Oct 022019
 


Salvador Dali Bather 1924

 

The US and UK are both at risk of severe legal challenges and hence “barrelling down towards great troubles” as I wrote yesterday in Twisted Pair 1 – US. The reasons are not exactly the same in both cases, but they’re close. It’s about who holds the ultimate power.

Before moving on to the UK’s specific issues, I want to share this from the BBC, one of many pieces yesterday that discuss President Trump talking to foreign leaders, and that all accuse him in one way or another of wanting to ‘dig up dirt’ about Joe Biden (something that could just as well be defined as trying to find out how Russiagate started).

This one is about Trump asking Australia for help because obviously there’s a strong connection to the country in the person of former Australia High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer, who claims Trump ‘aid’ George Papadopoulos told him in May 2016 that Moscow had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos has always denied saying it.

But it appears the world media have made it their task to vilify Trump’s efforts to investigate Russiagate, so expect much more of it. The article for instance also mentions Bill Barr talking to Italian and British intelligence. Yeah, they’re serious about wanting to find out what happened. I’d suggest you get used to that. But here’s what I want to share:

[..] while the Ukraine call is linked to the serious issue of potential influencing of an upcoming US election, the Australian one refers to events around a past election. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley suggested this was uncontroversial. “I’m old enough to remember when Democrats actually wanted to find out what happened in the 2016 election,” he said.

I thought that was pretty good. But on to Albion, where the legal mess is likely much bigger than in the States, because its laws are so opaque. Sure, NOW people are clamoring for a written constitution, but NOW is a tad late. I read the other day in a Dutch paper that Queen Elizabeth had asked her advisors if she could sack Boris Johnson, and couldn’t find coverage of it in any UK paper. Still can’t. Isn’t that curious? We’ll have to do with yesterday’s New York Post: “It was the first time in her 67-year reign that the Queen asked for clarification on how to dismiss a British prime minister, the report claimed.”

The Queen didn’t actually look to fire Johnson, she simply didn’t know the laws surrounding the topic, she wanted to know what her legal position is. And that seems to typify the entire situation unfolding in the country. Nobody has any idea who has the -ultimate- power to execute any far-reaching policies and decisions. That would appear to be a very dangerous conundrum, because it may allow the loudest, -physically- strongest and perhaps even most deceitful to prevail.

There was someone in a recent Automatic Earth comments section who listed all 11 UK Supreme Court judges and concluded they were all “Remainers”. That is a slippery slope too many. Because if you intend to disqualify the highest court in a country, you invite in anarchy. Now, you may favor “Leave”, but that kind of thing will surely come back to bite you in the face.

Besides, the Supreme Court decision to declare Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament unlawful was the only one a highest court could possibly have made. Because Britain, like so many other western nations, is a parliamentary democracy. The only thing I’ve seen that looks like a constitution there says in eight words that parliament is senior to the monarch. That means it is senior to the executive branch as well. It has to.

 

Whereas a Scottish court ruled a few weeks ago that the prorogation decision was justiciable, and declared it unlawful, a lower UK court said it was non-justiciable, that is was up to Parliament, and that Parliament could “sit” whenever it wanted. But Parliament hasd just been prorogued, and therefore could NOT sit whenever it wanted. That lower court even contradicted itself: “Parliament is the master of its own proceedings. It is for parliament to decide when it sits. Parliament can sit before and after prorogation..”

So they have to make up their minds. It would be demonstrably silly if the Queen could fire the Prime Minister. It would be much less silly if Parliament could do it, though. Which would also be less silly than the Prime Minister being allowed to shut down Parliament with impunity in a parliamentary democracy. You have to look at the legal implications.

Now, the world is increasingly divvied up in antagonistic (i.e. twisted) pairs. In the US, if you don’t hammer Trump ten times a day and twice on Sundays, you get accused of effectively supporting him. In the UK, if you question Boris Johnson’s quest towards Halloween Brexit, you’re against ‘the people’, and their will. And that’s why we have laws. It’s just that British laws are terribly vague, and that’s why the courts became involved (as I predicted they would for a long time).

Today, Boris Johnson is sending a ‘plan’ to Europe that he has labeled ‘take it or leave it’. Which leads many to question his desire to reach a deal at all. More importantly, the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019, aka the Benn Act, was passed by parliament last month and requires the government to ask for an extension until 31 January 2020 if no deal is agreed.

Boris has suggested he will ignore it. But that would mean the executive branch is effectively senior to the legislative branch. It would also mean the end of the parliamentary democracy that Britain has been for what is it, 400 years?! I have no horse in this fight or dog in this race, but that to me looks extremely dangerous. Be careful what you wish for.

 

The UK Supreme Court is in for the by far busiest time of its existence. And by the way, you can criticize the court, but only really by criticizing the way the judges on it are appointed, and then take action to change that way. If you try to question its credibility, however, you destroy the credibility of the entire judicial system, all of it.

Again, be careful what you wish for. It’s not hard to understand why and how people point to the 2016 Brexit referendum to justify a Brexit strategy, but they too will still have to follow the rules and laws, or they will create mayhem. That goes for both sides, of course, but for Boris Johnson to try and take the UK out of the EU in violation of the Benn Act would unleash a lot of disorder that he and his people may not fully comprehend yet

And there’s something else going on in the UK that I wrote about recently in “The Will of the People”, but which still doesn’t generate much interest. That is, this whole issue is no longer about Leave vs Remain, there is a third group, Leave But With A Deal. Ironically, the Leave side seeks to group these people in with the Remainers, which is both not honest and may not serve their own interests.

That is because Leave But With A Deal may well be the largest group out there. There are Tories and Labour supporters in it, plus independents and some LibDems, and they’re there for the taking for Boris. Only, they insist on a deal with the EU being in place. If there’s no such deal on October 19, they automatically become Boris’s opponents. But why would he let them? Why not get a serious deal on the table?

Johnson will attempt to blame the failure of his latest proposal, plus all previous ones, on the EU. But has Brussels been all that unreasonable in the negotiations? I’m no EU fan, but it’s an honest question. They have one large issue: Ireland. The Good Friday agreement is sacred for them, because it is for Ireland. And Boris today allegedly proposing some kind of border infrastructure regardless will not fly.

 

A difficult topic, for sure, but then we’re 3,5 years on from the referendum, and what has the UK done since then? London gives the impression that peace in Ireland is less important for them than it is for Brussels, and that is not wise. As former Northern Ireland negotiator Jonathan Powell said in a video I posted earlier today, what will happen is easy to predict:

Even if you just put in a camera on the border, the dissident Republicans will shoot at it. Then you put in police to protect the camera, they’ll shoot at the police. Next up is the army to protect the police, and so on and so forth. Perhaps a unified Ireland is a solution, though that will take time, but a hard Brexit certainly is not. But Boris appears to play games with this, suggesting there will have to be customs facilities some way or another: “Each of the IRA campaigns started as a border campaign”, says Powell.

Summarized, we have this third group, not Leave or Remain but Leave But With A Deal, and they are being ignored and/or labeled Remain. Whereas they could be key to Johnson and his supporters’ desire to Leave. Look, Boris has no majority in Parliament anymore, not even if the DUP he apparently sucked up to vote with him. He needs something else but is running out of time.

Then again, Boris has pledged to Leave by Halloween. Now his personal credibility is at stake, and it’s become more important than the credibility of his party, of Parliament and even of the entire court system. Next up: the Queen. Who didn’t want to sack him but was royally miffed about him advising her to prorogate which put her in a very not amused position when her own Supreme Court declared her decision unlawful.

It would appear to be in Johnson’s own interest, if he wants to carry through Brexit, for him and his team to do a lot more homework. He’s already mightily miffed the Queen, the Supreme Court has accused him of attempting to push through an unlawful act, and he’s lost his party’s majority in Parliament.

Boris’s support may seem solid in his own party conference in Manchester today, but let’s hope he doesn’t get even more blinded by that than he already is, because the consequences could well be catastrophic. And of course I see, and understand, all the people who want the result of the referendum honored, but there’s a whole new ball game underway today, and it would be foolish to ignore that.

You can still go for Brexit, but Good Friday is a giant and unnecessary leap too far to achieve it. As is trying to make the executive branch claim seniority over the legislative one, or the Supreme Court, to achieve your goal. You can wish, but beware.

 

 

 

 

Sep 132019
 
 September 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Marc Chagall The watering trough 1925

 

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)
Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)
US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)
US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)
Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)
Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)
US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)
Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)
Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)
The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

 

 

A Scotsman taking down the Queen.

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)

There are some very obvious facts in British politics which nobody seems to be saying. Joanna Cherry stated in her successful court case that “the dogs in the street know” that the real reason that Boris Johnson had prorogued parliament was to prevent parliament from having an effective say on the outcome of Brexit. The documents that the government was forced to produce to the Scottish Courts proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that was indeed Johnson’s motive. So why are we expected to believe that what you knew and I knew, what Joanna Cherry knew, what the very dogs in the street knew, was not known to the Queen?

Do we really believe that the Queen was “misled” and that she and her courtiers were the only people in the entire country who actually believed that Johnson just wanted the longest prorogation for 89 years to prepare a really good Queen’s speech? Are we really expected to believe that the Queen had not noticed that Brexit was at a crucial stage and the effect that prorogation would have on parliament’s say in the process? This is obviously complete and utter nonsense. The Queen has better sources of information than any of us and knew exactly what was happening. She was not “misled” by Boris Johnson, she was his ally in a common purpose. She absolutely understood both the context and the effect of the prorogation. All this utter nonsense about the Queen being “lied to” and “misled” is part of this strange myth of the ultimate goodness of authority which is a recurring theme in human societies.

Peasants died under the knout while building the Trans-Siberian railway thinking “if only the good Tsar knew.” The Queen is not a naive figure of Christ like innocence taken in by Boris Johnson, she is an ultra wealthy woman of very conservative views embedded in a social circle dominated by very rich and reactionary people. To repeat what I have repeatedly explained, it was unconstitutional for the Queen to appoint Boris Johnson in the first place when it was plain as a pikestaff that he could not command a parliamentary majority. That initial crime (and I use the word advisedly) was compounded by the decision to prorogue parliament to enable her no majority Prime Minister to govern. In a sane world we should be getting out the pitchforks. Instead people are tut-tutting about the poor Queen being misled.

Read more …

Prior to his election to Speaker, Bercow was a longtime member of the Conservative Party.

Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)

John Bercow has vowed “creativity” in Parliament if Boris Johnson ignores the law designed to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Commons Speaker also said in a speech that the only possible Brexit was one backed by MPs. A new law, passed before the suspension of Parliament, forces the PM to seek a delay until 31 January 2020, unless a deal or no-deal exit is approved by MPs by 19 October. The PM has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay. Delivering a lecture in London, Mr Bercow said: “Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period.” He said it would be a “terrible example to set to the rest of society”.


“The only form of Brexit which we will have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed,” he said. “Surely, in 2019, in modern Britain, in a parliamentary democracy, we – parliamentarians, legislators – cannot in all conscience be conducting a debate as to whether adherence to the law is or isn’t required.” He called it “astonishing” that “anyone has even entertained the notion”. If the government comes close to disobeying the Act, the MP said that Parliament “would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully”. “If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he added.

Read more …

Hmm. Should McCabe run free?

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has failed in his efforts to convince the Justice Department not to file potential criminal charges against him for allegedly lying to federal agents, NBC News reported Thursday. Lawyers for McCabe, who has not been charged in the case, reportedly met last month with a top Justice official the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and in what were believed to be talks seeking to dissuade then from filing criminal charges. The Washington Post reported last week that federal prosecutors for months have been using a grand jury to investigate McCabe, a critic of President Donald Trump.

Read more …

They have to ASK?

US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)

Congress on Thursday asked Boeing Co’s chief executive to make several employees available for interviews as part of a congressional probe into the design, development and certification of 737 MAX aircraft involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. House of Representatives Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and Representative Rick Larsen, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said in a statement that while Boeing has provided substantial documents and shared senior management’s perspective, “it’s important to the committee’s investigation to hear from relevant Boeing employees.”

The committee plans another Boeing hearing in the coming weeks and previously asked whistleblowers to come forward with any information about the plane’s development. Boeing has provided more than 300,000 pages of documents, a person briefed on the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Boeing said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed the committee chose to release private correspondence given our extensive cooperation to date. We will continue to be transparent and responsive to the committee.”

[..] CEO Dennis Muilenburg said at an investor conference on Wednesday that the company is still targeting “early fourth quarter for getting the airplane back up in the air” but added that “ultimately return-to-service timing will be determined by the regulator.” The FAA has repeatedly said it will not certify the plane to fly again until it is safe to do so. The European Aviation and Space Agency said on Tuesday it “intends to conduct its own test flights separate from, but in full coordination with, the FAA. The test flights are not scheduled yet, the date will depend on the development schedule of Boeing.”

Read more …

If they’re pressuring Israel, they much be pressuring others too.

US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)

As China executes on its “Belt and Road” global trade scheme, more than 130 countries who have either committed to or expressed interest in the $600 billion initiative have been hard at work expanding their infrastructure to accommodate Beijing’s ambitious plan. And while President Trump has been pounding the table in an ongoing US-China trade war, progress made on Belt and Road threatens to reduce US leverage over Beijing – putting US allies such as Israel, which extended a 25-year offer for the operation of the Haifa terminal to state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group – in a tricky position, according to Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston.

“With national elections approaching on Sept. 17, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can ill afford to alienate the Trump administration on its signature international issue. Trump has endeared himself to Netanyahu by transferring the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights. Netanyahu reciprocated by naming a new Golan settlement after Trump and praising the American leader for, among other things, quitting the Iranian nuclear accord. “Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office, but Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu told the president during a March trip to the White House. An October Pew study found that 69% of Israelis had confidence in Trump’s performance as president, and many of Netanyahu’s campaign ads prominently feature the U.S. leader.” -Bloomberg

Of note, China is currently Israel’s second-largest trading partner with around $11.5 billion in annual transactions in 2018, according to the report. Meanwhile, the United States has pressed Israel to create a buffer with China in the interest of national security – which would look something like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (the same one that rubber-stamped Russia’s purchase of 20% of America’s Uranium). “Israel and Israeli companies are quickly coming to the realization that it’s going to be difficult to sustain business as usual in work with China while keeping the United States as the primary partner,” said Daniel Shapiro, Barack Obama’s US ambassador to Israel.

Read more …

How is Huawei linked to Belt & Road?

Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)

Zhengfei Ren, the CEO and founder of Huawei offered an olive branch to the Trump administration: License the Chinese telecommunications giant’s 5G technology to American companies, with the caveat that the U.S. government ““the U.S. side has to accept us at some level for that to happen.” Currently, the use of Huawei equipment is banned from U.S. networks over concerns that it could be used by the Chinese government as a method to spy or disrupt telecom systems. The offer [..] would essentially allow the U.S. to finally get in the race for 5G supremacy which is now dominated by Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, Ericsson of Sweden and Nokia from Finland.


“Huawei is open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with U.S. companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry. That would create a balanced situation between China, the U.S. and Europe,” told Ren to the newspaper. [..] Ren added that the U.S. companies would be allowed to modify as they see fit the software code used to run any of Huawei’s 5G equipment or even change it and use their own. [..] Ren added that the American licensees will be able to sell their 5G equipment based on Huawei’s intellectual property anywhere in the world, except in China.

Read more …

“We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds..”

Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the United States will issue 50-year bonds if there is “proper demand,” a moved aimed at “derisking” the government’s $22 trillion of debt and locking in low interest rates. “We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds,” Mnuchin said in an interview with New York Times’ DealBook and streamed online live, adding that he began looking into the possibility of ultra-long U.S. bonds two years ago. The longest-dated U.S. Treasury currently is 30 years.


U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a different fix for the rising cost of the record U.S. debt, calling on Wednesday on the “boneheads” at the Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates to below zero so as to reduce interest-rate payments. The Fed is widely expected to cut interest rates by a modest quarter of a percentage point next week when U.S. rate-setters meet. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers see U.S. economic conditions as still generally favorable despite a global slowdown and a still-unresolved U.S.-China trade war, and they have consistently pushed back against the notion of negative rates or of setting rates to cater to political pressure.

Read more …

Is something moving?

US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday said it would release the name of an individual sought by people who are suing the government of Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks. U.S. prosecutors in New York said in a court filing that Attorney General William Barr had decided not to invoke state secrets and will share the person’s name with attorneys involved in the case. The decision could help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their family members, who charge in a long-running lawsuit that the Saudi government supported the hijackers who crashed jet liners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.


The Saudi government has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The case, filed in 2003, received a boost in 2016 when Congress passed a law making it easier to sue foreign governments for alleged involvement in terrorism. The plaintiffs have been trying to obtain redacted material from a 2012 FBI report which indicated the agency was investigating two Saudi officials, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy, and said there was evidence that a third, unnamed party had ordered them to help the hijackers. Attorneys will now get to learn the name of that person, though their identity will remain under seal.

Read more …

Scary people.

Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)

John Bolton wasn’t the only veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan now charged with resolving it. Nor was he the only PNAC veteran in the Trump administration. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the top American official in the negotiations, was a PNAC charter member and has been quietly overseeing the destruction of Afghanistan for most of his political career — longer than the Taliban has existed as an organization. Khalilzad worked closely with late National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who took a leading role in Operation Cyclone under President Carter. The secret CIA program pumped the Afghan Mujahideen up with cash, weapons, training, and jihadist school books.

The Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center — a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden — would become key to this endeavor. Brzezinski’s aim, as he stated, was to give the Soviets their own Vietnam quagmire. Back then, his message to the Mujahideen fighters that would become al-Qaeda and the Taliban was: “Your cause is right and God is on your side.” Even after the devastating attacks of September 11, Brzezinski defended the decision to support the Mujahideen in the name of defeating the Soviet Union.

The United States’ support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and later Bosnia, was intended to bleed the Soviet Union. It is no surprise that the same leeches — the Taliban and al-Qaeda — that were trained by the United States, would turn on their masters. In the case of the Taliban, clinging on to the U.S. for nearly two decades, slowly sucking away all the while. In the case of al-Qaeda, the attacks on the World Trade Center dealt massive blows. The end-game tactics mirror the CIA’s philosophy in training the Mujahideen against the USSR. U.S officials like Khalilzad would spend decades in luxurious buildings in and around Washington while the people of Afghanistan would continue to suffer nearly another two decades of conflict because of their policies.

Read more …

Wolf Richter sees the ECB falling to bits. Wonder what Lagarde is doing these days.

Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)

ECB President Mario Draghi, who is on his way out, will, as we’re learning more and more, do anything to push his agenda and make it stick at the ECB long after he leaves, but whatever his agenda may be, it’s clearly unrelated to the European economy which has been buckling under the consequences of his agenda: the destructive weight of negative interest rates and QE. And in the process, he is destroying the legitimacy of the ECB’s policy. The latest incident was on Thursday. During the press conference following the ECB’s policy meeting, he lied to reporters, claiming that the “consensus was so broad there was no need to take a vote,” when in fact he had a revolt on his hand during the meeting by the presidents of the national central banks that represented half of the economy of the Eurozone, and by members of the Executive Board.

Among the key policy changes the ECB announced on Thursday was the restart of QE to the tune of €20 billion a month and a tiny 10-basis point cut in its deposit rate, from the old negative -0.4% to the new negative -0.5%. The announcement also included a provision to help banks – which have been getting re-crushed by these idiotic negative interest rates – to survive those negative interest rates: the ECB would exempt part of the banks’ deposits at the ECB from negative rates in a two-tier system. It was the QE portion of the decision that had triggered the unprecedented revolt during the meeting. “Officials with knowledge of the matter” told Bloomberg that during the contentious meeting, the members of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board who vigorously opposed the restart of QE included but was not limited to:

• Jens Weidmann, President of the Bundesbank • Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France • Klaas Knot, President of the Dutch central bank • Ewald Nowotny, Governor of the Austrian central bank • Ardo Hansson, Governor of the Bank of Estonia • Sabine Lautenschlaeger, Member of the Executive Board • Benoit Coeure, Member of the Executive Board. The countries of the five heads of the national central banks, from Weidmann to Hansson, account for about half of the economy of the Eurozone. They opposed the restart of QE, but there was no vote – which is common in ECB proceedings when there is a consensus. But there was no consensus. And Draghi simply imposed his agenda.

Read more …

Mistake perhaps. But hardly an honest one, if you read Wolf Richter’s piece above. The ECB IS the mistake.

The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

The ECB is creating a dangerous bubble and should not have cut rates by 10bps nor added a new purchase program of €20 billion per month. 1) Eurozone states are already financing themselves at negative rates. There is no need for lower rates and this disguises real risk. This has saved governments more than 1 trillion euro in interest expenses. 2) The ECB has not abandoned its stimulus. It repurchases all maturities, launched a liquidity injection (TLTRO) in March 2019 and balance sheet stands at almost 40% of eurozone GDP. 3) Excess liquidity is 1.7 trillion euro. More liquidity does not lead agents to spend/invest more. There is no higher solvent credit demand because monetary policy perpetuates overcapacity and zombifies the economy. Share of zombie companies has soared c30% since 2013 (BIS).

4) Interest rates are already negative. This has caused a 23 billion euro loss for banks (according to Scope Ratings) and a worrying rise in junk debt demand. 5) There is no evidence of a need for more credit growth. Rather the opposite. The ECB believes the eurozone problem is one of excess saving and lack of demand when it is of excess debt and oversupply. 6) Negative rates zombify the economy and are a massive transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors to the indebted and inefficient. 7) The ECB already accumulates a disproportionate amount of sovereign debt as well as corporate bonds of issuers that never had a problem financing themselves at low rates. This disguises risk and creates an enormous bubble.

8) The problem of the eurozone is not one of lack of stimuli, but an excess of them. Governments burden the productive private sector with higher taxes and unnecessary regulations, so economic surprise falls despite massive stimulus. 9) When this fails or -even worse- explodes, central planners will likely blame “markets” or “lack of stimulus” to repeat. 10) Saying that negative rates are “demanded” by investors is a sad excuse. Financial repression leads economic agents to take more risk for lower yields and central banks go from lenders of last resort to enablers of financial bubbles.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 042019
 


Salvador Dali Neo-Cubist Academy (Composition with Three Figures) 1926

 

No, I’m still not taking sides in the Brexit proceedings. I have no horse in that fight. As I’ve said 1000 times, I can fully imagine that a country might want to leave the trappings of the EU. But just as often I’ve said that the way the Tories have gone about leaving appears deeply flawed. They have never seemed to take serious the amount of effort required for a smooth exit.

And after being an EU member for 40+ years, that effort could only be gigantic. But not one moment during Theresa May’s ‘reign’, let alone under Boris, have I gotten the impression that the UK is ready. They’ve spent their time fighting amongst each other about the shape and form Brexit should take, but neglected the practical implications of changing 1000s of rules and regulations and treaties and laws.

And sure, maybe a lot of work was done in secret, can’t very well do nothing at all, but none of that would matter very much; you need to show that you’re ready, not merely suggest it. And from what I can gather from the latest numbers I’ve seen, expectations are still that 50-60% of trucks (lorries) will not have the required paperwork once the UK leaves.

This may yet be brought down to 40% or even 30%, but that would still be highly disruptive. And it appears unnecessary. Three years should have been sufficient to accomplish much more and much better. Predictions of 48-hour waiting times for trucks are all over, and for an economy built on just-in-time delivery that won’t do.

But oh well, it may already be water under the bridge. Boris Johnson lost bigly yesterday in a vote over control of the Commons and chances are he’ll lose biglier in today’s vote over a no-deal Brexit bill. Unless he (or actually Dominic Cummings) plays 4-D chess and has seen it all coming from miles away.

I can see Johnson setting things up to get the election he wanted, but I have a harder time seeing why he would want Jeremy Corbyn to have the power to halt that election unless the Commons today vote down any and all odds of a no-deal. But then I’ll be the first to admit I’m not yet a grandmaster in 4-D chess.

Dominic Cummings would have to be, though, to pull this one off. Did he expect 21 Tories to side against ‘their own’ Boris? If they had voted with him, the result would have been 322-307 in favor of Boris. Did they know they wouldn’t get it? Do they know they won’t get it today either? An additional extension to January 31 2020 is also part of the whole package. Will Cummings still be around by then?

 

 

Sterling is surging as I write this, And I really must wonder why. Don’t think that’s due to my 4-D skills either. Jeremy Corbyn made it very clear last night that Labour won’t support snap elections (and without them Boris won’t have the 2/3 majority he needs) unless no-deal is off the table for real. Is the pound surging because Boris is plummeting, and Corbyn now calls the shots? Does that make sense? Man, it already hurts in 3-D…

Still, I started writing this, really, because of the title. Couldn’t let that one get away. It’s something used to describe Boris Johnson in a court case in Scotland yesterday by lawyer Aidan O’Neill QC, speaking for a group of 75 MPs and peers who brought the case (against prorogation of Parliament). Love the details here: Aidan O’Neill is a “double silk”, being Queen’s Counsel at both the Scottish and English Bars.

And love the term, obviously, especially since it’s not used in a tabloid, but in a courtroom. By a double silk, no less. In the end, it’s all about the theater. Still, what came to light was not merely a little detail.

Johnson Decided To Suspend Parliament ‘Two Weeks Before Asking Queen’

Boris Johnson had secretly decided to suspend parliament nearly two weeks before asking the Queen, according to memos from Downing Street read out in court. The court in Edinburgh heard the first memo was written by Nikki da Costa, the prime minister’s senior legal adviser, on 15 August and spelled out the plan to suspend parliament in the week beginning 9 September. Her memo was circulated to a very small circle of key figures in Downing Street, including Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, Ed Lister, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s controversial chief adviser.


In public Johnson was then refusing to confirm he planned to do so but he ticked the secret memo and said “yes”, before sending Da Costa a handwritten note the following day, where he criticised the convention where MPs return for several weeks of Commons business after the summer holidays before breaking again for conference season. He told Da Costa the “whole September session [at Westminster] is a rigmarole introduced to show the public that MPs are earning their crust. I don’t see anything especially shocking about this prorogation.”.

 

It appears very clear what was ‘shocking‘, and if it had not been shocking there would have been no reason to keep it secret. C’mon, at least try.

 

[..] The documents, revealed in heavily redacted form for the first time at 10.55pm on Monday, were sent to the legal team acting for 75 MPs and peers who are challenging prorogation in the court of session in Edinburgh. Aidan O’Neill QC, acting for the MPs and peers, said he only received an unredacted version of the documents on Tuesday morning.


He told Lord Doherty, the judge hearing the case, this proved Johnson was plotting to suspend parliament at the same time that his government’s lawyers had told the court in Edinburgh the question of prorogation was “hypothetical and academic” because no such decision had been taken. The UK government had also refused to give the court any sworn affidavits setting out why prorogation was necessary and the prime minister had ignored O’Neill’s suggestion last week that he should provide one to the court.

 

Yeah, well, that’s the ‘shocking’ thing: doing one thing in secret and saying the opposite in public.

Accusing Johnson of “incontinent mendacity, O’Neill said the prime minister had shown an unwillingness to acknowledge and speak the truth. He said: “He has chosen not to be accountable to this court and seeks not to be accountable to parliament.” David Johnston QC, acting for the UK government, apologised to the court for failing to produce the papers until the night before the hearing and admitted the government had breached the deadline for submitting them.


He said they were being produced in the spirit of transparency, to allow the court to understand the process behind the decision to seek prorogation. Reading from a brief prepared by the government, Johnston insisted the legal action was academic because MPs were still being given time to sit and vote before exit day on 31 October, and set their own agenda. “We are not dealing with an executive which is out of control,” he said.

It is very obvious what Boris et al were trying to do and they can call it the Will of the People all they want, but the Will of the People is not, and should not be, secret. Here’s a bit more of what Mr. Double Silk had to say about Boris in Edinburgh, via the Press Association:

 

Mr O’Neill described Mr Johnson as having a record that was “characterised by incontinent mendacity, an unwillingness or inability to speak the truth”. He pointed to the documents as showing the suspension of parliament policy was being considered much earlier than announced and argued the court had been misled. Mr O’Neill said: “This court was told nothing of that and was told in fact that this judicial review is academic, hypothetical and premature.


“That is not true. This court and these petitioners were being actively misled.” He argued the real reason to suspend parliament was to allow a no-deal Brexit to take place by removing proper scrutiny. Mr O’Neill also said Mr Johnson was trying to govern as an “autocracy” using “one-man rule” by these attempts. He added: “Why were these specific dates chosen? It’s because they think they’re gaming the system.”

 

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh court has rejected the case against prorogation, which was probably expected. British law, especially because the country has no constitution, is pretty opaque.

