Dec 082019
 
 December 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:04 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Saul Leiter 463 1956

 

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev first met in Geneva in 1985, in a summit specifically designed to allow them to discuss diplomatic relations and the -nuclear- arms race. At the time, the Soviet Union had started to crumble, but it was still very much the Soviet Union. They met again in 1986 in Reykjavik, in a summit set up to continue these talks. There, they came close to an agreement to dismantle both countries’ nuclear arsenals.

They met once again in Washington in 1987. That was the year Reagan made his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech about the Berlin wall. Then they held a next summit in 1988 in Moscow, where they finalized the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) after the US Senate’s ratification of the treaty in May 1988.

Reagan’s successor George H.W. Bush met with Gorbachev first in December 1989 in Malta, and then the two met three times in 1990, among others in Washington where the Chemical Weapons Accord was signed, and in Paris where they signed the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. They met three more times in 1991, with one of their meetings, in Moscow, resulting in the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I).

One of the most interesting things agreed on during the Bush-Gorbachev meetings was that Russia would allow Germany to re-unite after the wall came down, in exchange for the promise that NATO would not try to expand eastward.

 

I’ve been re-researching this a bit because it feels like it’s high time that people should realize what US foreign policy was like not that long ago. Even as it involved Reagan and Bush sr., not exactly the peace-mongers of their times. The one thing that was clear to all parties involved is that it was crucial to keep meeting and talking. And talk they did. But look at us now. When was the last summit of a US president with Vladimir Putin?

This came to mind again when I read Elizabeth Warren’s piece in the Guardian today, which made me wonder if she’s for real, if she is really as ignorant as she appears to be when it comes to foreign policy, to Russia, to Trump and to NATO. It would seem that she is, and that makes her a hazard. Not that I see her as a serious candidate, mind you, but then again, I do not see any other one either.

In her article, which reads more than anything like some nostalgic longing for the good old times when she was young, just watch her get all warm and fuzzy over the success of NATO:

 

Donald Trump Has Destroyed American Leadership – I’ll Restore It

For seven decades, America’s strength, security and prosperity have been underpinned by our unmatched network of treaty alliances, cemented in shared democratic values and a recognition of our common security. But after three years of Donald Trump’s insults and antics, our alliances are under enormous strain. The damage done by the president’s hostility toward our closest partners was on full display at this week’s gathering of NATO leaders in London, which should have been an unequivocal celebration of the 70th anniversary of the most successful alliance in history.

The success of NATO was not inevitable, easy or obvious. It is a remarkable and hard-won accomplishment, and one based on a recognition that the United States does not become stronger by weakening our allies. But that is just what Trump has done, repeatedly and deliberately. He treats our partners as burdens while embracing autocrats from Moscow to Pyongyang. He has cast doubt on the US commitment to NATO at a moment when a resurgent Russia threatens our institutions and freedoms. He has blindsided our partners on the ground in Syria by ordering a precipitate and uncoordinated withdrawal.

[..] he has wrecked US credibility by unilaterally tearing up our international agreements on arms control, non-proliferation and climate change. This reckless disregard for the benefits of our alliances comes at a perilous moment, when we face common threats from powerful adversaries probing the weaknesses of our institutions and resolve. Longstanding allies in Asia are doubting our reliability and hedging their bets. Russia’s land grab in Ukraine has upended the post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace”. The chaotic Brexit process has consumed our closest partners, while sluggish growth and rising xenophobia fuel extremist politics and threaten to fracture the European Union.

 

To start with that last point, no. That “post-1989 vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace” was destroyed by NATO’s eastward expansion, executed in spite of US, EU and NATO promises that it wouldn’t. Moreover, you can talk about a resurgent Russia, but the country has hardly recovered economically from the 1980’s and 90’s today, and it has no designs on countries to its west.

Just look at the military budgets of the respective countries, where Russia has maybe 10% of the expenditure of the US, let alone the rest of NATO, and you get the picture. Is Russia getting more bang for its buck, because it doesn’t have to maintain a long running Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon link? Yes, it does. But a 10 to 1 difference is still way out there. It’s not as if they spend half of what the US does, they spend just 10%.

This is because not only Russia doesn’t have to satisfy the desires and needs of Pentagon-Boeing/Raytheon, it’s also because they have no desire to conquer any territory that is not at present Russian.

Russia “annexed” Crimea through fair elections, and it knew that “we” knew that it would never let go of its only warm water port, Sevastopol. When “We” tried to take it away regardless, it did the only thing it could do. And it did it very intelligently. As for Eastern Ukraine, everyone there is Russian, whether by blood or by passport. And there are a lot of strong ties between them and Russians in Russia proper.

If Putin would have volunteered to let these Donbass Russians be shot to bits by the Ukraine neo-nazis that helped the US and EU in the Maidan coup, he would have had either a civil war in Russia, or an all-out war in the Donbass, with perhaps millions of casualties. Putin did what he could to prevent both. Back to Warren:

 

A mounting list of global challenges demand US leadership and collective action. As president, I will recommit to our alliances – diplomatically, militarily and economically. I will take immediate action to rebuild our partnerships and renew American strategic and moral leadership, including by rejoining the Paris climate accord, the United Nations compact on migration, and reaffirming our rock-solid commitment to NATO’s Article 5 provisions.


But we must do more than repair what Trump has broken. Instead we need to update our alliances and our international efforts to tackle the great challenges of our age, from climate change and resurgent authoritarianism to dark money flows, a weakening international arms control regime and the worst human displacement crisis in modern history.

 

Wait, what exactly has Trump broken in the foreign policy field? There have been dozens at the very least who have called for NATO to be disbanded, Ron Paul et al, because its sole purpose was to counter the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. In fact, when Emmanuel Macron labeled NATO “brain-dead” last week, it was Trump who defended the alliance.

And sorry, Elizabeth, but to hold Trump responsible for “the worst human displacement crisis in modern history” is just not right. That started way before he arrived at the scene. Obama and Hillary carry the burden and blame for that, along with Bush jr. and Dick Cheney. They shot the crap out of Iraq, Lybia etc. Trump only dumped a few bombs in a desert. He didn’t invade any country, he didn’t go “We Came, We Saw, He Died”. That was not Trump.

And before we forget, the military aid for Ukraine Trump allegedly held back for a few weeks had been refused by Obama for years. I’ve been wondering for ages now why the Democrats are so eager to make things up while ignoring simple facts, but I think at least it’s time to start pointing out these issues.

This is not to make Trump look better in any sense, but to try and make people understand that he did not start this thing. Though yeah, I know, it’s like talking to a wall by now. The political divide has turned into such a broad and yawning one, you can’t not wonder how it could ever be broached.

But, you know, it might help if people like Elizabeth Warren don’t ONLY talk about Trump like he’s the antichrist, or a Putin tool, if they engage with him in conversation. But sadly, it feels like we’re past that point. Like if she would even try, and I don’t know if she would want to, her party would spit her out just for trying to build a single bridge. Like Tulsi Gabbard seems to have tried; and look at how the DNC treats her.

 

This means revitalizing our state department and charging our diplomats to develop creative solutions for ever more urgent challenges. It means working with like-minded partners to promote our shared interest in sustained, inclusive global economic growth and an international trade system that protects workers and the environment, not just corporate profits. And it means reducing wasteful defense spending and refocusing on the areas most critical to our security in years to come.

 

Well, apart from the fact that we’ve seen some of those diplomats in the Schiff hearings, and they seemed like the least likely people to develop anything “creative” -other than their opinions-, and the boondoggle of “sustained, inclusive global economic growth”, it’s probably best to forget about that entire paragraph. It’s nicer to Warren too.

 

Alliances are not charities, and it’s fair to ask our partners to do their share. I will build on what President Obama started by insisting on increased contributions to NATO operations and common investments in collective military capabilities. But I will also recognize the varied and significant ways that European states contribute to global security – deploying troops to shared missions, receiving refugees, and providing development assistance at some of the highest per capita rates in the world.

 

The problem appears to be that the partners don’t increase their contributions. Just this March, Germany refused to do just that. And if Berlin refuses, why would other countries spend more?

 

The next president must tackle our common problems using the lessons of common defense. Together, we can counter terrorism and proliferation. We can make common cause in constructing new norms and rules to govern cyberspace. We can dismantle the corruption, monopolies and inequality that limit opportunity around the world and take on the increasingly grave threats to our environment. We can and will protect ourselves and each other – our countries, our citizens and our democracies.

 

Now we’re getting into entirely nonsensical territory, with words and sentences designed only to make people feel good about things that have no substance whatsoever. Anyone can go there, anyone can do that.

In the meantime, the neverending investigations into Trump, Russia, Ukraine, taxes, have had one major effect: he hasn’t had a chance to have a summit with Putin. And that, to go back to how I started out this essay, is the worst idea out there. If Reagan and Bush sr. did those summits all the time, then why do we now think such summits are the work of the devil?

And yeah, we get it, we got it again last week from alleged law expert Pamela Karlan in the House, who let ‘er rip on the dangers Putin poses to all of humanity, and of course she would never trust Trump to hold any such summit because he’s Putin’s puppet.

What Pamela, and all the MSM, and the Dems, and the FBI/CIA, appear to refuse to see, though, is that Trump was democratically elected by the American people to be the only one who can have any such conversation. Karlan again talked about how Russia would attempt to attack American soil unless “we” keep them from doing that.

Now I can say that is absolute bollocks, and it is, but how many -potential- Democratic voters will recognize that at this point? They’ve been trained to believe it. That Russia wants one US presidential candidate over another, or one UK one, or fill in your country, and therefore they want to invade the US, UK, etc. In reality, Russia has plenty problems of its own, and it’s slowly trying to solve them.

The two countries need to start talking to each other again, and the sooner the better. That it will happen under Elizabeth Warren, however, is very unlikely. First because she has her mind made up about Russia, and second because the likelihood of her becoming president is very low. What do you think, is that a good thing?

If for some reason -who can tell- she would end up winning 11 months from now, do you think she’s likely to establish a peace treaty with Russia? You know, given what she wrote here? And if not, why would you vote for her? Don’t you want peace? Do you think antagonizing Putin forever is a good idea? While Russia continues to outperform America in arms development, and in just about any field? While Russia only wants peace?

Good questions, ain’t they, as we move into 2020?!

 

 

 

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Dec 082019
 


Arthur Rothstein “Bank that failed. Kansas” May 1936

 

UK’s Johnson Ahead But Polls Suggest Majority Might Be Tough (R.)
Calls Grow To Stop Boris Johnson With Tactical Voting As Race Tightens (O.)
Patient Data From GP Surgeries Sold To US Companies (G.)
How The Democrats & Federal Reserve Ensured Trump’s Re-Election (Hamilton)
Tracking Every Presidential Candidate’s TV Ad Buys (538)
Trump: Giuliani To Deliver Report On Ukraine Trip To Congress, Barr (Hill)
Is Russia Overtaking The US In The Realm Of Strategic Bombers? (SF)
China Crude Oil Imports Hit Record High As Refiners Race To Use Up Quotas (R.)
US Government Drops Case Against Journalist Max Blumenthal (GZ)
Fire ‘Too Big To Put Out’ May Blanket Sydney In Smoke For Months (NW)

 

 

There are so many different polls with even more different results, you’d think they do it on purpose.

UK’s Johnson Ahead But Polls Suggest Majority Might Be Tough (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is heading into Britain’s election next week with a lead in opinion polls, but some of the surveys also suggest that his chance of winning a parliamentary majority could be too close to call. Four opinion polls published on Saturday put the lead of Johnson’s Conservative Party over the main opposition Labour Party at between eight and 15 points, five days before the Dec. 12 national election. At the lowest end of that range, Johnson cannot count on winning the majority in parliament he needs to take Britain out of the European Union by Jan. 31, especially if voters choose to put aside their usual allegiances to vote tactically over Brexit.

