Nov 172017
 
 November 17, 2017  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Arthur Rothstein Night view, downtown section. Dallas, Texas 1942

 

America’s Racial Wealth Gap Is Staggering – And Government-Created (BI)
Australia’s Private Debt Juggernaut Rolls On (LFE)
John Malone says Amazon is a ‘Death Star’ (CNBC)
Einhorn Says Issues That Caused the Crisis Are Not Solved (BBG)
Corporate Zombies Are Threatening The Eurozone Economy (ZH)
Wall St. Bankers Secretly Used Chat Rooms To Rig Treasury Bond Trades (NYP)
Electricity Consumed To Mine Bitcoin Rose 43% Since October (BBG)
Saudi Arabia Offers Arrested Royals A Deal: Your Freedom For Lots Of Cash (ZH)
Fed Insiders Seek Radical Policy Review as Powell Era Dawns (BBG)
200,000 Gallons of Oil Spill From Keystone Pipeline (Atl.)
Greek Taxpayers Have Paid Dearly For €720 Million ‘Social Dividend’ (K.)
EU Handling Of Greek Bailouts “Generally Weak”, Say Its Own Auditors (R.)
James Hansen Calls For Wave Of Climate Lawsuits (G.)

 

 

Don’t think a lot of people were aware of this.

America’s Racial Wealth Gap Is Staggering – And Government-Created (BI)

The term “public housing” is generally associated with poor, disaffected US minorities — but it turns out its origins were very much white and middle-class. Explicitly racist housing policies at the federal, state and local levels, first during the Great Depression and then after World War II, helped deepen and exacerbate a wealth gap between the races that has accelerated over the decades. Those policies also led to a sharp rise in racial segregation across many US cities, according to Richard Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America.”

“There was a systematic pattern that we’ve forgotten by which every metropolitan area in this country has been segregated not by the accident of personal choices or economic differences but by very explicit federal, state and local policy designed to create a segregated landscape everywhere we look,” Rothstein said during his keynote speech at a recent conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The Fed is putting increasing efforts into community development as the unemployment rate falls to historically low levels, forcing policymakers to face more intractable social issues that are not always directly amenable to monetary or even fiscal policy. America’s racial wealth gap today is almost hard to fathom:

Black families on average hold a paltry 10% of the wealth owned by the average white family, a level of inequality that eclipses anything seen in other rich nations. Rothstein argues that a big part of that gap comes from discriminatory housing policies that allowed whites to build gains from homeownership while blacks were forced to rent. Here’s what the data look like, according to the Urban Institute:

Rothstein argued that the roots of inequality in housing wealth were very much racial and completely intentional, not the result of self-segregation by choice. “Housing was built on a segregated basis, very often creating segregation in communities that hadn’t known it before or at least where it wasn’t nearly as intense as it later became,” he said. President Harry Truman proposed a massive expansion of the public housing program in 1949 in order to house returning veterans, Rothstein said. The 1949 Housing Act was passed “as a segregated program, and the government used that act to continue to segregate all its housing programs for the next ten years.”

Read more …

This is about Australia, but take a look at debt service ratio’s in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. And then just for fun compare them to the US, Italy.

Australia’s Private Debt Juggernaut Rolls On (LFE)

In the post-GFC era, more attention has been given to private credit (debt) whereas previously, almost all commentary focused upon public debt. The ruptures caused by the global financial crisis (GFC) is strongly responsible for this shift in perspective, including the research by heterodox economists. Fortunately, the mass media in Australia have done a fairly good job at bringing attention to private debt even though they are, ironically, staunch cheerleaders of inflated land prices. As is now commonly recognised, Australia’s household sector is heavily indebted. The household debt to GDP ratio is the second-highest globally at 122%, has the second-equal highest household sector debt service ratio (DSR), and the fifth-highest debt to income ratio. In absolute terms, household debt amounts to $2.1 trillion dollars; the vast majority consists of mortgage debt with a small remainder of personal debt.

The household debt to income ratio is 172%, which is below the commonly-cited RBA ratio which registers at 190%. This is due to the different measure of debt used (the numerator). The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) only considers debt instruments in line with the UN SNA (System of National Accounts), whereas the RBA uses all household liabilities from the ABS Financial National Accounts. This is neither correct nor incorrect, just different. In compiling its debt database, the BIS must adhere to international standards.

The debt service ratio is an estimate of both aggregate principal and interest payments, using household income, debt and the average interest rate (FISIM-adjusted) variables as inputs. The BIS notes the DSR demonstrates a strongly negative correlation between household consumption and debt, for obvious reasons.

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“Amazon is a ‘Death Star’ moving in ‘striking range of every industry on the planet'”.

John Malone says Amazon is a ‘Death Star’ (CNBC)

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone believes Amazon will dominate the future and is the only company that has a chance to beat Netflix. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings “has been successful in throwing hail Mary passes and then growing into them. And I think he is going to continue doing that. He’s got a great service. He’s disintermediating the studio industry by going directly to the talent,” Malone said in an exclusive interview with CNBC’s David Faber Thursday at the Liberty Media annual investor meeting. “The only outfit right now that has a chance of overtaking them would be Amazon.” The investor noted the cable industry missed its opportunity to compete with Netflix in the past and said “it’s way too late” now. He added that in today’s media world Netflix has the lead position due to its size and subscriber base.

The internet “makes scale even more important in the media business, where scale always was important. It’s all about scale,” he said. Netflix was “the first wave. And I think Jeff [Bezos] is gonna be the most disruptive. As [his] Death Star moves into striking range of every industry on the planet.” He explained that Amazon’s business dominance is growing stronger. Malone said any company that sells products to consumers is at risk of being crushed by the e-commerce giant. “If you’re in the B2C business, if you’re selling anything to any consumer anywhere on the planet, you gotta believe that Amazon is gonna have a look at that opportunity to commoditize you to use scale to serve the public,” he said. Bezos is “reducing cost to the consumer and providing great convenience … You just got to take your hat off and envy what he has built.”

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And that should raise a lot more fear than it does at present.

Einhorn Says Issues That Caused the Crisis Are Not Solved (BBG)

Hedge-fund manager David Einhorn said the problems that caused the global financial crisis a decade ago still haven’t been resolved. “Have we learned our lesson? It depends what the lesson was,” Einhorn, the co-founder of New York-based Greenlight Capital, said at the Oxford Union in England on Wednesday. Einhorn said he identified several issues at the time of the crisis, including the fact that institutions that could have gone under were deemed too big to fail. The scarcity of major credit-rating agencies was and remains a factor, Einhorn said, while problems in the derivatives market “could have been dealt with differently.” And in the “so-called structured-credit market, risk was transferred, but not really being transferred, and not properly valued.”

“If you took all of the obvious problems from the financial crisis, we kind of solved none of them,” Einhorn said to a packed room at Oxford University’s 194-year-old debating society. Instead, the world “went the bailout route.” “We sweep as much under the rug as we can and move on as quickly as we can,” he said. [..] Briefly touching the rise of computer-driven strategies in the financial industry, the billionaire said machines were usually good at spotting short-term trading patterns, something Greenlight isn’t focused on. “Our goal here is to find things that are widely misunderstood by a large margin. So we are not really competing with that kind of technology, because I don’t think we would beat them.”