 

The court of session in Edinburgh has rejected an attempt to prevent Boris Johnson’s prorogation of the House of Commons. Lord Doherty, the judge who heard the case, said the decision could not be measured against legal standards as it was matter of high policy and political judgment, and was therefore for politicians to settle. “In my opinion, there has been no contravention of the rule of law. Parliament is the master of its own proceedings. It is for parliament to decide when it sits. Parliament can sit before and after prorogation,” he said.

He told the court it was for parliament, and ultimately the electorate, to hold the government accountable for such political decisions. The case was initiated by the campaigning barrister Jolyon Maugham QC alongside a cross-party group of 75 MPs and peers, including the SNP’s Joanna Cherry. After the ruling Maugham tweeted: “The idea that if the PM suspends parliament the court can’t get involved looses some ugly demons. If he can do it for 34 days, why not 34 weeks, or 34 months? Where does this political power end?

“It’s not the law as I understand it. Yesterday’s hearing was always going to be a bit of a pre-season friendly. We’re now focused on the inner house, hopefully later this week, and then the supreme court on 17 September.”

“Parliament is the master of its own proceedings. It is for parliament to decide when it sits. Parliament can sit before and after prorogation..” There appears to be a contradiction in terms here, which is exactly why the case was brought. On the one hand, the judge says Parliament decides to sit when it wants, on the other he acknowledges it can’t sit when a PM decides to pro-rogue it.

That’s the entire case right there. The PM decides when Parliament sits, not Parliament itself. It’s obvious why a judge wouldn’t want to interfere -hot potato-, just like -and because- it’s far from obvious that (s)he can. Ergo: the PM rules the UK. Not Parliament. Parliament is decoration. Amusing at times, but then decoration might as well be, since it’s the only function it has.

I’m done, One last thing. I was reading back some things from last week and happenstanced on this Boris quote: “We asked the people to vote on whether they wanted to stay in or leave the EU; they voted to leave by a big majority.”.

The vote was 51.89%. Makes you wonder how he would define a small majority. But you know, I’m good. To see Boris accused of incontinent mendacity made my day. And I don’t even have anything against him. It’s all just theater. The entire British political system is (and do throw in the Queen, as hard as you can). Just theater, that much is obvious now, if it wasn’t already.

And all these MPs are pretending they didn’t already know. Hello! You’re on the Truman Show!

 

 

 

 

Sep 022019
 


Strongest storm ever to threaten Florida east coast

 

 

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)
Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)
Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)
Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)
Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)
Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)
Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)
In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)
Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)
A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

 

 

After carefully making sure there were no needy people left in the country, and no children were going hungry, the new UK gov decided to spend £100+ million on an advertising campaign. They’re going to absolutely bombard, if not strangle, you with this stuff. You won’t be able to escape it.

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)

The billboards have been unveiled, the branded mugs have been ordered and the adverts will soon start following you around the internet after the government launched what it claimed to be the largest ever public information campaign in an effort to prepare the British public for leaving the EU. The Get Ready for Brexit campaign went live on Sunday, stating that the UK would be leaving the EU on 31 October and urging the public to visit a new website to check what they needed to do to prepare for a no-deal exit. The slogan appeared for the first time on a giant advertising screen next to a John Lewis store at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, looming over visitors.

Downing Street has previously briefed that the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign will cost up to £100m, although doubts have been raised over whether the government will realistically be able to spend that much on a campaign lasting just two months. One leading advertising industry source pointed out that this figure was substantially higher than the amount spent on traditional advertising in the UK by major consumer brands such as Amazon, Tesco and Asda in the whole of 2018. This suggests that either the government is overstating the amount it intends to spend in an attempt to draw extra attention or that Downing Street really is launching an advertising campaign that will be unequalled in its ubiquity.


Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said: “Ensuring an orderly Brexit is not only a matter of national importance, but a shared responsibility” as he launched the adverts by referring to government polling that showed only 50% of the population thought it was likely the UK would leave the EU on 31 October. The same research found that 42% of small- to medium-sized businesses were still unsure of how they could prepare for Brexit and just a third of the British public have looked for information on what they will need to do, suggesting large-scale ignorance of what Brexit will involve with less than two months to go until the expected departure date.=

Read more …

View from Germany: “..the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen…”

Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)

[..] the anger of the masses isn’t being directed solely at the man in Downing Street. One of the last taboos for many Brits has also been broken: blatant criticism of the queen. “The. Queen. Did. Not. Save. Us,” tweeted Labour Party politician Kate Osamor, and hinted at the abolition of the monarchy. Her party leader Jeremy Corbyn asked the queen in writing for a personal meeting to protest against Johnson’s coup. Jo Swinson, the head of the EU-friendly Liberal Democrats, also wrote to the queen asking for an “urgent meeting.” After three years of the country beating itself up in the Brexit debate, Johnson is now leading Britain into the last round of the ordeal – an unprecedented showdown between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, which, incidentally, threatens to damage the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen.


It’s impossible to predict what will ensue in the coming weeks – aside from chaos. But there is much to suggest Johnson wants precisely that, and at any cost, in order to deliver the main promise he made to become British prime minister – to lead his country out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without an agreement. After the G-7 summit in Biarritz, Johnson may have praised the EU’s willingness to compromise, he may have put the chances of no deal at “one in a million,” and the majority of Brits and their elected representatives may be against leaving the EU without a deal, but no one in the betting crazy UK is now likely to bet on there being any agreement between London and Brussels in the end.

Read more …

Blame France.

Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)

Leaked government documents which reportedly say there could be 48-hour delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit have moved hauliers to warn of the “clear and present danger” to the UK supply chain. Sky News said it had seen documents which suggest vehicles could face a two-day delay at the Kent port in a no-deal scenario, and the revelation has led to industry insiders saying the government has “failed to deliver”. Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it came as absolutely no surprise to him that such a document existed, adding that there was still no sign of a new customs process with just weeks left before the UK is expected to leave the EU.

He had not seen the Department for Transport documents (DfT), but said he understood they were more recent than the leaked Operation Yellowhammer files which contained predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of no deal. “The Road Haulage Association has been saying this for quite literally years now that if there is a no-deal Brexit, there will be very substantial queues at the border,” McKenzie said. “We have got a very, very serious problem with the UK supply chain if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October from where we are now. “This is a clear and present danger to the supply chain on which we all depend, and we are calling on the government in the clearest terms to make it clear what traders have to do to trade with the continent. This they have failed to do so far.”


Sky News said on Sunday night that analysis commissioned by the DfT suggested that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the worst-case scenario would be a two-day maximum delay for freight and vehicles at Dover, and an average wait of a day-and-a-half. McKenzie said any delay at the ports would cause a “very, very substantial traffic jam”, adding: “What we are saying is that we urgently need clarity from this government, having not had it from the previous government, we urgently need clarity from this government of what traders have to do to get ready for a no-deal Brexit.”

Read more …

Troubles.

Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)

All potential solutions to the post-Brexit Irish border are fraught with difficulty and would leave smaller businesses struggling to cope, experts have said, as leaked government papers outline major concerns just two months before Britain is due to leave the EU. A report summarising the findings of the government’s official “alternative arrangements” working groups concluded that there are issues with all the scenarios put forward to try to replace the backstop arrangement. There are also specific concerns over whether any technological solution could be delivered to monitor cross-border trade. Critics said the paper, seen by the Guardian, should “ring alarm bells” across government over how likely it is that alternative arrangements to the backstop will be found.

The dossier marked “official-sensitive” prepared for the EU Exit Negotiations Board is dated 28 August. It details how the findings of all advisory groups informing the government on the Northern Irish border are being kept deliberately under wraps to try to avoid hampering Britain’s intended renegotiation of the backstop agreed to by Theresa May. Alternative systems to avoid a hard Northern Irish border after Brexit have become the central tenet of Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy. He sees this as a way of unlocking a new deal with Europe and has claimed that there are “abundant solutions”.


However, the damning report shows there is no single deliverable solution at present, despite the fact Johnson is almost a third of the way through the “30 days” target that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, gave him to come up with a fresh border proposal. The report said: “It is evident that every facilitation has concerns and issues related to them. The complexity of combining them into something more systemic and as part of one package is a key missing factor at present.”

Read more …

This will take a long time.

Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)

President Trump rattled Wall Street when he demanded U.S. firms move production out of China. But many have already taken steps to do so, and, in earnings calls just over the past month, dozens of chief executives have signaled plans to further diversify their supply chains amid the intensifying trade war. On Aug. 23, Trump took to Twitter, ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China” and urging them instead to start making their products in the U.S. In doing so, he cited the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) — passed in 1977 to deal with an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” [..]

Trump doubled down on Friday, attacking General Motors for its significant presence in China and questioning whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S. “Sometimes you’ve got to take stern measures,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in France. Kudlow added that American companies should heed the president’s call to leave China. No U.S. president has invoked the law as leverage in a commercial dispute, let alone to sever commercial ties with one of its largest trading partners. Indeed, over the past century, U.S. administrations have mainly deployed the IEEPA to prosecute drug trafficking or financial terrorism through sanctions or other economic penalties.


[..] in an annual survey conducted in June by the U.S.-China Business Council, nearly 30% of the 220 respondents said they have already delayed or cancelled investments in China or the U.S. due to mounting trade uncertainty. Though just 13% said they had plans to specifically move operations out of China, that’s steadily increased from 10% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.

Read more …

Peace please.

Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)

For the last 13 weeks, protesters have come to the streets to demand the formal withdrawal of a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China, which critics fear will be used by Beijing to target those who criticise the ruling Chinese communist party. As the protests have dragged on, they have taken on new forms and other demands including instituting democratic reforms and conducting an independent investigation into police behaviour. On Sunday, demonstrators attempted to lay siege to the airport, prompting a swift response from riot police. On Saturday, riot police stormed a metro station, attacking trapped protesters with batons. Monday’s class boycott was accompanied by a call for a general strike. It followed two days of mass protests where demonstrators paralysed links to airport, and clashed with police outside government buildings and in MTR stations.


Several editorials in Chinese state media on Monday condemned the protesters as “crazy and vicious” for bringing “catastrophe” upon the Hong Kong economy. An editorial on the website of the state-run news agency Xinhua warned “the end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong”. The shift of the protests to school campuses is comes after Chinese officials have blamed the protests on the city’s liberal education curriculum. In recent weeks, Beijing has criticised teachers and parents for not instilling patriotic values in students and called for an overhaul of Hong Kong’s education system, which includes topics like the Chinese military’s violent crack down on democracy demonstrators on 4 June, 1989.

Read more …

Is capitalism itself at fault or just the excesses it allows for?

Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)

MarketWatch recently published a piece about the soaring U.S. CEO-to-worker pay ratio, which hit 278-to-1 in 2018 (up from just 58-to-1 in 1989 and 20-to-1 in 1965) –

“CEO pay has increased 1,008% between 1978 and 2018, while typical worker pay has edged up 12%. [..] In 2018, CEOs in the country’s top 350 businesses were paid $17.2 million on average. Employees working in those industries — ranging from retail to technology and manufacturing — typically earned $64,500, researchers said. Overall, there’s a 278-to-1 pay ratio between workers and CEOs. In 1989, the compensation ratio was 58-to-1 and in 1965, it was 20-to-1. Stock awards and cashed-in stock options averaged $7.5 million of CEO pay in 2017 and 2018, the study added. Incorporating stock in pay arrangements is one way to incentivize CEO, and rising salaries illustrate the market for talent in the C-suite, some observers say.”


Left-leaning economists, politicians, and other commentators frequently use the soaring CEO-to-worker pay ratio as an example of why capitalism is inherently flawed and always leads to the rich getting richer, but my research has found that it is a byproduct of central banking and fiat (i.e., “paper”) currency rather than capitalism. To make a long story short, the Federal Reserve has excessively inflated the financial markets in its attempt to create an economic recovery from the Great Recession. This excessive asset price inflation has pushed U.S. household wealth far out of line with its historic relationship to the GDP, as the chart below shows. The wealthy have been the greatest beneficiaries of this asset price inflation because they own a disproportionate share of the assets that have been inflated by the Fed, which are stocks, bonds, and high-end real estate.

The Fed’s inflation of the U.S. stock market is the primary reason why the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased so much. The CEOs of public corporations usually receive stock options as part of their compensation packages, which means that they can benefit greatly when their stock prices rise. As the chart below shows, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio surges during asset bubbles, but falls back down when the bubbles burst (it correlates with the chart above). The current asset bubble is no different and the excesses will be corrected in the form of a strong bear market, just like they always are.

Read more …

Elon Muck can’t even produce a decent electric car. How big a threat is he?

In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. The comment is meant to highlight what a repressive surveillance state the characters live in, but looked at another way, it shows how lucky they are: At least their brains are still private. Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally. Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year. Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices. This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.


Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer. Some neuroethicists argue that the potential for misuse of these technologies is so great that we need revamped human rights laws — a new “jurisprudence of the mind” — to protect us. The technologies have the potential to interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin. Our current laws are not equipped to address this.

Read more …

Russiagate, the sequel.

Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)

In the Cold War, Tinseltown played an important role in the cultural battlefield against the USSR and anti-Soviet paranoia was an ever-present theme in American cinema for decades, from the McCarthy era until the Berlin Wall fell. Contemporaneously, a revival of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation — which many have dubbed a second Cold War — has seen the return of such tropes on the silver screen. Most recently, it has resurfaced in popular web television shows such as the third season of Netflix’s retro science fiction/horror series Stranger Things, as well as HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, which dramatizes the 1986 nuclear accident in Soviet Ukraine.

It was a famous cinematic work that many believe ominously foreshadowed Chernobyl in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film, Stalker, less than a decade prior to the calamity. It is unlikely that HBO would have been as interested in green-lighting a five-part program on the disaster without the current hysteria surrounding the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and ‘collusion’ between Moscow and the Trump campaign. ‘Russiagate’ has become a national obsession and suddenly the very idea of corruption and intrigue has been made synonymous with the Kremlin. Hollywood liberal figures have been some of the hoax’s biggest proponents, including the show’s writer, Craig Mazin.


It is equally as hard to imagine Americans themselves being as captivated by a re-enactment of the nuclear accident without the current political climate of fear-mongering bombarding them every day in corporate media. From the perspective of the U.S. political establishment, what better way to deflect attention away from its own sins than onto a manufactured adversary?

Read more …

The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun.

M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun.

