Dec 302019
 
 December 30, 2019  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Salvation Army, San Francisco, California. Unemployed young men 1939

 

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)
Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)
Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)
Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)
Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)
Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)
Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)
Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)
Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)
Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)
After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

 

 

I must have missed that Carney was named UN special envoy for climate change and finance. Hilarious. Just over 3 years ago, I wrote about his delusional ideas in Heal the Planet for Profit , after Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg published How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change.

Billionaires and their lackeys will not solve climate change. Which is why Carney should not have a UN role, just like Great Thunberg should never have gone to Davos, or get involved with COP25. It’s simply not where things happen. By falling into these traps, she’s failing her own ideals, and those of her followers.

Firms Must Justify Investment In Fossil Fuels, Warns Mark Carney (G.)

The outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said all companies and financial institutions must justify their continued investment in fossil fuels, and warned that assets in the sector could end up “worthless”. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme being broadcast on Monday, Carney said that although the financial sector was starting to cut back on investment in oil and gas companies, the process was not moving quickly enough. Carney, who will focus on his new role as UN special envoy for climate change and finance after he steps down from the governorship in the new year, agreed to appear on the programme for an edition edited by the climate crisis campaigner Greta Thunberg, one of several guest editors on Today over the holiday period.

Carney has been one of the most vocal central bank governors on the need for the financial sector to do more to transition towards a zero-carbon economy. He told the programme that the climate crisis was a “tragedy on the horizon” and that more extreme weather events were inevitable. “By the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious, it will be too late to do anything about it,” he said. Political leaders had to “start addressing future problems today” On the issue of whether investors should be divesting from companies in the fossil fuel sector, Carney said fund managers would “have to make the judgment and justify to the people whose money it ultimately is”.

When pressed on whether pension funds should divest from oil and gas companies even if the returns were attractive, he replied: “Well that hasn’t been the case but they could make that argument. They need to make the argument, to be clear about why is that going to be the case if a substantial proportion of those assets are going to be worthless.” He warned: “If we were to burn all those oil and gases, there’s no way we would meet carbon budgets. Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves. A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer: what’s your plan?

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Carney’s next move will be a $50 trillion fund paid for by taxpayers that will buy turbines and solar from trillion-dollar multinationals.

Bank of England Chief Mark Carney Issues Climate Change Warning (BBC)

The world will face irreversible heating unless firms shift their priorities soon, the outgoing head of the Bank of England has told the BBC. Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels – but far too slowly. He said leading pension fund analysis “is that if you add up the policies of all of companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8C”. Mr Carney made the comments in a pre-recorded BBC Radio 4 Today interview. He added that the rise of almost 4C was “far above the 1.5 degrees that the people say they want and governments are demanding”. Scientists say the risks associated with an increase of 4C include a nine metre rise in sea levels – affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, and serious food supply problems.

Mr Carney, who will next year start his new role as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, continued: “The concern is whether we will spend another decade doing worthy things but not enough… and we will blow through the 1.5C mark very quickly. As a consequence, the climate will stabilise at the much higher level.” Speaking to the Today programme, he re-iterated his warning that unless firms woke up to what he called the climate crisis, many of their assets would become worthless. “If we were to burn all those oil and gas [reserves], there’s no way we would meet carbon budget,” he said. “Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves.

[..] Climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion question whether the capitalist system can halt climate change. Mr Carney said capitalism had a vital role in raising funding for clean technologies. But he added that it had to be tempered by government-imposed incentives, rules and prohibitions of the most damaging activities. Climate change was what he called a “tragedy of the horizon”, because the decision-making time horizon of investment managers is between two and 10 years. “In those horizons there will be more extreme weather events, but by the time that the extreme events become so prevalent and so obvious it’s too late to do anything about it,” he said.

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How far we’ve fallen: OPCW, White Helmets and Bellingcat have all been fully discredited by now (Douma, Skripal, MH17), but the former “all the news that’s fit to print” media completely ignore this. And so we’ll keep hearing more from them.

Security Experts Rip Into OPCW’s ‘Douma Chemical Attack’ Probe (RT)

Documents published by WikiLeaks that suggest a cover-up of inconvenient facts about the Douma, Syria chemical attack investigation raise serious questions about the OPCW, security experts, scholars and diplomats tell RT. The US, UK and France launched missile strikes against Syria in April 2018, after ‘White Helmets’ and jihadist rebels accused the government of a chemical attack in the town of Douma. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons eventually published a report saying its investigators may have found traces of chlorine, which was trumpeted as proof of the accusations in mainstream Western media. Emails published by WikiLeaks on Friday, however, show that a senior OPCW official ordered to “remove all traces” of the engineering assessment questioning the report’s conclusions.

Moreover, the observations by toxicologists who ruled out exposure to chlorine or any other chemical weapon could have caused the symptoms shown on White Helmets videos were likewise buried. “It’s difficult to look at that email exchange without thinking at least there’s a whiff of a coverup,” security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT, adding that the documents show the OPCW has been “subverted and led astray.” While the experts seem to have done their job honorably and properly, it looks like the OPCW officials twisted and manipulated their work to fit the pre-ordained narrative, on behalf of the countries that carried out the strikes, and have been backing the militants in Syria against the government in Damascus.

The OPCW “right now looks awful,” Max Abrahms, a scholar at the Quincy Institute, told RT. “They have a lot of explaining to do.” US officials seem to have pressured the OPCW to find the Syrian military responsible for the alleged chemical attack “regardless of what the actual scientists on the ground discovered,” according to Abrahms. It is notable that the US, UK and France launched their missile strikes before the OPCW investigators even reached Douma. The final report, published in March 2019, provided an after-the-fact rationalization for the attack. The bigger problem, Machon points out, is that the OPCW suppressing evidence means that the chemical weapons watchdog is no longer credible. If they can’t be trusted about Douma, why should they be trusted about, say, the use of “novichok” in Salisbury just weeks before that incident?

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Oh sure, pension funds will be rescued by a 30-year bond. Everybody rich!

Pension Funds With $680 Billion Finally Find Their Missing Link (BBG)

In Denmark, where institutional investors have been living with negative interest rates longer than anyone else, the authorities just took a big step. Danish pension funds, the world’s best managed along with their Dutch peers, will finally get a 30-year government bond. When it starts trading next year, funds managing a total of $680 billion in assets will get the missing link they’ve long needed: a long-term, AAA-rated asset at a positive yield. That’s quite a novelty these days. The new bond will give the industry a “crucial point on the curve,” said Christian Lage, chief executive officer of PFA Asset Management, which is a unit inside Denmark’s biggest commercial pension fund in Copenhagen. “We’re following it closely,” he said in an interview.

“Not only with regards to what extent we want to invest in it, but also how it’s being priced. It has an impact on a lot of different things when we price long-term exposures.” Denmark’s central bank first cut its benchmark rate below zero in mid-2012. Almost eight years later, the county has had negative rates longer than any other place on Earth. The distortions wrought by a policy intended to keep the krone fixed to the euro are particularly pronounced in the pension industry. The art of generating long-term, stable returns so Danes can retire comfortably has become increasingly difficult. Pretty much everything safe generates a negative yield. Assets that generate positive yields tend to come with a good deal more risk.

The Danish debt office, which is a unit inside the central bank, hasn’t issued a 30-year bond since 2008. That’s forced pension funds to extrapolate a key anchor point in the interest rate curve that helps them determine the value of both assets and liabilities. Not having a real number at the 30-year point was problematic. The calculations used could muddy price-setting, particularly given the uncertainty of how and when central banks might extricate themselves from negative rates. Lage says that “what is a bit hard for the industry is that, if the interest rate curve – the govvie curve – ends at a 20-year point, what is the fair price for a 30-year asset?”

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There’s a lot more profit in selling arms to dozens of different countries than there is in selling them to alliances.

Bank of America: Trend For 2020s Will be the “End of Globalization” (PJW)

Bank of America says that one of the dominant trends for the 2020s will be the “end of globalization” as countries increasingly realize that the phenomenon has brought unsustainable “social disruption.” In a report mapping out what to expect over the next decade, BofA analysts said that largely unchecked globalization, which ran roughly from 1981-2016, “is coming to an end.” This change will take place due to “the widespread recognition that while globalization has meant lower consumer prices, it has also meant slower growth, precarious employment and social disruption.” This massive shift will make commodities like precious metals and real estate safer investment because governments will move to impose protectionist economic policies.


“Countries will develop explicit national industrial policies and boost spending on R&D to foster local innovation, protect nascent industries, and shield national champions from hostile foreign takeovers,” the analysts said. The transhumanist pursuit of “immortality” will also come to the fore in the next decade, as will a new tech arms race between the U.S. and China, dubbed the “Splinternet.” China will eventually win the race, allowing Beijing “to reach national superiority in technology over the long term vis-a-vis Quantum Computing, Big Data, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Electric Vehicles, Robotics, and Cybersecurity.” “Ubiquitous connectivity” will also change the fabric of society, according to the report, with the ‘Internet of things’ embedded into virtually every new physical product, a development that critics argue will create an omnipresent Minority Report-style mass surveillance grid.

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And then voted for the people who made it possible.

Britons Paying 40% More For Energy Than In 2015 (G.)

Energy bills have risen by 40% in five years, taking average UK household costs up to a record of £2,707 a year, research has revealed. Comparethemarket’s study examined the costs of energy, home and motor insurance since 2015, and found that gas and electricity price increases were largely responsible for this year’s changes. The analysis says financial pressures have worsened despite the energy price cap introduced at the beginning of 2019. Dual fuel bills now cost an average of £1,813 a year, a 40% hike from £1,289 in 2015. The cap has led to many providers, particularly the big six – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – raising their prices.


The annual report did not examine the costs of broadband, mobile or TV services, which also involve heavy outlays. Simon McCulloch of comparethemarket.com said: “A lot of attention during the general election was devoted to financial difficulties that many people face around the UK. “These statistics are a stark reminder of not only the high cost of essential services, but of the huge increases that have been seen in the past few years. The average cost of energy, motor and home insurance is now £675 higher than 2015 – far above the rate of inflation.”

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Bolivia shares quite a few similarities with Ukraine.

Spain Pulled Into Diplomatic Spat Between Bolivia, Mexico (AP)

A tense diplomatic feud between Bolivia’s conservative interim government and Mexico expanded to include Spain on Friday when a confrontation broke out as Spanish diplomats visited the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz, where members of the ousted leftist government have taken refuge. Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric complained that Spanish diplomats were accompanied by masked and armed men on a visit to the residence, calling that an abuse of Bolivia’s sovereignty. She said a protest would be lodged with the EU, UN and Organization of American States. Television stations broadcast images of a masked person getting out of a Spanish diplomatic vehicle and exchanging words with local police.

Civilians then approached and began attacking the car, shouting that there could be an attempt to free nine officials sheltered inside. The interim government already has been feuding with Mexico, which not only gave refuge to the nine, but also sheltered ousted leader Evo Morales when he resigned the presidency on Nov. 10 after losing the support of the military and police following days of turbulent protests over alleged fraud in his reelection bid. Bolivian officials accuse several of those inside the embassy of electoral fraud as well as sedition and terrorism for their alleged role in protests that followed Morales’ ouster.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said the incident came as police intercepted Spanish embassy vehicles that were returning to the Mexican mission to pick up the ranking Spanish diplomat, who had made a “courtesy visit” to the Mexican ambassador. It said a Mexican diplomat in the car was also briefly detained but was allowed to pass after showing identification. Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said later it would investigate the incident. Spanish diplomats in their own country are sometime accompanied by bodyguards wearing masks to protect their identities as a security measure, though it wasn’t immediately clear if that was the case here.

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They guy’s a broken record: “..overwhelming and damning evidence..”

Schiff Goes for Total Coup, Now Targeting Pence (WJ)

It’s beginning to look like Rep. Adam Schiff isn’t content with simply ousting the president, instead hinting that he’s going for a total sweep of the White House by involving the vice president as well. The move would seemingly put his ally and fellow California Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in charge of the United States. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hinted at the bombshell turn in a Dec. 18 talk with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Maddow asked Schiff about his continuing role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. “You seem to still be pulling on some threads here, including some potentially provocative and consequential ones,” she said. “I’m thinking specifically about a letter that you sent to the vice president’s office this week in which you raise questions as to what the vice president knew about the president’s behavior, the president’s scheme in Ukraine, and thereby essentially his potential involvement in any coverup of that behavior by the president.


“Are you actively looking at Vice President Mike Pence and his role in this scandal, and should we expect further revelations either related to the vice president or related to the other core parts of these allegations that have resulted in this impeachment tonight?” Schiff, in his usual habit of claiming to have overwhelming and damning evidence against his political enemies, said he now has something on Vice President Mike Pence. “We have acquired a piece of evidence,” he said, “a classified submission by [Pence aide] Jennifer Williams, something that she alluded to in her open testimony that, in going back and looking through her records, she found other information that was pertinent to that phone call that we had asked her about and made that submission. … “That submission does shed light on the vice president’s knowledge.”

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A DNC investigation would seem timely.

Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama (Zuesse)

Comey would be expected to have been highly motivated to oppose Mr. Trump, because Trump publicly questioned whether NATO (the main international selling-arm for America’s ‘defense’-contractors) should continue to exist, and also because Comey’s entire career had been in the service of America’s Military-Industrial Complex, which is the reason why Comey’s main lifetime income has been the tens of millions of dollars he has received via the revolving door between his serving the federal Government and his serving firms such as Lockheed Martin. For these people, restoring, and intensifying, and keeping up, the Cold War, is a very profitable business. It’s called by some “the Military-Industrial Complex,” and by others “the Deep State,” but by any name it is simply agents of the billionaires who own and control US-based international corporations, such as General Dynamics and Chevron.