Polling firm Savanta ComRes said Johnson’s lead over Labour had shrunk to eight points from 10 in a previous poll published on Wednesday – the tightest margin of Saturday’s four surveys. Its head of politics, Chris Hopkins, said the final few days of the campaign could be crucial. “The margins are incredibly tight,” he said. “The Conservative lead over Labour dropping or increasing by one or two points could be the difference between a hung parliament and a sizeable Conservative majority.” The election pits Johnson’s plan to get Brexit done next month against Labour’s call for a second referendum on a new Brexit deal under its veteran socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Opinion pollsters were embarrassed by Britain’s last election in 2017, when they under-estimated the size of Labour’s support which cost previous prime minister Theresa May her majority and threw Brexit into chaos. They also failed to predict the victory of the Leave campaign in the 2016 EU membership referendum. However, one poll, published before the 2017 election, by YouGov, was more accurate in predicting the number of seats won by each party. Known as an MRP poll – an acronym for its Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification model – it predicted 93% of results in individual constituencies correctly. The Sunday Times said a poll by Datapraxis, also using the MRP model and based on 500,000 online interviews, predicted that Johnson would win a majority of 38 in parliament next week, down from a projection of 48 two weeks ago.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1203590220173713409

Read more …

It doesn’t take that many votes.

Calls Grow To Stop Boris Johnson With Tactical Voting As Race Tightens (O.)

A cross-party alliance of opposition politicians has launched an 11th-hour appeal to anti-Tory voters to consider switching allegiance in Thursday’s general election, amid signs that a late surge of tactical voting in a few swing seats could deprive Boris Johnson of a majority in parliament. The calls from senior Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP figures come as a major poll suggests Johnson’s likely majority has been cut in half in the last two weeks – from 82 a fortnight ago to just 40 with four days to polling day. The analysis of almost 30,000 voters, for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, also finds that tactical votes by as few as 40,700 people in 36 key seats could prevent Johnson from forming a majority government.

Without a majority, Johnson is unlikely to be able to deliver the central promise of the Tory campaign – “to get Brexit done” – as he will struggle to get enough MPs’ votes. The DUP, which agreed to prop up the Tories after the 2017 general election, is now fiercely opposed to Johnson’s Brexit deal. The special polling analysis concludes that if tactical voting keeps the Tories out in the three dozen seats, the Conservatives would have 309 MPs, Labour 255, the SNP 49, the Lib Dems 14, Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one. To guarantee a majority, a governing party needs 325 MPs.

Naomi Smith, Best for Britain’s chief executive, said: “This election is on a knife-edge, and, if enough Remainers hold their nose and vote for the candidate with the best chance of stopping the Tories, we’re heading for a hung Parliament and a final-say referendum.”

Read more …

Not sure this is the scandal it’s made out to be, but transparency is key.

Patient Data From GP Surgeries Sold To US Companies (G.)

Data about millions of NHS patients has been sold to US and other international pharmaceutical companies for research, the Observer has learned, raising new fears about America’s growing ambitions to access lucrative parts of the health service after Brexit. US drugs giants, including Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly, have paid the Department of Health and Social Care, which holds data derived from GPs’ surgeries, for licences costing up to £330,000 each in return for anonymised data to be used for research. Campaigners working to protect the privacy of patients’ medical histories said they were concerned at the lack of transparency that surrounded the sale of licences and a lack of clarity about what the data was being used for.

The most recent accounts of the government organisation that issues the licences, Clinical Practice Research Datalink or CPRD, reveal it received more than £10m in revenue last year. “Patients should know how their data is used. There should be no surprises. While legitimate research for public health benefit is to be encouraged, it must always be consensual, safe and properly transparent,” said Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, which campaigns for the privacy of health data. “Do patients know – have they even been told by the one in seven GP practices across England that pass on their clinical details – that their medical histories are being sold to multinational pharma companies in the US and around the world?”

[..] Last week, a leak of secret government papers about private discussions between UK and US officials over a post-Brexit trade deal showed that the “free flow of data” was a “top priority” for the US. America appears to be pressing for unrestricted access to Britain’s 55 million health records, which are estimated to have a total value of £10bn a year. A minute of one of the meetings says: “On data flows, the critical element highlighted by the US was agreement that no parties will restrict information.” Another US demand is for “data localisation” to be ruled out, meaning the data of NHS patients could be stored on cloud servers abroad.

Read more …

That and demographics. Much more from Hamilton and as usual, tons of graphs.

How The Democrats & Federal Reserve Ensured Trump’s Re-Election (Hamilton)

July 31…Debt Ceiling Deal – July 31st of this year, Senate Democrats carried President Trump’s budget deal eliminating the debt ceiling through July 31st of 2021. This after a majority of Trump’s House Republicans voted against the budget deal but House Democrats overwhelmingly passed it. And thus the debt ceiling was no more. Since July 31st, the Treasury has issued over $1 trillion in net new debt but that is just the start. Trump tweeted there would always be plenty of time to make budget cuts “later”.

July 31…Federal Reserve begins series of interest rate cuts – On July 31st, the Federal Reserve begins cutting rates and has cut rates from 2.4% to 1.55% or a 35% reduction on the cost of overnight intra-bank lending, the foundation of credit.

August 21.. Federal Reserve restarts QE – In August, the Fed ceased quantitative tightening (QT) and restarted quantitative easing (QE). The Federal Reserve balance sheet has expanded by over $300 billion in short order, with an $180 billion increase in Treasuries held. The supposed rationale for the QE restart, inadequate excess reserves or liquidity…

Excess Reserves Not Restarted – With all the new QE, hardly any of it has been added to bank excess reserves…just a paltry $16 billion out of the $306 billion in new currency digitally conjured.

Direct Monetization – That is $290 billion in new dollars directly in banks hands…and banks do what banks do, which is leverage those dollars by 5x’s to 10x’s (or more), resulting in…

Asset Explosion – Using the Wilshire 5000 as a proxy (as it represents all publicly traded US equities), US equities have risen $2.42 trillion over the 4 month period as all the new digitally conjured cash has been passed to large banks for the “assets” they held…or about a 8.5x the quantity of new “not QE” and “not excess reserves”.

[..] Debt creation by periods, 1960 through 2000, 2000 through 2008, and 2008 through 2019. Relatively stable corporate debt creation, collapsing mortgage debt, and surging federal debt. And collapsing mortgage debt and surging federal debt is only just getting started, because…

And finally, why mortgage debt won’t be rising anytime soon and all debt creation will be up to the federal government. The chart below shows the annual change in young (working age) versus elderly…a surging population of elderly versus huge deceleration of growth among the working age population.

Just a reminder, elderly earn and spend half as much as working age persons and “destroy money” via deleveraging while working age persons “create money” via undertaking new loans (debt). The current and future situation is one of collapsing credit and collapsing money creation as the growth of deflationary elderly overwhelms inflationary working age growth…and into that entirely predictable situation, steps the Federal government, Federal Reserve, and ludicrous politicians to serve the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Read more …

Bloomberg.

Tracking Every Presidential Candidate’s TV Ad Buys (538)

Read more …

Wonder what he’s got.

Trump: Giuliani To Deliver Report On Ukraine Trip To Congress, Barr (Hill)

President Trump said that Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, will deliver a report to Congress and Attorney General William Barr about information he uncovered during his latest trip to Ukraine. “He’s going to make a report, I think to the attorney general and to Congress. He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information yet,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “He has not told me what he found, but I think he wants to go before Congress … and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice,” he added. “I hear he has found plenty.” Giuliani raised eyebrows this week when he traveled to Ukraine as the House conducts a whirlwind impeachment investigation into whether the president abused his power.


Democrats say Trump overstepped his bounds by pressuring Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on unfounded corruption allegations and disproven claims that Ukraine was involved in 2016 election meddling. During his trip, Giuliani met with multiple Ukrainian officials as he continued his campaign to convince American lawmakers Trump did nothing wrong. Photos from the visit showed the ex-New York City mayor meeting with a former Ukrainian diplomat who has propagated the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. He also met with Yuriy Lutsenko, a Ukrainian politician, former prosecutor general and important figure in the impeachment inquiry, who proposed a joint corruption investigation between the U.S. and Ukraine.

Read more …

Reading between the lines, what we see is America can only keep up by going to war and spending more with that as an excuse.

Is Russia Overtaking The US In The Realm Of Strategic Bombers? (SF)

In March 2018, Russia announced that it would completely overhaul its entire Tu-160 long-range strategic bomber fleet by 2030. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, the entire fleet of Tu-160 bombers will be replaced with the newer Tu-160M2 version, in addition to heavy upgrades of all operational aircraft. All on-board radio-electronic equipment and engines will be replaced. Serial production of the Tu-160M2 will begin in 2023 and the plan is for it to remain a state of the art warplane for the next 40 years. The Russian Aerospace Forces intend to purchase no less than 50 such aircraft.

The first such warplane is to be delivered in 2021, with 3 more in 2023. Afterwards serial production will continue with 3 Tu-160M2s being produced per year. The Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO codename: Blackjack) is a long range, supersonic, variable geometry wing, strategic bomber -designed to penetrate sophisticated air defense systems at low altitude and supersonic speed. It is the Soviet counterpart to the US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber.

[..] Currently, the US operates three types of strategic bombers – the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52. The US Air Force has 62 B-1Bs, out of which, according to data from August 2019, only 6 were fully operational, with the others being grounded or undergoing maintenance. They have been in service since 1985. The longest serving bomber in the US Air Force is the B-52A which was commissioned back in 1955. The existing fleet was upgraded to the B-52H Stratofortress, commissioned in 1961. It is planned for this warplane to be operated until 2050. As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52 bombers in operation, with 18 more in reserve.

The B-2 is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere in the world. It was commissioned in 1993. Thef US Air Force operates 20 such warplanes. There is also the B-21 Raider stealth bomber in development by Northrop Grumman. The first test aircraft is being built in Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California, facility and has yet to make its maiden flight. The optimistic forecast is that the first bomber should enter service by 2025.

Read more …

Beijing actively encourages additional oil imports. If you don’t produce output now, you’ll be cut next year. Fill your teapot!

China Crude Oil Imports Hit Record High As Refiners Race To Use Up Quotas (R.)

China’s crude oil imports hit a record high on a daily basis in November, as refiners operated at high run rates to use up annual import quotas. The world’s top oil buyer imported 45.74 million tonnes of crude, equivalent to 11.13 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Sunday. That compared with 10.72 million bpd in October and 9.61 million bpd in November last year. For the first 11 months of 2019, China brought in a total of 461.88 million tonnes, or 10.09 million bpd, up 10.4% from the same period last year, the data showed. As the year draws to a close, private refineries, known as teapot refiners, are ramping up output to use up their crude import quotas for the year in order to be able to apply for more quotas next year.


[..] Total natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline, in November rose 3.3% from the same period last year to 9.45 million tonnes, customs data showed. In the period of January-November, natural gas imports reached 87.11 million tonnes, up 7.4% from same period last year. On Monday, Russia started to transport pipeline gas from Siberia to northeastern China.

Read more …

Another failed coup.

US Government Drops Case Against Journalist Max Blumenthal (GZ)

The US government has dropped its bogus charge of “simple assault” against journalist Max Blumenthal, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly two days. The Grayzone has learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the US State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC.

Blumenthal, who is the editor of The Grayzone, was arrested at his home on October 25 by a team of DC cops who had threatened to break down his door. He later learned that he was listed in his arrest warrant as “armed and dangerous,” a rare and completely unfounded designation that placed Blumenthal at risk of severe harm by the police. The government’s case rested entirely on a false accusation by a right-wing Venezuelan opposition activist, Naylet Pacheco, that Blumenthal and Benjamin Rubinstein had assaulted her while they were delivering food to Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC in the early morning on May 8. (Rubinstein is the brother of journalist and Grayzone contributor Alexander Rubinstein, who was reporting from inside the embassy at the time.)

The Grayzone has reported extensively on the corruption of coup leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington recognizes as “interim president” of Venezuela, as well as the scandals plaguing Guaidó’s “ambassador” to the United States, Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio personally presided over the weeks-long siege of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC, stage-managing efforts by a mob of rabid right-wing activists to prevent peace activists from receiving deliveries of food and sanitary supplies. As The Grayzone reported, the Donald Trump administration has diverted USAID funding originally intended to assist Central American migrants to pay the salaries of Vecchio and his team in Washington.

[..] Lawyers representing Blumenthal and Rubinstein placed multiple and highly specified discovery requests to the prosecutor for Secret Service call recordings and reports logged on May 8 at the location of the embassy food delivery. The US prosecutor was unable to satisfy the request, verbally confirming that if the documents had existed, they no longer did. “This is highly unusual and highly notable, almost inexplicable in the ordinary course of operations that these records were not maintained and preserved,” said Carl Messineo, the counsel to Rubinstein and a co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “Given the false nature of allegations and that they advanced a prosecution based on these it is really questionable that this information was not produced.”

Read more …

It’s getting out of hand. Australia has a huge water/moisture shortage.