A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

Scientists may have spotted a black hole that is so enormous, it shouldn’t even exist, although they aren’t quite sure if it even does. The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun. The potential black hole, which is twice as large as what physicists had believed was possible, was detected by the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors at the European Gravitational Observatory. A black hole is usually formed when a star collapses after it runs out of fuel, but this only happens when the star’s core is less than 50 times the mass of the Sun, Quanta Magazine explains. Stars with larger masses, between 50-130 times the mass of the Sun, either shed matter until they are small enough, or destroy themselves in a powerful explosion, meaning this new potential black hole defies what scientists understand to be possible.


Black holes that are larger than 130 solar masses can also form when their core’s collapse is too strong to stop. M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun. Scientists are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this newly spotted potential large black hole came into being. According to Qanta, they suspect that the black hole could be the result of smaller black holes colliding and merging into one gigantic one. They think it is possible that somewhere in a dense area of the universe, a 30 and 50 solar mass black hole could have merged and that the new black hole then combined with another one, which could explain the signals they detected.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 112019
 
 July 11, 2019  Posted by at 8:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Guernica 1937

 

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)
AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)
Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)
Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)
Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)
Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)
US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)
Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)
Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)
OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)
UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

 

 

I’m getting so sick of this. Powelll wants to cut rates but it makes no sense if he’s to uphold Trump’s claim of a great US economy. So what does his spin team come up with? Cut rates because other countries are not doing so well. Cut the crap.

Dollar Slips After Powell Bolsters Rate Cut Bets (R.)

The dollar eased on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set the stage for a rate cut later this month, vowing to “act as appropriate” to ensure the world’s biggest economy will be able to sustain a decade-long expansion. In testimony to Congress, Powell pointed to “broad” global weakness that was clouding the U.S. economic outlook amid uncertainty about the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade conflict with China and other nations. “Chairman Powell sounded dovish on most dimensions. This is slightly surprising given benign trade developments following last month’s G20 meeting and the recent rebound in nonfarm payrolls,” said Michael Swell, co-head of global fixed income portfolio management at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.


“Overall, his comments around slowing growth against a backdrop of muted inflation and elevated uncertainties is consistent with ‘insurance rate cuts’ this year.” Adding to a generally dovish tone in his testimony, the minutes from the Fed’s previous policy meeting showed many policymakers thought more stimulus would be needed soon, reviving speculation of an aggressive rate cut.

Read more …

And AOC also wants low interest rates. Everyone wants the same thing, and nobody says: Wait a minute?!

AOC Is Making Monetary Policy Cool (and Political) Again (NYM)

Ocasio-Cortez : In early 2014, the Federal Reserve believed that the long run unemployment rate was around 5.4 percent. In early 2018, it as estimated that this was now lower, around 4.5 percent. Now, the estimate is around 4.2 percent. What is the current unemployment rate today?
Powell : 3.7 percent.

Ocasio: 3.7 percent…Unemployment has fallen about three full points since 2014 but inflation is no higher today than it was five years ago. Given these facts, do you think it’s possible that the Fed’s estimates of the lowest sustainable unemployment rate may have been too high?
Powell : Absolutely.

This exchange may sound dull and technical. But the congresswoman’s point has real human stakes. America’s central bank has a dual mandate: to promote full employment and price stability. How the Fed chooses to balance those two objectives has redistributive implications. The wealthy have far more to lose from inflation than they do from modest levels of unemployment. In fact, many business owners may actually prefer for the U.S. economy not to achieve full employment, since workers tend to be less demanding when jobs are scarce. By contrast, the most vulnerable workers in the U.S. — such as those with criminal records or little experience — will struggle to get a foothold in the labor market unless policy makers err on the side of letting unemployment fall “too low.”

And this is what AOC’s questions are implicitly about. If the Federal Reserve believes that the U.S. economy cannot sustain unemployment below 5 percent without suffering high inflation, then it will raise interest rates to cool off investment, thereby preventing too many workers from getting jobs. Ocasio-Cortez’s implication is that, by raising interest rates out of a fear of illusory inflation, the Fed may have needlessly hurt American workers. Powell’s concession on that point is significant, and suggests that the central bank will be less inclined to err on the side of hurting the vulnerable in the future.

Read more …

We’re all of us in the gutter… (but apparently there’s no-one left looking at the stars).

Trump Tasks Aides To Find A Way To Weaken The US Dollar (CNBC)

President Donald Trump has reportedly tasked aides to find a way to weaken the U.S. dollar in an effort to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The president also asked about the greenback while interviewing Federal Reserve board nominees Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. Those individuals also told Bloomberg that Trump’s chief economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disapprove of the idea of government tampering to weaken the dollar. Traditionally, past administrations have always maintained publicly they were for a strong dollar because dollar assets like Treasurys are so widely held around the globe.


Trump has often bemoaned the relative strength of the U.S. dollar in foreign exchange markets, blaming foreign nations for devaluing their currencies and thereby inflating the American trade deficit. Last week, the president said in a tweet that the U.S. should match China and Europe’s “currency manipulation game.” “China and Europe playing big currency manipulation game and pumping money into their system in order to compete with USA,” Trump said on Twitter. “We should MATCH, or continue being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games – as they have for many years!”

Read more …

About Epstein, but with a historical twist.

Lock Him Up (Pinkerton)

One landmark of American reform was the White-Slave Traffic Act, signed into law in 1910 (“white slavery,” we might note, is known today as “sex trafficking”). That law, aimed at preventing not only prostitution but also “debauchery,” is known as the Mann Act in honor of its principal author, Representative James R. Mann, Republican of Illinois, who served in Congress from 1897 to 1922. Mann’s career mostly coincided with the presidential tenures of two great reformers, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. And it’s hard to overstate just how central to progressive thinking was the combatting of “vice.” After all, if the goal was to create a just society, it also had to be a wholesome society; otherwise no justice could be sustainable.

Thus when Roosevelt served as police commissioner of New York City in the mid-1890s, he focused on fighting vice, rackets, and corruption. Of course, Mann, Roosevelt, and Wilson had much more on their minds than just cleaning up depravity. They saw themselves as reformers across the board; that is, they were eager to improve economic conditions as well as social ones. So it was that Mann also co-authored the Mann-Elkins Act, further regulating the railroads; he also spearheaded the Pure Food and Drug Act, creating the FDA. It’s interesting that when Mann died in 1922, The New York Times ran an entirely admiring obituary, recalling him as “a dominating figure in the House…[a] leader in dozens of parliamentary battles.” In other words, back then, the Times was fully onboard with full-spectrum cleanup, on the Right as well as the Left.

To be sure, the Mann Act hardly eradicated the problem of sex-trafficking, just as Mann’s other legislative efforts did not put an end to abuses in transportation and in foods and drugs. However, we can say that Mann made things better. Of course, the Mann Act has long been controversial. Back in 1913, the African-American boxer Jack Johnson was convicted according to its provisions. (Intriguingly, in 2018, Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Trump.) In 1944, film legend Charlie Chaplin, too, found himself busted on a Mann Act rap. Chaplin was accused of transporting a young “actress” across state lines; he was acquitted after a sensational trial, but not before it was learned that he had financed his lover’s two abortions. Chaplin’s career in Hollywood was effectively over.

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Schumer telling others what to do, but doing dick all himself. How much did the Clinton Foundation get?

Schumer Got Thousands In Donations From Jeffrey Epstein (NYP)

Sen. Chuck Schumer — who called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign and said President Trump should “answer” for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein — accepted thousands of dollars in donations from the alleged pedophile throughout the 1990s, The Post has learned. Federal Election Commission records show that Schumer received seven $1,000 donations from Epstein between 1992 and 1997, first as a U.S. congressman from New York and then when he was vying to be the state’s senator in 1998, an election he won. Epstein — who was arrested Saturday and charged with sex trafficking and a related conspiracy count for allegedly sexually abusing a vast network of underage girls — also gave $10,000 to “Victory in New York,” a joint fundraising committee established by Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Epstein gave an additional $5,000 to “Win New York,” a Schumer-associated joint committee that benefited the Liberal Party of New York State. Both of Epstein’s donations to the committees came in October 1998 — and look to have primarily benefited the DSCC and the Liberal Party of New York, as Epstein would have already met the $2,000 limit of donating individually to Schumer. At the time, donors could give $1,000 to a candidate per election — once in the primary and again in the general. That means Schumer and Schumer-linked entities received a combined $22,000.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Schumer made three Epstein-related demands. He first called on Acosta to resign. [..] “Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy,” Schumer said on the floor. “This is not acceptable. We cannot have, as one of the leading appointed officials in America, someone who has done this.” Schumer also asked that the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility make public its review of Acosta’s handling of the case. Finally, Schumer said that Trump should paint a fuller picture of what he meant when he called Epstein a “terrific guy” in a 2002 article for New York Magazine.

An April 2011 court filing shows that Trump eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago “because Epstein sexually assaulted a girl at the club,” the documents allege. Trump didn’t officially launch a political career until June 2015. No FEC records show that Epstein was ever a Trump donor.

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So when will Schumer follow suit? And the rest of them?

Democrat Rep. Stacey Plaskett To Donate Epstein Campaign Contributions (CNBC)

Democratic congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has decided to reverse course and will give away the contributions she has received from Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of child sex trafficking. The move comes a day after her team told CNBC that she was unlikely to return the campaign donations after Epstein’s arrest. “In light of new information and allegations that have been made against Jeffrey Epstein I have decided to make contributions to Virgin Islands organizations that work with women and children in the amount of his previous contributions,” Plaskett said in a statement Tuesday.

“My litmus test for accepting campaign contributions has been based on whether the donor’s money was made legally or by ill-gotten means and that the contributor will not ask of me or my Congressional office for any special favors. All my contributions have passed that test. In this case however, I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times,” said Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in the House as a delegate. Her spokesman Mike McQueery later noted the Epstein donations will be given to The Women’s Coalition and The Family Resource Center.

Her initial announcement led to an outcry on social media, with prominent Democratic strategists such as Adam Parkhomenko calling on Plaskett to give the money over to a nonprofit organization such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Since Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday, Plaskett is the first politician to say she is giving away donations from Epstein.

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Deutsche severed ties with Epstein just months ago.

US Probing Deutsche Bank’s Dealings With Malaysia’s 1MDB (ZH)

When it rains inside the halls of Deutsche Bank, the flood is biblical. Just when it seemed that the biggest (if not for long) German bank, already reeling from the biggest mass layoffs since Lehman, couldn’t possibly bear any more bad news, along comes the US government with yet another potentially criminal investigation, this time over Deutsche Bank’s involvement with the sprawling, multibillion-dollar Malaysian development fraud scandal that toppled a prime minister, crippled Goldman Sachs stock and stretched from Hollywood to Wall Street. According to the WSJ, the DOJ is investigating whether the German bank violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. fund, or 1MDB, which included helping the fund raise $1.2 billion in 2014 as concerns about the fund’s management and financials had begun to circulate.

So how did Deutsche Bank get thrown into yet another scandal? It turns out that DB was snitched out by former Goldman banker, Tim Leissner, the man who was ground zero in the original 1MDB scandal, and who ended up costing Goldman billions in dollar in market cap as its stock tumbled last year as its role in the biggest Malaysian corruption scandal got exposed, and according to some, cost Lloyd Blankfein his job. As it turns out, Leissner is now cooperating with authorities, and among his “good Samaritan” duties decided to throw the one bank that has more dirt on it than Goldman: Deutsche Bank. As we have reported extensively in the past, prosecutors have been investigating similar issues at Goldman, where Leissner, a former managing director, pleaded guilty last year and admitted to earlier helping siphon off billions of dollars from the fund.

[..] But wait, there’s more! Because roughly at the same time as DB’s potential role in the 1MDB scandal was exposed by the WSJ, both the NYT and Bloomberg reported that the German bank had extended relations with yet another, even more scandalous figure: Jeffrey Epstein. According to NYT, Epstein “appears to have been doing business and trading currencies through Deutsche Bank until just a few months ago.” But as the possibility of federal charges loomed, the bank ended its client relationship with Epstein. It is not clear what the value of those accounts were at the time they were closed. Bloomberg confirms, reporting that “Deutsche Bank severed business ties with Jeffrey Epstein earlier this year, just as federal authorities were preparing to charge the financier with operating a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls [..] “

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Nice take by Ed Harrison. I’m no big fan of these alleged sharp divisions between generations, though.

Obama the Conservative vs Trump the Revolutionary (EH)

I would argue that [Obama] ran for President in 2008 on a slogan – Change You Can Believe In – which very much fits his generation, late baby boom reaching across to the early Gen X’ers. “Change you can believe in” is a moniker designed to evoke a sense of technocratic tweaking, of taking a good system and making it more efficient and more fair for all citizens. It is not a call for revolution. What Obama was saying was essentially, “I am going to take the system we have – the best that man has created – and make it better.” He was not saying, “the system is rigged. The system is broken. And I’m going to burn it down and build up something better.”

Obama’s message was a conservative message. It was a message that was steeped in the status quo, with the change coming only at the margin. It meant continuity in policy and a bevy of tried and trusted policymakers to get us to the next destination. Even Obamacare is a tweak of the existing policy. It is not a fundamentally different healthcare system controlled by different healthcare providers. [..] Donald Trump doesn’t think that way. Norms only matter to him to the degree they move his personal agenda forward. He’s a pretty simple guy in this sense. If a policy choice or a norm helps Donald Trump, then he’s for it. If it hurts him, he’s against it. It’s as simple as that. But, that’s not conservative …at all. Trump may message “Make America Great Again”. But, his process is more about bending and breaking rules, damn the consequences.

None of this is to say that Millennials would support Trump over Obama because they want change. It’s more that Obama’s ‘change you can believe in’ approach was a very incremental, status quo-oriented conservative approach that has disappointed Millennials. They want still more change – not a bend and break the rule kind – but a fundamental systemic change. What does that mean about the next economic downturn? Personally, I think it means that — when people living in precarious at-will employment, with insufficient healthcare coverage, saddled by student debt, unable to purchase homes to build wealth feel the full bore of an economic downturn — they will be willing to burn the system down. They will have no allegiance to the status quo and will vote accordingly.

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Oh, c’mon, wouldn’t it be highly fitting if the Queen were to hammer the final nail into British democracy?

Former UK PM Major Vows To Block Brexit Parliament Suspension (R.)

Former British prime minister John Major vowed on Wednesday to go to court to block his party colleague Boris Johnson from suspending parliament and dragging the queen into a constitutional crisis to deliver a no-deal Brexit. Johnson, the favourite to win a Conservative leadership election and so become the next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 — with or without a deal. That could provoke a constitutional crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies because parliament is opposed to a disorderly exit, lacking a transition deal to ease the economic dislocation of leaving the bloc.