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Central bankers who create zombies, and then warn about the danger of .. zombies. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.

Corporate Zombies Are Threatening The Eurozone Economy (ZH)

The recovery in Eurozone growth has become part of the synchronised global growth narrative that most investors are relying on to deliver further gains in equities as we head into 2018. However, the “Zombification” of a chunk of the Eurozone’s corporate sector is not only a major unaddressed structural problem, but it’s getting worse, especially in…you guessed it…Italy and Spain. According to the WSJ.

The Bank for International Settlements, the Basel-based central bank for central banks, defines a zombie as any firm which is at least 10 years old, publicly traded and has interest expenses that exceed the company’s earnings before interest and taxes. Other organizations use different criteria. About 10% of the companies in six eurozone countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain are zombies, according to the central bank’s latest data. The percentage is up sharply from 5.5% in 2007. In Italy and Spain, the percentage of zombie companies has tripled since 2007, the OECD estimated in January. Italy’s zombies employed about 10% of all workers and gobbled up nearly 20% of all the capital invested in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available.

The WSJ explains how the ECB’s negative interest rate policy and corporate bond buying are keeping a chunk of the corporate sector, especially in southern Europe on life support. In some cases, even the life support of low rates and debt restructuring is not preventing further deterioration in their metrics. These are the true “Zombie” companies who will probably never come back from being “undead”, i.e. technically dead but still animate. Belatedly, there is some realisation of the risks.

Economists and central bankers say zombies undercut prices charged by healthier competitors, create artificial barriers to entry and prevent the flushing out of weak companies and bad loans that typically happens after downturns. Now that the European economy is in growth mode, those zombies and their related debt problems could become a drag on the entire continent. “The zombification of the corporate sector and banks (is) a risk for future living standards,” Klaas Knot, a European Central Bank governor and the head of the Dutch central bank, said in an interview. In some ways, zombie firms are an unintended side effect of years of easy money from the ECB, which rolled out aggressive stimulus policies, including negative interest rates, to support lending and growth. Those policies have been sharply criticized in some richer eurozone countries for making it easier for banks to keep struggling corporate borrowers alive.

Read more …

Jail time.

Wall St. Bankers Secretly Used Chat Rooms To Rig Treasury Bond Trades (NYP)

Wall Street banks secretly shared client information in online chat rooms in order to rig auctions for the $14 trillion US Treasurys market, according to an explosive lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday. The move wrongly fattened the banks’ profits and picked profits from clients, the suit claims. The new accusations, leveled by several pension funds and wealthy individual investors, are contained in an expanded class-action suit originally filed in July 2015 — and include an unusual twist: Some of the evidence came from confidential informants and one of the banks sued in the earlier action. That bank is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in the massive civil action, and is providing an in-depth look into how Wall Street allegedly conspired to rig Treasury bond trades.

The revised lawsuit expands on details on how the banks conspired to set Treasury bond prices — like moves to manipulate the price of the bonds higher on days when there was a lot of demand, and vice versa, court papers claim. The banks worked their scam for years until The Post first reported in June 2015 of the existence of a government investigation into the alleged actions, the updated lawsuit claims. The funds, representing retirees and public workers, also claim the banks conspired to rig the secondary Treasury markets beginning in the 1990s through tightly controlled electronic platforms that inhibited more competitive trading — a new allegation that wasn’t in the original suit but mirrors similar complaints filed against banks in other markets, like stock loans.

The amended suit tightens its focus on a select number of banks, naming Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Royal Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, and UBS, among others, as the firms behind the rigging, which they allege occurred from Jan. 1, 2007 to mid-2015. Last year, the judge presiding over the class-action suit had questioned whether the claims were strong enough to proceed. The funds continue to allege the banks mined their own customers’ bids for Treasury bonds to get a bigger share of the auction, and sell the bonds for more profit. Probes on the auction practices are being conducted by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal, state and overseas regulators, sources said. No regulator has accused any bank of wrongdoing.

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It will keep rising. No hydro project will stop that.

Electricity Consumed To Mine Bitcoin Rose 43% Since October (BBG)

A green-energy startup says it can solve bitcoin’s surging electricity consumption without boosting pollution, an issue threatening to halt the meteoric rise of the virtual currency. Austria’s HydroMiner GmbH raised $2.8 million after closing its first initial coin offering on Wednesday, according to its website. The cash will be used to install high-powered computers at hydropower plants, where the company says it can mine new digital currencies at a cheaper cost and with lower environmental impacts. “A lot of people are worried about the high energy consumption of cryptocurrencies,” said Nadine Damblon, the co-founder and chief executive officer of HydroMiner in Vienna. “It’s a huge factor.”

The electricity needed by the global network of computers running the blockchain technology behind bitcoin has risen more than two-fifths since the beginning of October, to about 28 terawatt-hours a year, according to the Digiconomist website. That’s more power than all of Nigeria’s 186 million people consume each year. Much of the electricity feeding bitcoin projects is coming from generators fed by fossil fuels. Even as bitcoin approaches $8,000, the price required for mining to be marginally profitable may reach a jaw-dropping $300,000 to $1.5 million by 2022, according to Christopher Chapman at Citigroup. He based his estimate on current growth rates for mining and the electricity consumed by computers doing the work. At that pace, the power consumption implied by bitcoin’s growth may eventually match what Japan uses.

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My piece from November 8: How Broke is the House of Saud? Sounds like an extremely volatile situation. Taking all those billions away from the rich will not be appreciated. MBS is playing with fire.

Saudi Arabia Offers Arrested Royals A Deal: Your Freedom For Lots Of Cash (ZH)

Saudi Arabia just introduced a 70% wealth tax. It did so in a most original way… As we noted shortly after the Crown Prince’s purge of potential rivals within Saudi Arabia’s sprawling ruling family, while the dozens of arrests were made under the pretext of an “anti-corruption crackdown”, Mohammed bin Salman’s ulterior motive was something else entirely: Replenishing the Kingdom’s depleted foreign reserves, which have been hammered for the past three years by low oil prices, with some estimating that the current purge could potentially bring in up to $800 billion in proceeds. Furthermore, the geopolitical turmoil unleashed by the unprecedented crackdown helped push oil prices higher, creating an ancillary benefit for both the kingdom’s rulers and the upcoming IPO of Aramco.

And, in the latest confirmation that the crackdown was all about cash, the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out…. and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth. “Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom, people briefed on the discussions say. In some cases the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70% of suspects’ wealth, two of the people said, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers. The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic corruption purge.”

[..] Some of the suspects, most of whom have been rounded up at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh since last week, are keen to secure their release by signing over cash and corporate assets, the FT’s sources say. “They are making settlements with most of those in the Ritz,” said one adviser. “Cough up the cash and you will go home.” One multi-billionaire businessman held at the Ritz-Carlton has been told to hand over 70% of his wealth to the state as a punishment for decades of involvement in allegedly corrupt business transactions. He wants to pay, but has yet to work out the details of transferring those assets to the Saudi state.”

