Dec 062019
 


Paul Gauguin When are you getting married? 1892

 

 

It wasn’t really the plan to make this a series, but it seems to have turned into one. Part 1 is here: The Fed Detests Free Markets. Part 3 will follow soon. And yeah, I did think perhaps I should have called this one “End The Fed” Is No Longer Enough. Because that’s the idea here. But what’s in a name?

 

 

Okay, let’s talk a bit more about finance again. Though I still think this requires caution, because the meaning of the terminology used in such conversations appears to have acquired ever more diverse meanings for different groups of people. Up to the point where you must ask: are we really still talking about the same thing here?

I’ve said multiple times before that there are no more markets really, or investors, because central banks have killed off the markets. There are still “contraptions” that look like them, like the real thing, but they’re fake. You can see this every time a Fed chief opens their mouth and every single person involved in the fake markets hangs on their lips.

They do that because that Fed head actually determines what anything will be worth tomorrow, not the markets, since the Fed buys everything up, and puts interest rates down so more people can buy grossly overpriced property and assets, and allows companies to buy their own shares so nobody knows what they’re worth anymore.

The Fed today is in the business of propping up zombies. And when I say the Fed, that also means the ECB and BOJ, western central banks. I won’t get into the PBOC here, but they’re not far behind.

Recently, Christine Lagarde, the new ECB head, said the most incredible thing (at least to my ears, I guess not to hers):

We should be happier to have a job than to have our savings protected … I think that it is in this spirit that monetary policy has been decided by my predecessors and I think they made quite a beneficial choice.

Who on earth ever claimed jobs vs savings is some necessary or inevitable “choice”? Why should it be? If this were true, isn’t that a sign that something is terribly wrong? That you can have a job, but you can’t save anything? And aren’t the central banks to blame for that then?

The entire system has been built for decades around the notion that people save, either to purchase big items, or for their old age, and that people put money into their pension systems. And now central banks come along and in no time destroy what has been valid for all these years. And they never even warned about it.

Anyway, after Lagarde’s remarks, I guess the Fed’s Jay Powell felt he couldn’t be left behind and said:

US central bankers see a “sustained expansion” ahead for the country’s economy, with the full impact of recent interest rate cuts still to be felt and low unemployment boosting household spending, Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell said on Wednesday in remarks that brushed aside any worries of a looming slowdown.

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” and the current level of interest rates “appropriate,” Mr Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the joint economic committee of congress, a panel that includes some members from the House of Representatives and Senate.

His comments tracked closely to those in his news conference last month after the US central bank cut rates for the third time this year and signaled it was likely done reducing borrowing costs absent a significant change in the economic outlook. Despite “noteworthy risks” including slowing global growth and fallout from the US-China trade war, “my colleagues and I see a sustained expansion of economic activity … as most likely,” Mr Powell said in his prepared remarks for the hearing.

Former Goldman and Bear Stearns banker, and friend of the Automatic Earth, Nomi Prins, tweeted yesterday: “Tuesday, the Fed added $95 billion in liquidity to financial markets. Today, Fed’s vice chair told Congress, “The Board’s latest [review] confirms the current health of the banking system. It depicts a stable, healthy, and resilient banking sector…” The Fed’s official for supervision and regulation told Congress, “The Board’s latest Supervision and Regulation Report… describes steady improvements in safety and soundness, with a gradual decline in outstanding supervisory actions at both the largest & smallest organizations..”

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” Powell said. That must be why they have been pulling out all the stops and invented new ones, for a decade+. Bernanke, Yellen, the lot of them, all because the baseline has remained so favorable. Why would anyone want to listen to this guy, who so obviously dabbles in complete nonsense? Well, because he’s the one giving the money away.

I think I can tell Mr. Powell what the “full impact of recent interest rate cuts” will be, what it will feel like, and it won’t be anywhere near what he pretends it will be. I must think he knows that too, or he’s an utter fool, and I don’t think he is. He’s just doing a job, while he’s worth $100 million, and that job is very different from how it’s presented to the public.

I’ll tell you about that full impact in part 3 of this Fed essay, which I left on the shelf for a long time because I thought people would declare me nuts, but which now, with increasing chatter of a next recession, maybe can be exposed to daylight. It’s about how grave the damage is that central banks have inflicted on their economies, something I never see discussed. Powell and Draghi/Lagarde and Kuroda are not just the ones giving the money away, they’re also taking it away, just not from the same people. And that latter part is much more important to societies and economies.

A third quote, just to complete the “circle”, deals with BOJ chief Kuroda; it’s from a June 2019 Reuters article entitled How Japan Turned Against Its ‘Bazooka’-Wielding Central Bank Chief:

The direction taken by the BOJ could determine whether Japan’s banking sector avoids a hard landing and whether Abe or his successor will lean on the central bank to take the most extreme step remaining: printing money for the explicit purpose of financing a national debt that is now more than twice the size of Japan’s economy. That could risk a costly downgrade by credit rating agencies for Japan, and, by extension, Japanese corporate borrowers.

The spurning of Kuroda-nomics also has political implications. It is part of a broader public dissatisfaction with what has been labeled “Abenomics” – the prime minister’s plan to reflate the economy out of prolonged stagnation through a combination of aggressive monetary easing, bold fiscal spending and fundamental structural reforms in the economy.

“Kuroda’s radical stimulus kept interest rates low, allowing politicians to delay reforms to get Japan’s fiscal house in order,” said Koichi Haji, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute. “The foot-dragging could cost Japan dearly. The options left for the BOJ all seem extreme.”

Options left for the BOJ will be even more extreme because Japan’s Birth Rate Has Hit Its Lowest Level Since Records Began In 1899. As a Dutch comment on that report said: “by 2050 there will be one working Japanese for every child or pensioner [..] Japan adopted a law in April designed to make it easier for foreigners to work in Japan. The goal was to attract 350,000 foreign workers. 8 months later, just 400 had arrived”.

And just this week we read that Japan is preparing another $120-$230 stimulus package. Extreme has become normal in no time. Only, the ratings agencies could lower their rating for Japan, because of this. Then again, why should they do it only for Japan? Everyone’s in “extreme” territory, or as Ben Bernanke called it in 2008, “uncharted territory”. Same difference.

 

But Lagarde is right on one thing: it is “the monetary policy decided by her predecessors” that has destroyed savings -and pensions-. How on earth she can call that “beneficial” is very hard to grasp. What is the goal, what is all these central bankers’ goal? That in the end nobody has any savings or pensions anymore, and they all must go into debt or perish? That would create entire societies made up of zombies. And that’s “policy”?

It’s policy to spin a fantasy tale so people like Jay Powell can claim that “the baseline outlook remains favorable” and “sustained expansion” lies ahead for the economy, and it’s policy to pay for that fantasy with money that belongs to savers and pensioners, and that you can then hand out to a bunch of zombie “investors”. That’s policy.

The role of today’s central bankers is possible only because the public are made to think these are very smart people that have the interest of Joe Blow at heart, and because they have “unlimited resources” to make stocks and bonds and the housing market look good. But what would happen if Joe Blow knew what is going on?

The Fed is now considering “policy” that “makes up for lost inflation”. No, stop laughing, I’m serious. Their extreme policies in uncharted territory have failed so dismally, they’ve obviously not been extreme enough.

Once they’ve gone down the path of extreme stimulus (not that they call it that), there’s no way back. Because they’ve just destroyed the markets, and then they go: let’s see how the markets react to that. Well, they don’t. They’re dead. You killed them. There are parties left who love feeding off of your free money teats, but they’re not the markets or even market participants. They’re rich socialists. But they’re also the only ones the Fed cares about.

Still, a central bank that doesn’t have the population at large, at the center of its policies, is a scourge on a society and/or country. And it should be abolished. But in the case of the Fed, ECB and BOJ, it is probably already too late for that. They have done their damage. “End The Fed” is no longer enough. Societies need to develop emergency measures to counter the damage done, or face untold misery, unrest and eventually, revolution.

People don’t see this, because these central banks -temporarily- taper over the disaster they’ve wrought with their “policies”. Time for the media to step in? No, it’s too late for that too, and besides, what media? They’ve been silent all along, why would they speak up now?

More in part 3.

 

 

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Dec 052019
 
 December 5, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Interior of migratory fruit worker’s tent, Yakima, Washington Jul 1936

 

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)
The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)
Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)
Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)
Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)
Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)
The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)
Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)
China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)
France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)
Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)
Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

 

 

The Fed will never be able to get out. That was clear the moment they stepped in.

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)

The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.

The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”

Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.

Read more …

End the Fed.

The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”

This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.

Read more …

“..the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.”

Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)

It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…

… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…

… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.

Read more …

All three are Democrat donors who have a deep dislike of Trump. They couldn’t hide that, didn’t even try, instead went on RussiaRussia rants.

But this was supposed to be about the Constitution, not about their opinions. Turley was the only one who stuck to what was on the table.

Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.

“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.

Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.

Read more …

Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”

Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”

Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)

Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”

The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”

Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”

Read more …

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)

By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.


With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.

Read more …

I don’t have space for all 10, but Solomon is a must read.

The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)

Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.

And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.

News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.

Read more …

It’s not just the Fed, but they haven’t exactly helped.

Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)

Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.


Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.

Read more …

A normal market phenomenon?

China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)

While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”

After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.

Read more …

The French know how to strike.

France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)

Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.


The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.

Read more …

Does Uber have more lawyers than drivers?

Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)

Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.


The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’

Read more …

Again, Assange -with his aides- is the only person who has abided by the law. All other parties involved have not. That should have a huge bearing on the case.

Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.

An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”

German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.

Read more …

 

Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV

 

 

 

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Nov 292019
 


Paul Gauguin Tahitians at rest (unfinished) 1891

 

To be completely honest, I wrote -most of- the second part of this a while ago, and then I was thinking this first part should be part of the second, if you can still follow me. But it doesn’t really, it’s fine. I wanted to write something to address how little people know and acknowledge about how disastrous central bank policies have been for our societies and economies.

Because they don’t, and they have no clue, largely and simply because of the way central banks are presented both by themselves and by the financial press that covers them. Make that “covers”. Still, going forward, we will have no way to ignore the damage done. All the QE and ZIRP and NIRP will turn out to be so destructive for us all they will rival climate change or actual warfare. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

 

You see, free markets are a great idea in theory. Or you can call it “capitalism”, or combine the two and say “free market capitalism”. There’s very little wrong with it in theory. You have an enormous multitude of participants in an utterly complex web of transitions, too complex for the human mind to comprehend, and in the end that web figures out what values all sorts of things, and actions etc., have.

I don’t think capitalism in itself is a bad thing; what people don’t like is when it veers into neo-liberalism, when everything is for sale, when communities or their governments no longer own anything, when roads and hospitals and public services and everything that holds people together in a given setting is being sold off to the highest bidder. There are many things that have values other than monetary ones, and neo-liberalism denies that. Capitalism in itself, not so much.

It’s like nature, really, like evolution, but it’s Darwin AND empathy, individuals AND groups. The problem is, and this is where it diverges from nature, you have to make sure the markets remain free, that certain participants -or groups thereof- don’t bend the rules in their own favor. In that sense it’s very similar to what the human race has been doing to nature for a long time, and increasingly so.

 

Now, if you limit the discussion to finance and economics, there would appear to be one institution that’s in an ideal place to make sure that this “rule-bending” doesn’t take place, that markets are fair and free, or as free as can be. That institution is a central bank. But whaddaya know, central banks do the exact opposite: they are the ones making sure markets are not free.

In the ideal picture, free markets are -or would be- self-correcting, and have an inbuilt self-regulating mechanism. If and when prices go up too much, the system will make sure they go lower, and vice versa. It’s what we know from physics and biology as a negative -self correcting- feedback loop. The self-correcting mechanism only activates if the system has veered too much in one direction, but we fail to see that as good thing when applied to both directions, too high and too low (yes, Goldilocks, exactly).

It’s only when people start tweaking and interfering with the system, that it fails. Negative feedback vs positive feedback are misunderstood terms simply because of their connotation. After all, who wants anything negative? But this is important in the free markets topic, because as soon as a central bank starts interfering in, name an example, housing prices in a country, the system automatically switches from negative feedback to positive -runaway- feedback, there is no middle ground and there is no way out anymore, other than a major crash or even collapse.

 

Well, we’re well on our way to one of those. Because the Fed refused to let the free market system work. They, and the banks they represent, wanted the way up but then refused the way down. And now we’re stuck in a mindless positive feedback loop (new highs in stocks on a daily basis), and there’s nothing Jay Powell and his minions can do anymore to correct it.

The system has its own correction mechanism, but Greenspan, Bernanke, Yellen and now Powell thought they could do better. Or maybe they didn’t and they just wanted their banker friends to haul in all the loot, it doesn’t even matter anymore. They’ve guaranteed that there are no free markets, because they murdered self-correction.

Same goes, again, for ECB and BOJ; they’re just Fed followers (only often even crazier). In fact since they have no petrodollar, they don’t just follow, they have to do the Fed one better. Which is why they have negative interest rates -and the US does not -yet-: it’s the only way to compete with the reserve currency. Of course today even the Fed, and “even even” the PBOC, are discussing moving to negative rates, and by now we’re truly talking lemmings on top of a cliff.

“Let’s throw $10 trillion at the wall just so home prices or stock prices don’t go down!” Yeah, but if they’ve been rising a lot, maybe that’s the only direction they can and should go. It may not be nice for banks and so-called “investors”, but it’s the only way to keep the system healthy. If you don’t allow for the negative feedback self-correction, you can only create much bigger problems than you already have. And then you will get negative feedback squared and cubed.

 

Unless, of course, you have stellar economic growth, and you find unparalleled amounts of oil, and you have a growing population with way more kids born than people dying. But in case you don’t, you’re merely making an initially relatively minor problem much much worse with QE and ZIRP.

What central banks have been doing is they’ve utterly destroyed savings and pensions, i.e. the only thing “ordinary” people had to stave off their own personal collapse and that of their communities. ZIRP and NIRP move all those savings and pensions towards the bankers. And yes, pension funds may have moved into equities from bonds, and they may look good momentarily, but the current parade of new highs in stock markets only exists because of central banks’ QE and ZIRP.

There are tons of zombie enterprises in the world, many of whom have been kept alive by central bank policies, but wait till it becomes evident that the pension funds and systems themselves have turned into zombies. That’ll wake you up. Because who’s going take care of grandma, or her daughter, in a few years’ time? One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Jay Powell.

