Jan 212021
 


Jackson Pollock Man with knife 1938-40

 

WHO Warns That PCR COVID Tests Are More Likely To Give False Positives (PM)
No Decline In Very High COVID Rates During 1st Week Of UK’s 3rd Lockdown (ITV)
France Issues Warning Over Use Of Homemade Masks Against New Variants (G.)
Biden To Sign 53 Executive Orders In First 10 Days (Hill)
Inaugural Display Symbolizing 56 US States, Territories (JTN)
Globalist “Manifesto” For Post-Trump Economic “Reset” (ZH)
Biden Will Recognize Guaido As Venezuela’s Leader – Blinken (R.)
US To Keep Embassy In Jerusalem – Blinken (AlJ)
John Brennan’s ‘List’ Of Ideologies Biden Intel Community Should Go After (ZH)
Call For New “Secret Police” Force to Spy on Trump Supporters (SN)
Silicon Valley CEOs Can’t Decide Laws And Rules – EU Commission President (RT)
Germany Enacts Major Overhaul of Its Competition Regime for the Digital Era (WSGR)
The Fed’s Inconvenient Truth: Inflation Is “M.I.A.” (RIA)

 

 

We went from 24/7 negative about Trump to 24/7 positive about Joe Biden. And then they’ll find out that 24/7 positive does not induce clickbait. And then what happens after that?

And really? J-Lo singing Woody Guthrie to celebrate the DC culture?

 

 

Here’s the state of your media for the next 4 years:

 

 

Today’s best meme:

 

 

They’re actually going to do it, they’re going to lower the PCR cycle threshold as soon as Biden comes in? That would be hilarious.

“The notice was released only one hour after President Joe Biden was sworn into office..”

WHO Warns That PCR COVID Tests Are More Likely To Give False Positives (PM)

The World Health Organization issued a notice on Wednesday warning medical professionals to follow instructions of PCR tests for coronavirus to avoid getting false positive results. The notice was released only one hour after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, leading some observers to question the timing of the release. If the PCR tests are resulting in false-positives, and that information is now used to mitigate the large positivity numbers, the number of case counts will begin to drop. The optics of a decreasing COVID-case count would be a boon for the launch of the Biden administration. The new guidance states that the “WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases (2).”


The notice reads: “This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.” Former President Donald Trump has been heavily criticized for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the United States leading the world in both total cases and total deaths, although not per capita, according to official statistics. A big problem for Trump had been the continuous increase in COVID-case counts. If many of those cases were established as extant with the help of PCR tests that were resulting in false-positives, that would mean that the case count for which Trump was criticized was not a factual number.

Read more …

In the UK, this will be a bitter fight.

No Decline In Very High COVID Rates During 1st Week Of UK’s 3rd Lockdown (ITV)

The spread of coronavirus did not decline during the first week of England’s third lockdown, a study has shown. The latest React study, from Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, states that during the initial 10 days of the third Covid-19 lockdown in England, “prevalence of coronavirus was very high with no evidence of decline”. Researchers also found that the prevalence of Covid-19 across England increased by 50% between early December and the second week of January. After testing more than 142,900 volunteers in England between January 6 and 15, they found that one in 63 people were infected. The report, which researchers said does not yet reflect the impact of the national lockdown, also showed there were “worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections”.


National prevalence of the virus increased by half, from 0.91% in early December to 1.58%, the latest React study showed. While there was a rise in prevalence across all adult age groups, it was highest in 18- to 24-year-olds, and more than doubled in the over 65s age group. London saw the highest regional prevalence, jumping from 1.21% to 2.8%, while there were also rises in the south east, east of England, West Midlands, south west and north west. The only region to see a decrease was Yorkshire and the Humber, and prevalence remained stable in the East Midlands and north east, but the researchers warned infection numbers are still high even in these areas. Additionally, they found large household sizes, living in a deprived neighbourhood, and areas with higher numbers of black and Asian individuals were associated with increased prevalence.

Read more …

Better masks only make sense when a virus is more easily transmitted? None of the below makes sense.

France Issues Warning Over Use Of Homemade Masks Against New Variants (G.)

French health officials have advised people against wearing home-made fabric masks as they offer less protection against highly contagious new Covid-19 variants. The scientific committee, which reports back to the French government, says category 2 masks are unlikely to halt the spread of the “English variant” or new coronavirus strains from Brazil and South Africa. The experts’ advice, presented to ministers on Monday but not published, also suggested France double its social distancing rule from 1m to 2m. France’s Haut Conseil de Santé Publique (high council for public health – HCSP) decided over the weekend that many cloth masks, often preferred because they can be washed and reused, did not guarantee protection against the new variants. “Category 2 or material masks only filter 70%, while category 1 masks, like surgical masks, can go as high as 95% if worn properly.


As the variant is more easily transmitted, it is logical to use masks with the highest filtering power,” Daniel Camus, of the Pasteur Institute in Lille and a HCSP member told France Info. “We are not questioning the masks used up to now … but as we have no new weapons against them (new strains) the only thing we can do is to improve the weapons we already have,” Camus added. Home-made barrier masks made under Europe-wide established specifications are consider category 1. However, even though they are subject to making them more efficient filters, the HSPC said they may not guarantee the correct level of protection. Didier Lepelletier, the co-president of the committee’s Covid-19 working group, said everyone should now choose category 1 masks adding that home-made masks “have not been tested in terms of their performance”.

Read more …

“Restoring America’s Place in the World”

-Rejoin Paris accord
-Fortify DACA
-Undo Muslim ban
-Stop border wall
-Order unified Covid response
-Eviction/foreclosure freeze —> 3/31
-Extend student loan pause —> 9/30
-Rescind Trump’s 1776 commish
-Undo Trump EO on Census

Biden To Sign 53 Executive Orders In First 10 Days (Hill)

President Biden is poised to take action on 53 executive items over the next 10 days as he seeks to rapidly reverse some Trump administration policies and implement his own, according to a document outlining the schedule for Biden’s first two weeks in office. The document, which was circulated to individuals close to the administration and obtained by The Hill, shows that Biden will take executive action each weekday through the end of January, with each day centered around specific themes such as climate, economic relief, health care and immigration. The timetable lays out which days Biden is expected to act on anticipated items such as reversing the Mexico City policy, creating a task force to reunite separated migrant families and establishing a policing commission.

The schedule notes that the specifics of certain executive actions are to be determined, reflecting how the Biden team is still hashing out details as it takes office following delays in the transition after the November election. The themes are expected to extend into February, which has been designated around the idea of “Restoring America’s Place in the World,” according to the document. This week, Wednesday’s theme is focused on the inauguration and addressing “four crises” — the coronavirus pandemic, climate, the economy and equity. Among the items Biden will sign are an order mandating masks be worn on federal lands, an extension of eviction moratoriums, a repeal of Trump’s travel ban and a proclamation halting border wall construction.

Thursday’s theme will focus on the pandemic, according to the document. Biden is expected to sign off on executive orders to review the supply chain ahead of any use of the Defense Production Act and to implement public health measures on public transportation, airplanes and trains. Friday’s theme is economic relief, with two executive orders expected to be signed, according to the document. One will direct agencies to take action on Medicaid, Pell grants and unemployment insurance, while the other will restore collective bargaining rights to federal employees and initiate a rollback of a Trump administration rule on Schedule F. The theme for Monday is “Buy American,” and Biden will sign one executive order seeking to ensure agencies use U.S. suppliers.

Read more …

Or it may be nothing.

Inaugural Display Symbolizing 56 US States, Territories (JTN)

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration decor touting 56 U.S. states and territories provokes new questions about whether Biden will push for new statehood for six U.S. territories, which could aid the Democratic Party in the Electoral College. Under the U.S. Constitution, statehood requires only a simple majority in Congress, which could be achieved if Democrats decide to remove the 60-vote filibuster threshold currently in place in the Senate. As part of the “Field of Flags” display at the National Mall ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the Presidential Inaugural Committee planted nearly 200,000 state and territory flags on Monday night, meant to represent the American people unable to travel to Washington, D.C., for Inauguration Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic and security threats.

Fifty-six pillars of neon blue light, representing the U.S. states and territories, were also lit up for 46 seconds to mark the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden. The prominent light beams were reminiscent of the grounds of the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. Biden has said he supports statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Other U.S. territories with permanent civilian populations include Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

[..] Historian Jason Steinhauer told Just the News on Tuesday that the National World War II Memorial “serves as a useful reference point for the Field of Flags display” because it contains 56 pillars representing each state and territory from its period, including the District of Columbia. Those 56 pillars represented a different assortment of states and territories from that time period: 48 states, plus the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Steinhauer noted that memorial opened in 2004, during the George W. Bush administration.

Read more …

In case you wondered who won.

Globalist “Manifesto” For Post-Trump Economic “Reset” (ZH)

Proponents of the QAnon “conspiracy theory,” which the NYT can’t seem to stop writing about, are going to love seeing this. A memo that has reportedly been circulating among policymakers on both sides of the aisle for weeks was finally released to the press on Tuesday when Dealbook editor and CNBC “Squawk Box” host Andrew Ross Sorkin got the scoop: a memo penned by a group of senior-level bureaucrats, including – who else? – Henry Kissinger and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has provided a kind of “blueprint” for the Biden Administration to undo all of President Trump’s trade-war tactics and other policies that didn’t exactly help promote free trade.

As Trump recounted in his farewell video published earlier Tuesday afternoon, his administration dramatically altered the American trade landscape, pulling the US out of the TPP, renegotiating Nafta into the USMCA, and – most consequentially, at things would turn out – the trade war with China, which inspired waves of hysterical lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce and special-interest groups from Big Tech to Wal-Mart and other major retailers, and others. So, as Biden prepares his first 100-day blitz of policy directives, many of the architects of the globalist system created by groups like the Trilateral Commission are joining with a gaggle of former cabinet-level officials (both Dems and GOP) along with the CEO of one of America’s largest banks, former British Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair and – who else? – Henry Kissinger, have essentially penned a manifesto that is being circulated among lawmakers, along with top-level officials in the cabinet and the West Wing, to help restore the globalist system that Trump helped to disrupt.

Who better to leak the story to than Andrew Sorkin, who first brought up the existence of the memo during an interview during Tuesday morning’s episode of “Squawk Box” on CNBC during a conversation with Harvard economist Austan Goolsbee. According to Sorkin’s column, “the memo comes from an under-the-radar group of global boldfaced names that act as a private advisory committee to JPMorgan Chase. They include Tony Blair, the former British prime minister; Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger, two former secretaries of state; Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense; Alex Gorsky, chief executive of Johnson & Johnson; Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH; and Joseph C. Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba, among others.” The group, which even Sorkin concedes is exclusively staffed with members of the “globalist part of the globalist establishment that fell out of favor during the Trump years, typically meets once a year in a far-flung location with JPMorgan’s chief, Jamie Dimon.”

Read more …

But we’ll keep the craziest stuff.

Biden Will Recognize Guaido As Venezuela’s Leader – Blinken (R.)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will continue to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s president, Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, said on Tuesday. Blinken told members of the U.S. Senate that Biden would seek to “more effectively target” sanctions on the country, which aim to oust President Nicolas Maduro – who retains control of the country. Blinken said the new administration would look at more humanitarian assistance to the country. The United States, along with dozens of other countries, recognized Guaido – the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-held National Assembly – as the country’s president in January 2019, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was rigged.


