Jan 202020
 


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Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)
Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)
Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)
John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)
India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)
Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)
World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)
UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)
Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)
EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)
Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

 

 

Warming up for the fight. Get your gloves on, check ’em twice, practice some jabs in front of the mirror, have a last drink of water and let the trainer put in your mouthguard. This may get ugly.

Nadler Says Dems Unwilling To Negotiate Hunter Biden Testimony (Fox)

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the House impeachment managers, dismissed on Sunday any notion that Democrats would be willing to negotiate on witnesses called during the Senate trial – adding that Republicans who want to block or negotiate what witnesses testify are “part of the cover-up.” Nadler, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee led the writing of the articles of impeachment brought against President Trump, said that all “relevant witnesses must be heard” and balked at the idea of Democrats agreeing to having former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter testify in exchange for the witnesses Democrats want to hear from.


“This whole controversy about whether there should be witnesses is really a question about does the Senate want to have a fair trial or are they part of the cover-up of the president,” Nadler said during an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” Nadler added that “Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the president.” “Any Republican senator who says there should be no witnesses, or even that witnesses should be negotiated, is part of the cover-up,” Nadler added.

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The Warren campaign has noticed Bernie’s gains after attacking Biden. They want a piece of the action.

Warren Joins Bernie in Jabbing Biden on Social Security (Pol.)

Elizabeth Warren hit Joe Biden for his past stances on changing Social Security and expressed solidarity with Bernie Sanders on the issue as the two liberal senators seek to move past their recent feud. “Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” Warren said in a quick interview as she hopped into her car outside a candidate forum in Iowa. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone’s records on Social Security are important in this election.” Warren’s comments come as Sanders has been relentlessly bashing Biden for his past openness to freezing cost-of-living spikes or raising the retirement age as part of larger bipartisan deals — proposals that Sanders opposed during his time in Congress.


Warren linking arms with Sanders on the issue also comes after long-simmering tensions between the two exploded into the open this week. The campaigns have been trying to move on from the conflict — which climaxed Tuesday night when each accused the other of calling them a “liar” on the stage immediately following the debate —and are largely not responding to media questions about the rift. The Social Security issue provides a potential opportunity for a liberal tag-team against Biden as both senators have long fought to expand the program and have rolled out plans on the campaign trail.

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The NYT endorsed Warren and Klobuchar yesterday. Everyone yawned. At least seeing Klobuchar praise McCain and Poroshenko means there’s no doubt where she stands. War it is.

Lindsey Graham Broke My Heart’ (Amy Klobuchar)

Transcript from Sen. Amy Klobuchar interview with the editorial board of The New York Times:

Who has broken my heart? O.K., so here we go. Lindsey Graham’s broken my heart lately in the political system. Senator Lindsey Graham has transformed from a Trump critic, who called the president “xenophobic” and “race-baiting,” to one of his most staunch supporters. He told The Times Magazine, “If you don’t want to get re-elected, you’re in the wrong business.” Just because I like him and know him really well and traveled with him and Senator McCain all over the, all over the world. I’m just more thinking of Senator McCain and how much I miss him right now because I think he would have been really strong on Ukraine and on standing up against some of the things the president did and he’s no longer with us.

And Lindsey and McCain and I were actually on the front line with former President Poroshenko in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve, and I think about this now every New Year’s Eve — because John McCain wanted to show — after Trump got elected — wanted to show those countries that we were on their side. And so of course I was disappointed with how the Kavanaugh hearing was handled. I think everyone could see me on TV to see that, but I just hope that he has the ability to rise up here, and has a very important job right now as chair of the Judiciary Committee and certainly smart enough and has shown some tendency in the past to stand up for things and I just wish he would do it again when it comes to this conduct and a whole range of issues about our judicial system.

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Meanwhile, in the background:

John Durham Investigaties Months Before Mueller Appointment (WE)

A trail of documents has reportedly led Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked federal prosecutor to focus his inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation on the first several months of President Trump’s tenure. John Durham, a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is zeroing in on the period spanning from January 2017, when Trump took office, to May of that year. A “strong” paper trail, as CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge put it on Friday, has led the investigation into possible misconduct by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials to that time frame.

While Trump and his allies have championed Durham’s effort, Democrats have dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing during the Trump-Russia investigation and are concerned the inquiry may be an effort to discredit the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump gave Barr full declassification authority for the endeavor. Barr and Durham have traveled around the world for the investigation, and Durham’s team has already asked witnesses about possible anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials.

The secretive DOJ inquiry includes scrutiny of former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI special agent Peter Strzok, and British ex-spy Christopher Steele. In October, it was reported that Durham was expanding the scope of his investigation, adding agents and resources, to examine the post-election timeline up to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. The “investigation into the investigators” was reported to be upgraded to a criminal inquiry later that month, which would give Durham the power to impanel a grand jury and hand down indictments. Durham has also reviewed the Intelligence Community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Little else is known about the investigation other than that Durham is exploring whether a crime was committed by Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who was found by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to have altered a document during the FBI’s efforts to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal to continue wiretapping onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Among those known to be cooperating with Barr is retired Adm. Michael Rogers, the former director of the National Security Agency who has a history of uncovering FISA violations.

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US, EU, China, India, everyone gets their turn.

India’s Half-Finished “Ghost Towns” Leave Middle Class In Crisis (ZH)

If you thought the American housing market was a mess during the immediate aftermath of the collapse, wait until you read about what’s going in India. Rapid economic growth and the government’s gradual economic liberalization have caused the ranks to India’s middle class to boom. The emerging Hindu middle class is already reshaping Indian society: Prime Minister Narendra Modi owes his electoral victories to this group, and his reform agenda was designed with the goal of sheparding even more of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens into the higher income bracket.

Modi’s first term included several important reforms, including simplifying India’s byzantine tax system and instituting a simplified system for taxing goods and services (though some argue that it must still be simplified further. He’s also helped modernize the country’s bankruptcy laws. But as the country’s growing wealth has sparked a flight from India’s crowded urban slums to its more spacious suburbs, they’re struggling with a shortage of homes, a shortage that has been made even more intense thanks to roughly half a million apartments that have been sitting unfinished for years.

Across the country, outside major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of developments have been stranded by developers, many of which have declared bankruptcy, or simply run out of money to finish the projects, according to the Wall Street Journal. India’s banks, already saddled with bad loans, are refusing to lend any more money to the developers. As a result, millions of Indians who put up their life savings as a down payment on a new, yet-to-be-built apartment have essentially been left bereft, with no money and nowhere to live. Most are now making ends meet by cutting out any and all luxuries, and relying on friends and family, as they wait to see if the apartments they paid for will ever be finished.

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If the Royal Family can’t unite the nation, there’s always the Big Bad Wolf.

Boris Johnson Urged To Publish Report On Russian Meddling (G.)

The SNP’s leader at Westminster has written to Boris Johnson demanding that he take immediate steps to allow the suppressed report into Russia’s interference in the British political system to be published. Ian Blackford, the leader of the third-largest party in the Commons, called on the prime minister to begin appointing members of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, necessary to allow the controversial document to be released. “It is unacceptable that your government has repeatedly and intentionally failed to take steps to establish the committee and has sought to escape scrutiny on vital issues,” Blackford writes in a letter that has been shared with the Guardian.

“The public interest and the imperative is and has always been clear: lift your sanction on publishing this report and re-establish the intelligence and security committee so that it can be immediately published,” the SNP MP added. A report on Russia’s spying activities against the UK and its attempts to penetrate the British establishment had been prepared by the committee in the last parliament, and had been made ready to publish when the election was called. Members of the committee saw evidence of Russian infiltration in Conservative political circles, but it is unclear how much of that concern reached the final document, which some sources say was watered down even before it went to Johnson.

Ministers have repeatedly said there are no examples of “successful Russian interference” in the 2016 EU referendum or an election, although there is scepticism as to whether that has been properly investigated. The report was nevertheless awaiting final clearance from Downing Street, to check it did not contain any classified information, when the election was called. No 10 said it was not possible to clear it in time, a point disputed by the previous chairman of the committee, former MP Dominic Grieve. Downing Street eventually said after the election that the report was cleared. But its release depends on the appointment of nine cross-party backbench MPs and peers to the committee’s membership, a task that falls to Johnson after consulting with other parties.

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And what are you going to do about it?

World’s Richest 2,000 People Hold More Than Poorest 4.6 Billion Combined (R.)

The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, Oxfam said on Monday. The Nairobi-headquartered charity said in a report released ahead of the annual World Economic Forum of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that women around the world work 12.5 billion hours combined each day without pay or recognition. In its “Time to Care” report, Oxfam said it estimated that unpaid care work by women added at least $10.8 trillion a year in value to the world economy – three times more than the tech industry.


“It is important for us to underscore that the hidden engine of the economy that we see is really the unpaid care work of women. And that needs to change,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, told Reuters in an interview. To highlight the level of inequality in the global economy, Behar cited the case of a woman called Buchu Devi in India who spends 16 to 17 hours a day doing work like fetching water after trekking 3km, cooking, preparing her children for school and working in a poorly paid job. “And on the one hand you see the billionaires who are all assembling at Davos with their personal planes, personal jets, super rich lifestyles,” he said.

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Davos counts in trillions. This is just shipping. And that is just 2.2% of CO2 emissions.

UN Decarbonisation Target For Shipping To Cost Over $1 Trillion (R.)

At least $1 trillion of investment in new fuel technology is needed to enable the shipping industry to meet U.N. targets for cuts in carbon emissions by 2050, a study published on Monday showed. The global shipping fleet, which accounts for 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is under pressure to reduce those emissions and other pollution. About 90% of world trade is transported by sea. U.N. shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), aims to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, a target that will require the swift development of zero or low emission fuels and new ship designs using cleaner technology.

In the first study into costs, researchers estimated that the cumulative investment needed between 2030 and 2050 would be between $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion, or an average of $50 billion to $70 billion annually for 20 years. If the shipping industry was to fully decarbonise by 2050, this would require further investment of some $400 billion over 20 years, bringing the total to $1.4 trillion to $1.9 trillion. “Our analysis suggests we will see a disruptive and rapid change to align to a new zero carbon system, with fossil fuel aligned assets becoming obsolete or needing significant modification,” said Tristan Smith, reader at University College London’s (UCL) Energy Institute, which was involved in the study.

Apart from more than a decade of tough market conditions, the shipping industry is also contending with the exit of many European banks from providing finance, leaving a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars annually. Around 87% of investments needed would be in land-based infrastructure and production facilities for low-carbon fuels, the study said. This includes investments in the production of low-carbon fuels as well as the land-based storage and bunkering infrastructure needed for their supply. The remaining 13% of investments are related to the ships themselves including the machinery and onboard storage required for a ship to run on low-carbon fuel. “Sustainable investing is here to stay,” said Michael Parker, chairman of Global Shipping Logistics & Offshore at Citigroup.

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Let’s see what shareholders have to say.

Oil Firms Risk Public Backlash If Profits Put Before Climate, Says IEA (G.)

The world’s energy watchdog has warned the oil and gas industry that it risks a public backlash by failing to act on the climate crisis in favour of making short-term profits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil companies must balance their desire for near-term returns and a long-term future by playing a much more significant role in combating the climate crisis. The IEA is preparing to make its most direct call for oil companies to help tackle the climate crisis at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos on Tuesday. The oil and gas industry faces “twin threats” to its financial profitability and social acceptability, according to the IEA.


“There are already signs of both, whether in financial markets or in the reflexive antipathy towards fossil fuels that is increasingly visible in the public debate, at least in parts of Europe and North America,” it said. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “No energy company will be unaffected by clean-energy transitions. Every part of the industry needs to consider how to respond. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” The report said that although some oil and gas companies have taken steps to support efforts to combat the climate crisis, the industry as a whole could play a much more significant role. Oil companies could do more now to help shrink the industry’s giant carbon footprint but most companies were yet to play a meaningful role, according to the report.

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Basically: be careful what you waste our money on.It’s fine to waste those €29bn on that climate action plan.

EU Could Waste €29bn On Gas Projects Despite Climate Action Plan (G.)

The European Investment Bank risks wasting €29bn (£25bn) of EU taxpayers’ money by overinvesting in gas projects which will be unnecessary under Europe’s climate action plans, according to a report. The EIB vowed late last year to end its support for fossil fuels within the next two years to become the world’s first “climate bank”, but 32 gas projects are still eligible for funding before the crackdown. The majority of these projects would waste billions of euros of taxpayers’ money, according to Artelys, an independent data science company, because they would be left as “stranded assets” in the move towards cleaner energy.

The report warns that gas investments will be unnecessary in the decades ahead because Europe already has enough infrastructure – such as pipelines and processing plants – to meet the continent’s future demand. The European commission set out a sweeping Green Deal plan late last year which aims to create a carbon-neutral EU by 2050, in part by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency. Under Europe’s climate action roadmap, gas demand is expected to fall by almost 30% by 2030 compared with 2015 levels. But even in scenarios in which gas demand climbs higher, the report found that new investments in gas infrastructure would be “superfluous” from an economic perspective.

[..] Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, said it “makes absolutely no sense” that EU decision-makers are supporting investments in new gas infrastructure with public funds. “This report debunks the argument that these investments would be needed for the EU’s security of gas supply. We risk wasting €29bn on future stranded assets while locking our energy system into fossil gas addiction for the next 40 years,” he said.

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Some 90 years after the US dust bowl.

Huge Dust Storms In Australia Hit Central New South Wales (AAP)

Damaging winds produced by thunderstorms across central New South Wales have whipped up dust storms that turned daytime into night in some towns. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a series of severe thunderstorm warnings on Sunday evening for inland NSW with the associated winds generating massive dust clouds. Videos posted to social media showed dust storms descending on Dubbo and nearby towns that were so thick they blocked out the sun. A gust of 94 km/h was recorded at Parkes about 6.30pm while a gust of 107 km/h was recorded at Dubbo about 7.45pm, the bureau said.


A bureau meteorologist, Rose Barr, said Sunday’s significant rain was concentrated across central and northern parts of the state on, and east, of the ranges. Rain and hail also lashed Victoria, sparking almost 1500 calls for assistance with more severe weather on the way as bushfires continue. The State Emergency Service received 1453 calls for assistance since Sunday morning, more than 1000 of them for building damage. Many towns on the NSW mid-north coast and the northern rivers regions received between 100mm and 180mm from 9am to 10.30pm on Sunday. In the southern part of the state, high winds saw storms race overhead quickly, resulting in lower measured falls.

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Social behaviour of striped catfish.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 192020
 
 January 19, 2020  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


John Collier “Grandfather Romero, a member of the family of Juan Lopez, the majordomo, is ninety-nine years old.” Trampas, New Mexico 1943

 

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)
Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)
DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)
House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)
Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)
Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)
Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)
A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)
The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)
Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)
Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

 

 

Does Biden know how a video is doctored? He’s handing the Sanders camp a big freebee.

Biden Charges Sanders Camp Issued ‘Doctored Video’ To Attack Him (Pol.)

Joe Biden accused Bernie Sanders’ campaign Saturday of issuing a “doctored video” to attack him over Social Security, a false claim that ratcheted up the tension between the two campaigns in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. “Let’s get the record straight,” Biden said at Simpson College here. “There’s a little, doctored video going around … saying I agreed with Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, about wanting to privatize Social Security.” But the video in question — of Biden’s 2018 remarks to the Brookings Institution think tank — was not doctored by Sanders, whose campaign this month stepped up criticisms of Biden’s record on Social Security.

Sanders’ campaign did say in a recent campaign email that “Biden lauded Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare” — which PolitiFact said Sanders’ campaign got wrong. But there is no evidence that the campaign altered any video. Biden, however, referenced the fact-checking website in making a muddled claim: “PolitiFact looked at it and they doctored the photo, they doctored the piece and it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake.”


Sanders’ campaign bristled at the criticism from Biden — a serious charge that Democrats recently have begun to level at Republicans, including Donald Trump, for manipulating images and videos on social media. An aide said Sanders might address the criticism head on. “Joe Biden should be honest with voters and stop trying to doctor his own public record of consistently and repeatedly trying to cut Social Security,” said Sanders Campaign Manager Faiz Shakir in a statement Saturday. “The facts are very clear: Biden not only pushed to cut Social Security — he is on tape proudly bragging about it on multiple occasions.”

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Things are moving too fast for me to keep up. Rosenstein was in the Trump camp’s crosshairs forever, but now all of a sudden he’s the other camp’s worst enemy?

Rod Rosenstein Admits To Leaking Texts Between Peter Strzok, Lisa Page (NYP)

Mystery solved. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has ‘fessed up to giving explosive text messages of FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to the press in 2017. The messages between the two, exchanged in 2016 while both were involved in sensitive political probes, revealed their antipathy to then-candidate Donald Trump and loyalty to Hillary Clinton. Rosenstein’s admission came in a Friday-night court filing by the Department of Justice, which is seeking to dismiss Strzok’s lawsuit challenging his June 2016 firing, Politico reported. The former agent’s case seeks damages for invasion of privacy, arguing that the texts were disclosed due to political pressure from the White House.

But Rosenstein, who left the DOJ last year, says he made the texts public to protect Page and Strzok — because Congress was about to hear about the embarrassing messages anyway. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures” from leaky congressional staffers, wrote Rosenstein, who now has a corporate law gig. The texts showed that Page and Strzok had feared Trump might win the election. Both had worked on the probe into whether Clinton jeopardized classified information by using a private email server while she was secretary of state as well as Crossfire Hurricane, the feds’ investigation into the Trump campaign.

Later, they worked briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. “This man cannot be president,” Page wrote in March 2016. “She just has to win now,” she said in a July 2016 message, referring to Clinton. In his texts to Page, Strzok referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “douche.” Shortly before the 2016 election, he wrote that the prospect of a Trump presidency made him “scared for our organization.”

