Jan 092021
 
 January 9, 2021  Posted by at 4:32 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  30 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Blue Trees (Your Turn Will Come, My Beauty!) 1888

 

 

You would think that if there’s one group of people who’d recognize a coup if they saw one, it would be the American people. Because their intelligence services have been involved in almost all coups in the world for many decades; let’s say since WWII, to keep it simple.

Just in the most recent past, they staged and conducted coups in Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela and many other places (think Bolivia). Libya was the only real “successful” one, thanks to Gaddafi being sodomized with a bayonet, leading to Hillary’s giddy We Came, We Saw, He Died, the by far ugliest face of the US by a mile. That and the open-air slave markets that resulted from sodomizing to death the man who led Africa’s wealthiest country and gave his people benefits that Americans can only dream of.

And now Hillary’s crew are about to be handed the reins again. Or as Michael Tracey put it”: The new corporate authoritarian liberal-left monoculture is going to be absolutely ruthless – and in 12 days it is merging with the state. This [is] only the beginning. Duck for cover.

The screwed-up coups in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela etc. would appear to signal that the CIA is not very adept (anymore?!) at organizing coups, or maybe they just chronically overestimate their skills at it. Whichever way it may be, they have done more damage to America and its standing in the world than Donald Trump could ever have dreamt of doing.

So you would think Americans would recognize a coup, but instead they’re the last group of people on the planet who would. Because their media doesn’t present them as coups. They’re labeled as spreading democracy, freedom etc., as standing up against the bad guys, and liberating innocent people -even if many of them die in the process. People dying is a feature of these coups, not a bug. People get shot, bombed, disappeared, in a word: killed.

 

Anyway, it’s way more and better than ironic that all these very deadly CIA-led operations are not labeled coups, but then the clowns and actors spectacle that took place in Washington DC this week, is. Which is possible only because they never told people what a coup actually is. Only then can you make them believe that some wanker in a furry viking helmet outfit is trying to overthrow the government. At the initiative of the democratically elected president, no less.

Are these people extremists and terrorists or are they clowns and actors? I would lean towards the latter option. A coup requires a plan, a playbook, most often elites who think they have a shot at taking over a country, which in turn requires support from at least part of an army. The best these folks could think of was sitting in Pelosi’s office and take selfies.

 

 

That doesn’t make the march on the Capitol a good thing, far from it, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t like the way the president they elected in 2016 has been treated by the MSM, his political opponents, and US intelligence. And after the theater that has been Russiagate, the Mueller debacle and the Zelensky call-based impeachment, maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising.

The main problem for Trump lately would appear to have been his legal representation. I’ve said all along: let the dice roll where they may, there are many questions surrounding the election and they have the right to go looking for answers to these questions.

But if you look at what the status is today of what the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood have come up with, you think they might as well have been working for the other side. Still, we’ve at least seen the dice roll, and they came up they way they did. The process was allowed to proceed, and this is the outcome. This has misled Trump as well as his followers. They thought there was something substantial -and tanglible- there, because that’s what they were told all along.

This doesn’t mean the US should continue using voting machines, however. There are many countries that hold elections, and there are very few that either use those machines and/or see their elections contested. There’s a reason for that combination. These things can be manipulated, and they will be if they’re used. Get rid of them or this chapter will be repeated endlessly.

 

Then again, it all plays out well for anyone but Trump. And perhaps a few GOP’ers who stood by him. You could say, Trump entered the swamp and drowned in it, it swallowed him whole. Which is not to say that he’s such a perfect character, hell no, but he was the one and only chance to get rid of the power cabal that is DC. Which is a much bigger danger than he could ever be.

Where career politicians like Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and Joe Biden can reside for decades, and be handed ever more handsome amounts of money by the lobbyists who write their laws, which benefit the corporations they work for. Trump was the chance to do at least something about this. They ate him alive.

Now the story is that Trump is/was the main danger, and that he was attempting a coup against his own government. To finish off the job, after being hunted down by the MSM for 4+ years, social media, for whom unceremoniously dumping Trump, after he was their main attraction for years -at least for clickbait-, was just a business decision dressed in some vague set of moral principles, are now simply deleting him.

And people cheer that. They don’t understand that from now on, as US president you serve at the behest, grace and kindness of the CIA, New York Times and WaPo, but even more that of @jack and Zuckerberg, and not that of the American people. As the noise about an attempted coup allows Team Biden to slip in Sally Yates, Susan Rice and Victoria Nuland and their whole gang of neocon warmongers.

The entire media focus on Trump served to hide what those people were doing behind the scenes all along. And now it’s time to duck for cover. They’re going to try and impeach him again, and then prosecute him, and erase everything he’s done, cheered on by the same media who never told you what a coup actually is. Because they are a big club, and he’s not in it, and neither are you.

And if you think you can vent an opinion on social media in the future that doesn’t coincide with that of the big club, perhaps you haven’t been paying attention.

 

 

 

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Nov 092020
 


Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled 1982

 

COVID Risk Exaggerated, Talk Of A Second Wave Misleading – 500 Academics (DM)
Biden’s First Move As President-elect? Mask Mandate For All (Fox)
COVID Set Back Attitudes To Public Transport By Two Decades (G.)
The Bush/Cheney Administration Was Far Worse Than Trump (Greenwald)
Inside Trump’s Legal Warfare (Axios)
Kerry For Climate Chief, Buttigieg For Veterans, Yates For DOJ (ZH)
Donald Trump Jr: “Declassify Everything” (sundance)
Software That Gave Biden 1000s Of Michigan Votes Used In 28 Other States (JTN)
EHRC Report Into Labour Antisemitism Is The Real Political Interference (Cook)
NATO Says Biden Victory Will Help With ‘Assertive Russia’ (RT)

 

 

 

 

How old is the president?

 

 

“Listen to the science” becomes hollow and meaningless when scientists start contradicting each other. Because it shows there is no such thing as “the science”.

COVID Risk Exaggerated, Talk Of A Second Wave Misleading – 500 Academics (DM)

Official data is ‘exaggerating’ the risk of Covid-19 and talk of a second wave is ‘misleading’, nearly 500 academics told Boris Johnson in open letter attacking lockdown. The doctors and scientists said the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has become ‘disproportionate’ and that mass testing has distorted the risk of the virus. They said tests are likely to be producing high numbers of ‘false positive’ results and the Government must do more to put infection and death rates within the context of normal seasonal rates. The letter criticised the Government’s handling of coronavirus for ‘causing more harm than good’. It comes after the UK yesterday confirmed a further 24,957 positive Covid tests, up just 13.9 per cent on last week’s total.

Top scientists suggested the UK’s second wave of coronavirus has already peaked. Professor Tim Spector, who leads the Covid Symptom Study app aiming to track the spread of Covid-19 in the UK, confirmed that there were ‘positive signs’ the country has ‘passed the peak of the second wave’. The open letter to the Prime Minister was signed by 469 medics and is titled First Do No Harm – the medical principle that a cure must never be worse than the disease itself. It is signed by immunologist Dr Charlotte R Bell, paediatrician Dr Rosamond Jones, consultant surgeon and Keith Willison, Professor of Chemical Biology at Imperial College.

The letter reads: ‘The management of the crisis has become disproportionate and is now causing more harm than good. ‘We urge policy-makers to remember that this pandemic, like all pandemics, will eventually pass but the social and psychological damage that it is causing risks becoming permanent. ‘After the initial justifiable response to Covid-19, the evidence base now shows a different picture.

Read more …

Mask mandates in the US are an invitation for unrest.

Biden’s First Move As President-elect? Mask Mandate For All (Fox)

One of Joe Biden’s first priorities as president-elect will be implementing mask mandates nationwide by working with governors. The future 46th president, however, says if they refuse than he will go to mayors and county executives and get local masking requirements in place. Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel believes that while masks are “the icing on the physical distancing cake” and should be worn properly both indoors and outdoors, especially when people are too close together, a more punitive approach to mask wearing may have the opposite impact of what the administration intends.

“I think masks are quite useful, but they have a place and they’re not the be all and end all,” Siegel said. “I’m worried that mandating this with fines and such may actually lead to more of a rebellion against it.” He noted that the use of masks should be determined based on how much of the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is in a specific area rather than mandating it everywhere. As for social distancing, Biden’s plan says it will be used as more of a “dial” approach that will determine the risk of spread using evidence-based guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a move Siegel says is a mistake.

“I don’t think social distancing is dial. I think masks are a dial,” Siegel said. “Social distancing is something we should just be doing right now. You never know how much virus was in the community.” He believes physical distancing is actually more important to curbing the spread than masks are. “I think physical distancing is more important than masks,” Siegel argued. “If you’re 10 feet away from someone, you’re not going to get the virus. If you’re one foot away with a mask, you might.”

Read more …

But not nearly as much as the destruction of public transport did.

COVID Set Back Attitudes To Public Transport By Two Decades (G.)

The pandemic has put back attitudes to driving versus public transport by two decades, with almost two-thirds of UK car owners now considering their vehicle essential, research has found. A clear majority would now refuse to switch to a greener alternative even if better trains or buses were available, according to the RAC. The research for its annual Report on Motoring found reluctance to use public transport was now at its highest for 18 years. Compared with 2019, significantly more young drivers, and those living in the capital – around 65% of each – regard their vehicle as essential.

Although 50% reported actually using their car less overall this year, with 33% of the 3,000 respondents currently working from home, more than half, some 57%, perceived access to a car as more important now than before the coronavirus pandemic. While 54% said safety was a consideration, an increasing number now deemed a car necessary to shop or visit friends. Meanwhile, only 43% agreed they would use their cars less if there was better public transport, a sharp fall from 57% in 2019, and the lowest figure since 2002. The findings will further concern transport campaigners, with optimism dwindling that lower traffic volumes and increased cycling and walking could be maintained as a positive side-effect after the pandemic.

Cycling trips fell significantly below pre-pandemic levels in October, and people largely continued to avoid public transport. Passenger numbers were around 30% of normal demand on rail, and 60% on buses, while car use had risen to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest government figures up to last Monday. Other sources showed road traffic leapt in the following days before new lockdown restrictions, with data from satnav providers showing some of the worst congestion in two years on Wednesday.

Read more …

Something I’ve mentioned numerous times:

“Numerous media outlets that in 2015 were sputtering if not collapsing, and numerous television personalities about to be fired because nobody was watching them, were first rescued and then propelled into the stratosphere by The Trump Show.”

The Bush/Cheney Administration Was Far Worse Than Trump (Greenwald)

That the liberal belief in and fear of a Trump-led fascist dictatorship and violent coup is actually a fantasy — a longing, a desire, a craving — has long been obvious. The Democrats’ own actions proved that they never believed their own melodramatic and self-glorifying rhetoric about Trump as The New Hitler — from their leaders joining with the GOP to increase The Fascist Dictator’s domestic spying powers and military spending to their (correct) belief that the way to oust The Neo-Nazi Tyrant was through a peaceful and lawfully conducted democratic election in which vote totals and, if necessary, duly constituted courts would determine the next president. The motives for concocting this Wagnerian fantasy about coups, dictatorship, concentration camps and civil war are numerous.

Politics is boring, and your life unspectacular, if it’s dedicated to a goal as banal and uninspiring as empowering a septuagenarian career-politician — the centrist-authoritarian author of the 1994 Crime Bill, the credit card industry’s most loyal servant, and key Iraq War advocate — along with his tough-on-crime prosecutor-running-mate who always seems as if she just left a meeting of the Aetna Board of Directors where massive hikes in deductibles were approved. Glory is available only if one can convincingly herald oneself as a front-line warrior risking it all to courageously battle unprecedented evil and a Nazi-like menace. But working to do nothing more than elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the rest of the painfully ordinary and mediocre corporatist and imperialist Democratic Party politicians through a standard American election?

There’s no glory residing in that, no courage needed for it, to put it mildly. Posturing as a courageous soldier in an existential battle for freedom, democracy and the survival of the marginalized against Nazi despotism is far more exciting and psychologically satisfying (and financially profitable) than being an obedient liberal drone marching in perfect tune to the dreary, McKinsey-scripted musical theater produced by Tom Perez and the DNC. That is therefore the delusional storyline adopted by many. Then there’s the multi-pronged profit that the Trump-as-Hitler motif has generated for virtually every institution of American authority. Numerous media outlets that in 2015 were sputtering if not collapsing, and numerous television personalities about to be fired because nobody was watching them, were first rescued and then propelled into the stratosphere by The Trump Show.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” said the network’s then-CEO Les Moonves in 2016 about Trump TV. Of course media outlets don’t want to declare the 2020 election over: they will milk the abundant Trumpian cash cow until the very last drop has been monetized. The frightening spectre of a Dictatorial Menace also led liberal advocacy groups such as the ACLU to drown in previously unimaginable quantities of #Resistance cash, frenetically donated in the name of stopping Trump’s incomparable evil. Rotted and discredited institutions like the CIA, NSA and FBI re-branded themselves as patriotic guardians of liberal democracy and stalwart protectors of a besieged population.

Read more …

First cases to be launched today in an increasingly uphill battle. Legal costs will be phenomenal.

Inside Trump’s Legal Warfare (Axios)

President Trump plans to brandish obituaries of people who supposedly voted but are dead — plus hold campaign-style rallies — in an effort to prolong his fight against apparent insurmountable election results, four Trump advisers told me during a conference call this afternoon. Obits for those who cast ballots are part of the “specific pieces of evidence” aimed at bolstering the Trump team’s so-far unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud and corruption that they say led to Joe Biden’s victory. Fueling the effort is the expected completion of vote counting this week, allowing Republicans to file for more recounts Team Trump is ready to announce specific recount teams in key states, and it plans to hold a series of Trump rallies focused on the litigation.