“We need an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy, starting with free and fair elections,” Blinken said. Guaido’s push to oust Maduro – who has overseen a collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation’s economy and stands accused of corruption and human rights violations – has stalled. Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-puppet seeking to oust him in a coup. His allies have expressed a desire to engage in negotiations with the Biden administration after years of tensions and escalating U.S. sanctions.

Read more …

Remember the loud protests?

US To Keep Embassy In Jerusalem – Blinken (AlJ)

The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden will keep the US embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, his nominee for secretary of state affirmed at his Senate confirmation hearing. “Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?” asked Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. “Yes and Yes,” said Antony Blinken in testimony on Tuesday. Outgoing President Donald Trump announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The US moved its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May of the following year.


Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with the Palestinian Authority (PA) insisting that East Jerusalem – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 – should serve as the capital of a Palestinian state. “The only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution,” Blinken said. “I think realistically, it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that. What would be important is to make sure that neither party takes steps that make the already difficult process even more challenging,” he added.

Read more …

The scariest face of them all. And that’s saying something.

John Brennan’s ‘List’ Of Ideologies Biden Intel Community Should Go After (ZH)

Well this is alarming and ominous to say the least… Former CIA Director John Brennan told MSNBC in an interview on inauguration day that the intelligence community under newly sworn in President Biden is “moving in laser-like fashion” to try and uncover dangerous plots against the country. Naturally, there’s been much of this worrisome commentary about what political ideologies should be targeted and monitored coming out of NatSec hawks in the wake of the Capitol Hill mayhem of January 6. But this is the first time such a broad array of groups have been so bluntly lumped into a Pro-Trump “insurgency” by an influential media pundit and former spook. Brennan expressly said they are “violent” and remain a domestic threat.


He said in the MSNBC interview without the least concern for violation of Americans’ rights that intelligence agencies should look into “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians…”. He said these belief systems have come together under the umbrella of a supposed pro-Trump movement capable of committing violence. Ah yes, “even libertarians”… “I had white knuckles because of the nature of the threats,” he began by recalling his days as CIA Director. We’ve seen “the growth of this polarization in the United States and domestic violence and White supremacist groups,” he continued. Comparing this “threat” to a foreign insurgency which the US has lately battled overseas, he said it— “brings together an unholy alliance of religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”

Read more …

“Neither the FBI nor the NSA has the culture of brutal hostility toward their own country’s population needed to efficiently repress dissidents in the unfolding police state.”

Call For New “Secret Police” Force to Spy on Trump Supporters (SN)

Perhaps channeling the spirit of the Soviet NKVD, leftists are now literally calling for a new “secret police” unit to be created at the federal level to spy on Trump supporters. In an article published by the Daily Beast, Jeff Stein argues that existing federal agencies like the FBI are ill-equipped to stop “white terror” because they missed signs of the the pre-planning of the Capitol building siege. The solution is to create a new “secret police” (yes, he literally uses those words) in order to “infiltrate and neutralize armed domestic extremists,” which according to the media’s latest narrative potentially includes 70 million Trump voters.

Stein even compares the Capitol breach to 9/11, an attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, and argues that a similar response to that should be directly inwardly against American citizens directed by a new “domestic spy agency.” “One response to the 9/11 tragedy may well get renewed attention after the Capitol assault—especially if armed white nationalists are successful in carrying out more attacks in the coming days and weeks: The call for a secret police,” he writes. The existence of a “secret police” force that subverts constitutional norms to repress the population is of course a hallmark of all dictatorial regimes, but that doesn’t appear to bother self-proclaimed “progressives.”

“Hundreds of Black Lives Matter/Antifa riots, some of which entailed firing mortars at, firebombing, or burning down police stations, did not qualify as domestic terrorism. But the Capitol Riot was terrorism, due to the usual double standard,” points out Dave Blount. He also hits the nail on the head about the real reason why the creation of a new secret police unit would be necessary. “Neither the FBI nor the NSA has the culture of brutal hostility toward their own country’s population needed to efficiently repress dissidents in the unfolding police state.”

Read more …

Told, you, they will regret the Trump ban. Genie’s out of the bottle.

Mind you, she also said: “After four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

Silicon Valley CEOs Can’t Decide Laws And Rules – EU Commission President (RT)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has sent a message to US tech companies ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, warning that Silicon Valley CEOs can’t decide their own laws and rules.
During a speech delivered in the European Parliament, von der Leyen laid out a series of areas in which the European Union (EU) is hoping to work with the incoming Biden administration, including climate change and the regulation of American-based tech companies that have an international reach. The EU has been working to introduce global standards for digital companies that provide a clear set of rules and responsibilities for the way they operate and the content that is distributed via their sites. However, rebuffing suggestions from tech giants to allow them to moderate themselves, von der Leyen was clear that governments must now intervene.


“This kind of decision must be taken in accordance with laws and rules…not by an arbitrary decision in the power of Silicon Valley CEOs.” Citing the recent attack on the US Capitol and linking the behavior of those President Donald Trump supporters to division and disinformation that appeared online, von der Leyen said in a tweet that regulation must be imposed on social media sites to “ensure that hate & fake news can no longer spread unchecked.” This is not the first time that the EU has sought to control the power of social media companies and tech giants. Google has been a target of the EU’s antitrust body in recent years, with the search engine having been hit with over $9 billion of fines, and further investigations are underway.

Read more …

Germany does it “gründlich”.

Germany Enacts Major Overhaul of Its Competition Regime for the Digital Era (WSGR)

On January 18, 2021, the 10th amendment of the German Act against Restraints of Competition (ARC) entered into force. The so-called “ARC Digitization Act,” designed to modernize German competition law enforcement for the era of big-data, i) creates sweeping new powers for the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) to regulate digital platform companies; ii) expands prohibitions on abuses of market power by firms with “relative market power” and firms that refuse access to data, networks, or infrastructure; and iii) raises the thresholds for German merger control. Because of the potential that large technology companies could be required to make dramatic changes to their current business practices, the FCO is poised to become one of the most consequential competition agencies for large technology companies.

Indeed, FCO President Mundt has repeatedly emphasized the willingness and readiness of his authority “not to squander the head start” and to apply the new rules soon after their entry into force. Under the new Section 19a of the ARC, the FCO gains novel powers to designate certain companies as having “paramount significance for competition across markets.” Upon making such a designation, the FCO can then order such companies to cease engaging in prohibited types of conduct, such as self-preferencing. The ARC Digitization Act also introduces changes to the burden of proof and the appeals process, designed to enhance the FCO’s ability to take swift action. The FCO may issue a decision declaring an undertaking to be of paramount significance for competition across markets.

The factors the FCO may consider in making this determination include:
• its dominant position in one or more markets;
• its financial strength or its access to other resources;
• its vertical integration and its activities on otherwise related markets;
• its access to data relevant for competition; and
• the importance of its activities for third parties’ access to supply and sales markets and its related influence on third parties’ business activities.

The qualitative nature of these factors provides the FCO with considerable discretion in making Section 19a declarations. As clarified by the German legislators’ explanatory memo, only a small number of (digital) “ecosystems” is likely to fulfill the threshold of having such “paramount significance.”2 The intended targets of the new rules are large and “often dominant” digital platform companies “with the resources and strategic position to significantly influence the commercial activities of third parties or expand their own activities to new markets and sectors.”3 We expect that the FCO will initially target “GAFA” and a few other (mostly U.S.-based) digital platforms.

Read more …

An old favorite theme of mine: What if money doesn’t move?

The Fed’s Inconvenient Truth: Inflation Is “M.I.A.” (RIA)

“The amount of money in the US economy is 25% higher than it was at the start of 2020, eclipsing any pace of money growth seen since the Federal Reserve was established (1913)” RB Advisors Deputy CIO Dan Suzuki. In recent weeks we have seen a non-stop flow of ominous statements like the one above. The author is 100% factual and it should be a cause for deep concern. Historically, such surges in the money supply were often met with significant inflation. While the sharp increase in the money supply provides context to the depth of our economic problems, our inflation warning bells are not ringing, at least not yet. Here is why.


Inflation, or aggregate price increases, results from economic activity, along with the amount of money and its velocity. A famous economic formula called the Monetary Exchange Equation uses those factors to create a mathematical identity that precisely determines the inflation rate. We co-authored an article with Brett Freeze entitled Stoking The Embers of Inflation. The article went into great detail about the monetary exchange equation. We summarize a few key points here: Per the inflation identity, the rate of inflation or deflation (%P) is equal to the rate of money growth (%M), plus the change in velocity (%V), less the rate of output growth (%Q).

• %M – As noted earlier, the change in the monetary base is a direct function of the Fed’s monetary policy actions. To increase or decrease the monetary base, the Fed buys and sells securities, typically U.S. Treasuries and more recently Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS). • %V – Velocity is nominal GDP divided by the monetary base (Q/M). Velocity measures people’s willingness to hold cash or how often cash turns over. Lower velocity means that people are hoarding cash, which usually happens during periods of economic weakness, credit stress, and fear for banking institutions’ going-concern.

So if we exclude GDP, inflation is dependent on money supply and velocity changes. Money supply data is published weekly and easily forecastable with the Fed’s QE schedule. Velocity, on the other hand, is posted once a quarter and much more challenging to forecast. As such, let’s dive into velocity. Velocity is a measure of how fast cash circulates in an economy. We consider two extreme examples of money printing and monetary velocity to appreciate the interaction of money supply and velocity. • The Fed prints $10 trillion and buries it in a hole. • The Fed prints $10 trillion, sends each American a $30,000 check, and tells them they have five days to spend it or lose it The two examples have polar opposite effects on prices, despite the same massive increase in the money supply.

In example 1, the Fed does not affect inflation. The $10 trillion is not fungible as long as it stays buried. In example 2, hyperinflation would result as the new money rapidly circulates through the economy and dwarfs the economic system’s production capacity. Essentially, the demand for goods and services outstrips the supply. The amount of money greatly matters, but equally important is how it moves through the economy. The graph below compares the money supply chart above with the velocity of money and inflation.

Read more …

 

 

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Medhurst – America Just Replaced One Monster With Another
https://twitter.com/i/status/1325622342370922496

 

 

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Jan 172021
 


Salvador Dalí Cadaques 1923

 

Further Year Of Covid Curbs Needed – Irish Official (IT)
55 Americans Died Following COVID Vaccination, Norway Deaths Rise To 29 (ZH)
Second COVID Variant From Brazil ‘Likely’ Already In The UK (Sky)
UK Children’s Welfare Becoming A National Emergency (G.)
A Year Of Lockdowns Can’t Take The Shine Off Goldmans Sachs Profits (G.)
Trump Trial Pending, McConnell Calls It ‘Vote Of Conscience’ (AP)
Should Donald Trump Skip Out On The Senate Impeachment Trial? (Turley)
Biden Fills Out State Department Team With Obama Veterans (AP)
Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)
Massive Inflation in Shipping Costs. And the Reasons (WS)
FBI, State Officials Aware Early Of Major Steele Mistake, Ignored It (JTN)
Democrats Still Serve Militarism And Corporatism – Glenn Greenwald (RT)

 

 

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
– Confucius

 

 

 

 

No efforts to prevent infection, other than lockdowns and masks. But an entire year of it. Based on the illusion that mass mRNA vaccination can achieve herd immunity.

