt’s approach is more subtle: lowering corporation tax to match Ireland’s rate is still a bung to the rich, but it can be dressed up in supply-side economic language to give the impression of benefiting wider U.K. society. Americans might recall that President Trump’s corporate tax cuts were advertised as benefiting middle-income people through trickle-down effects, though they have primarily benefited the very rich. The Economist – hardly a bastion of lefty economics – was decidedly lukewarm about Hunt’s proposal, pointing out that corporation tax had already been cut considerably and it might be better to tax cashflows rather than profits.

But this contest is really about Brexit. Tory party members are overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU, and very frustrated by what they see as May’s delay. They want Brexit now, even if that means leaving with no deal. And they will vote for the candidate they think is most likely to deliver that regardless of the consequences. A recent poll showed that most of them would accept the breakup of the U.K. and/or the death of their own party as the price of Brexit.

Boris Johnson set up this scene of him and his girlfriend after reports of police being called to a big fight the two had. And then someone added a few words. Priceless.

 

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“This is expected to push up the price of diesel fuel for trucks by as much as 100 percent.”

Excellent. Needless transport is our biggest scourge.

Firms Fear For Deliveries In Shipping Pollution Shakeup (R.)

U.S. furniture company RC Willey Home Furnishings is so concerned that new global clean air rules will cause transport disruption that it brought forward the shipment of arm chairs and sofas from China by two months. The tougher regulations, set by the United Nations shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), come into force on Jan 1. Costs will rise for ships towards the end of this year and there will be a knock on effect for trucks and other transporters that move goods around the world. For shipping companies it is the biggest shakeup in decades and adds to the pressures of an economic slowdown and the threat of an escalating trade war between the United States and China.

While consumers are not expected to pay more for goods, higher transport bills and disruption to company deliveries could further dent economic growth. Ship owners must cut sulphur emissions to 0.5% from 3.5%. They can do this by using low-sulphur fuel, installing exhaust gas cleaning systems or opting for other, more expensive, clean fuels such as liquefied natural gas or traveling more slowly. Jeff Child, president of Berkshire Hathaway’s RC Willey Home Furnishings, moved the delivery of about 450 containers from September and October to July and August. He wants to avoid any disruption in the peak fourth quarter as ships prepare for the changes, including refitting equipment. “We just don’t want to get caught in a situation where it affects our inventory,” he told Reuters.

Analysts say the container industry, which transports consumer goods such as sofas, designer clothes and bananas, will be one of the worst hit with extra costs of about $10 billion. The world’s two biggest container shipping lines – Denmark’s Maersk and Swiss headquartered MSC – say they face annual extra costs of over $2 billion each. Twenty-five logistics company executives told Reuters they would pass along any IMO-related costs, such as ship upgrades or more expensive fuel, to customers. “The sulphur cap will further put pressure on ocean freight rates and we… will have to pass those costs on to remain competitive,” Peder Winther, global head of ocean freight with Swiss transportation company Panalpina Group said.

[..] “Higher fuel prices would result in higher transport costs,” said Peter Nagle, an economist with the World Bank’s Development Prospects Group. “This would have the potential to lead to slower economic growth and trade.” Trucking companies will also suffer. The IMO rules do not apply to them but they will face new competition from ships for lower sulfur fuel. This is expected to push up the price of diesel fuel for trucks by as much as 100 percent.

Read more …

But nobody listens to the UN anymore.

‘Climate Apartheid’: UN Expert Says Human Rights May Not Survive (G.)

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law. Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

The report also condemns Donald Trump for “actively silencing” climate science, and criticises the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for promising to open up the Amazon rainforest to mining. But Alston said there were also some positive developments, including legal cases against states and fossil fuel companies, the activism of Greta Thunberg and the worldwide school strikes, and Extinction Rebellion. In May, Alston’s report on poverty in the UK compared Conservative party welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses. Ministers said his report gave a completely inaccurate picture, but Alston accused them of “total denial of a set of uncontested facts”.

Alston’s report on climate change and poverty will be formally presented to the HRC in Geneva on Friday. It said the greatest impact of the climate crisis would be on those living in poverty, with many losing access to adequate food and water. “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Alston said. Developing countries will bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis, the report said, despite the poorest half of the world’s population causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

May 062019
 


Gustave Courbet The man made mad by fear 1844

 

If I’ve said once that those among us who tout renewable energy should pay more attention to the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, I must have said it a hundred times. But I hardly ever get the impression that people understand why. And it seems so obvious. A quote I often use from Herman Daly and Ken Townsend, when I talk about energy, really says it all:

“Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment – that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs. The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process. A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products.”

Using energy produces waste. Using more energy produces more waste. It doesn’t matter -much- what kind of energy is used, or what kind of waste is produced. The energy WE use produces waste, in a medium of which WE cannot survive. The only way to escape this is to use less energy. And because we have used such an enormous amount of energy the past 100 years, we must use a whole lot less in the next 100.

We use about 100 times more energy per person, and a whole lot more in the west, than our own labor can produce. We use the equivalent of what 500 billion people can produce without the aid of fossil fuel-powered machines. We won’t solve this problem with wind turbines or solar panels. There really is one way only: cut down on energy use.

Because it’s exceedingly rare to see this discussed, even among physicists, who should know better since they know thermodynamics, it’s good to hear it from someone else. An article in Forbes today discusses a May 3 article in German magazine Der Spiegel on the problems with the Energiewende, the country’s drastic turn towards renewables.

The Forbes article is written by Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress and Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.” (sigh..) Let’s take a walk through it:

The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To

Over the last decade, journalists have held up Germany’s renewables energy transition, the Energiewende, as an environmental model for the world. “Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset,” thanks to the Energiewende, wrote a New York Times reporter in 2014. With Germany as inspiration, the United Nations and World Bank poured billions into renewables like wind, solar, and hydro in developing nations like Kenya.

Oh well, perhaps we shouldn’t expect journalists and politicians to understand the world they live in. They’re mostly into feel-good items, that’s a job requirement.

But then, last year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it. After renewables investors and advocates, including Al Gore and Greenpeace, criticized Germany, journalists came to the country’s defense.


“Germany has fallen short of its emission targets in part because its targets were so ambitious,” one of them argued last summer. “If the rest of the world made just half Germany’s effort, the future for our planet would look less bleak,” she wrote. “So Germany, don’t give up. And also: Thank you.” But Germany didn’t just fall short of its climate targets. Its emissions have flat-lined since 2009.

The stage is set: everybody’s favorite renewables producer has fallen flat on its face. And don’t forget, Angela Merkel, the Mutti behind the Energiewende, is a physicist by training. Thermodynamics must have been a class she missed.

Now comes a major article in the country’s largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, titled, “A Botched Job in Germany” (“Murks in Germany”). The magazine’s cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin. “The Energiewende — the biggest political project since reunification — threatens to fail,” write Der Spiegel’s Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung, Stefan Schultz, Gerald Traufetter in their a 5,700-word investigative story (the article can be read in English here).