Fire ‘Too Big To Put Out’ May Blanket Sydney In Smoke For Months (NW)

A wildfire blazing 37 miles northwest from Sydney, Australia has been determined to be “too big to put out,” leaving residents to evacuate and the city with the prospect of months of heavy smoke. The fire is currently 1,150 square miles across and is comprised of several fires merging into one. Called the Gospers Mountain mega blaze, 2,200 firefighters are reported to be out in the field battling the fire, with groups of Canadian and American firefighters said to be joining them soon. Walkabout Wildlife Park has evacuated hundreds of animals to keep them safe from the fire. But the Bureau of Meteorology declared that some of the fires were too big to extinguish and would only be put out when the country received a good rain.


Sydney may be blanketed in smoke for weeks—possibly months. Sydney has already been enduring higher smoke levels than normal, and hospital officials report a 10 percent increase in admissions. Health officials warn that those who inhale the smoke long term might see effects similar to smoking cigarettes. “A cigarette is basically a plant that we purposely inhale. And in bushfires, it’s another plant that we’re inhaling the smoke from, so it’s not surprising the health effects are actually quite similar,” said Associate Professor Brian Oliver, an expert in respiratory disease from the University of Technology, Sydney to the BBC. “We cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we’ll try to do what we can to contain them,” said NSW RFS deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers to the ABC.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 072019
 
 December 7, 2019  Posted by at 10:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Homeless mother and child walking from Phoenix to Imperial County CA Feb 1939

 

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)
Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)
What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)
A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)
Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)
Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)
Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)
Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)
Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)
Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

 

 

If you look only at jobs, and not even the quality of those jobs, things may appear shiny. We get it.

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)

The November jobs report crushed expectations on Friday, sending the stock market surging. “Jerome Powell and Donald Trump can take another victory lap,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Federal Reserve advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence. The economy added 266,000 jobs in November, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The prior two months of job gains were revised higher pushing the three month average of job adds to 205,000. “In stark contrast to just about every other source of economic data, the jobs data insists the U.S. economy is strong, and that is all markets care about as it is the most visible and most quoted,” Booth said. “The reaction in the dollar and bond yields speaks volumes to how surprised markets were to this data.”


[..] As for Fed Chair Jerome Powell, he has steered a Federal Reserve that cut interest rates three times so far this year in an effort to reverse the hawkishness of Fed policy last year, which included four rate hikes, and to get ahead of any economic weakness sparked by the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The Federal Reserve meets again next week, and most market participants aren’t expecting any changes to rates. “Despite the strengthening trend, this [jobs report] will not change anything at the Fed aside from what officials say publicly,” Booth said.

Read more …

Abe and the BOJ looked only at deflation. And the harder they tried to make them spend, the more fearful of spending the Japanse people became.

Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)

A recent article in the Financial Times, “Abenomics provides a lesson for the rich world,” mentioned that the experiment started by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the early 2010s should serve as an important warning for rich countries. Unfortunately, the article’s “lessons” were rather disappointing. These were mainly that the central bank can do a lot more than the ECB and the Fed are doing, and that Japan is not doing so badly. I disagree. The failure of Abenomics has been phenomenal. The balance sheet of the Central Bank of Japan has ballooned to more than 100% of the country’s GDP, the central bank owns almost 70% of the country’s ETFs and is one of the top 10 shareholders in the majority of the largest companies of the Nikkei index.

Government debt to GDP has swelled to 236%, and despite the record-low cost of debt, the government spends almost 22% of the budget on interest expenses. All of this to achieve what? None of the results that were expected from the massive monetary experiment, inventively called QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) have been achieved, even remotely. Growth is expected to be one of the weakest in the world in 2020, according to the IMF, and the country has consistently missed both its inflation and economic growth targets, while the balance sheet of the central banks and the country’s debt soared. Real wages have been stagnant for years, and economic activity continues to be as poor as it was in the previous two decades of constant stimulus.

[..] The wrong diagnosis will lead to worsening outcomes. When the government is surrounded by economists that tell them that the problem of the economy is that there are too many savings, the government will decide to raise taxes and create a larger problem attacking consumption. With private debt at 221% of GDP. Japan has many issues, none of them being a “savings glut.” If you abandon structural reforms, the results will be worse. The QQE program was based on three “arrows”: monetary policy, government spending, and structural reforms. Guess which arrow they forgot to implement? Exactly. Structural reforms never happened, and when they did, they came in the form of higher taxes and more interventionism, the opposite of what the economy needed.

Read more …

Back to the 18th century we go.

What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)

Many phrases in the Constitution—such as “necessary and proper,” “Privileges and Immunities,” and “Convention for proposing Amendments”—carry specialized 18th century meanings not obvious to the modern reader. Recall that most of the leading Founders were lawyers and the Constitution is a legal document. Some of these phrases derive from 18th century law. Therefore, to understand them you have to consult 18th century legal materials in addition to better-known sources such as the 1787 convention debates or the Federalist Papers. Unfortunately, most of the scholars called by the House Judiciary Committee to address the meaning of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were not able to do so accurately.

According to the authoritative Westlaw database, two of the three Democratically appointed witnesses have published no scholarly work on impeachment: Their specialties are in other areas. None showed any familiarity with 18th century fiduciary standards—which (as explained below) are part of the law of impeachment. All of the witnesses voted against President Trump, and several have been involved in anti-Trump activity. It’s not surprising, therefore, that, except for professor Jonathan Turley’s heavily footnoted 53-page written statement, the testimony was biased and superficial. [..] The core of the case against President Trump is that he used his political position to seek re-election assistance from a foreign government. Although there’s dark talk of crimes committed, the principal charge is fiduciary rather than criminal. In other words, a “high … Misdemeanor.”

House Democrats have struggled to define Trump’s alleged offense. Initially, they described it as “quid pro quo.” Then they employed the term “bribery.” The legally correct designation is “self-dealing.” Self-dealing is betraying your employer’s interests to enrich yourself. It’s a violation of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. We can assume the president might benefit from a Ukrainian investigation, but that doesn’t mean asking for an investigation was self-dealing as defined by fiduciary, and therefore by impeachment, law. There’s nothing unusual or improper about a president asking a recipient of U.S. foreign aid to address corruption. As for seeking political advantage: If we punished every politician who did that, they would all be swinging from the yardarm.

This is as true in foreign as in domestic affairs. When President Barack Obama told the Russian president he would have more flexibility after his re-election, he was saying (1) an agreement now would benefit both Russia and the United States, but (2) I’m going to sacrifice our mutual interests for the present because such an agreement might hurt my re-election campaign. Was this impeachable self-dealing? Almost certainly not. So where is the divide between “normal” conduct and impeachable conduct? To answer this, we need to weigh at least three factors: impeachment precedent, the national interest, and the practice of other presidents.

Read more …

The Horowitz report is due on Monday. He’s scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)

The IG has no real law enforcement powers. He can only refer or recommend further action. Nevertheless, a great miasma of anxiety oppresses the Democratic Party now as it awaits whatever Mr. Horowitz has to say about these matters. The party’s propaganda arms at The New York Times, the WashPo, and cable news networks worked up a frenzy of distractions and ruses this past week — for instance the “bombshell” that International-Man-of-Mystery Joseph Mifsud was not a hireling of the FBI. Of course, nobody ever claimed he was. Rather, he is suspected of being an agent of the Italian intel service with links to British intel, both used by the CIA as beards for its nefarious activities around its own election meddling of 2016.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic caucus has been busy with ersatz impeachment proceedings, which are invidiously scheduled to continue next week as a smokescreen to conceal the Horowitz findings. It’s been a frantic campaign for them at a fraught moment in this long saga — but the odor of desperation is thick and rank. Of course, behind the Horowitz report loom the specters of Barr & Durham. Whatever they’ve been up to has been hermetically sealed in a globe of silence even more oppressive and nightmarish for the Dems than the IG’s inquiry. Barr & Durham are able to make things stick, most crucially genuine criminal culpability for the entire RussiaGate fiasco and all of its offshoots, including the most recent “Whistleblower” caper — a patently treasonous scheme. Who knows if and when indictments start raining down, but there’s a chance that it will be a very hard rain indeed.

Read more …

Jeff Cortese, a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit.

Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)

Strzok and Page were employed by what was the world’s leading law enforcement agency. The integrity of their work and the work of their FBI peers was paramount to maintaining stability and confidence in the country and its law enforcement. It’s not news that the FBI’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but the extent of the impact from the imprudence of Strzok and Page is likely not fully understood by most people. Their obvious improprieties created a level of widespread distrust in the FBI not previously seen. Recruiting assets and sources, finding willing participants for interviews, and even trial success can all be adversely impacted by the decline in the FBI’s reputation.

Former colleagues have told me they recently lost otherwise strong cases because lone jurors claimed after trial they refused to convict anyone investigated by the FBI. Criminals are literally walking the streets because the FBI has lost the confidence of the American people. And that decline is directly linked to the famously poor judgment made by two senior FBI employees who knew better. This is precisely why the FBI teaches its agents never to engage in activity on FBI phones or in a public forum that reveals personal bias. The risk to the Agency is too significant. The work of all the great men and women in the FBI should not be jeopardized by the actions of one, or two, of its people.

As Americans we have a soft spot for stories of redemption. We are a country of second chances, and that is a good thing. The idea that anyone could find pleasure in someone’s downfall is abhorrent, even if they hold opposing political views. That is not to say Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not do this to themselves. They did. They made themselves political talking points that will be used by politicians and pundits until the next election, and perhaps beyond.

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“The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump. Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did.”

Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House: “Let us begin where our Founders began in 1776: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.” With those words, our founders courageously began our Declaration of Independence, from an oppressive monarch, for among other grievances, the king’s refusal to follow rightfully passed laws. In the course of today’s events, it becomes necessary for us to address, among other grievances, the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law.” It’s just mesmerizing on many levels. But what did it mean exactly? Well, it was a metaphor. Trump is a slightly more orange version of King George III.

Democrats are the patriots plotting to overthrow him with violence. If that strikes you as alarming, Pelosi has a few words of comfort. A group of 18th-century slaveholders, she assures us, would have been completely in favor of what she’s doing. Pelosi: “James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, warned that the president might betray his trust to foreign powers, which might prove fatal to the republic. Another Founder, Gouverneur Morris, feared that a president may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust. He emphasized that this magistrate is not the king. The people are the king.” So, James Madison has given Nancy Pelosi his personal seal of approval. Remember that the next time Pelosi’s acolytes try to pull Madison’s statue off its pedestal for crimes against progressive orthodoxy.

For a brief moment, the Founders of our country are useful to the left, so they’re being presented as heroes. Enjoy it while it lasts. The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump.Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did. Trump just pointed that out. He was on James Madison side on that score, vigilantly policing bribery by a hostile foreign power. And for that, he must be removed from office.

Read more …

But not him?

Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)

Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that Donald Trump would easily defeat any of his Democratic White House rivals in next year’s election, bluntly declaring: “Donald Trump would eat ‘em up.” Bloomberg, 77, a billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, was a late entry into the race last month. He has been privately disparaging of his Democratic presidential rivals but this was the first time he had been so critical of them in public. In an interview on CBS’s “This Morning,” Bloomberg said: “I looked at our national government getting worse, the way we’re behaving overseas and domestically, led by our president.”


“I said back in 2016, ‘He is the wrong person for the job. He doesn’t have the temperament or the ethics or the intellect to do the job.’” Bloomberg added: “And I said, ‘We just can’t have another four years of this.’ And then I watched all the candidates. And I just thought to myself: ‘Donald Trump would eat ‘em up’.” Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent, fears that liberal candidates such as U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and their proposed costly expansion of government programs, will alienate voters in battleground states.

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I wouldn’t want to create the impression that Kamala due to a lack of money.

Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday. Why? Because, she said, she did not “have the financial resources we need to continue. I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign.” Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who definitely is a billionaire, has spent at least $57 million of his own money since he jumped into the race on November 24. Harris, by contrast, raised $36 million as of her last campaign filing in October. Of that, she’d spent almost $26 million since she announced her campaign last January 21. The divergence in the fates of the two candidates can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of campaign finance law.

But the case involved is not Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from 2010. It’s a far less famous one: Buckley v. Valeo, from 1976. The decision opened the door for billionaires — and, more generally, the ultra-rich — to spend as much as they want on their own political campaigns. The divergence in the fates of Harris and Bloomberg can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision — not from Citizens United in 2010, but Buckley v. Valeo in 1976. One of the main forces behind the case was a young Republican lawyer named John Bolton, later to become President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for a time. In Bolton’s memoir, he proudly states that “Everyone knew the decision in Buckley v. Valeo could determine … the future shape of American politics.” Bolton was right — and his long-ago efforts continue to bear fruit today.