 

This has gotten so long already I’ll leave the part 2 I mentioned above to be its own, separate, part 2. Soon.

 

 

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Nov 192019
 
 November 19, 2019  Posted by at 7:09 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Road in Tahiti 1891

 

I’m getting pissed off about multiple things right now, too many to make them all separate essays. Let’s give it a combined shot:

In Holland, the talk of the town is nitrogen emissions. I’d never seen it raised as that kind of problem, but there you go. The government last week decided to lower the max speed limit on highways to 100km (66miles) , from 120-130. Their reasoning was that this would allow the building industry to build more -by now hugely overpriced- homes and apartments.

Oh, but agriculture (aka cattle) is responsible for 46% of nitrogen emissions. So they have a plan to alter cattle feed (I am still serious here). I understand that neighbors Germany and Belgium have had nitrogen policies in place for years, so their cars can keep on pedaling to the metal because they don’t have a problem. Huh?

 

Also in Holland, big discussions about cuts to pensions. Which of course leads to big protests, which in turn makes the government make sure that cuts this year will be minimal. Okay, but how about next year? No comment. Holland is supposed to have one of the best pension systems on the planet, but they don’t get to escape the BIG erosion either.

Aging population, fewer contributors, lower wages, it’s happening everywhere. Our pension systems are Ponzi schemes. Every single penny you give a pensioner today is taken away from one tomorrow. The entire system is broke, we just don’t want to face that simple fact.

15 years ago, pensions systems were required by law to hold only AAA-denominated assets. Look at that today. They all have 7-8% in their prospectus, and bonds pay 1%, if that. Unless you gamble. So they have all moved into equities, which look fine because central banks prop them up, but the model itself has changed like Jekyll becames Hyde.

 

Then, Sweden decided to drop the 2010 rape charges against Assange 9 years later. In reality, there never WERE any rape charges. But still, prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson re-opened the “investigation” in May 2019. Just so Julian could be dragged from the Ecuador embassy in London on a seemingly legit charge. Eva-Marie Persson should be in Belmarsh prison, not Julian. But she represents the law, and he does not. He has exposed its dim-witted lackeys. My comment earlier today at the Automatic Earth:

“Sweden has dropped its rape inquiry into Julian Assange. Good f%@$#ing Lord, what year is it? The f%@$#ing job is f%@$#ing done, isn’t, you f%@$#ers? How can you be a Swede and not protest this? What kind of people live in that country? No, I know, the same kind as live in the UK and US. Ignorant f%@$#s.”

Oh, and now they’re arresting Epstein’s prison guards? Come on guys, you got to recognize a joke as a joke.

 

Then a CNN piece about John Solomon, who was thrown out of the Hill recently though he was their best reporter. Now, he was already fired from the Hill despite being their ace reporter, but that’s not enough for CNN, they want the owner too. So for CNN, it’s a direct link from Trump to Giuliani to Solomon to Hill owner Jimmy Finkelstein:

Jimmy Finkelstein, The Owner Of The Hill, Has Flown Under The Radar

James “Jimmy” Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill newspaper, is not a widely known media executive, but he is one of the era’s most consequential. Finkelstein resides at the nexus of President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Solomon, the now-former executive at The Hill and current Fox News contributor who pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine into the public conversation. While Solomon has received significant media attention for his work at The Hill, Finkelstein has stayed out of the headlines, despite having himself played a crucial role in the saga.

One, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, said of one of Solomon’s stories, “I think all the key elements were false.” Pressed further on the matter by Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, Vindman said, “I haven’t looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right.” [..] After CNN Business reached out to a representative for The Hill for comment, The Hill Editor-In-Chief Bob Cusack announced in a Monday morning email to staffers that Solomon’s work was under review.

“As you are aware, John Solomon left The Hill earlier in the fall, but in light of recent congressional testimony and related events, we wanted to apprise you of the steps we are taking regarding John Solomon’s opinion columns which were referenced in the impeachment inquiry,” Cusack wrote. “Because of our dedication to accurate non-partisan reporting and standards, we are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any opinion pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry,” Cusack added.

Now, I have followed, and quoted, Solomon for quite some time, and I think he’s thorough, well documented, and in short what a journalist should be (nothing to do with opinion). Calling him conspirational is really quite a jump. But this is CNN. They do conspiracy like no-one else. And apparently they got what they wanted, because the Hill now is this:

Trump’s Ukraine Scandal Rooted In Fear Of Biden

Why is President Trump so nervous about the 2020 race? He has a record amount of campaign cash. Russian bots are still working for him. And he still has the backing of more than 80 percent of his party. So, how do I know he’s so nervous? As Trump loves to say: Read the transcript. At the heart of the phone call that has led to impeachment hearings is Trump going out on a shaky limb to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor.” That “favor” included a request for Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. The only reason for Trump to risk asking a foreign leader for help getting political dirt on an opponent is that he feared that rival’s power.

Me personally, I’ll stick with John Solomon for now. I haven’t caught him on a lie, and not on propaganda. Which is much better than I can say about just about every other outlet out there. Yeah, Hannity is a very loose cannon, Tucker Carlson not that much, but it’s the CNN people, and Rachel Maddow, that are far worse when it comes to propaganda.

And Adam Schiff too, who gets to conduct his fake trial in which he doesn’t have to say a single true word because he’s not under oath and the “witnesses” can be 2nd-3rd-4th hearsay ones. Anyone can say anything as long as it is negative for Trump. You know, that guy the American people elected as their president 3 years ago. Let’s move this into a courtroom -like the Senate- and do away with the absurd theater.

 

 

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Oct 182019
 
 October 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Salvador Dali The three pines 1919

 

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)
Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)
Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)
Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)
Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)
UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)
EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)
UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)
How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)
Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

 

 

And you thought you had seen absurd theater so far… Biden and Comey and Strzok testifying. Hillary?! Wasserman-Schultz?

“..you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators..”

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial ‘As Soon As Thanksgiving’ (ZH)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Republican Senators on Wednesday to prepare for an impeachment trial of President Trump as soon as Thanksgiving, according to the Boston Globe. The announcement comes as House Democrats roll the dice on a second-hand claim from a CIA ‘whistleblower’ that President Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former VP Joe Biden – who the whistleblower worked for – and Biden’s son Hunter [..] .. while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Democrat-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate will be able to pick apart the entire affair.

“In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. “Impeachment is the first step to remove a president, with the House voting on formal charges and the Senate holding a trial in which it either convicts or acquits him. -Boston Globe “There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) following the meeting.


McConnell has previously said that if the House impeaches Trump, Senate rules would force him to begin a trial – one which could force the Bidens to testify. “Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said. For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.” -Washington Times

Read more …

Uber trolling.

Trump Florida Golf Course To Host G7 Summit (BBC)

One of President Donald Trump’s golf resorts in Florida will host the G7 summit next June, the White House says. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney denied President Trump would profit from the event. The aide said “Donald Trump’s brand is probably strong enough as it is”, so he did not need a branding boost. Mr Trump has previously said he is not involved with the daily operations of the Trump Organization and that his sons run the business. Mr Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that an advance team of scouts had started with a list of possible locations for the summit in about a dozen states. The team, he said, went to visit the venues in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and Utah.

“And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting. “In fact I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.'” The chief of staff said the event would be made available “at cost” and that using the Doral would save millions of dollars and was cheaper than the other potential sites. Earlier this year the US president floated the idea of his Doral property hosting the G7. But Mr Mulvaney denied on Thursday that his boss was profiting from the presidency, pointing out that he donates his salary to charity.


“It’s the most recognisable name in the English language [Trump] and probably around the world right now, so no, that has nothing to do with that,” he said. Mr Mulvaney said he had initially been sceptical about the idea and “aware of the political sort of criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral”. He added: “I get the criticisms, so does he. Basically, he’d be criticised regardless of what he’d chose to do, but no there’s no issue here on him profiting from this any way, shape or form.”

Read more …

120 hours. Followed by a ceasefire.

Turkey To Suspend Syria Offensive, Mike Pence Announces (BBC)

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced. All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border. Turkey launched its assault last week. It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area. Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.


The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region. His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation. Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!” Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement. “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

Read more …

It’s obvious where Ron Paul stands, he always has: The best way to help the Kurds and everyone else in the region is to just come home.

Washington is Wrong Once Again – Kurds Join Assad to Defend Syria (Ron Paul)

When President Trump Tweeted last week that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars,” adding that the US would be withdrawing from Syria, Washington went into a panic. Suddenly Republicans, Democrats, the media, the think tanks, and the war industry all discovered and quickly became experts on “the Kurds,” who we were told were an “ally” being sent to their slaughter by an ignorant President Trump. But it was all just another bipartisan ploy to keep the “forever war” gravy train rolling through the Beltway. Interventionists will do anything to prevent US troops from ever coming home, and their favorite tactic is promoting “mission creep.”

As President Trump Tweeted, we were told in 2014 by President Obama that the US military would go into Syria for just 30 days to save the Yazidi minority that they claimed were threatened. Then that mission crept into “we must fight ISIS” and so the US military continued to illegally occupy and bomb Syria for five more years. Even though it was the Syrian army with its Russian and Iranian allies that did the bulk of the fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, President Trump took credit and called for the troops to come home. But when the military comes home, the military-industrial-Congressional-media complex loses its cash cow, so a new rationale had to be invented.


The latest “mission creep” was that we had to stay in Syria to save our “allies” the Kurds. All of a sudden our military presence in Syria was not about fighting terrorism but rather about putting US troops between our NATO ally Turkey and our proxy fighting force, the Kurds. Do they really want us to believe that it is “pro-American” for our troops to fight and die refereeing a long-standing dispute between the Turks and Kurds?

Read more …

Moon of Alabama is the first I’ve seen mention that the YPG “will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army.”

As I wrote a few days ago in Trump Talks To Putin. But How?, this whole thing has been planned and co-ordinated, much more than western media report.

Media And Pundits Misread The ‘Everyone Wins’ Plan For Syria (MoA)

The U.S. media get yesterday’s talks between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all wrong. Those talks were just a show to soothe the criticism against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria. The fake negotiations did not change the larger win-win-win-win plan or the facts on the ground. The Syrian Arab Army is replacing the Kurdish PKK/YPG troops at the border with Turkey. The armed PKK/YPG forces, which had deceivingly renamed themselves (vid) “Syrian Democratic Forces” to win U.S. support, will be disbanded and integrated into the Syrian army. Those moves are sufficient to give Turkey the security guarantees it needs. They will prevent any further Turkish invasion.

[..] The U.S. can not “allow Turkey to annex a portion of Syria”. The U.S. does not own Syria. It is completely bollocks to think that it has the power to allow Turkey to annex parts of it. Turkey will not “gain territory”. There will be no Turkish “security corridor”. The Kurdish civilians in Kobani, Ras al Ain and Qamishli areas will not go anywhere. The Turks will not touch those Kurdish majority areas because they are, or soon will be, under control of the Syrian government and its army. [..] The Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu confirmed that Turkey agrees with the Syrian government moves: “Russia “promised that the PKK or YPG will not be on the other side of the border,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with the BBC. “If Russia, accompanied by the Syrian army, removes YPG elements from the region, we will not oppose this.”


These moves have been planned all along. The Turkish invasion in northeast Syria was designed to give Trump a reason to withdraw U.S. troops. It was designed to push the Kurdish forces to finally submit to the Syrian government. Behind the scene Russia had already organized the replacement of the Kurdish forces with Syrian government troops. It has coordinated the Syrian army moves with the U.S. military. Turkey had agreed that Syrian government control would be sufficient to alleviate its concern about a Kurdish guerilla and a Kurdish proto-state at its border. Any further Turkish invasion of Syria is thereby unnecessary. The plan has everyone winning. Turkey will be free of a Kurdish threat. Syria regains its territory. The U.S. can leave without further trouble. Russia and Iran gain standing. The Kurds get taken care of.

Read more …

“Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. ”

UK Agrees To Best Of Worst Possible Brexit Deals (MW)

Boris Johnson has signed a deal he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control. The one “great” thing about the agreement with the European Union that the U.K. prime minister hailed Thursday is that it reduces – if slightly – the possibility of a hard Brexit, and the associated foreseeable economic crisis. But beyond the forex market’s obvious relief at the possible end of three years of uncertainty — the pound jumped almost 1% on the news, before reversing — this is still a deal that will hurt the British economy. On a scale of 1 to 10 — from no-pain, remain in the EU to maximum damage, no-deal Brexit — the agreement concluded just a few hours before an EU leaders summit in Brussels registers as an 8 or 9.


Its economic impact will be worse than the deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament earlier this year. That is true both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term, it leaves the U.K. outside the customs union where it would have stayed under the infamous “backstop” negotiated by the previous government. But more uncertainty is also hanging over the near term economic future. The dearth of investment in the last three years has been the main drag on the U.K. economy, which explains why the country’s GDP is now 1-to-3% lower than it would have been if voters had opted for remain in 2016.

Read more …

People are pressed to vote for a deal they don’t want. Is that really such a good idea?

EU Leaves Door Open To Brexit Extension, In Blow To Boris Johnson (G.)

EU leaders have left open the option of extending Brexit beyond 31 October if the new deal is voted down by the Commons, in a blow to Boris Johnson’s strategy. The prime minister had been seeking to pitch Saturday’s vote in the Commons as a choice between deal or no deal after coming to an agreement with the EU. Johnson was helped by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker casting doubt on the possibility of a further Brexit delay, but the heads of state and government did not follow the European commission president’s lead. A summit communique issued after two hours of discussion tasked the commission and European parliament with taking “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on November 1”.


But a senior EU official said that the leaders would follow events on Saturday, and reflect on the next steps if they were in a “different situation”. A second diplomatic source said they had chosen not to interfere in a “sensitive domestic debate … but they leave the door open to the possibility of an extension, to be discussed at a later stage – if required”. Johnson is facing an uphill battle to build a majority after the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party rejected the revised deal, describing it as driving “a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement”. Juncker had tried to help sell the deal by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

Read more …

So even if the deal is accepted, it may still not be?

UK MPs Win Bid To Vote On 2nd Brexit Referendum In Saturday Showdown (Ind.)

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan – but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint.


Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act – which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by 19 October. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs: “That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.”

Read more …

A discussion you won’t be able to escape. It might be good to get the terminology straight. I think Tucker Carlson called Medicare for All pure socialism, but that would mean Canada, the UK, most of Europe and Asian countries like Thailand all pure socialist countries. Hard to maintain.