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Strzok and Page sent 100s, 1000s of messages to each other, often during work hours, but they still get to claim invasion of their privacy?

DOJ Court Filing Reveals Rosenstein Behind Strzok-Page Text Dumps (ZH)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release to the media of text messages between ‘FBI lovebirds’ Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, many of which revealed deep animus towards then-candidate Donald Trump while they were investigating him during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to Politico. In a Friday night court filing submitted shortly before midnight, Rosenstein says he made the decision to protect Strzok and Page from the damaging effects of lawmakers and others releasing the texts for use as political ammunition.


“In the messages, Strzok and Page regularly disparaged Trump and appeared to seek to reassure each other he could not be elected. Both called Trump an “idiot” and said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton deserved to win. The texts also included murky discussions of an “insurance policy” to guard against Trump’s election. Trump backers have interpreted the reference as a plan to use the then-ongoing investigation into ties between Trump advisers and Russia as way to prevent him from taking office or undermine his presidency, but Strzok and Page have denied any such intent.” -Politico. Lisa Page – who sued the DOJ and FBI in December over the release, appears to be pissed.

Strzok has separately sued the agencies as well – for which Rosenstein’s admission was submitted as part of the government’s defense. The former DAG says that public disclosure of the texts was inevitable in connection with testimony he was set to give the next day in front of the House Judiciary Committee. “With the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event, I authorized [Justice’s Office of Public Affairs] to disclose to the news media the text messages that were being disclosed to Congressional committees,” wrote Rosenstein.


“In November, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to throw out Strzok’s suit, which challenges both his firing from the FBI and the release of the texts. However, Strzok’s attorneys countered in a court filing last month that one reason to allow the suit to proceed was that Justice Department was being vague about just who made the final call to give the messages. Arguing that an air of mystery continued to surround the disclosure, Strzok lawyer Aitan Goelman called “revealing” Justice’s decision to seek dismissal of the suit without identifying the responsible official. “An agency cannot avoid Privacy Act liability for a disclosure actually made for an improper purpose by eliciting a sanitized after-the-fact rationale from an official who does not have all of the facts,” Goelman wrote. -Politico

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Always wonder why people claim to know exactly what the Framers meant, and to the exclusion of their political rivals.

House Files “Framers’ Worst Nightmare” Legal Brief (ZH)

Ahead of Tuesday’s opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats – seven impeachment managers led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff – filed their legal brief today. The 111-page summons urges the Senate to “eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security” as it lays out the case against President Trump. The House legal filing (due by 5pmET) reiterates the findings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels, which, after hearing from witnesses and experts, settled on charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Additionally, the case that House prosecutors sent to the Senate references new evidence that wasn’t part of the impeachment inquiry, including material from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, according to Democratic officials familiar with the argument. “The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the brief reads. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution.”

Compiled by the seven Democrats serving as impeachment managers, the brief describes the president’s conduct as “the Framer’s worst nightmare” in arguing that he should be impeached and removed from office. “President Trump’s ongoing pattern of misconduct demonstrates that he is an immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Senate convict and remove him from office now, and permanently bar him from holding federal office,” they write. President Trump’s legal team outlined the fiery response to its impeachment summons, calling the two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

The six-page document – which they stressed is different from the brief that is not due until Monday – offers a taste of the rhetoric expected to be deployed by the president’s defenders in the Senate. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,” the filing states. Trump’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds, claiming Trump has been mistreated by House Democrats and that he did nothing wrong. Notably, at least four of the impeachment managers, including Schiff, are scheduled to appear Sunday on political talk shows.

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Only six weeks? But that only takes us to early March, 8 whole months before the election.

Gowdy: God Help Us If The Trial Lasts Six Weeks (ZH)

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told Fox News this week that he predicts President Donald Trump’s Senate trial will be short and that the president’s best defense is a review of the transcript. “The transcript is the single best piece of evidence that the president has,” Gowdy said. “Who brought up Rudy Giuliani’s name? It wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Zelensky. This was the second call, not the first call. If President Trump were really hell-bent on ensuring that Ukraine investigate the Bidens, would he not have brought that up in the first telephone call he had with Zelensky? Why wait till the second?” “As far as the timing of this trial is concerned, Trey, they are estimates that it could be quick, it could last as long as six weeks,” Fox News co-host Sandra Smith said. “Where do you fall on that, and what is the length of time mean?”

“I mean God help us if it lasts six weeks,” Gowdy responded. “The investigation is over, so it’s Schiff’s job to present the case. If he’s going to present the case on the paper with the depositions, it shouldn’t take that long. I don’t need Adam to read the depositions to me; the jury can go read it themselves.” “If they open it up to witnesses, and they want Bolton, and then there’s some Republicans that want four or five other witnesses, it could last six weeks,” Gowdy continued. “Sandra, I just have not met anyone whose opinion has changed during the pendency of this investigation. I can’t identify – maybe three open-minded jurors in the U.S. Senate. I just don’t, no matter how long it lasts, I don’t think it’s gonna change anyone’s mind in the Senate or among my fellow citizens. The shorter the better.”

Fox News co-host Bill Hemmer asked, “Did you want to give us a time frame for that?” “I’m saying two weeks,” Gowdy said. “If it goes six weeks, then they’re going to have to make some hard decisions on which witnesses are important enough to hear from and which ones, while they may have relevant evidence, we just don’t – I think in terms of a real trial.” “Why would you ever not call a witness if that witness has relevant information?” Gowdy continued. “How do you pick which ones to call and which ones not to? You can never do that in a real trial. So, if we’re going to open this thing up anew to a brand new investigation, then call everybody, and God knows how long that’ll take.”

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Nobody feels bad he didn’t get the job, himself least of all.

Rudy Giuliani Once Had A Real Chance Of Becoming President (G.)

If things had gone a little differently, Rudy Giuliani might have been elected president in 2008. The former New York City mayor turned Donald Trump stooge led polling in the Republican primaries for almost a year, and was seen as someone who could defeat Hillary Clinton – then the presumptive Democratic nominee – in key metropolitan areas. Giuliani, still riding a wave of good feeling from his handling of the 9/11 attacks, was raising serious amounts of cash, and was the best-known of the Republican candidates. He had a very real chance of succeeding George W Bush. But Giuliani’s campaign collapsed in chaotic fashion, and he became a political irrelevance – until re-emerging a decade later as Donald Trump’s lawyer, mouthpiece, bungling envoy to Ukraine and a central character in the third impeachment of an American president.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the end of 2006, Giuliani was the most popular politician in the country. In March 2007, after Giuliani formally announced his White House campaign, he was the early favorite to win the Republican primary contest, with 44% support nationwide. (John McCain, the eventual nominee, was second with 20%.) Giuliani maintained that lead throughout the year, and raised the most money. Armed with a campaign slogan that read like the responses to a word-association examination – “Tested. Ready. Now” – Giuliani seemed destined to represent the Republican party in the November 2008 election.

“When Rudy Giuliani entered the race he was seen as the frontrunner,” said Capri Cafaro, a former minority leader of the Ohio senate and an adjunct professor at the American University school of public affairs. Oprah Winfrey had dubbed Giuliani “America’s mayor” following the 9/11 attacks – a moniker that stuck – while Time magazine went further, naming Giuliani its person of the year for 2001 and branding him “mayor of the world”. Cafaro said: “His strength predominantly came from being seen as America’s mayor – in light of this being just a few years after 9/11. [He was] playing to his strengths: his strengths in national security and essentially being able to rise to the occasion as a leader.”

[..] Giuliani was still leading the polls in the summer of 2007, six months out from the first Republican vote in Iowa. But he hit an unexpected problem, in the form of a man dressed in a chicken suit – the “Iowa Chicken” – who tirelessly followed Giuliani around in protest at him skipping the Ames straw poll, a traditional barometer of the Republican primary race.

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Can we move the Senate to the Appalachians?? Alabama?

Boris Johnson Plans To Move House Of Lords To York (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to relocate parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to the northern English city of York, the Sunday Times reported. In last month’s national election for the lower house, Johnson’s Conservatives won a swathe of seats in the traditional Northern English heartland of the opposition Labour Party as he secured a large majority in parliament. With a view to securing these gains, Johnson has promised to ramp up investment in the north of England, which suffered under the decline of heavy industries and austerity policies since the financial crisis, the Sunday Times said, without citing sources.


York, founded by the Romans and famed for its large minster, is first choice for the move, ahead of Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city. The unelected House of Lords, which dates back to the 14th Century, is principally seen as a revising and refining mechanism but it technically has the power to block laws.

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Whitney’s laying it on a little thickish.

A Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives In Iraq (Webb)

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.” While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East.

Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China. While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role.

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends.

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Part 2 from the article above. Of course the US is worried about China’s growing influence, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But how much oil can you trade for services before you run out of those? That only seems a concern if Iraq would become a Chinese satellite. Not going to happen.

China is a threat to the petrodollar only when the yuan becomes freely tradable. But that would be a direct threat to the CCP and Xi.

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan (Webb)

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that: “Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

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Putin is being practical.

Putin Rejects Idea Of Soviet-Style Leaders For Life (R.)

President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he did not want Russia to return to the late Soviet-era practice of having lifelong rulers who died in office without a proper succession strategy. His comments, made to World War Two veterans in St Petersburg, came days after he unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister along with his government. Putin, in a surprise move, picked Mikhail Mishustin, the low-profile head of the country’s tax service, as the country’s next prime minister. Russians are now waiting to hear which ministers will keep their jobs in a new government.


Putin’s changes, which would amend the constitution to create new centers of power outside the presidency, were widely seen as giving the 67-year-old scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024. He has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades. Critics accuse Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends. They suspect he wants to continue to wield power over the world’s largest nation, which is also one of its two leading nuclear powers. In his comments on Saturday, Putin, who has already said he wants to limit future presidents to two terms in power despite currently serving out his fourth term himself, rejected the idea of Russian presidents for life.

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I don’t get why RT has to repeat the “shut your filthy mouth” phrase multiple times. Obviously lost in translation. But the narrative changes are real. Poland was very wrong in WWII (see Shoah). And now they try and rewrite that.

Russia To Combat Rewriting Of WWII History With New Open-Archive Center (RT)

Moscow is to create the most extensive collection of WWII documents, open to all persons anywhere, to once and for all “shut the filthy mouth” of those seeking to rewrite history for short-term gains, the Russian president said. Any person, Russian or non-national, will be able to access the archive, including through a website resource, and the ultimate goal is to debunk any disinformation about the most devastating conflict in human history, President Vladimir Putin pledged, during a meeting with veterans of the Great Patriotic War, held in St. Petersburg on Saturday. The creation of the center would leave no chance to those willing to distort the truth about the war for their own political needs, he argued. “We will shut the filthy mouth of some public figures abroad, who open theirs only to achieve short-term political goals. We will shut them up with reliable and fundamental facts.”

The center is expected to incorporate the biggest and most extensive collection of documents, as well as photos and video footage dating back to the World War II era. The president first floated this idea during his annual state-of-the-nation address earlier this week, arguing that Russia should combat “brazen lies and attempts to distort history.” In St. Petersburg, Putin also said that Moscow should follow the example of Tel Aviv, which virtually allows no one on Earth to forget about the true horrors of the Holocaust. “Among the Holocaust victims, a large number were Soviet Jews,” he said, adding that “we should also not forget about the sacrifices of other Soviet peoples, the Russian people” who defended “their homeland and the whole world from the brown plague [of Nazism].”

Putin’s words come amid a row between Moscow and Warsaw over the events that led to the Second World War. Poland has been revising that devastating conflict’s history for quite some time, seeking to shun any responsibility relating to events during that period, while presenting itself as a victim of both Nazi and Soviet aggression and occupation. Warsaw has been removing monuments to Soviet soldiers who died while liberating the city from Nazi Germany occupation, and also initiated an EU Parliament resolution in September, which claims that the 1939 non-aggression pact between Moscow and Berlin had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

This last move did not sit well with Moscow, which labeled it a falsification of history. Putin himself eventually joined the heated debate between the two nations, when he called Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin from 1934 to 1939, “a bastard and an anti-Semitic pig.” The Russian president referred to the fact that the envoy had promised Adolf Hitler that Poles would “erect for him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he expelled all European Jews to Africa. Warsaw took offense to Putin’s remarks, though no one disputed Lipski’s words, which have long been known to the public.

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Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 152020
 
 January 15, 2020  Posted by at 10:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Magazine and cannonballs at Battery Rodgers, Alexandria, defending Washington during the Civil War 1863

 

At The Iowa Debate, Bernie Sanders’s Most Vociferous Opponent Was CNN (IC)
McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial To Start Next Tuesday (Hill)
GOP: There Aren’t 51 Votes To Dismiss Trump Articles Of Impeachment (Hill)
McConnell Opens Door For Hunter Biden Testimony At Trump Trial (Hill)
Michael Flynn Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea (G.)
Five Biggest US Stocks Are Dwarfing The Rest Of The Stock Market (CNBC)
Non-Commitment Probe Into Iran By France, Germany & UK ‘Groundless’ – Russia (RT)
Australia PM Backs Coal After BlackRock Quits (AFR)
‘Orwellian’ China Silencing Dissent At Home And Abroad – HRW Chief (G.)
Former Boeing Quality Manager: Fly Something Else (Big Think)
Boeing Sees Lowest Orders In Decades (BBC)
Malaysia Airlines Suspends Boeing 737 MAX Deliveries Due To Grounding (R.)

 

 

It’s just entertainment by now, and a poor sort at that. CNN ratings are plummeting, so they seek out controversy. And if smearing Trump doesn’t work, there’s Bernie.

At The Iowa Debate, Bernie Sanders’s Most Vociferous Opponent Was CNN (IC)

Ahead of the August 2015 Fox News debate, the company’s chair, Rupert Murdoch, issued a directive to debate moderator Megyn Kelly: The Donald Trump thing has gone on long enough, it’s time to take him down. Kelly took a bat to candidate Trump, listing off his most misogynistic remarks, asking how he could explain them to voters. But Trump ended up winning that war. Democrats assembled in Iowa Tuesday night for the opportunity to take him on in the upcoming general election. This time, though, it was CNN moderators who brought out the bat and swung it hard at Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent had topped the important Iowa poll last week, compounding fears that have only recently emerged among the party establishment that he may be on course for the nomination.

In contrast to Sanders’s treatment, former Vice President Joe Biden, the national front-runner, was barely touched — either by moderators or his rivals. CNN moderator Abby Phillip opened a line of questioning on the recent feud between Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “CNN reported yesterday, and, Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” The moderator’s use of Warren to confirm a version of the story that originally came from Warren’s account of the meeting at the time signaled which side CNN was taking in the he-said/she-said, but it was confirmed by the framing of the question — “Why did you say that?” — rather than asking whether he said it.

Sanders denied the accusation, noting that he had been ready to stand aside for Warren to run in 2016, though she declined to. Phillip pressed to be clear he was denying the charge, then pivoted to Warren, and waved away his denial with such force — “Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” — that Sanders and the audience laughed. After the debate, the candidates shook hands — all except Warren and Sanders. Warren pulled her hand back and the two had a tense exchange that couldn’t be heard as the mics had been cut off, but left both walking tersely off, Sanders turning his back on Warren.

The debate opened with a long discussion of war in Iran and Iraq, which included no mention of the costs of occupation.Yet CNN moderators did eventually ask Sanders how he would pay for Medicare for All, among other plans. Host Wolf Blitzer asked why the government should do anything to lower drug prices when nobody trusts the government. Philip later asked Sanders how he would keep his plans “from bankrupting the country?”

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Politicians can’t resist the circus at this time of year.

McConnell: Senate Impeachment Trial To Start Next Tuesday (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will begin debating an organizing resolution to start the Senate trial on Tuesday of next week. The GOP leader said Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in senators as jurors this week, before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. “NEW: Sen. Mitch McConnell says “the House is likely to finally send the articles over to us tomorrow,” allowing Senate to take steps “which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday.” — ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 14, 2020.


McConnell said the House is expected to send over articles of impeachment on Wednesday and the Senate will then have to go through a series of preliminary steps and housekeeping measures. “We hope to achieve that by consent, which would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday,” the GOP leader added. McConnell clarifying that a debate and vote on the organizing resolution, which will set up time for the House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to make their opening arguments, as well as time for senators to ask questions, will happen next week. Then the Senate will notify the president’s defense team to appear for the Senate and give the White House several days to respond.

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There are Republicans who think Trump should shine in the circus.

GOP: There Aren’t 51 Votes To Dismiss Trump Articles Of Impeachment (Hill)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters on Monday that the Senate Republican caucus doesn’t have the votes to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Trump, who endorsed an “outright dismissal” over the weekend. “I think our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss. … Certainly there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss,” Blunt, the No. 4 Senate Republican, told reporters after a closed-door leadership meeting. Republicans have warned for months that they will not dismiss the two articles of impeachment against Trump, predicting a trial will end with votes on either acquitting or convicting him. But Trump revived talk of trying to dismiss the articles over the weekend, saying the Senate was “giving credence” to the allegations against him by having a trial.


“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted on Sunday. Dismissing the articles of impeachment would require 51 votes. Because no Democrats would support the effort, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could afford to lose only two GOP senators and still successfully dismiss the articles. Multiple Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio), have indicated they would oppose a motion to dismiss, arguing that both Trump’s legal team and House impeachment managers should be able to make their case.

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Is the fight over witnesses going to take longer than the actual trial?

McConnell Opens Door For Hunter Biden Testimony At Trump Trial (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says Republicans could subpoena Hunter Biden to testify about his business dealings with a Ukrainian gas company if Democrats insist on having witnesses such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify at the Senate impeachment trial. “We’ll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial and I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses they wanted to hear from,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday when asked about GOP senators who want Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, to testify. “When you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called,” he said.