As a governmental official, making decisions that are in the long-term interests of those investors is the likeliest way to become wealthy. Consequently, Comey would have been benefitting himself, and other high officials of the Obama Administration, by sabotaging Trump’s campaign, and by weakening Trump’s Presidency in the event that he would become elected. Plus, of course, Comey would have been benefitting Obama himself. Not only was Trump constantly condemning Obama, but Obama had appointed to lead the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 Presidential primaries, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who as early as 20 February 2007 had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President in the Democratic Party primaries, so that Shultz was one of the earliest supporters of Clinton against even Obama himself.

In other words, Obama had appointed Shultz in order to increase the odds that Clinton — not Sanders— would become the nominee in 2016 to continue on and protect his own Presidential legacy. Furthermore, on 28 July 2016, Schultz became forced to resign from her leadership of the DNC after WikiLeaks released emails indicating that Schultz and other members of the DNC staff had exercised bias against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primaries — which favoritism had been the reason why Obama had appointed Shultz to that post to begin with.

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Five Alarm! He’s talking to his puppet master! Also, what are the odds the CIA has supported these planned terror attacks?

Vladimir Putin Thanks Donald Trump For Tip That Foiled Terror Plot (G.)

Russia said it had thwarted terror attacks reportedly planned in St Petersburg as the result of a tip from Washington, as President Vladimir Putin personally thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump. Russian news agencies cited the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that as a result of the information, two Russians had been detained on 27 December on suspicion of plotting attacks during new year festivities in St Petersburg. The Kremlin said Putin passed on his gratitude to Trump for the tip from US special services during a phone call on Sunday. It gave no further details.


Diplomatic ties between Washington and Moscow are fraught over disagreements concerning Ukraine and Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election, but Trump and Putin have kept personal lines of communication open. Two years ago, the Russian leader phoned Trump to thank him for a tip that Russia said had helped prevent a bomb attack on a cathedral in St Petersburg. Russia has repeatedly been the target of attacks by militant groups including Isis. The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Trump had agreed to continue bilateral cooperation to tackle terrorism.

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How Washington celebrates New Year’s.

After US Strike On Iraqi Forces Its Troops Will -Again- Have To Leave (MoA)

Within Syria @WithinSyriaBlog – 17:43 UTC · Dec 29, 2019: “Trump just made the mistake of his presidency.” That may be true or may be not true. Here is what happened. On Friday a volley of some 30 107mm Katyusha rockets hit the K1 base which houses Iraqi and U.S. troops near Kirkuk, Iraq. One U.S. mercenary/contractor died, two Iraqi and four U.S. soldiers were wounded. Instead of finding the real culprits – ISIS remnants, disgruntled locals, Kurds who want to regain control over Kirkuk – the U.S. decided that Kata’ib Hizbullah was the group guilty of the attack.

Kata’ib Hizbullah is a mostly Shia group with some relations to Iran. It is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) which were founded and trained by Iran to stop and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) when it occupied nearly a third of Iraq and Syria. KH is like all PMU units now under command and control of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. To take revenge for the death of one of its mercenaries the U.S. air force attacked five camps where Kata’ib Hizbullah and other Iraqi forces were stationed:

“In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces. The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.” All of the KH positions that were hit were in the western Anbar desert on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border where KH is engaged in fighting the still active ISIS. The results of the air strikes were devastating:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 6:20 UTC · Dec 30, 2019: “32 killed and 45 wounded the count of #US violent aggression on #Iraq security forces brigades 45 and 46 last night on a military position established to counter-attack and raid #ISIS remnant at al-Qaem, the borders between Iraq and Syria.” The al-Qaem border station is the only open one between Iraq and Syria which is not under U.S. control. The U.S. was furious when the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi allowed it to be established. It was previously attacked by Israel which had launched its assault from a U.S. air force base in east Syria.

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Branch manager and assistant branch manager

 

 

 

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Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

Dec 232019
 


Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

 

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)
Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)
Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)
Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)
SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)
Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)
London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)
West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Migrant Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

 

 

Central banker who makes an excellent case against central bank interference in interest rates. But he doesn’t even get it himself, so how can a petty journalist? The idea that somehow magically conditions will (re-)appear that favor raising rates is as faulty as it is dumb. There is no way back. They’ve entered a black hole, they’ve crossed the event horizon.

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)

Interest rates in the euro zone could remain historically low for years, but the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ultra-loose monetary policy risks becoming counterproductive, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview published on Monday. “I do not have a crystal ball, but I cannot rule out that the current low interest rate environment could last another five years”, Knot told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “This worries me, because temporarily low interest rates are something quite different from persistently low interest rates.” The Dutch central bank president said the current low rates lead to excessive risk taking among investors, while younger generations on the other hand might feel forced to keep increasing their savings.


“From a macro-economic perspective that would be undesirable,” Knot said. “And it is also an example of how our low interest rate policy may eventually shoot itself in the foot. If people start saving more in response to the low interest rates, this will add further downward pressure on inflation.” Knot is a frequent critic of the ECB’s ultra-easy monetary policy, and slammed the bank’s new stimulus measures earlier this year as disproportionate. The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is looking forward to the strategic review of ECB policy, promised by its new President Christine Lagarde, and has called for the bank to adopt a more flexible inflation target. “The balance between positive and negative effects of the low interest rates is shifting in the wrong direction”, he told the paper.

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High crimes.

Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)

If bringing one’s country to fiscal ruin were an impeachable offense, you’d have to impeach the entire city of Washington. On December 16 the gross Federal debt breached a new level to $23.1 trillion, while the net debt after $401 billion of cash weighed in at $22.71 trillion. The latter monstrous figure is notable because on June 30, 2019 it stood at $21.76 trillion. So what has happened in the last 167 days is a $948 billion increase in the Uncle Sam’s net debt, which amounts to a gain of $5.7 billion per day – including, as we like to say, weekends, holidays and snow days.

Worse still, not a single dollar of that gain got absorbed in government trust funds. The Treasury float held by the public actually rose by $953 billion. So why in the world do the knuckleheads on bubblevision not understand where the spiking rates and ructions in the repo market came from? The law of supply and demand is still operative, and the US Treasury is literally flooding the bond pits with new supply. Even at the bottom of the Great Recession, Uncle Sam did not drain $5.7 billion per day from the bond market.


But nary a soul down in the Imperial City has noticed this borrowing eruption at the tippy-top of the business cycle, which now teeters on borrowed time at a record 127 months of age. Instead, this very day the Congress is busily engaged in what is a fair approximation of abolishing the election process at the heart of American democracy. We will address today’s hideous impeachment Gong Show below. But here we note that every talking head showing up on the screen today is claiming that the market can keep on bubbling higher because the pending impeachment of the nation’s 45th president is a great big nothingburger. Au contraire!

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It’s not easy to even imagine, but there are people who see Pelosi as a hero. That they need to quote Leon Panetta to make that case should say enough. Still, after, Russiagate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, Pelosi refusing to send article to the Senate, this is just deaf, dumb and blind.

Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)

In December 2018, weeks after the Democrats’ conquest of the House, the soon-to-be speaker arrived for a White House meeting with Donald Trump. The subject was a government shutdown but the subtext was a showdown between the most powerful woman in American politics and the president of the United States. In the extraordinary, televised exchange that followed, Trump sought to undermine Nancy Pelosi, whom he repeatedly addressed as “Nancy”, by reminding his audience in the Oval Office – and those watching at home – that she had yet to secure the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership and was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now”. Her response was sharp and sure. “Mr President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was the first test of a new power dynamic in Washington and when it ended, there was little disagreement over who had won. Pelosi emerged from the White House wearing a now-famous burnt-orange coat, sunglasses and the triumphant smile of a woman who has never forgotten the advice imparted to her by the late Louisiana congresswoman Lindy Boggs: “Darlin’, know thy power and use it.” That 15-minute Oval Office meeting marked the beginning of a struggle between Pelosi and Trump that culminated last week in the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Pelosi, dressed in funeral black, banged down her speaker’s gavel to finalize the vote, binding together their legacies for all time.

It was not how Pelosi, who once said Trump was “not worth” impeaching, had hoped to end a year that began with her historic, second ascension to the speakership. Pelosi, the first – and only – woman ever to serve as Speaker of the House, would rather be remembered for legislative accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act above all – than for impeachment. But Trump, Pelosi said, left her “no choice”. She quoted Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.” In the wake of Trump’s impeachment, however, Democrats believe there was perhaps no leader better suited to the times. “She is, thank God, the exact right person in the right place at the right time,” said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director and a California native who’s known Pelosi for decades.

“I’m not sure anybody else would have had the experience or capability to be able to do what she has done.” “Donald Trump really has met his match with Nancy,” Panetta added. Her grace under fire as speaker has earned comparisons to Sam Rayburn, the country’s longest-serving speaker, who died in 1961. One Democrat called her an “as good or better” legislative leader than Lyndon Johnson, who was a Senate majority leader before he was president. And when the question is asked whether a female presidential candidate can beat Trump in 2020, the Democrats point to Pelosi, who “does it every single day”.

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It’s OK for the FBI to break the law 6 ways from Sunday because Schiff doesn’t like the guy they spied on. And it’s not even 2020 yet.

Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it’s hard to feel sympathetic for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, despite the fact that he was spied on by the FBI after the agency fabricated evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After the FISA court denied their request, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith fabricated evidence to exclude the fact that Page was a CIA source, with “positive assessment,” despite the fact that the CIA informed Clinesmith of Page’s prior work for the agency. Schiff, however, has no love for Page despite DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz finding 16 significant ‘errors’ in the FBI’s FISA applications used to surveil Page.


“I have to say, you know, Carter Page came before our Committee and for hours of his testimony, denied things that we knew were true, later had to admit them during his testimony,” Schiff told PBS News’ Margaret Hoover. “It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who isn’t honest with you when he comes and testifies under oath. It’s also hard to be sympathetic when you have someone who has admitted to being an adviser to the Kremlin.” Hoover countered, noting “But then was also informing the CIA,” to which Schiff replies “Yes, yes.” “Which we didn’t know about,” replied Hoover. “Who was both targeted by the KGB but also talking to the United States and its agencies and that should have been included, made clear, and it wasn’t, according to the inspector general,” Schiff responded.

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When is the last time Australia had an actual politician? How is the entire country not a province for US and UK bankers to loot?

SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)

There are moments in politics when everything that has come before is crystalised in a moment. Malcolm Turnbull branded himself a phony when he leapt into bed with the Coalition’s right wing. Tony Abbott captured himself when he recommended Prince Phillip be offered an Australian knighthood. Before him, John Howard made himself a political legend when he threw children overboard. Julia Gillard did it in her act of backstabbing. Kevin Rudd did it when he dumped climate change mitigation for Big Australia. Paul Keating branded himself forever with the “recession we had to have”. So on and so forth. These are moments when the truth about a leader’s character is revealed for all to see and branded that way forever more.

For Keating it was arrogance. For Howard it was opportunism. For Rudd it was narcissism. For Gillard it was illegitimacy. For Abbott it was archaic ineptitute. For Turnbull it was hollowness. That moment arrived last week for Scott Morrison. He will henceforth be remembered as SmoCo, the guy that fled to Hawaii – sand, sun and Mai Tais – as his nation burned to the ground. No doubt his minders will kid themselves that he can spin his way out of it. That the marketing guru will find a new angle to shift the blame elsewhere. They are wrong. The Morrsion Government is now covered in ash and forever will be. Over Christmas tables across the nation for the next week, SmoCo will be a combined laughing stock and object of incredulous anger.

SmoCo of the “quiet Australians” has become instead the incredible vanishing PM. In truth, it’s not all SmoCo’s fault. His party is really to blame. It has made destructive climate politics the centre of its value system for thirty years. It has unilaterally blockaded global action. It has embraced and defended carbon interests. It has ruined the debate with pseudo-science. It has trashed energy policy and twisted mitigation policy to such an extent that Australia now faces combined environmental and energy calamity. From day one, it has divided and conquered instead of uniting and acting.

Read more …

Another one of those discussions that cannot be avoided or ignored. Still, Sanders and Warren haven’t found the solution yet.

Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)

Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans to reduce the exorbitant cost of college. But there’s an emerging rift: On one side, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed making public college free for all; on the other, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to make it free for only a slice of the population. The latter worry that by providing free college to everyone who wants it—including, in Buttigieg’s words, “the children of millionaires and billionaires”—too many resources will be squandered on the rich. In reality, we already subsidize college for kids from wealthy families, and those further down the income scale would benefit the most if public institutions were free.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we have data, all of the tuition and fees charged by public colleges came to $75.8 billion. That’s less than what the federal government spends to subsidize the cost of college. In the same year, the government disbursed about $160 billion in the form of student loans, grants, and tax breaks to help make higher education less of a burden on American families. Certainly the students who take advantage of those federal funds use them to go to a variety of higher education institutions, not just public colleges. But it would be more efficient to simply eliminate public college tuition than to spend all that money propping up institutions through a maze of grants and tax breaks.

Right now, the government’s money flows largely to well-off students. After student loans, the biggest chunk of student aid is delivered through the tax code; excluding loans, it makes up more than half of all aid. In 2012 the federal government gave $34 billion in tax breaks, a billion more than it spent on Pell Grants for those in financial need. And most of that money is going to the wealthiest families. In 2013, for example, families that made $100,000 or more a year captured more than half of the tuition and fees deduction as well as the exemption for dependent students.

Read more …

Murray is a proud Scot.

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people. It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30. Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.


I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage: “The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self determination. For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future. The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.”

Read more …

Colonialism takes many forms.