Germany has already spent $180 billion on its switch to renewables, only to find it doesn’t work. And much much more will be needed. But for what exactly?

Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside. “The politicians fear citizen resistance” Der Spiegel reports. “There is hardly a wind energy project that is not fought.” In response, politicians sometimes order “electrical lines be buried underground but that is many times more expensive and takes years longer.”

 

 

As a result, the deployment of renewables and related transmission lines is slowing rapidly. Less than half as many wind turbines (743) were installed in 2018 as were installed in 2017, and just 30 kilometers of new transmission were added in 2017. Solar and wind advocates say cheaper solar panels and wind turbines will make the future growth in renewables cheaper than past growth but there are reasons to believe the opposite will be the case. Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-hold by 2050.

A total expenditure of some $150 billion per year, every year from 2025 to 2050. On a rapidly failing project. Note: the numbers are “flexible”: just above, it says “Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion)” , and seven times that is much more than $150 billion annually. Later in the article, the author says “Germans, who will have spent $580 billion on renewables by 2025 ..” General rule of thumb: it will cost much more than any estimate will tell you.

Between 2000 and 2018, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 39% of its electricity. And as much of Germany’s renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar.

Of the 7,700 new kilometers of transmission lines needed, only 8% has been built, while large-scale electricity storage remains inefficient and expensive. “A large part of the energy used is lost,” the reporters note of a much-hyped hydrogen gas project, “and the efficiency is below 40%… No viable business model can be developed from this.”

Meanwhile, the 20-year subsidies granted to wind, solar, and biogas since 2000 will start coming to an end next year. “The wind power boom is over,” Der Spiegel concludes.

Think Mutti Merkel has read this?

.The earliest and most sophisticated 20th Century case for renewables came from a German who is widely considered the most influential philosopher of the 20th Century, Martin Heidegger. In his 1954 essay, “The Question Concerning Technology,” Heidegger condemned the view of nature as a mere resource for human consumption. The use of “modern technology,” he wrote, “puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy which can be extracted and stored as such..

But then starting around the year 2000, renewables started to gain a high-tech luster. Governments and private investors poured $2 trillion into solar and wind and related infrastructure, creating the impression that renewables were profitable aside from subsidies. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk proclaimed that a rich, high-energy civilization could be powered by cheap solar panels and electric cars.

Journalists reported breathlessly on the cost declines in batteries, imagining a tipping point at which conventional electricity utilities would be “disrupted.” But no amount of marketing could change the poor physics of resource-intensive and land-intensive renewables. Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy.

Note: these issues only arise when you talk about large-scale projects, but then those are the only ones even considered.

Efforts to export the Energiewende to developing nations may prove even more devastating. The new wind farm in Kenya, inspired and financed by Germany and other well-meaning Western nations, is located on a major flight path of migratory birds. Scientists say it will kill hundreds of endangered eagles. “It’s one of the three worst sites for a wind farm that I’ve seen in Africa in terms of its potential to kill threatened birds,” a biologist explained.

We are incapable of seeing an ecosystem as a whole and functioning entity, because we have never learned to look at things that way. So we see a landscape as containing an X-amount of animals and plant life, and can’t figure out why we must be careful with its balance. Landscapes to us look, first, empty, unless there’s -lots of- human activity.

Heidegger, like much of the conservation movement, would have hated what the Energiewende has become: an excuse for the destruction of natural landscapes and local communities. Opposition to renewables comes from the country peoples that Heidegger idolized as more authentic and “grounded” than urbane cosmopolitan elites who fetishize their solar roofs and Teslas as signs of virtue.


Germans, who will have spent $580 billion on renewables by 2025, express great pride in the Energiewende. “It’s our gift to the world,” a renewables advocate told The Times. Tragically, many Germans appear to have believed that the billions they spent on renewables would redeem them. “Germans would then at last feel that they have gone from being world-destroyers in the 20th century to world-saviors in the 21st,” noted a reporter.

Germany to save the world. Yeah, they would love that. Better find another project for that, though. Germany has an enormous car industry, and electric cars, as this article should by now have shown, won’t save the environment. They can’t. Only not driving a car can.

Shellenberger then finishes with a nice, almost philosophical conclusion, which is also his headline:

Many Germans will, like Der Spiegel, claim the renewables transition was merely “botched,” but it wasn’t. The transition to renewables was doomed because modern industrial people, no matter how Romantic they are, do not want to return to pre-modern life. The reason renewables can’t power modern civilization is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could.

The reason why anyone ever thought renewables could power modern civilization is the same that Angela Merkel thought that: we all learn from failing education systems and have a very poor understanding of even the most basic principles of physics, including by physicists. We want to feel good more than we want reality.

Schools, universities, media and politics are all geared towards believing in growth and progress, in unlimited quantities. Because we all want to believe that there will be energy in unlimited quantities, it’s in our genes.

But look at it this way: in Nate Hagens’ presentation Earth vs. The Amoeba, which I posted a few days ago, there’s a slide that says fossil fuels provide us with a labor subsidy of the equivalent of some 500 billion people, 100 people (energy slaves) for each of us in the global workforce, and many more in the west. Is there anyone amongst you who thinks wind and solar could ever do the same, even in the most ideal conditions imaginable?

If not, it would seem to be time to reconsider a few things. First of all: stop advocating renewables, start advocating the use of less energy. I’m not saying it will be much use, I have this deep-seated fear that we, as a species, won’t be able to stop until nature itself stops us. What you don’t use, someone else can and will. But renewables are now dead. So there. Thanks for making that clear, Mutti, even if you didn’t mean to.

 

 

 

 

Mar 072019
 


Wassily Kandinsky Succession 1935

 

 

While we’re on the issue of the Green New Deal, here’s an article by Dr. D. with an intro by Dr. D., one he sent me in the mail that contained the actual article, and that I think shouldn’t go to waste. I hope he agrees.

Waste being the key term here, because he arrives at the same conclusion I’ve often remarked upon: that our societies and economies exist to maximize waste production. Make them more efficient and they collapse.

Ergo: no Green New Deal is any use if you don’t radically change the economic models. Let’s see AOC et al address that, and then we can talk. It’s not as if a shift towards wind and solar will decrease the economic need for waste production (though it may change the waste composition), and thus efficiency is merely a double-edged sword at the very best.

Here’s Dr. D. First intro, then article:

 

 

Dr. D: [..] of course there are a thousand things I can say, but I wanted to make just this one point:  that the economy as we know it is prohibited from contracting by its own system structure.  One thing I couldn’t expand on is that I believe it is almost entirely unconscious.  People like AOC, the Aspen Ecological Center, these people have in the back of their minds “What is possible” and “how things are done” and “can I sell this or will people turn away.” 
 
As I say, the idea of saying, “Everything will be perfect, just live like a Zen Monk” is a non-starter.  Why, I don’t know, as it’s very pleasant and quite provable. WHY that is in the back of OUR minds (and only ours, they often say “humans” are violent, mean or exploitative, but Algonquins or Kalahari Bushmen might show otherwise), is another whole question, however, it is the root of our, and only OUR, western culture: limitless growth and progress. A religion of Progress that replaces God himself, as the Archdruid would say.
 