In Georgia: Doug Collins, the outgoing congressman who lost to Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a special election to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat, will be leading the campaign’s recount efforts. The team has also redeployed 92 staffers from Florida to Georgia, doubling its group on the ground In Arizona: Kory Langhofer, former counsel for Trump’s 2016 transition, will serve as lead attorney. In Pennsylvania: Porter Wright’s Ron Hicks is heading up the legal effort. Nationwide: They’re assembling additional surrogates and lawyers. “We want to make sure we have an adequate supply of manpower on the ground for man-to-man combat,” one adviser said. The group is also staffing a campaign-style media operation.

The team led by Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh is now a surrogate messaging center. It will pump out “regular press briefings, releases on legal action and obviously things like talking points and booking people strategically on television,” one adviser said. They’ll also make a big play to raise money for their legal defense fund. Trump’s formal legal team includes 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, lawyer Justin Clark, and senior advisers Jason Miller and David Bossie. Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Perry, as well as former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, are also advising.

Read more …

Meet the swamp creatures. For pete’s sake, John Kerry? Climate? Sally Yates? Wasn’t she supposed to be in jail?

Kerry For Climate Chief, Buttigieg For Veterans, Yates For DOJ (ZH)

While Trump is still far from conceding the election, whose outcome is called not by the media, but by the Electoral College on Dec 14… … Joe Biden is already busy forming his cabinet, where he need to draw a fine line between the hard-left progressive in the Democratic party (AOC has already been quite vocal in her criticism of how the Squad has been ignored) and centrist elements. Also, in addition to rolling out such new policies as fighting climate change and aggressively promoting women and minorities, Biden will focus on an economic team that will confront the surging unemployment and business slowdown touched off by the coronavirus pandemic. In total, as he builds out his economic team Biden will need to fill out the nearly two dozen cabinet-level positions in his administration.

Starting at the very top, Bloomberg reports that Biden will look for a Treasury secretary and other key officials “to negotiate with Congress on more stimulus, roll back some of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and mend relations with U.S. trading partners.” Among the contenders that have emerged to fill the top economic-policy job are Fed Governor Lael Brainard for Treasury and economist Heather Boushey as director of the National Economic Council. Other crucial jobs include naming the secretaries of Defense, State and Homeland Security, together responsible for carrying out administration policy and overseeing a federal bureaucracy with more than 2 million civilian employees.

While Biden will be mindful of the possibility that a Republican-controlled Senate would almost certainly scuttle nominees for top posts who belong to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, liberal groups will be policing Biden’s choices closely, fearful that he won’t reach into their ranks for top positions but will instead choose “moderate” Democrats in his own mold. Biden may try to tamp down that sentiment by putting a liberals in jobs that don’t require Senate confirmation. Most importantly, this means that “the swamp” which Trump vowed to fight – and lost – is back, because in forming his cabinet, Biden will rely on an inner circle of longtime veterans from the Obama administration as well as Wall Streeters. Finally, while Biden could make history by naming the first women to lead the Defense and Treasury departments, his key White House advisers are likely to be White men.

Read more …

Too late: “I don’t think post-election this will work, because the executive branch cabinet officers will refuse to support it. The enemies inside the gate will protect DC.”

Donald Trump Jr: “Declassify Everything” (sundance)

Amid all of the election ramifications and discussions, Donald Trump Jr. outlined a thought today that has likely been on the mind of many, myself included. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this since the media began their insufferable onslaught and “president-elect Biden” narrative. The time has long past for President Trump to fully demand his executive cabinet members declassify the evidence outlining intrusive government surveillance upon not only himself, but all Americans. CTH has a rather unique perspective on the declassification angle. This conversation has traveled with me for over two years as I have talked to people inside the machinery.

Ultimately the discussion ends around something like this: Is the DC political surveillance state, and all of the ramifications within that reality, so fundamentally corrupt and against our nation’s interests, that no entity dare expose the scope and depth of it? And ultimately… is it the preservation of institutions that is causing so many disconnected outcomes from evidence intentionally downplayed? If we assume the scale of unconstitutional conduct has become systemic, that likely answers the questions. Personally, I believe this is the most likely scenario. “Likely” meaning the entire apparatus, DOJ, FBI, Legislative Oversight and the Intelligence Community (IC), is now so enmeshed within this corrupt out-of-control state that no-one, even the good guys, is willing to expose it because the institutional collapse would be devastating.


This is what I would call the Biggest of the Big Ugly. This catastrophic outcome, in combination with DC having made the system the primary source of their income, is what unites the Republicans and Democrats to stop anyone from exposing it. Once any elected official goes inside this system, they end up serving it. All of that said, I have previously outlined a pre-election process for President Trump to declassify information that would lay the system naked to We The People. However, I don’t think post-election this will work, because the executive branch cabinet officers will refuse to support it. The enemies inside the gate will protect DC.

Read more …

Nancy Pelosi’s Chief of Staff Is Chief Executive and Feinstein’s Husband a Major Shareholder at Dominion Ballot Counting Systems

Software That Gave Biden 1000s Of Michigan Votes Used In 28 Other States (JTN)

Election software that incorrectly awarded thousands of votes to Joe Biden in Michigan is used in a majority of U.S. states, including statewide in Georgia where it has reportedly been implicated in several voting-related “glitches” there. The Michigan Secretary of State confirmed on Friday that a software error in Antrim County, Michigan, in which Joe Biden was incorrectly awarded thousands of votes that led him to be declared the county winner, was caused by an error in which the county clerk “did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results.” The software is administered by the company Dominion Voting Systems. Following the correction of the error, the county flipped back to Trump, who walked away with 2,500 more votes than Biden.

Beyond Michigan, Dominion Voting System is also used in a majority of U.S. states, with the company boasting on its website of having “customers in 28 states,” including “9 of the top 20 counties” and “4 of the top 10 counties” throughout the county. The system was used for a presidential election in Georgia for the first time this year, after the state announced in July of 2019 that Dominion would be given a statewide contract to provide systems and software to the state’s 159 counties. Multiple election-related “glitches” have been reported in the state since Tuesday. In one instance, voting in two Georgia counties ground to a halt for several hours after an unknown update was applied to voting machines there.

In another county, a “software glitch” caused a delay in counting thousands of absentee ballots. Dominion reportedly received a $107 million contract last year to install 30,000 voting machines throughout the state. Georgia was moving away from its earlier election equipment provider, Election Systems & Software, after complaints following the 2018 midterm elections. Joe Biden currently leads in Georgia by about 7,000 votes.

Standard deviations

Read more …

The report says no antisemitism, so it’s used to suggest … antisemitism. Works exactly the way Russiagate does.

EHRC Report Into Labour Antisemitism Is The Real Political Interference (Cook)

I recently published in Middle East Eye a detailed analysis of last week’s report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the question of whether the UK Labour party had an especial antisemitism problem. (You can read a slightly fuller version of that article on my website.) In the piece, I reached two main conclusions. First, the commission’s headline verdict – though you would never know it from reading the media’s coverage – was that no case was found that Labour suffered from “institutional antisemitism”. That, however, was precisely the claim that had been made by groups like the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies and prominent rabbis such as Ephraim Mirvis.

Their claims were amplified by Jewish media outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle and individual journalists such as Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. All are now shown to have been wrong, to have maligned the Labour party and to have irresponsibly inflamed the concerns of Britain’s wider Jewish community. Not that any of these organisations or individuals will have to apologise. The corporate media – from the Mail to the Guardian – are continuing to mislead and misdirect on this issue, as they have been doing for the best part of five years. Neither Jewish leadership groups such as the Board of Deputies nor the corporate media have an interest in highlighting the embarrassing fact that the commission’s findings exposed their campaign against Corbyn as misinformation.

What the report found instead were mainly breaches of party protocol and procedure: that complaints about antisemitism were not handled promptly and transparently. But even here the issue was not really about antisemitism, as the report indicates, even if obliquely. Delays in resolving complaints were chiefly the responsibility not of Corbyn and his staff but of a party bureaucracy that he inherited and was deeply and explicitly hostile to him. Senior officials stalled antisemitism complaints not because they were especially antisemitic but because they knew the delays would embarrass Corbyn and weaken him inside the party, as the leaked report of an Labour internal inquiry revealed in the spring.

Read more …

The swamp hasn’t had a new war in ages.

NATO Says Biden Victory Will Help With ‘Assertive Russia’ (RT)

After Joe Biden declared victory in the US presidential election on Saturday, there are fears that tensions between Russia and the West could escalate under his leadership. Congratulating the Democratic candidate on his projected win, which incumbent President Donald Trump continues to allege is the result of electoral fraud, the secretary general of NATO singled out Moscow as a priority for the incoming American leader. In a statement on the US-led military bloc’s website, Jens Stoltenberg wrote, “I warmly welcome the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. I know Mr. Biden as a strong supporter of NATO and the transatlantic relationship.”

He continued: “We need this collective strength to deal with the many challenges we face, including a more assertive Russia, international terrorism, cyber and missile threats, and a shift in the global balance of power with the rise of China.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has argued that NATO is increasingly succumbing to anti-Russian rhetoric. Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters last month in a discussion about tensions with Sweden that the bloc was the source of “invented anti-Russian phobias” and “fanning tensions and the escalation of military activities in Northern Europe, one of the most stable regions in the world until recently.”

The past record of Biden, a stalwart of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, has concerned many Moscow lawmakers. The presumptive winner is unlikely to oversee an easing of tensions between the two countries, cautioned Leonid Slutsky, who heads the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is the Russian equivalent to the body which Biden chaired, adding that he didn’t “expect essential changes for the better.” “Biden, together with President [Barack] Obama, launched the flywheel of new deterrents against Russia, with a series of sanctions at various levels,” Slutsky said.He also pointed to comments that Biden made in the past in which the Democratic candidate positioned Russia as America’s “main enemy” in his pre-election rhetoric.

Read more …

 

 

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Nothing much trickling down from the untold billions the banks have gotten.

 

 

“The secret to happiness, of course, is not getting what you want. It’s wanting what you get.”

– Alex Trebek, (1940 – 2020).

 

 

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Nov 082020
 
 November 8, 2020  Posted by at 4:22 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Jasper Johns Three flags 1958

 

 

Since the US has no official institution to call an election soon after the polls have closed, and people want a result fast, it has befallen on the media to make the announcement. And by and large, this hasn’t been that big a deal. But when those same media have for 4 years relentlessly hounded one of the two candidates, it should be obvious that this “system” should not be applied. If only because it has no legal status whatsoever.

However, people both in the US and abroad don’t appear to be aware of this. So when the New York Times et al declare a winner, this is seen as an “official” announcement. It is not. That won’t come until the Electoral College gathers in December (8-14th?!). And at least until then, Trump will have every right to contest the election in court. Still, “world leaders” are congratulating the “next president”. Do they really not know how this works?

The idea behind it all is obvious, of course: to make Trump look like a sore loser, and Biden the president-elect, a title the media claim they can bestow upon him. Do remember that both Biden’s and Kamala’s campaign were considered dead in the water at one point, before they were magically resurrected by the party machine, which ensured that =two people very unpopular in their own party now lead the ticket. Be careful what you wish for.

In that light. I found this intriguing. Twitter adds a warning to this Trump tweet: “Official sources may not have called the race when this was Tweeted”. I haven’t seen one instance where they attached the same warning to tweets about Biden winning and being President Elect. But wouldn’t that be the same thing?

 

 

No, I don’t particularly mind Biden winning, Washington is a shit hole whoever occupies the White House and other posts, but this is not about Biden. It’s about the people behind him. About the people who elected him to be a candidate, and that’s not his voters; it’s the DNC, the FBI and media that made him possible.

Everyone in the MSM is talking about Trump’s alleged lies, as they have for 5 screeching years, main news networks on Thursday even cut off/short a speech by the President of the United States -that must be a first-, but nobody reflects on the 5-year neverending constant lies they have all told ABOUT Trump, on the entire Russiagate episode, the Mueller report based on only lies, the whole shebang.

The DNC that paid for the Steele dossier without which there would never have been a Mueller special counsel, commissioned by Rod Rosenstein when he was Deputy Attorney General, which was based on lies, exclusively, the FBI that used the Dossier to falsify FISA applications, people like Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and Nancy Pelosi who kept on lying about having evidence of Russian collusion.

And still these are the people accusing Trump of lying. And they feel they can get away with it, because their media also incessantly repeated their lies, and is still doing that. Forget for a moment about what you think about Donald Trump, and tell me how you feel about an attempt to unseat an elected American president with nothing but lies.

Do you think that will be a one-off? If so, you’re blind. If Joe Biden and his handlers ever get into the White House, respect for the Office of the Presidency will still be gone, and it will be for a long time, decades. That’s the price the American people pay for the attempt to unseat Trump based on lies only. Do you really feel that’s a price worth paying? I suggest you give that some serious thought.

 

 

With Biden you don’t get Biden, you get the entire cabal that went after Trump, the Democratic Party, the media, the intelligence agencies. And yes, Biden was and is very much part of that cabal. How people do not find that a whole lot scarier than Donald Trump is beyond me.

If -and no that is not when- Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20 2021, that cabal will take over the country. And we’ve seen plenty indications that they intend to make it impossible for the Republicans to ever get one of their own elected as president again. Moreover they will not be investigated for what they concocted over the past 4-5 years.

How the Hillary campaign and the DNC leaked things to the FBI, and the FBI to the MSM, how they lied in courtrooms to get FISA applications on Trump campaign people like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. How they set up Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn so he wouldn’t be Trump’s National Security Adviser, because Flynn knew too much.

It’s a scheme so full of illegal actions that it will be devastating for the entire American political system if it is never investigated, or even if it isn’t investigated very very thoroughly, by an impartial party. And it won’t be if Biden becomes president.

The cabal wants you to think this is about Trump, and any given way to get rid of him is justifiable no matter what, but that is a very dangerous way of thinking. If crimes have been committed, they must be brought into daylight and before a court.