The GOP leader also noted “there is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss” the articles of impeachment immediately, adding, “our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.” McConnell confirmed that all 53 Republican senators support passing an organizing resolution at the start of President Trump’s trial that would set up time for the House prosecutors and the president’s defense team to lay out their opening arguments and for senators to submit questions to the chair in writing. Votes on subpoenaing witnesses such as Bolton or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will be considered after what McConnell calls “phase one of the trial.”

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When prosecutors say Flynn grew “antagonistic”, what they mean is he hired Sidney Powell. Who’s not going to stop at getting him exonerated. She’ll demand a huge amount in damages.

Michael Flynn Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea (G.)

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to Donald Trump who was due to be sentenced for lying to federal investigators, is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea “because of the government’s bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement”, his lawyers said in a court document filed Tuesday. Flynn was the first senior White House official to cut a deal in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference. After pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition between Barack Obama and Trump, he went on to provide extensive information to federal prosecutors in exchange for leniency.

But in recent months, he grew less cooperative and suggested he hadn’t committed any crimes, leading prosecutors to recommend that he should be sentenced to up to six months in prison. “Far from accepting the consequences of his unlawful actions, he has sought to blame almost every other person and entity involved in his case, including his former counsel,” prosecutors wrote in a document filed last week. It appears Flynn and his legal team have doubled down, saying that the federal government breached the plea agreement with Flynn. They allege that prosecutors asked him to lie in another investigation, into his former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian. Rafiekian was convicted for illegally lobbying to have a Turkish exile returned from the US, but a federal judge threw out the conviction, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.

In the court filing, Flynn’s lawyers said the justice department was attempting to “rewrite history” by suggesting he had not been forthcoming and should receive prison time. “Mr Flynn has cooperated with the government in good faith for two years. He gave the prosecution his full cooperation,” Flynn’s legal team wrote. “He endured massive, unnecessary, and frankly counterproductive demands on his time, his family, his scarce resources, and his life.” As part of his plea deal, Flynn admitted he had lied to the FBI about discussing US sanctions on Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time. Flynn also said he lied about conversations with Kislyak discussing a UN security council resolution condemning Israel.

[..] Federal prosecutors had initially said Flynn was entitled to avoid jail time, before reversing course after Flynn grew antagonistic. In June, Flynn fired his longtime attorneys and replaced them with a new team that included the former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, a fierce critic of the Mueller investigation.

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It’s much easier for the Fed and the Treasury to create a false picture of a strong economy when they help build huge monopolies.

Five Biggest US Stocks Are Dwarfing The Rest Of The Stock Market (CNBC)

It’s no secret that a handful of tech giants have been dominating the stock market, but their leadership has reached a level that is raising eyebrows on Wall Street as being unsustainable. The top five U.S. companies — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook — now make up 18% of the total market capitalization of the S&P 500, the highest percentage in history, according to Morgan Stanley. “A ratio like this is unprecedented, including during the tech bubble,” Mike Wilson, the bank’s head of U.S. equity strategy, said in a note Sunday. “Capital concentration is following corporate inequality like never before.”

These mega tech firms have been the front-runners in this record-long bull market as investors bet on superior growth and dominant market share in their respective industries. They were the biggest contributors to the market’s historic gains last year and the trend shows no signs of stopping in 2020. However, multiple Wall Street strategists are sounding alarms on the increasing dominance of Big Tech, warning of a potential pullback in the stocks ahead. Apple’s weighting in the S&P 500 surpassed 4% in October, the sixth time the iPhone maker has crossed that threshold. But if history is any guide, it could be a ominous sign for the stock, according to Leuthold Group analyst Phil Segner.


He noted during the previous five times when Apple topped the 4% threshold, the stock underperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 9% on average in the next 12 months. “With history as a guide, its most recent climb into the 4% Club looks like another selling opportunity,” Segner said in a note. Going back to 1990, only five stocks — Apple, Microsoft, Generic Electric, Cisco Systems and Exxon Mobil — have claimed more than 4% of the S&P 500, and their leader status has typically been short-lived, Segner noted. General Electric stayed the longest — 15 months — above the threshold, while Cisco only lasted a month, he said.

Apple and Microsoft, which surged 86% and 55% in 2019, respectively, together accounted for nearly 15% of the S&P 5002 s advance last year. No other stock even came close to their contribution. The megacap stocks are leading the market again in the new year. In fact, the 50 largest stocks in the S&P 500 are up the most this year with an average gain of 1.22%, according to Bespoke Investment Group. “The larger, the better so far in 2020,” Paul Hickey, Bespoke’s co-founder, said in a note Friday. “Market cap has seemingly been the most important factor in terms of performance so far this year.”

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Lap dogs.

Non-Commitment Probe Into Iran By France, Germany & UK ‘Groundless’ – Russia (RT)

The European trio’s accusation that Iran violates the key restrictions of the nuclear deal are unjustified, the Russian Foreign Ministry said urging the countries not to increase tensions that could endanger the pact. Paris, Berlin and London officially reported Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 agreement to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. This step could potentially lead to the UN Security Council being forced to decide on whether or not to bring back sanctions against Tehran. “We can’t rule out that the ill-considered actions of the European trio will lead to a new escalation around the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and make the return to the implementation of the ‘nuclear deal’ in its initially agreed format unachievable,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.


Iran rolled back on its uranium enrichment constraints detailed in the international agreement earlier this month after one of its top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in an American drone strike in Iraq. Tehran’s decision to put its commitments on hold was a response to the actions of the US, which unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reintroduced restrictions against Iran, the ministry reminded. However, the country keeps allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors to its nuclear sites – and “the transparency of the Iranian nuclear program has been one of the key clauses of the nuclear deal.”

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His days are counted.

Australia PM Backs Coal After BlackRock Quits (AFR)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected criticism of Australia’s $70 billion coal export industry and its links to global warming after the world’s largest fund manager announced it was quitting thermal coal. BlackRock is dumping more than half a billion dollars in thermal coal shares from all of its actively managed portfolios, as part of a more active global stance on climate change driven by chief executive Larry Fink. Asked about BlackRock’s announced withdrawal from thermal coal, Mr Morrison said the resources industry was “incredibly important to Australia” and that coal exports were worth about $70 billion a year. “This is important to so many communities across the country,” the Prime Minister said on Wednesday.


“Our government’s plan is to meet and beat our emissions reduction targets … without putting higher taxes on people and without putting up electricity prices and not pulling the rug from regional communities.” Mr Morrison famously showed off a lump of black coal during Parliament’s question time in 2017. Thermal coal, which is burnt to generate electricity, accounted for $26 billion in export income last financial year. This was a relatively small share of Australia’s total resource and energy export earnings forecast of $281 billion for 2019-20. Metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, delivered $44 billion in export revenue.

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China’s Catch 22: it has to open up if it wants to expand its economical role, but Xi doesn’t want the potential risk to his power.

“In principle, we support the rights and work of human rights defenders around the world.”. Yeah, just not in China.

‘Orwellian’ China Silencing Dissent At Home And Abroad – HRW Chief (G.)

The head of Human Rights Watch has accused the Chinese government of not only constructing “an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state” at home but using its growing economic clout to silence critics abroad. Kenneth Roth said on Tuesday that China was carrying out “the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century”. He warned that if human rights weren’t defended, the world could face “a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach of Chinese censors”, with a global rights system so weakened that it can no longer serve as a check on government repression.

Roth was speaking at the UN Correspondents Association in New York after being denied entry to Hong Kong, where he had been scheduled to release the rights group’s annual report. It begins with his keynote essay entitled China’s Global Threat to Human Rights. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Monday that: “It is China’s sovereignty to allow one’s entry or not.” He indicated that Human Rights Watch is among organisations that support and instigate “anti-China activists … to engage in radical violent crimes, and incite separatist activities hyping Hong Kong independence.” “These organisations deserve sanctions and must pay a price,” he said.


UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked on Tuesday about Roth’s denial of entry to Hong Kong, said: “In principle, we support the rights and work of human rights defenders around the world.” Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who attended the UN press launch, spoke at the end and said the was report “very prejudicial”, saying it has “fabrications” and telling journalists “we completely reject the content”. In the essay, Roth said the Chinese Communist Party is “worried that permitting political freedom would jeopardise its grasp on power” and “is running scared of its own people”. “The consequence under President Xi Jinping is China’s most pervasive and brutal oppression in decades,” he said.

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Not at all surprising, but first time I see this confirmed: a new leadership team who had previously worked on Boeing’s military projects began overseeing work on the commercial airliner.

Former Boeing Quality Manager: Fly Something Else (Big Think)

Slipping through the cracks of the Boeing controversy – which has taken on new twists and turns almost daily – were comments we recently uncovered by a former Boeing quality manager, who said last month that he thinks Boeing’s problems aren’t just limited to the 737. John Barnett was a quality manager for Boeing for 30 years before he was transferred to South Carolina to work on the 787, according to Big Think. It was there that a new leadership team who had previously worked on Boeing’s military projects began overseeing work on the commercial airliner. Barnett says that team lowered safety standards significantly. He stated: “They started pressuring us to not document defects, to work outside the procedures, to allow defective material to be installed without being corrected.

“They started bypassing procedures and not maintaining configurement control of airplanes, not maintaining control of non-conforming parts — they just wanted to get the planes pushed out the door and make the cash register ring.” At first, it was just administrative issues, Barnett said. But then, it got worse. “Over time it got worse and worse. They began to ignore defective parts installed on the planes and basic issues related to aircraft safety,” he said. According to Barnett, one audit uncovered that 25% of oxygen masks didn’t work. Defective parts were getting lost in the system before being discovered flying on aircraft. Barnett says he remembered “several defective bulkheads being installed without having been repaired.”


He also said that there was an issue with metal slivers. 3-inch-long slivers of razor-sharp metal would fall into areas where planes have sensitive wiring and electronics, he said. He continued: “That surface below the floor board is where all of your flight control wires are, that’s where all of your electronic equipment is. It controls systems on the airplane, it controls the power of the airplane. All of your electronic equipment is down where all of these metal slivers are falling.” He said these slivers would cause shorts and fires at the plant. As planes vibrate, these metal slivers work their way into wire bundles and can cause issues during flights, he said. Barnett filed complaints with multiple members of the Boeing team, which he said led to his reassignment to a department that isolated him.

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The military division will have to make up the losses.

Delta is surging because it doesn’t fly any 737MAX.

Boeing Sees Lowest Orders In Decades (BBC)

Boeing has reported its worst annual orders in at least two decades – as it remains in crisis over its 737 Max model. The company also said deliveries of its planes slumped to an 11-year low last year. It means the US firm has lost its title as the world’s biggest plane maker to European rival Airbus. The 737 Max has been grounded since March after two crashes in which 346 people were killed. Boeing said net orders after cancellations for 2019 totalled just 54 planes. That compares with 893 the previous year. At the same time deliveries fell by 53% to 380 planes, the lowest number since 2007. The company last month halted production of what had been its best-selling commercial airliner.


The grounding of the 737 Max means it is impossible for the firm to deliver the planes to customers. In comparison, Boeing’s main rival Airbus said earlier this month that it delivered a record 863 planes in 2019 and racked up a net 768 orders after cancellations. A bright spot for the Chicago-based plane maker was a record number of deliveries of 787 Dreamliners in the last three months of 2019. The company delivered 45 of the wide-body passenger jets, which first went into service in 2011. Boeing’s new chief executive David Calhoun took the helm of the manufacturer on Monday. Mr Calhoun said he is “confident in the future” of the firm, telling staff his “primary focus” will be returning the 737 Max to the skies.

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Plus Virgin Australia, Norwegian Air, Jet Airways, keep ’em coming.

Malaysia Airlines Suspends Boeing 737 MAX Deliveries Due To Grounding (R.)

Malaysia Airlines said on Wednesday it had suspended deliveries of 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets, citing the plane’s delayed return to service since it was grounded last year following two fatal crashes. The decision represents another setback for Boeing, which on Tuesday reported its worst annual net orders in decades, along with its lowest number of plane deliveries in 11 years, as the grounding of the 737 MAX saw it fall far behind main competitor Airbus. “In view of the production stoppage and the delayed return to service of the 737-MAX, Malaysia Airlines has suspended the delivery of its orders,” the airline said in an email, without saying when it wanted the deliveries to resume.

“As there is no clarity yet from various authorities on its return to service, our technical due diligence is still ongoing,” Malaysia Airlines said. The airline said it had previously planned to have five 737 MAX jets delivered this year, the first in July. Last year, its chief executive had said it was possible the craft’s introduction to service could slide beyond July. Boeing said it was sorry for the disruption the 737 MAX situation had caused Malaysia Airlines. “We are working to support them and all of our customers in every way possible to ensure complete confidence in the 737 MAX and a safe return to commercial flight,” Boeing said in a statement.


Analysts said cash-strapped carriers like Malaysia Airlines that over-ordered planes could take advantage of the 737 MAX grounding to negotiate with Boeing to restructure their orders. Virgin Australia said last year it would delay taking the first deliveries of 737 MAX jets for nearly two years to reduce capital spending. Norwegian Air said last year its Dublin-based leasing subsidiary had reached an agreement with Boeing to postpone delivery of 14 737 MAX planes that were originally due in 2020 and 2021. Boeing on Tuesday reported a net negative of 183 orders for the 737 MAX in 2019 including cancellations, but many were associated with the collapse of a major customer, India’s Jet Airways.

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Jan 132020
 


G.G. Bain Three-ton electric sign blown into Broadway, New York. 1912

 

‘I’m Spending All My Money To Get Rid Of Trump’: Michael Bloomberg (R.)
What If @realDonaldTrump Is Brilliant? (Papachelas)
Warren, Sanders Campaigns Spar In Rare Show Of Discord (R.)
How Bad Can The Climate Crisis Get If Trump Wins Again? (G.)
Avoid UK Recession By Kickstarting Green Economy, Says Thinktank (G.)
China Is Really Worried About Unemployment, Social Unrest (CNN)
Ford’s China Vehicle Sales Drop 26% In Third Straight Year Of Decline (R.)
Downing of PS-752 Already Being Used To Smear MH-17 Skeptics (OffG)
Bolivia Exiled Ex-President Morales Calls On Radio For Armed Militias (R.)
Somebody Snuck A Potato Into CES 2020 (F.)

 

 

All of the money, none of the prospects. Will he be the first to spend a full billion? Don’t change your station.

‘I’m Spending All My Money To Get Rid Of Trump’: Michael Bloomberg (R.)

U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg told Reuters he is ready to spend much of his vast fortune to oust Republican President Donald Trump from the White House in 2020, rejecting criticism from rivals for the Democratic nomination that the billionaire is trying to buy the U.S. election. Ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest American, Bloomberg has flooded U.S. airwaves and social media feeds with messages that he stands the best chance to beat Trump, spending more on campaign ads since he launched his campaign in November than his main Democratic rivals have over the last year.

“Number one priority is to get rid of Donald Trump. I’m spending all my money to get rid of Trump,” Bloomberg told Reuters aboard his campaign bus on Saturday, during a nearly 300-mile (483-km) drive across Texas, one of the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday on March 3. “Do you want me to spend more or less? End of story.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders who has vowed to get money out of politics, blasted Bloomberg when he launched his campaign with a $37-million TV advertising blitz, accusing the former New York City mayor of trying to buy American democracy. “These are just political things they say, hoping they catch on and they don’t like me doing it, because it competes with them, not because it’s bad policy,” Bloomberg said.


After entering the race late and missing the first six Democratic debates, Bloomberg generally sits fifth in national public opinion polls behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Warren and Pete Buttigieg. But not just the two liberal standard-bearers of Warren and Sanders, all of the four are too liberal to beat Trump, Bloomberg said. “One of the reasons I’m reasonably confident I could beat Trump is I would be acceptable to the moderate Republicans you have to have,” said Bloomberg, a former Republican who made his fortune selling financial information to Wall Street firms. “Whether you like it or not, you can’t win the election unless you get moderate Republicans to cross the line. The others are much too liberal for them and they would certainly vote for Donald Trump.”

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No, I don’t think Trump is brilliant, thank you. Just funny to see this coming from Greece.

What If @realDonaldTrump Is Brilliant? (Papachelas)

History is often written by those who don’t follow the rules or, rather, by those who ostentatiously throw them onto the trash heap of history. Donald Trump is one of those people, whether we like it or not. In an era where political correctness and slick public relations are the norm in politics and beyond, Trump came along with his own unique style and turned everything on its head. This started during his candidacy for president. A one-time close associate of his described how his team tried to convince him to start using prepared speeches, reading from a teleprompter. He didn’t like the idea at all but he agreed to give it a go.

When the moment came for his first public speech, he started reading from the teleprompter, darting looks to his left and right, clearly uncomfortable with the whole process. At one point, his patience at an end, he petulantly threw down the screen and blamed his awkwardness on his team, declaring that he preferred making speeches without teleprompters. His associates were aghast for a few minutes. But after seeing the rave reception of the move by Trump’s supporters, they realized that his instinct and political brilliance was probably beyond them.

He pulled it off in domestic politics; could he also do it in foreign policy? All the relevant literature, handbooks and collected wisdom of experts far and near suggest that such a feat is impossible. What is essentially a negotiating tactic from the Manhattan real estate world cannot work in the forum of international politics. The art of pushing someone to the end of their tether and then making a deal at the last minute would be rejected as unenforceable. But that’s exactly what Trump is testing now. The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq by American forces was a very extreme act which all Trump’s predecessors had avoided, as had even successive Israeli governments. Trump did it.