West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two. Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board. Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan. In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency. “Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress … I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron. The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau. The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, – all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

Read more …

Another attack on Assad, under a different guise. We eagerly await comment from Bellingcat and the White Helmets. And what’s that smell?

Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Refugee Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped. Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world, and fears another wave from the Idlib region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory. Syrian and Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of targets in Idlib, which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, prompting a wave of refugees toward Turkey.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib to Turkey. “If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” Erdogan said. “The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable. He also said Turkey was doing everything possible to stop Russian bombardments in Idlib, adding that a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

[..] Turkey is seeking international support for plans to settle 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that its forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized from the Kurdish YPG militia in a cross-border incursion in October. Ankara has received little public backing for the proposal and has repeatedly slammed its allies for not supporting its plans. Turkey’s offensive was also met with condemnation from allies, including the United States and European countries. “We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to the three military operations Turkey has carried out in Syria.

After a global refugee forum in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said states pledged more than $3 billion to support refugees and around 50,000 resettlement places. But, Erdogan, who attended the forum, said on Sunday that sum was not enough. U.N agencies say hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib this year after attacks on residential areas. Russia and the Syrian army, which is loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 192019
 


Saul Leiter Harlem 1960

 

Lots of news outlets labeled yesterday’s House vote to impeach President Trump “historic”. It was. But what was historic about it was not that Donald Trump became the third president to be impeached. What was historic was the way it was done. That was a first.

Because it was not the House that impeached President Donald Trump, it was the Democratic Party. Which just happened to have the majority in the House. They appear to think that this is all that’s needed, which is a big mistake and an even bigger gamble. A gamble on the value and future of the US Constitution and the entire political system.

In an exercise in sanctimonious rhetoric, Nancy Pelosi and several other Democratic House members claim they are the only ones upholding the Constitution, and they’re the only ones who know what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind while writing the Constitution, and what they wrote about impeachment. Maybe someone should point out -again- that the Constitution is a document written by slaveholders. See how that flies with their black constituency.

Then again, none of this is really much different from what their witnesses in the past weeks had to say about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky, the one and only issue that impeachment eventually came to rely on, after years of trying to find something “impeachable”. That is, it’s not about facts, it’s about opinion and interpretation.

Trump asked Zelensky to look into a number of issues. But never said he wanted him to do that in order to elevate his chances in an election which was at that point a year and a half away, and in which Joe Biden’s role was not then, nor is it now, anywhere near assured. While there are many lingering questions surrounding the roles of both Joe and Hunter Biden.

For most of the witnesses called by the Democrats, including 3 “legal experts”, it was for some reason clear what Trump meant even though he never said it. That is a mighty slippery slope. That all three were donors to various Democrats is just icing on the slippery cake. But what remains most important is these were opinions, and they were not based on facts.

 

And we should at least be able to agree that facts are undoubtedly what the Founders meant for impeachment to be based on. They were wary enough of the instrument to set it up the way they did, with the role of the House and the separate role of the Senate, where a 2/3 vote is required. They did not want it based on hearsay and personal bias.

What they did not foresee was what has happened now, they trusted both the system and future politicians to safeguard themselves against using impeachment as a partisan political tool. They were wrong.

Well into this year, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi still emphasized the need for impeachment proceedings to be bipartisan. In March she said: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path..”

And on June 16, a full two months after the Mueller report came out: “I don’t think there’s anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a president of the United States, and so you have to handle it with great care..”

By September 24, however, again two full months after the Trump-Zelensky call, she abandoned that principle, and it’s not fully clear why, other than “unverified claims of an anonymous whistleblower”. She insisted it was because of the Zelensky call, but we’ve all been able to read there was not enough in that call for either her change of mind or, for that matter, impeachment itself.

 

Nancy Pelosi now hints she will delay sending articles of impeachment to the Senate because she wants to make sure the process is bipartisan. But does anyone want to claim that what happened in the House was bipartisan? If so, pray tell how we can tell it was.

Adam Schiff, like Nancy, questions if there will be a fair trial in the Senate. Does he mean like the one he presided over in the House, with behind closed doors testimony, no witnesses for the other side, and a committee chairman who constantly interrupts representatives from the other side? He may well get exactly that, just from a very different angle.

Schiff and his Democrats have been after Trump since before the 2016 elections, and the number of times they have uttered terms like “overwhelming” and “uncontested evidence” are impossible to count. But the “evidence” never was uncontested. And it isn’t to this day.

Something I don’t quite understand is that everybody knows Trump knew the call was recorded, and many people were listening in on it while it took place, so the entire interpretation of contents of the call as impeachable -he didn’t say it but he meant to- must be based on the idea that Trump is incredibly dumb – or evil?! Even if he would have wanted dirt on Joe Biden because of 2020, he could have gone about it in less “evident” ways than a semi-public phone call.

 

A house divided cannot stand. Yet the Democrats use their majority in the House to de facto say they ARE the House and thereby divide it. Unfortunately for them, this House too, cannot stand divided. It will crumble.

If one values the Constitution, the House, the Senate and the Office of President of the United States, one must treat all of these with the utmost care and respect. Which means you cannot get rid of a president just because you don’t like him or her, because if you do, you open the floodgates and you might as well throw everything America’s politics is based upon, out the window.

You can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, opinions, conjecture or personal interpretations of words s/he said. But that’s all I’ve seen and read and heard.

The Democrats are confident they can come out of this in one piece, and many even think as winners. Donald Trump doesn’t feel much of a threat, and why should he, but it’s been three years of great nuisance that now culminate in Pelosi not even having the courage to go to the Senate with her cherished impeachment articles.

Meanwhile though, the divisions in America have grown so deep it feels like Moses himself created them. And that is the real damage done. You can’t attack the political system, and the presidency, with anything but solid evidence, without doing real damage. Well, it has been done.

If Trump gets re-elected, and I would wager he will be after all the circus, the Dems can only start the wheel again. If a miracle Democrat gets the nod, the Republicans will initiate the same treatment Trump has received during his entire presidency. And so on and so forth until death do us part.

 

PS I stole the title from Michael Goodwin, who used it as his closing line.

PS2 I know there are not really two political parties in the US, but the growing gaping divide between the people is very real

 

 

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Dec 192019
 
 December 19, 2019  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Jack Delano Residents of Miss Disher’s rooming house for rail workers, Clinton, Iowa 1943

 

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)
Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)
Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)
US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)
US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)
Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)
The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

 

 

The Democrats have unleashed powers yesterday (and the previous 3-4 years) that they cannot control.

Not long ago Pelosi said “We must hurry and impeach Donald Trump because he is a risk to National Security.” Not a priority anymore?

Paul Sperry: “The longer Democrats drag out the impeachment process, the longer Durham has to bring indictments, declassify documents, expose new evidence Trump was justified asking Ukraine to help investigate how Obama/Biden/Clinton sabotaged his 2016 campaign..”

Pelosi Threatens To Delay Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis. Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate. By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.

McConnell has boasted that he has closely coordinated the planning of the trial with the White House and has repeatedly predicted Trump would be acquitted. He’s also suggested Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to call new witnesses as they attempt to present their case. The White House lashed out at the move. “House Democrats have run a fatally flawed process with fake facts, and now they want to deny the President his day in court with another procedural maneuver that proves anew they have no case,” said Eric Ueland, Trump’s top congressional liaison to Congress.

Read more …

Can we say the same about impeachment?

Mueller Report Was Based On CIA-Fabricated “Evidence” (Bill Binney)

[..] In other words, it looked like the CIA did this, and that it was a matter of the CIA making it look like the Russians were doing the hack. So, when you look at that and also look at the DNC emails that were published by Wikileaks that have this FAT-file format in them, all 35,813 of these emails have rounded off times to the nearest even second. That’s a FAT-file format property; that argues that those files were, in fact, downloaded to a thumb drive or CD-rom and physically transported before Wikileaks posted them. Which again argues that it wasn’t a hack. So, all of the evidence we’re finding is clearly evidence that the Russians were not in fact hacking; it was probably our own people.

It’s very hard for us to get this kind of information out. The mainstream media won’t cover it; none of them will. It’s very hard. We get some bloggers to do that and some radio shows. Also, I put all of this into a sworn affidavit in the Roger Stone case. I did that because all of the attack on him was predicated on him being connected with this Russian hack which was false to being with. All the evidence we’re accumulating clearly says and implies, the US government — namely the FBI, CIA, the DOJ, and of course State Department — all these people involved in this hack, bought a dossier and all of the information going forward to the FISA court. All of them knew that this was a fake from the very beginning, because this Guccifer 2.0 character was fabricating it.

They were using him plus the Internet Research Agency [IRA] as “supposed trolls of the Russian government”. Well, when they sent their lawyers over to challenge that in a court of law, the government failed to prove they had any connection with the Russian government. They basically were chastised by the judge for fabricating a charge against this company. So, if you take the IRA and the trolls away from that argument, and Guccifer 2.0, then the entire Mueller report is a provable fabrication; because it’s based on Guccifer 2.0 and the IRA. Then the entire Rosenstein indictment is also a fabrication and a fake and a fraud for the same reasons. The judges seem to be involved in trying to keep this information out of the public domain.

Read more …

Double jeopardy.

Manafort’s Fraud Case In New York Dismissed (R.)

Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday won the dismissal of New York state fraud charges, in a defeat for the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to hold him accountable even if pardoned by Trump. Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan said at a hearing that letting the district attorney, Cyrus Vance, prosecute Manafort would violate Manafort’s protection against double jeopardy, or being prosecuted twice for the same conduct. “We will appeal today’s decision and will continue working to ensure that Mr. Manafort is held accountable for the criminal conduct against the People of New York that is alleged in the indictment,” Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost said in a statement.


Vance, a Democrat, announced the indictment of Manafort on 16 felony counts including residential mortgage fraud on March 13, less than an hour after Manafort was ordered to spend 7-1/2 years in prison on various federal charges. Those charges stemmed from former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and resulted in Manafort’s August 2018 conviction on tax evasion and bank fraud. Manafort, 70, has been serving his sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania, but was hospitalized last week for what his lawyer called a cardiac incident. He did not attend Wednesday’s hearing but his lawyer, Todd Blanche, said “obviously, we are very happy” with the dismissal. Manafort had pleaded not guilty. “This indictment should never have been brought, and today’s decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically motivated actions,” Blanche said..

Read more …

Leave it to the Guardian to say: “Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance”, and then not mention Tulsi Gabbard.

Democratic Debate: Seven Candidates To Face Off A Day After Impeachment (G.)

The final Democratic presidential debate of the year is bringing seven 2020 candidates to the stage in California one day after the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction. Facing off in Los Angeles on Thursday are the former vice president Joe Biden and senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; the South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg; Senator Amy Klobuchar, the entrepreneur Andrew Yang and the billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. Looming over the high-stakes debate are those who won’t be in attendance. The Democratic National Committee said candidates had to hit at least 4% in four national polls or at least 6% in two early-state polls in the weeks leading up to the event in order to qualify.


The candidates also had to attract at least 200,000 donors. That leaves no black or Latino candidates among the nearly all-white lineup of Democratic frontrunners. Senator Cory Booker and the former housing secretary Julián Castro both failed to qualify for the debate, and Senator Kamala Harris recently ended her campaign amid polling showing her far behind in California, her home state. Also absent from the event will be Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire who made a late entrance into the race last month and has poured an estimated $13.5m into TV ads in California. Steyer, the other billionaire in the race, has spent roughly $1.6m on ads in the state.

Read more …

A Merkel win.

US Concedes Defeat On Russia’s Nord Stream 2 Pipeline (ZH)

A new Bloomberg headline reads “U.S. Concedes Defeat on Gas Pipeline It Sees as Russian Threat” just following new sanctions included in the House and Senate passed 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. But two administration officials tell Bloomberg it’s too little too late, despite Trump’s heightened rhetoric of calling Germany “a captive to Russia” and charging Berlin with essentially giving “billions” of dollars to Russia: Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s take on the project, said sanctions that passed Congress on Tuesday as part of a defense bill are too late to have any effect. The U.S. instead will try to impose costs on other Russian energy projects, one of the officials added.

The Bloomberg report sees this as a rare admission of defeat: “The admission is a rare concession on what had been a top foreign-policy priority for the Trump administration and highlights how European allies such as Germany have been impervious to American pressure to abandon the pipeline. It also shows how the U.S. has struggled to deter Russia from flexing its muscles on issues ranging from energy to Ukraine to election interference.” The resolution contained in the defense spending bill, expected to be immediately signed into law by Trump, are measures which specifically target companies assembling the pipeline — a last ditch US effort to block the controversial 760-mile, $10.2BN project that would allow Russia to export natural gas directly to Germany, depriving Ukraine of badly needed gas transit fees along the current route for Russian supplies.

Washington’s position has long been that it weakens European energy security, while Merkel’s Germany has rejected Trump’s “meddling” in European energy affairs, which the Europeans have lately sought to diversify. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a February visit to Poland said Nord Stream 2 ultimately “funnels money to Russians in ways that undermine European national security.”

Read more …

‘Their obsession with weapons is crazy’

US Is Bent On ‘Absolute Military Supremacy’ – Mikhail Gorbachev (NW)

Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev has urged President Donald Trump’s administration to re-engage with Russia on landmark arms control treaties, warning that the collapse of Cold War-era nuclear weapon limits threatens global catastrophe. Speaking with Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, Gorbachev lamented America’s withdrawal from two key arms control treaties signed during the Cold War—the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) during President Geroge W. Bush’s tenure, and the more recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russia has also since suspended participation in the INF Treaty, prompting concerns of a new arms race. The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the estimated global nuclear weapons arsenals as of December 2017. Gorbachev is a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament. He told the Asahi he is “still praying for” the destruction of all nuclear weapons, noting that the number of warheads in Russia and the U.S. has reduced by more than 80 percent since the peak years of the Cold War. But he warned that this “peace dividend” is now at risk with the collapse of the ABMT and INF Treaty. It is also unclear whether New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)—the successor to START I that Gorbachev helped craft—will be renewed when it expires in 2021.