Problem is, of course, that at least half the nation has no idea of what’s been going on. Because they get their news and information from those media that are in on the whole deal. They won’t know that the DNC paid for the Steele Dossier, or that is was just a bunch of lies, or that the FBI knew this even before Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Counsel. All that has been kept away from them.

 

 

And yes, 4 years ago Trump said he would fight the swamp, but landed right in the middle of it. Early in his presidency he found himself surrounded by the likes of McMaster, John Kelly, Tillerson, and many other swamp creatures, and today he still has people like Mike Pompeo. But at least Trump is an outsider, and if anything can ever be done to drain the swamp, it will have to come from an outsider. That it may take more than 4 years is something we have to take for granted.

The swamp has fought back, and they may yet win. Joe Biden is the face of that. But people who celebrate that victory should think again, whether they like Trump or not. The swamp is not good for you, and it’s not good for your country, your rights, your freedoms. Its entire MO is to take all these away from you. This is not a partisan thing; the fat ass of the swamp easily fits and sits across the divide.

Joe Biden is not Joe Biden, the man doesn’t stand for anything other than holding on to power while getting richer off that power. He’s done it for 47 years. Term limits are desperately needed in Washington, but the only people who can make that decision are those who profit most from not having term limits. If there’s one area where McConnell and Schumer and Pelosi and Lindsey Graham agree, it’s that.

And meanwhile, Trump, unlike Joe Biden, is just Trump. He doesn’t represent a cabal, or a swamp. Even if he’s surrounded by them. Trump is not the biggest threat to America, that’s just something they’ve been wanting you to think for the past 4 years. Successfully, too, for millions of Americans.

The swamp is the biggest threat, whether their handpuppets come in a Democratic or Republican disguise. But to recognize that, you would have to be able to think for yourself, and if you read or watch the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, you simply can’t do that. You just think you can.

 

 

 

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Jun 212019
 
 June 21, 2019  Posted by at 8:24 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Femme aux bras leves- Tête de Dora Maar- 1936

 

As a nation, you’re certifiedly (is that a word?!) in deep trouble if and when Donald Trump is your most peaceloving man. But nevertheless, that is America today. It all harks back to the days when Trump was first -grudgingly and painstakingly- recognized as an actual presidential candidate.

He campaigned as a man who would end the costly and neverending decades-old and counting US wars far away from American shores and territory. He hasn’t lived up to those campaign goals at all, far from it, and he hired doofuses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to show everyone that he didn’t, but in the early hours of June 21 2019 he apparently decided at the last minute that it just didn’t add up.

You don’t kill 150 people because someone destroyed a piece of machinery, he got that right. I vividly remember writing a hundred times that a country of 320 million people that can’t come up with a better president than Trump has a behemoth problem. I also remember saying that Trump himself is not that problem, it’s the system that gave rise to him and his popularity. A war-hungry-system, that is, which has pervaded Washington DC.

And there is absolutely nothing that tells me anything has changed in that system. There are hearings and investigations all over the place, right now from Hope Hicks to Jerry Nadler, but none of them are geared towards trying to make peace with Iran or Russia or China, or anyone else. None.

 

Trump’s domestic opponents don’t appear to want peace, not those in the Democratic party, and not those in the MSM, or at least not anyone I’ve seen, other than Tulsi Gabbard. I haven’t seen a word from Nadler or Pelosi trying to coax Trump away from bomb bombing Iran, and diddly squat from the NYT or WashPo either. But sure, tell me what you’ve seen that contradicts that.

Which means he’s on his own, fighting off not only Bolton and Pompeo, but the entire opposition as well. So far he’s done just that. But how much longer can he, when both sides of the aisle continue to call for blood? I find that a hard call to make. I don’t think Trump wants his presidency to be about starting WWIII, but there are so many others calling on him to make it just that.

I said a while ago to a friend that the US invading Iran would be the end of the US, not in 2 days or week, or even 2 years, but in 20 years surely. Because doing so would change the entire power structure in the Middle East so much it would become unrecognizable.

The terribly odd couple of Benjamin Netanyahu and MBS may think they can conquer the region if only Trump sends Americans kids to die there, but they’re as wrong as they are about anything else. Iran is where it is, and it won’t move or budge. It’s just 40 years ago the country rid itself from the US-installed Shah and his SS-like Savak secret services.

Iranians, Persians, have a very deep-seated aversion and -to put it exceedingly mildly- hatred of the US, and they have good reason to. The Shah unleashed pure terror upon “his” entire people, at the benefit of US Big Oil.

 

The only constructive thing the US can do at this point in time is to go talk to Iran, in open and honest discussions. The US will want to do that because Iran is the heart of the Middle East. Just ask Russia and China, they understand that point. Very well even.

Bombing Iran won’t lead to anything at all, other than the demise of the US, down the road. These people will not succumb, and Russia and China will make sure they won’t have to. And Trump’s declaration of US military capabilities being “superior” is just words (or as they say stateside “hogwash”).

The US military ceased being “superior” a long time ago, simply because Raytheon and Boeing et al develop weapons for profit, whereas Russia and China develop them for defense purposes, and at 10% of the price. That single “little” difference will do the US in. Promise.

America needs to start talking. About trade, about weapons, about everything. Maybe Trump can do that. Maybe not. But he won’t be able to do anything by threatening countries like iran who already have nothing left but their backs to a wall.

Trump appears to have some good points vis-a-vis China and trade talks. He has some very bad points vs Russia and the sanctions. He MUST retreat when it comes to Iran, because it would become a much deeper swamp than Washington could ever be.

And it would end any idea of a positive legacy of his presidency. And his grand kids would be far worse off. And and and. But if he would do it regardless, it would only be an extension of US presidential politics as it has has been going on for many decades. So what’s to win, and what’s to lose? You trust a 73-year old burger flipper with that assessment?

 

 

 

 

Aug 232018
 
 August 23, 2018  Posted by at 1:35 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Gustave Caillebotte Young man by his window 1875

 

If there’s one thing that is exposed in the sorry not-so-fairy tale of former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, it’s that Washington is a city run by fixers. Who often make substantial amounts of money. Many though by no means all, start out as lawyers and figure out that let’s say ‘the edges of what’s legal’ can be quite profitable.

And it helps to know when one steps across that edge, so having attended law school is a bonus. Not so much to stop when stepping across the edge, but to raise one’s fees. There’s a lot of dough waiting at the edge of the law. None of this should surprise any thinking person. Manafort and Cohen are people who think in millions, with an easy few hundred grand thrown in here and there.

But sometimes the fixers happen to come under scrutiny of the law, like when they get entangled in a Special Counsel investigation. Both Manafort and Cohen now rue the day they became involved with Trump, or rather, the day he was elected president and solicited much more severe scrutiny.

Would either ever have been accused of what they face today had Trump lost to Hillary? It’s not too likely. They just gambled and lost. But there are many more just like them who will never be charged with anything. Still, a new fixer name has popped up the last few days who may, down the line, not be so lucky.

 

And that’s not even because Lanny Davis is a registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. After all, both Manafort and Cohen have their contacts in that part of the world. Manafort made tens of millions advising then-president Yanukovich in the Ukraine before the US coup dethroned the latter. Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian-American.

Lanny Davis is a lawyer, special counsel even, for the Clintons. Has been for years. Which makes it kind of curious that Michael Cohen would pick him to become his legal representation. But that’s not all Davis is involved in. Like any true fixer, he has his hands in more cookie jars than fit in the average kitchen. Glenn Greenwald wrote this in August 2009 about the health care debate:

 

Lanny Davis Disease

After Tom Daschle was selected to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief health care adviser, Matt Taibbi wrote: “In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle.” One could easily have added: “And then there’s Lanny Davis.” Davis frequently injects himself into political disputes, masquerading as a “political analyst” and Democratic media pundit, yet is unmoored from any discernible political beliefs other than: “I agree with whoever pays me.”

It’s genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn’t, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him. Yesterday, he published a new piece simultaneously in The Hill and Politico – solemnly warning that extremists on the Far Left and Far Right are jointly destroying democracy with their conduct in the health care debate and urging “the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally” – that vividly illustrates the limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis’ mouth.

Davis’ history is as long and consistent as it is sleazy. He was recently hired by Honduran oligarchs opposed to that country’s democratically elected left-wing President and promptly became the chief advocate of the military coup which forcibly removed the President from office. He became an emphatic defender of the Israeli war on Gaza after he was named by the right-wing The Israel Project to be its “Senior Advisor and Spokesperson.” He has been the chief public defender for Joe Lieberman, Jane Harman and the Clintons, all of whom have engaged his paid services.

And as NYU History Professor Greg Grandin just documented: “Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.” Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.”

There’s much more in that article, but you get the drift. And now Davis, the Clinton fixer, is Michael Cohen’s lawyer. The fixer defending a fixer. So who pays the bill? Well, ostensibly no-one, because Davis started a Go Fund Me campaign where people can donate so Cohen “can tell people the truth about Trump”. The goal is $500,000. Which goes to .. Lanny Davis.

On TV yesterday he apparently promoted a wrong URL, which was promptly picked up by someone else who had it redirect to the Trump campaign. Even fixers screw up, right? Still, there’s already well over $100,000 donated for Cohen Davis. But why $500,000? One of the accusations against Cohen concerns lying to a bank for a $20 million loan. He bought an apartment not long ago for $6.7 million. He owned multiple apartments in Trump buildings.

Did he lose everything when Robert Mueller et al raided his office, home and hotel room on April 9 2018? Were all his assets frozen? Possibly. What we do know is that he ‘expected’ the Trump campaign to pay for his legal fees. Which they declined. Or rather, as Fortune reported in June: “The Trump campaign has given some money to Cohen to help cover legal expenses for the Russia investigation. To date, though, it has not offered financial assistance in the investigation of his business practices.”

It seems safe to assume that’s the point where Cohen turned, or was turned, to Lanny Davis. From a full decade of being Trump’s fixer to being fixed by the Clintons’ fixer. That’s a big move. It raises a number of questions: why did Trump not pay Cohen’s legal fees? This is 2 months after the raid on the man’s office, home, hotel room, in which huge amounts of files and disks etc. were seized.

Second question: if Lanny Davis only now sets up a Go Fund Me campaign, who’s been paying him over the past 2 months? Did Cohen sell assets, or is someone else involved?

Anyway, so Davis goes on TV with big words about how Cohen will tell all about Trump -provided people donate half a million- and adding “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office. And [Cohen] has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.”

Oh, and that “the turning point for his client’s attitude toward Trump was the Helsinki summit in July 2018 which caused him to doubt Trump’s loyalty to the U.S.” That, to my little brain, doesn’t sound like something that would come from Cohen. That sounds more like a political point the likes of which Cohen has never made. That’s plain old Russiagate.

 

But anyway. So Lanny Davis, fixer of fixers and presidents, goes on a talk-show tour last night and what do you think happens? He walks back just about everything he’s said the previous day. Aaron Maté made a list in this Twitter thread:

 

 

Is Michael Cohen sure he wants this guy as his lawyer? Is he watching this stuff?

If Cohen and Manafort have broken laws, they should be punished for it. The same goes for all other Trump campers, including the Donald. But it would be good if people realize that Cohen and Manafort are not some kind of stand-alone examples, that they are instead the norm in Washington. And Moscow, and Brussels, London, everywhere there’s a concentration of power. In all these places, and probably more so in DC, there are these folks specializing in the edge of the law.

What do you think will happen when someone of the stature of Bob Mueller spends 18 months investigating the Clintons and their fixers? Perhaps the events of the past few days won’t bring such a 2nd Special Counsel any closer, but by the same token they might do just that. Offense is the best defense.

I don’t know, we don’t know, what monsters Trump has swept under his luxurious carpets. But we do know that those are not the only monsters in Washington. Meanwhile, the Steele dossier that was used to start the entire Mueller remains just about entirely unverified. The Russian collusion meme he was tasked with investigating has so far come up empty.

That he would find something if he tried hard enough was obvious from the start. That is both dangerous in that the mandate of a Special Counsel should be limited lest it becomes endless and veers off the reasons it was initiated, as well as in the risk that it can easily turn into a party-political tool to hurt one’s opponent while one’s own dirt remains unscrutinized.

In the end, I can draw only one conclusion: there are so many sharks and squids swimming in the swamp that either it should be expanded or the existing one should be cleaned up and depopulated. So bring it: investigate the FBI, the Clintons, and fixers like Lanny Davis and Michael Avenatti, the same way the Trump camp has been.

Because if you don’t do that, you can only possibly end up in an even bigger mess. You can’t drain half a swamp.

 

 

Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Donald Trump is as American as apple pie (even if both are imports). He’s brash and loud and abrasive and entirely focused on money, he’s given to exaggeration, he stretches the truth, he constantly seeks to appear bigger and richer than he really is; he ticks all the boxes of what it is to be American.

Trump’s role in US society is that he’s a mirror for America, he’s not just holding up a mirror, he is the mirror. But many Americans don’t like what they see reflected in him. They’re really just looking at themselves, and their society, but they don’t want to acknowledge that. They just want to get away from the mirror, or preferably, break it. But when someone holds up a mirror to you, the idea is for you to learn something, not break it.

Of course not every individual American fits the picture, but he’s very much the almost perfect reflection of what the country, the society, has become. And one point in which Trump is different from other ‘leaders’ is that he doesn’t try to look different from what he is, he doesn’t play a role like just about every other politician does.

He has that in common with Bernie Sanders, which is ironic given how different the two men are. Neither tries to, or even has the ability to, concoct a cool and calculated attempt at pleasing their viewers and listeners and voters at every twist and turn. With both Bernie and the Donald what you see is what you get.

That they appeal to different groups of people is obvious. As is the fact that Sanders is much less of an (arche)typical American than Trump is. Which means he has to work harder to get his points across. Sanders appeals to a part of America that people have largely forgotten.

