John Vachon Auto of migrant fruit worker at gas station, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Jul 1940
Most of my news feeds are focused on just one thing today: the UK elections. Not a particularly intersting issue in my view. But here goes:
Biggest winners: Not Boris Johnson, but Dominic Cummings and the Scots (including the SNP). Johnson has won nothing at all. On the other hand Cummings has again shown he can win elections, and the Scots will show they can too. Johnson will now be without Cummings, and then he is nowhere.
Biggest loser: Not Jeremy Corbyn, but Julian Assange. Had Corbyn won, Assange would be much closer to fair treatment and perhaps freedom. Those doors are closed now. Corbyn lost because Cummings used far advanced new media techniques, while Labour are still canvassing door to door like it’s 1960 or ’70. Yes, Corbyn also lost to smear, but that goes hand in hand with the media techniques. Labour has a lot of catching up to do.
Here’s Craig Murray from Scotland:
• A Very Difficult Night (Craig Murray)
It is hard to doubt the basic accuracy of that exit poll now the Conservatives have taken the Blyth Valley. If the Conservatives sweep to power in England, then we have to move very early – and I mean within weeks – on Scottish Independence . I am extremely sorry for all my friends in England who have no such escape route from the Conservative Party. I am much more impacted by this result than I have ever been before, because it brings a still more right wing Conservative Party to untrammeled power, and because I genuinely feel the electorate which has swung are fueled by anti-immigrant racism.
I am not vehemently opposed to Brexit itself, funnily enough, but the ending of freedom of movement and single market access I view as crazed xenophobia. I am also unhappy with the campaign itself, which seemed to take media bias to new levels in ways I have documented, particularly from the BBC. We saw the same in 2014, and the entire experience has been a reminder of how difficult to fight any new independence referendum will be. If the SNP takes 50 seats in Scotland I shall be delighted. Scotland is of course a Remain area. I am for the next glass of Lagavulin clinging to the idea that Remain leaning areas in England may cause trouble for the Tories too.
A bit very obvious by now, but it’s not about newspapers; they’re just extra.
• Someone Interfered In The UK Election, And It Wasn’t Russia (CJ)
As of this writing British exit polls are indicating a landslide victory for the Tories. Numerous other factors went into this result, including most notably a Labour Party ambivalently straddling an irreconcilable divide on the issue of Brexit, but it is also undeniable that the election was affected by a political smear campaign that was entirely unprecedented in scale and vitriol in the history of western democracy. This smear campaign was driven by billionaire-controlled media outlets, along with intelligence and military agencies, as well as state media like the BBC. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been described as the most smeared politician in history, and this is a fair description.
Journalist Matt Kennard recently compiled documentation of dozens of incidents in which former and current spooks and military officials collaborated with plutocratic media institutions to portray Corbyn as a threat to national security. Journalistic accountability advocates like Media Lens and Jonathan Cook have been working for years to compile evidence of the mass media’s attempts to paint Corbyn as everything from a terrorist sympathizer to a Communist to a Russian asset to an IRA supporter to a closet antisemite. Just the other day The Grayzone documented how establishment narrative manager Ben Nimmo was enlisted to unilaterally target Corbyn with a fact-free Russiagate-style conspiracy theory in the lead-up to the election, a psyop that was uncritically circulated by both right-wing outlets like The Telegraph as well as ostensibly “left”-wing outlets like The Guardian.
[..] The historically unprecedented smear campaign that was directed at Corbyn from the right, the far-right, and from within his own party had an effect. Of course it did. If you say this today on social media you’ll get a ton of comments telling you you’re wrong, telling you every vote against Labour was exclusively due to the British people not wanting to live in a Marxist dystopia, telling you it was exclusively because of Brexit, totally denying any possibility that the years of deceitful mass media narrative management that British consciousness was pummelled with day in and day out prior to the election had any impact whatsoever upon its results. Right. Sure guys. Persistent campaigns to deliberately manipulate people’s minds using mass media have no effect on their decisions at all.
The talks to deliver Brexit will take forever and may well be Johnson’s Waterloo. Nothing about this has changed overnight. And a hard Brexit was ruled out by the Benn bill. Any attempts at going around it will end up in court again.
• EU Executive Expects Mandate For Talks On Post-Brexit Trade Deal (R.)
The European Commission expect European Union leaders on Friday to grant it a mandate for talks with Britain on a future trade agreement, the head of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference. Exit polls showed the Conservative Party of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson winning a clear majority in parliament, which European diplomats said meant there would be no more delays to Britain’s exit form the EU. “We are ready to negotiate whatever is necessary, and it will be important tomorrow to get the mandate for the steps from the council (of EU leaders),” von der Leyen said. “This will be the core of our debate tomorrow,” she said.
Very long and detailed lecture by de Soto.