Watergate was, among other things, a scandal about money in politics. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign had accepted bribes, including $200,000 from the chairman of the board of McDonald’s in return for permission from the federal government to raise the price of their Quarter Pounder cheeseburger. Soon after Nixon resigned in 1974, Congress responded with significant amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. This included a new limit of $50,000 per calendar year on what presidential candidates could spend of their own money on their campaign. Adjusting for inflation, that’s about $275,000 today.

Just two years later, however, the Supreme Court struck that limit down in the Buckley case. Those running for political office could now spend any amount of their own fortune they wanted. In fact, the court stated, it could be good for the wealthy to self-fund runs for office, because “the use of personal funds reduces the candidate’s dependence on outside contributions and thereby counteracts the coercive pressures and attendant risks of abuse.”

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Are we now all free to call each other whatever we want?

Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)

Elon Musk’s daring has left its mark on electric cars and rockets, and now experts say the entrepreneur may have reshaped U.S. defamation law with his willingness to defend at a high-stakes trial a lawsuit over an off-the-cuff tweet. The victory by Tesla Inc’s outspoken chief executive over a Twitter message describing a British cave explorer as “pedo guy” has raised the bar for what amounts to libel online, according to some legal experts. Musk defended his comments as trivial taunts made on a social media platform that he argued everyone views as a world of unfiltered opinion, which is protected as free speech, rather than statements of fact.

“I think this verdict reflects that there is a feeling that internet tweets and chats are more like casual conversation whether you call it opinion or rhetoric or hyperbole and should not be punished in a lawsuit,” said Chip Babcock, a lawyer who defends against defamation lawsuits. Several other attorneys who specialize in defamation cases privately expressed surprise at the outcome of what they viewed as a strong case for the cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth. They attributed it to Musk’s fame and the perceived youthfulness of the jury. But they also agreed it would shift the legal landscape, undercutting the cases that would have seemed viable before the trial while defendants would use it to try to reduce possible settlement values.

Musk’s court papers cast his comments as part of the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, which rewards and encourages emotional outbursts and sucks in readers worldwide but that no one takes seriously. Mark Sableman, a lawyer who defends defamation cases, said the freewheeling nature of social media has inevitably changed the understanding of language and what amounts to defamatory factual statements, versus opinion. “I think defendants in modern defamation cases are likely to point to the vitriolic no-holes-barred nature of modern social media, cable TV, and political discourse, in contending that many words and accusations formerly considered defamatory are now understood only as mere opinions, not factual assertions,” he said.

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“..some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one.”

Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

Iran has enabled the Houthi to resist throughout the 5 years of war the Saudis waged on them. Drones and missiles parts provided by Iran to the Houthi allowed them to compel the Saudis to file for peace. It is thereby highly unlikely that the Houthi will dissociate themselves from Iran. They will agree to end their attacks on Saudi Arabia if the Saudis end their attacks on Yemen and pay for the damage their war has caused. If the Saudis do not agree to that more of their helicopters will come down in flames and more of their oil installations will be set on fire. The war on Yemen was started by clown prince Muhammad bin Salman who was then Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia.

He had hoped for a fast victory but the well equipped Saudi military proved to be incapable of defeating barefoot Houthi in the mountains of north Yemen. The war costs the Saudis several billions per month and threatened to ruin the state. Muhammad Bin Salman’s other projects did not go any better. He had planned to sell shares of Saudi Aramco at international stock exchanges and at a total valuation of 2 trillion dollar. The move was supposed to bring in $100 billion to finance a further industrialization of the Saudi economy. After many delays Saudi Aramco is now finally making its initial public offering. The shares will start trading on December 11. But the stock will only be listed at the Saudi Tadawul exchange.

The initial share price offer puts the value of the company at $1.7 trillion which is higher than the $1.5 trillion estimate international banks had published. Today the Saudis announced a large cut in their oil output to increase the global oil prices and the company’s valuation. That might attract more urgently needed buyers to the IPO. But the stocks will still be sold to mainly domestic entities, if needed with some pressure. Instead of attracting $100 billion of fresh money from abroad some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one. The economic benefit for the country is dubious.

Two and a half years ago the clown prince tried to attack and occupy Qatar. The given ideological reason was the Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood. But the real reason was the Saudi need for more money which MbS tried to gain through a real estate and resource grab. The project failed when Turkish troops came to Qatar’s aid.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Couple on a bench 1943

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More from yesterdays’ “Law experts”:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pelosi Says Impeachment Inquiry Is About Russia, Not Ukraine

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

 

 

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Dec 042019
 
 December 4, 2019  Posted by at 6:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Vase with honesty 1884-85

 

There are things you just cannot do. Partisanship, even the semblance of it, when discussing the US Constitution, is certainly one of them. But there we go: in Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee hearings starting today, the Democrats get to pick 3 Constitutional experts, vs just one for the Republicans. There is no bigger no-no.

This is not about whether Trump has tried to bribe Ukraine president Zelensky, something the latter has denied quite vehemently multiple times, this is about the Constitution, the document that holds the entire country together, the paper that everyone will cite whenever it appears to favor their views. But which should also be a beacon when those views get blurred.

You cannot make the Constitution play second fiddle to party politics. But that’s what just happened. Trump already sounds almost lackadaisical about it, after all he’s been through for 3 years: “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one..” “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law..”

I don’t think he should be that accepting. He should protect the Constitution instead. That’s in the job description of a US president.

 

Trump Impeachment: Law Experts Have Their Say In New Congress Hearings

The judiciary committee has the power to formally draft articles of impeachment and submit them for a full vote in the House of Representatives. The committee is hearing on Wednesday from four law professors – three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans. Chosen by the Democrats are Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan, Harvard University’s Professor Noah Feldman and from the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley was picked by Republicans.

The lawyers will interpret the impeachment clause of the constitution, which allows for presidents to be removed from office due to “high crimes and misdemeanours”. The White House was invited to participate in the hearing, but on Sunday declared that they would not send any administration officials to attend. Mr Trump was scheduled to return from London to Washington later on Wednesday, after the first judiciary hearing has concluded. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump announced that he would depart early, skipping a final news conference “because we did so many over the past two days”.

His hasty departure came soon after a video emerged of other world leaders at the Nato conference appearing to mock him. “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law,” he said.

 

 

Kamala Harris just ended her presidential bid. She was a forerunner not long ago. Can we hand kudos to Tulsi Gabbard for this? This bit of news came in as I was watching Hillary refusing to rule out another run in 2020 on a BBC TV show. They still don’t get it, do they, why they lost, but that’s probably because they have no candidates. Other than Tulsi.

Joe Biden will not survive Burisma, there’s no way. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are at this moment both too far left for flyover country, and you would have to worry about their charisma to begin with. Hillary has some charisma alright, but she’s not a popular person across the nation; she’s downright despised among large groups of people, the same way Trump is among other groups. A bit of a Mexican stand-off?!

Jerry Nadler, who Devin Nunes said recently had been “in a witness protection program because of the failed Mueller probe”, will kick off another round of “impeachment” (or is it censure by now?) inquiries, to which he invited Trump knowing full well the latter would be in London for a NATO summit that day.

 

 

Lisa Page lied to her direct boss, FBI deputy head Andrew McCabe, about her relationship with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, while she was working there -as a lawyer- as well. Strzok was thrown off the Mueller investigation, which was all FBI, because his partisanship even in those partisan settings had become all too obvious. He was later fired outright by the FBI. Page “left on her own accord”.

And now Lisa Page decides to speak out under the really strange headline ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’ because Trump appears mean to her. “Trump Target” was part of so many headlines the past few days you’d think all the “reporters” and editors who used it were communicating about it. But maybe not, maybe by now they no longer need instructions or meetings, maybe it all seems natural at this point.

Thing is, way before Page could even remotely could have been a Trump target, if there is such a thing, because he had no idea she existed in 2016, Trump had become a Lisa Page -and Peter Strzok- target. We know this from thousands of emails the lovebirds sent each other. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he said “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

But Lisa decided to go on record at the Daily Beast as a victim, a Trump Target. One must truly wonder what made her do that, at this particular point in time. We can speculate about the upcoming Horowitz report, or the Durham investigation, all we want, but we just don’t know. That she won’t be named in either would seem far-fetched though. And maybe she knows that too. The DOJ IG said:

“We found that the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI,” the inspector general wrote in 2018 of Page and pals.


“Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence. We were deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”

While a somewhat curious, in the context, bit from Zero Hedge says:

“Page insists that Trump wasn’t the target of the 2016 investigation into his campaign, and that the FBI learned of “the possibility that there’s someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign.” “We were very deliberate and conservative about who we first opened on because we recognized how sensitive a situation it was,” Page says. “So the prospect that we were spying on the campaign or even investigating candidate Trump himself is just false. That’s not what we were doing.”

Again, there are 1000’s of emails between Strzok and Page that confirm they were targeting Trump, and not some unknown Russian. Her claims about this make zero sense. The best way to approach this is perhaps this Jordan Schachtel tweet:

 

 

Is the FBI more interested in harming Trump than it is in the harm done to its own organization? It seems obvious it was in 2016. How is that now? Am I a conspiracy theorist for even thinking about it? As always, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there turns out to be more from where that came from.

 

 

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


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

 

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

 

 

Lots of US politics today. It feels inevitable.

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Gloves off.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Chris Farrell is a former counterintelligence case officer.

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

Durham Needs to Bring Indictments (Farrell)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Trump Says Barr Was Misquoted Regarding Horowitz (SAC)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

China Steps In As Conglomerate Unravels (WS)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Tackling Degraded Oceans Could Mitigate Climate Crisis (G.)

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

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

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

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec 032019
 
 December 3, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Texas Panhandle Dust Bowl Mar 1936

 

There Is No More Accurate Way To Describe All That Than As A Coup (Kunstler)
Republicans Issue 123-Page Defense Of Trump (G.)
Barr Disputes Major Horowitz Finding Based On Durham, CIA Evidence (ZH)
Leaked NHS Papers ‘Put Online By Posters Using Russian Methods’ (G.)
As Trump Heads To London For NATO Summit, Warnings On British Election (R.)
Japan Preparing $120-$230 Billion Stimulus Package As Recession Risks Grow (R.)
Third Bond Default By Chinese Electronics Firm Within A Month (SCMP)
Virginia Giuffre In Plea To Public Over Prince Andrew Scandal (G.)
EU Leaders To Push For Climate Neutrality By 2050 (R.)
Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction (Time)
At Least 135,000 Children In Britain Will Be Homeless At Christmas (G.)

 

 

The discussions are about to heat up, with different sides drawing entirely different conclusions from the same “facts”. It’ll be a spectacle.

Jim Kunstler is not about to let up.

There Is No More Accurate Way To Describe All That Than As A Coup (Kunstler)

Then there is the “Whistleblower,” this would-be pimpernel of perfidy hiding behind Adam Schiff’s apron under the false assertion that he is entitled to everlasting anonymity. What an idea under our system of jurisprudence! In fact, contrary to Mr. Schiff’s public pronouncements, there is no law that states what he claims — one of several things Mr. Schiff can be called to account for. And that is even if you accept the dishonest proposition that the fugitive who started this fiasco even was a whistleblower, rather than a rogue CIA officer acting on explicitly illegal political motives to interfere in the 2020 election. The CIA, you must know, is forbidden by charter and statute from operating against American citizens in-country, including the president of the United States. Under the circumstances, the so-called “Whistleblower” might fairly be accused of treason.


Has anyone failed to notice that one of the “Whistleblower’s” attorneys, Mark Zaid, tweeted notoriously on January 30, 2017 that “Coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers.” Mr. Zaid later explained, “I was referring to a completely lawful process.” Yeah, sure. I think he meant a completely Lawfare process. Of course, the engineered “Whistleblower” escapade was only the latest (perhaps the last) chapter in the annals of nefarious events and actions carried out far-and-wide by several government agencies for three years, and by many officials working within them, and not a few freelance rogues in their service. There is no more accurate way to describe all that except as a coup. The authorities looking into all that have not been heard from yet. The portentous silence is making a lot of people in Washington edgy.

Read more …

View from the anti-Trump camp.

Republicans Issue 123-Page Defense Of Trump (G.)