The “science” has stood still for a year.

Further Year Of Covid Curbs Needed – Irish Official (IT)

Another year of restrictions related to Covid-19 would be necessary before the number of people vaccinated would be sufficient to protect the public in general from the disease, a top health official has said. Meanwhile, close to 6,500 HSE staff are currently out sick with Covid-19, the HSE chief Paul Reid has stated. Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer at the HSE, said in radio comments that social distancing and restrictions in some form were likely for the rest of 2021 at least, until enough of the population could be vaccinated to grant general or herd immunity. “The answer, and not everyone likes it but it’s the truth… is that the public in general won’t have protection from Covid-19 for at least a year… In the meantime, it’s more important than ever to abide by the public health guidance so that we can stop the spread of the virus,” he told Máirín Ní Ghadhra on Raidió na Gaeltachta.


“We’re in the middle of the main wave now… and we can see the damage that has been wrought. The vaccine is coming, and we’ll come out of this if we can stick to the public health guidelines until everyone has been vaccinated.” Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the hospital system is “completely tightening up” and has “formally gone into surge capacity”. The national critical care surge group had been mobilised and close to 6,500 HSE staff are currently out sick with Covid-19, with about 4,000 of those having been working in hospitals, he said.

Read more …

Not from the Pfizer PR squad.

55 Americans Died Following COVID Vaccination, Norway Deaths Rise To 29 (ZH)

Amid increasing calls for suspension of the use of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines produced by companies such as Pfizer, especially among elderly people, the situation in Norway has escalated significantly as the Scandi nation has now registered a total of 29 deaths among people over the age of 75 who’ve had their first COVID-19 vaccination shot. As Bloomberg reports, this adds six to the number of known fatalities in Norway, and also lowers the age group thought to be affected from 80. “Until Friday, Pfizer/BioNTech was the only vaccine available in Norway, and “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a written response to Bloomberg on Saturday. “There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency said. All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it said.

[..] Norway’s experience has prompted the country to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill… the exact group that ‘the science’ shows are actually at risk from this virus. Pfizer and BioNTech are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths in Norway, Pfizer said in an e-mailed statement. The agency found that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations,” Pfizer said. However, it’s not just Norway as The Epoch Times’ Zachary Stieber reports that fifty-five people in the United States have died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, according to reports submitted to a federal system. Deaths have occurred among people receiving both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, according to the reports. In some cases, patients died within days of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“One man, a 66-year-old senior home resident in Colorado, was sleepy and stayed in bed a day after getting Moderna’s vaccine. Early the next morning, on Christmas Day, the resident “was observed in bed lying still, pale, eyes half open and foam coming from mouth and unresponsive,” the VAERS report states. “He was not breathing and with no pulse.” In another case, a 93-year-old South Dakota man was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 4 around 11 a.m. About two hours later, he said he was tired and couldn’t continue with the physical therapy he was doing any longer. He was taken back to his room, where he said his legs felt heavy. Soon after, he stopped breathing. A nurse declared a do-not-resuscitate order.

In addition to the deaths, people have reported 96 life-threatening events following COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as 24 permanent disabilities, 225 hospitalizations, and 1,388 emergency room visits. It’s not just the old and frail, in Israel, which proudly lays claim to the greatest vaccination effort in the world (largest percentage of the population inoculated), As RT reports, at least 13 Israelis have experienced facial paralysis after being administered the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, a month after the US Food and Drug Administration reported similar issues but said they weren’t linked to the jab. Israeli outlet Ynet reported, citing the Health Ministry, that officials believe the number of such cases could be higher.

“For at least 28 hours I walked around with it [facial paralysis],” one person who had the side effect told Ynet. “I can’t say it was completely gone afterwards, but other than that I had no other pains, except a minor pain where the injection was, but there was nothing beyond that.” Ynet quoted Prof. Galia Rahav, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sheba Medical Center, who said she did not feel “comfortable” with administering the second dose to someone who had received the first jab and subsequently suffered from paralysis. “No one knows if this is connected to the vaccine or not. That’s why I would refrain from giving a second dose to someone who suffered from paralysis after the first dose,” she told the outlet.

Read more …

Ever more variants popping up.

Second COVID Variant From Brazil ‘Likely’ Already In The UK (Sky)

The second of two new coronavirus variants from Brazil is likely to already be in the UK despite the government imposing a travel ban, a leading epidemiologist has warned. Eight cases of the first variant, which has a small number of mutations, have been identified in the UK. The second, which has been detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan, has not been detected in the UK so far. There are concerns that this variant could be more transmissible and reinfect those who have recovered from COVID, although such possibilities remain unproven. Professor John Edmunds has said he would it “unusual” if the second variant was not present here.

Professor Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers. “For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly. “We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.” The government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde on Thursday after the emergence of the new variants, having previously banned travel from South Africa because of a new coronavirus mutation.

In addition, all quarantine-free travel into the UK will be suspended on Monday in a bid to keep out other variants. The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK. Labour accused the government of “closing the door after the horse has bolted”, saying the announcement was too late to have stopped the arrival of “worrying” strains.

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Mental health.

UK Children’s Welfare Becoming A National Emergency (G.)

Boris Johnson is facing demands from doctors, senior politicians and charities for a wide-ranging commission to examine the pandemic’s “devastating effect” on children, amid growing concerns about its impact on their education, development and mental health. A major coalition of child health experts warns that many families are being “swept into poverty” by the pandemic, which is set to significantly add to the 4 million children living in deprivation before the Covid crisis. In a letter to the Observer, they also warn of a “yawning gap” in attainment between rich and poor due to school closures, while the number of children facing mental health issues and distress will rise “with every day that lockdown keeps them isolated and uncertain about their futures”.

“Children’s welfare has become a national emergency,” says the letter, whose signatories include the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the National Children’s Bureau and some of the country’s leading child health academics. “An independent commission, to inform a cross-government strategy to steer children and young people clear from the lingering effects of Covid-19, could avert this deepening crisis. At present we have piecemeal solutions and stop-gap measures. The next generation deserves better.” It warns that the challenges have been made harder by a decade of cuts to services families rely on. Some 1.5 million children under 18 will either need new or additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic.

A third of those are new cases, according to the Centre for Mental Health. Lee Hudson, a consultant paediatrician and chief of mental health at Great Ormond Street hospital, said: “We know from the data that children and young people’s mental health has been deteriorating in this pandemic. Clinicians are seeing the effects of that every day: for example, the numbers of children presenting with eating disorders have dramatically increased. For children living in poverty, the risks are even greater. We’ve never needed a long-term strategy for child mental health more.”

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Remember the $10 trillion stimulus in a $21 trillion economy.

A Year Of Lockdowns Can’t Take The Shine Off Goldmans Sachs Profits (G.)

What is $900m to a Wall Street giant like Goldman Sachs? Relatively little, when it counts the drop in profits for a year of record-setting market swings and economic turmoil, all sparked by a pandemic. The firm should regard itself as lucky to be poised for profits of about $7bn (£5bn) for the whole of 2020. That average analyst forecast, compiled by Refinitiv, is a mere 11% drop from the $7.9bn it made in 2019, a year when the phrase “Covid lockdown” had never been uttered. The projected decline is smaller than the $2.8bn it put aside to cover a potential jump in defaults within the first nine months of the year alone, a number estimates suggest could rise to $3.1bn for the 12 months to December.


Those provisions pale in comparison with those of European peers such as HSBC, which already put by $7.6bn to cover Covid-linked loan losses by the third quarter. The bank’s results will emerge unscathed from the $2.9bn settlement it reached in October with global regulators and the US Department of Justice, over its alleged role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. The announcement came just months after Goldman agreed to pay $3.9bn to the Malaysian government, amid claims it allegedly turned a blind eye while $4.5bn was looted from the country’s sovereign wealth fund. Goldman bosses, including chairman and chief executive David Solomon, will feel the pinch of a $31m cut to their combined 2020 pay over the scandal, but hefty provisions previously put aside for the 1MDB case will largely cover the settlements.

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The GOP is tempted to turn on Trump. Opportunism pur sang.

Trump Trial Pending, McConnell Calls It ‘Vote Of Conscience’ (AP)

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is likely to start after Joe Biden’s inauguration, and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is telling senators their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president over the Capitol riot will be a “vote of conscience.” The timing for the trial, the first of a president no longer in office, has not yet been set. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear Friday that Democrats intend to move swiftly on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief. Biden is set to take the oath of office Wednesday. Pelosi called the recovery package a “matter of complete urgency.”

The uncertainty of the scheduling, despite the House’s swift impeachment of Trump just a week after the deadly Jan. 6 siege, reflects the fact that Democrats do not want the Senate trial to dominate the opening days of the Biden administration. With security forces on alert over the threat of more potential violence heading into the inauguration, the Senate is also moving quickly to prepare for confirming Biden’s nominee for national intelligence director, Avril Haines. A committee hearing is set for the day before the inauguration, signaling a confirmation vote could come swiftly once the new president is in office.

Many Democrats have pushed for an immediate impeachment trial to hold Trump accountable and prevent him from holding future office, and the proceedings could still begin by Inauguration Day. But others have urged a slower pace as the Senate considers Biden’s Cabinet nominees and the newly Democratic-led Congress considers priorities like the coronavirus plan. Biden’s incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Friday the Senate can do both. “The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people,” she said. Psaki noted that during Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, the Senate continued to hold hearings each day. “There is some precedent,” she said.

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“It was a reckless speech — but, in a court of law, it would constitute protected speech.”

Should Donald Trump Skip Out On The Senate Impeachment Trial? (Turley)

In a matter of days, this country will face an unprecedented Senate trial. The Senate not only will try a president for a second time but will do so after he has left office. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris assures us the Senate can politically “multitask” to deal with an impeachment, an incoming Biden administration and a pandemic. However, the threshold question is whether this is constitutionally one of those tasks — and for soon-to-be citizen Donald Trump, the best defense may be no defense at all. In fairness, people on both sides are struggling to deal with this novel impeachment. While I have stated that I do not wish to serve as the president’s counsel, I have spoken to members of Congress and the White House on the historical and constitutional backgrounds for a trial.

From a purely strategic perspective, I believe Trump may be wise to skip any trial. For a notorious counterpuncher, avoiding a fight might be the most difficult decision of all, particularly because he has obvious defenses. First, he was denied due process when the House held an unprecedented “snap impeachment” without a hearing or inquiry even though a trial likely would not occur immediately. Even a one-day hearing would have allowed evidence to be discussed as well as a formal request for a response. Second, the impeachment article is poorly crafted and poorly conceived, built around assertions that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech to supporters was an “incitement to insurrection.” His speech raised potentially impeachable grounds; I condemned it as he gave it and opposed his challenge of electoral votes from the outset.