• The Japanization of the European Union (Jesús Huerta de Soto)
Japan’s public debt is equal to 250 percent of its GDP. That is easy to say, but here in Europe we are criticizing Portugal and Italy, whose indebtedness is between 110 and 130 percent, and Greece, with a figure of 170 percent. That is, these countries are roughly half as indebted as Japan is at 250 percent of GDP. As for the annual deficit in the Japanese public accounts, it is not, for instance, the 3 percent established as a limit in the Eurozone nor even 4 or 5 percent. The annual deficit in the Japanese public accounts is 6 percent, while economic growth has nearly flatlined. In other words, it is a case of clear economic lethargy and very low inflation (which we will discuss later): interest rates around zero or even negative rates, inflation of 1 percent, and seemingly “full” employment (with a very high volume of hidden unemployment and ongoing losses in productivity and competitiveness).
To use a military term, Japan has already used up all its available interventionist ammunition, and not only has it not achieved anything, but the result has been counterproductive and disappointing. Everything that could be tried has been tried, and no palpable goal has been reached. And now the key question is: Why has nothing been achieved? And the answer is clear: because in all these decades, there have been no structural reforms to liberalize the economy, to liberalize the labor market, to introduce deregulation in the midst of suffocating interventionism at all levels, to lower taxes across the board, to reorganize and balance the public accounts, nor even to reduce public spending.
Bankers screw up, Fed rescues. If we don’t cut that cycle, things can only get worse. As soon as some of this money would/could stabilize things somewhat, bankers would take more risk again.
• Fed Will Flood Market With Gargantuan $500 Billion To Avoid Repo Crisis (ZH)
In previewing today’s Fed statement regarding repurchase operations, on Tuesday Curvature Securities repo expert Scott Skyrm said that he expects the Fed to announce a $50 billion (at least) term operation for Monday December 23 (double the current term ops) and a $50 billion (at least) term operation for Monday, December 30. This prediction was in response to Zoltan Pozsar’s warning that reserve levels are too low and the result would be a market crash that could spark QE4. Well, moments ago the NY Fed did publish it latest weekly “Statement Regarding Repurchase Operations” as expected laying out the Fed’s expected repo operations for the period December 13 – January 14… and it blew Skyrm’s expectations out of the water
According to the statement, the NY Fed will continue to offer two-week term repo operations twice per week, four of which span year end. In addition, the Desk will also offer another longer-maturity term repo operation that spans year end. The amount offered in this operation will be at least $50 billion, just as Skyrm expected. But there was more. Much more. In addition, to prevent a cascading year-end liquidity squeeze, Fed overnight repo operations will continue to be held each day, and just to be safe, the Fed will go to town by substantially expanding their size: On December 31, 2019 and January 2, 2020, the overnight repo offering will increase to at least $150 billion to cover the “turn” in a flood of overnight liquidity.
In addition, on December 30, 2019, the Desk will offer a $75 billion repo that settles on December 31, 2019 and matures on January 2, 2020. And just in case that’s not enough, the NY Fed’s markets desk also added that it “intends to adjust the timing and amounts of repo operations as needed to mitigate the risk of money market pressures that could adversely affect policy implementation, consistent with the directive from the FOMC.” What the Fed means is that in addition to expanding the sizes of its “turn” overnight repos to $150 billion, the Fed will conduct a total of nine term repos covering the year-end turn from Dec 16 to Jan 14, 8 of which will amount to $35BN and the first will be $50BN, for a total injection of a whopping $365 billion in the coming month.
Well, we should see it in the tariffs announced?!
• Terms Of US-China ‘Phase One’ Trade Deal Will “Never Be Made Public” (ZH)
There was much rejoicing and buying of stocks when Trump tweeted, to much fanfare and bombast early this morning, that he is “Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China. They want it, and so do we!.” Sure enough, just a few hours later, there was a deal. Or was there? Because whereas we now know that the US & China have agreed to a Phase One deal on Paper, and Trump signed off on it… nobody will ever know what’s in the actual deal, even once we pass it! Here’s what we do know: according to Fox Business correspondent Edwards Lawrence, China “verbally agreed to buy $50b in agriculture, but that will not be in writing.” In fact it appears that nothing will be.
Also, the deal supposedly includes intellectual property protections, something the US has been asking for as a core demand. Needless to say, a Chinese IP concession will most certainly not be in writing too. Other parts of the deal include “increased access to the financial services market. There is language where the Chinese agree not to manipulate their currency. There is enforcement written into the agreement. Dec 15th tariffs do not go forward.” Perhaps most important for traders is that this is the end of the overnight “trade deal optimism” rally: phase two of the trade deal will “begin after 2020 elections.” Which means a whole year without Trump tweets that a deal is very close and that China is dying to do it.
Yet for all of the above, here’s the most mindboggling part. Lawrence said that the Chinese have requested that the language of the trade deal will never be made public. That’s right – there is (supposedly) a “deal”, written on paper somewhere, specifying certain terms, and signed by certain US and Chinese presidents. And nobody will ever see what that deal actually states. Effectively, the Phase One trade deal “could” be nothing more than a market manipulating blank piece of paper, and since China has only pledged to do something – which nobody will know as it is not written – and since China has not committed contractually in the court of public opinion, it will have absolutely no incentive to abide by the Phase One “deal”
Tulsi, too, needs to focus on “new” media. It’s where people get their news.