Another thing that is true for both is that they are candidates for parties that are deeply broken, and inside a system that has no tolerance for other parties. Which makes you wonder whether it’s not the system itself that is broken. Where Hillary Clinton’s people managed to shove aside Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump’s Republican party had no such ‘luck’. Trump’s too all-American.

Of course the next issue must be that neither truly represent either party. They’re both ‘outsiders’ who’ve taken over existing -but failing- structures. Where this leads is unclear. Trump is busy ‘sanitizing’ the GOP, aka draining the swamp’, a process that may or may not cost him his job, and the Democrats would do well to undertake a similar spring cleaning. But the incumbent squids have their tentacles everywhere. Then again, that didn’t stop Trump. So far.

 

Then we get to the litany in investigations that are being conducted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has apparently laid the first charges in the Russia collusion investigation. Of course, like every single move in the case, this one too has to be as confusing and murky as possible. The indictment was sealed by a judge, and subsequently leaked to the press. Which is probably highly illegal.

We have no idea who’s going to be indicted, it will all be revealed on Monday. Or not. If Mueller’s team has confined itself to investigating whether the Trump campaign has colluded with the Russians, there wouldn’t seem to be too much at hand. But Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”, so the net is cast so broadly it sounds like anything goes.

They may go after Paul Manafort, known for his involvement with people in Russia and the Ukraine. Whether that included anything illegal is unclear. That it would have amounted to outright collusion by the Trump campaign is highly unlikely. Manafort has been gone from the Trump entourage since August 2016.

But there are so many people involved in the campaign, who knows? If you have a former FBI head hiring lawyers and researchers left and right for six months without any constraints, budgetary or otherwise, it would be baffling if they found nothing at all. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner?

 

What’s more interesting to come out of this circus is the picture of Washington -all of it- as an absolute cesspool and shithole. That these are the people, on either side of the aisle, that get to make the decisions is so worrisome it should make people think of leaving the country.

You have a conservative group led by the Free Beacon, funded by hedge-funder Paul Singer, that starts an ‘opposition research’ project to dig up dirt on Trump during the primaries. When that fails to halt Trump, the DNC and Clinton campaign take over the funding and expand it to include Washington dirt digger firm Fusion GPS, who in turn hire Christopher Steele to produce a very dubious dossier. Fusion GPS execs all took the fifth when asked.

Somewhere along the way the FBI got involved too. That means James Comey and Robert Mueller. Who has such a ‘great reputation’ for being impartial. What a swamp it is. The echo chambers on both sides know exactly, and in advance, who’s to blame. But anyone who finds those chambers too deafening must be awfully confused and conflicted by now. Who to believe?

The Russia collusion thing has been going on for a long time, first in the press, then on Capitol Hill, in the FBI and then the Special Counsel. During the process, both the same FBI and the Hillary camp, including the DNC have been exposed as having ties to Russian elements.

No proof has been presented of Putin supporting Trump through illegal channels. Will Mueller’s indictment(s) be the turning point? If Mueller doesn’t deliver clear and strong, if he doesn’t have something and someone too obvious to dispute, the whole scene may get a lot more hostile.

 

Over the past week, we’ve witnessed the exits stage left of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in sometimes dramatic fashion decrying anything Trump. Who simply reacts by saying neither would have been re-elected anyway (about Corker: “he couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in Tennessee”).

Essentially, what these guys do is try and play Trump’s game. But he’s much better at it than they are. The game has changed profoundly, and they missed out on that. Which is the number one reason why Trump got elected president, and none of the ‘old guard’ did. Well, that and all GOP candidates in the primary debates looked completely lost.

A description from the Guardian:

Battle Hymns of the Republicans: Trump Civil War is Just Getting Started

“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation for the unacceptable to end,” Flake said, in explosive remarks that were instantly labeled as a historic act of defiance. “There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.” The senator delivered a 17-minute speech, framing the moment as an existential crisis for the party, taking direct aim at Trump’s conduct and what his presidency symbolized in a lacerating critique. It was an extraordinary event that would have otherwise been regarded as a major breach of decorum. But this is Washington in 2017. The norms have already been broken.

A handful of Flake’s colleagues sat stony-faced in the chamber as he implored Republicans not to acquiesce on core principles in the pursuit of appeasing Trump’s angry nationalist base. “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” he said. Flake went on, thrusting the knife even further into Trump, though avoiding naming him: “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

Among those who bore witness to Flake’s remarks was John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona who just a week previously blasted “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in a coded attack on so-called “Trumpism”. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, looked on stoically. As the speech reached its conclusion, one senator applauded: Ben Sasse, a young Republican from Nebraska who, like Flake, declined to endorse Trump in the 2016 election. Many of the Senate’s 52 Republicans were nowhere to be found.

They had just left a closed-door lunch with the president, dining over chicken marsala, green beans and Trump’s favorite, meatloaf, before a major push to overhaul the tax code. Much of the meeting featured Trump – characteristically – singing his own praises, according to some attendees. There was general discussion of taxes, but few specifics from a president who takes little interest in the policy details. It was nonetheless a cordial meeting, by Trump’s standards, embodied by the takeaway quote of John Kennedy, of Louisiana: “Nobody called anyone an ignorant slut.”

Many anti-Trump voices now speculate that he will try to fire Robert Mueller. Given how close the longtime FBI chief is to many of the parties involved, that might not be that crazy, but it would be explosive. He could also recuse himself on exactly those grounds. He won’t.

Then again, if he stays on, he will have to broaden his investigation to include the Clintons, the DNC and possibly the FBI itself. From the New York Post, and yes, I know what they are, but if I quote one article each from both sides of the echo chamber, maybe I find some balance:

Robert Mueller Should Resign

Their claim that nobody in the campaign or the DNC knew anything about the deal doesn’t pass the smell test. When as much as $12 million goes out the window for a document that aimed to win the election — and failed — everybody knows something. While the link to Clinton answers some questions, it raises others. For example, while it is certain her campaign spread the dossier among the media last summer, it remains uncertain whether the dossier was used by the White House and the FBI to justify snooping on the Trump campaign. One hint that it was is that Comey, while still in office, called the document “salacious and unverified,” but briefed Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents last January.

[..] the FBI never denied reports that it almost hired Steele, the former British spy, to continue his work after the campaign. The mystery might soon be solved because the FBI, after months of stonewalling, agreed last week to tell Congress how it used the dossier and detail its contacts with Steele. If the bureau did use the dossier to seek FISA warrants to intercept communications involving the Trump campaign, it would mean the FBI used a dirty trick from the candidate of the party in power as an excuse to investigate the candidate from the opposition party. Somewhere, Richard Nixon is wondering why he didn’t think of that.

There is also the issue of the “unmasking” of Trump associates caught up in the snooping, with the names leaked to anti-Trump media. It is essential to investigate that angle, but it would lead right to the Obama White House, which is why Mueller is not the man for the job. As for Clinton, the dossier revelation was not her only new problem. In fact, the second blow might be the most serious yet. At the urging of Congress and Trump, the Justice Department lifted its gag order on an informant who can now testify to Congress about bribery and other wrongdoing surrounding Moscow’s gaining control of 20% of US uranium production.

The 2010 transaction was approved by Obama officials, including Clinton, then secretary of state. About the same time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank involved in the transaction. Later, tens of millions of dollars — $145 million by one estimate — were said to be donated to the Clinton Foundation by individuals having a stake in the deal. The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told Fox News the speech fee and the donations amount to a “quid pro quo” for Hillary Clinton’s help. “My client can put some meat on those bones and tell you what the Russians were saying during that time,” Toensing said.

Is it a disgrace that Trump is president? Perhaps it is. Ideally, the country should do much better. But he didn’t get America into the troubled situation it’s in. He is not the rot in the system, he just lays it bare. He simply came along at the appropriate moment to expose what the country has become, and to what extent its political system has devolved into a veritable swamp of special interests and incumbent squids.

And Trump hasn’t won a thing yet. Don’t be surprised if the whole sordid Harvey Weinstein tale is used, if not set up from the start, to go after the Donald. In a cynical link to that, George H.W. Bush has been accused of groping women, at the same time his role in the JFK assassination was questioned. He was the only American who didn’t remember where he was when the murder took place. Turns out, the CIA operative happened to be in Dallas.

Interestingly, Trump will fly to Asia on November 3. By then we should know who Mueller has indicted. Will Trump even be allowed to return? It would be better for America if he is, because there are a lot of lessons left to be learned.

 

 

Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Springenberg Luther nails his theses to the church door

 

Trump Frustrated By Secrecy With JFK Files (AP)
Battle Hymns of the Republicans (G.)
Markets Await Trump’s Decision on Fed Chair (Rickards)
The Informant Cometh (Jim Kunstler)
In 2019, Central Bank Liquidity Finally Turns Negative (ZH)
All Hail British Banks: Self-absorbed, Short-termist And Spivvy (G.)
Sacked Catalonia Leader Calls For Opposition To Madrid’s Rule (R.)
Latin America and Caribbean No Longer US Backyard – Russia (TSur)
HUD Explores Temporarily Housing Puerto Ricans on US Mainland (BBG)
Barbuda PM Calls For Help From Britain To Rebuild Island (G.)
We Need A 21st-Century Martin Luther To Challenge The Church Of Tech (G.)

 

 

And released it all anyway. Still not besties with US Intelligence.

Trump Frustrated By Secrecy With JFK Files (AP)

Just before the release Thursday, Trump wrote in a memorandum that he had “no choice” but to agree to requests from the CIA and FBI to keep thousands of documents secret because of the possibility that releasing the information could still harm national security. Two aides said Trump was upset by what he perceived to be overly broad secrecy requests, adding that the agencies had been explicitly warned about his expectation that redactions be kept to a minimum. “The president and White House have been very clear with all agencies for weeks: They must be transparent and disclose all information possible,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Friday.

Late last week, Trump received his first official briefing on the release in an Oval Office meeting that included Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn and National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg. Trump made it clear he was unsatisfied with the pace of declassification. Trump’s tweets, an official said, were meant as a signal to the intelligence community to take seriously his threats to release the documents in their entirety. According to White House officials, Trump accepted that some of the records contained references to sensitive sources and methods used by the intelligence community and law enforcement and that declassification could harm American foreign policy interests. But after having the scope of the redactions presented to him, Trump told aides he did not believe them to be in the spirit of the law.

On Thursday, Trump’s top aides presented him with an alternative to simply acquiescing to the agency requests: He could temporarily allow the redactions while ordering the agencies to launch a new comprehensive examination of the records still withheld or redacted in part. Trump accepted the suggestion, ordering that agencies be “extremely circumspect” about keeping the remaining documents secret at the end of the 180-day assessment. “After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other agencies, I will be releasing ALL JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump wrote in a Friday tweet. “I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”

Read more …

Is the swamp being drained?

Battle Hymns of the Republicans (G.)

The November election did not put an end to the Republican Party’s civil war – a chasm between the establishment in Washington and grassroots activists that deepened with the rise of the Tea Party movement of 2009. Trump has only amplified it. Flake, after all, was not alone in his scathing criticism of the president. All week, a feud between Trump and Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, soared to new heights – or depths. It culminated in Corker issuing his own stunning rebuke of Trump. “When his term is over, the constant non-truth-telling, the name-calling, the debasement of our nation, will be what he will be remembered most for,” Corker told CNN. Corker announced his own retirement last month, joining the ranks of a small but growing number of Republicans who have come to see Trump’s presidency as a moment of reckoning.

On one side is Trump, the most unpopular president in modern US history, ushered in by a grassroots movement with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, at its helm. On the other is the old guard of Republican leaders, struggling to distance themselves from Trump’s toxicity and a party base that he increasingly drives with racially motivated nationalism. Critics like Flake, Corker and McCain subscribe to the views espoused by Republican presidents back to Ronald Reagan – a belief in limited government, moderate positions on immigration and trade – but Bannonites have waged war on “globalists” and used race and class to drive a wedge between the establishment and a rancorous base unmoored by the economic and cultural dislocation of the last 20 years.

The friction has prompted a battle for the soul of the Republican party. A strategist aligned with Bannon told the Guardian that Trump’s victory unleashed an insurgent movement that wants to overthrow the party establishment in Washington. “The strategy is to make everyone look over their shoulders,” the Bannon ally said, “so they understand that they are no longer in charge of the Republican party.” As reports of Flake’s retirement surfaced, another ally of Bannon swiftly celebrated the news by claiming “another scalp”. The departure of another moderate senator – at least, a moderate within the current Republican party – was the latest victory in Bannon’s mission to reshape the conservative movement.

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White House leaks say Powell will be next Fed head. Rickards expects Kevin Warsh. But yeah, Trump will be in Asia after November 3. What effect does that have on the Mueller thingy?

Markets Await Trump’s Decision on Fed Chair (Rickards)

President Trump is expected to nominate the next Federal Reserve chair within a matter of days. As I’ve explained before, Donald Trump has the opportunity to appoint a higher percentage of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system at one time than any president since Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act during the creation of the Fed in 1913 when they had a vacant board. At that time, the law said the secretary of the Treasury and the comptroller of the currency were automatically on the Fed’s board of governors. But besides that, President Wilson selected all of the other participating members. Due to vacancies he inherited and key resignations, Trump now has the opportunity to fill more seats on the Fed’s Board of Governors than any president since then. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

To review, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors is made up of seven appointees. That means that they can make a majority decision with four votes. If you’re reading about the Fed, you might also see reference to “regional reserve bank presidents.” These are roles within the Federal Reserve System, but the real power is found on seven-member Board of Governors. Trump will own the Fed. Meaning, whatever the president wants monetary policy to be, he’ll get. In other words, Donald Trump will be able to shape the Fed’s majority. But the tricky part is figuring out how he plans to shape it… During the campaign season, Trump called China and other nations currency manipulators. That signaled he believed the dollar was too strong and wanted it to weaken. But then the North Korean nuclear crisis rose to the fore.