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Just look at the nonsense spouted: “The move formalized a policy they’d been following in practice for several years, and it was backed by careful logic: 2% is high enough to ensure that workers continue to get raises and to give the Fed some cushion against deflation.” It did none of that.

Fed Insiders Seek Radical Policy Review as Powell Era Dawns (BBG)

Federal Reserve officials are pushing for a potentially radical revamp of the playbook for guiding U.S. monetary policy, hoping to seize a moment of economic calm and leadership change to prepare for the next storm. While the country is enjoying its third-longest expansion on record, inflation and interest rates are still low, meaning the central bank has little room to ease policy in a downturn before hitting zero again. With Jerome Powell nominated to take over as Fed chairman in February, influential officials including San Francisco Fed chief John Williams and the Chicago Fed’s Charles Evans have taken the lead in calling for reconsidering policy maker’s 2% inflation target. “It’s a good time given the shift in leadership,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic told reporters on Tuesday in Montgomery, Alabama.

“The new guy comes in and they are able to really think about, how should this work, how do I think this should work, and is it compatible with where we’ve been and where we are trying to get to?” The Fed in 2012 officially settled on 2% inflation as an explicit target for the price stability half of its dual mandate from Congress. The other goal is maximum sustainable employment. The move formalized a policy they’d been following in practice for several years, and it was backed by careful logic: 2% is high enough to ensure that workers continue to get raises and to give the Fed some cushion against deflation. Other advanced economies aim for a similar level. Yet Fed officials have been urging the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee to revisit that approach.

“I do think that’s a very important thing that we should all be starting to think about, to prepare ourselves and evaluating,” Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester told a monetary policy conference at the Cato Institute Thursday in Washington. “The Bank of Canada rethinks its framework every five years. It seems to me that’s not a bad thing.”

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This is not Keystone XL, but it’s terribly scary.

200,000 Gallons of Oil Spill From Keystone Pipeline (Atl.)

The Keystone pipeline was temporarily shut down on Thursday, after leaking about 210,000 gallons of oil into Marshall County, South Dakota*, during an early-morning spill. TransCanada, the company which operates the pipeline, said it noticed a loss of pressure in Keystone at about 5:45 a.m. According to a company statement, workers had “completely isolated” the section and “activated emergency procedures” within 15 minutes. Brian Walsh, a state environmental scientist, told the local station KSFY that TransCanada informed the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the spill by 10:30 a.m. TransCanada estimates that the pipeline leaked about 5,000 barrels of oil at the site, Walsh said. A barrel holds 42 U.S. gallons of crude oil.

The Keystone pipeline is nearly 3,000 miles long and links oil fields in Alberta, Canada, to the large crude-trading hubs in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma. It was completed in 2010. The entirety of its northern span—which travels through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois—would stay closed until the leak was fixed, the company said. TransCanada said it was still operating the pipeline’s southern span, which connects Oklahoma to export terminals along the Gulf Coast. The pipeline’s better-known sister project—the Keystone XL pipeline—was proposed in 2008 as a shortcut and enlargement of the Keystone pipeline.

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A country being crushed by creative accounting.

Greek Taxpayers Have Paid Dearly For €720 Million ‘Social Dividend’ (K.)

It took 2.7 billion euros in new taxes and pension cuts for the government to beat the primary surplus target by 1.9 billion euros this year. In total, 6.2 million taxpayers were forced to pay an average of 410 euros each for the government to distribute an average handout of 180 euros branded the “social dividend” to fewer taxpayers (almost 4 million). The relevant bill that was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday does not specify how the handout will be distributed. Cripplingly high taxes and social security contributions, combined with a freeze on investments, gave the prime minister the chance to issue a nominal social dividend of 1.4 billion euros, which actually amounts to 720 million for low-income people – as the rest goes toward covering government obligations.

For this surplus primary surplus to be attained, the government did the following:
– Hiked solidarity levy rates, mainly for annual incomes in excess of 30,000 euros.
– Lowered the tax-free limit for pensioners and salary workers.
– Raised taxation on oil, gasoline, coffee and tobacco. The latest data show that increasing the special consumption taxes on beer and on coffee has fetched 140 million and 40 million euros respectively.
– Hiked value-added tax rates to the effect that 62.4% of goods and services are now in the top VAT bracket (24%), compared to 33.6% up until last year.
– Slashed the heating oil allowance by about 50%.
– Cut pensions and almost abolished the allowance for low-pension retirees (EKAS).
– Raised the retirement age and social security contributions.

Also the erroneous estimate of Single Social Security Entity (EFKA) revenues turned its deficit of 1 billion euros into a 200-million-euro surplus.

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“Creditors initially estimated that Greece would return to growth in 2012”

But so what? They just raise the burden on Greeks a bit more each time they screw up.

EU Handling Of Greek Bailouts “Generally Weak”, Say Its Own Auditors (R.)

The European Union’s handling of three bailout programs for Greece during the eurozone’s financial crisis had several weaknesses and was only partly successful, European auditors said on Thursday. EU and international creditors have channeled over €350 billion ($412.1 billion) of financial aid to Greece since 2010 to prevent the country’s default and reduce contagion to the rest of the eurozone. To get the funds, Athens had to embark on sweeping structural reforms and unpopular belt-tightening measures. The programs “promoted reform and avoided default by Greece, but the country’s ability to finance itself fully on the financial markets remains a challenge,” the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said in a report on the Greek bailouts. The ECA is responsible for assessing EU finances.

Last year, it said the Commission’s management of the bailouts for Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, Latvia and Romania was “generally weak.” The third Greek program is still ongoing as Athens completes agreed reforms. The €86 billion bailout ends in August, and Greece is by then expected to have fully regained access to market funding. The ECA report, which focused on the work of the European Commission, said the programs “only helped Greece to recover to a limited extent.” The ECB, which together with eurozone states and the IMF contributed to the programs, was not assessed because it declined to provide data, questioning the auditors’ mandate to ask for it, ECA said. The auditors found “weaknesses” in the design of the Greek programs. “Some key measures were not sufficiently justified,” the report said. The ECA stressed that a large chunk of the €45 billion pumped into the banking system may never be recovered.

“For other (measures), the Commission did not comprehensively consider Greece’s implementation capacity in the design process and thus did not adapt the scope and timing accordingly,” it said. In a written reply included in the ECA report, the Commission said that “the design and implementation of crucial reforms took place in the wider context of the prevailing difficult economic situation as well as severe instability in the financial markets.” The Greek bailouts were carried out during the worst financial and economic crisis since the World War II. The Commission also stressed that the application of the programs was complicated by the political crisis that struck Greece during the bailouts, causing the collapse of governments. The Commission concluded that, despite the complex circumstances, the key objectives of the programs were achieved by averting Greece’s default and ensuring financial stability in the eurozone.