But as I wrote previously, it would have been far better to censure him for it in a bipartisan, bicameral resolution. While impeachment can be based on noncriminal grounds, Trump’s speech alone did not amount to criminal incitement. Absent direct evidence of intent, a criminal charge would likely collapse in an actual trial or on appeal on First Amendment grounds. Trump expressly called for his supporters “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” He told them to go to the Capitol “to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” to “fight like hell” to challenge the election, and to remind unsupportive Republicans that their actions would not be forgotten. It was a reckless speech — but, in a court of law, it would constitute protected speech.

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Globalism wins.

Biden Fills Out State Department Team With Obama Veterans (AP)

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday filled out his State Department team with a group of former career diplomats and veterans of the Obama administration, signaling his desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy after four years of uncertainty and unpredictability under President Donald Trump. Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state and Victoria Nuland as undersecretary of state for political affairs — the second- and third-highest ranking posts, respectively. They were among the 11 officials announced to serve under the incoming secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The team “embodies my core belief that America is strongest when it works with our allies,” Biden said in a statement. He said he was confident “they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back.”


Among the others are: —longtime Biden Senate aide Brian McKeon, to be deputy secretary of state for management. That deputy position has been vacant for some time and McKeon and Sherman are expected to share duties as the department’s No. 3 official. —former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively. —Derek Chollet, a familiar Democratic foreign policy hand, to be State Department counselor. —former U.N. official Salman Ahmed, who also served as head of strategic planning in the Obama National Security Council, as director of policy planning. —Suzy George, who was a senior aide to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will be Blinken’s chief of staff. —Ned Price, a former Obama NSC staffer and career CIA official who resigned in protest in the early days of the Trump administration, will serve as the public face of the department, taking on the role of spokesman.

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I’m not a fan of Niall Ferguson at all, but the topic demands attention.

Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power (Ferguson)

‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,’ George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is ‘quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously’. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that ‘for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective’. Last week provided a near-perfect analogy. For years before the 2020 election, nearly all American conservatives were in favour of standing up to big tech: the majority of them were also against changing the laws and regulations enough to make such a stand effective.

The difference is that, unlike the German threat, which was geographically remote, the threat from Silicon Valley was literally in front of our noses, day and night: on our mobile phones, our tablets and our laptops. Writing in this magazine more than three years ago, I warned of a coming collision between Donald Trump and Silicon Valley. ‘Social media helped Donald Trump take the White House,’ I wrote. ‘Silicon Valley won’t let it happen again.’ The conclusion of my book The Square and the Tower was that the new online network platforms represented a new kind of power that posed a fundamental challenge to the traditional hierarchical power of the state. By the network platforms, I mean Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and Apple, or FATGA for short — companies that have established a dominance over the public sphere not seen since the heyday of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church.

FATGA had humble enough origins in garages and dorm rooms. As recently as 2008, not one of them could be found among the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation. Today, they occupy first, third, fourth and fifth places in the market cap league table, just above their Chinese counterparts, Tencent and Alibaba. What happened was that the network platforms turned the originally decentralised worldwide web into an oligarchically organised and hierarchical public sphere from which they made money and to which they controlled access. That the original, superficially libertarian inclinations of these companies’ founders would rapidly crumble under political pressure from the left was also perfectly obvious, if one bothered to look a little beyond one’s proboscis.

Following the violent far-right rally at Charlottesville in August 2017, Matthew Prince, chief executive of the internet service provider Cloudflare, described how he had responded: ‘Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.’ On the basis that ‘the people behind the [white supremacist magazine] Daily Stormer are assholes’, he denied their website access to the internet. ‘No one should have that power,’ he admitted. ‘We need to have a discussion around this with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and … Mark [Zuckerberg] shouldn’t be what determines what should be online.’

How the news works

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No, sorry, that is not inflation.

Massive Inflation in Shipping Costs. And the Reasons (WS)

The dollar-amount spent by shippers, such as manufacturers or retailers, on shipping their goods jumped by 13% in December from a year earlier, driving the Cass Freight Index of Expenditures to a new record (red line). The amount spent on freight is a function of shipment volume and freight rates:

The Cass Freight Index covers shipments by all modes of transportation, but is heavily concentrated on shipments by truck, with truckload accounting for over half of the expenditures, followed by less-than-truckload (LTL), rail, parcel services, etc. It does not cover commodities. The freight rates embedded in the index jumped by 6.0% in December compared to a year earlier. “Based in part on spot trends, the acceleration in freight rates is likely to persist in the coming months,” Cass said in the report. Shipment volume surged 6.7% year-over-year, given the Pandemic shift in consumer spending to goods that need to be shipped, from services that are not shipped. But shipment volume in December (red line in the chart below) remained below the levels of 2018 (black) and 2017 (brown) at this time of the year:

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To understand why, look no further than who organized and paid for the Steele dossier.

FBI, State Officials Aware Early Of Major Steele Mistake, Ignored It (JTN)

Shortly before the FBI used his dossier to secure a surveillance warrant targeting the Trump campaign, Christopher Steele met with State Department officials and relayed information suggesting Moscow was running an operation out of the Russian consulate in Miami. There was just one problem with his intelligence: The Russians didn’t have a consulate in Florida’s largest city. The anecdote, captured in contemporaneous memos and newly released testimony, illustrates just how bad some of Steele’s intelligence reporting was and how widely that was known inside the FBI, even as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was being assured by the bureau that Steele was deemed credible and there was no derogatory information about his work.

Kenneth Laycock, the FBI’s current Executive Assistant Director, was a section chief for Eurasian intelligence in fall 2016 when Steele made a visit to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec at the State Department. During the October 2016 meeting, Steele admitted he was leaking to the news media while working as an FBI informant, a violation of his confidential human source agreement. (He later was terminated for it.) And he also relayed the anecdote about the Russian operation out of the Miami consulate, which officials immediately flagged as false, according to Kavalec’s own notes of the meeting. “It is important to note that there is no Russian Consulate in Miami,” Kavalec wrote.

Laycock said Kavalec relayed her concerns to the FBI and that others working on the now-discredited Russia collusion investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane were also aware of Steele’s mistake. “Do you recall — just trying to jog your memory here in case you do recall — Ms. Kavalec conveying information to you that Steele conveyed to her information about a Russian consulate being located in Miami and that was an inaccurate assessment on Steele’s part?” a Senate investigator asked Laycock in testimony taken last year but made public on Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I recall a conversation about a consulate in Miami independent of what she had mentioned regarding what Mr. Steele said to her,” Laycock answered.

He added: “It came up in some other discussion regarding if there was a consulate in Miami, which we both knew is not true because we know where all the consulates and embassies are around the country. That’s where I would handle normally in my purview as the section chief of the Eurasia program. So when it came up in a discussion, it was like, we don’t have a consulate in Miami.” He said FBI headquarters was aware of Steele’s mistaken claim outside of Kavalec’s report as well. “Yes, independent of the Mr. Steele piece in here, it came up through other discussions,” he testified.

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“The Democrats are very good at creating a brand that is radically different from their reality.”

Democrats Still Serve Militarism And Corporatism – Glenn Greenwald (RT)

Democrats are cheering for censorship as a means to root out “fascism,” even as they serve corporate interests that continue to exacerbate the social and economic issues that gave rise to Donald Trump, Glenn Greenwald told RT. The acclaimed American journalist issued a scathing critique of the American Left during a conversation with Chris Hedges, host of RT’s On Contact. The interview will air in full on Sunday. Pointing to Donald Trump’s indefinite Twitter suspension, Greenwald accused Democrats of appealing to Big Tech to police speech that could undermine their hold on power, using the pretext of fighting far-right extremism to quash dissent. “They’re on their knees pleading with billionaires and oligarchs and monopolists and Silicon Valley to censor in a way that they believe is politically advantageous.”

He added that the crackdown on free speech was particularly egregious because it was being carried out by a “tiny number of Silicon Valley oligarchs” who operate outside of the realm of democratic accountability. Greenwald argued that the profoundly illiberal cheerleading for corporate speech-policing should come as no surprise to anyone, noting that the Democratic Party is funded by and “believes in” corporate power, despite whatever claims it makes to the contrary. “The Democrats are very good at creating a brand that is radically different from their reality. But essentially the Democratic Party serves militarism, imperialism, and corporatism.”

There should also be no illusions about whether the incoming Biden administration will be able to mend the deep political divide in the country, the American journalist warned. He agreed with Hedges’ premise that Trump won the White House in 2016 by capitalizing on widespread frustration over Barack Obama, and his VP Joe Biden’s, ineffectual eight years in office.

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Feb 232019
 


Henri Rousseau The sleeping gypsy 1897

 

A Fed Pivot, Born Of Volatility, Missteps, And New Economic Reality (R.)
Get Out Of The Bond And Stock Market, Put Your Money In Cash – Stockman (MW)
Global Sovereign Debt Will Top $50 Trillion This Year (ZH)
Mueller Won’t Deliver Report To DOJ Next Week (Hill)
Schiffting to Phase 2 of Collusion (Strassel)
‘Even Nixon Wasn’t Like Him’: Trump’s Bid To Upend Russia Inquiry (G.)
Great Investigations (Kunstler)
Theresa May Must Go In Three Months, Cabinet Ministers Say (G.)
UK Food Imports From EU Face ‘£9bn Tariff Bill’ Under No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Dianne Feinstein Snaps At Group Of Environmental Activist Children (ZH)
The Cold War in Tech (Barron’s)
Silicon Valley Wants In On It Pair Of Gene-Edited Chinese Twins (ZH)
China Blocks 17.5 Million Plane Tickets Due to Lack of ‘Social Credit’ (Ind.)

 

 

The folly of our times. The Fed has completely destroyed America’s market system, and thus its economy, and they are treated as wise men. There are no markets left, there are no pensions left, there’s only the Fed.

A Fed Pivot, Born Of Volatility, Missteps, And New Economic Reality (R.)

The Federal Reserve’s promise in January to be “patient” about further interest rate hikes, putting a three-year-old process of policy tightening on hold, calmed markets after weeks of turmoil that wiped out trillions of dollars of household wealth. But interviews with more than half a dozen policymakers and others close to the process suggest it also marked a more fundamental shift that could define Chairman Jerome Powell’s tenure as the point where the Fed first fully embraced a world of stubbornly weak inflation, perennially slower growth and permanently lower interest rates. Along with Powell’s public comments, Fed minutes, and other documents, the picture emerges of a central bank edging towards a period of potentially difficult change as it reviews how to do business in light of that new reality.

[..] Concern that years of solid economic growth and falling unemployment would inevitably rekindle inflation or threaten financial stability have been a staple of Fed debates, but had largely disappeared by the Fed’s Dec. 18-19 meeting, according to a review of Fed meeting minutes and officials’ public statements. It was a conclusion hiding in plain sight. After a year when the Trump administration pumped around $1.5 trillion of tax cuts and public spending into a full employment economy, the Fed in 2018 would miss its 2 percent inflation target yet again.

“I hate to say we were right,” Dallas Federal Reserve president Robert Kaplan told reporters on Jan. 15 in Dallas. “But we have been warning for quite some time that…the structure of the economy has changed dramatically.” Technological innovation, globalization, and the Fed’s commitment to its inflation target all held down prices, and “those forces are powerful and they are accelerating,” he said.