Trump backed off his threats against China because China has the most economic influence over North Korea, and Trump wanted China to use that leverage to convince the North to back off its nuclear program. But China didn’t deliver as Trump had hoped, and a trade war with China is now likely. That’s especially true now. Chinese president Xi Jinping has solidified his hold on power after the Chinese Politburo re-appointed him yesterday. Xi had avoided rocking the boat in recent months while his position was uncertain. But now that his lock on power is secure, Xi can afford to be much more confrontational with Trump. Trump’s trade policy has led many to believe that Trump will appoint a lot of “doves” to the Board. But don’t be surprised if Trump goes with a hard-money board. In fact, that’s what I expect. These will be hard-money, strong-dollar people, contrary to a lot of expectations.

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The Fed’s credibility. And Mueller’s. And Comey’s.

The Informant Cometh (Jim Kunstler)

Now, it also happens that the deal for Tenex to buy Uranium One had to be approved by nine federal agencies and signed off on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which she did shortly after her husband Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow sponsored by a Russian bank. The Clinton Foundation also received millions of dollars in “charitable” donations from parties with an interest in the Tenex / Uranium One deal. It happened, too, that the CEO of Uranium One at the time of the Tenex sale, Frank Guistra, was one of eleven board members of the Clinton Foundation. The informant remained undercover for the FBI for five years. None of the Clinton involvement was included in the previously mentioned federal bribery and racketeering prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the informant had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Obama Justice Department, only just lifted last week. As of this morning, the story is absent from The New York Times, formerly the nation’s newspaper of record. The FBI’s credibility is at stake in this case. Robert Mueller, who was Director of the agency during the Tenex/Uranium One deal, with all its Clintonian-Russian undertones, is in the peculiar position now as special prosecutor for the Russian election “meddling” alleged to involve President Trump. Whatever that investigation has turned up is not known publicly yet, but the massive leaking from government employees that turned the story into roughly 80% of mainstream legacy news coverage the past year, has ceased — either because Mueller has imposed Draconian restraints on his own staff, or because there is nothing there.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in overlooking the Clinton connection to the Uranium One deal. The informant, soon to be attached to a name and a face, is coming in from the cold, to the warm, wainscoted chambers of the house and senate committees. I wonder if Mr. Trump, or his lawyers, will find grounds to attempt to dismiss Special Prosecutor Mueller, given what looks like Mueller’s compromised position vis-à-vis Trump’s election opponent, HRC. It’s hard to not see this thing going a long way — at the same time that financial markets and geopolitical matters are heading south. Keep your hats on.

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Once people start thinkng they’re actually going to do this, the effects will be felt way before 2019.

In 2019, Central Bank Liquidity Finally Turns Negative (ZH)

[..] the great Central Bank liquidity tide, which generated over $2 trillion in central bank purchasing power in 2017 alone – and which as Bank of America said last month is the only reason why stocks are at record highs, is now on its way out. This was a point first made by Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin two weeks ago, who looked at the collapse in global vol, and concluded that “as we look at what could shake the panoply of low vol forces, it is the thaw in Central Bank policy as they retreat from emergency measures that is potentially most intriguing/worrying.

We are likely to be nearing a low point for major market bond and equity vol, and if the catalyst is policy it will likely come from positive volatility QE ‘flow effect’ being more powerful than the vol depressant ‘stock effect’. To twist a phrase from another well know Chicago economist: Vol may not always and everywhere be a monetary phenomena – but this is the first place to look for economic catalysts over the coming year.” He showed this great receding tide of liquidity in the following chart projecting central bank “flows” over the next two years, and which showed that “by the end of next year, the combined expansion of all the major Central Bank balance sheets will have collapsed from a 12 month growth rate of $2 trillion per annum to zero.”

Shortly after, Fasanara Capital’s Francesco Filia used this core observation in his own bearish forecast, when he wrote that “the undoing of loose monetary policies (NIRP, ZIRP), and the transitioning from ‘Peak Quantitative Easing’ to Quantitative Tightening, will create a liquidity withdrawal of over $1 trillion in 2018 alone. The reaction of the passive community will determine the speed of the adjustment in the pricing for both safe and risk assets.”

Fast forward to today, when Bank of America’s Barnaby Martin is the latest analyst to pick up on this theme of great liquidity withdrawal. Looking at (and past) the ECB’s announcement, Martin writes that “as expected, Mario Draghi took a knife to the ECB’s quantitative easing programme yesterday. From January 2018, monthly asset purchases will decline from €60bn to €30bn, and continue for another 9m (and remain open ended). The ECB now joins an array of central banks across the globe that are either shrinking their balance sheets or heavily scaling back bond buying.” [..] However, as Ruskin and Filia warn, Martin underscores that it is the bigger point that is ignored by markets, namely that it is all about the “flow” of central bank purchases.

And in this context, the BofA strategist warns that it will take just over a year before the global liquidity tide not only reaches zero, but turns negative… some time in early 2019. Chart 1 shows year-over-year changes in global asset purchases by central banks (we also include China FX reserves here). Given this year’s slowdown in ECB and BoJ QE (the latter, in particular, is striking in USD terms), we are well past the peak in global asset buying by central banks. But with the Fed now embarking on balance sheet shrinkage, the start of 2019 should mark the point where year-over-year asset purchases finally turn negative – a trend change that will come after four straight years of expansion.

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Government and banks want one thing: keep housing prices high.

All Hail British Banks: Self-absorbed, Short-termist And Spivvy (G.)

It’s not only the government that is obsessed with lending to prop up property owners and developers – the banking sector is keen, too. The report sets out the way UK banks mostly lend abroad, with loans to UK businesses accounting for just 5% of total UK bank assets, compared with 11% in France, 12% in Germany and 14% on average across the rest of the eurozone. Property loans to businesses and individuals in the UK account for more than 78% of all loans to individuals and non-financial businesses – which means those outside the Square Mile. After stripping out real estate, loans to UK businesses account for just 3% of all banking assets. As a transmission mechanism for diverting the nation’s savings into worthwhile, productive businesses, the banks fail miserably. And the rest of the financial sector is just as bad.

The IPPR report accused hedge funds, proprietary traders (which use investment bank cash) and high-frequency traders – a group that collectively makes up 72% of trades in on the London market – of paying themselves depending on performance against rivals and over short timescales, “not long-term value creation”. This spivvy trading arena has the knock-on effect of making short-term demands on the boards of listed companies. Such is the pressure to avoid being caught in traders’ headlights that in a survey of more than 400 executives, some 75% said they “would sacrifice positive economic outcomes” if it helped smooth their profit figures from one quarter to the next. The report argues that this self-absorbed world of stock market trading needs to support longer-term investment in a way that also benefits savers and business owners.

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At least for now it’s peaceful. But Puidgemont seems to have weakened.

Sacked Catalonia Leader Calls For Opposition To Madrid’s Rule (R.)

Sacked Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont on Saturday called for peaceful “democratic opposition” to the central government’s takeover of the region following its unilateral declaration of independence from Spain. Puigdemont, whose regional government was dismissed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, accused Madrid of “premeditated aggression” against the will of the Catalans. Rajoy removed Puigdemont, took over the administration of the autonomous region and called a new election after Catalonia’s parliament declared itself an independent nation on Friday. The bold if to all appearances futile action marked a potentially dangerous escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis in the four decades since its return to democracy.

“It’s very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to Article 155,” Puigdemont said in a brief statement he read out in the Catalan city of Girona, referring to the legal trigger for the takeover. But he was vague on precisely what steps the secessionists would take as the national authorities are already moving into Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia to enforce control. Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said it would welcome Puigdemont’s participation in the regional elections it has called for Dec. 21. “I‘m quite sure that if Puigdemont takes part in these elections, he can exercise this democratic opposition,” Mendez de Vigo told Reuters TV in an interview.

[..] Puigdemont signed the statement as President of Catalonia, demonstrating he did not accept his ousting. “We continue persevering in the only attitude that can make us winners. Without violence, without insults… and also respecting the protests of the Catalans who do not agree with what the parliamentary majority has decided,” he said.

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“All actors must respect international law instead of ignoring it and proclaiming themselves special states..”

Latin America and Caribbean No Longer US Backyard – Russia (TSur)

A Russian official said the region no longer can be treated inappropriately by the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned the United States that Latin American and the Caribbean are no longer its “backyard.” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zajarova said the region has tired of the United State’s attempt to control its people by political, social or military force. “The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have long ceased to be the U.S. backyard,” Zajarova said. In addition, she said the region has had many opportunities to “put Washington in its place on the inappropriateness of its conduct regarding Latin America,” urging the United States to respect international law and the sovereignty of nations, in order to “avoid conflicts.”

“Each state has its objectives, but we should start from common game rules and, at the same time, respect national interests,” she said. “All actors must respect international law instead of ignoring it and proclaiming themselves special states, this is the only way of preserving our own interests, and interacting and avoiding conflicts,” Zajarova added. The Russian official said development in the region in economics, politics, and science has shown “such potential that they can’t be treated as if an older brother were addressing other members of the lesser developed family.” Russia recently said it hopes countries around the world “refrain from the policy of pressure and sanctions” against countries in the region such as is being done in Venezuela, calling the attempts “counterproductive.”

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No matter what they do, it must be massive.

HUD Explores Temporarily Housing Puerto Ricans on US Mainland (BBG)

The Trump administration is exploring ways to relocate tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland for an extended period as parts of the territory remain devastated more than a month after Hurricane Maria. Officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development late last week started to develop a plan to provide housing to some of Puerto Rico’s displaced population, according to people familiar with the matter. And given the shortage of available options on the island, the possibility of evacuating large numbers to the mainland has emerged as an option. Two of the people who spoke to HUD officials said using large commercial cruise liners had been suggested to move residents en masse.

The most recent push for a solution began after a meeting on Friday that included officials from HUD, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the White House and others, according to the people. But it’s unclear if the White House or any agencies outside of HUD are coordinating with the housing agency, or if the ideas are only being developed within the department for now. Agency officials in the past two days have contacted executives in the housing industry, investment managers with ties to Puerto Rico, and others in an attempt to brainstorm potential solutions, said the people [..] Thousands of Puerto Rico residents have already fled to Florida and elsewhere since Maria struck as a Category Four storm on Sept. 20.

Much of the territory, including the outer islands of Vieques and Culebra, remains without electricity. Potable drinking water is scarce in some areas, and thousands of miles of roads are still closed. The evacuation idea is in the earliest stages, and given immense logistical challenges it may never come to pass. An orchestrated mass movement and temporary resettlement would require coordination between various parts of the government and a willingness by local communities to house any evacuees, at a substantial cost.

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Poorer nations offer help, the rich do not.

Barbuda PM Calls For Help From Britain To Rebuild Island (G.)

Independent islands in the Caribbean are fearful that their infrastructure will be left in ruins as countries such as the UK focus relief and aid efforts on their own overseas territories. Gaston Browne, prime minster of Antigua and Barbuda, said his country was being overlooked in relief efforts because it was an independent island and had a higher per capita income than some Caribbean countries. “Technically, the Queen is still our head of state, which means there should be some empathy,” he said. “But I think because we are independent, and they’re looking at some artificial per capita income criteria, we are being overlooked.” The island of Barbuda was devastated by Hurricane Irma in September, with 95% of all properties on the island destroyed. When it was feared Barbuda would be struck again by Hurricane Jose a few days later, all 2,000 residents were evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua.

The evacuees are living with friends and family on Antigua, or in large shelters run by the government in technical colleges, churches and a cricket stadium. People have begun to return to the island for a few days at a time to start the clear-up, often sleeping in tents on their lawns. Barbuda still has no water or electricity. Browne praised developing countries that had offered help, naming Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, as well as Qatar, China and India. Even the small Caribbean island of Dominica pledged $250,000 before Dominica itself was hit and devastated by Hurricane Maria, Browne said. “We reciprocated afterwards by pledging $300,000,” he added “Even among countries that were devastated, there is a form of human cooperation to help each other.”

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He’s actually written 95 theses.

We Need A 21st-Century Martin Luther To Challenge The Church Of Tech (G.)

A new power is loose in the world. It is nowhere and yet it’s everywhere. It knows everything about us – our movements, our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our secrets, who our friends are, our financial status, even how well we sleep at night. We tell it things that we would not whisper to another human being. It shapes our politics, stokes our appetites, loosens our tongues, heightens our moral panics, keeps us entertained (and therefore passive). We engage with it 150 times or more every day, and with every moment of contact we add to the unfathomable wealth of its priesthood. And we worship it because we are, somehow, mesmerised by it. In other words, we are all members of the Church of Technopoly, and what we worship is digital technology.

Most of us are so happy in our obeisance to this new power that we spend an average of 50 minutes on our daily devotion to Facebook alone without a flicker of concern. It makes us feel modern, connected, empowered, sophisticated and informed. Suppose, though, you were one of a minority who was becoming assailed by doubt – stumbling towards the conclusion that what you once thought of as liberating might actually be malign and dangerous. But yet everywhere you look you see only happy-clappy believers. How would you go about convincing the world that it was in the grip of a power that was deeply hypocritical and corrupt? Especially when that power apparently offers salvation and self-realisation for those who worship at its sites?

It would be a tough assignment. But take heart: there once was a man who had similar doubts about the dominant power of his time. His name was Martin Luther and 500 years ago on Tuesday he pinned a long screed on to the church door in Wittenberg, which was then a small and relatively obscure town in Saxony. The screed contained a list of 95 “theses” challenging the theology (and therefore the authority) of the then all-powerful Catholic church. This rebellious stunt by an obscure monk must have seemed at the time like a flea bite on an elephant. But it was the event that triggered a revolution in religious belief, undermined the authority of the Roman church, unleashed ferocious wars in Europe and shaped the world in which most of us (at least in the west) grew up. Some flea bite.