While it is essentially up to the prime minister to make the decision, Major, an opponent of Brexit who has not shied away for criticising his party on the issue, said it would require the queen’s blessing. “In order to close down parliament, the prime minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue,” he told BBC Radio. “If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the queen will do anything other than grant it. “She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the queen in the middle of. If that were to happen, there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review.”

Major accused Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for Britain’s parliament, only to propose to sideline lawmakers when it suited him. He said parliament had not been suspended since King Charles I did so during the English Civil War. Charles was eventually executed, in 1649.

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The OPCW killed its own credibility, thoroughly. Disband it.

OPCW’s New Chemical Weapons Team To Launch First Syria Investigations (R.)

A new team established by the global chemical weapons watchdog to attribute blame for the use of banned munitions in Syria will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, including in the town of Douma, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was created in 1997 as a technical body to enforce a global non-proliferation treaty. Until now it had been authorised only to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them. Last June, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was established by the OPCW’s member states during a special session, a move that has brought deeper political division to the U.N. -backed agency.


Now it has identified the locations of its first investigations to be conducted in the coming three years. A document circulated to OPCW member states, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said the team “has identified a non-exhaustive provisional list of incidents on which it intends to focus its investigative work” between 2014 and 2018. The British-led proposal creating the 10-member team was supported by the United States and European Union, but opposed by Russia, Iran, Syria and their allies. Syria has refused to issue visas to the team’s members or to provide it with documentation, OPCW chief Fernando Arias said in comments to member states published last month.

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Where’s the credibility in this case?

UK, US Claim Iranian Boats Attempt To Seize Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz (ZH)

With the Persian Gulf uncharacteristically quiet in recent days, without any material provocation either real or staged, late on Wednesday CNN reported that five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. There was no independent verification of the report, but instead it was once again sourced to those who stands to gain the most from a way with Iran, namely “two US officials with direct knowledge of the incident.” According to the report, the British Heritage tanker was sailing out of the Persian Gulf and was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when it was approached by the Iranian boats.


The Iranians ordered the tanker to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, according to the officials. A US aircraft was overhead and recorded video of the incident, although so far a video has not been released. In addition to the US aircraft escort, the UK’s Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker, and during the confrontation, it trained its deck guns on the Iranians and gave them a verbal warning to back away, which they did. Montrose is equipped on the deck with 30 mm guns specifically designed to drive off small boats. The frigate was in the region performing a “maritime security role” according to a prior notification from UK officials.

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Seen at the inane Defend Media Freedom conference in the UK.

 

 

 

‘Man goes to a psychiatrist. He says, “I keep thinking I’m a dog.” Psychiatrist says, “OK, let’s get you on the couch.” Man says, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”‘

 

 

 

 

Apr 102019
 


Marcel Duchamp The chess game 1910

 

Putin Derangement Syndrome After Mueller (SCF)
‘Mountain Brought Forth A Mouse’: Putin On Mueller Report (RT)
Same People Behind Iraq War Lies Pushed Russian Collusion (Kelly)
May’s Hopes Dashed As EU Targets Brexit Delay Of Up To A Year (G.)
UK Finance Minister Says Lawmakers Might Revoke Brexit To Prevent No Deal (R.)
Democracy Is Overrated – Let The Queen Sort Out Brexit (Jan Fleischhauer)
Brexit Explained In Two Words: Basil Fawlty (G.)
IMF Says No-Deal Brexit Risks Two-Year Recession For UK (G.)
China To Join FAA’s Review Panel On Boeing’s 737 MAX (R.)
Boeing Shareholders Sue Over 737 MAX Crashes (R.)
India’s Modi Rides Nationalist Fervor Ahead Of Election (R.)
Two-Thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Alps ‘Will Melt By 2100’ (G.)

 

 

Like this. Contains dozens of links in the original.

Putin Derangement Syndrome After Mueller (SCF)

The West – its governments and its governments’ scribes – are obsessed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Obsessed” is probably too weak a word to describe the years of impassioned coverage, airy speculation and downright nonsense. He is the world’s leading cover boy: military hats, Lenin poses, imperial crowns, scary red eyes, strait-jackets, clown hats; anything and everything. He’s the avatar of Stalin, he’s the avatar of the Tsars, he’s the Joker, he’s Cthulhu, he’s Voldemort, he’s Satan. He’s the palimpsest for the New World Order’s nightmares. Putin is always messing with our minds. He weaponises information, misinformation and sexual assault accusations. Childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon and Yellow Vests, “Putin’s warships” are lurking when they aren’t stalking; “Putin’s warplanes” penetrate European airspace; “Putin’s tanks”, massing in 2016, massing in 2018, still massing. His empire of rogue states grows. All Putin, all the time.


[..] The entire ramshackle construction is collapsing: if Mueller says there was no collusion then even the last ditch believers will have to accept it: Robert Mueller Prayer Candles are out of stock, time to toss the other tchotchkes, it wasn’t a Mueller Christmas after all. Clinton’s fabrication had two parts to it: 1) Putin interfered/determined the election 2) in collusion with Trump. When the second part is blown up, so must the first be. And then what will happen to all the loyal little allies crying “ours were interfered with too”!? The two halves of the story had the same authors and the same purpose: if one dies, so must the other. Now that Trump is secured from the obstruction charges that hung there as long as Mueller was in session, he is free to declassify the background documents that will show the origin, mechanics, authors and extent of the conspiracy. And he has said he will. In the process, both halves of the story will be destroyed: they’re both lies.

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Can we get back to talking now? Don’t hold your breath.

‘Mountain Brought Forth A Mouse’: Putin On Mueller Report (RT)

The Mueller probe has caused much fuss but predictably did not find any evidence to prove Donald Trump colluded with Russia, Vladimir Putin has said, sarcastically likening it to a “mountain bringing forth a mouse.”
“We said from the very beginning that this Mueller commission will find nothing because we know it better than anyone: Russia did not meddle in any US election, there was no collusion between [US President Donald] Trump and Russia that Mr. Mueller was looking for,” Putin told the International Arctic Forum on Tuesday.


Taking a lighter tone, the president said that the outcome was predictable, likening it to “a mountain that has brought forth a mouse.” According to Putin, US President Donald Trump “knows better what witch hunts are.” This was “a dark chapter in American history,” and no one wants to see it “come back.” The long-awaited report from the Mueller probe was submitted in late March to Attorney General William Barr. The inquiry specifically targeted alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign team and Moscow. However, its key conclusions mentioned no evidence of a conspiracy.

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This is the same as me saying Trump’s enemies are the same as Assange’s enemies.

Same People Behind Iraq War Lies Pushed Russian Collusion (Kelly)

In between the two scandals was more than a decade of recriminations against once-trusted experts on the Right who led our nation into battle. The Iraq war cost the lives of more than 4,400 U.S. troops, maimed tens of thousands more and resulted in an unquantifiable amount of emotional, mental, and physical pain for untold numbers of American military families. Suicide rates for servicemen and veterans have exploded leaving thousands more dead and their families devastated. And it has cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion and counting. So, these discredited outcasts thought they found in the Trump-Russia collusion farce a way to redeem themselves in the news media and recover their lost prestige, power, and paychecks.

After all, it cannot be a mere coincidence that a group of influencers on the Right who convinced Americans 16 years ago that we must invade Iraq based on false pretenses are nearly the identical group of people who tried to convince Americans that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to rig the 2016 election, an allegation also based on hearsay and specious evidence. It cannot be an innocent mistake. It cannot be explained away as an example of ignorance in the defense of national security or democracy or human decency. It cannot be justified as a mere miscalculation based on the “best available information at the time” nor should we buy any of the numerous excuses that they offered up to rationalize the war.

So why did they do it? Why did Kristol, McCain, Frum, Boot, et. al., dive headlong and without shame into a domestic political war with just as much thoughtless braggadocio as they brought to the disastrous Iraq war? Clearly, this war did not have the same deadly results as the war in Iraq but, nonetheless, it fueled an unprecedented degree of anger and division among our countrymen and toward our new president. It ensnared innocent people who suffered real-life consequences, their fate grotesquely cheered by these mendacious fraudsters. Why?

If you had the blood of so many young Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis on your hands because you peddled a lie, wouldn’t you be a tad more cautious before repeating that kind of mistake? If you assured Americans that the Iraq war would last just a few months, as Bill Kristol said in 2002, but instead it ended up lasting eight years, wouldn’t you be chastened about making more predictions? If your actions led directly to the election of a Democratic president who launched his winning campaign based on your egregious failures, wouldn’t you hesitate before inserting yourself in another scandal that gave fodder to your political opponents at your expense?

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The EU has zero reason to grant another short delay. Nothing has changed.

May’s Hopes Dashed As EU Targets Brexit Delay Of Up To A Year (G.)

Theresa May’s request for a short Brexit delay has been torn up, putting the EU on track to instead extend Britain’s membership until 2020.Despite the prime minister’s desperate dash to Paris and Berlin to convince leaders of her plan to break the Brexit impasse, the European council president, Donald Tusk, signalled EU politicians’ lack of faith in her cross-party talks. Against a backdrop of growing support among the EU27 for a lengthy Brexit delay, Tusk picked apart May’s appeal for a shorter delay to 30 June in a letter to the leaders inviting them to Wednesday’s summit, where they will agree the new end date.


An EU diplomat said on Tuesday, following a late-night meeting of ambassadors, that the two end dates crystallising in EU capitals were the end of December or the end of March 2020. A cabinet source voiced doubts over whether May could survive after presiding over such a long delay to Brexit, after previously having said she could not “as prime minister” accept a longer delay than 30 June. The source said some in No 10 now accept it is nearly game over and described all options as very difficult for the prime minister, raising questions about whether she can keep her warring party together much longer. May is facing a bitter backlash within her party over the likelihood of a long delay to Brexit and participation in EU elections, especially if that leads to any sort of deal with Labour involving a customs union.

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May was very careless in signing Article 50 when she did. But it made the Brexiteers happy.

UK Finance Minister Says Lawmakers Might Revoke Brexit To Prevent No Deal (R.)

British finance minister Philip Hammond raised the prospect of lawmakers revoking Article 50 this week rather than allowing Britain to leave the European Union without a deal if talks collapse, the Telegraph reported on Tuesday. Hammond warned that the value of the pound could fall significantly if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to reach agreement on a Brexit delay with Brussels, the Telegraph said. He made the comments during a meeting on Tuesday with other ministers in which various scenarios were discussed, the paper said, without citing sources. May invoked Article 50 to give notice that Britain was leaving the EU over two years ago, but the details of how, when and even if Brexit will happen are still far from clear.

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From Der Spiegel columnist.

“When she was born, the British empire stretched from Newfoundland to Papua New Guinea and covered almost a quarter of the world’s population. Today, Britain is a lovely island in the middle of the North Sea..”

Democracy Is Overrated – Let The Queen Sort Out Brexit (Jan Fleischhauer)

From Germany, it looks like the UK monarch is in the perfect position – after all, she has always responded to crises with dignity …

If there is someone who still reacts in the most difficult situations with dignity and decency, it is Queen Elizabeth II. I mean, this is the woman who survived Hitler and his V2s, the Great Smog, the “winter of discontent” and all the other trials and tribulations of her kingdom over the last nine decades. Surely, some well-placed words from her and this whole mess can be resolved. I often wonder how, sitting in Buckingham Palace, the Queen views the situation. When she was born, the British empire stretched from Newfoundland to Papua New Guinea and covered almost a quarter of the world’s population. Today, Britain is a lovely island in the middle of the North Sea that is rapidly becoming the size of Iceland in terms of political importance.

What does the Queen think of people who blithely painted a nation’s future in the rosiest colours and are now surviving from day to day? Royal courts traditionally indulged clowns who were permitted to make fools of them. But no self-respecting monarch would have come up with the idea of entrusting the fool with the fate of the country. I know there are narrow limits to the power of the Queen in a constitutional monarchy. But if you ask John Bercow to take a close look at the archives, he may find a precedent – moments when the power of government was transferred to the Queen when the country’s destiny is on the line. That’s the advantage of looking back on a few centuries of monarchist tradition: somewhere there is always a clause that legitimises you.

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“At moments, we all wish to retreat to an imaginary place: a womb with a view, if you will.”

Brexit Explained In Two Words: Basil Fawlty (G.)

In a crumbling edifice, a farce plays out. The hapless central character fawns on an aristocrat who turns out to be a conman. He then fails to disguise his unease when confronted with his European neighbours, doesn’t bother to mask a thorough contempt for the Irish, and enters a love-hate relationship with ostentatiously wealthy Americans. Meanwhile, there are questions over food safety and supply (specifically kippers, duck and veal cutlets) as workers scurry around trying to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Always disaster hovers at the edge of vision.


[..] Fawlty Towers was, above all, an ensemble piece about isolation. It was a portrait of rage and frustration, an exploration of the impotence that results when the world as we wish it to be is so agonisingly at odds with the world as it is. It was the Brexit mindset incubating in the shabby surroundings of a down-at-heel hotel that had seen far better days. [..] Fawlty Towers now appears to have something of the downright prophetic about it. But let’s try to extract a moment of hope for these bleak times. In the end, whether clonked by a moose’s head, thrashing a recalcitrant car with a branch, derailed by a drunken Greek chef or outwitted by a wily Irish builder, Basil doesn’t get his way. His peculiar aspirations are curtailed and forced to conform to the realities of a complex, nuanced world.

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2-3-5-10-25, the IMF doesn’t know more than you and I.

IMF Says No-Deal Brexit Risks Two-Year Recession For UK (G.)

Britain’s already struggling economy would be pushed into a two-year recession by a no-deal Brexit, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Ahead of Theresa May’s plea to EU leaders for a further delay to Britain’s departure, the IMF used a downbeat half-yearly assessment of the global economy to predict that the UK economy could be 3.5% smaller than expected by 2021 if trade barriers were swiftly erected. The World Economic Outlook – completed in March before the latest developments in Brexit – predicted UK growth of 1.2% in 2019 on the assumption that a Brexit deal is done.


Growth in 2020 has also been revised down – by 0.1 points to 1.4% – since the fund’s last WEO in October, but the IMF said its projections were surrounded by uncertainty. It said there were alternative no-deal scenarios in which the UK would be hit by trade barriers, customs delays, barriers to financial services firms and the loss of preferential access to non-EU countries under trade deals negotiated by Brussels. The impact of these would be enough to cause output to decline in 2019 and 2020. It stressed that “a no-deal Brexit that severely disrupts supply chains and raises trade costs could potentially have large and long-lasting negative impacts on the economies of the United Kingdom and the European Union”.