Donald Trump’s actions towards Ukraine were “entirely prudent” and involved “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power”, according to a draft Republican report on last month’s impeachment inquiry hearings. Designed as a pre-emptive strike on an imminent report from the Democratic majority, the GOP document underlines how evidence presented at the hearings failed to shatter Republicans’ united front. It also provides a blueprint for House Republicans to defend the US president at Wednesday’s judiciary committee hearing and for their Senate counterparts to acquit him in a trial.

Democrats accuse Trump of attempting to bribe the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, by making a White House meeting and nearly $400m in military aid conditional on Ukraine announcing two investigations that would boost Trump politically. The 123-page Republican report was prepared for Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Michael McCaul, the ranking members on the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees, respectively. It directly contradicts the testimony of career diplomats and makes little attempt to get to grips with the devastating evidence of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who spoke about the existence of a quid pro quo, or Fiona Hill, former top Russia expert at the White House, who warned against falling for Moscow’s propaganda about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.

Instead it spins the affair as a Democratic plot. Its executive summary begins with the premise that nearly 63 million Americans from around the country elected Trump in 2016 but now 231 House Democrats in Washington are “trying to undo the will of the American people”. It accuses the party of seeking to impeach the president from day one. “They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” it says.

Read more …

Durham knows things that Horowitz doesn’t. Expect an anti-Barr campaign.

Barr Disputes Major Horowitz Finding Based On Durham, CIA Evidence (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr will dispute a fundamental finding in the upcoming Inspector General report – namely that the FBI was justified in launching an operation Crossfire Hurricane, the agency’s official covert counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, according to the Washington Post. While IG Michael Horowitz is said to have concluded that the agency had enough information to launch the probe on July 31, 2016 after Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos repeated a rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, Barr has reportedly told associates that Horowitz does not know about – or did not include – potentially exculpatory evidence held by other US agencies such as the CIA, which could alter his report’s conclusion.

In July, Fox News reported that exculpatory evidence existed which the FBI failed to include in surveillance warrant applications in which Papadopoulos denies having any contact with the Russians, when he was in fact told about the ‘Clinton dirt’ byJoseph Mifsud, a mysterious Maltese professor (and self-professed member of the Clinton foundation) who has ties to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Many believe Papadopoulos was the victim of an entrapment scheme, by which Mifsud would seed him with information that Australian diplomat would later extract from him in a London bar, which made its way to the FBI – officially leading to the launch of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. And the exculpatory evidence? Downer – a Clinton ally – likely recorded Papadopoulos saying he had no Russian contacts.

Barr’s information also comes from a concurrent, ongoing investigation into the Obama DOJ conducted by Connecticut US Attorney John Durham. Part of Barr’s reluctance to accept that finding is related to another investigation, one being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, into how intelligence agencies pursued allegations of Russian election tampering in 2016. Barr has traveled abroad to personally ask foreign officials to assist Durham in that work. Even as the inspector general’s review is ending, Durham’s investigation continues. -Washington Post

Barr, through Durham, has been investigating Mifsud – who told Italian media “I never got any money from the Russians: my conscience is clear,” adding “I am not a secret agent.” The Maltese professor is currently MIA. As the Post’s Devlin Barrett (who spoke with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page) notes, Barr’s disagreement with Horowitz not only sets the stage for a showdown within the DOJ, it will spark partisan outrage among Democrats who have already accused the AG of being Trump’s personal lawyer.

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The anti-Trump camp, are we surprised?, is also the anti-Corbyn camp. But this is quite the stretch. Putting Russia in the headline of an article that says there is no proof that Russia is involved.

Leaked NHS Papers ‘Put Online By Posters Using Russian Methods’ (G.)

Leaked documents said by Labour to prove that the NHS was “on the table” in trade talks with the US were initially disseminated online by anonymous posters operating in a way similar to a Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion, according to a social media research firm. A 19-page report published on Monday by the consultancy Graphika said that while it could not conclusively prove a Russian origin to the leak, the early distribution of the cache of files via Reddit, three German-language websites and an anonymous Twitter account reflected a method of operation seen repeatedly over recent years.


There is no suggestion either that the NHS documents, produced by Jeremy Corbyn at a dramatic press conference last week, were fake, but the Graphika investigation highlights an intriguing series of efforts to get the leak picked up more widely at the end of October and beginning of November. Ben Nimmo, the head of investigations at Graphika, said: “What we are saying is that the initial efforts to amplify the NHS leak closely resembles techniques used by Secondary Infektion in the past, a known Russian operation. But we do not have all the data that allows us to make a final determination in this case.”

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Can Trump damage Boris?

As Trump Heads To London For NATO Summit, Warnings On British Election (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves on Monday for a NATO summit in London, where he is under pressure from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resist the temptation to wade into the looming British election. As a presidential candidate in 2016 and then as president since early 2017, Trump has shown no restraint in pushing for Britain’s exit from the European Union and critiquing the politicians involved in the country’s long-running Brexit debate. But with Johnson leading polls as he faces Dec. 12 elections, the prime minister who is hosting the London NATO summit wants Trump to mind the guard-rails, putting Trump in the unusual position of being asked to avoid his normal impulse to comment on whatever he wishes.


Trump waded into the election in October by saying opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad” for Britain and that Johnson should agree on a pact with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Johnson’s pressure prompted the White House to stress, as a senior administration official said, that Trump “is absolutely cognizant of not, again, wading into other country’s elections.” That strategy could be put to the test as Trump faces reporters a number of times on the trip, including at a news conference on Wednesday.

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Abenomics continues unabated.

Japan Preparing $120-$230 Billion Stimulus Package As Recession Risks Grow (R.)

Japan is preparing an economic stimulus package worth $120 billion to support fragile economic growth, two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday, complicating government efforts to fix public finances. The spending would be earmarked in a supplementary budget for this fiscal year to next March and an annual budget for the coming fiscal year from April. Both budgets will be compiled later this month, the sources told Reuters, declining to be identified because the package has not been finalised. While the package would come to around 13 trillion yen ($120 billion), that would rise to 25 trillion yen ($230 billion) when private-sector and other spending are included.


However, the spending could strain the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden, which tops more than twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy. And despite the headline size of the stimulus, actual spending would be smaller in the current fiscal year, and economists are not expecting much of a boost. “We expect this fiscal year’s extra budget to total around 3-4 trillion yen. We should not expect it to substantially push up the GDP growth rate,” said Takuya Hoshino, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The 13 trillion yen includes more than 3 trillion yen from fiscal investment and loan programmes, as the heavily indebted government seeks to take advantage of low borrowing costs under the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy.

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Just 2 weeks ago they announced a plan to sell a majority stake to the local government. How did that work out?

Third Bond Default By Chinese Electronics Firm Within A Month (SCMP)

Tunghsu Optoelectronic Technology has failed to make good on a bond – its third in less than a month – as the struggles point to poor corporate governance among Chinese companies. The maker of electronic display panels, which reported ample cash holdings of more than 18 billion yuan as of September, missed an interest payment on its 1.7 billion yuan (US$241 million) onshore bond due on Monday, according to an exchange filing. The latest default has cast doubt on whether Tunghsu could meet its obligations on a US$44 million bond maturing in June 2020, after it defaulted two notes totalling 3 billion yuan on November 18.


Tunghsu is the latest in a growing list of Chinese defaulters this year, as banks have tightened their funding to private companies amid China’s slowest economic growth rate in nearly three decades. As of November 12, 45 Chinese corporate issuers had defaulted on interest or principal payments on bonds totalling 85.16 billion yuan, compared with 39 defaults on bonds worth 102.48 billion yuan for all of 2018, according to Reuters. Falling export orders as a result of the US-China trade war has strained the cash flow of manufacturers, while Beijing’s crackdown on shadow banking has also cut off alternative sources of capital for many small companies.

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Charles to the rescue?

Virginia Giuffre In Plea To Public Over Prince Andrew Scandal (G.)

A beleaguered Prince Andrew faced fresh embarrassment after his accuser Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked as a teenager to have sex with him, appeared on television to implore the British public to “not accept this as being OK”. In her first UK broadcast interview, Giuffre repeated allegations she had sex with the prince when she was aged 17 on the instructions of Ghislaine Maxwell, a socialite and close friend of the US financier and sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in August. The prince, 59, whose relationship with Epstein has led to him standing down from public duties, has consistently and categorically denied the allegations, which Buckingham Palace said were “false and without foundation”.


BBC Panorama said it had uncovered a 2015 email from Andrew to Maxwell asking for help dealing with the allegations by Giuffre, previously Virginia Roberts. He wrote: “Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,” to which Maxwell replied: “Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.” In the interview that was broadcast on Monday, Giuffre said: “I implore the people in the UK to stand up beside me, to help me fight this fight, to not accept this as being OK. “This is not some sordid sex story. This is a story of being trafficked. This is a story of abuse and this is a story of your guy’s royalty.”

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When someone says 2050, ignore them.

EU Leaders To Push For Climate Neutrality By 2050 (R.)

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels next week will push to agree to put the bloc on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, their draft joint statement showed on Monday, heralding a bitter fight looming at their gathering. The Dec. 12-13 summit of the bloc’s national leaders will aim to endorse “the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050”, according to the document seen by Reuters. Previous attempts, however, were blocked by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, who rely on highly polluting coal. They have previously said they oppose climate neutrality by 2050 for fear cutting greenhouse emissions will stifle their economies.


To convince the reluctant camp, the draft summit conclusions refer to “just and socially balanced transition”, the European Investment Bank’s announcement to unlock 1 trillion euros worth of green investment until 2030, the need to ensure energy security and competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign powers not pursuing such climate goals. The draft, prepared in advance of the leaders’ discussions, may still change. But it will eventually need unanimous backing of all EU national leaders for there to be agreement at the summit. The bloc’s new executive European Commission also aims to push for climate neutrality by mid-century and wants to make the EU’s 2030 climate targets more ambitious.

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You want your food good or cheap?

Small American Farmers Are Nearing Extinction (Time)

In the American imagination, at least, the family farm still exists as it does on holiday greeting cards: as a picturesque, modestly prosperous expanse that wholesomely fills the space between the urban centers where most of us live. But it has been declining for generations, and the closing days of 2019 find small farms pummeled from every side: a trade war, severe weather associated with climate change, tanking commodity prices related to globalization, political polarization, and corporate farming defined not by a silo and a red barn but technology and the efficiencies of scale. It is the worst crisis in decades. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were up 12 percent in the Midwest from July of 2018 to June of 2019; they’re up 50 percent in the Northwest. Tens of thousands have simply stopped farming, knowing that reorganization through bankruptcy won’t save them. The nation lost more than 100,000 farms between 2011 and 2018; 12,000 of those between 2017 and 2018 alone.


Farm debt, at $416 billion, is at an all-time high. More than half of all farmers have lost money every year since since 2013, and lost more than $1,644 this year. Farm loan delinquencies are rising. Suicides in farm communities are happening with alarming frequency. Farmers aren’t the only workers in the American economy being displaced by technology, but when they lose their jobs, they also ejected from their homes and the land that’s been in their family for generations. “It hits you so hard when you feel like you’re the one who is losing the legacy that your great-grandparents started,” said Randy Roecker, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who has struggled with depression and whose neighbor Leon Statz committed suicide last year after financial struggles forced him to sell his 50 dairy cows. Roecker estimates he’s losing $30,000 a month.

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Third world. Rich ruling class, and then the rest.

At Least 135,000 Children In Britain Will Be Homeless At Christmas (G.)

At least 135,000 children will be homeless and living in temporary accommodation across Britain on Christmas day – the highest number for 12 years – according to the housing charity Shelter. It estimates that a child loses their home every eight minutes – 183 children per day. At this rate, 1,647 children will become homeless between now and the general election on 12 December, and more than 4,000 by 25 December. London has the highest concentration of homeless youngsters, up 33% since 2014. About 88,000 children were homeless and in temporary accommodation in the capital at the beginning of 2019 – equivalent to one in every 24 children.


The capital has 26 of the 30 British local authorities with the highest rates of homeless children. Four councils – Haringey, Newham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea – had homeless rates of one in every 12 children. Outside London, the places worst affected were: Luton (one in 22 children); Brighton & Hove (one in 30); Manchester (one in 47); and Slough (one in 53). In Wales, one in 412 children are homeless, up 28% since 2015, while in Scotland one in 160 children were homeless, up 64% since 2014.