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“The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on..”

James Hansen Calls For Wave Of Climate Lawsuits (G.)

One of the fathers of climate science is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying action on what he describes as the growing, mortal threat of global warming. Former Nasa scientist James Hansen says the litigate-to-mitigate campaign is needed alongside political mobilisation because judges are less likely than politicians to be in the pocket of oil, coal and gas companies. “The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on,” he told the Guardian on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Bonn. Without Hansen and his fellow Nasa researchers who raised the alarm about the effect of carbon emissions on global temperatures in the 1980s, it is possible that none of the thousands of delegates from almost 200 countries would be here.

But after three decades, he has been largely pushed to the fringes. Organisers have declined his request to speak directly to the delegates about what he sees as a threat that is still massively underestimated. Instead he spreads his message through press conferences and interviews, where he cuts a distinctive figure as an old testament-style prophet in an Indiana Jones hat. He does not mince his words. The international process of the Paris accord, he says, is “eyewash” because it fails to put a higher price on carbon. National legislation, he feels, is almost certainly doomed to fail because governments are too beholden to powerful lobbyists. Even supposedly pioneering states like California, which have a carbon cap-and-trade system, are making things worse, he said, because “half-arsed, half-baked plans only delay a solution.”

For Hansen, the key is to make the 100 big “carbon majors” – corporations like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell that are, by one account, responsible for more than 70% of emissions – pay for the transition to cleaner energy and greater forests. Until governments make them do so by introducing carbon fees or taxes, he says, the best way to hold them to account and generate funds is to sue them for the damage they are doing to the climate, those affected and future generations. Hansen is putting his words into action. He is involved in a 2015 lawsuit against the US federal government, brought by his granddaughter and 20 others under the age of 21. They argue the government’s failure to curb CO2 emissions has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

[..] Hansen believes Donald Trump’s actions to reverse environmental protections and withdraw from the Paris accord may be a blessing in disguise because the government will now find it harder to persuade judges that it is acting in the public interest. “Trump’s policy may backfire on him,” he said. “In the greater scheme of things, it might just make it easier to win our lawsuit.”

Read more …

Oct 232016
 
 October 23, 2016  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle October 23 2016


NPC Oldsmobile Golden Rocket 88 Holiday Sedan for 1957, Columbus GA 1908

Financial Crises: 1987, 1997, 2007, 2017?! (BBG)
Government Debt Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Australia’s Credit Rating (G.)
Britain’s Leading Banks Set To Pull Out Of UK Early Next Year (G.)
AT&T To Buy Time Warner In Deal Trump Says ‘Destroys Democracy’ (G.)
Hillary Has ‘Nothing To Say’ About Email Revealing $12 Million Quid Pro Quo (DM)
Obama Warned of Rigged Elections Back in 2008 (ZH)
Trump Lays Out His Plan For First 100 Days In Office (ZH)
Official Publication Says China Needs Xi As Mao-Like Strongman Leader (SCMP)
Edward Snowden Is A Saint, Not A Sinner (Jimmy Wales)
75% Of Young Greeks, Italians Live With Their Parents (Kath.)
Rescuers Save 2,400 Migrants In Mediterranean, Recover 14 Bodies (R.)

 

 

Fun with numbers.

Financial Crises: 1987, 1997, 2007, 2017?! (BBG)

Next year ends in a 7. If you’re superstitious or a little loose with statistics, that makes us due for another financial crisis. The biggest one-day stock drop in Wall Street history happened in 1987. The Asian crisis was in 1997. And the worst global meltdown since the Great Depression got rolling in 2007 with the failure of mortgage lenders Northern Rock in the U.K. and New Century Financial in the U.S. You can’t really mark the next crisis down on your calendar, of course. The point is that crackups come fairly regularly. And some of the prerequisites for the next one do seem to be falling into place. The IMF may have gotten things about right in its annual Global Financial Stability Report, which was issued in October. It doesn’t sound an alarm but expresses concern.

Short-term risks have actually abated, the IMF says, pointing to rebounding commodity prices, which help some key emerging markets, and the prospect of easier money in developed markets. But, it says, “medium-term risks continue to build.” It cites the unsettled political climate, which makes entrenched problems harder to tackle; some weak financial institutions in developed markets; and heavy corporate debts in emerging markets. Risks that aren’t acute can build for a while before triggering a crisis. What’s indisputable is that debt, the tinder of almost every financial conflagration, is growing rapidly. At 225 percent of world gross domestic product, combined public and private debt outside the financial sector “is currently at an all-time high,” the IMF says. Debt fuels growth but also makes borrowers brittle. Debtors keep owing money even if they lose the ability to repay. If they default, their lenders are damaged and sometimes default on their own obligations, and so the dominoes fall.

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The last paragraphs of a piece that just can’t seem to get going, but ends ‘well’. Private debt is by far Australia’s main problem, as it is nearly everywhere else.

Government Debt Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Australia’s Credit Rating (G.)

The new head of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, told the house economics committee soon after taking over the position last month, that the effects of a ratings downgrade on borrowing costs are “quite small”. He suggested that rather than be the main game, that credit ratings were just “a useful reminder that we need to make sure the recurrent budget is on a good path”. But while our government debt remains “admirable” by international standards, as the secretary of the treasury, John Fraser, noted this week, our levels of private debt are extremely high – indeed fifth-highest in the world. Worryingly, the IMF in its recent fiscal monitor report noted the level of this debt was a concern for Australia’s ongoing financial stability.

Fraser noted this aspect as well in his appearance before the Senate estimates committee, telling the committee that the Treasury, “are also conscious that credit rating agencies are focusing on household debt as well as corporate and government debt”. Policies to lower private debt however are much more thin on the ground than are the cries about the need to cut government spending to reduce government debt. The shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, this week raised the issue in an opinion piece published by Guardian Australia. He highlighted that the ALP’s policy on capital gains tax and negative gearing, which it took to the last election, was the type of policy proscribed by organisations like the IMF to temper our love of taking on more and more private debt.

Should S&P downgrade Australia’s credit rating, no doubt almost all commentary and debate will focus on government debt. But regardless of whether or not such a downgrade will cause interest rates for governments and companies to rise, private – not government – debt will remain the issue that most urgently needs to be addressed.

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Hubris. Largely.

Britain’s Leading Banks Set To Pull Out Of UK Early Next Year (G.)

Britain’s biggest banks are preparing to relocate out of the UK in the first few months of 2017 amid growing fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to get out before Christmas. The dramatic claim is made in the Observer by the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, Anthony Browne, who warns “the public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction”. A source close to Brexit secretary David Davis said he and the chancellor Philip Hammond had last week sought to offer reassurance that they were determined to secure the status of the City of London.

However, the government’s stated intention to take control of the freedom of movement into the UK is widely recognised among officials to be a hammer blow to any chance of retaining the present terms of trade for banks, particularly given the bellicose rhetoric of major politicians on the continent. The so-called passporting rights for members of the single market allow UK-based banks to offer financial services to companies and individuals across the EU unimpeded, yet the French president François Hollande is among those who have insisted in recent weeks that hard Brexit will mean “hard negotiation” and that Britain will need to “pay the price” of leaving.