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They’ll bring their Huawei phones I’m sure.

China To Join FAA’s Review Panel On Boeing’s 737 MAX (R.)

China has decided to accept an invitation to join the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) review panel on the Boeing 737 MAX, an official at the Chinese aviation regulator said on Tuesday. The FAA said last week it was forming an international team to review the safety of the aircraft, grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes – in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia last month – that killed nearly 350 people. China was the first to ground the newest version of Boeing’s workhorse 737 model last month following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, prompting a series of regulatory actions by other governments worldwide.


The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has decided to send experts to be part of the FAA panel, the official, in the regulator’s media relations department, told Reuters. The CAAC said last week that it has been invited to join the panel. Chinese airlines operated 97 of the 371 737 MAX jets in service before the grounding, the most of any country, according to Flightglobal data. Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore have already confirmed that they will join the panel. The European Aviation Safety Agency did not respond immediately to a request for comment on whether it would join the panel.

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Wait till the victims’ families start suing.

Boeing Shareholders Sue Over 737 MAX Crashes (R.)

Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew on Tuesday as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX. Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg and Chief Financial Officer Gregory Smith were also named as defendants.


According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety. Richard Seeks, the lead plaintiff, said Boeing’s compromises began to emerge after the Ethiopian Airlines crash killed all 157 onboard, five months after the Lion Air crash killed 189.

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900 million voters. 4x US?! Did Modi antagonize Pakistan to boost his chances?

India’s Modi Rides Nationalist Fervor Ahead Of Election (R.)

India’s prime minister is rallying his nationalist base as the world’s biggest democracy begins a general election on Thursday, but it has become tighter than anticipated, thanks to dwindling incomes for farmers and scarce jobs. Polls predict Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) alliance will just win a parliamentary majority, a sharp drop from his commanding mandate five years ago, when he vowed to turn India into an economic and military power. But his government’s inability to create a million jobs every month, and ease farmers’ distress over low product prices, has taken the shine off what is still the world’s fastest growing major economy.

From sugar farmers in northern Uttar Pradesh going unpaid for produce, to small businesses in the south shut because they are unable to meet the requirements of a new, unifying national tax, discontent has brewed for months. “The election has become a lot closer than we think, sitting in Delhi,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a Modi biography and books on Hindu nationalist groups. “There is anger and disillusionment in the countryside.” In December, alarm bells rang for Modi’s Hindu nationalists after it lost three key states to the main opposition Congress and its allies, led by Rahul Gandhi. But a surge in tension with traditional foe Pakistan in February has pushed Modi ahead, as he projects himself as a defender of national security and paints his rivals as weak-kneed, sometimes even questioning their patriotism.

“People were very unhappy, angry that Modi makes tall promises and doesn’t deliver,” said Shiv Chandra Rai, an Uber driver in the commercial capital of Mumbai. “Everyone said there are no jobs, everywhere farmers are struggling. But on this issue of Pakistan we are confused now. Some people feel we have to vote for Modi on this issue, it is a national problem.” Modi ordered air strikes on a suspected camp of a militant group in Pakistan after it claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in Indian Kashmir, launching the first such raid since the neighbors’ last war in 1971. The nuclear-armed foes engaged in a dogfight after Pakistan sent warplanes into India the next day. They also threatened each other with missile strikes, before Western powers, led by the United States, pulled them back.

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So many millions of Europeans who depend on the Alps for drinking water.

Two-Thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Alps ‘Will Melt By 2100’ (G.)

Two-thirds of the ice in the glaciers of the Alps is doomed to melt by the end of the century as climate change forces up temperatures, a study has found. Half of the ice in the mountain chain’s 4,000 glaciers will be gone by 2050 due to global warming already baked in by past emissions, the research shows. After that, even if carbon emissions have plummeted to zero, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100. If emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the ice tongues will have all but disappeared from Alpine valleys by the end of the century. The researchers said the loss of the glaciers would have a big impact on water availability for farming and hydroelectricity, especially during droughts, and affect nature and tourism.


“Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent evolution are some of the clearest indicators of the ongoing changes in climate,” said Daniel Farinotti, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and one of the research team. “In the pessimistic case, the Alps will be mostly ice-free by 2100, with only isolated ice patches remaining at high elevation, representing 5% or less of the present-day ice volume,” said Matthias Huss, a senior researcher at ETH Zurich. In February, a study found that a third of the huge ice fields in Asia’s towering mountain chains were also doomed to melt because of climate change, with serious consequences for almost 2 billion people downstream. Glaciers along the Hindu Kush and Himalayan range are at higher, colder altitudes, but if global carbon emissions are not cut, two-thirds of their ice will melt by 2100.

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Jul 152018
 
 July 15, 2018  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Ezra Stoller Parking garage, New Haven, Connecticut 1963

 

Theresa May: Trump Told Me To Sue The EU (BBC)
Trump Reveals The Queen’s Private Views On Brexit (G.)
Theresa May Warns There Could Be ‘No Brexit At All’ (R.)
The Chequers Brexit Compromise Offers The Worst Of Both Worlds (Mandelson)
Prepare For No-Deal Brexit, German Business Groups Tell Members (R.)
Immigrant Children, Parents Reunited Faster Under New Court Order (R.)
Spain Saves Over 340 Migrants At Sea, One On Truck Tyre (AFP)
450 Migrants Stranded At Sea As Italy, Malta Dig Heels In (AFP)
Mobile Phones Are ‘The Best Spying Device You Can Imagine’ (CNBC)
The Wealthy Are Plotting To Leave Us Behind (Rushkoff)

 

 

Stranger things have happened.

Theresa May: Trump Told Me To Sue The EU (BBC)

Donald Trump told Theresa May she should sue the EU rather than negotiate, she has told the BBC. The US president said on Friday at a joint press conference that he had given her a suggestion but she had found it too “brutal”. Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr what it was he had said, she replied: “He told me I should sue the EU – not go into negotiations.” She defended her blueprint for Brexit and urged her critics to back it. She said it would allow the UK to strike trade deals with other nations, end free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

A White Paper published on Thursday fleshed out details of the agreement reached by the cabinet on how post-Brexit trade will work. Before the paper was published, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned, saying it would not deliver the Brexit people had voted for in the 2016 EU referendum. Talking about the president’s advice on how to handle the EU, Mrs May said: “Interestingly what the president also said at that press conference was ‘don’t walk away’. “Don’t walk away from those negotiations because then you’ll be stuck. So I want us to be able to sit down to negotiate the best deal for Britain.”

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Not really.

Trump Reveals The Queen’s Private Views On Brexit (G.)

Trump enthused about his reception at Windsor Castle on Friday, where he and Melania spent 45 minutes with the Queen. “It was a very easy talk,” he said. “You know, it’s hard to talk to somebody if you’re, sort of, if there’s not that something special. You know that better than anybody. Sometimes you’ll have a guest on where no matter what you do it’s not working, right? And then sometimes it’s magic. We had a great, a great feeling.” Morgan asked: “Did you get the feeling she liked you?” “Well I don’t want to speak for her,” Trump said, “but I can tell you I liked her. So usually that helps. But I liked her a lot.”

Asked if he had discussed Brexit, Trump said: “I did. She said it’s a very – and she’s right – it’s a very complex problem. I think nobody had any idea how complex that was going to be … Everyone thought it was going to be, ‘Oh it’s simple, we join or don’t join, or let’s see what happens’.” Trump would not say if the 92-year-old monarch told him what she really thinks of Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union. “Well,” he said, “I can’t talk, you know I’ve heard very strongly from a lot of people, you just don’t talk about that conversation with the Queen, right? You don’t wanna do that … Let me tell you what I can talk about … she is an incredible woman, she is so sharp, she is so beautiful, when I say beautiful – inside and out. That is a beautiful woman.”

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That’s not a warning, it’s a wish.

Theresa May Warns There Could Be ‘No Brexit At All’ (R.)

Prime Minister Theresa May has warned there may be “no Brexit at all” because of lawmakers’ attempts to undermine her plan to leave the European Union. “My message to the country this weekend is simple: we need to keep our eyes on the prize,” May wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “If we don’t, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all.” Earlier this week two senior ministers resigned in protest at May’s plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc next March. Her blueprint was then criticised in a newspaper interview by U.S. President Donald Trump, a position he backtracked on during a meeting with May on Friday.

May also wrote in the Mail on Sunday article that Britain would take a tough stance in its next round of negotiations with the EU. “Some people have asked whether our Brexit deal is just a starting point from which we will regress,” she said. “Let me be clear. Our Brexit deal is not some long wish-list from which negotiators get to pick and choose. It is a complete plan with a set of outcomes that are non-negotiable.”

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Damned if you do, doomed if you don’t.

The Chequers Brexit Compromise Offers The Worst Of Both Worlds (Mandelson)

When I first looked at what had been agreed on Brexit at Chequers, I thought the plan would please nobody, but that the public might conclude that these proposals represent the best available. In reality, it’s a spatchcocked, half-in, half-out plan and the business response was frustration: it is better trade news for goods but a disappointing hard Brexit for services. Those who voted to “take back control” were more vitriolic: it is an attempt to remain close to Europe, full of concessions and compromises, and therefore a million miles from what they expected. In Brussels on the day of the white paper’s publication, I met officials on the British and EU sides, as well as the Irish, and found a desire to debate its content seriously.

For the last two years Theresa May has elevated sovereignty over trade and she seemed to be making a timely correction, as well as reaffirming her Irish border commitment. But as I returned home, my earlier doubts resurfaced. This plan neither allows us to receive the economic benefits of being fully inside the EU’s trade perimeter nor will it give us the freedom to market ourselves independently to the rest of the world. It is a halfway house that will leave us hanging by a thread, subject to the EU’s rules – whatever they are in future – with no say in their formulation. As a former EU trade commissioner, I know how complicated trade negotiations are and why they always end up with fewer gains on both sides than either expects.

So I am sympathetic to the government’s desire for something more ambitious and more customised to Britain’s needs. And I understand why the CBI has welcomed this ambition, particularly because it has chosen to prioritise international manufacturing businesses and their supply chains over services. However, it is services rather than manufacturing that make up the bulk of the UK economy and to relegate them makes no sense.

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They’re as slow as the British themselves.

Prepare For No-Deal Brexit, German Business Groups Tell Members (R.)

German business groups have urged their members to step up preparations for a hard Brexit that would see Britain crash out of the European Union next year without negotiating a deal. British Prime Minister Theresa May secured a cabinet agreement last week for “a business-friendly” proposal to leave the EU, aimed at spurring stalled Brexit talks. But the hard-won compromise has come under fire from within her governing Conservative Party and may yet fall flat with EU negotiators. “Even if the British government is moving now, companies must plan for the scenario in which there is no agreement,” Joachim Lang, managing director of the BDI, Germany’s biggest industry lobby, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Thilo Brodtmann, managing director of the VDMA engineering association, told the same paper: “It is urgent to prepare for Brexit and to expect the worst case scenario.” German industry is concerned about increased friction in trade with Britain after Brexit. Britain is the second-biggest export market for German car manufacturers. But Lang said some German businesses were only just starting to analyze what Brexit would mean for them, adding: “At least that has moved us forward from a few months ago.”

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I like Dana Sabraw.

Immigrant Children, Parents Reunited Faster Under New Court Order (R.)

When Yolany Padilla was released from immigration custody in Seattle last week, she assumed she would be quickly reunited with her 6-year-old son, who had been taken from her at the U.S.-Mexico border two months earlier. But caseworkers at Cayuga Centers in New York, where the boy had been placed, told her lawyer that the government’s vetting process for reunification would take time. Fingerprint collection and analysis alone could take 60 days, and there would also be background checks of all the adults with whom she and her son would stay. It would likely be weeks before her son could be returned to her. “I didn’t want to believe that could be true,” said Padilla, who comes from Honduras and is seeking asylum in the United States.

“It hurt so much to even think it could be 60 days.” That estimate changed abruptly on Thursday night after a federal judge’s order that the government streamline some vetting procedures for reunifying parents and children. Padilla’s lawyer, Leta Sanchez, received a call from Cayuga Centers’ general counsel saying the case had been referred for expedited processing. On Saturday, Padilla and her son, Jelsin, were reunited at the Seattle airport, where he was flown from New York. Padilla ran to her son as he entered the airport waiting area, dropping to her knees and embracing the small boy as he smiled broadly. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen him, imagine how I feel inside,” Padilla said, speaking through a translator at the airport after the reunion.

“It was like my heart was going to come out of my body,” Several immigration attorneys reached by Reuters said they had seen similar expedited reunions following a July 10 order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in a case brought against the government by the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge had previously ordered the government to reunify by July 26 as many as 2,500 immigrant children it had separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. The separations were part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, though some of the separated families are also asylum seekers. That policy was abandoned in June in the wake of widespread protests.

On July 10, after examining how an initial wave of reunifications of young children had gone, Sabraw concluded that government vetting policies could be streamlined to speed the process. Reunifications should not be delayed by “lengthy background checks,” the judge wrote, noting that such checks would not have been performed if the parents and children had never been separated.

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Spain is going to be the no. 1 destination.

Spain Saves Over 340 Migrants At Sea, One On Truck Tyre (AFP)

Spanish rescuers saved more than 340 migrants in the Mediterranean on Saturday (July 14), including one person from north Africa who was attempting the crossing on board a truck tyre, they said. Salvamento Maritimo, Spain’s coastguards, said their ships had rescued 240 people spread out in 12 boats, 10 of them in the Strait of Gibraltar and two others in the Alboran Sea, and on the truck tyre. A spokesman added that the Guardia Civil police force had also saved more than 100 migrants in the Mediterranean. Spain is set to overtake Italy as the country of choice for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Some 16,902 people have arrived in Spain so far this year, the International Organization for Migration’s most recent figures show, and a further 294 died in the attempt. All in all, more than 1,400 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year, they add. Last month, Spain also agreed to take in 630 migrants who arrived aboard three vessels, including the French NGO rescue ship Aquarius.

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The EU is conspicuously silent on this.

450 Migrants Stranded At Sea As Italy, Malta Dig Heels In (AFP)

Another 450 migrants on board two military vessels were stranded at sea on Saturday as Italy and Malta locked horns over whose responsibility it was to offer them safe harbour. The boats, which are currently in Italian waters, had initially set sail from Libya in a single wooden vessel which was identified early Friday while passing through waters under Malta’s jurisdiction. But Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has authority over the country’s ports, on Friday refused to let them dock in his latest show of intransigence over migrants stranded at sea. And on Saturday, as those on board were transferred to two other vessels, he insisted the boats be instructed to “head south, to Libya or Malta”.