And by doing so he simultaneously sent a clear message to the Middle East that the USA is no longer dependent on its oil and natural gas reserves. Iran responded in a relatively reasonable fashion. In a few weeks, it will become clear whether those who believe that Iran will hit back harder – albeit under or over the radar – are right, or whether a new balance of power will finally emerge that puts it “in its place” and possibly leads to a new deal. That’s when a lot of so-called experts will be banging their heads against the wall.

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Prepare for 11 months of this, getting uglier as we go along.

Warren, Sanders Campaigns Spar In Rare Show Of Discord (R.)

A rare sign of discord emerged on Sunday between progressive Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over a report that Sanders’ campaign volunteers had called her a candidate of the elite in conversations with voters. “I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” Warren told reporters after a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, which will hold the nation’s first nominating contest on Feb. 3. “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.” Warren and Sanders, who are friends, fellow U.S. senators and their party’s progressive standard-bearers, agreed early in the nominating contest to an informal non-aggression pact and have largely avoided criticizing each other.


Politico reported late on Saturday that Sanders’ campaign had distributed talking points for volunteers on what to say to voters who are thinking of supporting his main rivals – former Vice President Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Warren. The guidance suggested that volunteers argue Warren was supported by “highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what,” rather than motivating people who do not normally vote, Politico reported. Sanders said on Sunday he did not approve the negative talking points about other candidates. “We have over 500 people on our campaign. People do certain things. I’m sure that on Elizabeth’s campaign people do certain things as well,” Sanders told reporters after a rally in Iowa.

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Blaming Trump for a process that has taken centuries to develop is as silly as it is lazy. There is no government anywhere that is willing to commit anything other than lip service to this.

How Bad Can The Climate Crisis Get If Trump Wins Again? (G.)

Climate pollution in the US is up under Donald Trump and threatens to undermine international efforts to stall the crisis, especially if he wins re-election this year and secures a second term in the White House. While US climate emissions fell 2.1% in 2019, they rose significantly in 2018, according to estimates from the economic analysis firm Rhodium Group. On net, emissions are slightly higher than in the beginning of 2017, when Trump’s administration began enacting dozens of environment rollbacks aimed at helping the oil and gas industry. Trump is still working to further weaken bedrock standards. This week he proposed to allow major projects like pipelines and highways to bypass reviews of how they will contribute to global warming.

The draft rule is unlikely to become final before the November election, but it is yet another reason industries weighing climate choices might delay significant action. “What they have done is created confusion within the business community and the environmental world as to what are going to be the standards,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under the Republican president George W Bush. “Essentially every regulation the agency promulgates gets a lawsuit that goes with it, almost inevitably … that’s the only good thing you can say about it.” Whitman called the approach “mindless” and said “whoever is a bigger donor gets to tell them what the environmental policy should be, it seems”.

In the absence of any federal climate action, states, cities and businesses have pledged their own efforts, seeking to encourage other big emitters like China and India to continue to slow their growing climate pollution. Andrew Light, a climate negotiator for President Barack Obama’s state department, said the world is taking note of those efforts, but if Trump is re-elected “you are going to see a lot of people who are worried anew about what the US can do.” Americans choosing Trump would send the signal that they don’t care about the climate, Light said.

America’s Pledge, a project to quantify ongoing US emissions reductions, estimates that non-federal actors – like states and cities – could cut climate pollution 37% below 2005 levels by 2030. A Democrat in the White House could increase that to 49% with what Light described as modest, politically achievable policy changes. Experts are increasingly calling for the US to halve its emissions by 2030 and neutralize them by 2050.

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Next up: $50 trillion. You’re being had.

Avoid UK Recession By Kickstarting Green Economy, Says Thinktank (G.)

The government fightback against the next recession should include pumping as much as £50bn into green projects, in a move that would help reboot the economy and tackle the climate emergency, according to a left-leaning thinktank. Against a backdrop of concern among economists that Britain is ill-equipped to combat another downturn on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis, the New Economics Foundation thinktank said a green plan to beat a future slump was required. In the event of a recession, it said the government should spend at least 2% of GDP, or around £30bn, to decarbonise the economy, by investing in renewable energy projects, planting trees, transport infrastructure, electric vehicles, and retrofitting homes with new insulation.

For a larger economic shock, as much as 3% of GDP, or around £50bn, could be spent. Leading economists including former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard, have called on governments around the globe to prepare for future economic shocks with readily available blueprints to raise government spending. It comes as central banks, including the Bank of England, have limited capacity to provide support because interest rates remain close to the lowest levels on record more than a decade after the financial crisis. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, has hinted that Threadneedle Street could cut rates soon, while warning that it is running out of ways to combat recessions.


The foundation said that raising investment in green infrastructure was required regardless of whether Britain was facing a recession or not. However, it said that a plan for fighting a future downturn should have decarbonisation at its core. [..] It said that spending around £10.5bn on a mass insulation programme for homes – equivalent to only a third of the coalition government’s tax cuts between 2010 and 2013 – would have enabled residential emissions to fall by around 30% by 2018.

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Why would CNN run a piece like this, at this point in time?

China Is Really Worried About Unemployment, Social Unrest (CNN)

The Chinese government wants to do whatever it can to protect the economy in 2020. It’s got an enormous task ahead of it. Beijing has made clear that the world’s second largest economy cannot spiral into a slump and risk mass layoffs as it tangles with rising debt, cooling domestic demand and an ongoing trade war with the United States. That’s particularly important this year because it marks the conclusion of the government’s 13th Five-Year Plan, during which it promised to establish a “moderately prosperous society” and end poverty. Senior members of the Communist Party’s Politburo — the seven most powerful men in China — said last week that all efforts must be taken to achieve those goals in 2020.

In recent weeks, the government has bombarded the economy with a wave of stimulus measures, from tariff reductions that could help soothe the pain from rising prices, to rate cuts that could fuel more bank lending. Authorities are also amping up the language they’re using to describe the situation. China’s State Council last month called on local governments to “go to all lengths” to prevent massive job losses this year — what it characterized as the country’s top policy priority. The chief administrative office even warned that the country could face “massive unexpected incidents” if unemployment balloons — a euphemism in China widely understood to refer to social unrest and riots, and one that is rare in public government documents.

In recent years, the government has said it has to create 11 million new jobs annually to keep employment on track. While China’s official unemployment data has barely budged over the last several years, hovering between 4% and 5%, Beijing’s messaging suggests that it is unusually worried about the slowing economy and the challenges that the year could bring. “Beijing is much more worried about social unrest than about ballooning local debt, which at one point seemed to be a priority, ” said David Zweig, director of Transnational China Consulting Limited and a professor emeritus at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Huge protests, after all, have for months consumed Hong Kong, which local officials said last November would sink into its first annual recession in a decade.

The protests have focused on calls for greater democracy, but economic factors such as the soaring cost of housing and an increasingly competitive labor market have been fueling a growing sense of dissatisfaction, particularly among the city’s young people. Social unrest might be the “black swan” risk facing the country, Zweig added, using a phrase that Chinese President Xi Jinping himself uttered last year to describe an improbable but chaotic event. “2020 is going to be very difficult, and mass unemployment may be the most feared problem,” said Frank Ching, a China political commentator and adjunct associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s not just an economic issue — it could develop into a political one. “

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And 15% for GM. Who’s taking over? Reuters doesn’t say.

Ford’s China Vehicle Sales Drop 26% In Third Straight Year Of Decline (R.)

Ford Motor Co’s China vehicle sales fell for a third consecutive year, by 26.1%, as it battles a prolonged overall sales decline in its second-biggest market that has hit demand for its mass-market Ford brand and sports utility vehicles. The U.S. automaker delivered 146,473 vehicles in China in the fourth quarter, down 14.7% year-on-year, Ford said in a statement. In total, it sold 567,854 vehicles over 2019. Ford has been trying to revive sales in China after its business began slumping in late 2017. Sales sank 37% in 2018, after a 6% decline in 2017. Anning Chen, president and chief executive of Ford Greater China, said that while 2019 was a “challenging” year for the automaker, it saw its market share in the high-to-premium segment stabilize and its sales decline in the value segment start to narrow in the second-half of the year.


“The pressure from the external environment and downward trend of the industry volume will continue in 2020, and we will put more efforts into strengthening our product lineup with more customer-centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability.” The automaker plans to launch more than 30 new models in China over the next three years of which over a third will be electric vehicles. It has also said it would localize management teams by hiring more Chinese staff and aimed to improve relationships with joint venture partners. [..] Its larger U.S. rival General Motors last week said its sales in China fell 15% from a year earlier to 3.09 million vehicles in 2019, its second year of decline.

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Waiting for the Belingcat “analysis”.

Downing of PS-752 Already Being Used To Smear MH-17 Skeptics (OffG)

Many have noted that Iran’s honorable decision to take responsibility for the catastrophe is in sharp contrast with Washington’s response in 1988 when the U.S. Navy shot down Iran Air Flight 655 scheduled from Tehran to Dubai over the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 occupants, after failing to cover it up. Just a month later, Vice President George H.W. Bush would notoriously state he would “never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.” Although he was not directly referring to the incident, one can only imagine what the reaction would be if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were to say the same weeks after shooting down the Ukrainian plane, let alone an American one.

Predictably, Tehran’s transparency has gone mostly unappreciated while the Trump administration is already trying to use the disaster to further demonize Iran. Oddly enough, Ukrainian International Airlines is partly owned by the infamous Ukrainian-Israeli oligarch, politician and energy tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, who was notably one of the biggest financiers of the anti-Russian, pro-EU coup d’etat which overthrew the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Kolomoisky is also a principal backer of current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky whose dubious phone call with Trump resulted in the 45th U.S. president’s impeachment last month.

In another astounding coincidence, Kolomoisky’s Privat Group is believed to control Burisma Holdings, the Cypress-based company whose executive board 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter was appointed to following the Maidan junta. The former Vice President admitted that he bribed Ukraine into firing its top prosecutor who was looking into his son’s corruption by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees. Kolomoisky, AKA “the Chameleon”, is one of the wealthiest people in the ex-Soviet country and was formerly appointed as governor of an administrative region bordering Donbass in eastern Ukraine following the 2014 putsch.

He has also funded a battalion of volunteer neo-Nazi mercenaries fighting alongside the Ukrainian army in the War in Donbass against Russian-speaking separatists which the military aid temporarily withheld by the Trump administration that was disputably contingent upon an investigation of Biden and his son goes to. In 2014, another infamous plane shootdown made international headlines when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) scheduled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

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Can Evo make a come-back?

Bolivia Exiled Ex-President Morales Calls On Radio For Armed Militias (R.)

Bolivia’s exiled former president Evo Morales on Sunday defended a call he made for the formation of armed groups, a recording of which was leaked on public radio. Speaking exclusively to Reuters on Sunday night in Argentina where he is in exile, the defiant former president confirmed his was the voice in a recording played on Bolivian radio calling for creation of armed militias “as in Venezuela”. He said people have a right to defend themselves if the new government was attacking them. He said he had not meant armed with guns and was referring to citizen defense groups that had always loosely existed. “In Bolivia, if the armed forces are shooting the people, killing the people, the people have the right to organize their security,” he said in the interview with Reuters.


“We´re not talking arms, more like slingshots,” he said. “In some times (these groups) were called militias, in other times they were called union security or union police and in some places it is called communal guard. It is not new.” In the recording released by radio station Kawsachun Coca Tropico, Morales said he and his supporters had been “too trusting” ahead of last year´s presidential election, and should have had a “Plan B.” “If between now and in a little while… I were to return (to Bolivia) or someone else goes back, we must organize as in Venezuela armed militias of the people,” Morales said in the recording. “We were too trusting. The blunder: we did not have a ‘Plan B’.”

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Is all innovation positive? Given how it’s promoted, one might think so. But that’s just because of the money involved.

Somebody Snuck A Potato Into CES 2020 (F.)

I almost walked right by it. But then I realized the object the young man was holding up, apparently thrilling the small crowd gathered around his tiny CES 2020 booth, was a potato. The vegetable in question looked like an ordinary, chunky Idaho spud, although protruding out of one side was some kind of antenna, a black plastic appendage bent upward. Close to the potato’s surface, the exterior of the antenna became a thin, blade-like electrode that pierced the skin, clearly doing… something. The man was regaling the crowd with his incredible smart product, which he said was finally unlocking the awesome decision-making power of the potato. The antenna, which he called the NeuraSpud, tapped into the potato’s “artificial intelligence.”

Once you connected your smartphone over Bluetooth to the device and launched the accompanying app, you could ask the potato anything — with your voice, no less — and it would spout an answer on the screen, the digital-vegetable equivalent of a Magic Eight Ball. If the smart potato sounds like a big, stupid stunt, that’s because it is. The man behind the idea, Nicholas Baldeck from France, told me he brought his admittedly ridiculous “invention” to CES to make a point about the torrent of smart gadgets at the show, many of which don’t really solve problems at all. “This product has way more chance of success than 60% of the startups here,” Baldeck says. “I am skeptical of this idea of ‘connected everything.’


Now it looks like innovation is about putting a chip into any object. I’m not sure the word ‘smart’ makes more sense before the word toothbrush than the word potato.” Baldeck went to a lot of trouble to make his point. His booth cost $1,000, and he spent about $4,000 in travel, equipment and marketing. Plus the electrode-driven antenna he brought really works, he says — though “works” in this context is somewhat fungible, since what the electrode is “reading” from the juices inside the potato to create the answers is probably just random junk. He also had to buy a bunch of potatoes.

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Jan 122020
 


Dorothea Lange Crossroads grocery store and filling station, Yakima, Washington, Sumac Park 1939

 

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)
Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)
Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)
Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)
Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)
Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)
Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)
Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)
Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)
Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)
‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

 

 

No discussion of the Iran situation is worth a grain of salt if it doesn’t include Putin. He called for a conference on Lybia yesterday; Iran is (one of the) next. But yeah, of course China wants to add its two bits as well.

China Wants To Save Iran Nuclear Deal As It Leaves Their Oil Market Behind (F.)

China’s top foreign policy officials scolded President Trump’s January 3 hit on Iranian general Kassam Soleimani over the weekend, vowing to do what they could to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told the local press on Monday that Iran was basically “forced” to end its commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action after the death of Soleimani by drone strike outside of a Baghdad airport last week. Geng said that by doing so, however, they would be in violation of their non-proliferation obligations. The South China Morning Post reported Geng saying that, “China will continue to maintain close communication and coordination with all related parties, and will take relentless efforts” to save the nuclear deal and avoid greater conflict in the Gulf.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed under then-president Barack Obama in the summer of 2015. But the deal has had its critics ever since, with some saying the U.S. was basically bribing Iran not to enrich uranium for nuclear weaponry. Iran has been fighting a proxy war with the United States and its allies since the fall of the Washington-backed Shah of Iran. Soleimani was a lead soldier in that fight, and has since climbed the ranks to lead the elite Quds Force. He was blamed by Washington for leading a militia attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on December 31. Brent crude oil prices rose to $70 in intraday trading on Monday morning, but have since fallen below $70. Texas crude is still pricing in the low $60s, up half a percent following a rash of pro-Iran militia attacks against U.S. facilities this weekend.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly held telephone conversations on Saturday with the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and France, reiterating that China would not back U.S. military strikes on Iran. China, France and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. That body has a weapons ban on Iran in place since 2010, set to expire in October of this year. “China will continue to uphold an objective and just position,” Wang said, adding that China will help safeguard “peace and security in the (Persian) Gulf.” On Friday, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and urged the U.S. not to start a regional war in the Middle East.

Last week, Russia’s Vedomosti business daily sourced an unnamed diplomat who surmised that Iran would retaliate by blocking free shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that roughly 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide, goes through that Strait. The Strait curves through the coasts of Oman and Iran and is a key transit route for Saudi Arabian oil into China. China’s imports of Saudi oil have hit a record high of late due to sanctions on Iran and dwindling resources in Venezuela, making that body of water very important to Chinese oil supply. China imported 8.21 million tons of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in November, pushing the total volume for 11 months to a record 76.33 million tons. That’s up 53% from the same period in 2018, based on numbers crunched by Caixin Global..

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Don’t worry, the thought police has your back.

Instagram Says It’s Removing Posts Supporting Soleimani (CNN)

Instagram and its parent company Facebook are removing posts that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business Friday. The Iranian government has called for nationwide legal action against Instagram in protest, even creating a portal on a government website for the app’s users to submit examples of posts the company removed, Iranian state media reported. Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. Facebook and Twitter are blocked but some Iranians access those sites using VPNs.


In a tweet, Iran’s government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called Instagram’s actions “undemocratic.” Instagram shut down Soleimani’s own account on the platform last April after the US government designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Soleimani was an IRGC commander. “We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. Iranian soccer player Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has a verified Instagram account, posted a photo of Soleimani after his death. Jahanbakhsh said Instagram had removed that post.

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Would almost like to see them try, but don’t think they will. Too many risks. Can’t just wave around the petrodollar; it’s not made of steel; we know because it’s getting rusty.

Trump Administration Warns Iraq Could Lose New York Fed Account (CNBC)

The Trump administration this week warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if Baghdad expels American troops from the region, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal. The State Department’s warning follows the U.S. airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander and the face of the Islamic Republic’s interventions across the Middle East. The strike led to Iraq’s parliament voting to force out American troops — a move some officials argued would hurt Iraq — and a counterstrike by Iran on two bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq last week. Shutting down Iraq’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York could be detrimental to its financial system.


The country puts its revenue from oil sales there, and takes out that money to pay government salaries and contracts. The Fed held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018, according to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq. President Trump threatened to place economic sanctions on Iraq after parliament voted to request that Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi oust about 5,300 American troops. Those sanctions would also extend to Iran. The White House could also end waivers that allow Iraq to buy Iranian gas to fuel generators that supply a large portion of the country’s power, placing another pressure on the prime minister over addressing U.S. troops without enduring economic and financial loss. Mahdi has argued that forcing out American troops is the only way to avoid conflict in Iraq.