A hard Brexit would involve the UK leaving both the single market, a cental pillar of which is freedom of movement, and the customs union, which could potentially reintroduce tariff and non-tariff restrictions on British imports and exports. Browne warns that both British and European politicians who appear to be pursuing “anti-trade” goals need to recognise that “putting up barriers to the trade in financial services across the Channel will make us all worse off”. Browne, whose organisation has been in intense negotiations with the government, further warns the EU that banks based in UK are currently lending £1.1tn, therefore “keeping the continent afloat financially”, and that this arrangement is at risk.

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How many times has Time Warner been bought and sold now? Remember AOL?

AT&T To Buy Time Warner In Deal Trump Says ‘Destroys Democracy’ (G.)

The telecoms giant AT&T has agreed to pay $85bn to buy the media powerhouse Time Warner and create one of the world’s largest media, TV and telecoms firms. The boards of the two companies unanimously approved the deal on Saturday. AT&T will pay $107.50 per Time Warner share, in a combination of cash and stock, worth $85.4 billion overall. The deal, which combines America’s second-largest wireless telecoms company with the owner of HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network and the Warner Brothers movies, is likely to face tough regulatory scrutiny due to fears it could lead to less consumer choice and higher prices. If approved, the deal would be the biggest in the world this year.

AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, says he does not anticipate government blocking the acquisition, which the company says is expected to go through by the end of 2017. Time Warner’s CEO, Jeff Bewkes, says he expects all of his company’s creative and business executives to stay on “for a number of years”. The Republican presidential nominee said on Saturday he would block the deal if he were elected. In a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump said AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner would give the combined group “too much concentration of power” and would “destroy democracy”. Speaking about his continuing battle with the “dishonest mainstream media”, Trump said: “They’re trying desperately to suppress my vote and the voice of the American people.

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Trump said he would also consider “breaking” up the last big media deal, Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2013. “Deals like this destroy democracy,” he said.

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Hillary and her campaign blaming everything on Russia is prodoundly damaging to the US, and on the office of President of the Unted States in case she gets elected.

Hillary Has ‘Nothing To Say’ About Email Revealing $12 Million Quid Pro Quo (DM)

A stone-faced Hillary Clinton refused to comment tonight on an email a top aide sent calling a Clinton Foundation quid pro quo a ‘mess’ of the former secretary of state’s own making. ‘I have nothing to say about Wikileaks, other than I think we should all be concerned about what the Russians are trying to do to our election and using Wikileaks very blatantly to try to influence the outcome of the election,’ Clinton said. The Democratic nominee was responding to a question posed by DailyMail.com during a media avail with reporters riding on her campaign plane.

Hacked emails revealed an internal disagreement among Clinton’s aides about her desire to hold a conference in Marrakech, Morocco.The country’s king made a $12 million pledge to fund the Clinton Global Initiative conference – but only if the the likely presidential candidate attended. Top confidante Huma Abedin bluntly wrote in a January 2015 email that ‘if HRC was not part of it, meeting was a non-starter.’ Then she warned: ‘She created this mess and she knows it.’ It was an uncharacteristic remark from Abedin, who is known for her abiding loyalty to Clinton over the years.

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Whatever direction the wind comes from.

Obama Warned of Rigged Elections Back in 2008 (ZH)

At a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton on Thursday in Miami Gardens, Fla., President Obama condemned Donald Trump’s “rigged election” claims, describing these remarks as “dangerous.” “When you try to sow the seeds of doubt in people’s minds about the legitimacy of our election, that undermines our democracy,” he said. “When you suggest rigging or fraud without a shred of evidence, when last night at the debate, Trump becomes the first major party nominee in American history to suggest that he will not concede despite losing…that is not a joking matter,” Obama added.

Trump said at the third presidential debate that he would keep the United States “in suspense” as to whether he would accept the election results. Later, at a campaign rally, he promised in a jesting manner that he would accept the results “if I win” as the crowd roared. But despite condemning Trump for suggesting an election can be rigged, here is a clip of then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008 warning about voter fraud and suggesting Republicans could try to sway the election in their favor. A female audience member asked… “I would just like to know what you can do to reassure us that this election will not be rigged or stolen?” Obama replies…

 

 

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On politics, he sounds less than crazed.

Trump Lays Out His Plan For First 100 Days In Office (ZH)

In a keynote speech in Gettysburg, Pa., about his plans for his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump laid out what he sees as the the core priorities of a Trump presidency, while focusing in the early part of the speech on attacks against Hillary Clinton and Wall Street, and repeating his core message by telling his audience that Washington and Wall Street are “rigged” against him and that he is the candidate to bring “the change that has to come.” “I am not a politician,” Trump told the crowd. “But when I saw the trouble our country was in, I felt I had to act.” Then, moments after promising Americans that he represented a break from the status quo, he promised to sue a number of women who have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, calling them liars.

Trump also railed against the media for seeking to concentrate its power through mergers and for colluding with his accusers to align against his campaign. He added a new threat to his repeated criticisms of U.S. media companies, when he vowed that in his administration such mega mergers as that between AT&T and Time Warner, which was just announced, would not pass as it leads to “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” [..] In terms of soundbites, the following quotes stood out.

On the economy:
• “Change has to come from outside our very broken system.”
• “We’ve doubled our national debt to $20 trillion under President Obama.”
• “Nearly 1 in 4 Americans in their prime earning years isn’t even working.”
• “I am asking the American people to dream big once again.”
• “Will withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
• “Will cancel every un-Constitutional executive action, memorandum, and order issued by President Obama.”
• “We will cancel all federal funding of sanctuary cities.”
• “The veterans will finally be taken care of properly.”
• “If we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by, and for the people.”

In terms of actual political measures that Trump would propose and/or enact, he listed the following six:
1) “A Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.”
2) “A hiring freeze on all federal employees.”
3) “A requirement that for every new federal regulation, 2 existing regulations must be eliminated.”
4) “A 5-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government.”
5) “A lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.”
6) “A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.”

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We’ll see lots of this as things continue to slide downhill.

Official Publication Says China Needs Xi As Mao-Like Strongman Leader (SCMP)

China needs a leader like Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping fits the bill, according to a media outlet affiliated to the Communist Party. Analysts said the call to make Xi a strongman leader was an attempt to raise his status to the equivalent of “Great Leader”. The exhortation was made by Peoples’ Tribune, which is affiliated with party organ People’s Daily and came just ahead of a key meeting of top officials this week to lay the groundwork for the leadership reshuffle next year. The article, published on October 18, also echoed praise from senior politicians earlier this year, calling for Xi to be named “the core” of the party leadership – a term that carries strong political meaning.