How Slashing Pentagon Budget Could Pay for Medicare for All (Conley)

The Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday shared the results of extensive research into how the $750 billion U.S. military budget could be significantly slashed, freeing up annual funding to cover the cost of Medicare for All—calling into question the notion that the program needs to create any tax burden whatsoever for working families. Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), took aim in a New York Timesop-ed at a “chorus of scolds” from both sides of the aisle who say that raising middle class taxes is the only way to pay for Medicare for All. The pervasive claim was a primary focus of Tuesday night’s debate, while Medicare for All proponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to focus on the dire need for a universal healthcare program.

At the Democratic presidential primary debate on CNN Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was criticized by some opponents for saying that “costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families” under Medicare for All, without using the word “taxes.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, clearly stated that taxes may go up for some middle class families but pointed out that the increase would be more than offset by the fact that they’ll no longer have to pay monthly premiums, deductibles, and other medical costs. “All these ambitious policies of course will come with a hefty price tag,” wrote Koshgarian. “Proposals to fund Medicare for All have focused on raising taxes. But what if we could imagine another way entirely?”


“Over 18 years, the United States has spent $4.9 trillion on wars, with only more intractable violence in the Middle East and beyond to show for it,” she added. “That’s nearly the $300 billion per year over the current system that is estimated to cover Medicare for All (though estimates vary).” “While we can’t un-spend that $4.9 trillion,” Koshgarian continued, “imagine if we could make different choices for the next 20 years.”

Read more …

The state of denial. Pensions funds have all moved into risk assets, so if stocks start falling, it’s over and out. Moreover, there will be far more elderly people soon vs the young, which will reduce contributions enormously while increasing payouts. At least try some realism. Zero interest rates klill pensions. Period.

Going Dutch? Low Interest Rates Rattle ‘World’s Best’ Pension System (R.)

The planned reductions, due to take effect from January 2020, have shaken a country renowned for having one of the world’s strongest pension systems, and are an early warning to others about the impact of record low interest rates. [..] The European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus policies, which have helped drive interest rates into negative territory, are blamed in part for the impending cuts in the Netherlands and have triggered a fierce debate over how the funding of pensions should be calculated. ECB President Mario Draghi said last month that the central bank was “very concerned” about the side effects of negative rates, but maintained they were required for economic growth.

At the heart of the Dutch debate is a technical question over how to calculate the cost of future pension payouts while the ECB helps keep rates low. Actuaries make assumptions about how long pensioners will live, count up the future payments that have been promised to them and then use an assumed interest rate to “discount” how much must be put away to pay them. The lower this interest rate, “rekenrente” in Dutch, the more conservative the accounting, and the more it costs to meet future liabilities. The rekenrente is derived from government bond yields — which have turned negative across Europe as interest rates steadily fell this summer.


Each 1% fall in interest rates has led to roughly a 12% fall in the coverage ratio between assets and liabilities in pension pots, the Dutch central bank says. As a January deadline approaches, cuts appear inevitable. That has led several funds and some experts to argue that the rekenrente, which is around 0.3%, should be raised instead. Many blame ECB policy and see its effects as temporary. Increasing the rekenrente to 2% or 3% would restore the funds to full solvency. Corien Wortmann-Kool, the chairwoman of the 456 billion euro ABP civil servants fund, told Reuters she opposes pension cuts as “unnecessary” for now.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 022019
 


Pablo Picasso Bathers with a toy boat 1937

 

The Giant Sucking Sound of Financial Repression (WS)
Dutch Bank ING Warns Against Further ECB Money Printing (R.)
Trump’s $300 Billion China Tariff Threat Sends Markets Into Tailspin (G.)
Rate Cut Odds Surge After Tariff Announcement (ZH)
US Tariffs Risk Reviving Chinese Zombies (R.)
The EU Has New People In Charge. It’s Not Good News For US Tech Firms (CNBC)
EU Governments Seek Name For IMF Head (R.)
Boris Johnson’s Commons Working Majority Cut To One (BBC)
Expecting Ireland To Be Servile Is Part Of A Long British Tradition (G.)
Irish Peace Is Too Precious To Be Squandered By The Brexit Ultras (G.)
Boeing To Change 737 MAX Flight-Control Software To Address Flaw (R.)
Rachel Maddow Ratings Tank After Collusion Narrative Implodes (Ryan)

 

 

The war on savings and pensions continues unabated. Central banks are in so deep there’s no way out anymore. But what happens when you want to, or have to, retire?

The Giant Sucking Sound of Financial Repression (WS)

It’s called interest-rate repression. Or more poetically, financial repression. It’s where central banks manipulate interest rates down to where investments with little credit risk, such as Treasury securities, FDIC-insured savings accounts and CDs, pay little or no interest, or pay less interest than the rate of inflation. People such as savers and retirees, and institutions such as pension funds, that depend on this cash flow have lost their income stream. In addition, the purchasing power of their principal is getting gradually wiped out by inflation. How much money are we talking about? In the US alone, this interest rate repression impacts nearly $40 trillion. This includes savings products, Treasury securities, municipal bonds, and high-grade corporate debt.

$40 Trillion with a T. A 2% reduction across the board cuts this income by $800 billion a year. And this has had an impact. Central banks have accomplished this interest-rate repression by pushing short-term rates to zero or below zero, and by buying bonds and other assets to push long-term rates down too. These were emergency measures during the Financial Crisis that have become the “new normal,” as it has been called. This new normal has been going on for over a decade now. Other central banks, including the ECB and the Bank of Japan, pushed their policy rates below zero. This, in addition to vast asset buying binges by those central banks, produced $13 trillion in negative yielding bonds. But that’s a different universe of idiocy that we’re not going to get into today. We’re going to stick to US conditions.

To the Fed’s credit, it is the only major central bank that has raised its policy-rate target a bit, from near-zero to a range between 2.25% and 2.5%, which are still historically low rates. But it is under immense pressure by Wall Street and by the White House to cut rates again. So now we have this situation where short-term Treasury yields are low, and long-dated Treasury yields are even lower. How much money are we talking about here? Let’s see. There are $22 trillion in Treasury securities. They’re held by individuals and institutions, including insurance companies, pension funds, and the Social Security Trust Fund. Then there is high-grade corporate debt. The category of triple-A to single-A-rated debt is about $3.3 trillion. These yields have been pushed down too.

Then there are $3.8 trillion in municipal bonds outstanding. Many of them trade below US Treasury yields. For example, the GO bonds of California, which is not exactly a paragon of fiscal rectitude. During trading last Thursday, the California 10-year yield was 1.76%. This was about one-third of a percentage point below the US Treasury 10-year yield of 2.08% on the same day. Then there are $9.4 trillion in savings products, mostly savings accounts and CDs at banks. There are also about $3 trillion in checking accounts, payroll accounts, etc., but they’re not included here. These are just savings products. So let’s add these categories up: They amount to $39 trillion.

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“There is no shortage of money in the market.”

Dutch Bank ING Warns Against Further ECB Money Printing (R.)

Ralph Hamers made his plea as central banks redouble efforts to keep the cost of borrowing at historic lows to buoy the economy, a policy that weighs on bank profits and makes it costly to hold deposits. “I don’t think QE is a recipe to support an uncertain environment,” Hamers told journalists, referring to so-called quantitative easing to print fresh money. “There is no shortage of money in the market.” Although bankers have previously made similar complaints, Hamers’ blunt comments carry weight because his bank is one of Europe’s largest, with 38 million customers. ING, the largest Dutch bank, cautioned on Thursday that rock-bottom interest rates would pressure future earnings, as it announced a 1.4 billion euro net profit in the second quarter of the year.


“Looking ahead, we expect that persistently low interest rates will put pressure on net interest income,” Hamers said, referring to the bank’s chief earnings pillar from activities such as lending. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has all but pledged to loosen monetary policy further amid a continued economic deterioration of Europe’s euro currency bloc, still grappling with the aftermath of a debt crisis. Officials recently told Reuters that an interest rate cut in September appeared certain, while government bond buys were also likely. Draghi recently said the outlook looked bleak as a global trade war hit Europe’s manufacturers.

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Did he do it to push Powell?

Trump’s $300 Billion China Tariff Threat Sends Markets Into Tailspin (G.)

Donald Trump’s surprise decision to escalate the trade war with tariffs on another $300bn of Chinese goods has sent global financial markets into a tailspin. After sharp falls on Wall Street in the wake of the US president’s announcement on Twitter on Thursday, Asian share prices plummeted on Friday morning as growing hopes that the world’s two economic superpowers would be able to reach a deal were dashed. In Tokyo the Nikkei was down 2.3%, with a similar fall in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The Kospi was down 0.8% in Seoul while in Sydney the benchmark ASX200, which passed its pre-global financial crisis all-time high on Tuesday, fell 0.3%. On the commodities markets the price of Brent crude oil plunged 7%, its biggest fall for four years, although it recovered 2.5% on Friday to $62.01.


Trump’s decision was also likely to increase the chances of another cut in US interest rates with the prospect of worsening trade with China forcing the Federal Reserve to loosen monetary policy again in September. It follows Wednesday’s 0.25% reduction, which was widely seen as not being enough to please the president who has been very vocal in calling for lower rates to boost the economy. As a signal of lower rates to come, the 10-year US bond yield fell almost 12 basis points on Thursday to 1.902%, hitting the lowest level since Trump won the presidential election in November 2016. The US dollar also fell and stockmarkets in Europe and the US were braced for a turbulent last day’s trading of the week. The FTSE100 is set to drop 1% at the opening and the Dow 0.3%.

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“It’s very logical to conclude that if trade tensions increase, given what Powell said, that would be something he would look at to evaluate a further cut.”

Rate Cut Odds Surge After Tariff Announcement (ZH)

Earlier today, we wrote a post titled “What Would It Take For The Fed To Not Cut Again?”, with Goldman providing a stylized answer, although in retrospect, the post should have been titled “What Would It Take For The Fed To Cut Again”, as that is what the market was far more concerned about after yesterday’s hawkish Powell press conference. In any case, Goldman hinted at the one specific catalyst that could force the Fed to cut more: “We also see risks in the other direction, especially on a significant escalation of tariffs against China.” To this, we said that “if an acceleration in the trade war with China is what the Fed will need to cut more, it’s pretty clear what that means for the chances of any trade deal between Washington and Beijing, since even Trump now understands that if he keeps escalating trade war with China, Powell will have no choice but to eventually cut to 0% (and lower).”

Just a few hours later, we were proven right in suggesting that an escalation in the trade war is inevitable and imminent when Trump tweeted that he would hike tariffs on $300BN in Chinese imports to 10% starting September 1, ending the tentative ceasefire with Beijing with a bang, and sending risk prices sharply lower. And yes, while Trump did suffer a modest drop in his favorite polling indicator – i.e., the stock market – which “cratered” as much as 1.5% below its all time high – far more importantly Trump also called Powell’s bluff, and effectively forced the Fed to prepare for more rate cuts as the trade war with China – which Powell explicitly highlighted as a condition that would result in more easing – is set to escalate further.

Late today, Bloomberg confirmed as much noting that traders “fixated on a timeline in which Powell seems to suggest cooling trade tensions reduced the need for future rate reductions — and a day later Trump revs the tensions back up”, just as we said he would. “It fits the pattern of a president bent on getting the central bank to submit, many thought”, the Bloomberg authors concluded. “Powell was very careful to say that he was looking at three things, one of which was global growth and the extent to which that is risked by trade tensions,” said Ellen Hazen, senior vice president and portfolio manager for F.L. Putnam, which has $2.2 billion under management. “It’s very logical to conclude that if trade tensions increase, given what Powell said, that would be something he would look at to evaluate a further cut.” Precisely, hence our prediction first thing this morning.

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Really? Xi is going to build more bridges to nowhere?

US Tariffs Risk Reviving Chinese Zombies (R.)

President Donald Trump is threatening new levies on $300 billion of Chinese goods entering the United States, after Shanghai talks proved inconclusive this week. That might not prod Chinese officials into striking a deal, but it is likely to raise some unwelcome zombies. Trump is among those who claim the Chinese economy is on the brink of the abyss. And it’s true that as a truce in trade negotiations gets more elusive the country’s business community is being forced to price in a new status quo. Their country has stumbled into a cold war with the world’s largest economy, a nuclear-armed military colossus that controls the world’s foremost trading currency. But a $13 trillion economy growing at 6.2% is hardly imploding, and a country where private consumption makes up roughly two-fifths of nominal GDP has padding against a downturn in trade.


Tensions exacerbate economic problems of China’s own making, though. There is a massive stack of non-performing debt incurred by government banks that mis-allocated capital after the global financial crisis. And there are still plenty of inefficient state-backed companies that compete with China’s private sector, driving down profitability across the board. If the new 10% tariffs kick in on Sept. 1 as Trump threatened on Thursday, President Xi Jinping may re-open a playbook that reformist officials have been trying to close. The central government has already pushed localities to ramp up infrastructure spending, and there may be more to come. Construction investment creates jobs immediately, and the government can order banks to lend, and order state firms to build.

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Trump won’t like this.

The EU Has New People In Charge. It’s Not Good News For US Tech Firms (CNBC)

New officials at the heart of the EU will likely keep America’s big tech firms under close scrutiny, experts have told CNBC. The European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — has fined companies such as Google for disrespecting its competition rules, it’s asked Ireland to collect unpaid taxes from Apple and is currently investigating Amazon. It has also proposed different laws that seek to limit online content and there’s little evidence that anything will change under the EU’s new leadership. Dexter Thillien, a senior industry analyst at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC via telephone Wednesday that Europe is keen to continue to be seen as the global leading force in tech regulation. Thillien explained that Europe saw a loophole in global tech regulation and felt the need to act.


“Europeans have all the negatives but none of the positives,” he said, referring to the fact that Europe has not created any large tech firms but has had to deal with the presence of Silicon Valley behemoths. “The European Commission has become more assertive making big tech companies pay their fair share of taxes. If anything, the incoming Commission looks even more determined to do so,” Florian Hense, an economist at Berenberg, told CNBC via email. Ursula von der Leyen, the president-elect of the Commission, said during a speech earlier this month that “if (tech companies) are making these profits by benefiting from our education system, our skilled workers, our infrastructure and our social security, if this is so, it is not acceptable that they make profits, but they are barely paying any taxes because they play our tax system.”