However, here we are. And our system parameters, of our western system do NOT permit ANY contraction of growth or progress. At this point, the entire economic and financial system would collapse, and as we no longer have any religion, community, or moral framework, or possibly even reason, our whole society would collapse with it. 
 
That’s a lot to take on, so let’s just simply ask in public why we are calling for 20 years of furious concrete/CO2-producing growth must occur to rebuild those windmills and 4,000 buildings a day, or whether we should just take the Yankee mantra (and no doubt a Norwegian one too) to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” There is so much wasted you could dumpster dive and Craigslist the first 10 years, giving us enormous resources to apply to raw energy use. But we won’t, and no one will even say it, although everyone knows it, has done it, and CLAIMS there’s an urgent crisis. 
 
So let’s start here and ask why we’re not doing the most stupid, basic, cheap, things, like turning down the thermostat and walking to the store AT ALL, instead of (sorry to pick on this) saving the bats in Mauritania, or the whales in Japan. Why?  Because then SOMEBODY ELSE has to take a boot to the teeth, not me in Brooklyn or London. And we will MAKE THEM take in the teeth for me, so I DON’T HAVE TO. We were already down this road in 1970 as the Archdruid has said, we already made this decision not to wear sweaters way back. Instead, I can claim rights to $100 Trillion in wealth and dole it out like the queen, making friends and fame without limit. 
 
But it won’t work, and we need to get on it right away. I believe the leaders already know we’re going to hit the wall and are purposefully trying to hit the accelerator as with outlawing seeds, meat, poisoning soil and water, outlawing gardens, controlling travel – these are all the foundations of Stalin about to approach Ukraine. I can see that in 20 approaches they’re pushing, but I don’t expect them to be very successful.  Such as, WE are going to have to do it, not the other guy. And I in fact do, but I’m pretty busy, so this is the best I can do right now. 
 
And perhaps you too.

 

 

The Real New Deal

 

Dr. D: The Green New Deal has taken front page headlines lately, and the discussion on how to green the economy and become more ecological is real. Certainly all sides have wide agreement, where while the Left may call for salvation from Global Warming, yet the Right will call for efficient resource use, preserved farmland and better hunting camps. Everyone loves National Parks, being one of the largest tourist draws in our nation and also for our fellow nations worldwide, nobody likes to see animals run down or the environment destroyed.

With so much agreement, so widespread, it’s difficult to see why a consensus cannot be agreed on. Even if the means are different – statist control vs volunteer capitalism – surely the goals would be reached in any case. Perhaps with two methods, approaches, and visions, attaining our common goals could be far easier. If so, then why does there seem to be such obstacles and reluctance in our joint moment into a greener, better future? The Left says it’s because of the Right, and the Right because of the Left. Yet I can tell you it’s neither: it’s simply math and physics.

An “Economy” is the “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.” That is to say they are the static things, like land, rivers, and copper mines, as well as the specific ways in which those blank resources are put to use: the transportation of them to factories, their manufacture, sale, and disposal. This encompasses things not on-ledger, like where environmental and social costs are offloaded, and who is enjoying the benefit of a resource that will run out for our children. This is also the things that are on-ledger, such as who benefits from profits or productivity, and which sectors are subsidized and which are starved. The Financial System rides atop of the Economic System, simply accounting it, keeping track of it, and sending the messages to it about where the needs are and which products should go where.

But neither exist in a vacuum. Although we generally overlook it, the Economic and Financial Systems are an expression of our personal beliefs and values, and those of our nation and national culture or personality. So in the U.S., we have chosen to measure our national prosperity using headline metrics such as the S&P and the GDP. These change character from time to time, as we used to measure the GNP, and now follow the NASDAQ. And the way we characterize them is also relevant: in the U.S., for instance, we measure all government spending in GDP as if it were private spending; that is, as if it were a profit, not an expense.

Nor is this financial arcana: although when this choice was made to make it seem the economy was stronger during the Great Depression, “you optimize what you measure”, and now the government itself has become the economy, with $22T in debts owed, and is directing most resources, but at a LOSS, not a profit. We then record that loss as prosperity. Nor is that different for the S&P or NASDAQ: if the popular financial numbers decline, the Fed will openly take money from the people and push the numbers back up again to indicate “success” and “prosperity” as we measure it. Yet the money borrowed from the taxpayers, the currency holders, makes them poorer, not richer.

 


World energy consumption per capita based on 2003 data from the International Energy Agency

 

What does this have to do with the Green New Deal and our joint goal of a cleaner, greener world? Well, the Green New Deal proposes to spend vast sums of money to transfer energy use to renewables and carbon-free sources, and there are unimaginable profits to be made should anyone do this. Unfortunately, the fact this hasn’t occurred is strong proof that it’s not possible. Not that green energy can’t be made or doesn’t exist, but that it’s not PROFITABLE to do so – that’s why the government, or rather the taxpayers, are asked to pay for it. But profit is only money, as the MMT-believers will avow.

What really matters is that thermodynamically, the EROEI, the “energy returned on energy invested” is too low. That is to say, you put in 90 calories and get out only 91. Or worse, put in 101 calories and get out only 90. This is easily shown in a wide variety of green projects, from solar – it’s estimated the electric produced over 20 years is equal to the glass-and-silicon manufacture – to ethanol, where despite enormous carbon, petrol, and water use in the cement, steel, shipping, and manufacturing of the distilling plant, the corn may only produce 10 units gain per 90 invested, or possibly none at all.

This is likely true for windmills, which if needing repair will add costs, while requiring a full-scale standing grid behind them at all times, as well as electric cars, which not only require a grid, but also may use more energy and cause more pollution in mining and smelting the batteries than the vehicle saves over a lifetime. Nor was this a surprise: again, as bad a system as financial accounting is in a system riddled with stock frauds and subsidies, nevertheless, if any of these saved energy, the huge drop in input costs – no gas used – would immediately render all these projects profitable, and not in need of a subsidy.

This is how coal replaced wood, and tractors replaced horses – sometimes in as little as 10 years. This is how LEDs instantly replaced incandescents, or the Prius replaced the K-car –lower costs, better products. And is how the U.S. has had one of the largest drops in CO2 emissions despite shutting down green subsidies and pulling out of the Paris Accord – organically, by market forces. Because despite our terrible, corrupt, interventionist system screwing up all the incentives, everybody loves a deal, and those arbitrages, those improvements still stand out.

 

Since we’re already using our technical limit, there is another way we can join together, reduce energy use, reduce waste and green the planet: lower demand.

The U.S. uses about half our energy for transportation, and if you’ve been to America, you know that most of that transportation is unnecessary: people live on average +20 minutes from work, and our oversized, centralized schools mean they are nearly as far. It’s not uncommon for every child to have a 40-minute bus ride each morning and night to and from school, and although more efficient than cars, there’s little need, only habit. We concentrated millions of small schools into a few huge ones from 1950 to 2000, just as we concentrated millions of small towns and shops into a few mega-centers. The remaining small businesses – dentists, phone stores, pizza shops – are randomly distributed, without any location in neighborhoods nor any access to public transit, and this would take decades to transform.