China needed a strongman politician so the nation could again rise to greatness amid a time of strategic challenges and risks, it said. Xi, as party general secretary, was widely regarded by officials and the public as such a leader, it said. “There is no longer such salutation as ‘leader’ after Mao,” said Chen Daoyin, a political scientist at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. Mao’s brief successor Hua Guofeng was once called “Wise Leader”, but no one used “leader” to address Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao, Chen said. The magazine added that without the awareness of loyalty to the “core” leadership of the party there was a danger policies would never be adhered to outside the walls of Zhongnanhai, the nerve centre of the party and central government.

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Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia.

Edward Snowden Is A Saint, Not A Sinner (Jimmy Wales)

Wikipedia is founded on a bedrock principle of neutrality, seeking to describe all relevant sides without taking a political stance. As an individual, I, too, try to stay out of most political debates — except where they directly impact my personal passion for the free flow of information. This is one of those times. When I founded Wikipedia in 2001, the Internet was a place where ordinary people could freely create and share with one another. Wikipedia emerged from that egalitarian spirit, as a community committed to the free exchange of knowledge. Our mission was and continues to be to collect the sum total of all human knowledge and make it available to everybody in their own language. Since its founding, Wikipedia has become one of the most popular websites in the world.

And we zealously guard the privacy of our users, both the 75,000 people who write the encyclopedia and the half-billion people who read it. In 2013, when Edward Snowden revealed the scope and scale of the system of mass surveillance that had been built by the National Security Agency and other national security agencies, we were horrified. It is thanks to Snowden that we can now participate in an informed and democratic debate about how the US government subverted the power of the Internet in the name of mass surveillance. As a result of what he disclosed, people began to realize their privacy had been massively eroded over the past decade, and not just by the NSA. They recognized that their personal information was being collected, stored, analyzed and shared.

Text messages, emails and phone records they thought were private were actually up for grabs, easily accessed by the US government either directly from major tech companies or by tapping the cables and switches that comprise the Internet’s “backbone.” And all of the surveillance was done without a warrant. That is why I’ve signed onto the campaign asking President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden. Without him, ordinary people around the world would still know little of the growing dragnet stifling the Internet’s enormous potential for good. As a result of Snowden’s actions, the Internet has become safer and users are better equipped to protect themselves. Since the disclosures began in 2013, the number of websites moving to HTTPS to encrypt traffic has skyrocketed. (This includes Wikipedia and US federal government websites.) Popular messaging apps like WhatsApp have adopted end-to-end encryption [..]

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And still there’s talk of recovery. And people who believe it, too.

75% Of Young Greeks, Italians Live With Their Parents (Kath.)

Three out of four Greeks aged between 15 and 24 were still living at home in 2014, according to a report by the OECD made public this month. The annual report, called “Society at a Glance,” found that southern European countries hardest hit by the debt crisis had the highest rates of young people remaining with their parents. Greece came second in the list of 35 OECD member states, after Italy, with 76% of young people reporting that they still lived at home. Italy and Greece were followed by Slovakia, Portugal and Spain, while northern European countries, namely Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway, had the lowest rates of young people remaining at home. Greece continues to have the highest rate of youth unemployment in the eurozone with more than half of young Greeks jobless and often obliged to live at home.

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Meanwhile, where human rights go to drown….

Rescuers Save 2,400 Migrants In Mediterranean, Recover 14 Bodies (R.)

Rescuers pulled 2,400 boat migrants to safety on Saturday, the Italian coastguard said, adding 14 dead bodies had been recovered in the past two days. The migrants were on rubber boats and other small vessels, it said in a statement. Some 20 operations were carried out on Saturday alone, including rescues involving an Irish naval ship and boats from humanitarian groups Doctors Without Borders and Sea Watch. Doctors Without Borders said in a tweet on Saturday it believed 12 people had died during rescue operations, four of them children. More than 3,100 migrants have gone missing or died this year while trying to use the route from north Africa to Europe by boat, the International Organization for Migration estimates.

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Oct 222016
 
 October 22, 2016  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle October 22 2016


NPC Fire at S. Kanns warehouse, Washington, DC 1908

Why Corporate America’s Debt Is a ‘Major Risk’ (BBG)
Ignoring the Debt Problem (Volcker/Peterson)
Bank of England Says Authorities Mustn’t Fine Banks Because Groaf (Bill Black)
Think Canada is a Progressive Paradise? That’s Mooseshit (G.)
No, Hillary, 17 US Intel Agencies Did Not Say Russia Hacked Dem E-mails (NR)
Rigged Elections Are An American Tradition (Paul Craig Roberts)
EU Parliament Chief, Canada Minister In Bid To Save CETA Trade Deal (AFP)
Greek Union Files EU Human Rights Case Against Austerity (COE)
Gove Says Criticizing Carney or BoE Policy ‘Equivalent Of A Thought Crime’ (DM)
Up To 25 Feared Dead In Attack On Migrant Boat Off Libya (AFP)

 

 

You guessed it: interest rates.

Why Corporate America’s Debt Is a ‘Major Risk’ (BBG)

Are investors in denial about how dim the outlook is for American businesses? That’s the question Société Générale’s Andrew Lapthorne, global head of quantitative strategy, posed to his bank’s clients. “Asset valuations are extreme; returns are poor, the probability of losses is high and the ability to recover any losses quickly is low,” he writes. In particular, the strategist sounded an alarm over the state of corporate America’s balance sheet. Company spending exceeds cash flow by a near-record amount—a fundamentally unsustainable situation—as net debt continues to increase at a rapid pace.

In many cases, companies have used debt to repurchase their own stock, flattering their bottom-line financial performance. While not all buybacks are financed by debt, Lapthorne did note a correlation between net repurchases and the change in corporate indebtedness. “U.S. corporate balance sheets are a major risk going forward,” he says. “U.S. corporates are massively overspending.” To be fair, servicing this debt load isn’t as onerous as it might appear, because of low interest rates. And despite the recent steepening of corporations’ yield curve, companies have continued to extend duration, which offers them more certainty about what their interest payments will be over the long term. “For corporate credit, there’s very little concern about short-term coverage from the market,” write analysts at Bespoke Investment Group. “We note that maturities continue to creep up slowly; despite higher spread costs, corporates are generally borrowing further out the curve and ‘locking’ low rates.”

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As Steve Keen observes, ironically, it’s Volcker and Peterson themselves who ignore the biggest debt problem: private debt. Which is much higher:

Ignoring the Debt Problem (Volcker/Peterson)

Together, the two of us have 179 years of life experience and 13 grandchildren. We have served presidents of both parties. We have seen more campaign seasons than we care to count — but none as strange as this one. Insults, invective and pandering have been poor substitutes for serious debate about the direction in which this country is going — or should be going. And a sound and sustainable fiscal structure is a key ingredient of any viable economic policy. Yes, this country can handle the nearly $600 billion federal deficit estimated for 2016. But the deficit has grown sharply this year, and will keep the national debt at about 75% of GDP, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.