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A European under Washington’s thumb.

EU Governments Seek Name For IMF Head (R.)

European Union finance ministers are set on Friday to choose the bloc’s candidate to lead the International Monetary Fund from a list of four names, a spokeswoman for the French government said. The list includes Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch former head of euro zone finance ministers; Nadia Calvino, the Spanish economy minister; Olli Rehn, the Finnish central bank governor; and Bulgaria’s World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva. Mario Centeno, the Portuguese chairman of euro zone finance ministers, said on Thursday he was pulling out of the race “in this stage of the process”, adding that he would be available if needed for a compromise solution.


Britain did not field a candidate because it could not come up with a name on time, a European official said. It had been expected to name a candidate and the deadline was extended by a few hours on Thursday to allow it to do so. France is leading the process to select a European candidate. The top job at the Washington-based global lender has historically been filled by a European. Outgoing IMF head Christine Lagarde is taking over from Mario Draghi as European Central Bank president.

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is that enough to push through a no-deal Brexit?

Boris Johnson’s Commons Working Majority Cut To One (BBC)

The Liberal Democrats have won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, leaving new PM Boris Johnson with a Commons working majority of just one. Jane Dodds overturned an 8,038 majority to beat incumbent Conservative Chris Davies by 1,425 votes. Mr Davies stood again after being unseated by a petition following his conviction for a false expenses claim. It was the first electoral test for Mr Johnson just eight days after becoming prime minister. It is the quickest by-election defeat for any new prime minister since World War Two.


Now, with the thinnest possible working majority, he will have to rely heavily on the support of his own MPs and his confidence-and-supply partners the DUP to get any legislation passed in key votes. It was also a bad night for Labour, whose vote share dropped by 12.4% as it was beaten into fourth place by the Brexit Party. The result means the Lib Dems now have 13 MPs. Ms Dodds, who is the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, said: “My very first act as your new MP when I get to Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson, wherever he’s hiding, and tell him to stop playing with the future of our community and rule out a no-deal Brexit.”

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“Paddy should know his place..”

Expecting Ireland To Be Servile Is Part Of A Long British Tradition (G.)

Boris Johnson’s approach to Ireland is part of an ignoble tradition in British politics. At its heart is the false assumption that superiority in resources and military prowess equates to a superiority in intellectual power and moral rectitude. In short, the idea that might is right and that, ultimately, Paddy should know his place. This assumption shaped and even, at times, dominated, policy on Ireland for centuries before independence. It runs through 19th-century British depictions of the Irish as incapable of self-government, unreliable, lazy and inferior. For Benjamin Disraeli, a British prime minister who shares some personal characteristics with the current incumbent, the Irish were “wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious”.

Most obviously, this sense of superiority and a refined “moral” stance was clearly manifest in government policy during the Great Famine of 1845-49, which caused the deaths of more than one million people on the island of Ireland. This consistently damaging strain of thought continued into the 20th century, with British military and economic power often used crudely to address deep-rooted political conflicts in Ireland, which refused, and continue to refuse, to allow for simple solutions. Ireland, the thinking went, should be the handmaiden for glorious Britannia – and this servile position is for Ireland’s own benefit and ultimately serves Irish interests.

Of course, within this particular strain of British political thought, the history of violence and tragedy in Ireland is sometimes portrayed as a product of Irish recalcitrance – a tendency towards disorder and conflict that fails to recognise the beneficence of British policy on the island. Britain, it is often suggested, is a guarantor of Irish stability, addressing and suppressing the inherent conflicts in Irish society, rather than a highly disruptive force that has often recklessly pursued its own interests at a serious cost to its nearest neighbour.

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“Tories of influence” told him privately that Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach “isn’t bright” and “the Irish will blink”.

Irish Peace Is Too Precious To Be Squandered By The Brexit Ultras (G.)

In The Ultras, the brutal, brilliant novel by Eoin McNamee set during the Troubles, the protagonist (based on the real-life undercover British intelligence officer Robert Nairac) finds himself in the company of dangerous men like himself. The Ultras plot terrible events and create dark polities while forcing everyone else to live with their consequences. “Ultra meaning beyond,” wrote McNamee. “Ultra meaning extreme.” The so-called war cabinet formed by the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and whose course the maverick arch-Brexiteer Dominic Cummings now charts, of course bears no resemblance to the characters in the war of the Ultras imagined by McNamee.

But the sheer velocity and ferocity of their opening salvoes about crashing out of the EU with no deal on October 31 unless the backstop – the insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland – is abolished, raise the kind of alarm that we in Ireland have not felt since the dark years of the Troubles. The political fear is that this new breed of “Brexit Ultras” (Johnson’s cabinet with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party snapping at its heels) could deliberately pursue a no-deal EU exit at the expense of a volatile Irish peace. The sabre-rattling and pre-emptive blame-shifting of course is intended to shore up political support in the UK ahead of a possible general election, but also to intimidate Ireland into abandoning the backstop while shaking the unity of the EU27.

Europe, with its own demons to face, has its red lines too and will not sacrifice the single market or its external borders, or jeopardise the wider integrity of the European project. Ireland, and the fragile peace process that has been built over the past 20 years, falls between these two positions. And while it is still early days for the Johnson premiership, we have a deteriorated state of Anglo-Irish relations following his ascent to power. How real is the damaging rhetoric emanating from London and the anti-Irish tropes spewing from much of the British media? David Yelland, the former editor of the Sun, revealed that he had been shocked when “Tories of influence” told him privately that Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach “isn’t bright” and “the Irish will blink”. “It seems, amazingly, that this is the actual policy of HMG under Johnson,” tweeted Yelland. “They are anti-Irish, arrogant, dangerous and wrong.”

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Well, actually, they’re going to change hardware: a second flight control computer and a second angle-of-attack sensor. Both of which are altready on board, but not used.

Boeing To Change 737 MAX Flight-Control Software To Address Flaw (R.)

Boeing Co plans further changes to the software architecture of the 737 MAX flight-control system to address a flaw discovered after a test in June, two people briefed on the matter said late on Thursday. The redesign, first reported by the Seattle Times, involves using and receiving input from both flight control computers rather than one. The move comes in response to an effort to address a problem discovered in June during a Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) simulator test. This is on top of earlier announced changes to take input from both angle-of-attack sensors in the MCAS anti-stall system linked to two deadly crashes that led to a global grounding of the plane.


Boeing still hopes to complete the software redesign by the end of September to submit to the FAA for approval, the sources said. For decades, 737 models have used only one of the flight control computers for each flight, with the system switching to the other computer on the following flight, according to people familiar with the plane’s design. The FAA said in June that it had identified a new risk that would need to be addressed before the plane could be ungrounded. Under a scenario where a specific fault in a microprocessor caused an uncommanded movement of the plane’s horizontal tail, it took pilots too long to recognize a loss of control known as runaway stabilizer, a Boeing official said at the time.

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Crazy bag lady.

Rachel Maddow Ratings Tank After Collusion Narrative Implodes (Ryan)

Once a shining beacon of hope for Russiagate true believers, it looks like Rachel Maddow has left her best days behind her; MSNBC’s conspiracy queen has seen her show plummet to fifth place in cable news ratings. What happened? You rise fast and fall hard in the fickle world of television. Just last April, Maddow overtook Fox News’ Sean Hannity to claim the title of most-watched host across cable news. She had become a reliable source for Russigate aficionados to get their daily dose of crazy. Sadly for Maddow, the latest data released by Nielsen shows her show in fifth place with a total audience of 2.4877 million viewers for July – behind Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and The Five (all Fox News shows).


For context, in January this year, Maddow still boasted an audience of nearly 3.3 million, which means she shed around 800,000 viewers in just six months. Maddow was also in fifth place among viewers in the 25-54 age range – the group most-favored by advertisers. Ouch. Once dubbed “the smartest person on TV” by Forbes (really), this is certainly not the big payoff Maddow was expecting, having dedicated three years of her career to breathlessly covering every twist and turn in the anticlimactic Trump-Russia “collusion” drama.

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Ship with dolphins.Wall painting from Akrotiri, Thera island (Santorini), Greece.17th century BC.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 152019
 


Arnold Böcklin Mermaids at play 1886

 

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)
Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)
DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)
System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)
Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)
Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)
All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)
US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)
The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)
Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)
Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

 

 

Trump was merely added years after the Russia-WikiLeaks slander had started.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Two (Suzie Dawson)

The public has been led to believe that the 2016 election and the resulting Mueller Report is the definitive evidence that WikiLeaks was somehow in cahoots with Russia, reinforcing the premise that they were in a political alliance with, or favoured, Donald Trump and his Presidential election campaign. Prominent Russiagate-skeptics have long pointed out the multitude of gaping holes inherent in those theories, including the advocacy group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) who have produced credible forensic work analysing the 2016 WikiLeaks releases, that resoundingly debunks officials claims.


In the course of researching this article, I stumbled across a major discovery that augments that: the false notion of WikiLeaks being a front for Russian intelligence isn’t new – it has been pushed by media since 2009. It turns out the circulation of the WikiLeaks-Russia myth was a tried and true diversionary, smear tactic that was simply regurgitated in 2016. Julian Assange believed that UK intelligence agencies were behind the pushing of that narrative, and he was publicly stating so at the end of last decade. He wouldn’t make such claims lightly, and other emerging facts support his suspicion.

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“Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.”

Well Guess What? He Was Right Again! Free Julian Assange (CJ)

“Today’s the day that journalism gets put on trial,” Dimmack said. “And it’s interesting that behind me there are this many cameras. There haven’t been this many cameras for quite a while. It’s interesting that when Julian was dragged out and kidnapped from within that Ecuadorian embassy, all of you guys had actually gone home, and it was a Russian TV station that actually caught it, Ruptly. It’s almost as if you don’t care.”

“For seven years you have smeared and slandered that man who is going to appear on video in that court in about fifteen minutes,” Dimmack told the mainstream press, right to their fucking faces. “You are all responsible for what has happened today! All of you in the media! Every one of you. You have got blood on your hands. When he released those documents that Chelsea Manning gave him, all he did was the job of a publisher. That’s it. Right now Julian Assange is going to court and put on trial for exposing war criminals as war criminals. And all of you for seven years have smeared and slandered him. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“You have all got a chance right now to actually do a U-turn and repair some of the damage that you have done over the last seven years,” Dimmack roared. “The Fourth Estate is extremely important. You know this. This is why journalism is such a noble profession; you are meant to hold power accountable, not to suck up to it sycophantically and just repeat propaganda. Otherwise you are just the establishment’s PR firm.” “Stand up for Julian Assange and tell the truth,” he continued. “Ask yourselves why is it for seven years you have printed lie after lie after lie about him? Why is it for seven years you have said that he went to the Ecuadorian embassy to escape a rape charge? No he didn’t! How many times have I said it? He went in there to escape extradition to the United States.” “Well guess what?” Dimmack concluded, gesturing to the courthouse. “He was right again! Free Julian Assange.”

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More Russiagate.

DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan (Ray McGovern)

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan. The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish. Despite the collusion conspiracy theory having been put to rest, many Americans, including members of Congress, right and left, continue to accept the evidence-impoverished, media-cum-“former-intelligence-officer” meme that the Kremlin interfered massively in the 2016 presidential election.

One cannot escape the analogy with the fraudulent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As in 2002 and 2003, when the mania for the invasion of Iraq mounted, Establishment media have simply regurgitated what intelligence sources like Brennan told them about Russia-gate. No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.” As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else.

So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists. With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks.

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From Monday. A few days later, the tankers were attacked. And not with mines either.

System To Circumvent US Sanctions On Iran Ready Soon: German FM (AlJ)

A European payment system designed to circumvent US sanctions on Iran will be ready soon, Germany announced on Monday. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran as part of European efforts to salvage the historic JCPOA nuclear pact and defuse rising US-Iranian tension. Iran and Germany held “frank and serious” talks on saving the 2015 deal with world powers, Zarif told a joint press conference. “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the deal to save it,” Zarif said. Maas said earlier the payment system, known as INSTEX, (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) will soon be ready to go after months of work.


“This is an instrument of a new kind so it’s not straightforward to operationalise it,” he said, pointing to the complexity of trying to install a totally new payment system. “But all the formal requirements are in place now, and so I’m assuming we’ll be ready to use it in the foreseeable future,” added Maas about the system for barter-based trade with Iran. A cautious thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington began in 2015 when the deal was struck between six world powers and Iran, limiting its nuclear activity. But tensions with the US have mounted since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Iran has criticised the European signatories of the JCPOA for failing to salvage the pact after Trump pulled the US out. “There is a serious situation in the region. An escalation of tension is becoming uncontrollable and military action wouldn’t be in line with the interests of any party,” Maas said.

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From Skripal to Iran.

Jeremy Corbyn Challenges UK Government’s Iran Tanker Accusations (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn has questioned whether the government has “credible evidence” to show Iran is behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said responsibility for Thursday’s attack in the Gulf of Oman “almost certainly” lies with the Iranian regime. But the Labour leader tweeted that there was no evidence for this. Mr Hunt responded that Mr Corbyn’s comments were “pathetic” and said he should back British intelligence. It is the second time in the past few weeks that tankers appear to have been attacked in the region and comes amid escalating tension between Iran and the United States.


The US military released video footage which it said proved Iran was behind Thursday’s attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese tankers – something Iran has categorically denied. The UK Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – attacked the two tankers on 13 June, adding that “no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible”. “These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region,” Mr Hunt said. However, in a tweet Mr Corbyn questioned that assessment and said the UK should ease tensions in the region, not fuel a military escalation.

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And it works!

Brexit Britain Wallows In Dangerous Talk Of National Humiliation (O’Toole)

Launching his bid for the Tory leadership this week, Dominic Raab announced, histrionically: “We’ve been humiliated as a country.” For those of us who do not live on planet Brexit, this might have been mistaken for a belated reaction to the genuinely demeaning spectacle of Donald Trump’s state visit a week earlier. But, of course, like almost all of his fellow contenders to be the next prime minister, Raab was playing his part in a strange performance in which the national honour has been so horribly besmirched by the European Union that it can be salved only by taking the pain of a no-deal Brexit.