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Dave Stockman, too, keeps referring to markets. Stop it. A market has a definition, a function, based one-on-one on price discovery. And that simply ceased to exist.

Get Out Of The Bond And Stock Market, Put Your Money In Cash – Stockman (MW)

[..] thus far the market has bounded higher after shaking off a withering decline toward the end of 2018 that culminated in the worst Christmas Eve drop on record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.4% since that time, breaking above a psychologically significant at 26,000 level on Friday, while the S&P 500 has advanced 19.5%, the Nasdaq Composite has risen 22.4% and the small-capitalization focused Russell 2000 index has returned more than 25%, according to FactSet data. Much of that gain has been underpinned by a Fed that has signaled that it is likely to slow a reduction of its $4 trillion balance sheet as soon as this year and a willingness to wait before increasing borrowing costs further. Both of those plans had been cited as a source of friction for markets.

However, Stockman has said a yawning deficit and an economic expansion in the U.S. that is making history for its length are signs that a reckoning my be at hand. He says easy-money days cannot last and has ramifications for all, arguing that the Fed must normalize its policy, at some point: “My point is, it’s finally catching up with us. We’ve gotten by with this for 30 years ‘cause the Fed has been monetizing the debt — buying bonds hand over fist. When Greenspan arrived, the balance sheet of the Fed was $200 billion; at the peak it was $4.5 trillion,” he told Cavuto, referring to former Fed boss Alan Greenspan. “We need to wake up and smell the roses here. We’re in year 10 of the longest business expansion in history.

We’re increasing the deficit at the very wrong time. They say it’s $900 billion this year it’ll be $1.2 trillion of borrowing at the same time that the Fed is beginning to shrink its balance sheet, which means they’ll be dumping bonds into the market,” he said.

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All that new debt and still pension systems are being fully gutted.

Global Sovereign Debt Will Top $50 Trillion This Year (ZH)

It has been one week since the US Treasury revealed that the national debt had topped $22 trillion (only 11 months after it had topped the $21 trillion threshold). And as the US budget deficit shows no signs of shrinking thanks to the Trump tax cuts and the death of the Obama-era budget sequester that has allowed for an expansion of federal spending (with more presumably on the way once the Trump infrastructure plan comes into focus), S&P warned on Thursday that worldwide sovereign debt could reach $50 trillion this year. According to Reuters, S&P predicted that governments will borrow some $7.78 trillion this year, up 3.2% since 2018 (the US will constitute more than $1 trillion of that all by itself). That’s a 6% increase in the total debt pile from the year before.

Most of this borrowing will be rolling over long-term debt. “Some 70 percent, or $5.5 trillion, of sovereigns’ gross borrowing will be to refinance maturing long-term debt, resulting in an estimated net borrowing requirement of about $2.3 trillion, or 2.6 percent of the GDP of rated sovereigns,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Karen Vartapetov. Governments, like corporations and individuals, took advantage of low interest rates around the world to step up borrowing in the wake of the financial crisis. Now, with borrowing costs expected to rise, these long-term burdens will become more burdensome to service. And with central banks slowly beginning to allow their inflated balance sheets to run off…

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No collusion.

Mueller Won’t Deliver Report To DOJ Next Week (Hill)

Special counsel Robert Mueller will not deliver his report to the Justice Department on Friday or next week, a Justice Department official told The Hill. The news comes amid broad speculation that Mueller’s probe into Russia’s electoral interference is wrapping up, with several news outlets reporting Wednesday that newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr was preparing to receive Mueller’s final report as soon as next week. The highly anticipated report is expected to cap off a sprawling, nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, a probe that has ensnared multiple former Trump campaign officials and associates.

Next week is already slated to be a busy week in Washington, with former longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen appearing for testimony on Capitol Hill and several other major hearings and votes set to take place. President Trump is also slated to travel to Vietnam next week for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. It remains unclear when Mueller will ultimately wrap up and submit his final documentation, though Friday’s news indicates the end of the investigation is at least a week away.

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow since May 2017, weathering constant attacks from Trump, who views the investigation as a “witch hunt” and has long denied allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. In the course of his investigation, Mueller has unveiled charges against more than two dozen Russians for hacking Democratic emails and committing fraud in an elaborate plot to use social media to meddle in the election. The special counsel has also charged six Trump associates with making false statements, illegal foreign lobbying, financial violations and other crimes. However, none of the charges have alleged a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russians to interfere in the election.

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“No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who?”

Schiffting to Phase 2 of Collusion (Strassel)

There’s been no more reliable regurgitator of fantastical Trump-Russia collusion theories than Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. So when the House Intelligence Committee chairman sits down to describe a “new phase” of the Trump investigation, pay attention. These are the fever swamps into which we will descend after Robert Mueller’s probe. The collusionists need a “new phase” as signs grow that the special counsel won’t help realize their reveries of a Donald Trump takedown. They had said Mr. Mueller would provide all the answers. Now that it seems they won’t like his answers, Democrats and media insist that any report will likely prove “anticlimactic” and “inconclusive.” “This is merely the end of Chapter 1,” said Renato Mariotti, a CNN legal “analyst.”

Mr. Schiff turned this week to a dependable scribe—the Washington Post’s David Ignatius—to lay out the next chapter of the penny dreadful. Mr. Ignatius was the original conduit for the leak about former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador, and the far-fetched claims that Mr. Flynn had violated the Logan Act of 1799. Mr. Schiff has now dictated to Mr. Ignatius a whole new collusion theory. Forget Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos—whoever. The real Trump-Russia canoodling rests in “Trump’s finances.” The future president was “doing business with Russia” and “seeking Kremlin help.”

So, no apologies. No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who? What’s mind-boggling is that reporters would continue to take Mr. Schiff seriously, given his extraordinary record of incorrect and misleading pronouncements. This is the man who, on March 22, 2017, helped launch full-blown hysteria when he said on “Meet the Press” that his committee already had the goods on Trump-Russia collusion. “I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Mr. Schiff declared then. Almost two years later, he’s provided no such evidence and stopped making the claim..

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Perhaps even more than politicians, it’s the media that will keep the collusion tale alive. They wouldn’t know how to make money anymore if they didn’t.

‘Even Nixon Wasn’t Like Him’: Trump’s Bid To Upend Russia Inquiry (G.)

It was yet another bombshell report for a president already ensnared in multiple investigations against his campaign, administration and family members. This time it had to do with hush money paid to women to silence them from speaking about alleged affairs they had with Donald Trump. According to a New York Times report published this week, Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, his controversial acting attorney general, if he could install a loyalist at the helm of the investigation into the hush money.

Although Whitaker declined Trump’s request, the story has raised fresh questions over whether the president was seeking to obstruct justice and how the reported move fits into a broad pattern of Trump attempting to interfere with an investigation concerning himself. Since taking office, Trump’s fixation on the federal inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election – and potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow – has spurred a series of actions that could now imperil his presidency and prospects of a second term.

From high-level firings to public misstatements, Trump’s repeated steps to undermine the investigations that have clouded his two years in office paint a picture of a president who is his own worst enemy, legal experts say. “It is quite clear from all the evidence that the president has had the intent to obstruct this investigation,” said Andy Wright, a former associate counsel to Barack Obama and the founding editor of the legal blog Just Security. “It’s been in plain sight.” “It’s a fundamental abuse of power for the president to be trying to shut down an investigation in which he has a personal stake – both as a potential target himself and his political allies and family members,” he added.

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Jim stays on message. I changed the headline from Great Expectations to Great Investigations.

Great Investigations (Kunstler)

Meanwhile, their antics may be eclipsed by the now inevitable inquiry around the misdeeds carried out by public officials in Act I of the show: the Russia Collusion Ruse. Based just on the current Andy McCabe book tour, there will be an awful lot to get to, and it is liable to be far more compelling than the nonsense conjured up by the Three Stooges. Mr. McCabe, in his quest to hand off the hot potato of culpability to his former colleagues, and to sell enough books to pay his lawyers’ retainers, has neatly laid out the case for his orchestrating a coup d’etat within the FBI. It’s an ugly story, and it’s all out there now, like so much spaghetti hurled against the wall, and it won’t be ignored.

There are many other spaghetti wads already plastered on that wall ranging from Hillary Clinton’s Fusion GPS hijinks, to Loretta Lynch’s written assurances to the Clinton campaign that the email server matter would be dropped, to the rather complete failure of the FISA process, and much much more that needs to be ventilated in a court of law. I suspect that Barack Obama and his White House confidents will enter the picture, too, sooner later, and to the great dismay of his partisans who do not want to see his legacy tarnished. Whatever your view of all these dark events, it would be pretty awful for the country to have to see him in a witness chair, but it may be unavoidable. Ditto Hillary, who is liable to go all Captain Queeg-y when she finally has to answer for her campaign’s turpitudes.

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Can both major parties in Britain dissolve in just 4 weeks time?

Theresa May Must Go In Three Months, Cabinet Ministers Say (G.)

Cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe Theresa May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the Guardian understands.Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year. May wants to stay in place for long enough after Brexit to secure a political legacy beyond the fraught negotiations. But some ministers believe she should announce the timeline for her departure “on a high” after the local election results, paving the way for a Conservative leadership contest over the summer.

Brexiters in the cabinet are keen to see a new leader take over for the next stage of the negotiations with the EU, which May has already pledged will involve more active involvement for politicians rather than advisers. The hardening mood among cabinet ministers on the timeline for her departure will place further pressure on May before a critical week of Brexit talks and votes amid a febrile climate in Westminster. On Thursday the Guardian revealed that remainer ministers emboldened by the departure of three MPs to the Independent Group (TIG) were threatening to rebel against her leadership to prevent a no-deal outcome – daring her to sack them.

And in a fresh blow to May, three cabinet ministers publicly say they would back moves to delay Brexit if she fails to get her deal through parliament. In a joint newspaper article, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, the justice minister, and the business secretary, Greg Clark, say they want to ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal on 29 March. And they insist they are prepared to defy the prime minister and join those MPs pushing for an extension to article 50 if there is no significant progress next week.

Writing for the Daily Mail on Saturday, they argue that a no-deal Brexit would wreck the country’s economy and put its security at risk. “If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the European Union on 29 March,” they write. “It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 29 March. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit.”

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Both May and Brussels appear to think they stand to gain from a no-deal Brexit. Maybe that makes it more likely than we think.

UK Food Imports From EU Face ‘£9bn Tariff Bill’ Under No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The government is expected next week to spell out its plan to mitigate a potential £9bn food-price shock from a no-deal Brexit, as analysts predict the cost of staples such as beef, cheddar cheese and tomatoes could soar. With just over a month until the Brexit deadline, the Department for International Trade is expected on Monday to publish a list of new import taxes, or tariffs, that will apply to 5200 products, including food and clothing, should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal. The relationship with the EU is key to the price of food because nearly one third of the food eaten in the UK comes from the bloc. At this time of year the situation is more acute because, with UK produce out of season, 90% of lettuces, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit is sourced from, or via, the EU.