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Brought to you courtesy of John McCain and Victoria Nuland. This is America.

Ukraine Tells Israel To Stay Out Of Debate About Nazi Collaborators (JTA)

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel has told Jerusalem to butt out of the debate about honoring of Nazi collaborators. Thursday’s intervention by Hennadii Nadolenko, head of Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, reflects an escalation in the disagreement between Israel and Ukraine over the issue. The subject is related to “internal issues of Ukrainian politics” and Israel’s protests about it are “counterproductive,” Nadolenko told Israeli diplomats, according to the news site Jewish.ru. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion, and his Polish counterpart Bartosz Cichocki wrote officials an open letter condemning the government-sponsored honoring of Stepan Bandera and Andryi Melnyk, two collaborators with the Third Reich.


The two have written on the subject before. In 2018, Lion wrote that he was shocked at an earlier act of veneration for Bandera, saying: “I cannot understand how the glorification of those directly involved in horrible anti-Semitic crimes helps fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” Ukrainian diplomats had previously refrained from commenting publicly about Lion’s protests. The veneration of Nazi collaborators, including killers of Jews, is a growing phenomenon in Eastern Europe, where many consider such individuals as heroes because they fought against Russian domination. But few of Lion’s counterparts in those countries have spoken out as forcefully and publicly on this issue.

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For Trump, it’s an easy campaign. Bernie is a socialist, Biden is a sleepy flip flop who blackmailed Ukraine, Warren is Pocahontas squared and a socialist, Buttigieg has a closet full of things he hasn’t yet outed, and nobody likes Bloomberg.

Obama Campaign Guru: Trump Would Love To Run Against Bernie (Pol.)

Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager is warning that Democrats would struggle in a general election against Donald Trump if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. In an interview with POLITICO, Jim Messina predicted that Trump would exploit Sanders’ stamp of socialism in battleground states needed to defeat Trump, keep control of the House and have a shot at winning the Senate. “If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said. “I think the contrast is the best. He can say, ‘I’m a business guy, the economy’s good and this guy’s a socialist.’ I think that contrast for Trump is likely one that he’d be excited about in a way that he wouldn’t be as excited about Biden or potentially Mayor Pete or some of the more Midwestern moderate candidates.”

This is not the first time Messina has questioned Sanders’ viability as a general election candidate. His latest remarks come amid Sanders’ first-place showing in the marquee Iowa Poll and as the Vermont senator‘s messaging has increasingly focused on his electability. Messina said he is not endorsing in the 2020 race. He recently attended a fundraiser for Biden in Irvine, Calif., he said, because his wife is a supporter of the former vice president. “From a general election perspective, socialism is not going to be what Democrats are going to want to defend,” Messina added.“If you’re the Democratic nominee for the Montana Senate race, you don’t want to spend the election talking about socialism.”

Messina is the latest Democrat to raise concerns about Sanders at the top of the ticket. Endangered House Democrats are coalescing around Biden because of concerns that Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could threaten their reelection hopes, POLITICO reported Saturday. [..] Sanders surged starting in late October after recovering from a heart attack and receiving a pivotal endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For more than a week, Sanders has more directly attacked Joe Biden, the national top polling candidate, arguing the former vice president has too much “baggage” to win a general election. Sanders has argued the excitement behind his campaign and his steady dominance in grass-roots fundraising makes him the more electable candidate.

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From the Sanders campaign: “Jim Messina’s corporate clients include Google, Uber, AirBNB, a major private equity firm, a major airline that has been fighting its workers’ efforts to form a union, and Third Way, the Wall Street front group whose mission is to destroy the progressive movement.”

The campaign had set January 1st as the starting date for attacking rivals long ago.

Bernie Sanders Rips Biden Revisionist History On Iraq War Support (WE)

Bernie Sanders’s campaign ratcheted up its attacks on Joe Biden’s claim that he did not support the Iraq War nearly as soon as it started. “It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement Saturday. “Unlike 23 of his Senate colleagues who got it right, Biden made explicitly clear that he was voting for war, and even after the war started, he boasted that he didn’t regret it.” Biden voted for the Iraq War in 2002 while he was a Delaware senator, but he has claimed several times on the campaign trail that he opposed the effort “from the moment” the March 2003 invasion started.

The then-senator expressed support for the war, saying in July 2003 that he still thought the job was “doable.” In a Senate floor speech, Biden said, “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.” He later changed his position. As vice president, Biden oversaw the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops from Iraq in 2011, which many argue fueled the rise of the Islamic State. “Bernie Sanders saw the same information and had the judgment to vote against the Iraq War,” Weaver said. “That’s the kind of commander in chief we need — someone with the toughness and judgment to get those calls right, not someone who undermined Democratic opposition, enthusiastically supported a disastrous war, refuses to admit mistakes, and then tries to rewrite history.”

Foreign policy shot to prominence in the Democratic presidential field after President Trump ordered a strike that killed of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2, changing the landscape of Middle East policy. Sanders argued that the move puts the United States on the path to another war. Despite flaunting in Iowa last week that his supporters “have not heard me disparage any of the candidates,” Sanders has been increasing his attacks on the former vice president as the the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses loom. “You know, Joe Biden has been on the floor of the Senate, talking about the need to cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday. “Joe Biden pushed a bankruptcy bill, which has caused enormous financial problems for working families.”

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The worst of this relates to Clapper and Brennan’s Russiagate comments.

Revolving Door Shills On TV Need An ‘Outing’ (AC)

David Petraeus, Van Hipp, Jeh Johnson, John Negroponte (and these are just the ones featured in Fang’s piece)—all have ties to the Big 5 contracting companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (whose stocks are soaring in response to recent events) and/or work for venture capital firms that invest in these companies. In fact, General Jack Keane, who is reportedly at the elbow of the president, advising him directly, while alternately appearing on FOX News to congratulate him after launching kinetic attacks like killing Gen. Soleimani, currently serves as a partner for such a firm (SCP Partners) and has worked for General Dynamics and Blackwater. [..] key here, according to Fang is this: “Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence.”


Whether they are not disclosing their ties to producers or the hosts don’t bother to mention it on air doesn’t matter. It’s called ethics and journalistic integrity. Due diligence. Honesty. None if it seems to be in evidence here. “It is imperative that viewers are aware when their news commentary is coming from someone with a financial incentive tied to the topic they’re coming on, especially when so many lives hang in the balance,” Gin Armstrong, who’s with the Public Accountability Initiative, told Fang. Quite right. This seems so simple, yet this practice of deception—and it is a deception—has been going on for decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to swallow it passively.

Think of all the damage that was done in the run-up to the Iraq War and after the invasion, when former military generals were cultivated by the Pentagon and delivered to the networks and cable shows as commentators for years, helping to sell the war and pacify public opinion when conditions on the ground went sour. The “Afghanistan Papers” revealed last month that hundreds of government officials and military officers knew for years that the war was lost and that the American people were being sold a bill of goods throughout the entire 18-year campaign. By their silence and complicity they served as enablers. How many of them have cycled through the revolving door to the private sector and have served as “experts” in any media capacity (authors, speechmakers, pundits) to promote those lies back to the American people? If they hadn’t, might there be more public pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home (14,000 still there) today?

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Tree-planting anyone?

Australia’s Fires Pump Out More Emissions Than 100 Nations Combined (MIT)

The wildfires raging along Australia’s eastern coast have already pumped around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further fueling the climate change that’s already intensifying the nation’s fires. That’s more than the total combined annual emissions of the 116 lowest-emitting countries, and nine times the amount produced during California’s record-setting 2018 fire season. It also adds up to about three-quarters of Australia’s otherwise flattening greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019. And yet, 400 million tons isn’t an unprecedented amount nationwide at this point of the year in Australia, where summer bush fires are common, the fire season has been growing longer, and the number of days of “very high fire danger” is increasing.

Wildfires emissions topped 600 million tons from September through early January during the brutal fire seasons of 2011 and 2012, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. But emissions are way beyond typical levels in New South Wales, where this year’s fires are concentrated. More than 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have burned across the southeastern state since July 1, according to a statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Climate change doesn’t spark wildfires. But rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall dries out trees, plants, and soil, converting them into fuel that can amplify fires when they do break out.

A 2018 report by Australia’s national science agency and the Bureau of Meteorology concludes climate change has contributed to the nation’s worsening fire conditions, noting that average temperatures have risen more than 1˚C. In turn, these huge fires are fueling climate change. As trees and plants burn, they release the carbon stored in their trunks, leaves, branches, and roots. That creates a vicious feedback loop, as the very impacts of climate change further exacerbate it, complicating our ability to get ahead of the problem.


Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service

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But to be replaced with what? I still haven’t seen an answer to that which makes any sense.

Stay out of Davos, Greta, you’re being bought.

Greta Thunberg Tells World Leaders To End Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ (G.)

Greta Thunberg and fellow youth climate campaigners are demanding that global leaders immediately end the “madness” of huge ongoing investments in fossil fuel exploration and enormous subsidies for coal, oil and gas use. The 21 young activists are also calling on the political and business leaders who will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to ensure investment funds dump their holdings in fossil fuel companies. “Anything less would be a betrayal against life itself,” said Thunberg and colleagues in an article in the Guardian. “Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that you play your part in putting an end to this madness.”

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate emergency. Scientists predict catastrophic impacts unless deep cuts in emissions are made rapidly, but global emissions are still rising. “Young people are being let down by older generations and those in power,” the climate strikers said. “To some it may seem like we are asking for a lot. But this is just the very minimum effort needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.” Much of the world’s existing coal, oil and gas reserves must be kept in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of global heating. But investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction remains high.

Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, the world’s largest investment banks have provided more than $700bn to fossil fuel companies to develop new projects, with the total investment estimated to be trillions of dollars. Fossil fuel companies argue that their products will be used for many years to come and that they have a pivotal role in shifting the energy system to zero emissions. But their investments in green energy are tiny compared with those in fossil fuels. Subsidies for fossil fuels also remain high despite a G20 pledge in 2009 to eliminate them. The IMF estimates such subsidies run at $10m a minute, or $5.2tn a year. “The fact that [ending investment and subsidies] hasn’t been done already is, quite frankly, a disgrace,” said Thunberg and colleagues.

Investors managing funds totalling $12tn have already divested from coal, oil and gas, but the climate activists demand that “all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels”. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said in December that the financial sector was not cutting investments in oil and gas companies rapidly enough and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. He said in October that companies and industries not moving towards zero-carbon emissions would be punished by investors and go bankrupt.

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UK 2020. Laughing stock.

Anti-Terror Police Target School Climate Strikers (G.)

Extinction Rebellion is threatening legal action against counter-terrorism police for what it said was the illegal listing of the group as an extremist ideology in a guide designed to help stop terrorist violence. The Guardian revealed on Friday that counter-terrorism police had placed the non-violent protest group on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme. Police now say that was an error. Amnesty International condemned the decision on Saturday as criticism grew and questions remained about how Extinction Rebellion (XR) came to be included in the guide alongside neo-Nazi and terrorist groups.

The climate emergency campaign group was included in a 12-page document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE) titled “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism”. XR has instructed lawyers. Jules Carey, who acted for XR when it successfully struck down police protest bans in the courts last year, told the Guardian that the latest guidance was unlawful. “It is extraordinary that Counter Terrorism Policing South East have added Extinction Rebellion to the list of terrorist groups and extremist organisations that the Prevent strategy was set up to deal with.

“The guidance issued by the CTPSE is clearly unlawful. It constitutes an unlawful interference with human rights including free speech, right to assemble and enjoyment of a private life. “The guidance is clearly designed to harm Extinction Rebellion and cast those who support the movement as domestic extremists. It is a glaring example of the sort of overzealous policing we have come to expect around protests. Being referred to Prevent could have long-lasting and life-changing consequences for a young school activist.”

[..] Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director, said the police guidance added to longstanding concerns about Prevent. “It’s deeply shocking that the police ever seriously considered classifying peaceful climate crisis protesters as extremists. To see that schoolchildren were effectively going to be profiled under these proposed measures, just deepens our shock. “Given that children are potentially those who will be most affected by the climate emergency, it’s vital that they are able to speak out on these issues without this heavy-handed and entirely disproportionate police attention. This episode only adds to our existing concerns about Prevent, which is a highly dubious scheme sorely in need of a proper, independent and impartial review.”

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“Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture..”

Might as well register them as cartoon characters. Same difference. We really don’t have any connection to anything alive anymore, do we?

‘Like Sending Bees To War’: The Deadly Truth Behind Your Almond-Milk (G.)

A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s. Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes.

Environmental advocates argue that the huge, commercially driven proliferation of the European honeybees used on almond farms is itself undermining the ecosystem for all bees. Honeybees out-compete diverse native bee species for forage, and threaten the endangered species that are already struggling to survive climate change. Environmentalists argue a better solution is to transform the way large-scale agriculture is carried out in the US. Like all bees, honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year.

Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture because of the creature’s vital role in food production. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honeybees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined. “The high mortality rate creates a sad business model for beekeepers,” says Nate Donley, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like sending the bees to war. Many don’t come back.”

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The state of -rich western- mankind in a few words.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Feb 212019
 


Jan van Eijk The Arnolfini portrait 1434

 

A $3 Trillion Debt Tsunami Is About To Flood The Stock Market (MW)
Attorney General Barr To Announce End Of Mueller Probe Next Week: CNN (ZH)
Mueller Report May Be ‘Anti-Climactic’ – Clapper (Hill)
FBI Top Lawyer Believed Hillary Clinton Should Face Charges (Solomon)
Conservative Split As Tory Rebels Denounce Hardline Brexiters (G.)
How Not To Organise A Split In A Party (Galloway)
UK And Ireland Retailers Warn Of 40% Tariffs On Food In No-Deal Brexit (G.)
UK Economy £100 Billion Smaller Because Of Austerity (G.)
Germany Rebuffs UK Call To Back Off Saudi Arms Freeze (ZH)
Bernie Sanders Raised $6 Million In One Day After Launching Campaign (ZH)
Ocasio-Cortez Refuses To Back Bernie Sanders For 2020 (Ind.)

 

 

They’re all still talking about the markets that aren’t markets. Curious. Is it because it’s all they have? Either way, seems leargely useless to me.

A $3 Trillion Debt Tsunami Is About To Flood The Stock Market (MW)

Will Nasgovitz, who oversees about $1.3 billion in assets as the chief executive of Heartland Advisors, isn’t calling for a “full blown financial crisis,” but, with trillions in corporate debt coming due in the coming years, the industry veteran’s not exactly predicting smooth sailing in the stock market, either. “With interest rates low, the economy strong, and relatively easy lending standards, the thinking went that borrowing to buyback shares or finance acquisitions was a low-risk strategy,” Nasgovitz explained in a recent post. “But the next five years could severely test that Pollyanna view.” Nasgovitz used this chart to illustrate his stance. As you can see, about $3.3 trillion — or 48% of all current outstanding commercial debt — comes due by 2023.

The timing could be problematic. “The sheer volume would be challenging for the market to digest in the best of scenarios, let alone this late in an economic expansion,” Nasgovitz wrote. “Adding to our sense of caution are early signs that lending standards have begun to tighten for commercial and industrial borrowers.” He says that, as banks become more stringent, borrowers could end up paying higher rates just to secure funds to retire outstanding obligations. “While we don’t currently see signs of a full-blown financial crisis on the horizon,” he concluded, “we do believe that excessive debt adds unnecessary challenges to companies in general and will likely be a headwind for heavy borrowers in the intermediate term going forward.”

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Overall sentiment: it won’t amount to much. So the media’s next steps are being prepared in the vein of “Just because Mueller couldn’t find a thing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”.

Russiagate has been the media’s golden goose; what can they turn to now?

Attorney General Barr To Announce End Of Mueller Probe Next Week: CNN (ZH)

Barely a week after being sworn in as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr is reportedly planning to announce as early as next week that Robert Mueller has completed his investigation and that a confidential report on Mueller’s findings will be submitted to Congress in the very near future. According to CNN, the preparations – which are in line with an NBC report from late last year that the Mueller report would be completed by the end of February – “are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.” Barr has said that he wants to be as “transparent” as possible while being “consistent with the rules and the law.”

According to the law, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the AG after the investigation ends. But the rules don’t require it to be shared with Congress or the public (though, like everything involving the Mueller probe, it will almost certainly leak). One thing that remains unclear is to what extent Mueller’s findings will be shared with Congress (since the DOJ typically frowns on publicizing embarrassing or compromising information about people who haven’t been charged with a crime…though that principle has apparently gone out the window over the last two years). CNN also noted that it’s possible that Mueller has made referrals to other prosecutors besides the New York US attorney who brought charges against Michael Cohen.

The existence of other investigations might also soon come to light. CNN reported that attorneys from the US attorney’s office for Washington DC have been visiting Mueller “more than usual.” Signs that the Mueller probe is winding down have been multiplying in recent weeks. Four of his 17 prosecutors have been reassigned, and the grand jury he has used to secure his indictments hasn’t convened since late January. While Trump is probably hoping that the Russia collusion narrative will decidedly die after the report is released, former DNI James Clapper – whom Trump threatened to strip of his security clearance – warned that the report might leave open the question of whether there actually was collusion between Trump and Russia, giving the release a disappointingly anti-climactic feel, according to the Hill.

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A ‘subtle’ shift: now that going after Trump himself is going nowhere, Clapper et al claim Putin uses Trump as an unwitting asset. Takeaway: they will simply continue their collusion accusations. And Putin is an even easier victim.

Give me one reason why this entire cabal should not be investigated.

As I said yesterday: “Isn’t it supremely ironic that Mueller’s main objective today is trying to come up with some narrative that justifies his own probe? It’s circular ‘logic’ at its very best.