Perhaps if you keep acting out phoney feelings, you end up not being able to recognise the real thing. Brexit Britain has been wallowing in a hyped-up psychodrama of national humiliation. It is, indeed, one of the very few things that remainers and leavers still share, even if they feel mortified for very different reasons. In relation to the EU, this sense of humiliation is wildly overplayed. But when Trump comes to town and really does degrade Britain, the sense of wounded dignity that ought to be felt seems curiously absent.

[..] how come the idea of national humiliation has loomed so large in Brexit? Shortly before the missed departure date of 29 March, a Sky Data poll asked: “Is the way Britain is dealing with Brexit a national humiliation?” Ninety per cent of respondents said yes. This idea of collective abasement is everywhere in the Brexit narrative. A random sample of headlines from across the spectrum tells the story: “Brexit and the prospect of national humiliation” (Financial Times); “Voice of the Mirror: Theresa May’s Brexit is a national humiliation”; “A national humiliation: Never was so much embarrassment caused to so many by so few” (Telegraph); “‘Humiliating to have to beg’ for EU exit, says Arlene Foster” (Irish Times). And so, endlessly, on.

There is something hysterical in this constant evocation of humiliation. It is a cry of outraged self-regard: how dare they treat us like this? Yes, of course, the Brexit debacle has reduced Britain’s prestige around the world. And the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May is indeed a miserable thing when compared with the glorious visions that preceded it. But Britain has not been humiliated by the EU – the deal was shaped by May’s (and Arlene Foster’s) red lines. Britain did not get what the Brexiters fantasised about, but it did get what it actually asked for. That’s not humiliation.

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Markets my ass. The only thing that’s left is the Fed. Markets are dead.

All Eyes On Fed As Stock Market Pines For Rate Cut (R.)

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting next week is shaping up as a pivotal one for Wall Street, with stocks primed for a selloff should the Fed fail to take an even more dovish tilt after policymakers raised expectations for a rate cut in recent weeks. The benchmark S&P 500 has rallied more than 5% this month as softening economic data coupled with comments by Fed officials heightened expectations the Fed will cut rates by the end of the year and, at the very least, telegraph it is leaning toward a later rate cut at its June 18-19 meeting. Those gains came on the heels of a selloff in May of nearly 7% in the S&P, largely fueled by investor concerns that trade wars were escalating, slowing the economy and putting it at risk of falling into a recession.


Bets for a rate cut were amplified by comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on June 4, who said the central bank will respond “as appropriate” to the risks from a global trade war and other developments, and after a weak May payrolls report on June 7. Bank of America Merrill Lynch Chief Economist Michelle Meyer expects the Fed’s “dot plots” projection of interest rates, which represents the anonymous, individual rate projections of Fed policymakers for the next few years, to shift lower as officials start to factor in cuts. However, “the median dot will signal a Fed on hold,” Meyer said in a note. “The market has somehow convinced themselves that we are in an easing cycle. I am not sure how we got so far ahead of ourselves,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

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Virtual wealth in a virtual reality.

US Commercial Real Estate Is Another Dangerous Bubble In The Making (Colombo)

As a result of the Fed’s ZIRP and QE programs in the past decade, virtually all types of assets soared in value: stocks, bonds, art, classic cars, farmland, residential real estate, and commercial real estate. On average, U.S. commercial real estate prices have surged by 111%, or more than double, since their 2009 low. Interestingly, most people don’t realize that U.S. commercial real estate also experienced a bubble from 2004 to 2008 at the same time as the U.S. housing bubble. This early bubble inflated for many of the same reasons as the housing bubble, which were ultra-low borrowing costs and loose lending standards. From 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate prices rose 66%, but crashed by nearly 40% during the 2008 financial crisis. Commercial real estate prices have increased even more in the current bubble (111% vs. 66%), which means that the coming commercial real estate bust is likely to be even worse than the 2008 bust.

As discussed earlier, low interest rate environments often cause dangerous bubbles to develop by encouraging borrowing booms. Like the U.S. commercial real estate bubble of 2004 to 2008, commercial real estate lending has flourished during the current bubble. Since 2012, total commercial real estate loans at U.S. banks have increased by an alarming $700 billion or 50%.

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“There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The “Deficits Don’t Matter” Folly (Stockman)

Well, that was timely. The US Treasury just posted a record $207 billion deficit for May and record monthly spending of $440 billion. That brought the rolling 12 month deficit to just shy of the trillion dollar mark at $986 billion. The timely part is two-fold. First, it just so happens that May marked month #119 of the current expansion, making it tied for the duration record with the 1990s cycle. But even JM Keynes himself would be rolling in his grave in light of the chart below. To wit, even by the lights of hardcore Keynesians of yore, fiscal deficits were supposed to be falling sharply at the end of a business cycle or even moving into surplus as they did in 1999-2000, not erupting toward 5% of GDP as has now happened.

The second timely note, of sorts, is that the Wall Street Journal was Johnny on the Spot this AM with a front page story entitled, “How Washington Learned to Love Debt and Deficits”. The story’s quote from the current Dem Chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmouth, says it all. There simply has never been such bipartisan complacency about the nation’s public finances in all of modern history – including during the biggest borrow and spend days of FDR, LBJ and every president since Gerald Ford: “Rep. John Yarmuth (D., Ky.), House Budget Committee chairman, says he rarely hears from constituents concerned about rising deficits and debt. Many voters’ attitudes, he says: “There haven’t been any cataclysmic consequences, so why worry about it?”

The WSJ story is a dog’s breakfast of rationalizations, non sequitirs, political double-talk and Keynesian tommyrot. What is the most telling, however, is that it was co-authored by Jon Hilsenrath, who was the paper’s long-time Fed reporter. Yet it contains not a single word about the role of central banks in fostering the utter collapse of fiscal responsibility described by his lengthy report. So for want of doubt, here is the culprit. The central banks of the world have expanded their balance sheets by upwards of $22 trillion since the turn of the century, thereby massively monetizing the erupting public debt of the US and most of the world via fiat credit snatched from thin air.

So did that massive $22 trillion “buy” order from the central banks weigh heavily on the supply of funds side of the scales in the fixed income market, thereby driving bond prices skyward and yields ever lower? Why, goodness gracious, yes it did!

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Really?

Beijing Yields To Hong Kong’s Financial Clout (R.)

Beijing has yielded to Hong Kong’s unique economic status. Carrie Lam, chief executive of the special administrative region, on Saturday indefinitely suspended a bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland, responding to mass rallies and violent street protests that rocked the city. It’s a defeat for her, and leaves the central government embarrassed. But for the Chinese Communist Party, preserving Hong Kong’s financial role still trumps the desire for more political control. Lam took office in 2017, and is considered a reliable Beijing loyalist. Pushing through the extradition bill, however, came from her, she said. Either way, the central government endorsed it enthusiastically as well. Yet the strength and breadth of the protests caught both Lam and Beijing off guard.


The backlash was not confined to democracy advocates, much less to a radical minority that began calling for independence after the Occupy movement in 2014. It extended to anyone who distrusted the Chinese legal system. In the end, that seemed to be almost everyone. Some tycoons began moving funds out of Hong Kong to Singapore in advance of the bill’s passage, Reuters reported, a hint of the outflows before the 1997 handover from Britain. And not only did the pro-Beijing camp fail to mobilise against the demonstrations in force – as it did in 2014 – the conservative business community began expressing public doubts about the agenda almost immediately. Financial markets wobbled. Worse still, U.S. politicians threatened to re-evaluate Hong Kong’s unique status, which could affect everything from visas to trade.

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We’re all on planet Japan. Pension systems everywhere are imploding.

Meanwhile, over on Planet Japan (Simon Black)

It was only a few days ago that the Japanese government’s Financial Services Agency published its oddly-titled “Annual Report on Ageing Society”. (Like everything in Japan, English translations often hilariously miss the mark…) This is a report that the Ministry of Finance puts out every year. And as the name implies, the report discusses the state of Japan’s pension fund, and its future prospects for taking care of its senior citizens. Bear in mind that Japan has the oldest population in the world; Japan ranks #2 in the world for average age (46.9, just behind Monaco), #1 in the world for the greatest percentage of citizens over the age of 70, and #1 in the world for life expectancy. In a nutshell, this means that Planet Japan has more people collecting pension benefits, for more years, than anywhere else.

Yet at the same time, Japan’s pension fund is completely insolvent. There simply aren’t enough people paying into the system to make good on the promises that have been made. At present there are only 2 workers paying into the pension program for every 1 retiree receiving benefits in Japan. The math simply doesn’t add up, and it’s only getting worse. Planet Japan’s birth rate is infamously low, and the population here is actually DECLINING. So, fast forward another 10-15 years, and there will be even MORE people collecting pension benefits, and even FEWER people paying into the system. This year’s ‘Annual Report on Ageing Society’ plainly stated this reality; it was a brutally honest assessment of Japan’s underfunded pension program.

The report went on to tell people that they needed to save their own money for retirement because the pension fund wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. This terrified a lot of Japanese workers and pensioners. So the government stepped in to quickly solve the problem… by making the report disappear. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for the report, calling it “inaccurate and misleading.” And Finance Minister Taro Aso– himself a pensioner at age 78 (though in typical Japanese form he looks like he’s 45)– simply un-published the report.

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Jun 032019
 


Paul Ranson Apple tree with red fruit 1902

 

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)
How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)
Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)
Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)
Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)
The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)
Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)
US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)
Science institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)
EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)
Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

 

 

One tool left: lower interest rates.

Global Recession Fears Mount As Manufacturing Shrinks Across Asia (R.)

Factory activity contracted in most Asian countries last month as an escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing raised fears of a global economic downturn and heaped pressure on policymakers in the region and beyond to roll out more stimulus. Such growth indicators are likely to deteriorate further in coming months as higher trade tariffs take their toll on global commerce and further dent business and consumer sentiment leading to job losses and delays in investment decisions. Some economists predict a world recession and a renewed race to the bottom on interest rates if trade tensions fail to ease at a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan at the end of June, when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could meet.


In China, Asia’s economic heartbeat, the Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed modest expansion at 50.2, offering investors some near-term relief after an official gauge on Friday showed contraction. The outlook, however, remained grim as output growth slipped, factory prices stalled and businesses were the least optimistic on production since the survey series began in April 2012. PMIs were below the 50-point mark separating contraction from expansion in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan, came below expectations in Vietnam and improved slightly in the Philippines. “The additional shock from the escalated trade tensions is not going to be good for global trade and if demand in the U.S., China and Europe continues to soften, which is very likely, it will bode ill for Asia as a whole,” said Aidan Yao, senior emerging markets economist at AXA Investment Managers.

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And because of those lower interest rates, very few Americans will be able to retire, let alone at 65. Which makes this St. Louis Fed article outright insane, insulting even.

How Many People Will Be Retiring in the Years to Come? (St.L.Fed)

In this post, I will describe a preliminary estimate of the number of people retiring each month over the next 20 years. I started with the population of workers between the ages of 40 and 65 in 2018 using data gathered by IPUMS-USA. I then used age- and gender-specific mortality rates from the Human Mortality Database to compute how many people are expected to still be alive the next year (at only one year older). I continued iterating this procedure for a few years, assuming that the age-specific mortality rates remain constant over the years I specify. Finally, I counted the number of people reaching age 65 each year, further breaking it down to the averages of those reaching 65 each day and each month. The figure below shows the result of this calculation.

Initially, it is evident that there will be around 10,000 people (taking the total of retiring males and females) turning 65 each day for the next two decades. The right axis indicates the number of people turning 65 each month, which is an easier number to compare with the BLS monthly report on the current employment situation in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the peak corresponds to the retiring of the baby boomers. From 2025 onward, the trend is declining, which is likely because of the baby bust that followed the baby boom.

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Don’t worry, growth will soon be a thing of the past.

Economic Growth Is An Unnecessary Evil (TLE)

In 2012, writing as a lone economics blogger, I put forward a case for why countries should ditch economic growth as a political priority. Long revered as a stalwart of a capitalist society the need to grow has come to overshadow everything else. We prioritise it over our personal health, we prioritise it over the health of the planet and we prioritise it over our happiness. But given that the function of any economy is to provide an environment of subsistence, that could be little short-sighted. Economist Kenneth Boulding once said that we eat in order to achieve the state of being well-fed, and moving our jaws is simply the ‘cost’ of getting there.

We would therefore be mistaken to focus our attention on the act of chewing as the desired end-state when it is simply the price we pay to become fed. But as long as growth is the target of our economic systems people will continue to focus on chewing, which is neither a sustainable nor desirable trait of an economy. Which is why I welcomed news that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put out a national budget where spending is dictated by what best encourages the “well-being” of citizens, rather than focussing on traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth.

The government will put an emphasis on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations in what has been described as a “game-changing event” by LSE professor Richard Layard. As part of the framework Ardern has set aside more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence and included a promise to provide housing for the homeless population. New guidance on policy suggests all new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.

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But he said he wouldn’t say another word…

Mueller Must Testify Publicly To Answer Three Critical Questions (Turley)

In that twinkling zone between man and myth, Robert Mueller transcends the mundane. Even in refusing to reach a conclusion on criminal conduct, he is excused. As Mueller himself declared, we are to ask him no questions or expect any answers beyond his report. But his motivations as special counsel can only be found within an approved range that starts at “selfless” and ends at “heroic.” Representative Mike Quigley defended Mueller’s refusal to reach a conclusion as simply “protecting” President Trump in a moment of “extreme fairness.” Yet, as I noted previously, Mueller’s position on the investigation has become increasingly conflicted and, at points, unintelligible.

As someone who defended Mueller’s motivations against the unrelenting attacks of Trump, I found his press conference to be baffling, and it raised serious concerns over whether some key decisions are easier to reconcile on a political rather than a legal basis. Three decisions stand out that are hard to square with Mueller’s image as an apolitical icon. If he ever deigns to answer questions, his legacy may depend on his explanations. One of the most surprising disclosures made by Attorney General William Barr was that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expressly told Mueller to submit his report with grand jury material clearly marked to facilitate the release of a public version.

The Justice Department cannot release grand jury material without a court order. Mueller knew that. He also knew his people had to mark the material because they were in the grand jury proceedings. Thus, Barr and Rosenstein reportedly were dumbfounded to receive a report that did not contain these markings. It meant the public report would be delayed by weeks as the Justice Department waited for Mueller to perform this basic task. Mueller knew it would cause such a delay as many commentators were predicting Barr would postpone the release of the report or even bury it. It left Barr and the Justice Department in the worst possible position and created the false impression of a coverup.