[..] Why not, I thought, compose 95 theses about what has happened to our world, and post them not on a church door but on a website? Its URL is 95theses.co.uk and it will go live on 31 October, the morning of the anniversary. The format is simple: each thesis is a proposition about the tech world and the ecosystem it has spawned, followed by a brief discussion and recommendations for further reading. The website will be followed in due course by an ebook and – who knows? – perhaps eventually by a printed book. But at its heart is Luther’s great idea – that a thesis is the beginning, not the end, of an argument.

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Sep 022017
 
 September 2, 2017  Posted by at 8:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


René Magritte Promenades d’Euclid 1955

 

Whoever Leads In AI Will Rule The World – Putin (RT)
Deflation Is Already Here – Albert Edwards (ZH)
Fiscal Austerity After The Great Recession Was A Catastrophic Mistake (Coppola)
Ugly Jobs Report: August Payrolls Miss (ZH)
Deciphering The Swamp’s Unemployment Deception (Feierstein)
The Working Class Can’t Afford the American Dream (HowMuch)
Central Banks Must Be Ready With Cash To Calm Brexit Nerves – Bank Lobby (R.)
How to Crack the Code on Gold – Rickards (DR)
Trump Seeks $7.85 Billion For Harvey Relief, Warns On Debt Ceiling (R.)
Harvey: “Unprecedented” Disruptions To Supplies Of “Essential” Chemicals (ZH)
Irma Intensifies Over The Atlantic (R.)

 

 

Plenty scary thought.

Whoever Leads In AI Will Rule The World – Putin (RT)

Vladimir Putin spoke with students about science in an open lesson on September 1, the start of the school year in Russia. He told them that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence,” and whoever masters it first will rule the world. “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. However, the president said he would not like to see anyone “monopolize” the field.

“If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today,” he told students from across Russia via satellite link-up, speaking from the Yaroslavl region. During the 45-minute open lesson (the standard academic hour in Russia), Putin also discussed space, medicine, and the capabilities of the human brain, pointing out the importance of cognitive science. “The movement of the eyes can be used to operate various systems, and also there are possibilities to analyze human behavior in extreme situations, including in space,” Putin said, adding that he believes these studies provide unlimited opportunities. The open lesson was attended by students and teachers from 16,000 schools, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports. The total audience exceeded one million.

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“..never since the mid-1960s, when records began, has core CPI (less food, energy and shelter) declined over a six-month period..”

Deflation Is Already Here – Albert Edwards (ZH)

At the start of the year, we were surprised when SocGen’s Albert “Ice Age” Edwards, the biggest perma-deflationist on Wall Street, flipped his outlook on the US economy, and said he now expected a fast spike in inflation driven by wage growth, which in turn would prompt an even more accelerated tightening cycle by the Fed. We did not see it, and said so, pointing out that the bulk of US job growth in recent years has been among industries that have little to no wage power. More than half a year later, and several months after a puzzled Edwards asked “Where Is The Wage Inflation?”, the SocGen strategist has finally thrown in the towel, and in a note released this morning, admits he was wrong, or as he puts it “I was too optimistic”, to wit:

“At this point in the US economic cycle a tight labour market would normally be producing a notable upturn in wage and CPI inflation. This would usually prompt the Fed into a tightening cycle that would typically end in a surprise recession. This is exactly what I expected to occur at the start of this year and I thought it would be that recession that would tip the US into outright deflation ? but I was wrong. I was too optimistic!” And while there has been a modest improvement in average hourly earnings according to the BLS, if not according to the BEA’s wage data, which according to the just released Personal Income data showed another drop in both private and government worker wages…

… broader inflation trends continue to disappoint. Furthermore, when digging through the recent CPI data, Edwards noticed something unexpected: as he writes, although wages have accelerated due to the tight labor market, the last six months has seen consistent downside surprises. And then this: “this has come hand-in-hand with an unprecedented slump in underlying US CPI inflation into outright deflation – in stark contrast to the eurozone where core CPI inflation has decisively risen.” Putting the finding in context, the “wrong, too optimistic” Edwards writes that never since the mid-1960s, when records began, has core CPI (less food, energy and shelter) declined over a six-month period, as demonstrated by the red line in the chart below. Or, as he summarizes, “Deflation did not need another US recession to emerge. It is already here.”

the SocGen strategist has some advice to the Fed: “If I were a Fed Governor I would be pretty shocked/concerned/bemused at inflation developments this year. However confident the Fed is of a self-sustaining-recovery, there is growing evidence of a slide into outright deflation even ahead of the next recession which will likely unambiguously take us deep into deflationary territory.” Imminent deflationary prints notwithstanding, Edwards still thinks rates should be normalised. Why? “Well, because the longer the current credit excesses are allowed to continue, the deeper the next recession and deflationary bust will ultimately be.”

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“What a complete, utter, disastrous failure of public policy, not just for Greece but for the world.”

Fiscal Austerity After The Great Recession Was A Catastrophic Mistake (Coppola)

In a new paper presented at Jackson Hole last week, the economists Alan Auerbach and Yuriy Gorodnichenko showed that, contrary to popular belief, fiscal expansion after a major financial shock such as that in 2008 did not cause debt/GDP ratios to rise. In fact, the researchers found that debt could become more sustainable, not less, after fiscal stimulus: For a sample of developed countries, we find that government spending shocks do not lead to persistent increases in debt-to-GDP ratios or costs of borrowing, especially during periods of economic weakness. Indeed, fiscal stimulus in a weak economy can improve fiscal sustainability along the metrics we study. Fiscal stimulus works. What a pity we did not allow ourselves to do it, much. But what about Greece? Surely fiscal austerity was necessary there?

Well, maybe. “The experience of Greece and other countries in Southern Europe is a grave warning about the political risks and limits of fiscal policy,” say the researchers. “Bridges to nowhere, “pet” projects and other wasteful spending can outweigh any benefits of countercyclical fiscal policy.” But they nevertheless find that fiscal expansion works even when debt/GDP levels are high. “The penalty for a high debt-to-GDP ratio does not appear to be high at the debt levels experienced historically for developed countries,” they say. So when Greece’s debt was a mere 100% of GDP, fiscal expansion could have been a good strategy. Now, of course, Greece’s debt/GDP ratio is off the chart, because of the aforementioned catastrophic failure of public policy. The researchers warn that their results are uncertain at very high debt/GDP levels. So fiscal expansion might now be too late for Greece. What a tragedy.

“We have been giving catastrophically bad advice to countries with high debt to GDP ratios”, said Jason Furman, the former chair of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers who is now at Harvard. Too right. And Greece has paid the price. But it is not just Greece that has paid. If Auerbach and Gorodnichenko are right, then the policy path since 2010 has been wrong for many more countries. They have truncated their recoveries and hurt their populations by embarking on premature fiscal consolidation, while cudgeling central banks into somehow conjuring up a recovery that monetary policy is incapable of producing at the lower bound. As a result, there has been a prolonged and wholly unnecessary global slowdown, which will leave lasting scars, particularly on the young. What a complete, utter, disastrous failure of public policy, not just for Greece but for the world.

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Pre-Harvey ugly.

Ugly Jobs Report: August Payrolls Miss (ZH)

[..] moments ago the BLS reported that in August just 156K jobs were created, a big miss to the 180K expected, and following a sharp downward revision to June and July, which were revised to 210K and 189K, respectively, a 41K drop combined. But don’t worry, the worse, the better as the more disappointing the economic data, the less likely the Fed will hike in September, December, or ever for that matter. And keep in mind, today’s data did not include the Harvey devastation, which will assure no rate hikes from the Fed for months, if not decades to come. Not helping matters – for the economy, if not the stock market which now once again loves bad data – was the Household Survey, according to which the number of employed Americans declined by 74,000 to 153,439K. On an annual basis, the increase in the employment level dropped to 1.2%, the lowest since March.

The unemployment rate also disappointed, rising from 4.3% to 4.4%, while the avg hourly earnings missed, increasing by 2.5% Y/Y in August, below the 2.6% estimate and the same as July. The sequential increase in earnings was just 0.1%, also below the 0.2% expected, and far below the 0.3% in July. Furthermore, since average weekly hours declined also, from 34.5 to 34.4, average weekly earnings declined outright from $909.42 to $907.82 in August. Furthermore, average weekly earnings rose just 2.2% Y/Y, the lowest rate of increase since January.

While the labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9%, the number of Americans not in the labor force increased once again, growing by 128K in August to 94.785 million.

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Mitch wants investigations. And not the ones going on right now.

Deciphering The Swamp’s Unemployment Deception (Feierstein)

I strongly see the need for a full and open inquiry into Hillary’s illegal server, Clinton’s leaking of top secret documents, the pay-to-play Clinton Foundation, the entire ‘Fake news’ Russian collusion affair and James Comey’s ‘Fake FBI investigation’ with a predetermined outcome. I am not taking a partisan position here. However, I am guessing many people will reason: ‘The Republicans are bashing the Democrats over these inquiries; this guy Feierstein wants an inquiry, so he must be a Republican.’ I don’t blame people for making these assumptions. Our whole country has become infected with this kind of twisted logic. Our entire political debate has caught the virus. Yet, it makes no sense. No sense at all. Here are two facts and one conclusion:

Fact One : Hillary had an illegal server in the basement of her home that contained ‘Top-Secret Emails.’ Fact Two : Senators Grassley and Graham’s statement regarding FBI’s James Comey’s exoneration of Clinton read: “Conclusion first, fact-gathering second—that’s no way to run an investigation. The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.” Conclusion : These allegations are serious enough to deserve an open investigation, period. Partisan bickering and political spin is simply a diversion from the action that American people deserve — and the truth that the American people require.

I say all this because I’m about to call attention to another government department: the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, I know that Democrats are currently bashing President Trump over everything he does. I know that Trump is bashing back. But, people, the issue at stake is the creation of jobs in America and the way those things are being recorded and reported. The issues I’m about to address were present under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. They haven’t changed under Donald Trump. The depression which struck this country in the wake of financial crisis 1.0 might have peaked under a Democrat, but it was born in a Republican era. If you yourself are so partisan that you want to make fine distinctions about these things, you should go ahead and make them. Me: I see two peas in a pod.

Good. Preamble over. Here’s the issue: “The number of jobs created in America declined by 74,000 to 153,439 in August. A horrible number, far below expectations. The jobless rate rose to 4.4 and hourly earnings missed increasing only 2.5% year-over-year. Average hours worked also declined, seeing as weekly wages followed suit.” Yet, central bank manipulated stocks are surging, on the terrible economic news, in anticipation of more global central bank easing. News and economic data are irrelevant in our “rigged” system as market participants eagerly line up like heroin addicts awaiting another federal reserve fix.

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As if anyone still believes in that dream.

The Working Class Can’t Afford the American Dream (HowMuch)

The national conversation in the U.S. is focused squarely on improving the lives of people in the working class. The debate revolves around exactly how to do that. Politicians and pundits have all sorts of ideas, from efforts to save jobs, create tax cuts, subsidize housing, and provide universal healthcare. Thing is, people don’t even agree on how to define the working class, much less how their living conditions stack up across the country. We created a data visualization to illustrate this complex situation. Each bubble represents a city. The color corresponds to the amount of money a typical working-class family would have left over at the end of the year after paying for their living costs, like housing, food and transportation.

The darker the shade of red, the worse off you are. The darker the shade of green, the better off you are. The size of the bubble also fits on a sliding scale—large and dark red means the city is totally unaffordable. Bigger dark green bubbles likewise indicate a city where the working class can get by. The data come from our new True Cost of Living Tool. It’s kind of a big deal because it lets you drill down to a specific city and search through layers of relevant information to understand exactly how much money it takes to live in any given area. We stitched together a variety of different reputable sources, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics for income levels, the National Bureau of Economic Research for tax data, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the cost of food. Basically, you can check our work.

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Banks say central banks must be ready to give money to … banks.

Central Banks Must Be Ready With Cash To Calm Brexit Nerves – Bank Lobby (R.)

Central banks should be ready to inject cash into the financial markets to keep them stable after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019, a draft report from a bank industry lobby said. The Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), in a draft report seen by Reuters, said that regulators, central banks and national governments should continue to support financial market stability between Britain’s departure from the EU and start of new trading terms. “This may require particular attention during the uncertain period around Brexit, and in particular during the transition, and may involve more regular market communications and targeted support in case of market need, for example, access to liquidity schemes,” the report said. This and other steps would be needed to minimise disruption, it said. AFME’s report also provides a blueprint for a transition phase after Britain’s EU exit in March 2019.

This would include a “bridging phase” to avoid “short-term disruption” until new trading terms are ratified and an “adaptation phase” for moving to the new terms. The report did not specify a time frame for the transition but said it should be limited. “It is crucial that clarity is provided as soon as possible on a transitional period, and ideally before the end of this year,” AFME said. AFME wants existing market arrangements maintained throughout the transitional period, reflecting worries among bankers that they might have to comply first with a transition period and then the new trading terms. “This means that existing legislation, regulation, permissions and authorisations should continue to be effective during the transitional period,” it said. Company bosses also want Britain to negotiate a staggered departure from the EU by the end of this year or they will have to push ahead with plans that assume they will lose all access to the single market after March 2019.

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Rickards sticks to his guns.

How to Crack the Code on Gold – Rickards (DR)

“Don’t underestimate the extent to which gold is being impacted by hedge funds, leverage players, and others that are in the mix for the current high in gold. They don’t really care if it is gold, soybeans, etc. but it is simply another commodity. They receive a nice profit with tight profits, tight stops.” “The bigger picture to look as here is that gold hit an interim low last December and has been grinding higher ever since. Now gold is up over $200 an ounce and is one of the best performing assets in 2017. There’s a pattern of higher highs and shows a very positive occurrence.” [..] “This all relates to currency wars. I think of gold by weight.”