The Trump administration said last year that it would ditch the 1987 INF Treaty, which banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges from 310 miles 3,417 miles. The White House accused Russia of violating the deal by developing the SSC-8 missile. But Gorbachev blamed Washington for the development. “The decision by the United States to withdraw from the INF threatens to unleash a sequence of events that would move to undo” the post-Cold War peace dividend, he said. “Out of the three principal pillars of global strategic stability—the ABMT, INF and START—only one is left,” he added, noting that the future of New START is far from certain.

Read more …

“.. the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.”

Afghanistan War – The Crime of the Century (Ron Paul)

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing.” So said Gen. Douglas Lute, who oversaw the US war on Afghanistan under Presidents Bush and Obama. Eighteen years into the longest war in US history, we are finally finding out, thanks to thousands of pages of classified interviews on the war published by the Washington Post last week, that General Lute’s cluelessness was shared by virtually everyone involved in the war. What we learned in what is rightly being called the “Pentagon Papers” of our time, is that hundreds of US Administration officials – including three US Presidents – knowingly lied to the American people about the Afghanistan war for years. This wasn’t just a matter of omitting some unflattering facts. This was about bald-faced lying about a war they knew was a disaster from almost day one.

Remember President Bush’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Remember how supremely confident he was at those press conferences, acting like the master of the universe? Here’s what he told the Pentagon’s special inspector general who compiled these thousands of interviews on Afghanistan: “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.” It is not only members of the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations who are guilty of this massive fraud. Falsely selling the Afghanistan war as a great success was a bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill. In the dozens of hearings I attended in the House International Relations Committee, I do not recall a single “expert” witness called who told us the truth. Instead, both Republican and Democrat-controlled Congresses called a steady stream of neocon war cheerleaders to lie to us about how wonderfully the war was going.

Victory was just around the corner, they all promised. Just a few more massive appropriations and we’d be celebrating the end of the war. Congress and especially Congressional leadership of both parties are all as guilty as the three lying Administrations. They were part of the big lie, falsely presenting to the American people as “expert” witnesses only those bought-and-paid-for Beltway neocon think tankers. What is even more shocking than the release of this “smoking gun” evidence that the US government wasted two trillion dollars and killed more than three thousand Americans and more than 150,000 Afghans while lying through its teeth about the war is that you could hear a pin drop in the mainstream media about it. Aside from the initial publication in the Washington Post, which has itself been a major cheerleader for the war in Afghanistan, the mainstream media has shown literally no interest in what should be the story of the century.

Read more …

The dollar?!

The Final Act (Dmitry Orlov)

Another net benefit for Trump is the never-ending impeachment saga. It has kept him in the media limelight and has allowed him to pretend that he is prevailing heroically against great odds while making his opposition look ridiculous in the eyes of his supporters. After the “Russian meddling” fable unraveled, an even more preposterous rationale for impeachment has taken its place. An attempt to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation is in the process of failing, since anyone with more intelligence than a bucket of California penis fish should know that it is up to the courts, not up to the legislature, to resolve disputes between the legislature and the executive.

All that remains now is an alleged abuse of power by Trump. Apparently, it is a no-no for a US president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a US presidential candidate for a variety of crimes such as corruption, bribery and money-laundering. This may all seem quite ridiculous, but it serves a purpose: it allows Trump to clean up on free publicity and to continue fiddling (tweeting, in his case) as Rome burns. But what has set fire under Rome is not the decrepitating state of US society, or the permanent and permanently worsening trade imbalance with China, or the never-ending impeachment farce. It is the incipient failure of the US dollar.

For those who have been paying careful attention, the surreal nature of the procedings, and the fact that results no longer matter—only appearances do—have become perfectly obvious, but they are a tiny minority. What has allowed the politicians and the media to exploit the general public’s innate normalcy bias and to keep the media replay loop going without too many people catching on to what’s really happening was (note the past tense!) the ability of the US government (with the assistance of the Federal Reserve, which is a government-linked but essentially private entity) to paper over the gaping chasm in the nation’s finances by issuing debt, in the form of US Treasury paper.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 162019
 
 December 16, 2019  Posted by at 10:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Water supply in squatter camp near Calipatria CA 1937

 

An Apology to Carter Page (Jonathan Turley)
James Comey Admits He Was Wrong for Defending FBI’s FISA Process (ET)
‘You Need Rehabilitation’: Nunes Letter Dismantles Schiff (ZH)
Schiff Wants Witnesses, Documents Introduced In Senate Impeachment Trial (CNN)
Schumer Wants Mulvaney, Bolton, Others To Testify In Impeachment Trial (R.)
Is A Trap Being Set For Trump In The Senate Trial? (MacKinnon)
Democrats Can Read Minds (Attkisson)
Eric Holder Reveals Deep State Running Scared – Kevin Shipp (USAW)
Former Spy Details Israel’s Main Motive Behind Recruiting Epstein (Webb)
China Must Buy Crazy Amount Of Farm Goods To Meet Phase One Deal Demand (CNBC)
China Races To Destroy Records On Uighur Muslim Detention Camps (AP)
Boeing Nears Decision On Cutting Or Even Halting 737 MAX Production (CNBC)

 

 

Long overdue.

An Apology to Carter Page (Jonathan Turley)

After he was acquitted in a major fraud trial, former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” The trial was ruinous for Donovan, personally and financially, and the question was a fair one. Donovan, however, at least received a trial. Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has never been given a fair hearing, let alone a trial, to clear his name. As the two political parties spin the results of a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, one matter remains unaddressed. Someone needs to apologize to Page.

I do not know Page and have had only one conversation with him that I can recall. Indeed, my only impression of him was shaped by the image, repeated in endless media segments, of a shady character who was at worst a Russian spy and at best a Russian stooge. Page became the face and focus for the justification of the Russia collusion investigation. His manifest guilt and sinister work in Moscow had to be accepted in order to combat those questioning the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. In other words, his guilt had to be indisputable in order for the Russia collusion investigation to be, so to speak, unimpeachable.

Ultimately, special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion or conspiracy by Trump associates or the campaign with those Russians intervening in the election. However, Horowitz found that the FBI never had any real evidence against Page before beginning its investigation, codenamed Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Soon after the investigation was opened, it became clear that Page had been wrongly accused and was, in fact, working for the CIA, not the Russians. Page himself later said he was working with the CIA, yet the media not only dismissed his claim but was very openly dismissive while portraying him as a bumbling fool.

Read more …

Comey feels sure he’ll get away with it. After all, he’s already left the FBI. But John Durham is still digging.

James Comey Admits He Was Wrong for Defending FBI’s FISA Process (ET)

Former FBI Director James Comey admitted fault following last week’s Justice Department Inspector General’s report that detailed at least 17 serious errors during the launch of the agency’s investigation into Trump’s campaign. Comey had previously defended the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts during the investigation, but Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the FBI’s investigative team made errors and omissions when applying for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz, in a Senate hearing, criticized the “entire chain of command” at the FBI and Justice Department for their failures in handling the warrant. Comey was in charge of the FBI when the investigation was launched.

“He’s right, I was wrong,” Comey told “Fox News Sunday” about how the FBI used the FISA system, adding that “I was overconfident as director in our procedures.” Horowitz said the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference and alleged connections to the Trump campaign was properly initiated, but he said there is a “low threshold” for that to happen. In the report, the inspector general said there was no documentary or testimonial evidence implying that the investigation was started due to political bias. However, when he was prodded about the bias claim during the Senate hearing, Horowitz didn’t rule it out. During a line of questioning, Horowitz replied to Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), “I think it’s fair for people to sit there and look at all of these 17 events and wonder how it could be purely incompetence.” He also said that he “agrees completely” with the assertion that someone at the FBI needs to be fired. The “culture” also needs to be “changed” at the FBI, he told senators.

[..] A number of FBI officials directly involved in preparing and signing the FISA warrants have all either left or been fired from the bureau, including Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. Comey told the news outlet that Steele’s work was “not a huge part of the presentation to the court,” but he noted that “it was the one that convinced the lawyers” to move forward on the warrant. The former FBI chief claimed the Bureau didn’t intentionally commit wrongdoing, but he said there was “real sloppiness” at the FBI. “I was responsible for this,” he said. In 2018, Comey told MSNBC that the FISA process is “incredibly rigorous” and criticized Republicans of the Page FISA warrant for trying to interject politics into the process. And after the IG report was released on Dec. 6, Comey said the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign “was just good people trying to protect America.”

Read more …

The most vilified Nunes was fully “rehabilitated” by Horowitz. He now calls for an intervention on Schiff. He should call for his resignation.

‘You Need Rehabilitation’: Nunes Letter Dismantles Schiff (ZH)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has written perhaps the most brutal ‘I told ya so’ letter in recent memory to Adam Schiff, his Democratic rival and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. After last week’s Inspector General report on FBI FISA abuse revealed Schiff was peddling lies to the American public in a February, 2018 ‘counter-memo’ to Nunes’s now-proven claims, Schiff passed the buck – telling Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday that he was ‘unaware’ of certain things uncovered by the IG – while failing to admit he’s been dead wrong on an ongoing basis about a number of things. Nunes isn’t letting this go.

In a Sunday letter, he reminded Schiff that “The IG’s findings of pervasive, major abuses by the FBI dramatically contradict the assertions of your memo released on February 24, 2018, in which you claimed, “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump Campaign.” Schiff is in clear “need of rehabilitiation,” continues Nunes, adding “I hope this letter will serve as the first step in that vital process.” “Outlining every false claim from your memo would require an extremely long letter,” Nunes continues, who then lists several key claims made by Schiff which ‘the IG report has exposed as false.’

[..] Nunes then calls out Schiff for defending Steele, who peddled his discredited, Clinton-funded dossier to the media six weeks before the 2016 US election. “As you know, your misguided validation of the FISA warrant was part of a years-long pattern in which you touted Christopher Steele’s credentials and reliability,” writes Nunes. “For example, during this committee’s March 20, 2017 open hearing, you claimed Steele “is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence.” and proceeded to read into the congressional record numerous conspiracy theories proffered by Steele, all of which are false.”

Read more …

Who is Schiff to call for witnesses in the Senate? That‘s not his theater. Schiff must resign, like Comey if the latter still could. Schiff now says his endless former claims of “damning evidence” were made before certain facts had come to light.

That means he’s been making it up. That means he’s been lying all along. That means his claims were entirely false. He’s way past his best by date. But he should certainly be called to testify in the Senate. Under oath, which he never was in the House.

Schiff Wants Witnesses, Documents Introduced In Senate Impeachment Trial (CNN)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday said he would like for some witnesses to be called during the expected Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump and for withheld administration documents to be introduced as evidence. “I think there are any number of witnesses that should be called in the Senate trial, and many witnesses the American people would like to hear from that the administration has refused to make available,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.” “And perhaps of equal and if not greater importance are the thousands and thousands of documents that the administration refuses to turn over. I would hope that every senator of both parties would like to see the documentary evidence.”

The California Democrat’s remarks come ahead of an expected House floor vote this week after the House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles of impeachment against the President. The full House vote will set up the Senate trial, for which senators are now gearing up Schiff, who has been mentioned as a possible House impeachment manager, said the potential witnesses he has in mind are ones who have refused to talk to House impeachment investigators: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The layout of the Senate trial is still under deliberation and leaders have been clear that no final decisions about strategy or structure have been made, but in interviews over the last several days, GOP senators say they are beginning to see the benefit of keeping the process short, leaving out witnesses and instead, simply laying out the facts with a presentation from House managers and the White House. “I would urge Mitch McConnell to start negotiating with Chuck Schumer to make sure that those senators have a full record,” Schiff said. “So far Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer have not started discussions about the outlines of the rules that will govern a trial.”

Read more …

The Dems refused for the GOP to call its witnesses in the House. But now is different?

Schumer Wants Mulvaney, Bolton, Others To Testify In Impeachment Trial (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer proposed in a letter released on Sunday that at least four witnesses including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton be subpoenaed to testify in the expected impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. In the letter to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer proposed that Mulvaney and Bolton be subpoenaed for the trial expected in January along with a Mulvaney adviser, Robert Blair, and a budget official, Michael Duffey.


[..] Schumer said the witnesses he proposed had “direct knowledge of Administration decisions” related to the charges. He said he would be open to additional witnesses, and proposed subpoenas be issued for some documents from the administration. A spokesman for McConnell said: “Leader McConnell has made it clear he plans to meet with Leader Schumer to discuss the contours of a trial soon. That timeline has not changed.” McConnell has raised the prospect of conducting a short trial without calling any witnesses.

Read more …

“He is not part of the club. He is not one of us. He can’t be controlled.”

Is A Trap Being Set For Trump In The Senate Trial? (MacKinnon)

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in October, former governor and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley put her finger on the greater issue, saying in part, “President Trump is a disruptor. That makes some people very happy, and it makes some people very mad. … When I was in the administration, I served alongside colleagues who believed the best thing to do for America was to undermine and obstruct the president. Some wrote about it anonymously in The New York Times. Others just did it. They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing. I sincerely believed they weren’t. … No policy disagreement with him … justifies undermining the lawful authority that is vested in his office by the Constitution.”