But why is McCabe so cocky about his treasonous(-like) behavior? Imagine someone like him doing an interview like that 2 years (or 6) into Obama’s presidency, saying it was possible Barack was an asset of China. Just imagine.”

Mueller Report May Be ‘Anti-Climactic’ – Clapper (Hill)

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday that he’s far from sure that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will clear up questions about President Trump and Russia. He said he was hopeful the Mueller probe will provide some answers, but warned it might not even draw a conclusion on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. “I think the hope is that the Mueller investigation will clear the air on this issue once and for all. I’m really not sure it will, and the investigation, when completed, could turn out to be quite anti-climactic and not draw a conclusion about that,” Clapper said Wednesday on CNN.

Clapper, a frequent critic of Trump’s, said people in the intelligence community see a strange deference on the president’s part toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The strange thing I think that has bothered a lot of people both in and out of the intelligence community is this strange personal deference to Putin by the president. I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset,” Clapper said Wednesday. He added that if Trump were indeed advancing Putin’s interests, he would more likely be doing so unwittingly.

The White House has lashed out at Clapper over his criticism in the past and announced in August it was reviewing existing security clearances for Clapper and several other former intelligence and law enforcement officials who have criticized the White House. Speculation has ramped up over Trump’s relationship with Russia after it was reported last month that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into whether the president was working on behalf of Moscow’s interests. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday claimed that he believes “it’s possible” Trump is a Russian asset.

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And there’s Comey again, out to save the country.

FBI Top Lawyer Believed Hillary Clinton Should Face Charges (Solomon)

For most of the past three years, the FBI has tried to portray its top leadership as united behind ex-Director James Comey’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for transmitting classified information over her insecure, private email server. Although in the end that may have been the case, we now are learning that Comey’s top lawyer, then-FBI General Counsel James Baker, initially believed Clinton deserved to face criminal charges, but was talked out of it “pretty late in the process.” The revelation is contained in testimony Baker gave to House investigators last year. His testimony has not been publicly released, but I was permitted to review a transcript.

During questioning by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Baker was unequivocal about his early view that Clinton should face criminal charges. “I have reason to believe that you originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with regard to violations of law — various laws, with regard to mishandling of classified information. Is that accurate?” Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, asked Baker. Baker paused to gain his lawyer’s permission to respond, and then answered, “Yes.” He later explained why he came to that conclusion, and how his mind was changed: “So, I had that belief initially after reviewing, you know, a large binder of her emails that had classified information in them,” he said.

“And I discussed it internally with a number of different folks, and eventually became persuaded that charging her was not appropriate because we could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — we, the government, could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — she had the intent necessary to violate (the law).” Asked when he was persuaded to change his mind, Baker said: “Pretty late in the process, because we were arguing about it, I think, up until the end.” Baker made clear that he did not like the activity Clinton had engaged in: “My original belief after — well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials — I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged.”

His boss, Comey, announced on July 5, 2016, that he would not recommend criminal charges. He did so without consulting the Department of Justice (DOJ), a decision the department’s inspector general (IG) later concluded was misguided and likely usurped the power of the attorney general to make prosecutorial decisions. Comey has said, in retrospect, he accepts that finding but took the actions he did because he thought “they were in the country’s best interest.”

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More will follow. 5 weeks left.

Conservative Split As Tory Rebels Denounce Hardline Brexiters (G.)

Three Conservative MPs who resigned to join a new independent group on Wednesday said Theresa May had allowed their former party to fall prey to hardline Brexiters and declared that the Tory modernising project had been destroyed. In the latest evidence that Brexit is reshaping the political landscape, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, all outspoken critics of May’s stance on Europe, said the Conservative party as they had known it under David Cameron was dead. “I’m not leaving the Conservative party – it has left us,” said Soubry at a hastily convened press conference around the corner from the House of Commons. “The modernising reforms that had taken years to achieve were destroyed.”

Allen was asked if she could ever return to the Conservatives and answered: “If we do our jobs properly, there won’t be a Tory party to go back to.” She added: “We’re about creating something better that is bang smack in the centre ground of British politics that people out there, I am convinced, we are convinced, want.” The dramatic resignations – announced shortly before May confronted Jeremy Corbyn at prime minister’s questions – sent shockwaves through Westminster, where MPs had barely digested news of the Labour split. The move reduces May’s already tenuous working majority to eight, raising still more questions over her authority amid rumours that there could be further Tory defections.

On Wednesday night, Allen told ITV’s Peston that “a third of the party” – around 100 of her former colleagues – shared her frustrations at its direction. The Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC: “The government which I am supporting implementing a no-deal Brexit – what would I do? I would not be able to maintain my support of the government. I would have to leave the party.”

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George Galloway is right: center liberal parties are exactly what the whole world is rejecting.

How Not To Organise A Split In A Party (Galloway)

Just seven MPs announced their departure from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and though there may be others to come this was their first rank. And there lies the first problem. Other than Chuka Umunna virtually nobody has ever heard of the new Independent Group of MPs who were quickly dubbed the ‘Seven Dwarfs’. [..] From a crowded field I’d say the next biggest blunder was registering their parliamentary factions as a private company in a transparent effort to avoid…transparency! It’s true that Chuka and co are the corporate suit types and most of them are more familiar with the boardroom than the boiler room but no parliamentary group in history has turned themselves into a business!

The reasons – millions of them – are not hard to discern. A political party must declare who’s funding it and how much. A private company doesn’t. But again what seemed like a wheeze is in fact a blunder. I’m now free to speculate that they’ve already received millions from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and President Putin. It’s probably not true, but how can one tell? [..] I may be wrong and Manchester United may win the Champions League but I’m perfectly sure Centrist neo-liberal politics are currently out of fashion throughout the world. I base this on 14 weeks of mayhem on the streets of France, and not much more than that in President Macron’s opinion poll ratings. On Mrs Merkel slouching out of the German Chancery in ruins. On the Rushmore like ruin of Hillary Clinton. On the portrait of Dorian Gray that is the haunted face of the most hated man in Britain, Tony Blair.

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And that’s only the tariffs.

UK And Ireland Retailers Warn Of 40% Tariffs On Food In No-Deal Brexit (G.)

A no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs of 40% or more being imposed on food such as beef and cheddar cheese, driving up prices in shops and squeezing household budgets across the UK and Ireland, retail organisations from both countries have warned. With mounting fears that the UK could leave the European Union without an agreement in 36 days’ time, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Retail Ireland, issued a joint warning that this outcome could lead to delays at borders and shortages of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. The scheduled withdrawal on 29 March comes at a time in the year when the UK imports a lot of fresh, out-of-season, produce – 90% of the lettuce consumed in Britain, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruits come from, or arrive via, Europe.

Increased tariffs, the devaluation of sterling and new regulatory checks would drive up the cost of fresh food and drink, which would be passed on to consumers, the retail bodies warned. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both fall back on the World Trade Organization’s most favoured nation tariffs, which means import duties on everyday food items from fruit to cheese. This would mean a 42% tariff on imported cheddar, 46% on mozzarella, 40% on beef, 21% on tomatoes and 15.5% on apples, the BRC said. Last year one of the UK’s largest dairy producers, based in Northern Ireland, warned that leaving the customs union under a hard Brexit could lead to the price of meat doubling in the UK and the price of dairy, half of which is imported, rising by up to 50%.

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Imagine taking that into a severe recession.

UK Economy £100 Billion Smaller Because Of Austerity (G.)

Austerity policies from the Treasury have resulted in slower growth in every year since 2010 and left each household £300 a month worse off as a result, a thinktank has said. The New Economics Foundation said its analysis of the impact of tax and spending changes since the Conservatives came to power, first as part of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, had left the economy £100bn smaller than it would otherwise have been. Although the peak impact of the attempt to reduce a record peacetime budget deficit occurred during the first two years of the 2010-15 parliament, the thinktank said austerity was still acting as a drag on output. The NEF said the cumulative effect of tax, public spending and welfare adjustments on growth by the end of the 2018-19 financial year would be to leave the average household £3,629 a year worse off – the equivalent of £1,495 per person.

The latest public finances figures, due out on Thursday, will show whether the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is on course to hit his forecast for a budget deficit in 2018-19 of £25.5bn – one sixth of its level in the aftermath of the financial crisis and deep recession of 2008-09. Alfie Stirling, head of economics at the NEF, said work by the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Institute for Fiscal Studies made it possible to isolate the effects of austerity. “At this time of year there is often renewed speculation over whether the chancellor will meet his year-end deficit targets by March. But for nine years, the elephant in the room has largely been missed: the sheer scale of economic damage that these targets have contributed to in the first place.”

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The Germans have a much smaller weapons industry.

Germany Rebuffs UK Call To Back Off Saudi Arms Freeze (ZH)

Germany is feeling the pressure from western allies over its weapons exports freeze in the wake of the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a freeze first announced in November, which included plans to reject any future export licences to Riyadh, but not previously approved deals. German allies like the UK have lately implored the German government to soften its stance, noting the potential broader economic impact on Europe. British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, currently in Berlin to discuss the terms of Brexit, reportedly wrote to the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, in a private letter first revealed by Der Spiegel that UK defense companies would be hindered in contractual obligations related to Eurofighter Typhoon and the Tornado fighter jet delivery, namely to supply parts affected by the German arms freeze.

Hunt told Maas in the letter published in German press: “I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defence industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its Nato commitments.” This follows comments by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the past weekend’s Munich Security Conference acknowledging the need for “common export controls guidelines” across Europe. She said during a question-and-answer session after her speech at the conference: “We have because of our history very good reasons to have very strict arms export guidelines, but we have just as good reasons in our defense community to stand together in a joint defense policy. And if we want … to develop joint fighter planes, joint tanks, then there’s no other way but to move step-by-step towards common export controls guidelines.”

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It’s like nothing changed in 4 years. Only this time Bernie may be the favorite.

Bernie Sanders Raised $6 Million In One Day After Launching Campaign (ZH)

Just one day after officially launching his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination during an interview on Vermont Public Radio, Bernie Sanders has already raised more than $6 million through more than 220,000 individual contributions, according to CNN. Sanders, who consistently ranks near the top of most polls alongside former Vice President Joe Biden, saw the money pour in from donors in all 50 states. The average contribution was $27, which is roughly in line with the average contribution from Sanders 2016 upstart primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, in which he won a number of crucial primaries (all while actively working against the DNC). Confirming his outsize popularity in an increasingly crowded field, the self-described “Democratic Socialist”‘s haul dwarfs the $300,000 raised by Elizabeth Warren during the 24 hours after her official campaign launch.

Of the $6 million raised, some 10% (about $600,000) came in the form of recurring donations, providing “a huge, dependable grassroots donor base that will afford the campaign a consistent budgeting baseline.” During his last race, Sanders regularly touted the fact that his campaign was largely funded by small donations. And it appears this is already emerging as a central theme for the 2020 race. “The only way we will win this election and create a government and economy that work for all is with a grassroots movement – the likes of which has never been seen in American history,” Sanders said in his message announcing his campaign. “They may have the money and power. We have the people.”

On top of that $6 million haul, Sanders is entering the race with more than $9 million left in his US Senate campaign committee: funds that he can transfer to his presidential campaign. That puts him behind only Warren ($11 million) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($10.3 million).

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She has no reason to support anyone at all.

Ocasio-Cortez Refuses To Back Bernie Sanders For 2020 (Ind.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has refused to endorse Bernie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, despite working on the senator’s first presidential campaign. A spokesperson for Ms Ocasio-Cortez, like Mr Sanders a self-described democratic socialist, refused to comment directly on the 77-year-old’s Tuesday announcement he is running for a second time. “We’re excited to see so many progressives in the race,” spokesperson Corbin Trent said. “We’re not thinking at all about the next election.” Any endorsement by Ms Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be influential on the outcome of the race, thanks to her massive support among the grassroots of the party. But the 29-year-old, a congresswoman for New York, is unlikely to offer an endorsement before her state’s Democratic primary next year, and may even permanently withhold any explicit support for a single candidate.

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Apr 032018
 


Vincent van Gogh Field with Irises near Arles 1888

 

Stocks’ Second-Quarter Start Is the Worst Since the Great Depression (BBG)
Stocks Lose Critical Buyer at Worst Time (BBG)
Rising Rates Sounding Alarm Bells for Debt-Laden US Consumers (BBG)
China’s State-Owned Banks Told To Stop Local Government Loans (SCMP)
Chinese Families Are Racking Up Debt On An Unprecedented Scale (SCMP)
Young Lose Out In Britain’s Housing Wealth Boom (Times)
Swedes Turn Against Cashlessness (G.)
Bernie Sanders Agrees With Trump: Amazon Has Too Much Power (NW)
German Prosecutors Ask Court To Extradite Carles Puigdemont To Spain (G.)
The Peril of Psychographics (New Yorker)
Erdogan ‘Has Gone Completely Crazy’ – Greek Defense Minister (K.)
Greek Confiscations Target State Debtors With Small Arrears (K.)
‘Sentinel’ Dolphins Die in Brazil Bay. Some Worry a Way of Life Has, Too (NYT)
Underwater Melting Of Antarctic Ice Far Greater Than Thought (G.)

 

 

How’s that for a headline?

Stocks’ Second-Quarter Start Is the Worst Since the Great Depression (BBG)

If you feel like the second quarter began badly, you’d be right. U.S. stocks had their worst April start since 1929, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The S&P 500 index slumped 2.2%, a rout exceeded only by its 2.5% decline 89 years ago, a prelude to the devastating crash later that year that brought on the Great Depression. (Back then, the index only comprised 90 stocks.) China’s retaliatory trade tariffs combined with President Donald Trump’s criticism of Amazon.com Inc. to send equities into a tailspin Monday.

Shares in the online retailer tumbled, encouraging a sell-off in consumer discretionary and technology stocks. The S&P 500 closed below its 200-day moving average – a key technical support – and volatility climbed. The stock slide also looked pretty bad when compared to the beginning of other quarters. Equities lost more than on any other quarterly first day since October 2011, when stocks plummeted 2.8%, Bloomberg data show.

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Is there a buyback blackout? Or, better question: should stocks depend on buybacks to such an extent?

Stocks Lose Critical Buyer at Worst Time (BBG)

The stock market’s missing a key participant as the second quarter kicks off with a rout. Corporate America is stuck on the sidelines as the S&P 500 Index plunges to its lowest level since early February. That’s to comply with regulations under which companies refrain from discretionary stock buybacks for about five weeks before reporting earnings through the 48 hours that follow. So, with first-quarter reporting season kicking into high gear in two weeks, companies must sit on their hands while the market fizzles. The timing of discretionary buybacks has gained traction in recent years with corporate appetite dwarfing all other investors as the biggest source of demand for U.S. stocks. Strategists such as Goldman Sachs’s David Kostin have pointed out that it’s no coincidence the late-January selloff occurred during a blackout period.

S&P 500 firms have bought back almost $4 trillion of their own shares since the bull market began nine years ago, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices show. That demand helped mitigate damage in early February when stocks tumbled into the first correction in two years. Goldman Sachs’ buyback desk had its busiest week ever during the rout and companies were called “basically the only buyers.” Volume in S&P 500 stocks was about 7% above the 30-day average Monday. Not everyone agrees that the buyback blackout is partly to blame for Monday’s selloff. According to Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan’s global head of quantitative and derivative strategy, the majority of buybacks are usually done through preset programs that are not subject to blackout.

Moreover, stocks typically go up more when repurchases are announced than when the transactions actually occur. “The whole story about blackout is misconception,” Kolanovic wrote in an email. So, what could be behind the selloff? Kolanovic’s team last week attributed the recent downturn to an “irrational response” to global trade tensions. The S&P 500 is trading at below-average valuations even as earnings growth is picking up, a sign that any weakness would be worth buying, the strategists wrote in a March 27 note.

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“..an estimated $350 trillion of contracts are based on Libor..”

Rising Rates Sounding Alarm Bells for Debt-Laden US Consumers (BBG)

A healthy economy can be a dangerous thing. Americans have a history of loading up on debt in good times, then paying dearly when the bills come due. Adding to the pain: A booming economy is often accompanied by rising interest rates, which make mortgages, credit cards and other debt much more expensive. As the U.S. Federal Reserve raises rates, there are signs that consumers could be putting themselves in peril. “When consumers are confident, or over-confident, is when they get into credit-card trouble,” said Todd Christensen at Debt Reduction Services in Boise, Idaho. The nonprofit credit counseling service has seen a noticeable uptick in people looking for help with their debt, he said.

Spending on U.S. general purpose credit cards surged 9.4% last year, to $3.5 trillion, according to industry newsletter Nilson Report. Card delinquencies are also rising. U.S. household debt climbed in the fourth quarter at the fastest pace since 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. “There are warning signs out there,” said Kevin Morrison, senior analyst at the Aite Group. Especially concerning is a surge in student and auto loans over the past decade, he said. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is steadily hiking rates, most recently on March 21 when the federal funds rate rose a quarter point to a target range of 1.5% to 1.75%.

Libor, a benchmark rate the world’s biggest banks charge each other, is also on the rise. The 3-month Libor reached 2.3% last week, the highest since November 2008. That could be a problem for companies, especially those with lower credit ratings, looking to refinance debt. Overall, an estimated $350 trillion of contracts are based on Libor, according to its administrator, ICE.

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So the shadow banks can take over?

China’s State-Owned Banks Told To Stop Local Government Loans (SCMP)

The central Chinese government has sent a blunt message intended to dissolve the marriage between banks and local governments, the nexus in China’s debt-fuelled growth model. In a directive full of “must nots”and “shalls” posted on its website last week, China’s Ministry of Finance, under the newly appointed minister Liu Kun, told state-owned financial institutions not to provide any funding to local governments, with the exception of buying government bonds. At the first meeting of the Central Economic and Financial Commission, the supreme economic decision making body headed by Xi Jinping on Monday, the Chinese president said local governments and state-owned enterprises must cut debt further.