“When most people look at the cost of gold they relate it to the dollar. That gives the dollar a privilege to say that it is the way to count everything. It is also possible to count gold in euro, yen or even bitcoin. I think of gold as money. These are all just cross rates. When I see a higher dollar price for gold, I think of the dollar as being weaker. Likewise, if I see a lower price for gold it just shows that gold is constant and the dollar got stronger.” “There are three things going on right now in gold. There’s a fear trade, there’s technicals with supply shortages and ultimately a weaker dollar. If you want to know where the dollar price for gold is going, ask yourself where the dollar is headed. As the dollar gets weaker due to Federal Reserve Chair Yellen’s plan to tighten rates into weakness. We’re getting disinflation, not inflation and the desire from the Fed is a weaker dollar.”

[..] “I expect to see gold hit $5,000 and eventually to $10,000 an ounce. Maybe not tomorrow or a couple of years but that is the fundamental price of gold as money.” [..] “Bitcoin is a very small market cap compared to gold. I don’t think it has much impact on gold and looks like a bubble right now.” “As someone who has been around Wall Street a long time I’ve seen a lot of different tricks of the trade and frauds that come and go. I am seeing all of the various schemes in bitcoin right now. There’s good forensic evidence that there are people doing wash sales right now and the suckers don’t know they are getting sucked in. Gold is still the ultimate safe haven.”

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That’s just emergency funding. Washington will need to find ways to help the uninsured.

Trump Seeks $7.85 Billion For Harvey Relief, Warns On Debt Ceiling (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.85 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, the White House budget director said on Friday, adding that failure to raise the budget ceiling may hinder disaster relief spending. In a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the request included $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and $450 million for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program. “This request is a down-payment on the president’s commitment to help affected states recover from the storm, and future requests will address longer-term rebuilding needs,” Mulvaney said. Trump had been expected to request $5.95 billion for the recovery effort after Harvey flooded areas of Houston and other parts of Texas.

The White House has said that it would make multiple requests for aid from Congress to fund the Harvey recovery effort. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told reporters on Thursday aid funding requests would come in stages as more became known about the impact of the storm. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that his state may need more than $125 billion. Bossert said the Trump administration wanted Congress to pass the disaster relief measure on its own and not add it to other measures, such as the effort to raise the debt ceiling. The U.S. government has a statutory limit on how much money it can borrow to cover the budget deficit that results from Washington spending more than it collects in taxes. Only Congress can raise that limit. Mulvaney urged Congress to act “expeditiously to ensure that the debt ceiling does not affect these critical response and recovery efforts.”

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Ethylene, polypropylene. It’s silly, but we ‘need’ them.

Harvey: “Unprecedented” Disruptions To Supplies Of “Essential” Chemicals (ZH)

The unprecedented destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey will impact the US economy in ways may not be immediately apparent. Until recently, coverage of the storm’s impact has focused on property damage and the impact on the energy industry. But in a story published Friday, Bloomberg explains the devastating impact the storm has had on Texas’s chemicals industry, which is already causing supply-chain headaches for American manufacturers who’re struggling to source the chemicals required to produce plastics and other components used in everything from milk jugs to car parts. Indeed, if Texas’s chemicals plants are closed for an extended period, production at a potentially huge number of American manufacturers to grind to a halt.

More than 60% of the US’s production capacity for ethylene – one of the most important chemical building blocks for American manufacturers – has been taken offline by the storm, a development that could ripple across the US manufacturing industry. “Texas alone produces nearly three quarters of the country’s supply of one of the most basic chemical building blocks. Ethylene is the foundation for making plastics essential to U.S. consumer and industrial goods, feeding into car parts used by Detroit and diapers sold by Wal-Mart. With Harvey’s floods shutting down almost all the state’s plants, 61% of U.S. ethylene capacity has been closed, according to PetroChemWire.” Ethylene, the gas given off by fruit as it ripens, occurs naturally, but it’s also a crucial product of the $3.5 trillion global chemical industry, with factories pumping out 146 million tons last year.

Processing plants turn the chemical into polyethylene, the world’s most common plastic, which is used in garbage bags and food packaging. When transformed into ethylene glycol, it’s the antifreeze that keeps engines and airplane wings from freezing in winter. It’s used to make polyester for both textiles and water bottles. Ethylene is an ingredient in vinyl products such as PVC pipes, life-saving medical devices and sneaker soles. It helps combat global warming with polystyrene foam insulation and lighter, fuel-saving plastic auto parts. It’s used to make the synthetic rubber found in tires. It’s even an ingredient in house paints and chewing gum. Ethylene and its derivatives account for about 40% of global chemical sales, according to Hassan Ahmed, an analyst at Alembic Global Advisors. And the Gulf Coast is a crucial player in the global market: US production accounts for one of every five tons on the market. International ethylene plants were running nearly full out to meet rising demand before Harvey.

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‘T is the season. The lesser Antilles could get hit bigtime.

Irma Intensifies Over The Atlantic (R.)

As Harvey diminishes a new storm has emerged. Irma, the fourth hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, has strengthened over the eastern Atlantic to become a Category 3 storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory Thursday. Irma is forecast to intensify Thursday night and is projected to be a very dangerous hurricane for the next few days, the Miami-based center said. Irma is located about 1,845 miles east of the Leeward Islands and has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, the NHC said. NHC forecast models were showing it heading for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and neighboring Haiti with possible landfall by the middle of next week.

While currently a Category 3 storm, Irma’s winds could strengthen to become a Category 4 storm in five days’ time, the Miami Herald reported. Irma will not reach the eastern Caribbean Lesser Antilles islands until the middle of next week, and it is too soon to determine whether or not the storm will pose a threat to the U.S., according to The Weather Channel. Still, the potential for a U.S. landfall should prompt all who may be affected in those areas to closely monitor the storm in the coming days, The Weather Channel said. “Irma is forecast to become a major hurricane by tonight and is expected to be an extremely dangerous hurricane for the next several days,” the NHC said Thursday, while adding there is no current risk to land from the storm.

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Aug 062017
 
 August 6, 2017  Posted by at 8:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Giorgio de Chirico Piazza d’Italia 1913

 

The Bursting of the China Credit Bubble (Crescat)
The Swamp Is So Undrainable It Will End Up Making Mincemeat Of Trump (Stockman)
How The Trump Administration Broke The State Department (FP)
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (Atl.)
Amazon Isn’t The No. 1 Villain In Retail Sector’s Demise (Katsenelson)
On The Beach (John Pilger)
Merkel Is Kowtowing To The German Car Industry (Spiegel)
North Korea Sanctions Bring Nuclear Issue To ‘Critical Phase’, Says China (G.)
What If Every Government Paid Off Its National Debt? (Connelly)
Are Greek Capital Controls Easing? (K.)
More People Live Inside This Circle Than Outside It (WEF)
Is Global Ocean Circulation Collapsing? (Forbes)

 

 

A tour de force PDF by private firm Crescat on China and its potential influence on the world of finance. It echoes a longtime theme of mine: China’s shadow banking sector could bring it all down.

The Bursting of the China Credit Bubble (Crescat)

History has proven that credit bubbles always burst. China by far is the biggest credit bubble in the world today. We layout the proof herein. There are many indicators signaling that the bursting of the China credit bubble is imminent, which we also enumerate. The bursting of the China credit bubble poses tremendous risk of global contagion because it coincides with record valuations for equities, real estate, and risky credit around the world. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has identified an important warning signal to identify credit bubbles that are poised to trigger a banking crisis across different countries: Unsustainable credit growth relative to GDP in the household and (non-financial) corporate sector. Three large (G-20) countries are flashing warning signals today for impending banking crises based on such imbalances: China, Canada, and Australia.

The three credit bubbles shown in the chart above are connected. Canada and Australia export raw materials to China and have been part of China’s excessive housing and infrastructure expansion over the last two decades. In turn, these countries have been significant recipients of capital inflows from Chinese real estate speculators that have contributed to Canadian and Australian housing bubbles. In all three countries, domestic credit-to-GDP expansion financed by banks has created asset bubbles in self-reinforcing but unsustainable fashion. Post the 2008 global financial crisis, the world’s central bankers have kept interest rates low and delivered just the right amount of quantitative easing in aggregate to levitate global debt, equity, and real estate valuations to the highest they have ever been relative to income.

Across all sectors of the world economy: household, corporate, government, and financial, the world’s aggregate debt relative to its collective GDP (gross world product) is the highest it has ever been. Central banks have pumped up the valuation of equities too. The S&P 500 has a cyclically adjusted P/E of almost 30 versus a median of 16, exceeded only in 1929 and the 2000 tech bubble. The US markets are also in a valuation bubble because US-owned financial assets have never been more richly valued relative to income as we show below. The picture is equally frothy if we include real estate, also at record valuations to income. China’s capital outflow spillover from its credit bubble has driven up real estate valuations around the world.

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“And then the Donald will be gone, and well before August 2018, too…”

The Swamp Is So Undrainable It Will End Up Making Mincemeat Of Trump (Stockman)

What will be the trigger that finally sends the establishment after Trump? Ultimately, the hammer of fiscal crisis and a crashing stock market will break any remaining loyalty of the GOP elders as they smell the 2018 elections turning into a replay of the rout of 1974. And then the Donald will be gone, and well before August 2018, too. I told an audience in Vancouver last Friday that it could happen by February. The bottom line is that the Swamp is so undrainable that it will end up making mincemeat of Donald Trump. Needless to say, the ultimate causes of his demise are anchored deep in the failing status quo. America is so addicted to war, debt and central bank driven false prosperity that even the most resourceful and focused challenger would be taken down by its sheer inertia.

But the Donald is so undisciplined, naïve, out-of-touch, thin-skinned, unfocused and megalomaniacal that he is making it far easier for the Swamp critters than they deserve. To a very considerable extent, in fact, he is filling out his own bill of indictment. Moreover, he is totally clueless about how to manage his presidency or cope with the circling long knives of the Deep State which are hell bent on removing him from office. Accordingly, the single most important thing to know about the present risk environment is that it is extreme and unprecedented. In essence, the Donald is the ultimate bull in an exceedingly fragile China shop — and an already badly wounded one at that. So it is no understatement to suggest that the S&P 500 at 2470 and the Dow at 22,000 is about as fragile as the “market” has ever been.

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Is Trump trying the drain the swamp anyway? Or Tillerson? Foreign Policy can’t quite decide on the latter. But these lines, intended as positives, sort of say it all:

“..the legacy of decades of American diplomacy is at risk..”, or this one: “I used to wake up every morning with a vision about how to do the work to make the world a better place..”

How The Trump Administration Broke The State Department (FP)

Employees at the State Department couldn’t help but notice the stacks of cubicles lined up in the corridor of the seventh floor. For diplomats at the department, it was the latest sign of the “empire” being built by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s top aides. The cubicles are needed to accommodate dozens of outsiders being hired to work in a dramatically expanded front office that is supposed to advise Tillerson on policy. Foreign service officers see this expansion as a “parallel department” that could effectively shut off the secretary and his advisors from the career employees in the rest of the building. The new hires, several State officials told Foreign Policy, will be working for the policy planning staff, a small office set up in 1947 to provide strategic advice to the secretary that typically has about 20-25 people on its payroll.

One senior State Department official and one recently retired diplomat told FP that Tillerson has plans to double or perhaps triple its size, even as he proposes a sweeping reorganization and drastic cuts to the State Department workforce. Veterans of the U.S. diplomatic corps say the expanding front office is part of an unprecedented assault on the State Department: A hostile White House is slashing its budget, the rank and file are cut off from a detached leader, and morale has plunged to historic lows. They say President Donald Trump and his administration dismiss, undermine, or don’t bother to understand the work they perform and that the legacy of decades of American diplomacy is at risk.

By failing to fill numerous senior positions across the State Department, promulgating often incoherent policies, and systematically shutting out career foreign service officers from decision-making, the Trump administration is undercutting U.S. diplomacy and jeopardizing America’s leadership role in the world, according to more than three dozen current and former diplomats interviewed by FP. “I used to wake up every morning with a vision about how to do the work to make the world a better place,” said one State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “It’s pretty demoralizing if you are committed to making progress. I now spend most of my days thinking about the morass. There is no vision.”

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Interesting, but it can’t be just one generation.

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (Atl.)

The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone. To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling.

The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills. Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

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More on the iPhone.

Amazon Isn’t The No. 1 Villain In Retail Sector’s Demise (Katsenelson)

Retail stocks have been annihilated recently, despite the economy eking out growth. The fundamentals of the retail business look horrible: Sales are stagnating and profitability is getting worse with every passing quarter. Jeff Bezos and Amazon get most of the credit, but this credit is misplaced. Today, online sales represent only 8.5% of total retail sales. Amazon, at $80 billion in sales, accounts only for 1.5% of total U.S. retail sales, which at the end of 2016 were around $5.5 trillion. Though it is human nature to look for the simplest explanation, in truth, the confluence of a half-dozen unrelated developments is responsible for weak retail sales. Our consumption needs and preferences have changed significantly. Ten years ago we spent a pittance on cellphones.

Today Apple sells roughly $100 billion worth of i-goods in the U.S., and about two-thirds of those sales are iPhones. Apple’s U.S. market share is about 44%, thus the total smart mobile phone market in the U.S. is $150 billion a year. Add spending on smartphone accessories (cases, cables, glass protectors, etc.) and we are probably looking at $200 billion total spending a year on smartphones and accessories. Ten years ago (before the introduction of the iPhone) smartphone sales were close to zero. Nokia was the king of dumb phones, with sales in the U.S. in 2006 of $4 billion. The total dumb cellphone handset market in the U.S. in 2006 was probably closer to $10 billion. Consumer income has not changed much since 2006, thus over the last 10 years $190 billion in consumer spending was diverted toward mobile phones.