What’s at stake, Haley said, “is not President Trump’s policies. What’s at stake is the Constitution.” She is correct, but does all of this go beyond Trump being a disruptor? As we have witnessed, Trump is being opposed, called out and undermined through leaks by multiple anonymous and named sources from the “deep state,” his own National Security Council, former White House staff, former and current Pentagon, State Department and diplomatic officials, members of Congress and their staffs, and basically every other agency within the federal government. There appears to be a common thread that runs through all of this opposition and stated hatred: “He is not part of the club. He is not one of us. He can’t be controlled.”

The unrelenting opposition to Trump is not based on the fictional quid pro quo with Ukraine’s president but rather a desperate need by the entrenched establishment from both political parties to maintain the status quo of their all-powerful club — aka part of the “swamp” Trump sought to drain. For Trump to be convicted in a Senate trial, 20 Republican senators would have to join forces with the 47 Democrats. We should not worry about those who openly dislike Trump, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine) or Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); we should worry about those in the purple states, who face tough reelection fights in 2020, and those who have continually criticized and demeaned the president in private.

Read more …

Stating the very very obvious: it’s all been about opinion and interpretation. Not a ground for impeachment.

Democrats Can Read Minds (Attkisson)

Democrats say, what Trump held out as leverage — a quid pro quo — was U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid to Ukraine. They say people died while Ukraine waited for this critical aid, and that it was released only when Trump realized he was in trouble and under investigation. And finally, they say Trump held up a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president until he would commit to announcing an investigation into Biden, in a very public interview with CNN. It’s bribery. Treason. Impeachable. The issue I have is that to prove their points, Democrats require us to believe they can read minds. President Trump said nothing about a quid pro quo during the phone call in question. He didn’t threaten to hold up aid or a White House meeting. But Democrats say that’s exactly what he meant.

President Trump didn’t make any expressions of demands in the call. But Democrats say that’s what he meant. President Trump didn’t mention the 2020 election or political dirt on the call. He spoke of getting to the bottom of any 2016 foreign election interference under the Obama administration, as Democrats and Republicans have pressed him to do. On the call, Trump spoke of his desire for Ukraine to investigate corruption and whether the Bidens may be connected to any of it. This, said Trump, particularly concerned Joe Biden’s public admission that he demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired and threatened to hold up U.S. taxpayer-funded aid unless it happened within hours. (Biden says the prosecutor wasn’t working hard enough to investigate corruption; Biden’s critics say there was a conflict of interest because the prosecutor was investigating the energy company where Biden’s son was paid to sit on the board.)

But Democrats say something different than what was said was actually in President Trump’s mind: He was secretly attempting to impact the 2020 campaign. Trump didn’t mention 2020 but, Democrats say, he meant 2020 in his own mind. Trump didn’t allude to political dirt but, they say, that’s exactly what Trump was thinking about. Some of the Democrats’ witnesses stated that Trump likely wanted Ukraine’s president to publicly announce a corruption investigation to hold his feet to the fire because the Ukrainians have a habit of committing to one thing but doing another. But Democrats insist Trump had something else in his mind: Trump wanted the public announcement to embarrass and use against Biden in the 2020 campaign. The president of Ukraine has publicly stated, and put in writing, that he felt no pressure from President Trump. But Democrats say the opposite is true. After all, they can read minds.

Read more …

“The mainstream media will never come back from this because finally, through shows like this and others, the real information is coming out as to what the mainstream media has done.”

Eric Holder Reveals Deep State Running Scared – Kevin Shipp (USAW)

Former CIA officer and counter-intelligence expert Kevin Shipp says that former Obama Administration Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder gave a big Deep State panic signal when he wrote in an Op-Ed last week in the Washington Post trashing current AG William Barr and his top prosecutor John Durham. Shipp explains:

“This is very significant. We all remember that Holder was Obama’s right hand man. Eric Holder was Barack Obama’s enforcer. The fact that Holder comes out this quickly after the Inspector General (IG) Horowitz Report comes out . . . and makes this veiled threat against Durham’s reputation. The fact that Eric Holder came out and made this statement is a clear indication to me they are running scared. We have to understand it was Eric Holder that Barack Obama used to target the heads of corporations that spoke out publicly about Barack Obama. We know Holder was held in ‘Contempt of Congress.’ He spied on AP reporters, ran guns to drug cartels and blacked out the information. He spied on over a hundred journalists, and on and on we go. . . . They (Deep State) are convinced there are going to be indictments.

Secondly, there is AG Barr’s outrage over (IG) Horowitz’s report and what it did not do. He made statements that there was spying and actions by government officials that need to be criminally looked into. Barr’s outrage over this shows me that there are going to be indictments, and that he is taking this seriously. Again, when Holder comes out and puts out this bombshell in the Washington Post, which is another indication that indictments are coming. John Brennan, former Obama Administration CIA Director, is going to be at the top of the list.” Shipp thinks this will be a big nail in the coffin of the MSM. Shipp says, “The mainstream media will never come back from this because finally, through shows like this and others, the real information is coming out as to what the mainstream media has done. At the top of that list is the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC. . . .

Read more …

Whitney is back.

Former Spy Details Israel’s Main Motive Behind Recruiting Epstein (Webb)

Ben-Menashe revealed his understanding of why Epstein was eventually shepherded into acting as a professional sexual blackmailer on behalf of Israeli military intelligence. Per Ben-Menashe, there were concerns among Israeli intelligence figures that, following the Reagan Era, a new president would push for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, something those officials sought to avoid by any means necessary. Thus, Ben-Menashe argues, when Bill Clinton’s candidacy in the 1992 U.S. Presidential election became clear, efforts were made to target him via sexual blackmail and Jeffrey Epstein was chosen for that purpose. Bill Clinton was eventually blackmailed by the state of Israel and his administration was also targeted by Israeli espionage as part of the “Mega” spy scandal.


Epstein’s involvement in the Clinton administration and his visits to the White House date back to Clinton’s first year in office. In addition, MintPress also asked Ben-Menashe if he was aware of Ghislaine Maxwell being directly involved with her father’s intelligence-related activities prior to his death in 1991. Ben-Menashe noted that Ghislaine accompanied her father so frequently, including on a now-infamous 1989 party on Maxwell’s yacht where Donald Trump and several key figures in the PROMIS software scandal were in attendance, that she was involved in his intelligence-related activities to some extent. However, he stopped short of saying how involved she was or what she has specifically been involved in prior to her father’s death.

Read more …

Too many soybeans?! Can China buy US produce with something else than dollars?

China Must Buy Crazy Amount Of Farm Goods To Meet Phase One Deal Demand (CNBC)

China ramping up agricultural purchases to the level that the U.S. is demanding would be a problem and Beijing would probably only do it if the market situation warranted it, analysts said. Their comments pour skepticism on the farm purchases that are part of the phase one trade deal recently announced by both countries. Calling it a “crazy amount” of agricultural buying with “market distorting powers” on a global scale, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, said: “The ramping up of scale at that speed is going to be problematic.” She told CNBC: “I would be willing to take a bet … that we will be back at this table in relatively short order even if we get a deal, because the ability of the Chinese to actually match those purchases is going to be limited.”

U.S. and Chinese officials announced on Friday that both countries finally reached an agreement after a contentious 18-month trade war. But as part of the deal, U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that China buy more U.S. crops, saying that Beijing will purchase $50 billion worth of agriculture goods “pretty soon.” For his part, he vowed not to pursue a new round of tariffs originally set for the previous Sunday. But Elms warned that the Chinese has been “very cautious” in saying that they would buy according to market conditions and World Trade Organization restrictions. “In other words, there’s a giant red flag that says: ‘even if we promise this … be careful because if the market doesn’t support the purchases at that level, then we may not reach that target,’” she told CNBC on Monday.

That skepticism was echoed by other analysts, who also pointed out that there are limits to the amount of farm goods that China can consume. “Some of this deal rhetoric is really more about politics than reality,” said Mark Jolley, global strategist at CCB International Securities. “There’s been some people who’ve been saying the only way they would be able to meet that commitment is if they start stockpiling food — it’s going be in excess of probably what they need to buy,” he told CNBC. “It’s pretty difficult to see how they can increase the imports beyond the natural levels they have been taking.”

Read more …

A German Muslim football player for UK’s Arsenal, Mesut Özil, spoke out in defence of the Uighurs a few days ago. A livebroad cast of a game in China was cancelled. His team turned on him, afraid to lose business in China.

China Races To Destroy Records On Uighur Muslim Detention Camps (AP)

A Chinese local government is deleting data and destroying documents after classified papers were leaked offering information on its mass detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, according to four people in contact with government employees there. They claimed regional officials in Xinjiang province are also tightening controls on information and have held high-level meetings following the leaks. Top officials deliberated how to respond in meetings at the Chinese Communist Party’s regional headquarters in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, some of the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution against themselves, family members and the government workers.


The meetings began days after The New York Times published last month a cache of internal speeches on Xinjiang by top leaders including Xi Jinping, China’s president. They continued after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists worked with news organisations to publish secret guidelines for operating detention centres and instructions on how to use technology to target people. The Chinese government has long struggled with its 11 million Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic minority native to Xinjiang, a far west province. In recent years, it has detained one million or more Uighurs and other minorities in the camps. Xinjiang officials and the Chinese foreign ministry have not directly denied the authenticity of the documents, though Urumqi Communist Party chief Xu Hairong called reports on the leaks “malicious smears and distortions”.

Read more …

Does anyone at all understand what this involves anymore? One more crash and those who decide to let the plane fly will be accused of manslaughter or worse.

Boeing Nears Decision On Cutting Or Even Halting 737 MAX Production (CNBC)

Boeing could disclose as early as Monday a decision on whether further cut or suspend production of the 737 Max amid continued uncertainty about the beleaguered plane’s return to service, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday The company has repeatedly warned investors that it could cut output of the planes again or temporarily shut down its production line altogether if the flight ban drags on longer than it expected. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has said that suspending production could be “more efficient” than lowering output again.

Boeing, whose board is holding a regularly scheduled meeting in Chicago on Sunday and Monday, cut 737 Max production in April by 20% from 52 aircraft a month to 42 a month in the wake of a second fatal crash of the best-selling plane within five months. Regulators around the world responded to those crashes by grounding the aircraft. Boeing last week acknowledged that regulators aren’t likely to recertify the planes by the end of the year, as the Chicago-based manufacturer had previously forecast. A further cut or a suspension of production would further weigh on Boeing, which is facing a rising bill from the Max’s grounding. The company took a nearly $5 billion after-tax charge in the second quarter to compensate airlines hit by the flight ban.

Boeing’s shifted outlook came after the Federal Aviation Administration publicly admonished Boeing over concerns that the company “continues to pursue a return-to-service schedule that is not realistic due to delays that have accumulated for a variety of reasons,” the agency said in an email to lawmakers on Thursday. “More concerning, the Administrator wants to directly address the perception that some of Boeing’s public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Couple on a bench 1943

 

No no no, I want to do something else, but they won’t let me. There are just too many assumptions, opinions, interpretations and hearsay that linger on in what I see, and I can’t let that just go now that we’ve come so far. Nancy Pelosi just now:

The California congresswoman told Thursday morning’s news conference: “The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own political benefit at the expense of our national security , by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement for an investigation into his political rival.”

No, “the facts are NOT uncontested”. The one Constitutional judge the Dems allowed yesterday that they did not pick, Jonathan Turley, made that abundantly clear. Why “allow” him to speak at all if you’re going to drown him out anyway? Turley also made it very clear that he voted for Obama and Clinton, not the GOP that invited him. He simply doesn’t approve of the process that’s taking place. But he did “contest” the “facts”.

Meanwhile, Jerry Nadler, tag teaming from Adam Schiff as head of the Judiciary Committee said:

The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, said that Trump was the first president to engage in conduct that met all three criteria for impeachment contemplated by the framers of the constitution: abuse of power, betrayal of national security, and interference in the conduct of elections. “Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all the acts that most concerned the framers,” Nadler said. Nadler was echoed by witnesses including Gerhardt. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” Gerhardt said.

Okidoki, let’s take a look. “Abuse of Power”. That’s a very broad stroke, it could mean anything really. What they mean is Trump asked Zelensky to look into – Hillary-linked- Crowdstrike and Joe Biden. And their interpretation of that is that this constitutes asking a foreign government to look into not a past, but a future election. Thing is, where’s the proof? I’ve seen the tape, read the relevant part of the transcript, and it’s not there. One may think or feel it is, but that’s not the same thing.

“Betrayal of National Security”. What they mean here is Trump delaying military aid to Ukraine. But there is no evidence he did that to get Zelensky to start probing Biden. That’s just a story. Moreover, Obama withheld “lethal aid” to Ukraine for a very long time. Where were the Dems shrieking about national security back then? Trump was the one to reverse that policy. It’s upside down world.

“Interference in the conduct of elections”. Really? After Crowdstrike and Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, you sure you want to make this point?

 

More from yesterdays’ “Law experts”:

Prof Feldman testified that the “evidence clearly constitutes” an impeachable offence because Mr Trump’s interactions with Ukraine show him “corruptly using the powers of the presidency for personal political gain”.

Eh, no, they don’t. That’s opinion, not fact. Trump, again, asked Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike and Burisma, because the White House had a hard time figuring out what went on with both. Impeachable? Personal political gain? Both are very much up in the air. Nothing that “clearly constitutes” anything.

Mr Trump has attacked the “safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country”, Prof Gerhardt stated. “The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favour from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” he said in his opening remarks. “If what we’re talking about here is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable,” he added.