Nor is this a thing the people prefer. Commuting is one of the least-liked aspects of modern life as well as the most energy-intensive one. So instead of following massive hundred-trillion debt expenditures that show no promise of returning value, shouldn’t we grasp the low hanging fruit of efficiency? In fact, thermodynamically, efficiency is the only game in town, a 100 or 1,000:1 EROEI instead of 1.2:1. We have even done this from time to time during wars when massive campaigns led to massive efficiency, massive production, massive savings, ration books, and near-total recycling.

But nobody wants that. And that’s why the Green New Deal is structured exclusively as a SPENDING program, and not a SAVING one, because we don’t want to save, we want to SPEND. Part of this of course is that it’s more fun to spend than to save, but more importantly, it’s what we do, it’s what we measure. If you were to have a Green New Deal that is easy to implement and proven to work like the WWII model, GDP and profits would fall sharply. Although much, perhaps most, energy is wasted on unimportant things, the higher efficiencies would mean lower sales, lower production, and lower throughput EVEN IF IT MEANT A HIGHER QUALITY OF LIFE. This is easily seen in the U.S. vs Japan or Europe comparisons:

 


World energy consumption per capita based on 2013 data from the World Bank

 

The U.S. uses 10,000kg oil while Japan uses 5,000 and Portugal uses 2,500, and while there are important differences between nations, we don’t think of Japan or Portugal as sacrificing quality of life. This is strictly a choice, a design built up over lifetimes of effort. So if we could become as efficient as Japan and live far better too, why don’t we? This is a no-argument left-right win that can be implemented in hours, why isn’t capturing this easy gain the real target of the GND?

“You get what you incentivize.” If efficiency were the Real Green Deal, money would NOT be spent in Congress, Companies would NOT be paid, and lobbyists go home empty and poor. People would NOT be employed for the new projects and they would NOT vote for the new Congressmen. Government spending falls, even private-sector GDP would decline, and falling with it would be protected sectors of the economy like oil and utilities. How do you sell “Let’s cancel the party and stay home with the lights out”?

But it’s far worse than that in ways we don’t see. We think about New Deal SPENDING because spending has been exclusively incentivized for 100 years. The economy, the society, the financial system have all been built around GROWTH, not efficiency; MORE, not less, until the systems themselves can no longer function with anything less than unceasing expansion, ever-increasing, forever.

If GDP drops for any reason, even for efficiency and an easy increase in the quality of life – even to save all life on earth – consumption drops. A simpler life with fewer miles driven means less gas wasted and fewer cars sold. Fewer cars means fewer meals out. Sales drop. Employment drops. Stock markets drop. The lower valuation of companies means bond quality drops. Lower sales and lower activity mean tax revenue drops. Government programs drop. Treasury bonds drop and with it, military power drops. As stocks, bonds, and T-bill drop, pensions drop. Insurance drops. In short, the entire economy drops, contracts, goes into a sharp deflation and depression with world-wide unemployment and mass bankruptcies.

But worse than that. Economies come and go, wax and wane and adjust to the new realities. However, unlike previous eras, under a debt-based fiat-money system, one thing does NOT drop: debt. As the value of all things declines, the debt owed only increases. By companies. By citizens. By whole governments. And so soon as the numbers in a debt-based system stop increasing, that debt defaults.

 

Now in previous times, the relative values of debts, assets, and money would simply re-adjust. Bonds would fall, gold (cash) would rise. Bad companies and inefficiencies would be driven out, and the system would recover without the dead weight and bad ideas at a more accurate pricing. But that won’t happen this time. Because everything is so highly leveraged and centralized, and the financial system is our primary means of directing the economy, that system under a debt-based fiat system would almost entirely collapse, and the disruptions of reforming and restarting it would almost certainly take years, during which the economy itself, the production of wheat bread and toothpaste, heating oil and electric lights, would come to a virtual halt, threatening the lives of millions, hundred millions, even billions worldwide.

Wars would start. Nations would fall. So while we don’t think of these things, the reality is, if one were to have a major contraction, much less plan a voluntary, intentional one, the pressure to stop it would be overwhelming and from every side: retail, political, financial, human, ecological, economic, military; there is no way such a plan could be seriously considered, much less implemented. WE ARE NEVER MOVING TO EFFICIENCY UNDER A DEBT-BASED MONETARY SYSTEM. End of story. To the contrary: such a system incentivizes and even DEMANDS new waste and expensive, ruinous ideas like the Green New Deal. And even if they fail, they must ever-increase.

So why are we not having a Green New Deal of easy efficiency, one that we know works, but instead spending ever-more on ever more massive expenditures that are ever-less fruitful? Because this is what the system is designed to do. It’s what it depends on. And as you get what you incentivize, every body, everywhere in the system, will be incentivized to do this or die trying. And this will continue until we change the base assumptions, what we measure, what we capture and profit by. Left or Right, big or small, town or country, public or private, nothing can change in our system until we change it, until we change our beliefs about who we are, what we want, and what we are doing.

For me, I prefer easy, provable gains and a higher, easier quality of life, and I’m not afraid to make those changes that improve us without being at the expense of others. And we will need to face where we are and the challenges of the steps before us. Because essentially we all agree. We not only need a New Green Deal, we need a New Deal altogether. A better one, a fairer one. A possible one. One with a future. So let’s start acting like it and begin.

 

 

Feb 062019
 


Salvador Dali Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder 1933

 

 

Ilargi: It’s been quite a while since we last heard from Dr. D. He was probably busy growing stuff. But he’s back now, and with something dear to my heart: the craziness of our food production systems. Answers to which are not always what most people think, to put it mildly.

 

 

Dr. D:

Eat less meat to save the planet – report (1)
The new diet that could save the planet (2)
What to eat to save the planet: Report urges ‘radical changes’ to world’s diet – less meat, more veggies (3)

 

These headlines, likely sourced from a recent article from “The Lancet” (4) are a regular feature of our time, in diet, in environmentalism, and in global warming. They are well-researched, sourced by the world’s experts, and put forward with the highest intentions. However, they are also completely wrong – dangerously, ignorantly wrong.

Like most industries, agriculture and food production is a specialty, with its own language and details. I don’t attempt to tell the Lancet how to perform heart surgery, for to do so would be ridiculous, dangerous, outside of my expertise. I wouldn’t tell a geologist how to interpret the magnetic layers of rock, or how oceanographers should properly interpret sea water samples to guide us on fishing or pollution. Yet this is what they do for farmers.

The primary drive of most such articles is that, with so many people, and so much hunger, we find that it takes “2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.” that “64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.” (5) That it takes “20 pounds corn [to make] 1 pound beef.” (6) Or that you can get 15lbs of beef per acre, but 263lbs of soybeans. (7) Also that cattle are the primary reason for deforestation, and a major cause of methane.