“Food and drink tariff rates will be higher than those in any other supply chain,” says Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy firm Retail Economics. “All stages within the food supply chain will experience increased costs, with retailers hit disproportionately as processed goods attract higher duties than raw materials and semi-processed goods.” In 2017 the UK bought about £34bn of groceries from the EU, which arrived on supermarket shelves and at factory gates without being hit by customs duties or other trade costs. But if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both will fall back on the World Trade Organisation’s “most favoured nation” tariffs, which means they must pay import duties on each other’s trade. On that basis the UK’s 2017 EU food imports would come with a hefty £9.3bn tariff bill on top, according to Retail Economics’s analysis.

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Having been there for 30 years is not exactly a positive thing, given how much things have deteriorated in that time. Hand it over to the kids, they couldn’t possibly do worse.

Dianne Feinstein Snaps At Group Of Environmental Activist Children (ZH)

Armed with an impassioned letter and memorized talking points, the children belonging to three Bay Area environmentalist groups (Sunrise Bay Area, Youth Versus the Apocalypse, and Earth Guardians San Francisco) implored Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. The Senator responded: “Ok, I’ll tell you what. We have our own Green New Deal.” The video skips forward to the children warning Feinstein that “some scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around” – referring to a conclusion by a recent UN-backed report that man-made climate change will become irreversible if carbon emissions are not significantly reduced over the next 12 years (which Ocasio-Cortez turned into “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”).

“It’s not gonna get turned around in 10 years,” responded Feinstein – drawing a harsh rebuke from an angry chaperone. “Senator if this doesn’t get turned around in 10 years you’re looking at the faces of the people who are going to be living with these consequences,” said the adult – as one of the children chimed in “the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people and for all the people!” Feinstein was not amused. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say “it has to be my way or the highway.” “I don’t respond to that,” shot back Feinstein. “I’ve gotten elected. I just ran. I was elected by almost a million vote plurality. And, I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit. -Dianne Feinstein

One kid shot back “I hear what you’re saying but we’re the people who voted you. You’re supposed to listen to us, that’s your job.” “How old are you?” challenged Feinstein. “I’m 16. I can’t vote,” said the girl. “Well you didn’t vote for me,” replied the Senator.

https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/status/1099075460649107458

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The new fight for control of the world. Orwell International Inc.

The Cold War in Tech (Barron’s)

Cisco Systems, an early Silicon Valley success story, has become one of the nation’s top tech exporters. Today, roughly half of the networking giant’s sales come from outside the U.S. As foreign countries sought to catch up with U.S. connectivity, Cisco helped plug them in. But a wave of nationalist thinking has put Cisco—and most of its peers—in an uncomfortable position. Earlier this month, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins described the current climate as “one of the more complex macro, geopolitical environments that I think we’ve seen in quite a while with all the different moving parts.” It’s likely to get worse.

While investors are cheering indications of progress being made toward a resolution of trade issues between China and the U.S., the battle for tech supremacy between the two global superpowers shows few signs of abating. Even as the White House was negotiating on trade with Beijing, it was also contemplating a U.S. ban of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies, essentially China’s version of Cisco. As President Donald Trump was tweeting about the importance of 5G on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pushing U.S. allies to ditch Huawei. This is a fight that is not going to end anytime soon. For years, U.S. officials have worried about Chinese equipment being used to infiltrate U.S. networks and businesses for possible espionage and theft of intellectual property.

Even a resolution of the trade war won’t quell those fears. “The perception is that too much of the information- and communication-technology supply chain is centered on China,” says Paul Triolo, who focuses on global technology policy issues for risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. “If we are in a conflict and using infrastructure built by China, they could theoretically hit a button and shut off everything.” “After 30 years of saying companies should optimize supply chains and move some abroad, now we are saying it’s a security concern,” he says. “Adjusting to that is jarring.”

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The sort of thing you know someone will always try, no matter what laws are invented. And it’s not about Silicon Valley, it’s about the CIA through big Tech.

Silicon Valley Wants In On It Pair Of Gene-Edited Chinese Twins (ZH)

A pair of Chinese twins who were gene-edited for resistance to HIV may also have ‘supercharged’ brains, along with possible resistance to age-related cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a controversial experiment led by Chinese scientist He Jiankui, the embroys of seven couples had their genes “edited” using a tool known as CRISPR. By removing a gene called CCR5, Jiankui sought to create a natural immunity to HIV – which requires CCR5 to enter blood cells. Based on new research, however, Jiankui may have also left the twins, Lulu and Nana, with improved memory and enhanced cognition, according to MIT Technology Review. They may also enjoy some degree of protection from Alzheimer’s Disease and other maladies which are rapidly being linked to chronic inflammation, as some groups of mice without CCR5 – or who have been given CCR5 inhibitors, experience less severe dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says UCLA neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva, whose lap discovered a link between CCR5 and the brain’s ability to form new connections. “The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva, adding that the exact effect on the girls’ cognition cannot be predicted, which is “why it should not be done.” Jiankui’s human experiments drew harsh rebuke after news of Lulu and Nana’s birth in late October or early November, and has reportedly been fired from his position at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China. Jiankui says there are more gene-edited babies on the way.

Silva tells the MIT Technology Review that “because of his research, he sometimes interacts with figures in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who have, in his opinion, an unhealthy interest in designer babies with better brains.” When word of Jiankui’s experiment went public, Silva says he immediately questioned whether enhanced cognition was the real goal of the experiment. “I suddenly realized—Oh, holy shit, they are really serious about this bullshit,” said Silva. “My reaction was visceral repulsion and sadness.” He Jiankui acknowledged that he knew about the potential cognitive benefits of removing the CCR5 gene discovered by the UCLA team during a Q&A session, though he said “I am against using genome editing for enhancement.”

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Brave new world: gene-edited superhumans controlled through embedded technology. That Orwell guy appears smarter by the day.

China Blocks 17.5 Million Plane Tickets Due to Lack of ‘Social Credit’ (Ind.)

The Chinese government blocked 17.5 million would-be plane passengers from buying tickets last year as a punishment for offences including the failure to pay fines, it emerged. Some 5.5 million people were also barred from travelling by train under a controversial “social credit” system which the ruling Communist Party claims will improve public behaviour. The penalties are part of efforts by president Xi Jinping‘s government to use data-processing and other technology to tighten control on society. Human rights activists warn the system is too rigid and may lead to people being unfairly blacklisted without their knowledge, while US vice-president Mike Pence last year denounced it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life”.

Authorities have experimented with social credit in parts of China since 2014. Points are deducted for breaking the law, but also, in some areas, for offences as minor as walking a dog without a lead. Offences punished last year also included false advertising and violating drug safety rules, said China’s National Public Credit Information Centre. It gave no details of how many people live in areas with social credit systems. [..] The ruling party is spending heavily to roll out facial recognition systems, and human rights activists say people in Muslim and other areas with high ethnic minority populations have been compelled to give blood samples for a genetic database. Those systems rely heavily on foreign technology, which has prompted criticism of US and European suppliers for enabling human rights abuses.

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Sep 122018
 
 September 12, 2018  Posted by at 1:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Winslow Homer Salt Kettle, Bermuda 1899

 

In the wake of a number of the Lehman and 9/11 commemorations in America, and as a monster storm is once again threatening to cause outsize damage, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in time, which will decide how the country interacts with its own laws, its legal system, its Constitution, its freedom of speech, and indeed if it has sufficient willpower left to adhere to the Constitution as its no. 1 guiding principle.

The main problem is that it all seems to slip slide straight by the people, who are -kept- busy with completely different issues. That is convenient for those who would like less focus on the Constitution, but it’s also very dangerous for everyone else. Americans should today stand up for freedom of speech, or it will be gone, likely forever.

The way it works is that president Trump is portrayed as the major threat to ‘the rule of law’, which allows other people, as well as companies and organizations, to drop below the radar and devise and work on plans and schemes that threaten the country itself, and its future as a nation ruled by its laws.

Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House” and the anonymous op-ed published in the NYT a day later serve as a good reminder of these dynamics. If you succeed in confirming people’s idea that Trump is such an unhinged idiot that an unelected cabal inside the White House is needed to save the nation from the president it elected, you’re well on your way.

Well on your way to separate the country from its own laws, that is. Not on your way to saving it. You can’t save America by suspending its Constitution just because that suits your particular political goals or points of view.

 

Late last night, Michael Tracey wrote on Twitter: “Trump’s preference to pull out of Afghanistan is depicted in the Woodward book as yet another crazy impulse that the “adults in the room” successfully rein in.” “We’re going to save you from yourselves, thank us later!” Nobody voted for those adults in the room anymore than anyone voted for the Afghanistan ‘war’ to enter year 17.

Meanwhile Infowars said: “Several people within Trump’s inner circle know the threat to the mid-terms and his re-election chances that social media censorship poses, including Donald Trump Jr. and Brad Parscale, his 2020 campaign manager. However, older members of the administration are completely unaware of the fact that banning prominent online voices and manipulating algorithms can shift millions of votes and are oblivious to the danger. This ignorance has placed a temporary block on Trump taking action, despite the president repeatedly referring to Big Tech censorship in tweets and speeches over the last few weeks.”

Yes, Infowars, I know, everybody loves to hate Alex Jones. And perhaps for good reasons, at least at times. But does that mean he can be banned from a whole slew of internet platforms without this having been run by and through the US court system? Without even one judge having examined the ‘evidence’, if it even existed, that leads to such banning, blocking and shadowbanning?

Alex Jones is an ‘easy example’ because he’s so popular. Which is also, undoubtedly, why all the social media platforms ban him so easily, and all at the same time. ‘He’s a terrible person’, say so many of their readers. But that’s not good enough, far from it. Twitter and Facebook should never be allowed to ban anyone, using opaque ‘Community Standards’ or ‘Terms and Conditions’ interpreted by kids fresh out of high school.

These platforms have important societal functions. They are for instance the new conduits governments, police, armies use to warn people in case of emergencies and disasters. You can’t ban people from those conduits just because a bunch of geeks don’t like what they say. If you can at all, it will have to be done through the legal system.

That this is not done at present poses an immense threat to that legal system, and to the Constitution itself. But Americans, and indeed Congressmen and Senators, have been trained in a Pavlovian way to believe that it’s not Google and Facebook who threaten the Constitution, but that it’s Trump and his crew.

 

Meanwhile, Trump is being put through Bob Mueller’s Special Counsel legal wringer 24/7, while Alphabet, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg escape any such scrutiny at all. That discrepancy, too, is eating away at the foundations of American law.

And like it or not, Trump had it right when he said “You look at Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants and I made it clear that we as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results..”

America as a country cannot tolerate a few rich companies deciding whose voice can be heard, and whose will be silenced. It is entirely unacceptable. That goes for voices Trump doesn’t want to hear as much as it does for whoever Silicon Valley doesn’t. That’s why neither should be in charge of making such decisions. It kills the Constitution.

None of the above means that everyone should be free to post terrorist sympathies or hate speech on social media platforms. But it does mean that legislative and judicial systems must define what these things mean, that this not be left up to arbitrary ‘Community Standards’ interpreted by legally inept Silicon Valley interns, nor should it be left to secret algorithms to decide what news you see and what not.

America itself hangs in the balance, and so do many other western countries. What exactly is the difference between China’s overt internet censorship and America’s hidden one? That is what needs to be defined, and that can only be done by the legal system, by Congress, by the courts, by judges and juries.