Gerhardt introduces, and I betcha he didn’t think of this himself, if only because Pelosi used the same meme today, the idea that Trump wants to be a monarch. They do this because the Framers in 1776 had such worries vis a vis the British crown. In 2019, though, it’s a ridiculous notion. But they use it because Trump may one day want to crown himself. No kidding.

Prof Turley, who was chosen as a witness by Republicans, said he disagreed with Mr Trump’s conduct but “this is not how an American president should be impeached”. He also warned that Democrats are setting a dangerous precedent. “I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad….” he said. “We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?”


[..] Jonathan Turley, picked by the Republicans, acknowledged that the president’s actions were far from “perfect,” but lamented the anger in American politics and warned that action in this case would dangerously lower the bar for impeachable conduct for future presidents.

There’s your contest to what Pelosi said is “uncontested”. The sole voice of reason, outnumbered 3 to 1, by design. Designed so that Pelosi can claim something is “uncontested”. And there’s still more Pelosi, and lo and behold, it involved Putin:

Pelosi Says Impeachment Inquiry Is About Russia, Not Ukraine

Asked by a reporter whether there was an “aha” moment when she decided to back impeachment, Nancy Pelosi said the decision has been slowly building for more than two years — since the start of the Russia investigation. This is a noteworthy comment because some Republicans have argued the inquiry is moving far too quickly, an opinion echoed yesterday by a legal witness called by the House minority yesterday. “This isn’t about Ukraine; this is about Russia, who benefitted from the withholding of that military assistance,” Pelosi said. She then added her oft-repeated line about the investigation, “All roads lead to Putin.”

I was going to get into the insane RussiaRussia rant by Democrat donor “law expert” Pamela Karlan, but let it go, it’s plenty obvious by now who these people are.

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

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

 

Just one last thing, the final nail in Joe Biden’s coffin, who I never thought Trump was worried about in the least, but that’s the Ukraine story don’t you know, is John Kerry now endorses him. Please John, don’t, you’re going to kill me! There’s not enough people who like ketchup that much! Let alone Hillary!

“I’m not endorsing Joe because I’ve known him a long time. I’m endorsing him because I know him so well,” Kerry told the Washington Post. “The world is broken. Our politics are broken. The country faces extraordinary challenges. “And I believe very deeply that Joe Biden’s character, his ability to persevere, his decency and the experiences that he brings to the table are critical to the moment. The world has to be put back together, the world that Donald Trump has smashed apart.”


Kerry specifically cited Trump’s performance this week at the Nato summit in London as a reason why the country needed Biden. “The petulance and smallness and ridicule that he invited is very dangerous for all of us,” Kerry said. “And that just underscores the urgency of people recognizing the assets that Joe Biden brings to the table.”

There’s so much more I could write here about the “experts” paraded in front of a TV audience yesterday -and last week-, and about all the things they said that were not legal facts but their personal opinions, but I’m not trying to write a book here, just an essay, and I should be able to trust people’s intelligence on this, right? And I can be skeptical of anything and everything without being painted into a corner, right? Turley is not alone?!

 

 

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Dec 042019
 
 December 4, 2019  Posted by at 9:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Oregon or Bust, family fleeing South Dakota drought Jul 1936

 

‘Rumblings’ From Democrats On Censuring Trump Instead Of Impeachment (Hill)
Democrats Accuse Trump Of Abusing Power, Obstructing Impeachment Probe (R.)
Trump Unloads On ‘Maniac’ Adam Schiff: ‘He’s A Deranged Human Being’ (Fox)
Nunes Sues CNN Over ‘Demonstrably False’ Ukraine Report (York)
Durham Needs to Bring Indictments (Farrell)
Trump Says Barr Was Misquoted Regarding Horowitz (SAC)
Trump Was Right Before He Was Wrong: NATO Should Be Obsolete (CD)
Hillary Clinton Still Refuses To Rule Out Running For President (PJW)
China Steps In As Conglomerate Unravels (WS)
Investors Urge Big Oil To Follow ‘Poster Child’ Repsol’s Climate Pledge (R.)
Tackling Degraded Oceans Could Mitigate Climate Crisis (G.)

 

 

Lots of US politics today. It feels inevitable.

First, the way, the seeming certainty, with which the Dems issued their report yesterday, does not rhyme with the move from impeachment to censure. If the “evidence” were as strong as they claim it is, we would not be where we are today. The Dems would not ponder ‘only’ censure, and the GOP would not be united.

‘Rumblings’ From Democrats On Censuring Trump Instead Of Impeachment (Hill)

CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga said Tuesday that she’s hearing “rumblings” within the Democratic caucus that perhaps the party “should just go with censure” instead of trying to impeach President Trump. “You’re now hearing rumblings within, Democrats saying, ‘Maybe we should just go with censure,’ or not really knowing how to move forward on this given where the president is and given where Republicans are,” said Golodryga, who joined CNN after stints with ABC, CBS and Yahoo News. She pointed out that two weeks of public testimony on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine “did not move at all” the positions of Republicans ranging from moderates such as Rep. Will Hurd (Texas) to more vocal Trump defenders such as Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).


“They said that they do not believe anything the president did was impeachable and, in fact, they seem to be protecting the president more than they were prior to these two weeks,” she said. Polls in 2020 battleground states indicate that voters aren’t fully sold on House Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Surveys taken in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin show an average of 51 percent opposing impeachment and 44 percent supporting it, according to a Tuesday Washington Post story.

Read more …

The probe so far has been clearly a partisan one, and that should never happen. What we’ve seen is opinions and interpretations, not facts.

Democrats Accuse Trump Of Abusing Power, Obstructing Impeachment Probe (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump solicited foreign interference to boost his re-election chances, undermined national security and ordered an “unprecedented” campaign to obstruct Congress, Democrats said on Tuesday in a report that lawmakers will use as the basis of any formal impeachment charges. In the 300-page report, Democrats leading the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee leveled allegations of sweeping abuse of power by Trump, saying he used U.S. military aid and the prospect of a White House visit to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to undertake investigations that would benefit Trump politically. Republican Trump, who will stand for re-election in November 2020, denies any wrongdoing and calls the inquiry a hoax.

The heart of the impeachment probe is whether Trump misused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election. The public release of the report is a milestone in a weeks-long investigation into whether Trump should be removed from office over his dealings on Ukraine. It summarizes hours of private testimony and televised hearings in which former government officials described a months-long effort to pressure Ukraine to carry out the investigations sought by Trump in July.

The report’s completions hands the process over to the House Judiciary Committee, which will now be responsible for drafting actual articles of impeachment should lawmakers decide to move forward. That panel will begin proceedings on Wednesday. In the report, Democrats detail accusations that Trump obstructed their investigation, including refusing to provide documents and testimony from his top advisers, unsuccessful attempts to block career government officials from testifying and intimidation of witnesses. The Democrats argue that “damage … will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the President’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.”

Making their case to move forward with impeachment, the report said that “any future President will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.” In a news conference, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff described Trump as a “president who believes that he is beyond indictment, beyond impeachment, beyond any form of accountability and indeed above the law.”

Read more …

Gloves off.

Trump Unloads On ‘Maniac’ Adam Schiff: ‘He’s A Deranged Human Being’ (Fox)

President Trump tore into Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in harsh terms on Tuesday, taking a moment from his overseas tour in London to call the House Intelligence Committee chairman a “maniac” and a “deranged human being” over his handling of the impeachment inquiry. Trump was speaking to reporters alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of a NATO summit, when he was asked what he would hope to learn from having Schiff testify in a possible Senate impeachment trial – a scenario some Republicans would like to see. “I learn nothing from Adam Schiff, I think he’s a maniac,” Trump said. “I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man, and he lies.”

The comments demonstrated how the impeachment fight has followed Trump even as he meets with world leaders in London on issues ranging from defense spending to ISIS. Trump focused Tuesday on a controversial move by Schiff in September, where he read out a hyperbolic account of Trump’s controversial July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I have a favor I want from you,” Schiff said in a hearing while appearing to read from a piece of paper. “And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.” Schiff later chalked up his fictional summary of the phone call to a joke as he came under fire from conservatives for making up quotes.

“My summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least, part, in parody,” Schiff said. “The fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times.’ My point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.” Trump has repeatedly criticized Schiff for the move. “This guy is sick,” he said on Tuesday. “If he didn’t do that in the halls of Congress, he’d be thrown in jail.”

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“..a $435 million defamation suit ..” Wonder what CNN’s defense will be.

Nunes Sues CNN Over ‘Demonstrably False’ Ukraine Report (York)

Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has filed a $435 million defamation suit against CNN over a story that alleged Nunes met with a fired Ukrainian prosecutor in an effort to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The story — “Giuliani associate willing to tell Congress Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official to get dirt on Biden” — was published Nov. 22. It was based on the words of Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas, who worked closely with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in pursuing allegations of Ukrainian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election as well as allegations of corruption in Ukraine involving Biden’s son Hunter. Parnas is currently under indictment on campaign finance charges.

CNN reported that Bondy said Parnas was “willing to tell Congress” that in December 2018, Nunes traveled to Vienna to meet with Viktor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor who was famously fired in 2016 under pressure from the United States, represented by Biden, who said Shokin did not do enough to prosecute corruption in Ukraine. CNN cited congressional travel records showing Nunes and a few aides traveled to Europe between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, 2018. Quoting Bondy, the CNN report said, “Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December.” Shortly after the report was published, Nunes said it was “demonstrably false” but declined to elaborate. In the lawsuit, Nunes has provided the details.

Nunes did travel between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3. The lawsuit says that on those dates, Nunes was in Libya and Malta. Nunes traveled to Libya to “discuss security issues with General Khalifa Haftar,” the suit says. In Malta, Nunes “met with U.S. and Maltese officials, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and participated in a repatriation ceremony for the remains of an American World War II soldier missing in action,” according to the suit. The lawsuit provides photos of Nunes with Haftar, with Muscat, and at the repatriation ceremony. “[Nunes] was not in Vienna in December 2018,” the suit says. “Further, he has never met Shokin; never spoken to Shokin; and never communicated with Shokin.”

Read more …

Chris Farrell is a former counterintelligence case officer.

“The alternative to a purely domestic intelligence operation targeting a major political party’s candidate for the presidency (and later, president) was to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence (FCI) “threat” that could then be “imported” back into the United States.”

Durham Needs to Bring Indictments (Farrell)

The seditious coup plotters working against Trump knew the legal prohibitions on what they planned to do. How to target Trump & Co. in a “legal” manner? Was it possible, or more importantly, desirable, to have a legal finding from Attorney General Loretta Lynch justifying their plan to frame-up Trump & Co.? That would authorize their operation — but would Lynch support it? Could Lynch be counted on? Did they want a piece of paper like that floating around Washington D.C.? No, there had to be a better way to pull off the coup. The alternative to a purely domestic intelligence operation targeting a major political party’s candidate for the presidency (and later, president) was to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence (FCI) “threat” that could then be “imported” back into the United States.

Plausible deniability, the Holy Grail of covert activities, was in reach for the plotters if they could develop an FCI operation outside the continental United States (OCONUS) involving FBI confidential human sources (Halper, Mifsud, others?) that would act as “lures” (intelligence jargon associated with double agent operations) to ensnare Trump associates. We have evidence of these machinations from December 2015 when FBI lawyer Lisa Page texts to her boyfriend, the now infamous FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, “You get all our oconus lures approved? ;).” To inoculate themselves from further charges of misconduct and criminality, the FBI’s mutually agreed upon lie is that their investigation of Trump/Russia began on July 31, 2016 with the improbable name “Crossfire Hurricane.”

That coincides nicely with their manufactured FCI “event,” allowing the full-bore sabotage of all things and persons “Trump.” The coup plotters used a July 2016 event at the University of Cambridge as the opportunity for Carter Page to meet and develop a friendship with Stefan Halper. This is roughly the same time period that Australian diplomat Alexander Downer reported the supposedly drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos concerning the Russians having Hillary’s emails to the FBI. Papadopoulos had already serendipitously met the mysterious Joseph Mifsud in Rome during the second week of March 2016. Learning that Papadopoulos would be joining the Trump campaign, Mifsud let Papadopoulos know that he had many important connections with Russian government officials.

Read more …

Why did the FBO fire Strzok? And how does that make Lisa Page’s claims look?

Trump Says Barr Was Misquoted Regarding Horowitz (SAC)

A recent report by the New York Times said former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith altered documents associated with the FISA application on Carter Page. The paper described Clinesmith as a low-level lawyer with the bureau and suggested that Horowitz won’t be hard the bureau’s handling of the case. The description of Clinesmith as a low-level lawyer is also in dispute, as Clinesmith was part of former Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into Trump and he was an attorney with the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch. He also worked under FBI General Counsel James Baker, who left the FBI and is now under investigation for leaking national security related information. Clinesmith, who sent numerous anti-Trump texts, also worked for Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson.

On Sunday, former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page, whose name became national after reports revealed she was having an affair with FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, spoke to the Daily Beast after years of silence. She said she had to speak out because Trump made her a target of his Tweets and speeches. The FBI fired Strzok last year and Page has since left the bureau. Strzok and Page sent thousands of text messages to one another during their affair. Many of the text messages discovered by Horowitz and Congress were vehemently anti-Trump. The discovery of the texts led to their removal from Mueller’s investigation.

Here’s some texts: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Page only told Molly Jong-Fast, also anti-Trump and a columnist from the Daily Beast, that people misunderstood their text messages but she never clarified what she and Strzok actually meant.

Read more …

“NATO is a Cold War relic that accounts for three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing around the globe.”