From these numbers, it’s simple to see that meat, particularly cattle, is anti-environmental, and even anti-human, and it would be the pinnacle of irresponsibility to encourage or even allow them to be eaten. It is a direct affront to the poor, the hungry, and even other citizens in developed countries like ourselves, even though we may be able to afford such things. Simple. A lock. Slam-dunk. No further research required.

Setting aside that we waste half our food, the food we do have is maldistributed, and that we haven’t tapped a fraction of the land we did in say, WWII Britain, setting aside that the water doesn’t vanish, but returns to the water table to be used again, setting aside that the methane released does not contribute to global warming since it is exclusively carbon captured by the grass earlier that year, setting aside that the argument is the same one Malthus had, 250 years wrong, or that removing cattle would amount to the permanent extinction of more than a thousand breeds of animals with a lineage thousands of years old … even all that aside, their argument shows they don’t know anything about land, food, or the process of creating it.

Some other major concerns of economists and environmentalists are 1) environmental destruction from drilling 2) peak oil, 3) production of toxic waste, 4) plastics packaging, 5) dependence on imported energy, 6) CO2 from cars and transportation, and 7) BTUs per calorie of food eaten, as popularized in Kunstler’s “3,000 mile Caesar salad” (8) and this is where our story starts.

 


Deck Family Farm

 

On a farm, one of the major input costs every year is fertilizer, nitrogen, and this is presently produced almost exclusively from a feedstock of natural gas. That is to say, food in the modern agricultural system is literally the eating of unsustainable oil wells. And it’s even worse than that: agriculture is so dependent on synthesized, centralized petroleum fertilizer that it’s no exaggeration to say that without massive, uninterrupted supplies of cheap oil and gas there would be no food. Yields could easily drop by 30%, causing an unprecedented human catastrophe.

What’s more, another of the environmentalists’ grave concerns, topsoil loss and soil depletion would immediately come to the fore, as the only thing keeping today’s depleted fields in production are the artificial inputs directly from oil fields, mostly imported. –And that’s ABOVE the oil needed for the tractors, for the harvesters, for the delivery, for the centralized plant, for the parts, the buildings, food wrapping, for the creation of pesticides, herbicides, the centralized seed production, centralized grain mills…no. For the purposes of this article, we are only talking about cows.

Of course, mankind didn’t start this way, unable to eat a lettuce leaf without a 10,000-mile chain of energy use from foreign, occupied nations and the unwavering support of the worldwide industrial society that supports it. Originally the cows stood on the very grass they ate, eating contentedly, and were butchered and sent to market locally, using not a drop of oil. They did not disturb the fields but indeed enriched them with their foot-traffic and manure. So how did we go from a 0 mile, 0 grain, 0 cost, 0 oil food source to a food that reportedly starves continents and will destroy the world? That is, if cows were good and worked before, maybe the problem lies not with the meat or the cow, but with rabid industrialism?

If petroleum-based fertilizer is our major weakness, the single import that can be shut off to kill billions, surely it’s our duty — a national security emergency even — to close this weakness and find ecological alternatives. And for fertilizer, we have two: one, you can rotate crops to keep fields fallow in rotation, or two, you can replace synthetic fertilizer with animal manure. In fact, synthetic fertilizer is but a poor, harmful replacement for the manure farmers have used for 5,000 years – it has only nitrogen, potassium and potash, and nothing of the thousand other nutrients required of healthy soil.

 

It has no biosphere, no heat, no water, and no organic matter. The resulting soil depletion is a prime cause of desertification and topsoil loss, to say nothing of constantly lower yields. Its very use destroys the soil in the way steroids destroy health while giving the illusion of strength. They should probably be banned not for environmental reasons, but for long-term efficiency and national security. And there is only one replacement for this toxic, destructive, unreliable, expensive input: animal manure.

Worse, this cannot be chicken, sheep, or pig, adequate as they are. Pig and chicken are too concentrated and toxic and require other petroleum processes to dilute and deliver. Sheep is too mild and not in quantity, for sheep do not favor containment. Home composting could never produce a fraction of the volume needed for the world’s fields without the same massive petroleum inputs in tractors, trucks, chippers, conveyors, and all the factories, railways, and steel mills that create them. That leaves largely one source: cattle.

So in this new ecological world we imagine, we would have to grow cattle simply for the required fertilizer. And these cattle cannot be far! Unlike synthetic fertilizer, manure is wet, heavy, and dilute. It cannot be centralized into today’s poisonous sewage ponds, nor shipped coast to coast: it must be created near the fields that require it. As the world is enormously varied, you must also have breeds attuned to each locality’s weather and needs, perhaps creating a thousand unique varieties.

Tiny Kerry cattle for the bogs of Ireland, bony Longhorns for the deserts of Texas, Alpine Braunvieh for the steep mountains of Switzerland, or a hearty Fjäll for the frozen lands of Sweden. Nor can the farms be concentrated or specialized: without mass inputs of machinery or petroleum, and lacking harmful dry fertilizer, the farms must be small, dispersed, and varied, local in scope, diverse in production, specializing in their region and feeding only people nearby. Once you can’t ship mass quantities virtually for free, from reliable, nearly free energy, there is no other way.

 


Earth Repair Corps

 

Now you can’t get that fertilizer for nothing, and we don’t get it for nothing now. You have to have input costs for our fertilizer factory. And for cattle that input is grass; fields and fields of it, probably near 1-2 acres per cow. Is that bad? Irresponsible? How does that compare to drilling in ANWAR, and delivering via the Exxon Valdez? How is the sourcing from Iraq, transported via Syria, or the digging of tar with a payloader in the freshwater swamps of Alberta?

Now you can get 1, 2, even 3 cuttings a year of hay in temperate climates, and the cow is happily producing this valuable fertilizer all the time, without embargoes, financial disruptions, or delivery costs. But nevertheless, 25% of your fields will be put out of service in order to environmentally, sustainably source this necessary input for next year’s grain.

But not to fear! You know what? You can EAT the components of this essential, life sustaining fertilizer production factory! Yes, you can! Even better, you can eat butter, cheese, yogurt and yes, even ice cream! These very things you would NOT have without running this fertilizer mill that you would be forced to run even if they did nothing at all. Even more, you can down-stream the whey from your milk-preservative process to feed pigs! I’m not making this up!

Yes, by the very fact of creating fertilizer you had to produce in any case, you can also eat bacon! And you essentially have to, because otherwise this valuable milk-byproduct will go to waste. Nor can the pigs be far. You must have farms that are small in scale, varied in production, and local to the community. This will, of course, make them especially resilient to every challenge: financial, ecological, or human, be it from global warming or global warring.

The diverse, smaller-scale of these farms unfortunately require smaller business units to run them, such as the millions of local families presently unemployed, and sadly force cattle and other animals to free-range on the fields in the sunshine, as their ancestors did. But we all make sacrifices.

 

More, this small, diverse, decentralized food production system cannot aggregate mass quantities for mass market. Cows are not all the same, arriving by tens of thousands in the same 100-acre slaughterhouse, but because dissimilarity hampers assembly-line processes, the food would be produced in smaller batches, closer to home, more directly, without the wasting fuel and CO2 to ship them worldwide, and without the 31 flavors of plastics packaging which don’t make economic sense at this scale. –The French market model, as it were, local in the streets of your own town, fresh and unique.