Long-term, that continued growth, driven by our tax and spending policies, will create the most significant fiscal challenge facing our country. The widely respected Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by midcentury our debt will rise to 140% of GDP, far above that in any previous era, even in times of war. Unfortunately, despite a brief discussion during the final presidential debate, neither candidate has put forward a convincing plan to restrain the growth of the national debt in the decades to come. Throughout the campaign, Donald J. Trump has called for a combination of deep tax cuts that appear to far exceed proposed spending reductions, at the clear risk of substantially increasing the ratio of debt to GDP. Hillary Clinton has set out more balanced and detailed proposals, but they would still fail to stabilize and reduce our debt burden.

Whoever wins, the new president will eventually face fiscal realities that force him or her to develop strategies for decreasing the national debt as a share of the economy over the long term. Our current debt may be manageable at a time of unprecedentedly low interest rates. But if we let our debt grow, and interest rates normalize, the interest burden alone would choke our budget and squeeze out other essential spending. There would be no room for the infrastructure programs and the defense rebuilding that today have wide support. [..] we’d be dependent on foreign investors’ acquiring most of our debt — making the government dependent on the “kindness of strangers” who may not be so kind as the I.O.U.s mount up.

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Always good to read Bill.

Bank of England Says Authorities Mustn’t Fine Banks Because Groaf (Bill Black)

Elite bankers and the pathetic economists who serve as apologists for their frauds specialize in proving our family saying that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody. The subtitle of the WSJ article providing the latest proof is “Fines on banks translate into $5 trillion of ‘reduced lending capacity,’ bank says.” The “bank” referred to is the Bank of England, which is supposed to be the UK’s primary bank regulator. To be kind, the “study” by BOE is so embarrassing that a better descriptor of the BOE would be “fraud enabler.” “The roughly $275 billion in legal costs for global banks since 2008 translates into more than $5 trillion of reduced lending capacity to the real economy,” Minouche Shafik, a deputy governor of the BoE, told a New York conference of regulators and bankers Thursday.

BOE’s methodology and “logic” (which it did not make public) are easy to guess. It is not sufficient that elite banksters are able to become wealthy from leading the worlds’ most destructive financial frauds with impunity from prosecution, civil suits, and enforcement actions. It is vital that the banks no longer be fined for conducting these massive frauds. When banks are fined they lose some of their profits from these epidemics of frauds, bid-rigging cartels, predatory lending, aiding and abetting elite tax fraud, and money laundering for terrorists and violent drug cartels. For the sake of brevity, I will call these collectively “fraud proceeds.” Banks remain highly leveraged despite modest increases in capital requirements, so the BOE’s staff is assuming that each dollar of fraud proceeds that the banks lose to fines reduces total bank size by $18.18. They are assuming that the typical bank has a miserably inadequate capital requirement of slightly over five percent.

There are a number of fatal problems with BOE’s “logic” and (unstated) methodology. First, under the BOE’s “logic” the more profitable banks become by defrauding their customers the faster the economy will grow. The bank CEOs who led the three most destructive epidemics of financial fraud in history were apparently Soviet-style (pun intended) “Heroes of Capitalism.” Except, of course, what they actually drove was a massive financial bubble that produced the Great Recession. The projected loss of GDP in the U.S. due to the Great Recession is $24.3 trillion – and the loss of eurozone GDP is far larger because their economic losses have occurred over a far longer time and have been far deeper than in the United States. Only central bank economists would be so dogmatically divorced from reality and so moral challenged that they would think that allowing banksters to keep their fraud proceeds and avoid all accountability for their crimes would be good for the economy.

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“When your next-door neighbour is a billionaire celebrity genius with automatic weapons and an undying need for attention, you can get away with all sorts of stuff.”

Think Canada is a Progressive Paradise? That’s Mooseshit (G.)

Quick – picture Canada. What comes to mind? A progressive wonderland of polite manners and majestic moose? What America might be if it evolved a little? That place you’ll move to if Trump wins? If that’s what you think, that’s fine by us. In fact, it’s our brand: not America. The nice guys. Dull, kind and harmless. That’s how we like to be thought of. But it’s mooseshit. We are not the country you think we are. We never have been. The first prime minister and founding father of Canada, John A Macdonald, was a raging alcoholic. He spent entire campaigns fabulously drunk and once vomited on stage during a stump speech. When his rival pointed it out, Macdonald shot back that he hadn’t puked because of booze, but because he had been “forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent”.

It was a deflection worthy of Trump. Macdonald handily won the election. The reason the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (our “Mounties”) ride horses is because during the labour movement of the 30s, horseback was the best way to trample protesting immigrants and miners. By the 60s, the horses were mostly just for show and the Mounties’ regular activities included subjecting suspected homosexuals to the “Fruit Machine”, a device designed to measure erotic responses to gay porn. These days, Canada is the third-largest arms dealer in the world. Our Alberta oil sands produce more carbon emissions each year than the entire state of California. Our intelligence agency is allowed to act on information obtained through torture. And a lot of French Canadians are into blackface comedy.

Little of this is widely known, because we happen to share a border with America. When your next-door neighbour is a billionaire celebrity genius with automatic weapons and an undying need for attention, you can get away with all sorts of stuff. It’s nice to be thought of as the world’s nice guys. And it’s useful – it obscures a lot of dirt.

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When I first hears her make that claim, I was thinking Russia must have been real eager to get caught. Why Trump didn’t jump on it, I can’t tell. Take a look for yourself which agencies are included:

No, Hillary, 17 US Intel Agencies Did Not Say Russia Hacked Dem E-mails (NR)

Hillary Clinton in last night’s presidential debate tried to avoid talking about the substance of the damaging WikiLeaks disclosures of DNC and Clinton campaign officials by claiming 17 U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia was responsible for this. After Clinton made this claim, she scolded Trump for challenging U.S. intelligence professionals who have taken an oath to help defend this country. What Clinton said was false and misleading. First of all, only two intelligence entities – the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – have weighed in on this issue, not 17 intelligence agencies. And what they said was ambiguous about Russian involvement. An unclassified October 7, 2016 joint DNI-DHS statement on this issue said the hacks

. . . are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europa and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Saying we think the hacks “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts” is far short of saying we have evidence that Russia has been responsible for the hacks. Maybe high-level officials would have authorized them if Russian hackers were responsible, but the DNI and DHS statement did NOT say there was evidence Russia was responsible. My problem with the DNI/DHS unclassified statement is that it appeared to be another effort by the Obama administration to politicize U.S. intelligence. Make no mistake, U.S. intelligence agencies issued this unprecedented unclassified statement a month before a presidential election that was so useful to one party because the Clinton campaign asked for it.

The Obama administration was happy to comply. Clinton tried to defend the DNI/DHS statement by repeating the myth that U.S. intelligence officers are completely insulated from politics. She must think Americans will forget how the CIA crafted the politicized Benghazi talking points in 2011 and how SOUTHCOM intelligence analysts were pressured to distort their analysis of ISIS and Syria to support Obama foreign policy. And that’s just under the Obama administration.

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PCR could have done a tad more research, I’m thinking.