Frank Zappa: “Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex”

Trump Was Right Before He Was Wrong: NATO Should Be Obsolete (CD)

The three smartest words that Donald Trump uttered during his presidential campaign are “NATO is obsolete.” His adversary, Hillary Clinton, retorted that NATO was “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world.” Now that Trump has been in power, the White House parrots the same worn line that NATO is “the most successful Alliance in history, guaranteeing the security, prosperity, and freedom of its members.” But Trump was right the first time around: Rather than being a strong alliance with a clear purpose, this 70-year-old organization that is meeting in London on December 4 is a stale military holdover from the Cold War days that should have gracefully retired many years ago.

[..] While claiming to “preserve peace,” NATO has a history of bombing civilians and committing war crimes. In 1999, NATO engaged in military operations without UN approval in Yugoslavia. Its illegal airstrikes during the Kosovo War left hundreds of civilians dead. And far from the “North Atlantic,” NATO joined the United States in invading Afghanistan in 2001, where it is still bogged down two decades later. In 2011, NATO forces illegally invaded Libya, creating a failed state that caused masses of people to flee. Rather than take responsibility for these refugees, NATO countries have turned back desperate migrants on the Mediterranean Sea, letting thousands die.

[..] In an age where people around the world want to avoid war and to focus instead on the climate chaos that threatens future life on earth, NATO is an anachronism. It now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing around the globe. Instead of preventing war, it promotes militarism, exacerbates global tensions and makes war more likely. This Cold War relic shouldn’t be reconfigured to maintain U.S. domination in Europe, or to mobilize against Russia or China, or to launch new wars in space. It should not be expanded, but disbanded. Seventy years of militarism is more than enough.

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Her people are polling like crazy, and they don’t like what they see so far.

Hillary Clinton Still Refuses To Rule Out Running For President (PJW)

Hillary Clinton is still refusing to rule out running for president despite already missing the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary. During an appearance on Britain’s Graham Norton Show, Clinton was again asked about her presidential aspirations. Clinton was quizzed as to why she included a story about a U.S. women’s soccer star who retired on the tagline “forget me.” Hillary said the intention of the words were to “make way for new people” and “get off the stage.” However, when asked by Norton, “Are you saying ‘Forget me’ now?” – Hillary responded, “Not yet.” She then said she was aware of the presidential rumor mill and had been “deluged” with questions about running again.


“Right now, I’m not, at all, uh, you know, planning that, I’d have to make up my mind really quickly,” she said, “because it’s moving very fast.” Back in October, long time Clinton advisor Dick Morris insisted that Hillary will become the Democratic nominee because she believes “she was put on Earth to be President.” “Make no mistake. She wants it,” said Morris. “She’s planning on it. She’ll do everything she can to achieve it.” Earlier that month, Clinton teased another presidential run, despite having already failed twice, telling PBS Newshour, “Obviously I can beat him again.” She also fanned the flames of speculation when she tweeted at Trump, “Don’t tempt me.”

Read more …

“..the Chinese government has been stepping in and pulling all kinds of levers, with huge sums involved, to bail out the airlines and assorted investors, moral hazard be damned.”

China Steps In As Conglomerate Unravels (WS)

HNA Group, the highly-leverage Chinese conglomerate with an opaque ownership structure that had gone on an immense debt-fueled global acquisition binge, including in the US, and owned about 18 airlines in China and Hong Kong, has been unraveling ever since Bank of American pulled the ripcord in mid-2017. But to prevent this unraveling from becoming too messy and to prevent the airlines from collapsing on top of the markets they serve, and to prevent investors and lenders from getting whacked by massive and well-deserved losses – well-deserved because they had been backing a nutty global acquisition binge – the Chinese government has been stepping in and pulling all kinds of levers, with huge sums involved, to bail out the airlines and assorted investors, moral hazard be damned.

The latest is HNA-controlled Hong Kong Airlines, the city’s third largest airline. The bailout is unfolding right now, amid uncertainties if it will actually unfold, and how much of the bailout money HNA Holdings, the parent company of multiple to-be-bailed-out airlines, will even channel to Hong Kong Airlines. The debt-fueled binge by HNA Group bagged 30 acquisitions in the two-year span between mid-2015 and May 2017, including large real estate deals, such as the $2.2 billion trophy office tower in Manhattan, a 25% stake in Hilton Hotels, a deviously obtained 9.9% stake in Deutsche Bank, the $6 billion acquisition of Ingram Micro in California, and forays into global aircraft leasing and global airport services. In addition, HNA Group owned outright or controlled 18 airlines mostly in China and Hong Kong before it all began to unravel.

Financial pressures began in 2017. In 2018, as the company began to run out of money, it started dumping some of its acquisitions to raise cash, including big batches of its stake in Deutsche Bank, office properties in Manhattan and in London, but that wasn’t enough. It’s never enough once a conglomerate starts unraveling because there is too much debt. Rather than allowing this monster to collapse and then sort through the debris, the Chinese government has stepped with series of bailout via its state-owned banking system, and has been restructuring the debts, and has been transferring ownership of bailed-out airlines to participating local governments, including Urumqi Air, Capital Airlines, and Guangxi Beibu Gulf Airlines.

Read more …

Zero emission oil companies. Reminds me of that trick where the lady is sawed in half.

According to EIA, so far in 2019:
– About 94% of the energy used in the transportation sector was petroleum (including natural gas)
– About 0.094% was electricity (despite the sharp increase in sales of #ElectricVehicles)

Investors Urge Big Oil To Follow ‘Poster Child’ Repsol’s Climate Pledge (R.)

Investors cheered Spanish group Repsol’s pledge to slash net carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, saying they hope it will pile pressure on rival oil and gas companies to follow suit in the fight against climate change. The world’s top oil and gas companies are under heavy pressure, not only from environmental groups but also from institutional investors, to fall in line with targets set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global warming. Repsol on Monday became the first leading energy firm to commit to a net-zero emission target, outdoing Royal Dutch Shell that had set out an ambition to halve emissions by 2050.

“It is clear that this is a very significant commitment from Repsol that raises the bar across the oil and gas sector,” said Adam Matthews, Director for Ethics and Engagement at the Church of England Pensions Board, who co-led discussion between a major group of investors with Shell on a climate resolution last year. Several companies set short-term targets to reduce emissions by limiting gas leaks and burning of excess gas, but none have set out long-term reduction targets before Repsol. “We have been pressing fossil fuel companies to commit to align with a net zero emissions pathway by 2050 for some time. It is good to see Repsol showing this leadership, including clear milestones along the way,” said Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship, Sarasin & Partners. “In the end, shareholders need to know their companies are looking forward, not back, when it comes to the energy transition.”

[..] Repsol’s targets encompass 95% of all its emissions, including from fuels sold to clients. It also wrote down 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) in the value of its oil and gas assets to reflect its lower oil and gas price outlook. Net-zero targets are generally expected to be achieved by offsetting emissions through investments in carbon storage technology or in natural sinks such as forests. Companies are also increasing production of natural gas, the least polluting fossil fuel, as well as renewable power such as solar and wind, whose consumption is expected to jump in coming decades as demand for electricity grows.

Read more …

So we could and would keep killing everything in the oceans if not for the climate? I don’t like the reasoning nor the priorities. We should stop the killing for the oceans’ sake, not our own narrow ones. We should learn to like beauty.

Tackling Degraded Oceans Could Mitigate Climate Crisis (G.)

Halting overfishing and the plastic pollution of the oceans could help tackle the climate emergency by improving the degraded state of the world’s biggest carbon sink, a report has found. The oceans absorb both the excess heat generated by our greenhouse gas emissions, and absorb carbon dioxide itself, helping to reduce the impacts of climate chaos. But we are rapidly reaching the limits of the oceans’ absorptive capacity as our pillage of marine life is disrupting vital ecosystems and the natural carbon cycle. Creating ocean sanctuaries and forging a new treaty to protect the oceans, with a target of safeguarding at least 30% of the oceans by 2030, could restore many areas to health and combat global heating, according to the report entitled Hot Water: the climate crisis and the urgent need for ocean protection, published by Greenpeace International on Wednesday.

Phytoplankton such as algae, for instance, transform dissolved carbon dioxide into organic carbon, which then forms part of the food chain. Gradually some of this sinks to the sea bottom where it is buried in sediment. Without the biological carbon pump that this entails concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere today would be about 50% higher, according to estimates cited in the report. Krill – a species of small fish – also form a vital part of the carbon cycle in the seas as they move through levels of the ocean, and play a big role in the diet of larger species. But krill populations have been in long-term decline since the 1970s due to pollution, overfishing and climate change.

Marine life at the other end of the scale also plays an important role. Large baleen whales are estimated to store 910m tonnes less carbon than they did before commercial whaling began, Greenpeace noted, while working to rebuild key whale populations would remove 160,000 tonnes of carbon every year. “The ocean’s biology is one of our best allies in the fight against climate change,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “But over-exploitation and our addiction to fossil fuels have pushed our ocean to the brink of collapse. Ocean protection is climate action – if we can save our ocean, it can save us.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Nov 232019
 
 November 23, 2019  Posted by at 2:14 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Salvador Dali Back the girl 1926

 

It wouldn’t be the first time we ask ourselves what American journalism has come to, but that question sure appears relevant today. There are again new accusations floating around about Trump. And of course we are all weary by now, after the Russiagate bomb and the Ukraine fizzle, but okay, let’s take a look.

There is a newfangled poetically named “ethics watchdog” named American Oversight, which has received some documents after a FOIA request. And everybody’s talking about it! So it must be real interesting, right? The word bombshell comes to mind. Or at least, the minds of much of the press. There’s the BBC:

The US State Department has released records relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine. Documents were released to the ethics watchdog American Oversight after a freedom of information request. The records show repeated contacts between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. US ties with Ukraine are at the centre of an impeachment investigation against Mr Trump.

The president is accused of withholding aid to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress to pressure the country into investigating his political rival Joe Biden. Mr Giuliani has been accused of trying to discredit former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while running a shadow US foreign policy on Ukraine. There have been questions over what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo knew.

The records show Mr Pompeo and Mr Giuliani repeatedly spoke to one another – although the topics of those conversations remain unknown. Emails among the documents suggest the pair spoke on the phone on 27 and 29 March.

And the Guardian:

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was in contact with secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the months before the US ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly recalled, according to a cache of documents released on Friday. The state department released the documents to the group American Oversight in response to a freedom of information lawsuit. They show that Pompeo talked with Giuliani on 26 March and 29 March.


Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said the documents reveal a clear paper trail from Giuliani to Trump to Pompeo in order to enable the smear campaign against the now ousted envoy in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch. “We can see why Mike Pompeo has refused to release this information to Congress. It reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a US ambassador,” he said.

As well as NBC:

The allegations of a pressure campaign by Trump to get the Ukrainians to announce investigations into a conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election and the Bidens are central to the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused the power of his office for personal political gain.

The documents released Friday appear to confirm that Pompeo and Giuliani spoke on the phone on March 26, and that another call was scheduled between the two men for March 29 and that it took place. One email appears to show Trump’s former personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, helping to connect Giuliani to Pompeo after there was trouble establishing a connection.

The documents do not say what Giuliani and Pompeo discussed. The March 29 call was scheduled for 20 minutes but lasted just four minutes, according to the documents, and the March 26 call was also just minutes long, the emails show.

When I first saw this all this morning I thought: let it go, and I’m thinking just that again right now. Look, Pompeo and Giuliani talking to each other for just minutes (and to their boss!) is hardly a crime. Unless they talk about committing crimes, but you don’t even know what was discussed! That a group which calls itself nonpartisan connects these calls to Giuliani’s alleged smear campaign against Yovanovich is a bit more puzzling.

Because a president doesn’t need any reason to fire an ambassador. He gets the permission to do that the moment he’s first elected and then inaugurated. He doesn’t have to explain. Getting Giuliani in there doesn’t look like Trump’s best moment, but it’s inconsequential from a legal point of view.

Another allegation that’s being repeated is that Giuliani et al were looking to dig up dirt against Joe Biden and his family, with an eye to the 2020 election. But, again, is that so? Wasn’t perhaps finding out what the most corrupt company in the world’s third-most corrupt country, which receives billions in US aid, was up to in 2016, or today for that matter, the real intention?

Why should we believe it was about 2020, and not 2016? Are there perhaps American interests who don’t want Burisma investigated? And are they perhaps behind the accusation that links that investigation to 2020, so there won’t be an investigation? Shouldn’t we all want to find out what went on?

 

Another story connected to this is that Minority House Leader David Nunes in Vienna met with Victor Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor who was fired mere hours after Joe Biden demanded he be. Moon of Alabama asked earlier today on Twitter if anyone has ever seen evidence that Shokin was corrupt, as Biden and others have claimed. I come up empty on that one. Here’s NBC on Nunes’s trip:

The attorney for an indicted associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer says his client is willing to tell Congress that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, met with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor about investigating the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

An impeachment inquiry is being conducted over allegations Trump held up aid to Ukraine to encourage its leaders to launch an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked as an energy executive in that country. As vice president, Joe Biden joined a chorus of global pressure for Ukraine to fire then-state prosecutor Victor Shokin.

Trump and Nunes, his chief defender as a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee that has taken a lead role in the impeachment inquiry, say Joe Biden wanted Shokin out to protect his son when Hunter Biden’s employer, Burisma, was under suspicion. Shokin himself claims he was fired at the behest of the former vice president to ease pressure on Burisma and Hunter Biden.

Joseph A. Bondy, an attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed that his client was willing to testify before Congress that Nunes met with Shokin. “I can confirm that Victor Shokin told Lev Parnas that he had met with Nunes in Vienna in late 2018, and that Derek Harvey informed that they were investigating the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden related to Burisma,” Bondy told NBC News. Derek Harvey is Nunes’ investigator.