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Nov 282019
 
 November 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Brooding woman 1891

 

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)
Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)
China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)
Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)
The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)
Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)
Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)
US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)
Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)
“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)
Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)
Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

 

 

Well, censure appears to be the word of the day.

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) is not one of those who represent a 2016 Trump-voting district. In fact, her safe Democrat district encompasses part of eastern Detroit. Even so, Lawrence has seen the writing on the wall: Among independent voters, enthusiasm for impeachment is waning, and Lawrence – who previously supported the idea – is perhaps now thinking beyond her own chances of re-election. “I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is,” Lawrence explained Nov. 24 during a radio interview, “I don’t see the value of taking [Trump] out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

An editorial, published Nov. 23 by The Detroit News, suggests censure of the president rather than impeachment, and The Chicago Tribune followed suit on Nov. 25. It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to point out that the left-wing media rarely take up a political narrative not preapproved by someone within the Democratic Party. So the sudden appearance of editorials arguing for censure strongly suggests that Democrat strategists are leaning in that direction or at least testing the waters. Unlike impeachment, censure is not a constitutional measure. That is not to say that censure is unconstitutional, but that it is simply a course of action devised by Congress and not described in the nation’s founding document. There is no mandatory consequence to censure, and nobody would suggest that censure could lead to removal from the office of president.

It has been used most often to rebuke or reprimand members of Congress, though Trump, were he censured, would not be the first commander in chief to have faced it. In effect, censure is an act of disapproval. For a member of Congress, it may entail such undesirable consequences as loss of committee memberships or even suspension; it comes with no penalties when used against executive branch officials. And that is how it should be, or the concepts of separation of powers and co-equal branches of government would likely be swept away in an avalanche of partisan censure votes. Both the Senate and the House have the power to censure or reprimand, and each chamber may do it without the approval or involvement of the other. Censure requires only a simple majority. At least some Democrats, surely, are considering how much easier than impeachment censure will be. They also may be considering how a censure resolution will provide the opportunity to pontificate at length – on live TV – about Trump’s moral turpitude and failings, both as a human being and as a president.

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A lone voice in the wilderness: “..you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard once again defended supporters of President Donald Trump, as well as her appearances on Fox News, during an interview with Joe Rogan on Tuesday night. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said that you can’t lead Americans as president if you’re going to throw “half of them away.” “It’s one thing to say you’re gonna go on Fox News and tussle with Sean Hannity about things you disagree on, but what they see as more dangerous is finding areas where you actually do agree,” Gabbard proclaimed.

“I have a platform to be able to speak to millions of people across the country about the kind of leadership I bring in the area of foreign policy. What I would do here in this country, what I would do there in that country if I were president today. And I have the opportunity to deliver that message directly to people’s living rooms or offices or wherever they are.” Rep. Gabbard was attacked by Sen. Kamala Harris during the November Democratic Primary debate for her willingness to appear on Fox News.

“I think in some of these areas, Tucker and I will disagree on a whole host of things, but on some of these issues of foreign policy he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I agree with you,’” she continued. “And I think when you look at this cancel culture — I was attacked on the debate stage for going on Fox News — how do you think you’re gonna lead this country, all Americans, if you’re completely not only shutting out and not willing to do talk to half the country that watches Fox News, but you’re in fact disrespecting and dismissing them just because they may disagree with you, or they watch a different news channel than you do. I think that’s the bigger issue here, is you know, yeah, there’s a political consequence.” She noted that you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

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Trump had no choice, he was outnumbered. China also has no choice, it must respond, but Xi knows what situation Trump is in.

China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)

[..] on day 510 of the trade war, it appears the president was confident enough that a collapse in trade talks won’t drag stocks too far lower, and moments after futures reopened at 6pm, the White House said that Trump had signed the Hong Kong bill backing pro-democracy protesters, defying China and making sure that every trader’s Thanksgiving holiday was just ruined.Needless to say, no differences will be “settled amicably” and now China will have no choice but to retaliate, aggressively straining relations with the US, and further complicating Trump’s effort to wind down his nearly two-year old trade war with Beijing.

Trump’s signing of the bill comes during a period of unprecedented unrest in Hong Kong, where anti-government protests sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill proposal have ballooned into broader calls for democratic reform and police accountability. “The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms and amends the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies United States policy towards Hong Kong and directs assessment of the political developments in Hong Kong,” the White House said in a statement. “Certain provisions of the act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”

The legislation, S. 1838, which was passed virtually unanimously in both chambers, requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law and will allow Washington to suspend said status in case the city does not retain a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework. The bill also sanctions any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. The House cleared the bill 417-1 on Nov. 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition, veto-proof majorities that left Trump with little choice but to acquiesce, or else suffer bruising fallout from his own party. the GOP.

Trump also signed into law the PROTECT Hong Kong act, which will prohibit the sale of US-made munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s authorities. While many members of Congress in both parties have voiced strong support for protesters demanding more autonomy for the city, Trump had stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence. Until now.

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A tangled web.

Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)

The Obama holdover heading the Pentagon office reportedly under investigation by the U.S. attorney who is conducting the criminal probe of the Trump–Russia investigation was accused of leaking a classified document, in a recent court filing for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The connection hasn’t been previously reported. According to a Nov. 21 report by independent journalist Sara Carter, U.S. Attorney John Durham is questioning personnel in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). ONA awarded about $1 million in contracts to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who appears to have played a key role in alleged U.S. intelligence agency spying on 2016 Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

In addition, however, a court filing indicates that ONA’s director, James H. Baker, “is believed to be the person who illegally leaked the transcript of Mr. Flynn’s calls” to The Washington Post. Specifically, the filing states, “ONA Director Baker regularly lunched with Washington Post Reporter David Ignatius.” The filing adds that Baker “was Halper’s ‘handler’” at ONA. Moreover, according to the court filing, the tasks assigned to “known long-time operative for the CIA/FBI” Halper “seem to have included slandering Mr. Flynn with accusations of having an affair with a young professor (a British national of Russian descent).” The filing notes that Flynn’s defense team has requested phone records for then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, likewise in order to confirm contacts with Ignatius.

The filing singles out records for Jan. 10, 2017, when, according to the filing, “Clapper told Ignatius in words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn.’” The Pentagon’s current inspector general has already found that Baker’s office “did not maintain documentation of the work performed by Professor Halper or any communication that ONA personnel had with Professor Halper.” As a result, according to the inspector general, ONA staff “could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”

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Quite the attack.

The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)

What does Barack Obama want? To ask the question is both to wonder how one of the world’s most influential people chooses to dedicate his time and to consider to what ends he thinks it is best put to use. As Nathan Robinson and I argued a little more than two years ago, a post-presidency offers us the ideal heuristic for doing exactly that. In office, or so it has often been suggested, Obama’s fiery progressive spirit was endlessly stifled by a combination of events, GOP obstruction, and the inherent conservatism of the American legislative process. Having left such constraints behind, many believed, post-2016 Obama would now be free to do just about anything he wanted — meaning that the former president’s real self could finally surface from beneath the depths of institutional necessity under which it had hitherto been submerged.

This prediction turned out to be true enough, just not in the way many Obama partisans assumed. Equipped with fame, wealth, and a vast reservoir of residual goodwill Obama now has more power to do good in an hour than most of us do in a lifetime. The demands of etiquette and propriety notwithstanding, he no longer has intransigent Blue Dog senators to appease, donors to placate, or personal electoral considerations to keep him up at night. When he speaks or acts, we can be reasonably certain he does so out of sincere choice and that the substance of his words and actions reflect the real Barack Obama and how he honestly sees the world.

It therefore tells us a great deal that, given the latitude, resources, and moral authority with which to influence events, Obama has spent his post-presidency cozying up to the global elite and delivering vapid speeches to corporate interests in exchange for unthinkable sums of money. Though often remaining out of the spotlight, he has periodically appeared next to various CEOs at events whose descriptions might be read as cutting satire targeting the hollowness of business culture if they weren’t all-too real. As the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, he recently cited an increase in America’s output of oil under his administration as a laudable achievement.

When Obama has spoken about or intervened in politics, it’s most often been to bolster the neoliberal center-right or attack and undermine the Left. Having emerged from seclusion to endorse the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, Obama also rang up Britain’s austerity-loving Conservative prime minister Theresa May on election night in 2017 to offer reassurance and trash the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. Only last week, while denouncing the Democratic Party’s “activist wing,” the former president who had once introduced himself to the nation as a progressive, community-minded outsider inveighed against those pushing for a more ambitious direction — contemptuously instructing a group of wealthy donors not to concern themselves too-much with the irrational zealotry of “certain left-leaning Twitter feeds.”

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Why do we still have polls left? What purpose do they serve other than entertainment?

Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)

After several major polls revealed a sharp decline in support for impeaching President Trump in the wake of unconvincing public testimony by aggrieved bureaucrats (and at least one House Democrat publicly opposing the move), Reuters/Ipsos now claims support for impeachment has increased. “The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not. The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.” -Reuters The problem? Reuters sampled a disproportionate number of Democrats. Buried at the bottom of their report, they disclose:

“The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,118 adults, including 528 Democrats, 394 Republicans and 111 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.” In other words, Reuters sampled more Democrats than Republicans and independents combined to arrive at their conclusion. They also reveal that ” about eight in 10 Democrats [were] supportive of impeaching Trump, and eight in 10 Republicans opposed,” and that seven in 10 Republicans felt the House impeachment inquiry had not been conducted fairly. As we noted during the 2016 US election, Reuters/Ipsos wasoversampling Democrats when they found that Hillary Clinton had a giant lead over Donald Trump – using a poll that sampled 44% Democrats and 33% Republicans.

But hey, Adam Schiff needs something to back his claim that support for impeachment has grown “dramatically” over the past two months.

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And here’s another poll. Does anyone fully understand this system?

Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)

Fewer than 120,000 anti-Brexit tactical votes in the right seats could deny Boris Johnson an overall majority in the House of Commons, new polling suggests. A large-scale survey of almost 40,000 voters found that Conservatives are heading for 366 seats in the House of Commons, giving Mr Johnson a comfortable majority of 82. But analysis for the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum found that in 57 seats, the Tory candidate could be defeated by 4,000 or fewer anti-Brexit voters voting tactically. And the campaign said that as few as 117,314 pro-EU tactical votes in the right seats could produce a hung parliament which could deliver a Final Say referendum.

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Scary enough fpr you?

US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)

US negotiators pushed for “full market access” to services including the NHS in talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK, a cache of leaked documents has revealed. The papers were dramatically unveiled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said they left “in tatters” the prime minister’s denial that the NHS will be on the table in trade talks. The 451-page dossier of official files showed the US had “pushed hard” to extend patents on drugs developed by American corporations in a way which would raise prices to NHS patients. A UK negotiator said such a move could put Britain “in difficult territory”.

And the dossier made clear that the US has been “emphatic” in its insistence that climate change should not even be mentioned in the deal, which Boris Johnson wants to strike as soon as possible after the UK leaves the European Union. But furious Conservatives accused Mr Corbyn of “out-and-out lying” and suggested he was peddling conspiracy theories in a bid to distract attention away from his difficulties over antisemitism allegations and Labour’s plans for Brexit and taxation. Mr Johnson dismissed the Labour leader’s claims as “total nonsense”, and said: “I can give you an absolute cast-iron guarantee that this is a complete diversion. That the NHS under no circumstances would be on the table for negotiation, for sale.”

[..] After a slew of bad headlines about his refusal to apologise for his handling of antisemitism during a TV interview on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn came back fighting with the claim that Mr Johnson’s government was “preparing to sell our NHS”. He pointed to details in the dossier which showed that the US was pushing for a deal in which all services would be opened up to American companies unless they were specifically exempted. “Total market access” should be the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations” because it “incentivises freer trade”, the dossier said. UK officials assured their US counterparts that Britain would be “a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation”.

“That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from them,” said Mr Corbyn. And he warned: “The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service. “Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. “And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.”

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A foreigner paid for dirt on a political opponent. What do we call that?

Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)

Just before Christmas 2015, the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele emailed a report to private clients that included an American lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch. The title of the dossier was “FIRTASH Abortive Return to Ukraine,” and it purported to provide intelligence on why the energy oligarch Dmitri Firtash tried, but failed, to return to his home country of Ukraine. “FIRTASH’s talk of returning to Ukraine a genuine ambition rather than merely a ruse to reveal Ukrainian government’s hand. However the oligarch developed cold feet upon the news of a negative reception at Boryspil airport,” Steele reported on Dec. 23, 2015.