• Tulsi Gabbard Takes No Prisoners In DNC Warfare (LN)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the outspoken, independent thinker from Hawaii running for the loftiest perch in the land, has just said “no” to taking the next Democratic presidential primary debate stage. This signals either a surrender or a strategic end-run around the field. Yes, we’ve been down this road before. It is the same sentiment she expressed prior to the last debate; although she threatened to boycott the circus, she did qualify, show up, and rebuke the other candidates and the Democratic Party. Gabbard has been Public Enemy #1 in those circles since. Instead of playing into the cemented narrative, Tulsi, who has not so far reached the conditions imposed for participation in the next round, is not wasting her time.
As the sixth platform for national domination looms, Gabbard tweeted a different plan, saying: “For a number of reasons, I have decided not to attend the December 19th ‘debate’ — regardless of whether or not there are qualifying polls. I instead choose to spend that precious time directly meeting with and hearing from the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina.” Whether her bold decision is based on not quite reaching the necessary baseline requirements, or because she has had enough of the game playing, Tulsi seems indifferent to striving for inclusion. And we all know Gabbard is not one to tread water in the shallow end of the pool when a good, strong crawl will cover more territory.
[..] The DNC was insistent that its criteria for inclusion have been fair and balanced. Just ask the committee’s spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, who responded: “This has been the most inclusive debate process with more women and candidates of color participating in more debates than billionaires. We are proud of this historic and diverse field with 20 candidates participating in the first two debates and at least 10 candidates in each debate after that.” What’s ironic is that no people of color – because of the strident stipulations imposed – will be at the Dec. 19 debate hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. PBS is set to broadcast the debate, and most likely, fewer people will watch the event than Gabbard can reach by holding town halls or meet and greets. Perhaps she’s on to something, after all.
Both American and Southwest now target April.
• Boeing Scuttles Timeline For 737 MAX Return After CEO Meets With FAA (R.)
Boeing on Thursday abandoned its goal of winning approval this month from the Federal Aviation Administration to unground the 737 MAX after Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg met with senior U.S. aviation officials. The announcement came after a congressional hearing on Wednesday in which numerous lawmakers prodded the FAA to take a tougher line with Boeing as it continues to review the plane that has been grounded since March [..] FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said on Wednesday he would not clear the plane to fly before 2020 and disclosed the agency has an ongoing investigation into 737 production issues in Renton, Washington. He added there are nearly a dozen milestones that must be completed before the MAX returns to service.
Approval is not likely until at least February and could be delayed until March, U.S. officials told Reuters. Muilenburg and Boeing’s commercial airplanes chief, Stan Deal, met with Dickson and “committed to addressing all of the FAA’s questions,” the company said, adding it will work to support the agency’s “requirements and their timeline as we work to safely return the Max to service in 2020.” Dickson told Muilenburg, according to an email sent to lawmakers by the FAA, that “Boeing’s focus should be on the quality and timeliness of data submittals for FAA review. He made clear that FAA’s certification requirements must be 100% complete before return to service.”
[..] Separately, American Airlines said on Thursday it was extending cancellations of 737 MAX flights through April 6. American, the largest U.S. airline, had previously canceled about 140 flights a day through March 4 and now expects to resume 737 MAX passenger flights on April 7. Gary Kelly, the CEO of Boeing’s largest 737 MAX customer, Southwest Airlines, said he was “concerned” about what Boeing decides to do with its production line. Southwest was supposed to have 75 MAX jets in service this year and, like other airlines, it has had to cancel routes and scale back growth plans as it operates a slimmer fleet. Kelly said it is “likely” the airline will again need to push back its restart date from March.
Losses keep piling up.
• Qantas Selects Airbus Over Boeing For World’s Longest Flights (R.)
Australia’s Qantas Airways picked Airbus over Boeing as the preferred supplier for jets capable of the world’s longest commercial flights from Sydney to London, dealing the U.S. planemaker its latest setback this year. The choice of up to 12 A350-1000 planes fitted with an extra fuel tank for flights of up to 21 hours cements Airbus as the leader in ultra-long haul flying globally at a time when Boeing is battling delays on its rival 777X program and a broader corporate crisis following two deadly 737 MAX crashes. The Qantas flights would begin in the first half of 2023, but remain subject to the airline reaching a pay deal with pilots, who would need to extend their duty times to around 23 hours to account for potential delays and switch between flying the A350 and the airline’s current A330 fleet.
A final decision on an order is expected in March, the airline said on Friday. Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline “had a lot of confidence” in the market for non-stop services from Sydney to London and to New York based on two years of flying non-stop from Perth to London, where it has achieved a 30% fare premium over one-stop rivals in premium classes. “The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience,” he said.
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