There are a lot of people out there who don’t like Devin Nunes. Which is fine. But claiming that he committed a crime or something in that vein just by talking, with his investigator, to Shokin about Burisma, that’s a whole other thing.

This entire topic appears to be founded on an idea that many people have convinced themselves and others of, that the Trump administration doesn’t have the right to investigate what happened in the past, because it might affect the future. It would seem they DO have that right, though.

It would also seem that they couldn’t rely on existing diplomatic staff in Ukraine and Europe to investigate Burisma. Schiff’s impeachment witnesses made that abundantly clear. So if they do investigate on their own, are they breaking laws, or are they merely breaking a protocol that suits some people just fine?

American Oversight has promised much more: “The evidence is only going to get worse for the administration as its stonewall strategy collapses in the face of court orders..”. Alright, fine, let’s see it. But it had better be better than this. You have to come with facts. Certainly after two failed investigations.

“Giuliani talked to Pompeo” may be a fact, but if you have no idea what they talked about, it’s a useless fact, that at most you can use to whip up more empty frenzy. And we know, it’s clickbait, and it sells papers and TV ads, but really, what are we watching, what has American journalism come to? What happened to finding evidence first, and reporting on it after?

 

 

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Nov 222019
 
 November 22, 2019  Posted by at 2:24 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Claude Monet O Rio 1881

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party presented a big plan yesterday which, as the Guardian ever so subtly put it, “would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany”. My first reaction to it is that this is inevitable. My second reaction is that it is also too early.

After decades of being squeezed by both the Tories and Tony Blair’s “New” Labour, both the British themselves, and their economy, are so parched that they will vote for something like Corbyn’s plan at some point. Unavoidable. The same on all counts I think is true for Bernie Sanders’ plans.

The wealthier classes don’t appear to be smart enough to understand that they can’t take it all, that they have to leave something for everybody else. But there’s no brake on such currents, they all get carried away, it happens all the time. One side takes too much, and the other side fights back.

Still, while what leads to Corbyn and Sanders rising may be the same, the reasons they fail to attract enough votes is different. In the US, people start shouting: socialism, communism, or maoism, leninism, stalinism, and that will do. These words are fully interchangeable for 99.9% of Americans. If there are 3 of them left that know the difference, you’re lucky.

The reason Sanders is popular is to a large extent that his Democrat competitors are so godawful. For Corbyn, there are other factors in play. But first, a bit about that plan:

Jeremy Corbyn Urges Public To Vote For ‘Manifesto Of Hope’

Jeremy Corbyn has urged the public to vote for his “manifesto of hope” as he unveiled plans for the most dramatic increase in tax and spending in more than half a century if Labour wins power next month’s general election. In an upbeat launch event at Birmingham City University, the Labour leader said he welcomed the hostility of the billionaires, bad bosses and dodgy landlords who would lose out from his policies. Experts were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s spending plans, which dwarfed the substantial increase in the size of the state envisaged in the party’s 2017 manifesto.

“See this [2019] manifesto and vote for the person who’s struggling who you don’t even know,” Corbyn urged the public, adding: “How can any government claim it cares about our country when it cares so little about the people who live here?” With Labour still trailing significantly behind the Conservatives in the polls, party strategists hope the manifesto will help to tempt wavering voters. Corbyn said it was “full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation”. The slim red volume, titled It’s Time for Real Change, included a number of fresh announcements, in addition to the policies announced earlier in the campaign. Key plans include:

• Universal free broadband, delivered by part-nationalising BT and paid for with a tax on tech companies.
• An immediate 5% pay rise for public sector workers, plus above-inflation increases for future years.
• 100,000 new council houses a year by the end of the parliament.
• 1 million new jobs as part of a “green industrial revolution”.
• Nationalisation of rail, water and mail, and new powers to allow councils to take control of bus services.

Corbyn promised an “investment blitz”, which he said would leave no part of the country untouched, and suggested the deindustrialisation that begun in the 1980s would be reversed. “Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out huge swathes of Britain’s industry. We will rebuild it, as green industry,” he said. Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “This spending increase would be comparable to the first Wilson government and would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany.”

As the graph shows, the “giant state” idea is not what it’s made out to be, compared to many countries. So on the face of it, what’s not to like for the impoverished millions in Britain? The answer is easy: there has been a large campaign of people perpetuating whole-cloth out of thin air accusations about Corbyn being an anti-semite, including from his own party (Tony Blair and his ilk).

Sure enough, the Brexit campaigners have gone through an entire litany of outrageous claims and promises, but it’s the anti-semite smear that looks likely to decide not only the December 12 elections, but also the Brexit matter. Yeah, that is deplorable. But it’s the time we live in. Some memes are funny, others are seriously misleading, and many strongly influence people’s way of thinking.

In the US, it’s enough to say that Bernie is a socialist or a leninist, in Britain you need a somewhat stronger and bigger cannon. Anti-semitism in just the thing. What makes these smears and/or memes so effective is repetition. At some point people think: I’ve seen this from ten different sources now, that means it must be true. And social media are all about endless repetition, which makes them perfect for the job.

 

That is of course also how they got to Julian Assange. A rape allegation was all it took. And then they waited 9 years to declare it false, by which point he had been silenced, drawn and quartered. Same mechanism. Jeremy Corbyn is no anti-semite, anymore than Julian Assange is a rapist, but that makes no difference whatsoever.

If you manage to plant the seed of an idea, no matter how ridiculous, in enough people’s heads, and then you make sure it’s repeated every day, you can today make anyone believe anything. Perhaps it’s time to re-label “social” media. Really, social? But the term “mass media” has already been taken.

 

And though many people will not be ready to acknowledge it, what goes for Corbyn and Assange also goes for Donald Trump. Only in his case the old mass media have been much more massively involved, not just the new not-so-terribly social media. But that principle is identical: plant an idea in people’s heads and repeat it ad nauseam.

In Trump’s case, it’s been so successful that entire media organizations that were about to croak were revived by it, at least financially. At this point it’s probably good to illuminate the role intelligence agencies play in the entire meme/smear ‘politics’. They are all over it, they hardly even attempt to hide their roles.

In the cases of Assange and Corbyn, there have been no large-scale investigations. In Corbyn’s case, none at all, and in Assange’s case, probes hidden from view that would not stand any legal daylight, in Sweden, the UK and the US. These investigations always seem directed at ‘affirming the accusers’ case, not at finding if the accused are actually guilty of what they are charged with.

As for Trump, we have of course lived through years of Mueller’s probe, which ended in nothing, seamlessly transitioning into Ukrainegate, in which another stream of potential accusers saw the limelight to provide their particular version of what “hearsay” means in legalese.

I’ve remarked before that Adam Schiff’s little theater wouldn have been throw out of a court in one second flat, because there is no proof and hearsay is inadmissible. I also think Corbyn should have taken one of his many accusers to court, simply to have a judge or jury state publicly that he is not a -proven- anti-semite. Assange obviously was never allowed any such route.

And if you looked and listened closely at the Ukrainegate spectacle, it was clear that the Mueller disaster has not closed the RussiaRussia meme/smear. Russia wants to conquer Europe. The president wanting to direct his own foreign policy was anathema for the “regular channel” crowd. “We have this thing that works beautifully”. And it ain’t the Constitution.

 

What Trump has going for him is that IG Michael Horowitz and Special Counsel John Durham are set to release their respective reports on how Russiagate came about. It looks as if they will have to do without any info of Burisma or its links to the Bidens, because the “regular channel” has frustrated efforts into finding out their roles, but then that was never their probes’ concern.

We now have the first allegation against an FBI lawyer for tampering with FISA documents, through the unusual leakage stream of CNN, which happens to employ lots of ex-FBI people. There is no doubt that we’ll see a whole lot more where that came from. It’ll be an entertaining holiday season, because of course the FBI and CIA will want to (pre-emptively) strike back. And they’re all working at CNN et al.

Their problem is they’ve been working this for years now, and came up zilch. The other side is just getting started. Looks like there’ll be more fireworks than candlelight dinners going into 2020. But perhaps it would still be a good idea for Bill Barr to find himself a good meme or smear, just to be sure.

 

 

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Nov 202019
 
 November 20, 2019  Posted by at 7:35 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The resurrection of Christ 1639

 

Man, I don’t want to do this but I get drawn back in all the time. I haven’t followed the latest episode of the Schiffwives of DC live today, I wasn’t behind my laptop, but I did make a bunch of notes on my phone and mailed them to myself. And all the time I’m thinking: we do remember how this all started, don’t we?

Ukrainegate got started on the premise that Trump wanted to hurt Joe Biden for the 2020 election. But what we see today from Gordon Sondland, and before from Taylor, Volker, Vindman, et al, goes back to spring/summer 2019, a year and a half before the election. Isn’t that premise at least a little bit flimsy, then?

Yeah, Joe Biden was leading in the Dems polls earlier this year, but there are now 28 candidates if I’m not mistaken, and Biden is not shoe-in for the nomination. So is Trump playing the same kinds of games he’s accused of playing with Biden with a handful of others, Bernie, Warren, Buttigieg? How much of this makes sense to you?

Tyler Durden earlier today said something to the effect that Sondland was supposed to be the BIG ONE, but that Taylor, Volker, Vindman were previously going to be just that as well, and turned out not to be. And that reminded me of Russiagate, in which every week or even day there were announcements of this is the BIG ONE, and we all know where that went: Robert Mueller turned out to be America’s biggest loser in decades.

So isn’t it perhaps a reasonable assumption (just as Trump targeting Biden for 2020 is also merely an assumption for now) that what Trump was looking for is fact finding about what happened in 2016? See, I would think it IS reasonable. We’re talking assumptions, not facts, no matter how much either side wants to believe their view is the BIG ONE.

And sure, I’ll admit that I have trouble believing that Trump wanted to hit Biden because of 2020, and I find it more credible that he wanted to figure out what happened in 2016, if only because that is what -perhaps indirectly, but still- led to the Mueller investigation and him being investigated from even before he took office.

And, this is again me speaking for myself, I don’t find Joe Biden’s line that “nothing has ever been proven” about him, his son Hunter and Burisma, particularly strong, because there’s never been an investigation. Or, rather, if we may believe former Ukraine prosecutors, investigations were shut down more than once.

In that light, how crazy exactly is/was it for Trump to ask Zelensky for such an investigation? Only Ukraine can do that, it’s not like the FBI can, or at least not officially. Biden/Burisma/Ukraine warrants an investigation, and saying no such thing should happen because “nothing has ever been proven” is the -apple- cart before the horse. So why are they trying to sell us the idea that Trump wanting to find this out is close to Judas betraying Jesus?

 

As I said, I was following proceedings on my phone earlier, and this headline from the Guardian stuck out: “Sondland’s Bombshell Testimony Blows Holes In Trump’s Ukraine Defence”. And that was after I read Tyler Durden quoting Michael Every at Rabobank:

“Impeachment rumbles on in the US, and while one’s reading of events depends on one’s political leanings, an objective analysis shows very little damage being done to Trump so far.”

And I thought: yeah, not damage to Trump, but what about to the nation? Here are two quotes form BBC and Guardian “live commentaries” on the Sondland testimony. Because these things change on the fly, it’s not much use adding URL’s. But just read them and tell me what you think. Note that both news outlets are strongly anti-Trump.

Sondland put two and two together and figured out the military aid was conditioned on the investigations, he said: “President Trump never told me directly that the military aid was conditioned on the investigations,” Sondland said, but Giuliani said “the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meetings.” That contradicts Bill Taylor testimony about the nature of the quid pro quo, that Sondland told Taylor that Trump demanded investigations for aid. But “I never heard from president Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of elections [sic],” Sondland says. 


Now Sondland is talking about a phone conversation in which Trump told him there was no quid pro quo. Earlier Sondland had said he took the president at his word. Now Sondland is saying he and everyone else knew there was a clear quid pro quo.  Sondland said after “frantic emails to me and to others about the security assistance” from ambassador Bill Taylor, Sondland called Trump and asked, “what do you want from Ukraine… what do you want?”
It was a very short abrupt conversation, he was not in a good mood. He said I want nothing, I want nothing, there’s no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.”

 

And then this, I don’t remember if it was BBC or Guardian, but what’s the difference anyway?:

 

Vice president Mike Pence’s office denies that the scene with Sondland in Warsaw happened. From Pence chief of staff Marc Short, per @maggieNYT: “Marc Short responds to Sondland: “The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations…”


1/ “Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened…” 2/ “Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting”.

 

Presumption, assumptions, interpretations and “I thought (or I was sure) he meant” are not facts. They are what they are: personal reflections on what someone thought they had observed. They mean zilch in a court of law. or rather, they are not the kind of thing that can get someone convicted: witnesses in a court room may say what they think happened, but no judge or jury can convict based solely on that.

You need evidence. You need the body. You need the weapon. You need the BIG ONE. But Sondland, like all witnesses before him thus far, doesn’t have the BIG ONE. Or it would have been presented by now, either by him or by Adam Schiff. How many more of these supposed witnesses are we going to have to listen to in the Schiff theater?

I fully agree with people who say Schiff himself should be sworn in and conduct his theatrics under oath. Presently, he can say what he wants, accuse Trump of whatever he wants, and he can never be held to account for any of it. As he attempts to hold Trump accountable for a myriad of things that a myriad of civil servants “think” he meant to say or do. The playing field must be leveled. This is not a fair game.

Moreover, do remember that this whole impeachment thing must go to the Senate to get any real meaning; until it does it’s just a circus in which the clowns – or any of the animals- cannot be held to account. And the crows will insist that Jumbo did it. But, you know, that’s still just Disney, it’s entertainment.

 

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