“We need an act of justice, of respect and of courage to fight against these human traffickers and generate a European intervention,” he said in talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, his remarks carried by Italian news agencies. In an exchange of messages, emails and phonecalls on Friday, Rome had tried to push Valetta to take responsibility for those on board the wooden boat. But Malta said the ship was much closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, insisting that those on board only wanted to reach Italy. On Saturday morning, they were transferred to two military vessels but where the vessels will dock remains unclear. Eight women and children were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment. The new standoff kicked in just hours after 67 migrants were allowed to disembark from an Italian coast guard ship in Sicily late on Thursday.

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A thousand ways to track you.

Mobile Phones Are ‘The Best Spying Device You Can Imagine’ (CNBC)

Could someone be tracking you as you drive around your city or town? You may think turning off your smartphone’s location will prevent this, but researchers from Northeastern University in Boston found that isn’t always the case. “Not a lot of people are aware of this problem. Mainly because when we think about location, we associate it with the GPS on the phone,” said Sashank Narain a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern. In a test, Narain and his team were able to track people driving through Boston, Waltham, Massachusetts, and London. Traditional locators, like GPS were turned off — so the researchers used other sensors. “The goal of our project is to make people aware that vulnerabilities such as these exist, and they should be taken care of,” Narain added.

Guevara Noubir, a professor at Northeastern University who was involved in the research and also directs Northeastern’s Cybersecurity & Information Assurance Graduate Program, told CNBC that “there’s a whole area, what’s called the side channel attacks, where you use side information to infer something that can have an impact on security,” and specifically, privacy. Using Android phones running Google’s operating system, the researchers did the tracking using sensors in smartphones that were not designed to track location. Those tools included an accelerometer, which tracks how fast a phone is moving, a magnetometer, which works like a digital compass, and a gyroscope, which tracks rotation. These sensors are responsible for things like changing the screen orientation from horizontal to vertical when the phone is moved.

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“No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral.”

The Wealthy Are Plotting To Leave Us Behind (Rushkoff)

[..] the more devastating impacts of pedal-to-the-metal digital capitalism fall on the environment and global poor. The manufacture of some of our computers and smartphones still uses networks of slave labor. These practices are so deeply entrenched that a company called Fairphone, founded from the ground up to make and market ethical phones, learned it was impossible. (The company’s founder now sadly refers to their products as “fairer” phones.) Meanwhile, the mining of rare earth metals and disposal of our highly digital technologies destroys human habitats, replacing them with toxic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell usable materials back to the manufacturers.

This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality. If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become. This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy — and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans. The cycle feeds itself. The more committed we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution.

The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug. No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral. Any bad behaviors they induce in us are just a reflection of our own corrupted core. It’s as if some innate human savagery is to blame for our troubles. Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be “solved” with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.

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Nov 062017
 
 November 6, 2017  Posted by at 9:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Salvador Dalí Figure at a window 1925

 

The Next Market Cleanse Will Be Sharp, Deep, Fast (Peters)
Round-Up Of Saudi Princes, Businessmen Widens, Travel Curbs Imposed (R.)
Saudi Arabia Seals Yemen Borders, Accuses Iran Over Missile Strike (AFP)
Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Secrets Of The World Elite’s Hidden Wealth (G.)
Are We Taming Offshore Finance? (BBC)
Queen’s Private Estate Invested Millions of Pounds Offshore (G.)
UK Families Thousands Of Pounds Worse Off After Years Of Cuts (G.)
Britain ‘Would Be Booming’ If It Wasn’t For Brexit – Mark Carney (Tel.)
Most EU Firms Plan Retreat From UK Suppliers (R.)
UK Ministers ‘Could Be In Contempt Of Parliament Over Brexit Papers’ (G.)
China’s Shadow Banking Halts as Regulation Bites – Moody’s (BBG)
Catalonia’s Puigdemont Conditionally Released By Belgian Judge (G.)

 

 

Eric Peters gets points for style.

The Next Market Cleanse Will Be Sharp, Deep, Fast (Peters)

Anecdote: “The most common example is a ball sitting atop a hill,” she said, polished accent, hint of condescension. “Locally stable, but one nudge and it’s all over.” She drove terribly fast, discussing Minsky Moments; the idea that persistent stability breeds instability. “Naturally each cycle is different in key respects, and that’s because you’re far better at preventing past problems from recurring than new ones from arising.” I smiled, amused, insulted. “Despite knowing this all too well, you humans remain inexplicably fixated on the rearview mirror. And this blinds you to all manner of hazards ahead.”

She initiated a few perfect turns of the Tesla, dodging a squirrel or two, tumbling, unhurt. “The source of instability in this cycle is your dissatisfaction with ultra-low bond yields.” $8trln of sovereign debt carries a negative yield, still our central bankers buy. “You should logically respond to this historic rise in valuations across asset classes with a reduction in your expectations for future returns.” I nodded. “But instead you respond with indignation.” So I explained to her that without robust growth and a compounding stream of uninterrupted 7.5% returns, our entitlement systems will implode. They probably will anyway. And lacking the stomach for an honest accounting of this predicament, we prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.

“Is this humor or sarcasm?” she asked. “Both,” I answered. “Fascinating, anyhow, you then demand that we algorithms produce mathematically impossible returns. So we apply leverage, which makes nearly anything possible, even at valuations that are 99th percentile in all of human history. The more leverage we apply, the more stable your system appears. The flatter your hilltop. Naturally, we ensure that today’s leverage looks different from yesterday’s disaster, recognizing your powerful aversion to repeating recent mistakes.” And I stared out the window, lost in thought, fall’s kaleidoscope whizzing by.

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Not done yet.

Round-Up Of Saudi Princes, Businessmen Widens, Travel Curbs Imposed (R.)

An anti-corruption probe that has purged Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen appeared to be widening on Monday after the founder of one of the kingdom’s biggest travel companies was reportedly detained. Shares in Al Tayyar Travel plunged 10 percent in the opening minutes of trade after the company quoted media reports as saying Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, who is still a board member, had been held by authorities. The company gave no details but online economic news service SABQ, which is close to the government, reported Tayyar had been detained in an investigation by a new anti-corruption body headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Dozens of people have been detained in the crackdown, which has consolidated Prince Mohammed’s power while alarming much of the traditional business establishment. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s best-known international investor, is also being held, officials said at the weekend. The front page of Okaz, a leading Saudi newspaper, challenged businessmen on Monday to reveal the sources of their assets, asking: “Where did you get this?” in a bright red headline. Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Asharq Al-Awsat reported that a no-fly list had been drawn up and security forces in some Saudi airports were barring owners of private jets from taking off without a permit.

Among those detained are 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers, according to Saudi officials. The allegations against the men include money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain, a Saudi official told Reuters. Those accusations could not be independently verified and family members of those detained could not be reached. A royal decree on Saturday said the crackdown was in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money”.

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The big fear is that it’s all a set-up to go after Iran. Which just signed a $30 billion energy deal with Russia.

Saudi Arabia Seals Yemen Borders, Accuses Iran Over Missile Strike (AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen closed the country’s air, sea and land borders Monday and accused Iran of being behind a weekend missile attack on Riyadh, saying it “may amount to an act of war”. Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile, which was launched from Yemen as rebels appeared to escalate hostilities, near Riyadh’s international airport on Saturday. The missile was the first aimed by the Shiite rebels at the heart of the Saudi capital, underscoring the growing threat posed by the raging conflict. “The leadership of the coalition forces therefore considers this… a blatant military aggression by the Iranian regime which may amount to an act of war,” the official Saudi news agency SPA said in a statement.

Smouldering debris landed inside the King Khalid International Airport, just north of Riyadh, after the missile was shot down but authorities reported no major damage or loss of life. Yemen’s complex war pits the Saudi-backed government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Iran-backed Huthi rebel allies. The Saudi statement said that the borders were being closed “to fill the gaps in the inspection procedures which enable the continued smuggling of missiles and military equipment to the Huthi militias loyal to Iran in Yemen”. Despite the temporary closure of the air, sea and land ports, Saudi would protect “the entry and exit of relief and humanitarian personnel”. “The coalition… affirms the kingdom’s right to respond to Iran at the appropriate time and in the appropriate form,” it added.

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Most of this is legal. But what are the Queen, Bono, Trudeau thinking?

Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Secrets Of The World Elite’s Hidden Wealth (G.)

The world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens are being revealed this week in a major new investigation into Britain’s offshore empires. The details come from a leak of 13.4m files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth. The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. The project has been called the Paradise Papers. It reveals:

• Millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund – and some of her money went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people. • Extensive offshore dealings by Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross. • How Twitter and Facebook received hundreds of millions of dollars in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions. • The tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s chief moneyman. • A previously unknown $450m offshore trust that has sheltered the wealth of Lord Ashcroft.

• Aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple.• How some of the biggest names in the film and TV industries protect their wealth with an array of offshore schemes. • The billions in tax refunds by the Isle of Man and Malta to the owners of private jets and luxury yachts.• The secret loan and alliance used by the London-listed multinational Glencore in its efforts to secure lucrative mining rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. •The complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

The disclosures will put pressure on world leaders, including Trump and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes. The publication of this investigation, for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, comes at a time of growing global income inequality. Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore – €600bn in the last year alone – the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week. “Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

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No. Hell no.

Are We Taming Offshore Finance? (BBC)

The offshore finance industry puts trillions of dollars worldwide beyond the taxman’s reach. Bringing it to heel is like taming a cat; not just a normal moggy – a thankless task in itself – but a Cheshire Cat: nebulous, hard to pin down, disappearing and reappearing when it likes. No-one can actually agree on what a tax haven is. Or even on the name: one person’s tax haven is another’s “offshore financial centre”. No-one can agree on how many there are. Nor on exactly how much money is stashed offshore. No statistics are fully reliable. And this suits those who operate in offshore finance, from the owner of the wealth to the lawyer or accountant middlemen who manage the funds, to the often sun-kissed beaches of the jurisdictions where they are secluded or pass through. The industry’s key word is privacy. Or secrecy – a word it doesn’t like so much.

One adage cited by the taxation author and expert Nicholas Shaxson sums it up: “Those who know don’t talk. And those who talk don’t know.” But do we really not know how much is stashed offshore? A report this September, co-authored by the economist Gabriel Zucman, estimates about 10% of global GDP – the way we measure the size of the world’s economy – is held offshore, about $7.8tn (£6tn) . The Boston Consulting Group reported it last year at about $10tn. If you are thinking, wow, that’s bigger than Japan’s economy, you’d be right. But if you want a real wow, try $36tn – the estimate offered by James Henry, author of the book Blood Bankers. That’s twice as big as the US economy.

But no-one really knows. And here’s another wow. Remember the slogan “we are the 99%” coined by the Occupy movement to lambast the top 1% of the population for their disproportionate share of wealth? Well, the Zucman report says 80% of all offshore cash is owned by 0.1% of the richest households, with 50% held by the top 0.01%. So if you read this and are thinking, if you can’t beat them… quite frankly, it’s unlikely you will ever join them.

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This cannot be. Many Britons are miserable, and their Queen dodges taxes. As someone suggested, she should go live where her money is stashed.

Queen’s Private Estate Invested Millions of Pounds Offshore (G.)

Millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund as part of an offshore portfolio that has never before been disclosed, according to documents revealed in an investigation into offshore tax havens. Files from a substantial leak show for the first time how the Queen, through the Duchy of Lancaster, has held and still holds investments via funds that have put money into an array of businesses, including the off-licence chain Threshers, and the retailer BrightHouse, which has been criticised for exploiting thousands of poor families and vulnerable people. The duchy admitted it had no idea about its 12-year investment in BrightHouse until approached by the Guardian and other partners in an international project called the Paradise Papers.

Though the duchy characterised its stake in BrightHouse as negligible, it would not disclose the size of its original 2005 investment, which coincided with a boom in the company’s value. BrightHouse has since been accused of overcharging customers, and using hard sell tactics on people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Last month, it was ordered to pay £14.8m in compensation to 249,000 customers. Critics are likely to ask why the Queen had money in there in the first place, and the duchy may face awkward questions about whether there was enough oversight and management of the Queen’s “onward investments” to ensure they remained ethical. The duchy has also disclosed investments in “a few overseas funds”, including one in Ireland, and will be under pressure to give details of where the money is being held.

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This is Britain’s reality….

UK Families Thousands Of Pounds Worse Off After Years Of Cuts (G.)

Seven years of cuts to tax credits and universal credit have hugely eroded their role in supposedly rewarding people for working, leaving many families thousands of pounds a year worse off, a study has concluded. Ministers’ promises that the systems would benefit families for taking on more work had effectively been broken because of the cuts, according to the report by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank. The study, titled Austerity Generation, details what it says are the huge numbers of families with children pushed into poverty due to cuts and freezes to benefits, as well as measures such as the new two-child limit for payments. It calls for the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to tackle the issue in next month’s budget by restoring previous levels of universal credit work allowances, the amount of monthly income that can be earned without penalty. These were cut in April 2016.

It also seeks a pension-style triple lock of the child benefit and child credit element of universal credit, ensuring it kept pace with prices and earnings. This alone, the report argues, would keep 600,000 children out of poverty. Introduced in 2003, working tax credits are intended to top up low earnings. It is among a series of benefits replaced by universal credit, which is gradually being rolled out nationally and is intended to incentivise working. But, according to the report, cuts have eroded much of this effect for families. It calculates that a couple with two young children, one working full-time and the other part-time on the national living wage, will lose more than £1,200 a year due to universal credit cuts. Another example given is that of a single parent with two young children who starts work at 12 hours a week on the national living wage and will have an effective hourly wage of £4.18, as opposed to £5.01 before the cuts.

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… and this is what its central bank chief thinks it is instead.

Britain ‘Would Be Booming’ If It Wasn’t For Brexit – Mark Carney (Tel.)

Britain’s economy would be “booming” if not for Brexit, the Governor of the Bank of England has said. Mark Carney said businesses were waiting for the outcome of Theresa May’s negotiations with the EU before making investment decisions, which was slowing down economic growth. He said the bank’s predictions for foreign investment in Britain was now 20 per cent lower than they estimated in the month before the referendum. Speaking to Peston on Sunday, he said: “Since the referendum, what we’re seeing is that business investment has picked up, but it hasn’t picked up to any of the extent that one would have expected given how strong the world is, how easy financial conditions are, how high profitability is and how little spare capacity they have. Despite acknowledging the strength of economy, Mr Carney warned: “It should really be booming, but it’s just growing.