You see, what they didn’t ask and forgot to research is that in order to grow those 263lbs of soybeans, you have no alternative but to have 1:4 of your fields fallow, resting, doing nothing. That’s now 197lbs per acre. Neither can you do that every year without input, so using another field to add this fertilizer, you have 131lbs/acre, really. The fallow land required of a world without oil inputs means 1/2 of the world’s production is offline at any given time, starving people.

What a drag! But you COULD, if you’re very clever, plant a wild, nitrogen-fixing plant on that fallow ground, creating both green manure for next year’s soybeans, AND running your cattle-driven fertilizer factory at no additional cost! Not only do you get the ONE field green-manured, and ANOTHER field cow-manured, but you could, if you’re very smart, get that otherwise useless, fallow field to grow ANOTHER crop of milk and beef, and downstream, chickens and pigs, absolutely FREE! THREE fields for the price of one.

What would you expect to pay for this richness, this agricultural, ecological magic trick? $1 trillion? $5 trillion for our green-energy, planet-saving, CO2-reducing “Green New Deal”? One that’s proven and can actually work because it follows the laws of thermodynamics? Surely it’s worth any cost if it saves the planet and takes a huge chunk off oil drilling, oil wars, and global warming.

Answer is: nothing. What I’ve just described is western agriculture, as developed since the 1500s. Anyone who’s ever looked at a farm, read a wikipedia entry, or took a history class knows this. Every medieval peasant knows this. Every hillbilly farmer from Iowa knows this. Except for all the modern journalists and The Lancet, all of whom all eat these very foods every day without the slightest spark of where they come from.

 


Night Owl Farm

 

You see, it doesn’t matter if cows are less efficient than soybeans, they exist in a SYSTEM, and that system has many inputs and many parameters. Reading a statistic doesn’t grow a plant to market any more than my reading about scalpels makes me a surgeon. There are many other possibilities, requirements, inputs: they speak of overgrazing, such as dry lands in Africa, when in fact, rotational OVERgrazing replenishes the soil and INCREASES the yields.

What’s more, a very great deal of the reported “arable” land on earth is not productive. It is too dry, such as Texas; too steep, such as Colorado; too variable cold, like Montana; or too far from market, like Afghanistan. You can’t grow soybeans or corn there even if you wanted, and you couldn’t ship kale from Kabul to London at cost, so their “statistics” about arable land and production mean nothing. …Worse than nothing, as they are so misleading as to be completely wrong.

Wrong in the way that enormous, world-changing decisions, subsidies, and wars are made, wrong in the way Stalin thought to modernize and mechanize agriculture in the Ukraine to get it out of the 1500s, and killed 7 million people in a single year. Wrong because not every square mile of land is equivalent, and only the crop that grows and has enough value to ship can be produced there. That’s why they make whiskey in the Appalachians and cheese in the Alps: the value to market has to be so much higher, high enough to transport, or no food will be produced at all.

 

That’s why they grow wild pigs in the Dehesa of Spain: because otherwise those forests would feed no one. But scientists and journalists don’t know this, even though it’s on the Food Channel each night.

What’s more, their scientific white-room system is orders of magnitude less efficient than the medieval method. Hundreds of random foods are wasted on the farm. Should they be dropped, as the labor cost/hour is too high to economically recover them? Should we waste the time and petrol to compost them into biogas? No. Farm waste, and waste through every warehouse, rail car, grocer, and restaurant can be eaten by chickens. Then not only do you get the compost anyway, in manure, not only do you also get a lifetime of eggs, for free, YOU GET A CHICKEN. All from the grass, the seeds, the bugs…and the food waste they already abandon.

But this doesn’t come without a cost. Brace yourself for this, people, because in order to achieve this level of bounty and efficiency, you will have to EAT these animals rather than let them die of old age and disease and be eaten by dogs and beetles. You, yes you, if you want an ecological, happy-animal, local-economy, sustainable, anti-CO2, food-producing world, not only CAN eat meat, but you are REQUIRED to. …As did a thousand generations of your ancestors, back to the very first day of man, slashing and clearing a field so the deer would come.

So try to be at least as smart as an illiterate medieval peasant and grow your food the natural way: locally, seasonally, independently, with happy animals in a rich green world of fields, trees and farms enriched with thousands of subvarieties of biodiversity in hedgerows so rich they have yet to be fully cataloged. A far cry from the hardened, drilled, paved, expensive, destructive, unsustainable, dangerous, lethal, impoverished way promoted by the scientific experts and the journalists who cover them.

 

 

Dec 252018
 
 December 25, 2018  Posted by at 10:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Caravaggio Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence 1600

 

The Stock Market Just Booked Its Ugliest Christmas Eve Plunge — Ever (MW)
Japan’s Nikkei Drops 5% After Wall Street Slide Deepens (CNBC)
US Crude Plunges 6.7%, Settling At 18-Month Low At $42.53 (CNBC)
‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’: Experts Say Global Bear Market Coming (CNBC)
In Defense of the Fed (Stephen S. Roach)
Trump, Annoyed By Resignation Letter, Pushes Out Mattis Early (R.)
Mnuchin Holds Calls With Heads Of America’s 6 Biggest Banks Amid Shutdown (F.)
Facebook Is The ‘Biggest Concern’ Among The FAANGs (CNBC)
China Won’t Resort To Massive Monetary Stimulus Next Year – PBOC (CNBC)
Gatwick Drones Pair ‘No Longer Suspects’ (BBC)
Gatwick Police Say They Cannot Discount Possibility There Was No Drone (Ind.)
‘Home Alone’: Bored Trump Tweets Up Storm During Christmas Shutdown (RT)

 

 


Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were not each other’s biggest fans

 

 

I kid you not: plenty people are blaming this on Trump, too.

The Stock Market Just Booked Its Ugliest Christmas Eve Plunge — Ever (MW)

Never mind finding coal in your stocking for the holidays. Wall Street investors scored a rare — and unwanted — gift this year. The S&P 500 index fell by 2.7% Monday, marking the first session before Christmas that the broad-market benchmark has booked a loss of 1% or greater — ever. That statistic has been confirmed by Dow Jones Market Data, which said the largest decline in the index on the trading day before Christmas was Dec. 23 in 1933.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 653 points, or 2.9%, representing its worst decline on the session prior to Christmas in the 122-year-old blue-chip gauge’s history. Check out the table below from Dow Jones Market Data:

U.S. stock indexes ended trading at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Christmas Eve and will be closed on Christmas. The current dynamic in the market has it set for its worst monthly and yearly decline in about a decade, amid nagging concerns that the Federal Reserve is normalizing interest rates too rapidly, and that a continuing tariff dispute between China and the U.S. could devolve and help lead to a domestic recession, as international economies are already demonstrating signs of a slowdown. Also stoking anxiety was a tweet from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to assess the health of the banking system, which has raised some questions about liquidity among those institutions that had not previously been raised. Treasury officials insist that the calls to bank executives were just a routine checkup.