China’s state-owned banks were told to check the registered capital of projects sponsored by local authorities, to appraise borrowers’ real repayment capabilities and not to accept local government’s guarantees for repayment or return, according to the ministry’s directive. Banks “must not provide any form of funding directly to local governmental departments or directly via local state-owned enterprises and institutions” and “must not increase new loans to local government financing vehicles irregularly”, according to the notice. It added that banks must not lend any money to local governments to be used as capital in projects, government investment funds or public-private partnership projects, it added.

Yin Zhongqing, deputy director of the financial and economic affairs committee at the National People’s Congress, told the South China Morning Post last month that at least 20 trillion yuan of “hidden debt” had been accumulated in the past three years. The national institution of finance and development under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last week estimated the total liabilities of local government financing vehicles was 30 trillion yuan, while another 10 trillion yuan of debt could be buried in public-private partnerships.

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“A man with a 50,000 yuan debt is responsible; 200,000 yuan of debt is financially savvy; 1 million yuan of debt is a homeowner; 10 million yuan of debt is classy; and a 1 billion yuan debt is chairman of a listed company … if you don’t have any debt, you must be a total loser.”

Chinese Families Are Racking Up Debt On An Unprecedented Scale (SCMP)

Chinese families with their long tradition of saving money are now accumulating debt at a rate never been seen before, according to data compiled by a state-backed think tank in Beijing. But the National Institution for Finance and Development also said mounting debt was not a concern because Chinese households still had far more savings than debts. The country’s household leverage ratio – or the ratio between debt incurred by families and GDP – surged to 49% at the end of last year from 17.9% at the end of 2008, going up about 3.5 percentage points annually, the think tank said in a report released on Thursday.

So in the period from 1993, when the data became available, to 2008, the household debt ratio went from 8.3% to 17.9%, with an annual rise of 0.65 percentage points. But in 2016 and 2017, that annual increase accelerated to about 4.9 percentage points, the think tank said. The rapid accumulation of household debt was the biggest factor behind the rise in China’s overall leverage last year, as the corporate sector’s debt ratio fell and local government borrowing was reined in, at least on the surface, it said.

Liu Lei, a researcher with the think tank, said at a briefing on Thursday that real household debt could be “8 percentage points” higher if special housing funds, peer-to-peer lending programmes and private micro loans were factored in. In August, Shanghai-based brokerage Haitong Securities said in a report that while China’s actual household debt ratio was not high compared to many developed countries such as the US and UK, its rate of increase was dangerous. “It took 40 years for the household debt ratio in the US to rise from a level of 20% to about 50%, but it took only less than 10 years in China,” according to the Haitong economists led by Jiang Chao.

[..] China’s excessive money printing in the last decade and skyrocketing property prices have benefited those who maximised their leverage to buy real estate, while the country’s savers bore the brunt of monetary easing, leading to a dramatic shift in attitude on saving versus borrowing. That change in attitude can be seen in a popular saying widely circulated on Chinese social media in recent years: “A man with a 50,000 yuan debt is responsible; 200,000 yuan of debt is financially savvy; 1 million yuan of debt is a homeowner; 10 million yuan of debt is classy; and a 1 billion yuan debt is chairman of a listed company … if you don’t have any debt, you must be a total loser.”

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There’s so much wrong here, where to begin? Get out while you can.

Young Lose Out In Britain’s Housing Wealth Boom (Times)

Three quarters of housing wealth in Britain is held by the over-50s, according to research revealing the generational divide in the property market. Such homeowners hold £2.8 trillion of equity. The over-65s own 43 per cent of housing wealth, £1.6 trillion, the study by the estate agent Savills found. Lawrence Bowles, a research analyst at the company, said: “The extent to which wealth is concentrated in older hands is something we have not seen in a long time.” Owners have piled up equity by living longer, paying off their mortgages and watching as prices grew steadily in the final decades of the last century. “It is looking likely that we will see more people downsizing in order to free up that equity,” Mr Bowles said.

At the other end of the spectrum, homeowners under 35 hold just £221 billion of equity but owe £223 billion in mortgage debt. This age group holds £6 of equity in every £100 compared with £75 held by their parents. First-time buyers face prices that are 5.2 times higher than average incomes, while in London prices are about 14 times higher than average earnings. In most regions, it takes about eight years for the typical first-time buyer to save a deposit. This rises to nine years in the southeast and to nearly ten in London, where the average 20 per cent deposit is now above £80,000.

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“If Putin invades…”

Swedes Turn Against Cashlessness (G.)

It is hard to argue that you cannot trust the government when the government isn’t really all that bad. This is the problem facing the small but growing number of Swedes anxious about their country’s rush to embrace a cash-free society. Most consumers already say they manage without cash altogether, while shops and cafes increasingly refuse to accept notes and coins because of the costs and risk involved. Until recently, however, it has been hard for critics to find a hearing. “The Swedish government is a rather nice one, we have been lucky enough to have mostly nice ones for the past 100 years,” says Christian Engström, a former MEP for the Pirate Party and an early opponent of the cashless economy.

“In other countries there is much more awareness that you cannot trust the government all the time. In Sweden it is hard to get people mobilised.” There are signs this might be changing. In February, the head of Sweden’s central bank warned that Sweden could soon face a situation where all payments were controlled by private sector banks. The Riksbank governor, Stefan Ingves, called for new legislation to secure public control over the payments system, arguing that being able to make and receive payments is a “collective good” like defence, the courts, or public statistics. “Most citizens would feel uncomfortable to surrender these social functions to private companies,” he said. “It should be obvious that Sweden’s preparedness would be weakened if, in a serious crisis or war, we had not decided in advance how households and companies would pay for fuel, supplies and other necessities.”

The central bank governor’s remarks are helping to bring other concerns about a cash-free society into the mainstream, says Björn Eriksson, 72, a former national police commissioner and the leader of a group called the Cash Rebellion, or Kontantupproret. Until now, Kontantupproret has been dismissed as the voice of the elderly and the technologically backward, Eriksson says. “When you have a fully digital system you have no weapon to defend yourself if someone turns it off,” he says. “If Putin invades Gotland [Sweden’s largest island] it will be enough for him to turn off the payments system. No other country would even think about taking these sorts of risks, they would demand some sort of analogue system.”

In this sense, Sweden is far from its famous concept of lagom – “just the right amount” – but instead is “100% extreme”, Eriksson says, by investing so much faith in the banks. “This is a political question. We are leaving these decisions to four major banks who form a monopoly in Sweden.”

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A few days ago Elizabeth Warren agreed with Trump on China, now Sanders agrees about Amazon. What’s happening to the world?

Bernie Sanders Agrees With Trump: Amazon Has Too Much Power (NW)

Independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders echoed President Donald Trump in expressing concern about retail giant Amazon. Sanders said that he felt Amazon had gotten too big on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, and added that Amazon’s place in society should be examined. “And I think this is, look, this is an issue that has got to be looked at. What we are seeing all over this country is the decline in retail. We’re seeing this incredibly large company getting involved in almost every area of commerce. And I think it is important to take a look at the power and influence that Amazon has,” said Sanders. The senator’s comments came on the heels of a number of tweets from Trump, who has long criticized the online retailer.

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WIll Europe start chasing elected politicians?

German Prosecutors Ask Court To Extradite Carles Puigdemont To Spain (G.)

German prosecutors have asked a court to permit the extradition of former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to Spain. Prosecutors in the northern town of Schleswig said on Tuesday they have submitted a request to the regional court following “intensive examination” of the European arrest warrant issued by Spain. Puigdemont has been detained in Germany since 25 March. Spain accuses the 55-year-old of rebellion in organising an unauthorised referendum. The Schleswig court is likely to take several days to decide whether to extradite Puigdemont. His lawyers have urged the German government to intervene in the case, citing the “political dimension.”

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Just stop collecting the data. Problem solved.

The Peril of Psychographics (New Yorker)

In September, 2016, Alexander Nix, the C.E.O. of Cambridge Analytica, the data and messaging company that was working at the time with Donald Trump’s supposedly flagging Presidential campaign, explained his firm’s work like this: “If you know the personality of the people you’re targeting, you can nuance your messaging to resonate more effectively with those key audience groups.” The fancy term for this is psychographic targeting. A few weeks later, Trump won the Presidency, against all odds and predictions, sending political operatives and journalists scrambling for explanations. “There was a huge demand internally for people to see how we did it,” Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former business-development director, told the Guardian last Friday. “Everyone wanted to know: past clients, future clients.”

Whether Cambridge Analytica’s targeting work actually swayed the outcome of the election has been a subject of debate since then—because the firm’s record is spotty, psychographic targeting in political campaigns is a relatively new concept, and it has not yet been definitely shown that C.A. successfully used these methods on behalf of Trump’s campaign. Christopher Wylie, the former C.A. employee who recently came forward to detail how the company improperly acquired personal data from fifty million Facebook users, has said that the company used that data to create a “psychological warfare mindfuck tool.”

But Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University researcher who provided the company with the Facebook data, has described it as “not that accurate at the individual level.” Kogan’s conclusion tracks with research that has been done by the U.K.-based Online Privacy Foundation, whose research director, Chris Sumner, recently told me that psychographics are much more accurate for groups rather than individual people.

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The US and France are turning their backs on Turkey. Feel emboldened by that?

Erdogan ‘Has Gone Completely Crazy’ – Greek Defense Minister (K.)

Raising the incendiary rhetoric another notch, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos lashed out against Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday, saying that the Turkish president “has gone completely crazy.” Speaking to journalists outside the Parliament in Athens about the fate of the two Greek soldiers held in Turkey and Ankara’s provocations in the Aegean, Kammenos said there are no lines of communication with Erdogan. “We’re talking about Erdogan, who goes out and publicly insults the US and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” he said, adding that “Turkey has no courts while its justice system works under the orders of the sultan [Erdogan].”

The two soldiers, he said, could, under these circumstances, be held there for 15 years. “You cannot answer to a madman,” he said, referring to the Turkish leader. The two soldiers have been held for a month in Turkey without any charges being brought against them yet. Kammenos, who is also the leader of the right-wing junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL), said Turkish authorities have so far found nothing to prosecute the two soldiers but warned of a worst-case scenario reminiscent of the film “Midnight Express,” based on the travails of an American who served time in a Turkish prison in the 1970s.

“If you watch ‘Midnight Express,’ you will see that they kept on making up charges against him,” he said, adding that “nothing works democratically there [Turkey].” He also expressed concern that an incident could occur in the Aegean. “They may want to provoke this but you must know that the Turkish military is in a dire state at this moment,” he said, adding that, for its part, Greece “is ready.” He clarified that Greece will not take the bait but noted that if Turkey violates Greek national sovereignty, then “we will respond as we should.”

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On the poorest in Greece: “..the state conducted 1.72 million confiscations of salaries, pensions and rent payments last year..”

See, the poor owe €1.2 billion. 40,000 rich individuals and companies owe €90 billion.

Greek Confiscations Target State Debtors With Small Arrears (K.)

Over 3.3 million taxpayers owe the tax authorities amounts of less than 3,000 euros each. According to figures published by the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, the state conducted 1.72 million confiscations of salaries, pensions and rent payments last year, mostly concerning small debtors. Debtors owing up to 3,000 euros account for 80.5% of all debtors, and they owe 1.2 billion euros. These debts were run up in recent years and mainly stem from failure to pay income tax and the Single Property Tax (ENFIA), whereas bigger debts to the tax authorities concern 40,000 individuals and companies and add up to 90 billion euros, originating from fines and activated guarantees. It is quite impressive that the number of state debtors has increased by some 3 million in the years of the financial crisis, climbing from 1 million in 2010 to 4.1 million today.

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“Nostalgia aside..” Nostalgia? What? Nostalgic for life? When everything’s dead, we go and be nostalgic?

‘Sentinel’ Dolphins Die in Brazil Bay. Some Worry a Way of Life Has, Too (NYT)

Something ominous was happening in the turquoise waters of Sepetiba Bay, a booming port outside Rio de Janeiro. Beginning late last year, fishermen were coming across the scarred and emaciated carcasses of dolphins, sometimes five a day, bobbing up to the surface. Since then, scientists there have discovered more than 200 dead Guiana dolphins, or Sotalia guianensis, a quarter of what was the world’s largest concentration of the species. The deaths, caused by respiratory and nervous system failures linked to a virus, have subsided, but scientists are working to unravel the mystery behind them. How, they ask, did a virus that might ordinarily have claimed a handful of dolphins end up killing scores of them?

And does part of the answer, scientists and local residents ask, lie in the bay itself, at once a testament to Brazil’s economic power and a portent of environmental risk. The dolphins are “sentinels,” said Mariana Alonso, a biologist at the Biophysics Institute at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, one of a number groups working to understand the epidemic. “When something is wrong with them, that indicates the whole ecosystem is fractured.” [..] Sepetiba Bay, 40 miles west of downtown Rio, became one of the principal gateways for Brazilian exports over the past generation. In 2017, 39 million tons of iron ore and other commodities shipped from there.

The wooden fishing boats that crisscross the bay now weave around massive merchant ships loaded with iron and steel. Though people still swim in its waters, four ports and a constellation of chemical, steel and manufacturing plants have risen on its shores. One of world’s most prominent iron ore producers, Vale, occupies a new terminal in an old fishing spot on nearby Guaiba Island. “When I was a child, buffalo roamed the farms around my village, and we had apples and coconuts,” said Cleyton Ferreira Figueiredo, 28, a convenience store cashier who, nostalgia aside, also sees advantages in the development. “Now everything is more urban, with schools and facilities. There are more jobs, and it takes me 15 minutes to get home when I finish.”

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A little scary.

Underwater Melting Of Antarctic Ice Far Greater Than Thought (G.)

Hidden underwater melt-off in the Antarctic is doubling every 20 years and could soon overtake Greenland to become the biggest source of sea-level rise, according to the first complete underwater map of the world’s largest body of ice. Warming waters have caused the base of ice near the ocean floor around the south pole to shrink by 1,463 square kilometres – an area the size of Greater London – between 2010 and 2016, according to . The research by the at the University of Leeds suggests climate change is affecting the Antarctic more than previously believed and is likely to prompt global projections of sea-level rise to be revised upward.

Until recently, the Antarctic was seen as relatively stable. Viewed from above, the extent of land and sea ice in the far south has not changed as dramatically as in the far north. But the new study found even a small increase in temperature has been enough to cause a loss of five metres every year from the bottom edge of the ice sheet, some of which is more than 2km underwater. “What’s happening is that Antarctica is being melted away at its base. We can’t see it, because it’s happening below the sea surface,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd, one of the authors of the paper. “The changes mean that very soon the sea-level contribution from Antarctica could outstrip that from Greenland.”

The study measures the Antarctic’s “grounding line” – the bottommost edge of the ice sheet across 16,000km of coastline. This is done by using elevation data from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 and applying Archimedes’s principle of buoyancy, which relates the thickness of floating ice to the height of its surface.

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Jan 152017
 
 January 15, 2017  Posted by at 11:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle January 15 2017


John Collier Street Corner, Monday after Pearl Harbor, San Francisco 1941

Trump Team Denies Report Of Meeting With Putin In Iceland (Fox)
Trump is Hand Grenade Thrown by American Working Class Against the System (Sp.)
Americans Overwhelmingly Support Bernie Sanders’ Economic Policies (Salon)
Tulsi Gabbard Has a Bill to Stop the US Arming ISIS (RI)
We Are Getting Worried About Paul Krugman (ZH)
RealVision’s 15 “Killer Charts” For Q1 2017 (ZH)
Aid In Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries (G.)
More Than 100 Refugees Drown As Boat Sinks In Mediterranean (Ind.)

 

 

Something will happen though. And it should.

Trump Team Denies Report Of Meeting With Putin In Iceland (Fox)

President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer denied a report from the Sunday Times on Saturday that said Trump was seeking to have a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Iceland. The Sunday Times reported that Trump aides told British officials that Trump plans to meet with Putin on his first foreign trip, possibly in Reykjavik. The paper, citing unidentified sources, reported that Trump plans to begin working out a deal to limit nuclear weapons and that Moscow agreed to the meeting. According to the newspaper, Trump sought to emulate former President Ronald Reagan’s meeting with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 that took place in the Icelandic capital. The two met in an effort to work on a major nuclear disbarment treaty at the height of the Cold War. Spicer lashed out at the report on Twitter, calling it “100% false.”

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When left became right.

Trump is Hand Grenade Thrown by American Working Class Against the System (Sp.)

The last year has taught us, with Brexit, the US elections, growing anti-EU sentiment on the continent of Europe, that ignoring national interests, which are more and more often expressed in terms of national culture and identity, is not possible anymore. Will this translate through into the reconstruction of economic protectionism? Professor Steve Keen, from the University of Kingston, an economist and an author answers this question. Are identity and culture the new important subjects in politics? Professor Keen gives an explanatory answer. To him, a progressive form of identity and gender politics and socialist politics have been bedfellows for the past 40 years.

One of the clearest examples is in France, he says, where you have Hollande; a socialist leader imposing austerity whilst talking about progressive attitudes to identity politics. Progressive identity politics has been tainted with the brush of austerity politics imposed by the European Union. The socialists have been sunk by it, with a resurgent Marine Le Pen benefiting from the support of middle aged white farmers, and white workers in America supporting Trump. It was a massive mistake, Professor Keen says, for the ‘left’ to align itself with neoliberal economics and failed economic policies which are now falling apart. The centre left, Professor Keen continues, which has been the mainstream socialist thought for some time are basically saying that we have to get into power, and then make capitalism work better.