And it’s not something that has to be invented from scratch, it can and must be tested against the Constitution. That is the only way forward. That social media have taken over the country by storm, and nary a soul has any idea what that means, can never be an excuse to leave banning and silencing voices over to private parties, whoever they are.

 

It’s not a unique American problem. In Europe there are all sorts of attempts to ban ‘hate speech’, but there are very few proposals concerning who will define what that is. And since Europe has no Constitution, but instead has 27 different versions of one, it will be harder there. Then again, it will also be easier to get away with all sorts of arbitrary bannings etc.

Hungary will be inclined to ban totally different voices than for instance Denmark and so on. And nobody over there has given any sign of understanding how dangerous that is. Banning ‘hate speech’ doesn’t mean anything if the term hasn’t been properly defined. But that also allows for banning voices someone simply doesn’t like. To prevent that from happening, we have legal systems.

It’s essential, it’s elementary, Watson. But it’s slipping through our fingers because our politicians are either incapable of, or unwilling to, comprehending the consequences. Why stick out your neck when nobody else does? It’s like the anti-thesis of what politics means: stay safe.

So the social media’s industry’s own lobbying has a good shot at getting its way: they tell Washington to let them regulate themselves, and everything will be spic and dandy. That would be the final nail in the Constitution’s coffin, and it’s much closer than you think. Do be wary of that.

 

In the end it comes down to two things i’ve said before. First, there is no-one who’s been as ferociously banned and worse the way Julian Assange has. His ban goes way beyond Silicon Valley, but it does paint a shrill portrait of how far the US, CIA, FBI, is willing to go, and to step beyond the Constitution, to get to someone they really don’t like.

But has Assange ever violated and US law, let alone its Constitution? Not that we know of. Mike Pompeo has called WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service’, and the DOJ has said the 1st Amendment, and thereby of necessity the entire US Constitution, doesn’t apply to Assange because he’s not an American, but both those things are devoid of any meaning, at least in a court of law.

Bob Woodward has an idea of what Assange faces, and he’d do much better to focus on helping him than trying to put Trump down through anonymous sources. And that also leads me to why I, personally, have at least some sympathy for Alex Jones, other than because he’s being attacked unconstitutionally: Jones ran/runs a petition for Trump to free Julian Assange.

Come to think of it: it’s when that petition started taking off that Jones’s ‘real trouble’ started. Given how closely interwoven Silicon Valley and the FBI and CIA have already become, I’m not going to feign any surprise at that.

And before you feel any wishes and desires coming up to impeach Trump, do realize that he may be the only person standing between you and a complete takeover of America by the FBI/NSA/CIA/DNC and Google/Facebook/Twitter, which will be accompanied by the ritual burial of the Constitution.

Think Trump is scary? Take a step back and survey the territory.

 

 

 

 

Sep 032017
 


Edward Hopper Sunday 1926

 

America’s Superstar Companies Are a Drag on Growth (BBG)
Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley Is The New Political Power In DC (G.)
Google To Be Hit With Record EU Fine Over Claims Of Phone Software Abuse (T.)
North Korea Quake Seems Related To Nuclear Test (BBG)
Bitcoin Tumbles To Pre Korea-Missile-Launch Level After Topping $5000 (ZH)
China Sees New World Order With Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold (ANR)
Why Houston Doesn’t Need Federal Flood Relief (Mises)
Harvey Could Bankrupt The Federal Flood-Insurance Program (ZH)
Harvey Makes Landfall in Saudi Arabia (BBG)
Pesticides Linked To Birth Abnormalities In Major New Study (Ind.)
France Votes Against The Use Of Pesticide Glyphosate (FarmingUK)

 

 

The perfect recipe for strangling an economy: “..as a result of this increased market power, the big superstar companies have been raising their prices and cutting their wages. This has lifted profits and boosted the stock market, but it has also held down real wages, diverted more of the nation’s income to business owners, and increased inequality. It has also held back productivity, since raising prices restricts economic output.”

America’s Superstar Companies Are a Drag on Growth (BBG)

Here’s a story about the U.S. economy that more people are telling these days. Since the 1980s, antitrust enforcement has gotten weaker. As a result, a few big companies have managed to capture a much bigger share of the market in various industries. Technology may have helped too, by letting big companies spread their geographic reach, and by creating network effects that keep customers locked in to platforms like Facebook. Anyway, as a result of this increased market power, the big superstar companies have been raising their prices and cutting their wages. This has lifted profits and boosted the stock market, but it has also held down real wages, diverted more of the nation’s income to business owners, and increased inequality. It has also held back productivity, since raising prices restricts economic output.

Like all big, sweeping theses about the economy, this story can’t be proven or disproven with a single research paper, or even a dozen papers. But like detectives, economists can probe various pieces and see how each one checks out. In the past few years, researchers have found that industrial concentration – measured by the market share of the four biggest companies in an industry – has indeed been increasing in most parts of the U.S. economy. They’ve documented a correlation between industrial concentration and a decline in labor’s share of national income. They’ve confirmed that profits have risen substantially. They’ve documented a slackening in the enforcement of antitrust law. And they’ve found some evidence that after mergers, prices go up while productivity doesn’t improve.

Now, a series of new papers provides even more support for key aspects of the story. The first, a paper by economists Jan de Loecker and Jan Eeckhout, has caused quite a stir in the economics press and on the blogs. De Loecker and Eeckhout find that markups – the amount that companies charge over and above their costs – have been on the rise since about 1980. Back then, according to the authors’ estimates, the average company charged a price that was about 18% above costs – now, the number is 67%.

The authors then use some very simple econ models to link a rise in markups to declines in labor’s share of national income, low-skilled workers’ wages, reduced labor force participation and a slowdown in the broader economy. It all fits with basic economic theory – less competition leads to increased market power, leading in turn to all sorts of bad economic outcomes. The second paper, by German Gutierrez and Thomas Philippon, looks at declining levels of business investment. Basic theory suggests that when top companies get more market power, they invest less in their businesses as they restrict output and raise prices. Market power could therefore be one big reason for the decline in U.S. business investment:

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But these ‘superstar’ companies can do what they want; they have the power, both politically and economically.

Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley Is The New Political Power In DC (G.)

Funding thinktanks is just one of the ways that America’s most powerful industries exert their influence over policymakers. Much of the work takes place a quarter of a mile from the White House, in a lesser-known political power base: Washington’s K Street corridor, the epicenter of the lobbying industry. In addition to thinktanks, K Street is packed with slick corporate representatives, hired guns, and advocacy groups. The lobbyists spend their days swarming over members of Congress to ensure their private interests are reflected in legislation and regulation. While the big banks and pharma giants have flexed their economic muscle in the country’s capital for decades, there’s one relative newcomer that has leapfrogged them all: Silicon Valley. Over the last 10 years, America’s five largest tech firms have flooded Washington with lobbying money to the point where they now outspend Wall Street two to one.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon spent $49m on Washington lobbying last year, and there is a well-oiled revolving door of Silicon Valley executives to and from senior government positions. Tech companies weren’t always so cozy with Capitol Hill. During its 1990s heyday, Microsoft accumulated enormous wealth and market share. Despite being one of the world’s largest companies, the PC software pioneer mostly kept away from Washington, spending just $2m on lobbying in 1997. However, the company’s size and anticompetitive business practices attracted the scrutiny of regulators in Clinton’s administration, whipped up by the lobbying of disgruntled competitors including Sun Microsystems, IBM and a company called Novell. The following year, the Department of Justice sued Microsoft, accusing it of using a Windows operating system monopoly to push its Internet Explorer browser to the disadvantage of rivals.

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US ‘superstar’ companies’ power has not yet fully pervaded Europe. A matter of time?!.

Google To Be Hit With Record EU Fine Over Claims Of Phone Software Abuse (T.)

Google faces a multibillion-euro fine by the European Commission for using its Android smartphone software to stifle competition. The record-breaking penalty could be imposed as soon as this month, according to industry and legal sources in Brussels. Other insiders said the commission may wait until later in the year before sanctioning Google. Brussels has accused the world’s second-biggest company of breaking anti-trust laws by forcing mobile phone manufacturers to pre-load Google apps on their devices. The fine will escalate the company’s regulatory woes in Europe, where the commission has waged a long-running campaign to try to ensure competition flourishes in the digital economy. In June, the competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager fined Google €2.4bn (£2.2bn) for doctoring search results to favour its price-comparison shopping service.

Vestager also ordered the company to change how it presents search results. It has until the end of the month to comply with the demand, or face daily fines of 5% of its global turnover. Sources expect the Android fine to be substantially higher than the shopping penalty. The software is a central pillar of the $650bn (£502bn) empire of Alphabet, Google’s owner. It powers an estimated 80% of smartphones. About half of all internet traffic is through phones. Last year Vestager, 49, accused Google of using Android as a tool to “protect and expand its dominant position in internet search”. The company allows handset makers to use the software without paying a fee, but they must pre-install Google’s Chrome browser, search bar and other apps. This stipulation “harms consumers” and prevents digital rivals “from competing on their own merits”, according to Vestager.

In addition to fining Google, she is expected to demand a fundamental overhaul of its relationship with smartphone makers, such as Samsung. That could undermine the big profits Google earns through Android. It monetises the software platform by analysing the mountains of data generated by its apps and selling targeted adverts to clients. [..] the company has strenuously denied breaking competition laws. Last year it said giving away Android “keeps manufacturers’ costs low, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices”.

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The pressure on Xi will rise a lot. And US should sit down with Putin. Urgently.

North Korea Quake Seems Related To Nuclear Test (BBG)

North Korea said it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb with “unprecedentedly big power” on Sunday that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, in its first nuclear test under U.S. President Donald Trump’s watch. The test, ordered by Kim Jong Un, was a “perfect success” and confirmed the precision and technology of the hydrogen bomb, according to the Korean Central News Agency. Kim’s regime has defied Trump’s warnings as it seeks the capability to strike America with an atomic weapon. “The creditability of the operation of the nuclear warhead is fully guaranteed,” KCNA said. South Korea’s weather agency said it detected a magnitude 5.7 earthquake around 12:29 p.m. local time near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeast North Korea. Energy from Sunday’s explosion was about six times stronger in force than the nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang last September, the weather agency said.

“All options are on the table,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on public broadcaster NHK. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a North Korea nuclear test would be “absolutely unacceptable and we must protest it strongly.” Pyongyang’s actions are set to further increase tensions in Northeast Asia, where concerns have grown this year that a war of words between Trump and Kim could set off a military conflict. It was the sixth nuclear test by Pyongyang since 2006 and the first since the U.S. and South Korea elected new leaders. Trump had no immediate response to the nuclear test, though he sent a tweet thanking relief workers after Hurricane Harvey devastated states in the southern U.S. He has repeatedly lashed out at North Korea since taking office, warning last month of “fire and fury” if Kim’s regime continues to threaten the U.S.

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“Chinese market regulators have begun cracking down on ICOs as “illegal fundraising vehicles” in disguise..“

Bitcoin Tumbles To Pre Korea-Missile-Launch Level After Topping $5000 (ZH)

Shortly after topping $5,000 (according to several exchanges), Bitcoin began to tumble dramatically – now down almost $500 – erasing all the post-North-Korea missile anxiety gains.

Ethereum has crashed even more.