Read more …

The ongoing success of Abenomics.

Japan’s Nikkei Drops 5% After Wall Street Slide Deepens (CNBC)

Japan’s Nikkei retreated to a 20-month low on Tuesday after a slide on Wall Street deepened with a series of unnerving U.S. political developments. The Nikkei share average ended the day down 5.01 percent at 19,155.74 after brushing its lowest since late April 2017. The day’s performance put the index well into bear market territory — off more than 20 percent since its October high. Japan’s broader Topix closed 4.88 percent lower at 1,415.55 after touching 1,412.90, its weakest since November 2016.

Meanwhile, in China, the Shanghai Index posted losses of more than 2 percent by mid-day, but then gained some ground back into the afternoon. Chinese sectors lost ground across the board, led by financial shares and energy firms as oil prices slumped. So far this year, the Shanghai stock index is down about 24 percent. Those Asia moves followed Wall Street stocks extending their steep sell-off on Monday, with the S&P 500 down nearly 15 percent so far this month, as investors were rattled by the U.S. Treasury secretary’s convening of a crisis group and by other political developments.

Many financial markets in Asia, Europe and North America are closed on Tuesday for Christmas Day. “Negative sentiment has replaced logic, as is often the case during a sell-off. A third of the selling is induced by panic, another third by loss-cutting and the remaining third by speculators trying to make a profit from the market rout,” said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities in Tokyo. “The sell-off is triggered almost entirely by developments in the U.S. markets, rather than by negative factors unique to the domestic market.”

Read more …

Oil swings too much to be safe.

US Crude Plunges 6.7%, Settling At 18-Month Low At $42.53 (CNBC)

U.S. crude plunged nearly 7 percent on Monday, hitting its lowest levels in a year and half, as the oil market fell in tandem with equities amid deepening turmoil in Washington DC. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 600 points, while the S&P 500 closed in bear market territory. Both stock indexes were buffeted by headlines out of Washington, including a government shutdown and President Donald Trump’s reported desire to fire Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell over the central bank’s interest rate increases.

The selling in global risk assets on Christmas Eve deepened a nearly three-month slide in oil prices. From peak to trough, U.S. crude has fallen nearly 45 percent from its 52-week high at the start of October. Brent has fallen as much as 42 percent over the same period. “For now, there’s no place to hide in any of these markets. Oil’s being taken down with the stock market and the negative sentiment that’s sweeping across really everything, and for now the downward pressure is going to persist,” John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Friday.

Read more …

The so-called experts see themselves as mighty smart when all they’ve done is suck from the fed’s trough. Humbug!

‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’: Experts Say Global Bear Market Coming (CNBC)

Volatility on Wall Street has led shares across the globe on a wild ride in recent months, resulting in a number of stock markets dipping into bear territory. That’s set to worsen in the new year, experts told CNBC on Monday. Bear markets — typically defined as 20 percent or more off a recent peak — are threatening investors worldwide. In the U.S., the Nasdaq Composite closed in a bear market on Friday and the S&P 500 entered one on Monday. Globally, Germany’s DAX and China’s Shanghai Composite have also entered bear market levels. Major market risks remain, experts said. The Federal Reserve is likely to continue raising interest rates and worries about a global economic slowdown — made worse by a trade war between the U.S. and China — are mounting.

“I would love to be more optimistic but i just don’t see too many positives out there. I think the worst is yet to come next year, we’re still in the first half of a global equity bear market with more to come next year,” Mark Jolley, global strategist at CCB International Securities, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” For Jolley, the big risk lies in the credit markets. With the Fed projecting another two interest rate hikes in 2019, companies will find it increasingly difficult to service their debt causing some to default or get downgraded, he said. Such weakness in the credit markets will spill over to stocks, noted Jolley. “My core scenario will be a credit event, which will further weigh on equity markets, which will definitely weigh on high growth sectors like tech,” he said.

More generally, investors have fewer reasons to be optimistic now because the Fed tightening monetary policy means there will be less money for investments, said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank. “There is really no conviction for markets to buy back because they’re not sure this is the bottom, and so they are thinking this is the proverbial falling knives,” Varathan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Read more …

The Fed spent the past 10 years making sure its member banks kept on making indecent amounts of money. And now they need to be defended?

In Defense of the Fed (Stephen S. Roach)

I have not been a fan of the policies of the US Federal Reserve for many years. Despite great personal fondness for my first employer, and appreciation of all that working there gave me in terms of professional training and intellectual stimulation, the Fed had lost its way. From bubble to bubble, from crisis to crisis, there were increasingly compelling reasons to question the Fed’s stewardship of the US economy. That now appears to be changing. Notwithstanding howls of protest from market participants and rumored unconstitutional threats from an unhinged US president, the Fed should be congratulated for its steadfast commitment to policy “normalization.”

It is finally confronting the beast that former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan unleashed over 30 years ago: the “Greenspan put” that provided asymmetric support to financial markets by easing policy aggressively during periods of market distress while condoning froth during upswings. Since the October 19, 1987 stock-market crash, investors have learned to count on the Fed’s unfailing support, which was justified as being consistent with what is widely viewed as the anchor of its dual mandate: price stability. With inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index averaging a mandate-compliant 2.1% in the 20-year period ending in 2017, the Fed was, in effect, liberated to go for growth.

And so it did. But the problem with the growth gambit is that it was built on the quicksand of an increasingly asset-dependent and ultimately bubble- and crisis-prone US economy. Greenspan, as a market-focused disciple of Ayn Rand, set this trap. Drawing comfort from his tactical successes in addressing the 1987 crash, he upped the ante in the late 1990s, arguing that the dot-com bubble reflected a new paradigm of productivity-led growth in the US. Then, in the early 2000s, he committed a far more serious blunder, insisting that a credit-fueled housing bubble, inflated by “innovative” financial products, posed no threat to the US economy’s fundamentals. As one error compounded the other, the asset-dependent economy took on a life of its own.

Read more …

Someone better collect some pieces on Mattis from 2 years ago. Won’t look anything like the sainthood declarations he’s getting today.

Trump, Annoyed By Resignation Letter, Pushes Out Mattis Early (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he was replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis two months earlier than had been expected, a move officials said was driven by Trump’s anger at Mattis’ resignation letter and its rebuke of his foreign policy. On Thursday, Mattis had abruptly said he was quitting, effective Feb. 28, after falling out with Trump over his foreign policy, including surprise decisions to withdraw all troops from Syria and start planning a drawdown in Afghanistan. Trump has come under withering criticism from fellow Republicans, Democrats and international allies over his decisions about Syria and Afghanistan, against the advice of his top aides and U.S. commanders.

The exit of Mattis, highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats alike, added to concerns over what many see as Trump’s unpredictable, go-it-alone approach to global security. Trump said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would take over on an acting basis from Jan. 1. In announcing his resignation, Mattis distributed a candid resignation letter addressed to Trump that laid bare the growing divide between them, and implicitly criticized Trump for failing to value America’s closest allies, who fought alongside the United States in both conflicts. Mattis said that Trump deserved to have a defense secretary more aligned with his views.