This is a complete travesty, because success was only brought about by leveraging unsuccessful economies. They ended up deregulating the financial sector, and the next thing they know, economies come crashing down. There is identification of failed social policy with the failed neoliberal policy. The main sufferers have been what is used to be called the industrial workers, they are now saying that if you can’t protect us, we are going across to the people who might be able to. They might be ugly but they might allow us to throw a political hand grenade into the system to wake up those Americans who have been neglected ideologically by the left and also because they have actually lost their jobs to benefit people in China, as Trump has been arguing.

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Title continues: So how’d we end up here? Interesting question. What happened? Hillary happened.

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Bernie Sanders’ Economic Policies (Salon)

During a CNN town hall held by Sen. Bernie Sanders last Monday, the Vermont senator and progressive icon tried to drive home a point that he has frequently made in the past: There is widespread support for most of the economic policies that he ran on, even if they were often portrayed as radical and divisive by the media. “The overwhelming majority of the American people – including many people who voted for Mr. Trump – support the ideas that we’re talking about,” insisted Sanders. “On many economic issues you would be surprised at how many Americans hold the same views. Very few people believe what the Republican leadership believes now: tax breaks for billionaires and cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Public polling tends to support his claim. A Gallup survey from last May, for example, revealed that a majority of Americans (58%) support the idea of replacing the Affordable Care Act with a federally funded health care system (including four in 10 Republicans!), while only 22% of Americans say they want Obamacare repealed and don’t want to replace it with a single-payer system. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last year had similar results: Almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) had a positive reaction to “Medicare-for-all,” while only a small minority (13%) supported repealing the ACA and replacing it with a Republican alternative. These are surprising numbers when you consider how the Sanders campaign’s “Medicare-for-all” plan was written off by critics as being too extreme.

On other issues, a similar story presents itself. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has found that the vast majority (88%) of voters in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – four crucial swing states, three of which went to Trump this fall – oppose cutting Social Security benefits, while a majority (68%) oppose privatizing Social Security. Similarly, 67% of Americans support requiring high-income earners to pay the payroll tax for all of their income (the cap is currently $118,500), according to a Gallup poll. America’s two other major social programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are also widely supported by Americans, and the vast majority oppose any spending cuts to either. In fact, more Americans support cutting the national defense budget than Medicare or Medicaid. It goes on and on. A majority of Americans, 61%, believe that upper-income earners pay too little in taxes.

A majority of 64% believe that corporations don’t pay their fair share in taxes. Significant majorities believe that wealth distribution is unfair in America, support raising the minimum wage (though perhaps not as high as Sanders would like), and say they are worried about climate change. So a consistent majority of Americans would seem to agree almost across the board with a self-proclaimed democratic socialist and object to the reactionary agenda of congressional Republicans. How, then, did we end up with a Republican-controlled Congress that is dead set on repealing the ACA without a viable replacement (let alone a single-payer type of system supported by the majority); cutting and possibly privatizing Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid; slashing taxes for the wealthiest Americans; and ignoring climate change?

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Go Tulsi.

Tulsi Gabbard Has a Bill to Stop the US Arming ISIS (RI)

FOX’s Tucker Carlson scored another great interview when he spoke to Hawaii’s congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Rep. Gabbard talked about her meeting with President-elect Trump some weeks ago to discuss the danger of further neocon escalation of the war in Syria. She has also recently introduced a bill in congress aimed at preventing the US from funding terrorist groups like ISIS in the future. The bill is brilliantly named the “Stop Funding Terrorists Act.” Seems guaranteed to pass – who could possibly justify voting against it to their constituents? Having this on the books would be a useful tool to stop any further terror-funding operations. Something to watch.

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Too good to skip.

We Are Getting Worried About Paul Krugman (ZH)

When a delicate snowflake is suddenly faced with a perceived reality so devastating as to be an existential crisis, the mind's reaction to dealing with this cognitive dissonance can be disabling for some. Certainly for The New York Times' flip-flopping, hate-mongering, fact-twisting, Keynesian poster-boy Paul Krugman it appears coping with "no" is not going well and his tirade last night in Twitter has us gravely concerned for his mental stability, which is ironic given how he began yesterday…

But that was followed quickly by a six-tweet-rant nothing short of what we would expect from a dejected five-year-old who just got denied another scoop of ice cream

Krugman once again blames the ignorance of the deplorable masses (who just don't get what a "fraudster" Trump is) in shunning him and his "know-it-alls", but he has been heading down this hill of manic-depressive lashing out for weeks now having recently suggested Trump will unleash a 9/11-style attack to legitimize his presidency.

Is he hoping to maintain a groundswell of "well, if he is not hitler… he must be worse" thoughts among those so easily led? Still, coming from a man who has prognosticated alien invasions as a global economic growth engine, we are not sure if he is mental situation is improving or deteriorating. We wish him well.

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I picked 3.

RealVision’s 15 “Killer Charts” For Q1 2017 (ZH)

Ranging from the most expensive stock market ever to the dis-similarity in the economic situations facing Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan; and from the excess liquidity driving the price oil to the extraordinarily dangerous growth of credit (debt) relative to GDP, Raoul Pal’s Real Vision has expanded its exceptional services into investment research by publishing the “killer charts” that every market participant should comprehend for the first quarter of 2017…

 

 

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And there are people surprised to see this?! How then do they think we got so rich? Simple: we rape and pillage.

Aid In Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries (G.)

We have long been told a compelling story about the relationship between rich countries and poor countries. The story holds that the rich nations of the OECD give generously of their wealth to the poorer nations of the global south, to help them eradicate poverty and push them up the development ladder. Yes, during colonialism western powers may have enriched themselves by extracting resources and slave labour from their colonies – but that’s all in the past. These days, they give more than $125bn (£102bn) in aid each year – solid evidence of their benevolent goodwill. This story is so widely propagated by the aid industry and the governments of the rich world that we have come to take it for granted. But it may not be as simple as it appears.

The US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics recently published some fascinating data. They tallied up all of the financial resources that get transferred between rich countries and poor countries each year: not just aid, foreign investment and trade flows (as previous studies have done) but also non-financial transfers such as debt cancellation, unrequited transfers like workers’ remittances, and unrecorded capital flight (more of this later). As far as I am aware, it is the most comprehensive assessment of resource transfers ever undertaken. What they discovered is that the flow of money from rich countries to poor countries pales in comparison to the flow that runs in the other direction.

In 2012, the last year of recorded data, developing countries received a total of $1.3tn, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3tn flowed out of them. In other words, developing countries sent $2tn more to the rest of the world than they received. If we look at all years since 1980, these net outflows add up to an eye-popping total of $16.3tn – that’s how much money has been drained out of the global south over the past few decades. To get a sense for the scale of this, $16.3tn is roughly the GDP of the United States.

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Checked your account at the karma bank lately?

More Than 100 Refugees Drown As Boat Sinks In Mediterranean (Ind.)

More than 100 refugees have drowned after a boat sank in rough conditions in the Mediterranean Sea as the crisis shows no sign of slowing. The Italian Navy was searching for survivors from the vessel, which was believed to be carrying up to 110 people. Only four survivors were pulled from the water, with at least eight bodies found so far. Flavio Di Giacomo, from the International Organisation for Migration, told The Independent around 106 people were thought to have died and described the conditions at sea as “extremely bad”. The boat went down in waters between Libya and Italy, which has become the deadliest sea crossing in the world since the start of the refugee crisis.It claimed the vast majority of more than 5,000 lives lost in treacherous boat journeys to Europe in 2016, the deadliest year on record, with people drowning or being crushed or suffocated in overcrowded smugglers’ boats.

Saturday’s disaster was the worst single incident so far this year, which has already seen at least 122 deaths at sea. Rescue workers warn that the crisis is showing no sign of slowing in the Central Mediterranean, which has become the main route since the EU-Turkey deal was implemented in March to reduce comparatively shorter and safer crossings over the Aegean Sea. At least 550 refugees were rescued on Friday alone off the coast of Libya, where continuing conflict and lawlessness since the British-backed defeat of Muammar Gaddafi has allowed the smuggling and exploitation of migrants to thrive. Two people were found dead at the bottom of one of the four boats saved and the bodies of four other migrants were found off the coast of Spain. Several asylum seekers have also died in the extreme weather conditions gripping much of Europe in recent weeks.

More than 5,000 refugees were drowned, suffocated or crushed while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas in 2016, making it the deadliest year on record. Many deaths are thought to go unrecorded, with bodies either disappearing or washing up on the shores of Libya, where authorities do not routinely release casualty figures. Some boats are sighted by Italian authorities but disappear before they can be reached by rescue ships. The Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (Medmig) project partly blamed Britain and EU nations for rocketing death rates, concluding that the refusal to open up legal routes for those seeking safety in Europe has increased demand for people smuggling on ever more dangerous routes.

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Sep 132016
 
 September 13, 2016  Posted by at 1:36 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


The Statue of Liberty in Paris, outside Bartholdi’s workshop 1884

 

 

Whenever I bring up something Hillary Clinton has done or failed to do, there are always people who react with a “Yes, but Trump did so and so…!” reflex. I’d like to get that out of the way first of all, because it distorts the conversation to no end. Criticism of Hillary does not equal support for Trump. Suggesting that it does is insulting.

I do not think it’s a good idea for Trump to become president. But that does not mean it’s a better idea for Hillary to be inaugurated. In fact, there’s something to be said for the argument that if you have to choose between two really bad options, pick the worst in order get it over with faster. The problem with that, in turn, is that in this case it’s hard to determine which of the two is worse.

 

 

I’ve had an article in progress on my desktop for weeks, with the (work-)title “Hillary Is Not Electable”. Never finished it until now because there was always 1) lots of work on other things, and 2) a daily stream of new Hillary files that looked like they should be included (I have dozens of them open in a browser).

But then over the weekend, just after I had asked readers of the Automatic Earth Facebook page what they thought the odds were that Hillary would drop out of the presidential race citing health factors, I saw Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, tweet: “Hillary Clinton just became unelectable”, in reaction to the statement by her campaign that she had become ‘overheated’ during the 9/11 service in NY, where multiple sources report it was about 75ºF (24ºC) with a 40-45% humidity.

Scott didn’t yet know when he wrote his tweet and subsequent blogpost, The Race for President is (Probably) Over, that the ‘official’ message would be changed from overheating to pneumonia mere hours later.

And even though it’s a valid question to ask why she would venture among the public with a potentially -highly- contagious disease that she was diagnosed with two days earlier, and even though I saw my headline used by someone else, these things are not what shapes the issue as I see it. Because I think Hillary became unelectable long ago. Still, then this morning I read the following in the NY Post:

“Clinton’s spokesman said that in addition to her illness, “several of the senior staff have been afflicted with something or other for the last few days.” “I was sick for a couple of days. I had the mild form of it,” Fallon said. The stricken staffers included campaign manager Robby Mook, and two top aides who needed emergency medical treatment – one of whom was taken by ambulance to a hospital emergency room after collapsing from severe dehydration, People magazine reported. Fallon told CNN that Clinton’s pneumonia, which she is treating with antibiotics, was “not contagious.”

So her staff is sick enough to require emergency medical treatment, but not for Clinton’s pneumonia, which is “not contagious”. What do they have then (it’s obviously contagious), and does Hillary have it too, in addition to her pneumonia? Were the staff coughing? The NY Times claimed yesterday that most of the staff were not told about the pneumonia diagnosis. Apparently not even after some of them fell ill around the time of that diagnosis?! What a curious story.

One additional thing I think must be mentioned, which I picked up yesterday through Mish, is a timeline of Hillary’s 2016 coughing fits that consists of 7 examples – with videos- dating back to January 25. We can only guess what’s going on here; the campaign certainly hasn’t been very forthcoming with information.

It’s her very campaign leaders, and the way they deal with information, that have now become Hillary’s Achilles heel. Not that I see how they could have done much else, or much different; whenever someone suggests that Hillary should be fully transparent from now on in, I think 1) you haven’t been paying attention, and 2) transparency is her worst enemy.

Transparency is the very thing she and her crew sought to prevent when setting up her email servers the way they did (in 2009). She recently said it was done at the suggestion of Colin Powell, who promptly denied it, and added that the server set-up had been running for a year before she ever asked him anything about it.

I don’t have a clue why she had the whole thing set up the way she did, it all looks really clumsy, but I do know her initial goal was to expressly be non-transparent. This is obvious from the lack of communication with the State Department. It’s obvious because she deleted 10s of 1000s of emails, many after having received subpoenas (one in August 2013, the other (actually 2 separate ones) in March 2015, forbidding her to do just that.

She did hand over some emails to the FBI and the Benghazi Committee, but thousands more were discovered or handed over at later points in time. Thousands of others were “BleachBit-ted” by an employee of her server host because they allegedly only contained yoga and/or wedding related topics. Not that we can check that; that’s were BleachBit comes in.

The narrative that a lowly employee decided on his own to make these mails unrecoverable is one of the worst points in the entire story. But even more important is that deleting the mails was against US law. And that Hillary and/or her staff are not the people who decide what is important or not. Not when it comes to State business. That is a gross and illegal overreach.

And it’s also what the whole ‘unelectable’ thing hinges on. After 8 years as First Lady and 4 as Secretary of State, it’s fully unbelievable that Hillary would not have known why the State Department has its own servers (though they may not always have functioned in ideal ways), or what classified markers are on mail or email. That reeks of desperation, pre-conceived or not, and it’s ludicrous that the FBI takes her word for it. Moreover, she’s on record saying she’s aware of classification requirements:

 

 

The very moment a high-ranking government official with daily access to classified material sets up a poorly protected email server, in order to bypass government systems, then runs classifies government mail over that server, and subsequently denies having knowledge of what makes material classified, that official is no longer electable. That person is not even employable anymore by the government.

Hillary’s private mail system was vulnerable to hackers. And it did get hacked by Guccifer, albeit, far as we know right now, via a workaround, through the mail of friend of the family Sidney Blumenthal. The irony about that is that Obama and Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to bring Blumenthal into Hillary’s team at State may well be the very reason she set up the private server to begin with (history will tell). Hillary loves Sidney. He’s her guru.

When she last week repeated that her system had not been hacked, that was at best half-true. And half-true is not nearly good enough when it comes to classified state secrets, of which the State Department handles possibly even more than the Oval Office. What we know is that her correspondence with Blumenthal was hacked, what we are not sure of is whether her server itself was hacked. But given that servers around her, DNC et al, were hacked, it would be naive to presume offhand hers was not.

And naive is not good enough, not on our part but even much less on Hillary’s. She’s unelectable because she’s far too much of a liability. That didn’t only become apparent when her knees buckled on Sunday, it became apparent when ‘we’ first found out she used a private server to conduct government business. Or, rather, it became apparent before we found out, it became apparent when she established the system, in January 2009.

There have been too many ‘instances’ and ‘incidents’ to mention, or even to remember. One paragraph I wrote down 10 days or so ago after yet another FBI ‘interview’ came out, summarizes a few:

According to Hillary, she doesn’t remember security briefings due to a concussion and a blood clot after a fall in 2012, she didn’t know what email classification details mean (what’s that ‘C’ for?), she lost 13 Blackberry’s – many with sensitive info on them- (aides took sledgehammers to some they did manage to locate), a MacBook and a thumb drive, she left her email systems open to hackers, she didn’t think communications on drones were -or needed to be- classified, she had her server wiped AFTER receiving a subpoena that expressly said she couldn’t, etc etc.

And that is without mentioning the questionable roles she played in Libya, Honduras and many other places. It’s without acknowledging how her campaign took over the DNC to the extent that they threw out Bernie Sanders. It’s without mentioning the shady goings-on at the Clinton Foundation and between this Foundation and the State Department. It’s also without mentioning what will yet come out of the many 1000s of mails that are due to be released by FBI, State and WikiLeaks, either before or after Nov. 8.

Hillary became a liability to the US, its government and its military- and secret service personnel, a long time ago. And people in the highest offices can and must be held to higher moral standards than others. Because they are responsible for the well-being, the survival and the very lives of so many others.

Step 1 in living up to those standards is to NOT bypass government laws and regulations and systems, without asking explicit permission and being fully transparent about it. Subsequent steps are easy for everyone to think of. Or else, an individual would explicitly declare themselves bigger than the government, and the nation. And that’s what Hillary did: she went rogue.

Ironically, Hillary’s health only became a real issue when she told the FBI she couldn’t remember lots of things, something that was echoed, by the way, in earlier revelations from campaign team staffers that said she tended to forget all sorts of stuff.

The relevance of yesterday’s health episode is not that it made her unelectable, but rather that it might have finally convinced enough of her financial backers that they risk losing the capital invested in ‘their’ candidates’ campaign. She’s their liability now too. I’ve seen people suggest that Trump is throwing his campaign as a way to help Hillary, but I sometimes think it may well be the other way around.

It’s kind of hard to imagine, looking back, for someone to run a worse campaign than Hillary has, but then that’s obvious when you look at how many things had to be kept hidden, how many lies had to be told, how many narratives had to be spun. It just got to be too much, for her, and for the staff. The outcome was always predictable, but they figured they could get away with it.

Thing is, even if she does manage to be elected, someone somewhere sometime will sue her or write about her or blackmail her. That’s a sure thing, and that makes her a massive risk and liability for the Democratic Party, and for the US government as a whole, and for all those multi-million dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation and to her campaign.

As of today, there are exactly 8 weeks left till the election. The money guys better come up with an alternative, because Hillary can’t be president. Whether they will come with Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or some outsider I don’t know, but they better start making up their minds.

It all looked so promising before the details started leaking out, didn’t it? Destiny, first woman president, all of that. But not this woman. One thing that speaks for Hillary is she screwed it up all by herself. Trump had nothing to do with it. Let alone Putin. In that sense, she’s an independent woman.

In the end, Hillary got stuck in her own web of sheer hubris.