Why would a special counsel directly disobey his superiors on such a demand? There is no legal or logical explanation. What is even more galling is that Mueller said in his press conference that he believed Barr acted in “good faith” in wanting to release the full report. Barr ultimately did so, releasing 98 percent of the report to select members of Congress and 92 percent to the public. However, then came the letter from Mueller.

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“..the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well..”

Alan Dershowitz: US ‘Overplayed Its Hand’ on Assange (NM)

Bringing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is one thing, but legal extradition is going to be far more difficult for merely publishing stolen material, not actually stealing it, according to legal expert Alan Dershowitz. “I think the Trump administration has overplayed its hand, so did the Justice Department,” Dershowitz told “The Cats Roundtable” on 970 AM-N.Y.. “They had a very strong case for extradition when they initially accused him of breaking into a password [-protected machine] to try to get classified material, that’s a crime. “But publishing materials? That’s very different. That’s The New York Times and The Washington Post, and I think Great Britain is going to have a lot of difficulty extraditing Assange to the U.S. to face trial for merely publishing material stolen not by him but by others.”


The case will not be one of espionage but a case of free speech and the First Amendment, according to Dershowitz. I think we’re in for a very interesting First Amendment case, probably the most interesting First Amendment case involving national security since Pentagon Papers.” Dershowitz was one of the lawyers of the Pentagon Papers case related to Watergate and the ultimate impeachment proceedings and resignation of former President Richard Nixon, taking the case to the Supreme Court. “I suspect that is where this case is headed as well,” Dershowitz told host John Catsimatidis.

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“Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.”

The Intelligence Community Needs A House-Cleaning (Matt Taibbi)

CIA director Gina Haspel crowed to the Washington Post a year ago that disclosing the name of informant Stefan Halper “could risk lives.” It turned out Halper had been outed as a spook in the pages of the New York Times back in 1983, and openly traded on his intelligence past as a professor in England. Where were lives at risk, in the Cambridge University Botanical Garden? We also saw reports that revealing the name of former British spy Christopher Steele would imperil his life. When the Wall Street Journal outed him in January of 2017, Steele responded by telling British media that he was “terrified for his safety.” He added he was going into hiding because he feared a “potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow.”

We later found out Steele had more media contacts than the Kardashian family, meeting with (at minimum) the Times, Post, Yahoo!, The New Yorker, CNN and Mother Jones in the space of about seven weeks in September-October 2016. In the years since his report became public, Steele fought through his terror to keep commiserating with the media. He invited a sprawling, laudatory 2018 profile in The New Yorker that described him answering “one of his two phones” in Farnham, a Surrey town with a “beautiful Georgian high street,” where he and his four children live on “nearly an acre of land.” He’s given depositions, negotiated to testify before congress, and been a primary source in several bestselling books. Thanks to such elaborate precautions, he’s managed somehow to avoid assassination since 2016.

[..] The release of the Page warrant turned out to not to compromise anything but the reputation of the FBI and other agencies. The major revelation was the FBI had indeed used Steele, a “compensated” FBI informant as well as a private oppo researcher, as a source despite having “suspended its relationship” with him in October 2016, ostensibly over failure to disclose media contacts. House Intel committee ranking member Adam Schiff knew this information when he conducted his “bombshell” hearing” on March 20, 2017. That was the one in which he and other members questioned not-yet-fired FBI chief James Comey and Rogers, and read out information from the Steele report as if it were factual, not giving any hint that there might be issues with it.

Schiff was gung-ho to declassify “as much as possible about Russia hacking our elections” back in the summer of 2016, but now describes attempts to declassify information about the reasons for the probe as an attempt to “weaponize law enforcement.” The hemming and hawing about “sources and methods” is really a pre-emptive ass-covering campaign. A bunch of these people are about to be highlighted in the upcoming review by Justice IG Michael Horowitz, as well as the larger probe led by former Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. This is why we’ve seen stories that essentially show James Comey and Brennan pointing fingers and blaming the other for using the Steele material.

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“..a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office..”

Juncker: Not Enough Work To Keep 28 EU Commissioners Busy (EuA)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has urged member states not to name short-term replacements for the Commissioners that have been elected as MEPs, insisting there is not enough work for 28 Commissioners anyway. Five of Juncker’s Commissioners have been elected as MEPs: First Vice President Frans Timmermans, vice-presidents Andrus Ansip and Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioners Corina Cretu and Mariya Gabriel. In an interview with BILD am Sontag yesterday (2 June), Juncker made a strong appeal that the member states should not replace them until the end of the mandate in November.


The elected MEPs must decide whether to take their seats before 1 July. If some of the elected Commissioners take their MEP seats, their countries will be without a Commissioner for four months. “Each member state has the right to appoint a new Commissioner for the remaining four months,” Juncker said, adding that “this would cost the European taxpayer a million euro per Commissioner, for relocation, staff and the lifelong pension which every Commissioner gets, no matter how long he or she has been in office, because the member states have decided that this is so. I’m trying to stop this.”

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“If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view..”

US Regulators Say Some Boeing 737 MAX Planes May Have Faulty Parts (R>)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday disclosed a new problem involving Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX, saying that more than 300 of that troubled plane and the prior generation 737 may contain improperly manufactured parts and that the agency will require these parts to be quickly replaced. The FAA said up to 148 of the part known as a leading-edge slat track that were manufactured by a Boeing supplier are affected, covering 179 MAX and 133 NG aircraft worldwide. Slats are movable panels that extend along the wing’s front during takeoffs and landings to provide additional lift. The tracks guide the slats and are built into the wing.

[..] In a statement issued after the FAA announcement, Boeing said it has not been informed of any in-service issues related to this batch of slat tracks. Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, said it has identified 20 737 MAX airplanes most likely to have the faulty parts and that airlines will check an additional 159 MAXs for these parts. Boeing said it has identified 21 737 NGs most likely to have the suspect parts and is advising airlines to check an additional 112 NGs. The NG is the third-generation 737 that the company began building in 1997. The affected parts “may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said.

[..] Boeing in April said the two fatal crashes had cost it at least $1 billion as it abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and lowered production. The company’s shares have fallen by nearly 20 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. Some international carriers are skeptical the plane will resume flying by August as some U.S. airlines have suggested. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told reporters in Seoul that it could take six months to restore operations as other regulators re-examine the U.S. delegation practices. “If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised – my own view,” he said.

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And there’s Monsanto again.

Science Institute That Advised EU and UN ‘Actually Industry Lobby Group’ (G.)

An institute whose experts have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels is, in reality, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity, according to a peer-reviewed study. The Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) describes its mission as “pursuing objectivity, clarity and reproducibility” to “benefit the public good”. But researchers from the University of Cambridge, Bocconi University in Milan, and the US Right to Know campaign assessed over 17,000 pages of documents under US freedom of information laws to present evidence of influence-peddling.

The paper’s lead author, Dr Sarah Steele, a Cambridge university senior research associate, said: “Our findings add to the evidence that this nonprofit organisation has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. ILSI should be regarded as an industry group – a private body – and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good.” In a 2015 email copied to ILSI’s then director, Suzanne Harris, and executives from firms such as Coca-Cola and Monsanto, ILSI’s founder Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola vice-president, complained bitterly about new US dietary guidelines for reducing sugar intake.

“These guidelines are a real disaster!” he wrote. “They could eventually affect us significantly in many ways; Soft drink taxations, modified school luncheon programs, a strong educational effort to educate children and adults to significanty [sic] limit their sugar intake,, curtail advertising of sugary foods and beverages and eventually a great pressure from CDC [the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention] and other agencies to force industry to start deducing [sic] drastically the sugar we add to processed foods and beverages.”

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And more Monsanto. Europe is losing.

EU Candidate To Run UN Food Body Will ‘Not Defend’ EU Stance On GMO (G.)

Europe’s candidate to run the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which guides policymakers around the world, has promised the US she will “not defend the EU position” in resisting the global spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In a bid for US support, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle told senior US officials at a meeting in Washington on 15 May that under her leadership the FAO would be more open to American interests and accepting of GMOs and gene editing, according to a US official record of the meeting seen by the Guardian. The issue has been a longstanding point of conflict in trade talks with the EU, which has adopted a far more cautious approach to biotechnology in food and agriculture.

All GMO imports are subject to strict safety assessments imposed on a case-by-case basis. Plants and animals whose genome has been manipulated through gene editing are deemed to be GMOs and are subject to similar restrictions. The US portrays such restrictions as trade barriers and has demanded they be dropped. In the meeting with officials from the US agriculture and state departments, Geslain-Lanéelle, a former director general of the French agriculture and food ministry who also ran the European Food Safety Authority, signalled she would veer to the US side if she ran the FAO. “She is proud to be European, who she is, and where she comes from; however, she will promote FAO from a global perspective rather than with European Union or French views,” said a US government internal memo.

“She will not defend the EU position on biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. This is not what agriculture needs. She will defend a global project that includes US interests.”

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“..you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.”

Helsinki’s Radical Solution To Homelessness (G.)

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward. “We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes – among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C. The city’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa says that in her childhood, “hundreds in the whole country slept in the parks and forests. We hardly have that any more. Street sleeping is very rare now.” In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers – a small fraction of the total homeless population – climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher).

But Housing First is not just about housing. “Services have been crucial,” says Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, who was housing minister when the original scheme was launched. “Many long-term homeless people have addictions, mental health issues, medical conditions that need ongoing care. The support has to be there.”

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It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
– Noel Coward

 

 

 

 

Apr 132019
 


Pablo Picasso Standing nude 1928

 

The Assange Arrest Is a Warning From History (John Pilger)
The 7 Years Of Lies About Assange Won’t Stop Now (Cook)
UK MPs Want Assange Extradited To Sweden (G.)
Labour Urges PM To Block Julian Assange Extradition To US (G.)
Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished (Fair)
Cascading Cat Litter (Jim Kunstler)
Is Julian Assange Another Pentagon Papers case? (Alan Dershowitz)
Facebook Removes Page of Rafael Correa on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest (MU)
Second Brexit Referendum Vote ‘Very Likely’ – Philip Hammond (Ind.)
What Went Wrong With Pensions And Why The Whole World Must Be Worried (Rubino)
Italy’s Fiscal Health Is Once Again In Serious Decline (DQ)
Uber Discloses 3-Yr $10-Billion Loss from Operations (WS)

 

 

“Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs [..] Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis.”

The Assange Arrest Is a Warning From History (John Pilger)

The glimpse of Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is an emblem of the times. Might against right. Muscle against the law. Indecency against courage. Six policemen manhandled a sick journalist, his eyes wincing against his first natural light in almost seven years. That this outrage happened in the heart of London, in the land of Magna Carta, ought to shame and anger all who fear for “democratic” societies. Assange is a political refugee protected by international law, the recipient of asylum under a strict covenant to which Britain is a signatory. The United Nations made this clear in the legal ruling of its Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.

But to hell with that. Let the thugs go in. Directed by the quasi fascists in Trump’s Washington, in league with Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno, a Latin American Judas and liar seeking to disguise his rancid regime, the British elite abandoned its last imperial myth: that of fairness and justice. Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sew the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast. Assange’s principal media tormentor, the Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights. The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years”. The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Julian Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding joined the police outside and gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”. The Guardian has since published a series of falsehoods about Assange, not least a discredited claim that a group of Russians and Trump’s man, Paul Manafort, had visited Assange in the embassy. The meetings never happened; it was fake.

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We just get more. But it’s what NOT being said that reveals more.

The 7 Years Of Lies About Assange Won’t Stop Now (Cook)

For seven years, from the moment Julian Assange first sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, they have been telling us we were wrong, that we were paranoid conspiracy theorists. We were told there was no real threat of Assange’s extradition to the United States, that it was all in our fevered imaginations. For seven years, we have had to listen to a chorus of journalists, politicians and “experts” telling us that Assange was nothing more than a fugitive from justice, and that the British and Swedish legal systems could be relied on to handle his case in full accordance with the law. Barely a “mainstream” voice was raised in his defence in all that time.

From the moment he sought asylum, Assange was cast as an outlaw. His work as the founder of Wikileaks – a digital platform that for the first time in history gave ordinary people a glimpse into the darkest recesses of the most secure vaults in the deepest of Deep States – was erased from the record. Assange was reduced from one of the few towering figures of our time – a man who will have a central place in history books, if we as a species live long enough to write those books – to nothing more than a sex pest, and a scruffy bail-skipper. The political and media class crafted a narrative of half-truths about the sex charges Assange was under investigation for in Sweden.

They overlooked the fact that Assange had been allowed to leave Sweden by the original investigator, who dropped the inquiry, only for it to be revived by another investigator with a well-documented political agenda. They failed to mention that Assange was always willing to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London, as had occurred in dozens of other cases involving extradition proceedings to Sweden. It was almost as if Swedish officials did not want to test the evidence they claimed to have in their possession. [..] It was a freedom of information request by an ally of Assange, not a media outlet, that unearthed documents showing that Swedish investigators had, in fact, wanted to drop the case against Assange back in 2013. The UK, however, insisted that they carry on with the charade so that Assange could remain locked up. A British official emailed the Swedes: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

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There’s some confusion here. Some say because Sweden dropped charges, the US is now first in line. Others deny this.

UK MPs Want Assange Extradited To Sweden (G.)

Political pressure is mounting on Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape. More than 70 MPs and peers have written to Javid and the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the earlier Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request.


In a letter coordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips and seen by the Guardian, the MPs declare: “We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the [Swedish] complainant should see justice be done.” They call on Javid and Abbott to “champion action” to ensure that extradition is a possibility should Swedish authorities choose to pursue it. Assange first entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has always denied. While the statute of limitations on one of the allegations has expired, the other will not be reached until August 2020.

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May did it before in 2012, but I understand laws have changed since. Labour better make sure that block counts.

Labour Urges PM To Block Julian Assange Extradition To US (G.)

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has urged Theresa May to block the extradition of Julian Assange to the US in the same way she intervened in the case of the computer hacker Gary McKinnon. In 2012, as home secretary, May halted McKinnon’s extradition on human rights grounds after doctors warned he was at risk of suicide if sent to face trial in the US. Abbott said similar grounds should be used to block Assange’s extradition. On Thursday, the Wikileaks founder was arrested on behalf of the US authorities, who have charged him with involvement in a computer hacking conspiracy.