Rigged Elections Are An American Tradition (Paul Craig Roberts)

Do Americans have a memory? I sometimes wonder. It is an obvious fact that the oligarchic One Percent have anointed Hillary, despite her myriad problems to be President of the US. There are reports that her staff are already moving into their White House offices. This much confidence before the vote does suggest that the skids have been greased. The current cause celebre against Trump is his conditional statement that he might not accept the election results if they appear to have been rigged. The presstitutes immediately jumped on him for “discrediting American democracy” and for “breaking American tradition of accepting the people’s will.” What nonsense! Stolen elections are the American tradition. Elections are stolen at every level—state, local, and federal.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley’s theft of the Chicago and, thereby, Illinois vote for John F. Kennedy is legendary. The Republican US Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 presidential election from Al Gore by preventing the Florida vote recount is another legendary example. The discrepancies between exit polls and the vote count of the secretly programmed electronic voting machines that have no paper trails are also legendary. So what’s the big deal about Trump’s suspicion of election rigging? The black civil rights movement has fought vote rigging for decades. The rigging takes place in a number of ways. Blacks simply can’t get registered to vote. If they do get registered, there are few polling places in their districts. And so on. After decades of struggle it is impossible that there any blacks who are not aware of how hard it can be for them to vote.

Yet, I heard on the presstitute radio network, NPR, Hillary’s Uncle Toms saying how awful it was that Trump had cast aspersion on the credibility of American election results. I also heard a NPR announcer suggest that Russia had not only hacked Hillary’s emails, but also had altered them in order to make incriminating documents out of harmless emails. The presstitutes have gone all out to demonize both Trump and any mention of election rigging, because they know for a fact that the election will be stolen and that they will have the job of covering up the theft. [..] Don’t vote early. The purpose of early voting is to show the One Percent how the vote is shaping up. From this information, the oligarchs learn how to program the electronic machines in order to elect the candidate that they want.

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Well, it certainly dies hard. How many hours has Obama spent on the phone for this malt minute turn?

EU Parliament Chief, Canada Minister In Bid To Save CETA Trade Deal (AFP)

EU parliament head Martin Schulz and Canada’s trade minister Chrystia Freeland were meeting Saturday, saying they hoped to revive a trade deal threatened by the refusal of a Belgian region to sign on. Schulz wrote on Twitter he would also meet with Wallonia’s socialist government head Paul Magnette, who has moved to stop the bloc’s 28 nations from signing the accord. The meetings in Brussels are aimed at “reviving CETA talks. We can’t stop at the last mile,” Schulz wrote, referring to the agreement’s name. On arriving at the parliament building, Freeland said: “The ball is in Europe’s court. We hope that it is possible to find a solution,” according to the Belga news agency.

Canada blasted the European Union on Friday as incapable of signing international agreements, as the talks to persuade Wallonia to sign up to the huge trade deal broke down. Freeland appeared on the verge of tears after walking out of negotiations with the head of the French-speaking Belgian region on the deal that has been seven years in the making. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had planned to travel to Brussels next week to sign the deal but that visit looks almost certain to be called off.

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May I suggest they get good lawyers.

Greek Union Files EU Human Rights Case Against Austerity (COE)

A public hearing of the European Committee of Social Rights today focused on how austerity in Greece has affected social rights under the guidelines of the European Social Charter. The committee granted the hearing request, which was made by the complainant organisation, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) v. Greece.

The complaint alleges that some laws enacted in Greece as part of the austerity programme affect workers’ rights in a manner that is contrary to Article 1 (the right to work); Article 2 (the right to just conditions of work); Article 4 (the right to a fair remuneration); and Article 7 (the right of children and young persons to protection) of the 1961 Social Charter; as well as of Article 3 of the 1988 Additional Protocol (the right to take part in the determination and improvement of working conditions and working environment). Greece’s Minister for Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity George Katrougalos and GSEE president Yannis Panagopoulos attended the hearing. The Committee, which monitors commitments to the European Social Charter, is expected to issue its decision to the public by mid-2017.

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Brits are funny even if they don’t mean to. Ming dynasty was 14th-17th century.

Gove Says Criticizing Carney or BoE Policy ‘Equivalent Of A Thought Crime’ (DM)

Michael Gove has launched a scathing attack on the Governor of the Bank of England, comparing his arrogance to that of the cruel Ming emperors. The former justice secretary said that like the rulers of medieval China, the pro-EU Mark Carney believed his judgments had ‘near-divine’ status and that he was infallible in his actions. But in reality, many of his policies – such as printing money and cutting interest rates – had been shown to have created significant economic problems, he said. Mr Gove said the Canadian banker should show more humility – as it was technocrats like him who had brought the ‘disaster’ of the euro and failed to predict the 2008 crash. He said Mr Carney should ‘ponder the fate of the Chinese emperors’ who were finally overthrown because they could not bear any criticism.

The attack by Mr Gove, a senior figure in the Leave campaign, echoes his criticism before the referendum of ‘experts’ who predicted a slump if we left the EU. In an article for The Times, he wrote: ‘At different eras in world history there have been sacred figures who, while apparently of flesh and blood, have been elevated to inhabit a special realm of near-divinity above the rest of fallible mankind. In medieval China, they had the Ming Emperor, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, who employed the Mandate of Heaven to decide the fate of millions. ‘His person was held to be inviolable and without imperfections. ‘Those who dared to question his rule were flayed alive, their skin left hanging from a hook to emphasise the emperor would brook no challenge to his authority.

In contemporary Britain we have Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, who employs control over interest rates to decide the fate of millions. ‘His position is held to be independent and without any error. ‘And so any criticism of his actions is regarded as a thought crime – and those who dare to question his rule are flayed in the press with dire warnings left hanging in the air to emphasise the Governor will brook no challenge to his authority.’

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Yeah, it wasn’t crazy enough yet.

Up To 25 Feared Dead In Attack On Migrant Boat Off Libya (AFP)

Up to 25 people were missing, feared drowned, Friday after men on a Libyan coastguard speedboat attacked a packed migrant dinghy during a rescue operation off the north African state. German NGO Sea-Watch, which is taking part in the multinational search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, said the tragedy happened after its boat Sea-Watch 2 and a passing oil tanker were sent to help the distressed dinghy in the early hours. As the rescue operation proceeded just beyond Libyan territorial waters north of the port of Sabrata, a speedboat bearing the Libyan coastguard insignia arrived and tried to steal the dinghy’s outboard engine, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer told AFP.

The men, who spoke Arabic, beat some of the migrants with sticks and some clambered onto the dinghy, causing panic which resulted in one side of the boat deflating and most of the passengers ending up in the sea. After the assailants left, Sea-Watch said it rescued 120 people and recovered four corpses from the water. Other bodies were seen floating but could not be recovered and it was estimated that between 15 and 25 of the people who had been on the board were unaccounted for. Sea-Watch said in a statement that its two speedboats had been “hassled in an aggressive way” during the attack, “preventing our crew from providing life vests and medical aid to the people in need.” “All of these deaths could have been avoided but for this intervention,” Neugebauer added.

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