Perhaps most important to the recipients, the former MI6 agent’s report purported to share the latest thinking of Russian and U.S. officials on Firtash, who at the time faced U.S. criminal charges and was awaiting extradition from Austria. Those charges and extradition remain unresolved four years later. Firtash insists on his innocence, while the U.S. government stands by it case despite recent criticism from Austrian and Spanish authorities. “The prevarication over his return has lost FIRTASH credibility with the Russians, but his precarious position in Austria leaves him little choice but to acquiesce with Moscow’s demands,” the Steele report claimed. “Separate American sources confirm that US Government regards FIRTASH as a conduit for Russian influence and he remains a pariah to the Americans.”

The anecdote of the Firtash report underscores that challenges the FBI faced when it used Steele in 2016 as a human source in the Russia collusion probe. He not only opposed Trump and was paid by Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm to dig up dirt on the then-GOP nominee, he also was in the business of selling intelligence to private clients – all perfectly legal — while informing for the FBI.

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Robert Mueller gave it away.

“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)

The U.S. has claimed that the Russia government tried to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and Twitter. Russia supposedly did this through people who worked the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia. The IRA people ran virtual persona on U.S. social networks which pretended to have certain political opinions. It also spent on advertising supposedly to influence the election. U.S. intelligence claimed that the purpose of the alleged Russian influence campaign was to “sow discord” within the United States. But the IRA had nothing to do with the Russian government. It had no interests in politics. And a new study confirms that the idea that it was “sowing discord” is blatant nonsense.


IRA influencer

The Mueller investigation indicted 13 Russian persons and three Russian legal entities over the alleged influence campaign. But, as we wrote at that time, there was more to it than the media reported: “The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no “Russian influence” campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.”

The IRA hired people in Leningrad for little money and asked them to open accounts on U.S. social media. The virtual persona they created and ran were to attract as many persons to those accounts as possible. They did that by posting funny dog pictures or by taking strong political positions. They were ‘influencers’ who sold their customers’ products to the people they attracted. The sole purpose was the same as in any commercial media. Create content to attract ‘eyeballs’, then sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

The IRA also bought advertisement to attract more people to its accounts. But the amount it spent was tiny. The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined. The IRA spend a total of $100,000 to promote its own accounts. But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time. It is statistically impossible that the mostly apolitical IRA spending had any effect on the election.

Read more …

Not the same all over Manhattan, but the trend is there.

Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)

These are major shopping corridors in Manhattan, and in nearly all of them, asking rents for ground-floor retail space have been dropping for years – and in some of them by half. For example, the average asking rent on Madison Avenue between 57th Street and 72nd Street, plunged 22% in the second half of 2019, compared to the same period last year, to $906 per square foot per year, and is down 47% from the first half in 2015, according to the bi-annual Manhattan Retail Report released today by the Real Estate Board of New York. The REBNY report points out, “An increased amount of leases expiring has contributed to the high availability rates [meaning, vacancies] that has led owners to lower asking rents and offer more short-term lease agreements.”

Falling asking rents and better terms in the Madison Avenue corridor – better deals for prospective tenants – help bring out prospective tenants, according to the report: “Softening rents has led to increased absorption as recent leases consist of retailers relocating to smaller-sized storefronts with better co-tenancy. Notables tenants such as Akris, Mont Blanc, and Morgane Le Fay indicate that apparel tenants still dominate this corridor.” The report is entirely focused on ground-floor retail spaces. Of the 17 shopping corridors in Manhattan tracked by the REBNY, average asking rents fell in 11 of them. But since 2015, asking rents in all but three of them have dropped sharply.

Read more …

The true colors of Mutti.

Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO is now equally or more important than it was during the Cold War, a praise being sang to a military bloc long without its arch-rival and with a history of interventions.
East Germany native Angela Merkel provided her very complimentary take as NATO braces to mark their 70th anniversary at a special summit in London. Keeping the military bloc in place today “is even more in our very own interests as it was in the Cold War – or at least as important as it was in the Cold War,” the Chancellor told German MPs. “Because, and the Foreign Minister [Heiko Maas] said yesterday, Europe currently cannot defend itself on its own,” she reiterated.

Slightly contradicting her own words, the chancellor admitted that the US “no longer automatically takes up responsibility when it’s burning around us.” As the formal etiquette prescribes, Merkel called NATO a “bulwark for peace and freedom” over the past 70 years, without highlighting the bloc’s war on former Yugoslavia and the 2011 bombardments of Libya. The German leader has recently locked horns with France’s Emmanuel Macron over his famous “NATO’s brain death” remark that sent shockwaves through European elite circles. Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at the time.

Rebuking Macron was also NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said last week that “European unity cannot replace Transatlantic unity as we need both … especially after Brexit.” But bringing the 70-year-old alliance together is increasingly becoming a challenge for its members. On the latest occasion, Turkey – a country that has one of NATO’s largest standing armies – refused to sign a new defense plan for the eastern European countries, according to Reuters.

Read more …

 

Clive James died yesterday.

 

 

 

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Nov 272019
 
 November 27, 2019  Posted by at 7:23 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Female bust R 1943

 

For political, but, much more, monetary reasons, the media makes their mark, and therefore Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews, Julian Assange is an unwashed rapist and Donald Trump is Putin’s handpuppet. And if you object, you’re a suspect human being. In order to make money, and retain or gain power, the media and intelligence services, along with the political powers friendly to them, inject opinions into the populace. How Orwellian do you want it?

And I get it, depending on where people lean politically, they will think these are entirely separate stories. The right will be against Corbyn, the left against Trump. And all of them together against Assange.

I was starting to write about Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, about the innuendo and allegations concerning his alleged antisemitism, and then I thought: wait, Corbyn and Trump is the same story. And Assange. They are very different people, and their stories may appear to be very very different too, but they are not really.

My personal opinion is that Assange has far too little support, and that worries me a lot every single day, while Corbyn and Trump just drown in social media and MSM nonsense. The problem is, that nonsense poses as truth today. That is what Corbyn has failed to understand, what Trump made his own to the extent that he could, and what Assange, who saw all of this better and earlier than anyone, has been entirely isolated from. But it’s still the same thing in all three cases. It’s about the media. They have become the story, instead of reporting it.

I’ve already said that I don’t think the time is right -and ripe- for Corbyn’s radical plans for Britain -if it will ever be-, but I sure don’t think Brexit should be decided on a pack of lies and smears. Still, it very much looks like it will be. “Social” media, don’t you know.

Jeremy Corbyn has long sympathized with the Palestinian people. It appears that this stance will now decide the Brexit issue. Because it allows for his detractors to label him an antisemite. Throw in an editorial once every two days or so which states that even if Corbyn himself is not an antisemite (press insurance policy), he’s guilty by association because he didn’t root out antisemitism in his party strongly enough, and you’re free to go.

But apparently the right wing is not convinced it’ll be enough, so the UK Chief Rabbi throws some more oil on the flames, and so does his close friend, the leader of the Church of England. Corbyn should have spoken out loud and clear a long time ago. He’s the right wing’s toy now. I saw this very long list of things Corbyn said and did to support the British Jewish population, but it doesn’t matter anymore. He’s got a swastika painted on his forehead now.

Corbyn keeps reasoning something like: it’s not true, so I have nothing to fear, but that’s old world thinking. Today things become reality by the grace of being endlessly repeated and, thereby, amplified. He didn’t catch the spirit of the time. He should perhaps have had a Twitter feed like Trump’s, and denounced the allegations from there. Never had a chance in the traditional media anyway.

But Corbyn does not appear to get it. Still, imagine Trump without Twitter, or Corbyn with it.

The Guardian runs a handy guide:

Antisemitism and Labour: Everything You Need To Know

• Critics of Corbyn say that criticism of Israel among some of his supporters, for example about the treatment of the Palestinian people, can too readily tip over into a generalised condemnation which becomes antisemitic. They say also that those within Labour who challenge this can face abuse and persecution. Labour says that while such incidents must be dealt with robustly, the context is that complaints connected to antisemitism amount to 0.1% of party membership, while prejudice in the Conservative party is more widespread.

• Aside from internal Labour investigations, in May the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it had placed Labour under formal investigation over whether the party had unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they were Jewish.

• Labour faced criticism from some Jewish groups after it adopted a working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, but left out one of the 11 examples given in the definition, which said it would be antisemitic to claim “that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour”. Labour later adopted all 11 examples.

Yeah, no, you don’t fight these things by directly addressing them. It’s like “when did you stop beating your wife” or “does this dress make me look fat”, there are no correct answers. Corbyn lost 2-3 years framing his response, and now it’s too late. That Chief Rabbi:

UK Chief Rabbi Attacks Labour Party

The Chief Rabbi has strongly criticised Labour, claiming the party is not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism – and asked people to “vote with their conscience” in the general election. In the Times, Ephraim Mirvis said “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root” in the party. Labour’s claim it had investigated all cases of anti-Semitism in its ranks was a “mendacious fiction”, he added. Jeremy Corbyn says Labour is tackling anti-Semitism by expelling members. It comes as Labour launches a “race and faith manifesto”, which aims to improve protections for all faiths and tackle prejudice.

Labour has been beset by allegations of anti-Semitism for more than three years, leading to the suspension of a number of high-profile figures such as Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson, and an unprecedented investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. In his article, the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – who is the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue, the largest umbrella group of Jewish communities in the country – says raising his concerns “ranks among the most painful moments I have experienced since taking office”. But he claims “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in 12 December’s general election.

He writes: “The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people. “It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.” He adds that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but he urged the public to “vote with their conscience”.

[..] Jenny Manson, the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Labour group which is not officially affiliated to the party, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme she was “horrified” by the Chief Rabbi’s intervention. She added that there was no threat to Jews in the Labour Party but there was a threat from the far-right.

And his Christian friend:

Justin Welby Backs Chief Rabbi After Labour Antisemitism Remarks

The archbishop of Canterbury has in effect backed the chief rabbi’s comments on the Labour leadership’s record on antisemitism with a tweet highlighting the “deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews”. Justin Welby does not explicitly refer to the Labour party, but his intervention a few hours after the chief rabbi’s excoriating public criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is significant.

In an article in the Times, Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s most senior Jewish leader, accused Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the party, saying the way the Labour leadership had dealt with anti-Jewish racism was “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people”.

Welby posted on Twitter: “That the chief rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews. They should be able to love in accordance with their beliefs and freely express their culture and faith.”

Acknowledging the Church of England’s own history of antisemitism – the subject of a major report last week – Welby continued: “None of us can afford to be complacent. Voicing words that commit to a stand against antisemitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action.”

The chief rabbi’s comments were also supported by Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a crossbench peer, who said the Jewish community had been gripped by anxiety. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lady Neuberger said that under Corbyn’s leadership “there has been this insidious antisemitic tone to quite a lot of what’s happened and an unwillingness to really face it.”

She added: “If they’re not willing to tackle that, if they’re not willing to apologise for it, if they’re not willing to sympathise, then something is going very wrong. “A political party where some of its members leave because of antisemitic taunting, which still cannot deal with it, makes people feel very uncomfortable.”

That same archbishop of Canterbury’s church was chided for, wait for it, antisemitism, but that’s safely in the past, or so they say. So now he gets to chide others for the exact same thing. No, it’s not in the church, and not in the Conservative party, let’s focus on Corbyn, just so he loses.

Church of England Says Christians Must Repent For Past Antisemitism

Christians must repent for centuries of antisemitism which ultimately led to the Holocaust, the Church of England has said in a document that seeks to promote a new Christian-Jewish relationship. However, the church’s move to take responsibility for its part in Jewish persecution was impaired by stinging criticism by the chief rabbi of the continued “specific targeting” of Jews for conversion to Christianity.

[..] The document acknowledged that two C of E cathedrals, Norwich and Lincoln, were associated with the spread of the “blood libel” in the late Middle Ages. Jewish communities were falsely accused of abducting and killing Christian children to use their blood in the making of Passover matzos (unleavened bread). “This allegation, originating in England, became the catalyst for the murder of many Jews in this country and across Europe, especially in pogroms at Eastertide.”

[..] In a foreword to the document, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury – known to be personally close to the chief rabbi – said Mirvis’s comments were “written as a friend, and they are received in a similar spirit, however tough they are to read”. He added: “The chief rabbi has opened, with characteristic honesty and affection, a challenge upon which we must reflect. We cannot do that reflection honestly until we have felt the cruelty of our history.”