It gets more interesting. In 2006 a cellphone was a luxury only affordable by adults, but today 7-year-olds have iPhones. Our phone bill per household more than doubled over the last decade. Not to bore you with too many data points, but Verizon’s wireless’s revenue in 2006 was $38 billion. Fast-forward 10 years and it is $89 billion – a $51 billion increase. Verizon’s market share is about 30%, thus the total spending increase on wireless services is close to $150 billion. Between phones and their services, this is $340 billion that will not be spent on T-shirts and shoes. But we are not done. The combination of mid-single-digit health-care inflation and the proliferation of high-deductible plans has increased consumer direct health-care costs and further chipped away at our discretionary dollars. Health-care spending in the U.S. is $3.3 trillion, and just 3% of that figure is almost $100 billion.

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“A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”.”

On The Beach (John Pilger)

“This is the way the world ends; Not with a bang but a whimper”. These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same. Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent. Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the US Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless spectre descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the US Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this insane vote, except the promise of plunder. The “sanctions” are aimed at Europe, too, mainly Germany, which depends on Russian natural gas and on European companies that do legitimate business with Russia. In what passed for debate on Capitol Hill, the more garrulous senators left no doubt that the embargo was designed to force Europe to import expensive American gas. Their main aim seems to be war – real war. No provocation as extreme can suggest anything else. They seem to crave it, even though Americans have little idea what war is. The Civil War of 1861-5 was the last on their mainland. War is what the United States does to others.

The only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings, they have since destroyed scores of governments, many of them democracies, and laid to waste whole societies – the million deaths in Iraq were a fraction of the carnage in Indo-China, which President Reagan called “a noble cause” and President Obama revised as the tragedy of an “exceptional people”. He was not referring to the Vietnamese. Filming last year at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, I overheard a National Parks Service guide lecturing a school party of young teenagers. “Listen up,” he said. “We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom.” At a stroke, the truth was inverted. No freedom was defended. Freedom was destroyed. A peasant country was invaded and millions of its people were killed, maimed, dispossessed, poisoned; 60,000 of the invaders took their own lives. Listen up, indeed.

A lobotomy is performed on each generation. Facts are removed. History is excised and replaced by what Time magazine calls “an eternal present”. Harold Pinter described this as “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

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Original tile: “‘Made in Germany’ Label Badly Damaged By Car Scandal”. But the power politics behind it are far more revealing.

Merkel Is Kowtowing To The German Car Industry (Spiegel)

Since the days of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who served from 1998 to 2005, Germany’s leaders have been nicknamed the “Auto Chancellor” for their close ties to the industry. Schröder felt he was a patron of the industry. And Merkel, his successor, was quick to see the connection between maintaining close ties to the key industry and staying in power. On Sept. 23, 2008, she spoke to workers at a Volkswagen factory. “The German government stands behind VW. VW is a great piece of Germany.” The sheer mass of 18,000 workers seemed to awe her. She had likely never spoken in front of that many people at one time. She said she would travel home with the feeling that many workers at Volkswagen wanted “Germany to be doing well.” Observers of the chancellor say that visit to Wolfsburg had a deep impact on Merkel.

A short time later, as the world faced a major economic crisis, she gave employees and executives at Germany’s car companies a gift worth billions of euros in the form of government subsidies that saved jobs and kept the floor from falling out on the industry. The unsavory symbiosis between the government, the industry and the lobbying groups – and the revolving door of personnel moving between them – seems to be the root of the evil. This ensures that the industry has influence and access, and assures employees money and access to the career ladder. It can also cause a bit of head-scratching. A public servant who is supposed to one day passionately fight for the good of the people, is suddenly ready to contribute to their systematic poisoning only a moment later.

Former German Transportation Minister Matthias Wissmann, who served as a member of Merkel’s cabinet and is also a friend, sticks out. Today he’s the president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). All he has to do to get the chancellor’s attention is send her a text message on his mobile phone. Merkel’s former chief of staff at the national headquarters of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Michael Jansen, now works at Volkswagen as the head of the VW’s Berlin office, which conducts the company’s lobbying. A few months ago, carmaker Opel’s chief lobbyist, Joachim Koschnicke, left his job to join the CDU’s election campaign team. All have showered the federal government with emails and letters in recent years to ensure that their companies’ interests are fulfilled.

In May 2013, VDA head Wissmann wrote to “Dear Angela” that she should try to hinder the European Commission’s “excessive” proposals on CO2 targets. VW lobbyist Jansen also wrote to the Chancellery in July 2015 that, on the issue of “air quality/diesel,” the industry’s proposals should be given the “greatest possible consideration.” When he was still an Opel lobbyist, Joachim Koschnicke warned the head of the KBA when approval was delayed for a new Opel model that without it, there would be “potential effects on our business operations.” He said it jeopardized production at five plants and that the “negative effects would be dramatic in every aspect.” And then there’s Eckart von Klaeden, who served as minister of state in the Chancellery from 2009 to 2013 and has since served as head of global external affairs at Daimler.

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How far will China go?

North Korea Sanctions Bring Nuclear Issue To ‘Critical Phase’, Says China (G.)

The situation on the Korean peninsula is entering “a very critical phase”, China has warned after new United Nations sanctions targeting Pyongyang were announced following its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test. Speaking in Manila before a regional security summit, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said the sanctions had been designed “to efficiently, or more efficiently, block North Korea’s nuclear missile development”. “Sanctions are needed but not the ultimate goal,” Wang added. “The purpose is to pull the peninsula nuclear issue back to the negotiating table, and to seek a final solution to realise the peninsula denuclearisation and long-term stability through negotiations.” “After the resolution is passed, the situation on the peninsula will enter a very critical phase,” Wang warned, according to China’s state broadcaster CGTN.

“We urge all parties to judge and act with responsibility in order to prevent tensions from escalating.” Wang met his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, on Sunday who reportedly smiled continuously as he shook the Chinese official’s hand. According to Reuters, journalists were not given access to a meeting between the two men. On Saturday Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said “further action is required” against North Korea. Earlier, National Security Adviser HR McMaster said Donald Trump had been “deeply briefed” on recent missile tests carried out by Pyongyang, and said the US would do “everything we can to to pressure this regime” while seeking to avoid “a very costly war”. Haley spoke to the UN security council after the 15-member body imposed the new sanctions against North Korea, in response to its two long-range missiles tests in July.

“We should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem,” Haley said. “Not even close. The North Korean threat has not left us, it is rapidly growing more dangerous. Further action is required. The United States is taking and will continue to take prudent defensive measures to protect ourselves and our allies.” Washington would continue annual military exercises with South Korea, Haley said. The UN-approved sanctions include a ban on exports worth more than $1bn, a huge bite out of North Korea’s total exports, valued at $3bn last year. Countries are also banned from giving any additional permits to North Korean laborers – another source of money for the regime of Kim Jong-un – and all new joint ventures with North Korean companies and foreign investment in existing ones are banned.

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“The national debt is actually the government’s savings account..”

What If Every Government Paid Off Its National Debt? (Connelly)

There were six times in US history in which budget surpluses were achieved for long enough to retire a significant amount of debt. Five of those were followed by depressions, the last of which culminated in the Great Depression of the 1930s. The last time America ran a significant budget surplus (about 2.5 years) was under President Clinton. The 2002 recession is a direct result of Clinton’s 1999 surplus which forced the domestic private sector into deficit. Consumer spending fell, unemployment rose and a recession occurred. The economy crashed first in 2000 and then onwards into the Great Recession that began in 2007. “But reducing or retiring the debt isn’t what caused the economic downturns,” says economist, Ellis Winningham. “It was the surpluses that caused it. Simply put, you cannot operate an economy with no money in it.”

So why have we convinced ourselves that government debt is the mother of all evil? That somehow, if the government is in surplus, our bank accounts will automatically improve? In fact, as we shall see, the precise opposite is what would probably happen. Anyone who has ever been chased by a debt collector has come to associate the word ‘debt’ as necessarily scary, bad and to be avoided. If you are a household, this is likely to be true. But debt has an entirely different meaning for governments. To whom is the national debt owed? That would be us: the people. But this truth has been avoided in favour of eliciting a pavlovian response based entirely on the principle that a government budget is the same as that of a household.

“People think that public debt is like a household debt, hence, they buy into the neoliberal nonsense about the government going ‘bankrupt’ and then it’s financial armageddon and we will all die,” says Winningham. “It’s total nonsense. The public debt is just a bunch of savings accounts that pay interest. “People think it will improve their lives because they believe that the government’s debt is their debt. In reality, the government’s debt is the private sector’s asset.” In truth, there is no such thing as the national debt beyond a rhetorical device used to scare the public into submission. In the US, the National Debt is the sum-total of all US dollars ever issued by the Federal Government, from the nation’s founding up until this very moment, that have never been taxed away by the Federal Government.

“From around the 1790’s until today, 2017, the US government has issued, after taxes, $18 trillion dollars for everyone in the non-government sector to use,” says Winningham. “In fact, the national debt has been around for over 170 years now, so at some point, you’re going to have to start understanding that it is not an actual problem. “Further, you need to start understanding that when you accuse Obama, or Bush, or Trump of adding to the national debt, you’re actually accusing them of adding US dollars to the US economy. Or, more precisely, you’re accusing them of adding US dollars to our national savings.” Put simply, The National Debt is the country’s total exports minus the country’s total imports, and isn’t an actual debt at all, but a “balance of trade”.

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A giant sleight of hand: ..new measures that are billed as easing the capital controls but which will in fact reduce the annual amount of cash bank clients can withdraw

Are Greek Capital Controls Easing? (K.)

The government is gearing up to launch new measures that are billed as easing the capital controls but which will in fact reduce the annual amount of cash bank clients can withdraw. As of September 1, when the new measures come into force, citizens will be able to withdraw a total of 1,800 euros per month. When the controls were first introduced in July 2015, Greeks could only withdraw €60 a day, 365 days a year, but since then they have been allowed to carry that amount forward up to a period of two weeks, giving them a €840 limit every 14 days (fixed, from midnight Friday to midnight two weeks later). That will remain the case until the end of August.

The extension of the cumulative withdrawal period may facilitate transactions, but on an annual basis the total amount a bank customer can withdraw will fall from €21,840 (€840 x 26 two-week periods) to €21,600 (€1,800 x 12 months). Greeks could in fact withdraw more money per year on the original limit of €60 per day, totaling €21,900 a year, as that avoided the fixed-two-week-period problem. In other words the “easing” of restrictions has resulted in curtailing people’s withdrawal limit by €300 per annum, for the right to transfer a withdrawal to another day or week. Bank sources tell Kathimerini it is a positive move that will strengthen confidence, make transactions easier and boost the economy.

The new measures will also affect withdrawals in foreign currency in Greece and the use of Greek debit cards for withdrawals abroad. As of September 1 any recipients of money forwarded from abroad will be able to withdraw 50% of the amount without any restrictions. Companies will also be able to open an account at a credit institution by creating a new customer ID regardless of whether they already have another account there. Farmers, who have not been allowed to open bank accounts since the controls started, will finally be allowed to (provided they do not have one already). Employees will be further able to open a new salary account at a different bank to the one at which they are already a client or if their new employer pays their salary at another lender.

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Perspective.

More People Live Inside This Circle Than Outside It (WEF)


Circle centred on 106.6° East, 26.6° North, projected using GMT, created by BCMM – Brilliant Maps

While the map looks surprising at first glance, it shouldn’t really once you consider it contains all or most of the world’s most populous countries: China, India, Indonesia (fourth), Pakistan (sixth), Bangladesh (seventh) and Japan (tenth). And according to the World Population Prospects 2017, a recently updated UN report, the world population will hit a staggering 9.8 billion by 2050. China (with currently 1.4 billion inhabitants) and India (with currently 1.3 billion inhabitants) will remain the two most populous countries, and Nigeria will overtake the United States to become the third-most populous country in the world.

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Not a new theme at all, the Gulfstream, so why present it as somehow new without any new evidence? Nice map though.

Is Global Ocean Circulation Collapsing? (Forbes)

Scientists have long known about the anomalous “warming hole” in the North Atlantic Ocean, an area immune to warming of Earth’s oceans. This cool zone in the North Atlantic Ocean appears to be associated with a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), one of the key drivers in global ocean circulation. A recent study published in Nature outlines research by a team of Yale University and University of Southhampton scientists. The team found evidence that Arctic ice loss is potentially negatively impacting the planet’s largest ocean circulation system. While scientists do have some analogs as to how this may impact the world, we will be largely in uncharted territory. AMOC is one of the largest current systems in the Atlantic Ocean and the world. Generally speaking, it transports warm and salty water northward from the tropics to South and East of Greenland.

This warm water cools to ambient water temperature then sinks as it is saltier and thus denser than the relatively more fresh surrounding water. The dense mass of water sinks to the base of the North Atlantic Ocean and is pushed south along the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean. This process whereby water is transported into the Northern Atlantic Ocean acts to distribute ocean water globally. What’s more important, and the basis for concern of many scientists is this mechanism is one of the most efficient ways Earth transports heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The warm water transported from the tropics to the North Atlantic releases heat to the atmosphere, playing a key role in warming of western Europe. You likely have heard of one of the more popular components of the AMOC, the Gulf Stream which brings warm tropical water to the western coasts of Europe.

Evidence is growing that the comparatively cold zone within the Northern Atlantic could be due to a slowdown of this global ocean water circulation. Hence, a slowdown in the planet’s ability to transfer heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The cold zone could be due to melting of ice in the Arctic and Greenland. This would cause a cold fresh water cap over the North Atlantic, inhibiting sinking of salty tropical waters. This would in effect slow down the global circulation and hinder the transport of warm tropical waters north. Melting of the Arctic sea ice has rapidly increased in the recent decades. Satellite image records indicate that September Arctic sea ice is 30% less today than it was in 1979. This trend of increased sea ice melting during summer months does not appear to be slowing. Hence, indications are that we will see a continued weakening of the global ocean circulation system.

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