The 47-year-old faces up to 12 months in a British prison after he was found guilty of breaching his bail conditions. The US charge could attract a maximum jail sentence of five years, according to the US Department of Justice. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Abbott said: “If you remember the Gary McKinnon case, the Americans insisted on extraditing him. He had done this massive computer hack, but his real crime was to have embarrassed the American military and security service. “In the end the then home secretary, Theresa May, blocked his extradition on what she said were human rights grounds. We think there may be human rights grounds in relation to Assange.”

Abbott described the allegations facing Assange from two women in Sweden as “serious”, but said charges were never brought. She said: “If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system.” But she added: “It is not the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public. “He is at the very least a whistleblower and much of the information that he brought into the public domain, it could be argued, was very much in the public interest.”

[..] “It is this whistleblowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale, that has put Julian Assange in the crosshairs of the US administration. “It is for this reason that they have once more issued an extradition warrant against Mr Assange.” In response, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Why is it whenever someone has a track record of undermining the UK and our allies and the values we stand for, you can almost guarantee that the leadership of the party opposite will support those who intend to do us harm? You can always guarantee that from the party opposite.”

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“The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them.”

Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished (Fair)

In 2010, the Guardian, like the New York Times and a few other corporate newspapers, briefly partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the contents of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, known as Cablegate. That year, WikiLeaks released other confidential US government information as well: the Afghanistan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. The material exposed atrocities perpetrated by the US military, as well as other disgraceful acts—like US diplomats strategizing on how to undermine elected governments out of favor with Washington, spying on official US allies and bullying poor countries into paying wildly exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs.

One US soldier involved in the “collateral murder” airstrike that Manning and Assange exposed, Ethan McCord, was threatened and reprimanded by a superior officer for requesting psychiatric help after the atrocity. (“Get the sand out of your vagina,” he was reportedly told.) McCord had tended to wounded children during the massacre. He was soon expelled from the military, apparently now “unsuited” for it. The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them. Presumably that is why “press freedom” is considered important, and why it’s guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The law should have protected Manning from punishment, the same way it protects somebody who uses violence in justifiable self-defense or in defense of others. In Manning’s case, that was especially true, because she exposed grave crimes while stationed in Iraq, as the US perpetrated an even higher-level crime—a war of aggression based on a fraudulent pretext. If the law should have protected Manning, who was at the very heart of the “conspiracy” to expose gruesome crimes, then it obviously should protect Assange, and any of the outlets that worked with him.

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“I’d like to see The New York Times’s front page headline on that story: Russian Colluder Wins Nobel Prize, Put on Trial in Federal Court.”

Cascading Cat Litter (Jim Kunstler)

And so now Julian Assange of Wikileaks has been dragged out of his sanctuary in the London embassy of Ecuador for failing to clean his cat’s litter box. Have you ever cleaned a litter box? The way we always did it was to spread some newspaper — say, The New York Times — on the floor, transfer the used cat litter onto it, wrap it into a compact package, and put it in the trash. It was interesting to scan the Comments section of The Times’s stories about the Assange arrest: Times readers uniformly presented themselves as a lynch mob out for Mr. Assange’s blood. So much for the spirit of liberalism and The Old Gray Lady who had published The Pentagon Papers purloined by Daniel Ellsberg lo so many years ago.

Reading between the lines in that once-venerable newspaper — by which I mean gleaning their slant on the news — one surmises that The Times has actually come out against freedom of the press, a curious attitude, but consistent with the neo-Jacobin zeitgeist in “blue” America these days. Anyway, how could anyone expect Mr. Assange to clean his cat’s litter box when he was unable to go outside his sanctuary to buy a fresh bag of litter, and was denied newspapers this past year, as well as any other contact with the outside world? US government prosecutors had better tread lightly in bringing Mr. Assange to the sort of justice demanded by readers of The New York Times — which is to say: lock him up in some SuperMax solitary hellhole and throw away the key. The show trial of Julian Assange on US soil, when it comes to pass, may end up being the straw that stirs America’s Mickey Finn as a legitimate republic.

The bloodthirsty hysteria among New York Times readers is a symptom of the mass confusion sown by agencies of the US government itself when its own agents ventured to meddle in the national election of 2016 and then blame it on “the Russians.” As you will learn in the months ahead, it was The Times itself, and other corporate news organizations, who colluded with officers of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Obama White House to concoct a phony narrative about Mr. Trump being in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, thus depriving Hillary Clinton of her “turn” in the White House; and then to join those agencies, and the grotesquely dishonest two-year investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a cover-your-ass operation to hide their nefarious and criminal acts.

In the meantime, Mr. Assange may receive a Nobel Prize as a symbol of a lone conscience standing up against the despotic deceits of the world’s deep states. Wouldn’t that gum up the works nicely? I’d like to see The New York Times’s front page headline on that story: Russian Colluder Wins Nobel Prize, Put on Trial in Federal Court. By then, the United States of America will be so completely gaslighted that it will pulsate in the darkness like a death star about to explode.

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Michael Malice on Twitter: “Let’s be clear: Julian Assange is not a journalist.
He uncovered and released information that the political establishment and government wanted to stay hidden.
Does that sound like the work of a journalist?”

Is Julian Assange Another Pentagon Papers case? (Alan Dershowitz)

Before WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gained asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, he and his British legal team asked me to fly to London to provide legal advice about United States law relating to espionage and press freedom. I cannot disclose what advice I gave them, but I can say that I believed then, and still believe now, that there is no constitutional difference between WikiLeaks and the New York Times. If the New York Times, in 1971, could lawfully publish the Pentagon Papers knowing they included classified documents stolen by Rand Corporation military analyst Daniel Ellsberg from our federal government, then indeed WikiLeaks was entitled, under the First Amendment, to publish classified material that Assange knew was stolen by former United States Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning from our federal government.

So if prosecutors were to charge Assange with espionage or any other crime for merely publishing the Manning material, this would be another Pentagon Papers case with the same likely outcome. Many people have misunderstood the actual Supreme Court ruling in 1971. It did not say that the newspapers planning to publish the Pentagon Papers could not be prosecuted if they published classified material. It only said that they could not be restrained, or stopped in advance, from publishing them. Well, they did publish, and they were not prosecuted.

[..] the problem with the current effort is that, while it might be legally strong, it seems on the face of the indictment to be factually weak. It alleges that “Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records” from federal government agencies, that “Manning provided Assange with part of a password,” and that “Assange requested more information.” It goes on to say that Assange was “trying to crack the password” but had “no luck so far.” Not the strongest set of facts here!

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Nice going, Zuck.

Facebook Removes Page of Rafael Correa on Same Day as Assange’s Arrest (MU)

Facebook has unpublished the page of Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, the social media giant confirmed on Thursday, claiming that the popular leftist leader violated the company’s security policies.[..] In March, WikiLeaks published a tranche of documents dubbed the INA Papers linking President Lenin Moreno to the INA Investment Corporation, an offshore shell company used by Moreno to procure furniture, property, and various luxury items. The account number for the offshore account allegedly used by the president to launder money was shared across Ecuadorean social networks by netizens of all political stripes, including by Correa – who had about 1.5 million followers and whose Facebook page enjoyed more interactions and attention than that of President Moreno himself.


[..] The removal of Correa’s page for violating Facebook’s “community standards” is an unprecedented move, and the former statesman is the most high-profile public political figure to ever be removed from the social platform–placing the economist and icon of Latin American “socialism of the 21st century” in the same unlikely category as right-wing conspiracy theorist and broadcaster Alex Jones.

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What would that solve?

Second Brexit Referendum Vote ‘Very Likely’ – Philip Hammond (Ind.)

A second referendum on Brexit is “very likely” to be put before parliament, Philip Hammond has said. Speaking in Washington on Friday, the chancellor said a fresh public vote was a “proposition that could and, on all the evidence, is very likely to be put to parliament at some stage”. However, he also said about six months would be needed to hold a referendum, and that there would not be enough time before Britain is due to leave the EU on the new deadline of 31 October. Mr Hammond also stressed that the government was still opposed to a second referendum, although he said other Labour demands – such as a customs union with the EU – were up for debate.


“The government’s position has not changed,” he said. “The government is opposed to a confirmatory referendum and therefore we would not be supporting it.” The idea of a new referendum was among several Brexit alternatives to Theresa May’s deal that were put to lawmakers in the last month – but which all fell short of a majority in parliament. The prime minister has so far failed to get her own party behind the Brexit divorce deal she agreed with other European Union leaders last year. She was forced to ask the bloc for a delay and to start talks with Labour about how to break the impasse in parliament.

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It says a lot about the human attention span that this doesn’t receive a lot more scrutiny.

This is where Fed policies will be found to have hurt people most.

What Went Wrong With Pensions And Why The Whole World Must Be Worried (Rubino)

As baby boomer teachers, police and firefighters retire, the required pension payouts are soaring. Combine this with inadequate contributions, and the liabilities of major U.S. public pensions are up 64% since 2007 while assets are up only 30%. This math is simple enough for even a politician or fund trustee to grasp, but because there’s no immediate penalty for underfunding a pension system, it has become normal practice in a long list of places. Another, related problem is also mathematical, but it’s harder to manage in a boom-and-bust world: When pension plans suffer a big loss, as they tend to do in bear markets, the next few years’ returns have to go towards making up that loss before plan assets can start growing again. The following chart, from a recent Wall Street Journal article, shows pension fund assets falling behind in the past two bear markets and having increasing trouble catching up with steadily-growing liabilities.

In some cases this puts funds permanently behind the curve and can only be fixed with massive infusions of taxpayer cash or draconian benefit cuts, neither of which are feasible in a system that punishes hard choices. The next chart shows how much more the worst offenders would have to contribute to their plans to get by with honest future return assumptions. For Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey this will never happen.

What does all this mean? A few things: In the next bear market the pension funds that are already wildly underfunded will fall into a financial black hole from which they’ll never be able to escape. Those states and cities – many of which are issuing bonds to cover their day-to-day expenses – will be exposed as junk credits (as Chicago was recently) and will have to either pay way up to borrow or enact some combination of tax increases (politically almost impossible) or pension benefit cuts (legally impossible in many places) which will cause chaos without fixing the underlying problem. The weakest cities and the states in which they reside will be forced to default on some of their obligations, stiffing suppliers, creditors, and/or employees.


This will throw the municipal bond market into chaos as investors, worried that the next Chicago is lurking in their portfolios, dump the whole muni sector. Faced with a cascade failure of a crucial part of the fixed income universe, the federal government will react the way it did when the mortgage market imploded in 2008, with a massive taxpayer funded bailout. At which point there’s a good chance of the crisis spreading from pensions to currencies, as the world finally realizes that the bailouts are just beginning, with US states and cities soon to be followed by student loans, emerging markets, and European failed states.

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Drip. Drip.

Italy’s Fiscal Health Is Once Again In Serious Decline (DQ)

On Wednesday, Italy’s coalition government slashed its growth forecast for the Italian economy in 2019 to 0.2% – the weakest forecast in the Eurozone – from a previous forecast of 1%. Italy is already in a technical recession after chalking up two straight quarters of negative GDP growth in the second half of 2018. The government’s budget for this year was based on the assumption that the economy would expand by 1% this year. Now, it seems the economy may not grow at all; it could even shrink. One direct result of this is that Italy’s current account deficit for 2019 will be substantially higher than the 2.04% of GDP Italy’s government pledged to stick to late last year. And that can mean only thing: another standoff between Rome and Brussels over the direction of fiscal policy is in the offing.

Italy already boasts the largest public debt pile in Europe in nominal terms, clocking in at €2.14 trillion, as well as the second largest in relative terms after Greece’s twice bailed out economy. Rome just forecast that public debt would hit a new record high of 132.6% of GDP this year. That record is unlikely to last very long given Italy’s stagnating economy and the government’s determination to cut taxes, reduce the retirement age and introduce a citizens’ basic income.

The biggest problem with Italy’s economy is that many of its problems are chronic and deep seated. Many of them date back to the adoption of the euro, in 2000, or in the case of Rome’s massive addiction to public debt, to the 1980s. As the OECD points out, real GDP in Italy is still well below its pre-crisis peak. Italy is also the only OECD country where incomes (as measured by GDP per capita) are no higher than in 2000. By contrast, in France, Spain, the UK and Germany they have risen during the same period by 13%, 17%, 21% and 23 respectively.

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Now imagine this WITHOUT interest rates at record lows. What was once a market has now turned into a slot machine.

Uber Discloses 3-Yr $10-Billion Loss from Operations (WS)

Uber Technologies’ IPO filing was made public today. The 330-page or so S-1 filing disclosed all kinds of goodies, including detailed but still unaudited pro-forma financial statements as of December 31, 2018, huge losses from operations, big tax benefits, large gains from the sale of some operations, stagnating rideshare revenues, and an enormous list of chilling “Risk Factors” that go beyond the usual CYA. The filing, however, didn’t disclose the share price, the IPO valuation, and how much money the IPO will raise for Uber. On Tuesday, “people familiar with the matter” had told Reuters that Uber plans to raise $10 billion in the IPO. Most of the IPO shares would be sold by the company to raise funds, and a smaller amount would be sold by investors cashing out, the sources said.


The filing did not confirm this and instead left blanks or used placeholder amounts. But if true, $10 billion in shares sold would make this IPO one of the biggest tech IPOs. And the rumored $90 billion to $100 billion valuation would make it the biggest since Alibaba’s $169 billion IPO. Uber will need every dime it raises in the IPO going forward because it’s got a little cash-burn situation in its operations that persists going forward, as it admitted in its “Risk Factors,” and it will need to raise more money, and if it cannot raise more money, it might not make it. Uber is upfront about this. The company has already raised – and mostly burned through – over $20 billion so far in its 10 years of existence. This includes $15 billion in equity funding and over $6 billion in debt.

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Oct 282018
 


Salvador Dali City of drawers – The Anthropomorphic Cabinet 1936

 

OECD Countries’ Retirement Assets Surpass $43 Trillion In 2017 (PiO)
As The Housing Market Stagnates, American Homeowners Are Staying Put (MW)
Economist Slams ‘China Model’ That ‘Inevitably Leads To Confrontation’ (SCMP)
Rand Paul Seeks To Punish Saudi Arabia For Khashoggi Killing (Pol.)
Saudi Arabia Says It Is A Beacon Of Light Fighting ‘Dark’ Iran (G.)
EU To Make Contingency Plans For A Second Brexit Referendum (Ind.)
Germany’s Fragile Coalition Braced For More Upsets (G.)
Russia-Turkey-Germany-France Talks On Syria Kick Off (RT)
“My” Suspended Twitter Account (Paul Craig Roberts)
Mexico Honors Migrants At Day Of The Dead As Caravan Treks North (R.)