Meanwhile, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, Shanghai-based BTC China, announced it had suspended ICOCoin deposits as well as trading and withdrawals, starting 6pm on Sunday, while Caixin reports that authorities shut down a blockchain conference over the weekend on concerns unregulated Initial Coin Offerings were being used to raise funds illegally, adding that Chinese market regulators have begun cracking down on ICOs as “illegal fundraising vehicles” in disguise, and in taking a page out of the SEC playbook, will soon issue official rules on ICOs. As CoinTelegraph adds, the self-regulatory group National Internet Finance Association of China warned its members about the dangers in participating in initial coin offerings (ICO).

The group claimed that ICOs could be using misleading information as part of fundraising campaigns. In a statement in late August 2017, the online finance organization further warned its member companies to exercise extreme caution when dealing with the new fundraising mechanism. Part of the statement reads: “China Internet Finance Association members should take the initiative to strengthen self-discipline, to resist illegal financial behavior.” [..] an official for Russia’s national legislature said that new laws regulating the exchange of cryptocurrencies will be complete by the end of the fall. Anatoly Aksakov, who leads the State Duma’s financial markets committee, told Russian media this week that next steps involve the formation of a dedicated working group to address the issue.

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Sounds overcooked. But yes, US sanctions are not helping. Still, physical delivery in gold is not what anyone wants, far too clumsy for real trade. And who trusts paper gold? Even better: no-one trusts the yuan.

China Sees New World Order With Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold (ANR)

China is expected shortly to launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold in what analysts say could be a game-changer for the industry. The contract could become the most important Asia-based crude oil benchmark, given that China is the world’s biggest oil importer. Crude oil is usually priced in relation to Brent or West Texas Intermediate futures, both denominated in U.S. dollars. China’s move will allow exporters such as Russia and Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan. To further entice trade, China says the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong. “The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously,” said Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT.

The Shanghai International Energy Exchange has started to train potential users and is carrying out systems tests following substantial preparations in June and July. This will be China’s first commodities futures contract open to foreign companies such as investment funds, trading houses and petroleum companies. Most of China’s crude imports, which averaged around 7.6 million barrels a day in 2016, are bought on long-term contracts between China’s major oil companies and foreign national oil companies. Deals also take place between Chinese majors and independent Chinese refiners, and between foreign oil majors and global trading companies. Alan Bannister, Asia director of S&P Global Platts, an energy information provider, said that the active involvement of Chinese independent refiners over the last few years “has created a more diverse marketplace of participants domestically in China, creating an environment in which a crude futures contract is more likely to succeed.”

China has long wanted to reduce the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the commodities markets. Yuan-denominated gold futures have been traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange since April 2016, and the exchange is planning to launch the product in Budapest later this year. Yuan-denominated gold contracts were also launched in Hong Kong in July – after two unsuccessful earlier attempts – as China seeks to internationalize its currency. The contracts have been moderately successful. The existence of yuan-backed oil and gold futures means that users will have the option of being paid in physical gold, said Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, a gold-based financial services company based in Toronto. “It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either,” Macleod said.

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The size of both Texas and Houston Metro GDP is quite something.

Why Houston Doesn’t Need Federal Flood Relief (Mises)

In his article today, Christopher Westley noted that Texas’s economy — when measured by GDP — is larger than Canada’s. In other words: If Texas were an independent country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy (totaling $1.6 trillion), and its citizens would be more than capable of addressing natural disasters of the magnitude of a major flood. Texas’s economy is also larger than those of Russia and Australia. By why stop our analysis at the state of Texas? Indeed, if we look at the GDP of the Houston metropolitan area, we find it comes in at $503 billion. This total is similar to the GDPs of Poland, Belgium, and Austria. It’s significantly larger than the GDPs of Norway and Denmark. Nor is Texas’s GDP largely driven by federal spending — so we can’t say that Texas’s economy depends on federal spending to stay afloat.

When we look at federal spending in Texas compared to the federal taxes paid by Texans, we find it’s nearly a one-for-one relationship. So, if the Federal government stopped spending in Texas — but allowed Texans to keep their money, Texas would be fine. [..] Of course, we’ll be told that federal disaster relief programs are all about “sharing” and “cooperation” and “kindness.” In reality, it’s all just about forcing one group of people to hand over money to another group of people. There is no doubt that Texas and Houston now face significant challenges in rebuilding after the flood. But, when we demand that other regions and states pay for the rebuilding of Texas, we’re acting as if those other states and communities don’t have problems of their own. Needs related to poverty, infrastructure, and education in, say, Michigan did not magically disappear because Texas experienced a flood.

The only reason it now seems right to take money from people in Michigan, and hand it over to Houstonians, is because Houston’s problems are in the headlines, and Michigans mundane daily problems are not. The central planners have decided that Houstonians deserve Michigan’s money. But the rationale for this decision is purely political, and thus arbitrary. This isn’t to say real sharing and kindness are a bad thing. It’s excellent that private charities have already been hard at work helping with the cleanup in Houston. If one wants to insist that governments be involved, there’s nothing stopping other states from handing over funds to Texas directly. The federal government need not be involved at all.

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Which is why the possibility of a second hurricane hitting the US this year is intriguing.

Harvey Could Bankrupt The Federal Flood-Insurance Program (ZH)

Hurricane Harvey may solve the auto industry’s inventory problem. But right now, it’s about to create a giant headache for the federal government. Based on the latest estimates from Irvine, California-based CoreLogic, insured flood losses for homes in the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana could total between $6.5 billion to $9.5 billion. Since private insurers typically don’t provide personal flood insurance, all but $500 million of that will fall to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. According to the Street, if insured damages reach the high end of this range, it would totally deplete the $7.5 billion of cash and available credit available to the 49-year-old government program, which provides about 98% of residential flood insurance. The program is already about $25 billion in debt to the US Treasury Department and would need Congressional authorization for additional funding.

To be sure, final totals could be much, much higher given the severity of the the “1-in-1000-year” flood. The potential funding shortfall could create problems if Congress doesn’t act quickly this month to shore up the financially-troubled flood-insurance program. As we’ve reported, Congress already has a full agenda in September – a month where lawmakers must pass a funding bill to keep the government open, and another to raise the debt limit and stave off a technical default on US debt. Initially, President Trump said he would force a government shutdown if Congress didn’t approve funding for his border wall in its next budget. However, it appears that he has backed away from this, as the Washington Post reported today that the administration has quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion in wall funding would not need to be included in the September continuing resolution.

Furthermore, Congress must explicitly pass legislation to keep the NFIP intact. Without it, the entire program will lapse. To be sure, there are some signs that Republicans are taking steps to ensure that emergency disaster-relief funding is approved as quickly as possible. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, some Republican lawmakers are raising the possibility that funding for the cleanup effort could be attached to the debt-ceiling bill, giving both measures a strong chance of passing. But it didn’t say if funding for the flood-insurance program would be included. Thanks, in part, to the hurricane, and the perceived political consequences of failing to aid the disaster victims (though Texas has proven to be a reliably red state), Goldman has cut its odds of a government shutdown to 15%.

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“..even as Saudi Arabia sees prices of the end products of its industry spiking, by and large it is not capturing that windfall for itself..”

Harvey Makes Landfall in Saudi Arabia (BBG)

Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Gulf Coast, and its impact is now spreading out to the rest of the U.S., chiefly at gas pumps. But America’s resurgent role in the global energy trade means the ripples extend far beyond its own shores. One place they are lapping onto is Saudi Arabia.In theory, the de-facto leader of efforts by OPEC, Russia and other members of the so-called Vienna Group stands to gain from disruption at the nerve center of the shale boom that has helped to suppress oil prices. In practice, things are a bit more complicated.

The shale boom has moved a lot of U.S. oil production inland and contributed to a glut of barrels building up in storage. So Harvey’s biggest impact on the region’s energy industry has been the closure of ports, refineries and pipelines – and keeping many drivers off highways that have turned into lakes and streams.The net result is depressed demand for crude oil due to absent refiners and panic buying of refined products such as gasoline for the same reason. So even as Saudi Arabia sees prices of the end products of its industry spiking, by and large it is not capturing that windfall for itself:

The disruption should cause U.S. inventories of refined products to fall as they are used to cover shortages and stocks of crude oil and products to drop elsewhere as, for example, European refiners run flat-out to send fuel to the U.S. to capture higher prices. This ultimately helps Saudi Arabia.Again, though, there’s a complicating factor.Saudi Arabia has explicitly targeted the U.S. in its strategy to drain the glut; shipments of its oil to America have dropped noticeably this summer:

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Will we ever stop poisoning ourselves? No high hopes here.

Pesticides Linked To Birth Abnormalities In Major New Study (Ind.)

High exposure to pesticides as a result of living near farmers’ fields appears to increase the risk of giving birth to a baby with “abnormalities” by about 9%, according to new research. Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared 500,000 birth records for people born in the San Joaquin Valley between 1997 and 2011 and levels of pesticides used in the area. The average use of pesticides over that period was about 975kg for each 2.6sq km area per year. But, for pregnant women in areas where 4,000kg of pesticides was used, the chance of giving birth prematurely rose by about 8% and the chance of having a birth abnormality by about 9%. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers compared this to the 5 to 10% increase adverse birth outcomes that can result from air pollution or extreme heat events.

“Concerns about the effects of harmful environmental exposure on birth outcomes have existed for decades,” they wrote. “Great advances have been made in understanding the effects of smoking and air pollution, among others, yet research on the effects of pesticides has remained inconclusive. “While environmental contaminants generally share the ethical and legal problems of evaluating the health consequences of exposure in a controlled setting and the difficulties associated with rare outcomes, pesticides present an additional challenge. “Unlike smoking, which is observable, or even air pollution, for which there exists a robust network of monitors, publicly available pesticide use data are lacking for most of the world.”

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Addicted farmers: “More than half of British farmers say they are concerned that a ban could cost them more than £10,000 every year.”

France Votes Against The Use Of Pesticide Glyphosate (FarmingUK)

The French government has voted against the renewal of an EU Commission license for the pesticide glyphosate. The decision by the French government comes as evidence emerges of the risk of birth defects caused by exposure to pesticides. Monsanto is the major supplier of products containing glyphosate, with ‘Roundup’ being the best-known product. The product is widely used by farmers, gardeners and local authorities to control weeds. In 2015 the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. But in March, the EU’s chemicals agency said glyphosate should not be classed as a carcinogen. And a survey has shown that a ban on glyphosate in the UK could force one in five wheat farms into ‘serious financial difficulty’. More than half of British farmers say they are concerned that a ban could cost them more than £10,000 every year.

Speaking at Cereals 2017, NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “This year looks like being a watershed year for classical chemistry for arable farms with these three decisions on the horizon from Europe. “A poor decision on endocrine disruptor definition could see an end to the availability of around 26 active ingredients; the European Commission is proposing a ban on the use of neonicotinoids on all outdoor crops; and a decision on the reauthorisation of glyphosate is due by the end of the year. “The NFU will continue to make the case for evidence-based decisions to be made in all three of these areas, and we will continue to work with our members to help them make the case to politicians and other decision makers about the importance of these products and to demonstrate the damage that bad decisions will have on farming and our food supply.”

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