“I think we know why that’s the case, because they’re waiting to see the nature of the deal with the European Union. “It’s the most important investment destination and [businesses] need to know transition and end state, everybody knows this, the government knows it and is working on it, UK businesses know it and the Europeans know it.” Asked if the economy would take a hit if the UK left the EU without a Brexit deal, he said: “In the short term, without question, if we have materially less access (to the EU’s single market) than we have now, this economy is going to need to reorient and during that period of time it will weigh on growth.” He added that in the event of a bad Brexit deal, the bank would not be able to cut future interest rates because of that inflationary pressure.

Read more …

Uncertainty.

Most EU Firms Plan Retreat From UK Suppliers (R.)

Most European businesses plan to cut back orders from British suppliers because of the slow progress of Brexit talks, a survey of company managers showed on Monday. 63% of non-British European companies expect to move some of their supply chain out of Britain, up from 44 percent in May, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) said. With only 17 months left until Britain is due to exit the EU, the lack of clear progress in the negotiations has raised fears among executives of an abrupt departure with no transition. Monday’s survey raised the prospect of disruption for British manufacturers with EU clients. On Sunday, the Confederation of British Industry said almost two in three British firms will have implemented Brexit contingency plans by March if Britain and the rest of the EU have not struck a transitional deal by then.

Britain and the EU said last week they were ready to speed up talks, but CIPS said it was already too late for scores of businesses that look likely to be dropped by European customers. “British businesses simply cannot put their suppliers and customers on hold while the negotiators get their act together,” said Gerry Walsh, CIPS’ group CEO. “The lack of clarity coming from both sides is already shaping the British economy of the future – and it does not fill businesses with confidence.” British finance minister Philip Hammond said last month that a transition deal needed to be struck by early 2018. CIPS said a fifth of British businesses were struggling to secure contracts that extend beyond March 2019, the date Britain is due to leave the EU.

Read more …

“Offenders can also theoretically be confined to a room in the Big Ben clock tower, although this power has not been used since 1880.”

UK Ministers ‘Could Be In Contempt Of Parliament Over Brexit Papers’ (G.)

Labour is to warn ministers on Monday that they risk being held in contempt of parliament if they do not immediately release dozens of papers outlining the economic impact of Brexit. The government conceded last week that it had to publish the 58 studies covering various parts of the economy after the move was supported in a Labour opposition motion that was passed unanimously on Wednesday. While normal opposition motions are advisory, Labour presented this one as a “humble address”, a rare and antiquated procedure which the Speaker, John Bercow, advised was usually seen as binding. The leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said on Thursday that the government accepted the motion as binding, and that “the information will be forthcoming”.

However, she gave no timescale – the government has previously said it will respond to opposition motions within 12 weeks – and indicated some elements of the papers would need to be redacted to avoid “disclosing information that could harm the national interest”. The Labour motion called for the papers to be released immediately to the Brexit select committee, which has a majority of Conservative MPs, and which would then decide what elements should not be published more widely. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has warned that Labour will refer the matter to Bercow over possible contempt if the studies are not passed to the committee before parliament’s one-week recess begins on Tuesday.

The parliamentary rulebook, known as Erskine May after its 19th-century author, says actions that obstruct or impede the Commons “in the performance of its functions, or are offences against its authority or dignity, such as disobedience to its legitimate commands” be can viewed as contempt. MPs held in contempt can be asked to apologise, suspended or even expelled by their fellows. Offenders can also theoretically be confined to a room in the Big Ben clock tower, although this power has not been used since 1880.

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Yeah, yeah, but: “core shadow banking activity,” including entrusted loans, trust loans, and undiscounted bankers’ acceptances, continues to expand…”

China’s Shadow Banking Halts as Regulation Bites – Moody’s (BBG)

China’s shadow banking sector, estimated by some analysts to be worth 122.8 trillion yuan ($18.5 trillion), stopped growing in the first half of the year as issuance of wealth management products declined, according to Moody’s Investors Service. For the first time since 2012, China’s gross domestic product grew faster than shadow banking assets in the six-month period, Moody’s said in a statement Monday. Following last month’s Communist Party Congress, further regulation will continue to rein in shadow banking and address some of the key systemic imbalances, Moody’s said. While Moody’s assessment offers some evidence that China’s crackdown on shadow financing is starting to bite, authorities continue to sound the alarm on high debt levels.

In an article on the People’s Bank of China’s website late Saturday, Governor Zhou Xiaochuan pointed to latent risks that are “hidden, complex, sudden, contagious and hazardous.” Government, household and corporate debt adds up to about 260 percent of the economy, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Moody’s said that shadow banking assets accounted for 83 percent of GDP on June 30, down from a peak of 87 percent in 2016. Michael Taylor, the company’s chief credit officer for the Asia-Pacific region, said “core shadow banking activity,” including entrusted loans, trust loans, and undiscounted bankers’ acceptances, continues to expand even as regulation has had an effect.

Read more …

The pressure on the judge(s) must be deafening.

Catalonia’s Puigdemont Conditionally Released By Belgian Judge (G.)

A Belgian judge has released the ousted Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and four of his ministers under certain conditions after a hearing lasting more than 10 hours. Puigdemont, who faces charges of misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to the secessionist campaign, turned himself in to Belgian police earlier on Sunday. The judge decided to grant them conditional release late in the evening pending a ruling by a court within the next 15 days whether to execute the European arrest warrant issued by Spain. The five have been told they must not leave the country and stay in a fixed address. “The request made by the Brussels’ Prosecutor’s Office for the provisional release of all persons sought has been granted by the investigative judge,” a statement from the federal prosecutor’s office said.

On Friday, the Spanish government had issued European arrest warrants against Puigdemont, Antoni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig for trying to “illegally change the organisation of the state through a secessionist process that ignores the constitution”. The formal charges, punishable by 30 years in prison, are rebellion, sedition, embezzlement of public funds and disobedience to authority, for their role in organising the referendum on Catalan independence on 1 October. The secessionist politicians fled to Belgium on Monday after the Spanish authorities removed Puigdemont and his cabinet from office for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence following an illegal referendum. From his self-imposed exile, Puigdemont claimed he would not receive a fair trial in Spain but promised to cooperate with the Belgian justice system.

[..] In a sign of the growing headache the crisis is causing the Belgian coalition government, the country’s deputy prime minister, Jan Jambon, from the Flemish nationalist party, questioned Spain’s handling of the crisis in Catalonia and suggested the EU should intervene. “When the police hit people, we can still ask questions,” he said. “When the Spanish state has locked two opinion leaders, I have questions. And now the Spanish government will act in the place of a democratically elected government? “Members of a government are put in prison. What have they done wrong? Simply apply the mandate they received from their constituents.”

Read more …

Jul 222017
 
 July 22, 2017  Posted by at 1:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Hieronymus Bosch Adoration of the Magic c1472

 

So sorry to see Sean Spicer go, even if I never watch TV, so I only got snippets of his acting performances -and Melissa McCarthy’s. One of the very few SNL and other ‘comedy’ shows skids that was actually funny, in the same way that very few of the New York Times and Washington Post ‘articles’ on Trump have been actually news.

As I wrote to a friend earlier today, sure Spicer’s gone, but there’ll be other entertaining characters to replace him. Say what you will about the Trump administration, but never a dull moment. Having Mike Pence become president would kill all the fun.

Sad!

Scaramucci is a great start to phase 2. Or is that 22? The guy’s a Wall Street pawn who badmouthed Da Donald not long ago. Moreover, says a Daily Beast headline, “Anthony Scaramucci Loved Hillary, Gave to Obama, and Deleted Anti-Trump Tweets”.

Wonderful!

Now I know the White House should not really be a theater, but hey, it already is, so we might as well make the best of it. And the name Scaramucci alone carries so much promise. Not only because of the Queen line from Bohemian Rhapsody, but also because of, as Wikipedia puts it:

Scaramouch. 1660s, name of a cowardly braggart (supposed by some to represent a Spanish don) in traditional Italian comedy, from Italian Scaramuccia, literally “skirmish,” from schermire “to fence,” from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German skirmen “defend”); see skirmish (n.).

and

Scaramuccia (literally “little skirmisher”), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell’arte. The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman).

A cowardly braggart! There is so much promise there. And theater, tragedy, drama, entertainment. Look, that’s what Shakespeare made of politics, and many others did too, so maybe we should just get used to it. It’s not all that new, kings and queens and power hungry sociopaths have been the subjects of plays and worse for ages. When you see anything Trump, think Shakespeare. Give it the proper historical context.

Think Macbeth. Think King Lear. Think Trump.

Think:

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright’ning me
(Galileo.) Galileo. (Galileo.) Galileo. Galileo figaro magnifico
I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity..

 

 

May 072017
 
 May 7, 2017  Posted by at 6:46 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


J.M.W. Turner Old London Bridge 1794

 

The French election, won just now by Emmanuel Macron, put several segments of the French population opposite one another in a pretty fierce contest. And that contest will continue. Because Macron won’t be able to lift the French economy out of its doldrums any more than Le Pen could have, or than Trump can life the US, and the new president will have the honor of presiding over a further and deepening downturn. The French political dividing line was aptly described by Simon Kuper recently:

The ultra-nationalist writer Charles Maurras believed there were “two Frances”. The one he loved was the “pays réel”, the real country: a rural France of church clocks, traditions and native people fused with their ancestral soil. Maurras loathed the “pays légal”, the legal country: the secular republic, which he thought was run by functionaries conspiring for alien interests.

Maurras was born in 1868 and died in 1952. But if he returned on Sunday to witness the French presidential run-off, he would instantly recognise both candidates. He would cast Emmanuel Macron as the incarnation of the “legal France” and Marine Le Pen as embodying the “real” one.

Maurras may have been a questionable character, but that description is not half bad. Once enough people in the country understand the failure of ‘legal’ France, they will want ‘real’ France back. That will be true in countries all over Europe; to a large extent it already is. Marine Le Pen summed up the key issue really well a few days ago when she said of the country post election: “France will be led by a woman, me or Mrs. Merkel.”

There is only one reason the French people would ever tolerate Germany having an outsized influence in their politics and economics: that they feel they benefit from it financially. And yes, if you put it that way, it’s already quite something that they haven’t revolted more and earlier.

The generous unemployment benefits are undoubtedly part of that. But those can’t last. And since the Germans owe their influence in Paris to the EU, it’s obvious how the French will feel they can stop that influence. And then the EU will turn out to be not a peacemaker, but the opposite.

 

Still, as much as France is divided, and as serious as that division is, the country is a shining beacon of unity compared to the UK, where the dividing lines are as manifold as they are laced with toxins. The snap election PM Theresa May called, in just over a month, can do nothing to resolve any of it. That means the EU can do what they want in the Brexit negotiations. Which will therefore be an unparalleled disaster for May and the UK.

The EU can and will ‘have its way’ with the UK for one simple reason: the United Kingdom is anything but United. It makes no difference what the EU does to the UK, the British won’t blame them for it. They will blame each other instead. No matter what happens these days, the British always know in advance who’s to blame, and it’s never themselves; it’s always another group of Brits.

The Tories are deeply divided between pro- and anti-Brexit forces. Labour is divided along those same lines, and adds pro- and anti-Corbyn sentiments for good measure. Other parties don’t really matter much, but they have similar dividing lines as well.

Anti-Corbyn Labour MPs have convinced themselves they know better than pro-Corbyn party members. They’ve kept claiming for so long that Corbyn is unelectable it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They’ll be lucky not to face the fate of their former brethren in François Hollande’s Parti Socialiste, who ended up with just 6% of the vote in the 1st round of the French elections.

PM Theresa May called the snap election for June 8 to hide some of the divisions behind, to make them appear less relevant, or even to profit from them and grab more power. But the very fact that Brexit was voted in, already makes the election nigh irrelevant.

Whoever wins, and it looks certain to be May herself. will open themselves to being scapegoated in a big way. Which won’t keep them from seeking victory, because the loser can expect the same fate. The trenches have been dug, and deeply. Governable? Don’t count on it. It feels more like 40 years later we’re back to Johnny Rotten ‘singing’ Anarchy in the UK.

 

If May threatens to leave the EU ‘cold’ and trigger a ‘Hard Brexit’, she will simultaneously trigger a whole lot more, and much wider, divisions in the country (or is that countries?!), and that’s even without mentioning an entire minefield of legal, and potentially constitutional, issues. The latter especially because Britain doesn’t have an actual -written- constitution.

For Brussels, it’s easy pickings, and pick they will. This week, they casually raised the UK’s cost of leaving the EU to €100 billion, from estimates varying from €40 billion to €60 billion before. Paddy Power and its equally powerful bookie ilk soon won’t be taking any bets below, say, €150 billion. In that regard, and many others, the EU will do to the UK what it is doing to Greece.

The only way to stand up against that is to show a common front. But there will be no such thing in the Divided Kingdom, not for a long time. Everyone has their favorite scapegoat, for some it’s Nigel Farage, for others David Cameron, George Osborne, Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May. And nobody is going to leave their blame trenches. They’re the only places they feel somewhat comfortable, less scared, in.

 

Theresa May, if the polls are to be believed -and given the divisions we might for once-, will have to sit down and negotiate with the multi-headed Hydra that is the EU, ‘strengthened’ by a major election victory, but she will find it the ultimate Pyrrhic victory, because Brussels will have a ball playing her divided ‘nation’.

Scotland can probably easily be seduced with the carrot of EU membership, but more importantly, Juncker and his people can cast doubt on the entire Brexit vote, and they will have many interested takers.

The Brexit negotiations will take at least 2 years. But it could be 3 or 4 years, who knows? May has no power over that duration, unless she walks. She won’t. And as things are drawn out, Juncker et al have all the time and opportunities they want to tell both May and the British public that Brussels has no intention of punishing them, but will have to do so anyway.

After all, Brexit is a threat to the entire European project, and all the leaders of the 27 remaining nations, as well as the vast majority of their domestic opposition parties, are behind that project, no questions asked. And the many thousands of people working their very well-paid jobs in Brussels and Strasbourg are not too critical either.

All in all, the British need to wake up and smell the roses as long as there are any left, and before they have been replaced with less savory odors. Or they will have to seriously wonder whether the Kingdom, united or not, can outlive the Queen, aka the London Bridge.

 

 

“London Bridge is Down” was recently revealed as the secret UK government code for the moment the Queen dies.