Trump, who tweeted on Thursday that Mattis was “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” made his displeasure clear on Saturday by tweeting that the retired Marine general had been “ingloriously fired” by former President Barack Obama and he had given Mattis a second chance.

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The only interesting question: why go public with something so ordinary?

Mnuchin Holds Calls With Heads Of America’s 6 Biggest Banks Amid Shutdown (F.)

No need to panic. That was the message Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought to convey after holding unscheduled Sunday afternoon calls with the heads of the largest banks in America, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Tim Sloan of Wells Fargo, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs and James Gorman of Morgan Stanley. In a statement released by Treasury, Mnuchin said these CEOs confirmed “markets continue to function properly.” These bankers also assured Mnuchin their firms have the liquidity to fund themselves and their lending activities, and reported no clearance or margin issues on their trades, Treasury said.

A decade ago, such calls and terse press releases were routine Sunday events as Treasury officials, the Federal Reserve, and bank heads worked together to stem the worst financial panic since the Great Depression. This time, however, Mnuchin’s unusual efforts come amid a growing economy where credit is flowing freely. Instead of a financial panic, his comments seemed aimed at market concerns coming from political turmoil in Washington.

On Monday, Mnuchin will convene a call with the President’s Working Group on financial markets “to discuss coordination efforts to ensure normal market operations,” bringing together the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission.

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They’re all grossly overvalued.

Facebook Is The ‘Biggest Concern’ Among The FAANGs (CNBC)

One industry analyst has sounded the alarm on Facebook, calling the company the “biggest concern” among the so-called FAANG stocks. “The digital economy operates on trust, and they’ve broken trust on so many levels,” Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday. The FAANG stocks consist of Silicon Valley tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet.

Wang said many of Facebook’s trust woes have been “centralized” around Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who was in the spotlight after a New York Times report in mid-November about the executive and the social media company’s internal operations. The Times report came on the back of a series of scandals and incidents which have mired Facebook in controversy and sent its stock sinking in 2018. As of its last close after extended hours trade on Dec. 21, the company’s stock price was more than 40 percent off its 52-week high. Asked about the possibility of Sandberg departing from Facebook, Wang said it was “in the rumor category.”

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China’s afraid of the exchange rate.

China Won’t Resort To Massive Monetary Stimulus Next Year – PBOC (CNBC)

China will not resort to “flood-like” stimulus in monetary policy next year, although it will consider more cuts as needed to reserves held at commercial banks, local media quoted a central bank adviser as saying in a report on Tuesday. The Chinese economy will face downward pressure in 2019, while the pace of growth will gradually stabilize, the 21st Century Business Herald quoted Sheng Songcheng, an advisor to the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), as saying. “Monetary policy will remain prudent and won’t be a ‘flood.’ Otherwise, funds will likely flow into the property sector again,” Sheng was quoted as saying by the state-backed newspaper.

There remains room for further cuts in banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRRs), and Sheng does not recommend broad-based reductions in interest rates, it said. China will bolster support next year for its economy, the world’s second-largest, by cutting taxes and keeping liquidity ample, the official Xinhua news agency said after last week’s Central Economic Work Conference, an annual closed-door gathering of party leaders and policymakers. [..] On exchange rates, the central bank adviser said China should defend the yuan at the key seven-per-dollar level. “The key threshold of seven per dollar is very important. If the yuan weakens past that crucial point, the cost of stabilizing the exchange rate will be greater,” Sheng was quoted as saying.

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The level of incompetence is sobering.

Police tell BBC News they “cannot discount the possibility that there may have been no drone at all”.

Gatwick Drones Pair ‘No Longer Suspects’ (BBC)

A man and woman arrested in connection with drone sightings that grounded flights at Gatwick Airport have been released without charge. The 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman, from Crawley, West Sussex, had been arrested on Friday night. Sussex Police said there had been 67 reports of drone sightings – having earlier cast doubt on “genuine drone activity”. Det Ch Supt Jason Tingley said no footage of a drone had been obtained. And he said there was “always a possibility” the reported sightings of drones were mistaken.

However, he later confirmed the reported sightings made by the public, police and airport staff from December 19 to 21 were being “actively investigated”. “We are interviewing those who have reported these sightings, are carrying out extensive house-to-house inquiries, and carrying out a forensic examination of a damaged drone found near the perimeter of the airport.” Det Ch Supt Tingley said it was “a working assumption” the device could be connected to their investigation, but officers were keeping “an open mind”.

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‘We are working with human beings saying they have seen something..’ Cue 150,000 ruined holidays.

Gatwick Police Say They Cannot Discount Possibility There Was No Drone (Ind.)

Detectives investigating the Gatwick drone attacks which caused three days of chaos for passengers say it is possible there never were any drones. Police do not have any footage of the flying machines at the airfield and are relying on accounts from witnesses and the discovery of a damaged device. The revelation by Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley came after the couple arrested by Sussex Police on Friday night were released without charge. Asked about speculation there never was a drone, he said: “Of course, that’s a possibility. We are working with human beings saying they have seen something. “Until we’ve got more clarity around what they’ve said, the detail – the time, place, direction of travel, all those types of things – and that’s a big task.”

Mr Tingley said one of the “working theories” was that the damaged drone found close to the airport in Sussex was responsible for causing the disruption. “Always look at it with an open mind, but actually it’s very basic common sense that a damaged drone, which may have not been there at a particular point in time has now been seen by an occupier, a member of the public, and then they’ve told us, ‘we’ve found this’. “Then we go and forensically recover it and do everything we can at that location to try and get a bit more information.” [..] Gatwick Airport has offered a £50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the chaos.

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It doesn’t matter what anybody does, Trump still hoards the attention.

‘Home Alone’: Bored Trump Tweets Up Storm During Christmas Shutdown (RT)

With the US government shut down due to the dispute over funding President Donald Trump’s border wall, and his family in Florida, the chief executive has chosen to spend the Christmas holiday taking potshots at critics on Twitter. Funding for about a quarter of US government services ran out on Friday at midnight, as Senate Democrats refused to endorse a House funding bill that would’ve given Trump $5.7 billion for the border wall. Trump was supposed to celebrate Christmas at Mar-a-Lago with his family, but elected to stay in the White House instead, tweeting up a storm.

Trump tweeted twenty times on Thursday, as the shutdown loomed. He continued posting on Friday (ten), Saturday (seven) and Sunday (eight), then ramped up the schedule on Monday, with ten tweets by the early afternoon. In addition to his usual complaints about “Fake News” and Democrats, Trump has also taken aim at the Federal Reserve, praised Saudi Arabia, and dismissed Washington’s envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition as an “Obama appointee” who gave Iran $1.8 billion “in CASH” as part of the “horrific” nuclear deal. He also complained, tongue firmly in cheek, about being “all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security.”

Though Trump’s Twitter tirades usually trigger the trolls, that last one brought up a multitude of call-backs to the president’s cameo in 1992’s Christmas comedy ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.’

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