 

 

2/3(?!) of it is in the US.

OECD Countries’ Retirement Assets Surpass $43 Trillion In 2017 (PiO)

Retirement assets in OECD countries hit a record $43.4 trillion at the end of 2017, well above the pre-crisis level. The OECD said in its annual Pension Markets in Focus report that assets invested in all funded and private pension systems across 87 jurisdictions grew 12.1% over the year, and increased 53.9% compared with figures at the end of 2007. The report said assets are unevenly distributed worldwide, with less than $200 billion across 78% of the reporting countries, while 8% held more than $1 trillion each: the U.S. with about $28.2 trillion; the U.K. with $2.9 trillion; Canada at $2.6 trillion; Australia with $1.8 trillion; the Netherlands with $1.6 trillion; Japan at $1.4 trillion; and Switzerland with $1 trillion. The remaining 9% of assets, or about $3.9 trillion, are split among the other 29 OECD countries.

The largest amounts of assets are located in some of the biggest economies in the world and with a long history of retirement savings. High investment returns from equity markets partially explain the growth of these assets, said the report, with the real net investment rate of return on retirement assets exceeding 4% on average in 2017. U.S. retirement plans achieved a 7.5% real net investment rate of return in 2017, added the OECD. Funding levels for DB funds improved in the U.S., to 59.6% at end-2017 from 56% a year earlier; but worsened from 2007 figures of 68.6%. The funding ratio was calculated as the ratio of total investment and net technical provisions for occupational defined benefit plans using values reported by national authorities in the OECD template.

U.K. funding levels improved to 90.5% as of the end of 2017, up from 85.8% a year earlier, but down from 108.8% as of the end of 2007. Denmark had the highest funding level of OECD countries in the report, at 135.1%. However, that level was down from 146.1% a year earlier, but improved over the 127.4% funding level as of the end of 2007.

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Bad time to become a real estate agent.

As The Housing Market Stagnates, American Homeowners Are Staying Put (MW)

Housing-market headwinds are keeping American homeowners in their properties for the longest stretches on record, in a sharp distortion of the mobility Americans have for decades prized. Across the country, homes that sold in the third quarter of this year had been owned an average of 8.23 years, according to an analysis from Attom Data Solutions. That’s almost double the length of time a home sold in 2000, when Attom’s data begin, had been owned. It’s partly the long tail of the housing crisis that’s created stagnant conditions and a less dynamic housing market, Attom spokesman Daren Blomquist told MarketWatch.

As of the second quarter, 2.2 million homeowners were still underwater on their mortgages, meaning they owe more to their lending institution than the home is worth, according to data from CoreLogic. Another 550,000 have 5% equity or less, meaning that if that property were to be sold the transaction costs, such as a real-estate agent’s commission, would likely leave the homeowner with nothing. The hypercompetitive market that’s emerged from the wreckage of the crisis is also keeping people in place. Many homeowners have ample equity in their homes, but hesitate to list those homes because they’re worried about finding a property to buy if they do sell. A few others may be trapped by “rate lock” — enjoying the benefits of their ultralow mortgage rates, and unwilling to spend more on financing costs.

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Interesting that he gets to say it.

Economist Slams ‘China Model’ That ‘Inevitably Leads To Confrontation’ (SCMP)

Using the “China model” to explain the country’s economic success over the past four decades is wrong and dangerous, according to an influential Chinese economist, who says this misconception has inevitably led to antagonism between China and the West. Zhang Weiying, one of the most prominent liberal economists in the country and a professor at prestigious Peking University, made the comments in a lecture on October 14. An edited version of his speech was published on the university’s website on Wednesday. The speech is a wholesale negation of the “China model” theory that has gained traction in recent years, as the country becomes more confident in promoting its own development path under President Xi Jinping.

Zhang lashes out at those who attribute China’s economic growth to an exceptional “China model”, which includes a powerful one-party state, a colossal state sector and “wise” industrial policy, saying it is not only factually wrong, but also detrimental to the country’s future. “The theory of the ‘China model’ sets China as a frightening anomaly from the Western perspective, and inevitably leads to confrontation between China and the West,” he said. “The hostile international environment we face today is not irrelevant to the wrong interpretation of China’s achievement in the past 40 years by some economists.”

The economist’s rejection of the “China model” comes as debates about the country’s economic future are heating up. The world’s second largest economy is losing steam – growth is at its slowest pace since 2009 – as it marks 40 years since its market reforms. At home, it is grappling with a mountain of debt, plunging stocks and an ailing private sector. Abroad, tensions over the prolonged trade war with the United States appear to be spilling over into defence, diplomacy and politics. Zhang said the trade war not only reflected conflict between China and the US, but between China and the larger Western world. It also went beyond trade to reflect the clash over value systems, he said.

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Like his dad, strongly anti-war.

Rand Paul Seeks To Punish Saudi Arabia For Khashoggi Killing (Pol.)

Sen. Rand Paul says he’s not going to let Saudi Arabia off the hook after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Turkey by agents linked to the Saudi government. The Kentucky Republican said Saturday he’s intent on forcing another vote to block billions in arm sales to the autocratic Middle Eastern kingdom and won’t settle for targeted sanctions, seeking to capitalize on negative public sentiment surrounding the Oct. 2 killing. “Are we going to do fake sanctions? Are we going to pretend to do something by putting sanctions on 15 thugs. Or are we going to do something that hurts them?” Paul said in an interview here, explaining that he thinks Saudi Arabia is trying to wait him out until Khashoggi fades from the headlines before announcing the arms sale, which would allow him to try and stop it.

“They know if they have the vote they might lose. So they’re probably not going to make any announcement until this dies down,” Paul said. Rather than focusing simply on Khashoggi, Paul has made a broader critique of Saudi Arabia as supporting “violent Jihad” and a brutal civil war in Yemen. But he’s noticed a substantive shift in the way his colleagues are now talking about the country. [..] Paul, a longtime Saudi critic, has previously forced votes to block the arms sales, but they have failed given a strong hawkish wing in the Senate that wants to keep a key ally against Iranian influence in the Middle East. Paul says that has changed. “We would win the vote right now. It would be a very bad vote if 60, 65, or even 70 people voted to cut the arms sales for now and the president were to veto that, that would be bad,” he said.

President Donald Trump has been more circumspect when discussing arms sales, questioning the wisdom of canceling sales that he believes creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. Paul said he’s tried to convince the president to come to his position, but he’s not there yet. “He says he doesn’t want to disrupt the arm sales. And it’s something we have an honest disagreement on. I don’t think arms are jobs programs,” Paul said. He said their “discussions aren’t really that much that back and forth.” [..] Paul also broke further with the president on foreign policy. He called it a “terrible idea” for the United States to back away from nuclear and weapons agreements with Russia and said he’s asked Trump to appoint nuclear negotiators in a bid to preserve the NEW START treaty and the INF agreement.

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Not sure how this would help their case at this point.

Saudi Arabia Says It Is A Beacon Of Light Fighting ‘Dark’ Iran (G.)

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has described the kingdom as a “vision of light” in the region as it tries to control the fallout from Jamal Khashoggi’s killing – its biggest diplomatic crisis since the 9/11 attacks. After more than two weeks of international outrage over the journalist and dissident’s death, Adel al-Jubeir sought to portray the country as the moral beacon of the Middle East, in stark opposition to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival. “We are now dealing with two visions in the Middle East,” Jubeir told a security summit in Bahrain on Saturday. “One is a [Saudi] vision of light … One is [an Iranian] vision of darkness which seeks to spread sectarianism throughout the region. History tells us that light always wins out against the dark.”

Condemning the media coverage of Khashoggi’s killing as “hysterical”, Jubeir rejected a call from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, to try the 18 suspects in Turkey, stressing that they would be “held accountable” on Saudi soil. [..] Erdogan reiterated during an address to parliament on Friday that Riyadh must disclose the location of Khashoggi’s body and identify who ordered his killing – a sign that Ankara is willing to keep up the pressure on the beleaguered kingdom and its de facto ruler, the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. [..] Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary, who also spoke at the summit in Manama, said that Khashoggi’s killing had “undermined regional stability”. Washington was considering additional punitive measures against those responsible after issuing visa bans for the suspects in the case, Mattis added.

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5 months left. Nothing decided on.

EU To Make Contingency Plans For A Second Brexit Referendum (Ind.)

The EU’s chief negotiator has been warned to make contingency plans for a second Brexit referendum, as pressure builds to give the public a final say on leaving. Prominent Remain politicians met with Michel Barnier in Brussels this week and said it was time to start “serious contingency planning”, as The Independent’s petition neared one million signatures and the future of Brexit looks increasingly uncertain. In a visit on Friday, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, told Mr Barnier that the negotiating period should be extended so Britain could have “time to have a referendum”. The warning comes after 700,000 people took to the streets of London last weekend to make the case for a vote on the final deal.

For there to be time to hold a referendum, the EU would likely have to extend the Article 50 negotiating period, which will automatically expire on 29 March 2019, leaving Britain to slide out with a no-deal Brexit. The calls for an extension came from across a number of parties. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said following a meeting with Mr Barnier on Thursday: “My message to Michel Barnier was clear: it’s time to start serious contingency planning for a People’s Vote. We know the UK government has started making such plans as a result of the growing demand for such a vote, demonstrated by last weekend’s march. “The EU should do the same, because MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in Westminster.”

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This will have an increasing effect on Europe as a whole. Who’s going to listen to Merkel as she’s fading at home?

Germany’s Fragile Coalition Braced For More Upsets (G.)

[..] voters in the central state of Hesse have the power to deliver a second electoral upset within a fortnight to Germany’s embattled ruling parties, potentially plunging both into fresh crises. The regional election is seen as decisive for the future of Merkel’s rickety coalition government. Last-minute polling showed support plummeting for both her Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and coalition partner the Social Democrats (SPD) in a swing state traditionally seen as a bellwether for national politics. Both parties were predicted to drop 10 points each since the state’s last regional election in 2013. Such a trouncing would come on the heels of a disastrous result in Bavaria that was widely seen as a protest against the failings of the Berlin government.

“None of the parties are there for us,” said Müller, who has voted for both CDU and SPD in the past, but was still undecided. “What should I do? I have to vote, it’s my duty to stop the far right getting into power. But I also know I won’t be heard. I can vote for whoever I like; the politicians will still do whatever they want.” Hesse, home to Germany’s financial centre, Frankfurt, has been governed by CDU-led coalitions for the past two decades. But polls have the party nosediving to 28%, a result that would end the state’s CDU-Green coalition and leave a question mark over the future of CDU state premier and close Merkel ally Volker Bouffier.

With tensions running high in the CDU, mutinous members have implied that if Bouffier falls, it may cost the chancellor vital votes when she stands for re-election as party leader at its conference in early December. But Merkel, who joined Bouffier on the campaign trail last week, was at pains to play down the significance of the regional vote for her party, government and chancellorship. “Hesse, and what happens here, is being watched and considered from far beyond Germany’s borders,” Merkel told supporters on Thursday in Fulda. “I want to point out once again that on Sunday the vote is about Hesse. Afterwards we’ll talk again about Berlin.”

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The fighting in Idlib must cease. It’s the only outcome.

Russia-Turkey-Germany-France Talks On Syria Kick Off (RT)

Leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France have gathered in Istanbul to discuss the Syrian peace process. While the outcome of such tricky talks is hard to predict, the new format appears to be, at least, quite refreshing. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Istanbul on Saturday to talk Syrian reconciliation. The host, Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has put high expectations on the gathering. “The whole world is watching this meeting. I hope, that the hopes will be met,” Erdogan said, while opening the summit. The four leaders are also expected to be joined by UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.

The four-way summit is an entirely new format of talks on the war-torn country, which has endured years-long conflict. The meeting is all about testing the waters and trying to bring about different formats of talks on Syria, as if the leaders were to “synchronize watches” rather than reach a breakthrough, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Similar opinion was expressed by Germany, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stating that the summit effectively brings different sides together for the very first time. “There are Russians and Turks, who have been at the same format of talks with Iran. And on the other side, there are French and us, who partake in the so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ group,” Maas said ahead of the event, adding that having a “joint conversation” was a viable idea.

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Turns out, the story was a bit different than many reported.

“My” Suspended Twitter Account (Paul Craig Roberts)

Dear Readers:

It is all over the internet and international media that Twitter has suspended my account. This is not the case. I do not use social media. I discovered that a Twitter account was operating in my name. I requested that the account be taken down. I have no recollection of giving anyone permission to operate a Twitter account in my name. I am still extremely busy trying to help family relatives impacted by Hurricane Michael and could only quickly look at the Twitter postings. It seemed to be mainly innocuous, consisting of links or quotes from my posted columns.

However, there were other things, such as appeals that money be sent to Alex Jones InfoWars and other things. I have no objection to Alex Jones. However, my webmaster and I were concerned that things could be posted that would be dangerous for me, such as libel, death threats to others, and so forth. To repeat, the account was closed at my request. To repeat, I do not use social media.

Paul Craig Roberts

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There’s something cynical about this, but also beautiful.

Mexico Honors Migrants At Day Of The Dead As Caravan Treks North (R.)

Mexico City dedicated its Day of the Dead parade on Saturday to migrants, just as thousands of Central Americans were trekking from the country’s southern border toward the United States under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to disband. In an a twist on the traditional dancing skeletons and marigold-adorned altars making their way down the capital’s main thoroughfare, the parade also referenced Mexicans who emigrated as well as foreigners who settled in the capital. “The parade… is dedicated to migrants, who in their transit to other countries have lost their lives, and who in their passing through the country have contributed to a true ‘Refuge City,’” the Mexico City government said on Twitter.

In one segment, gray metallic panels representing the Mexico side of the U.S. border wall were stenciled with the phrase, “There are also dreams on this side.” Other presentations honored exiled Spaniards, Argentineans and Jews, Mexico City’s culture ministry said. The event ahead of Nov. 1 and 2, when Mexicans observe Day of the Dead in town squares, homes and cemeteries, coincided by chance with the journey of a migrant caravan traveling into Mexico, many fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras and Guatemala.

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