Yes, boys and girls, it’s election time, and all is fair in love and war and elections. But please pay at least some attention, don’t let these idiots frame your opinions or shape your emotions. They’re doing it for their own gains, not yours. They don’t represent you, they’re using you and will spit you out at the first occasion they see as profitable.

OffGuardian had this nice graph on how big the Labour antisemitism problem really is:

 

 

That’s right, the problem doesn’t exist. At 0.08%, nothing is a problem, it’s a rounding error. Stop listening to these people. I know, I know, too late now, and Corbyn must take the blame for that. You can’t win in 2019 with only the tools and worldview of 1969. I’m neutral on Brexit, though I don’t think the Tories’ approach, doing nothing and then expecting everything to solve itself, is good for Britain. Feels like a scam to me. Britain hasn’t made its own laws in 40 years, and it’s fine if it wants to start doing that again, but it takes a real effort. But where is that effort?

Moreover, after decades of Maggie Thatcher, neocon Tony Blair and successive Tory governments, I’m not at all surprised to read that Parts Of England ‘Have Higher Mortality Rates Than Turkey’. And so I’m not surprised either that Corbyn is so much of a threat to Boris that they send the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury to finish him off, on “out of hot air” grounds.

Summarized, the media have/has changed far more than people acknowledge. Corbyn can’t win with 1969 tools, but it appears that perhaps the press can. For me this is not about Trump or Corbyn, they are merely symbolic of what is happening, the main point is that our view of the world in increasingly being pre-cooked and pre-chewed, and far too few people see what’s going on with their opinions.

They still think they’re their own opinions. But the reason why they’re fed these stories is because the media make money of off selling these opinions to them, not because of some loftier ideal.

Nice point in case is this tweet from George Monbiot, environmental writer for the Guardian:

 

 

You see, Monbiot is employed by the Guardian, at a plush salary, and he pretends to stand up for Assange here. But his employer is one of the main reasons why Assange is where he is. The Guardian has run a concerted smear campaign against Assange like nobody else I’m aware of. The entirely false story about Paul Manafort visiting Assange in the Ecuador embassy is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

So you would think George mentions that, and tells you he despises his own mealticket. You would think Monbiot perhaps would say: I only had 140 characters in that tweet. And I would say: no, George, you have zero character.

 

 

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Nov 252019
 
 November 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Resettlement project, Bosque Farms, New Mexico Dec 1935

 

China Needs To Prepare For Zero Interest Rates (Global Times)
China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero (ZH)
Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Candidates Win 347 of 452 Seats (SCMP)
China Cables (Irish Times)
Both UK Parties Are Peddling Fantasies – Tony Blair (R.)
Why Did Trump Release Ukraine Aid? The Answer Is Simple (York)
John Solomon: They ‘Smeared Me, Just Like Joe McCarthy Smeared People’ (Med.)
Stop Being A Loser And Start Winning Like Trump (Scott Adams)
I Ditched Google For DuckDuckGo. Here’s Why You Should Too (Wired)
Doctors Petition UK Home Secretary Over Julian Assange (CN)
Aid Groups Condemn Greece Over ‘Prison’ Camps For Migrants, Refugees (G.)

 

 

China has a debt problem. “Zero or negative rates monetary conditions don’t mean that debt issues and the asset bubble problem will be resolved automatically, but the opposite..”

China Needs To Prepare For Zero Interest Rates (Global Times)

The US Federal Reserve’s (Fed) continuous interest rates cuts have triggered a race of interest rates cuts among central banks around the world, increasing excessive global liquidity even further. In this case, more countries are faced with monetary conditions of zero or negative rates. Recently, former US Fed chairman Alan Greenspan noted that “negative rates” are spreading around the world. Some financial institutions even believe the world will enter a low rates condition that hasn’t occurred in 1,000 years. Under the condition of low or zero rates, the world’s debts level keeps rising, and the bond yields continue dropping. Another phenomenon comes with low rates monetary condition is that prices go up with risk asset. The US stock prices have climbed to a new high.

For China, the demands for liquidity are growing, foreign capital keeps flowing in and the real economy continues to slow down, which all make the country seemingly approaching a zero rates monetary condition. It asks policymakers and market players to be prepared. Mounting debts and the financing problems in the real economy will promote China to a zero rate condition. In the first half of 2019, China’s overall debts accounted for 306 percent of the GDP, up 2 percentage points from the 304 percent in the first quarter, according to a report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF). The number was just around 200 percent in 2009 and 130 percent in 1999.

According to data from the National Institution for Finance and Development, China’s enterprise sector’s debts account for 155.7 percent of the nominal GDP, up 2.2 percentage points from the end of last year. It’s far beyond the government sector’s leverage ratio of 38.5 percent and the resident sector’s leverage ratio of 55.3 percent. In the enterprise sector, private companies embattled with financing problems account for 30 percent. Structurally, China’s non-financial corporate debt ratio is too high, and interest rates are too high. Considering that the repayment burden of existing debt has squeezed out the effective demand for new credit, and China is likely to become the next zero interest rate country, according to Zhu Haibin, Chief China Economist at J.P. Morgan.

Read more …

Tyler’s take on the article above: “..it will only infuriate Trump who has been kicking and screaming at Jerome Powell, demanding that the Fed do just that.”

China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero (ZH)

[..] an English language op-ed published today in China’s nationalist tabloid, Global Times, which for once, is surprisingly accurate, and while mostly avoiding the propaganda that Chinese media is so well known for, explains well why China may indeed be the next country to see zero rates (as a reminder, Chinese real rates are already negative due to soaring pork prices). And while we doubt that the PBOC will be able to cut enough to bring about ZIRP, or NIRP, any time soon especially due to the ongoing hyperinflation in pork prices, if and when those do stabilize the Chinese central bank may well follow in the footsteps of every other developed central bank. In doing so, it will only infuriate Trump who has been kicking and screaming at Jerome Powell, demanding that the Fed do just that.

What we find most remarkable about the op-ed is how simply, matter-of-factly and correctly, the author explains away why zero rates are coming: “Mounting debts and the financing problems in the real economy will promote China to a zero rate condition [..] Structurally, China’s non-financial corporate debt ratio is too high, and interest rates are too high. Considering that the repayment burden of existing debt has squeezed out the effective demand for new credit, and China is likely to become the next zero interest rate country”. Amusingly, the anonymous op-ed writer has managed to state in two sentences what takes financial pundits hours, days and weeks to explain on CNBC: “Another phenomenon comes with low rates monetary condition is that prices go up with risk asset. The US stock prices have climbed to a new high.”

That said, what we found most surprising about the Global Times oped is its conclusion: instead of some jingoist bullshit about how China’s negative rates would be the greatest, and most negative in the entire world, the publication takes a very measured tone, and warns that such a monetary stance may very well spell doom for China, to wit: “Zero or negative rates monetary conditions don’t mean that debt issues and the asset bubble problem will be resolved automatically, but the opposite. Growing bubbles in the global financial market in the long run will be a reminder of financial risks. In a slowing global economy, zero or even negative interest monetary conditions are a new trend that gives new risks and challenges to China and the international financial market. Awareness and responsiveness need to be revamped.”

Read more …

Pro-democracy camp wins 17 out of 18 district councils, all of which were previously under pro-establishment control. Record voter turnout.

Beijing really thought its candidates would win?

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Candidates Win 347 of 452 Seats (SCMP)

The anti-establishment reverberations from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across Hong Kong on Sunday, as voters in record numbers roundly rejected pro-Beijing candidates in favour of pan-democrats. The tsunami of disaffection among voters was clear across the board, as pan-democrats rode the wave to win big in poor and rich neighbourhoods, in both protest-prone and non-protest-afflicted districts and, in downtown areas as well as the suburbs. Less immediately obvious was whether there was a generational divide in the way people voted, but ousted pro-establishment district councillors suggested that young, first-time voters had been instrumental in dislodging them from their perch.


The final election results were confirmed at 1pm on Monday when the vote count was completed at Lam Tin constituency of Kwun Tong District Council. Among the 452 seats up for grabs, the pan-democrats were victorious in 347, the independents – many of them pro-democracy – won 45, while the pro-establishment camp had to make do with 60. The pro-democracy camp now has control of 17 out of 18 district councils. It won all elected seats in Wong Tai Sin and Tai Po district councils.

Read more …

The Irish Times publishes 9 articles based on “a small cache of secret documents, being called the China Cables, that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)”.

This is from the first article: “‘The largest incarceration of a minority since the Holocaust’”. Click the link for the ‘library’.

Yves Smith: “The Irish Times did terrific additional reporting on the ICIJ docs. Must reading.”

China Cables (Irish Times)

Dormitory doors, corridor doors, and floor doors must be double-locked, and must be locked immediately after being opened and closed.” “Strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes during class, eating periods, toilet breaks, bath time, medical treatment, family visits, etc.” The quotes are from instructions issued by a top security official in the Xinjiang province of China, where since 2017 more than a million people from Uighur and other ethnic minority groups are being kept in camps. The Chinese authorities, who at first denied the camps existed, then said they were there to provide “educational training” to “students” in centres that had a “boarding school” type of management. “It is strictly forbidden for police to enter the student zone with guns, and they must never allow escapes, never allow trouble, never allow attacks on staff, never allow abnormal deaths.”

Contained in a telegram called “New Secret 5656”, the instructions were written in 2017, when the policy of incarcerating people from ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was being put into effect on an industrial scale. The telegram is among a small cache of secret documents, being called the China Cables, that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and have been shared with 17 media partners, including The Irish Times, the BBC, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and the US TV network, NBC. The leak puts to rest attempts by the Chinese government to portray the facilities in the western province of Xinjiang as anything other than internment camps.

Adrian Zenz, a recognised authority on what is happening in Xinjiang, told the ICIJ he believes the reference in the instructions to not allowing “abnormal deaths” has to do with torture. The telegram does not mention torture, “but the fact that it mentions the avoidance of abnormal deaths, in my opinion, is an indication that [the camp system] is using forms of physical force on people that, however, is not supposed to kill them.” People are being put in chain-suits, are being made stand in certain positions, and are being beaten, said Zenz. Other harsher forms of torture are being meted out in prisons and detention centres.

In October a former detainee, Sayragul Sauytbay, a muslim of Kazakh descent who has been granted asylum in Sweden, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that some inmates were made sit on a chair of nails. “I saw people return from that room covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.” The “special secrecy level” instructions in the telegram were issued by Zhu Hailun, the then head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Political and Legal Commission (PLC) in Xinjiang, and the senior party official then responsible for the implementation of the campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Read more …

Blair’s attacking Corbyn until he loses.

Both UK Parties Are Peddling Fantasies – Tony Blair (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are peddling fantasies before a Dec. 12 election, former British leader Tony Blair will say on Monday, offering his support to “mainstream” politicians. At a newsmaker event at Reuters, Blair will criticise Britain’s main parties for offering voters a stark choice, wanting to win “on the basis that whatever your dislike of what they’re offering, the alternative is worse”. Held after three years of negotiations to leave the European Union since a 2016 referendum, the December election will show how far Brexit has torn traditional political allegiances apart and will test an electorate increasingly tired of voting.


Blair, who was prime minister for 10 years until 2007, will say many in Britain are “scratching their heads, changing their minds, floating and unsure” before the election. “The unifying sentiment is a desire, bordering on the febrile, to end the mess, to wake from the nightmare,” he will say, according to extracts from his speech. “This desire, though completely understandable, is in danger of leading us into a big mistake; and frankly we cannot afford another of those.” Blair will accuse both parties of offering up a fantasy to voters – the Conservatives suggesting they will get Brexit done when the reality is that they will start new talks on a future relationship which “could last for years”. Equally, he will say that Labour, under veteran socialist Corbyn, is offering a “revolution”. “The problem with revolutions is never how they begin but how they end.”

Read more …

“President tries to do something. Congress opposes. President sees he has no support and backs down. It has happened many, many times with many, many presidents.”

Why Did Trump Release Ukraine Aid? The Answer Is Simple (York)

Trump’s true reason for releasing the aid matters to the Democratic impeachment scheme. If he released the money after learning about the whistleblower — after he realized the jig was up — then that, at least to Democrats, suggests guilt. If he released it after gaining confidence in Zelensky, that does not suggest guilt. But the evidence suggests that neither explanation is correct, that there is a much simpler reason for Trump’s decision to release the aid. On the day he OK’d the aid, Trump learned that Congress was going to force his hand and spend the money anyway. He could either go along or get run over.

On Sept. 11, the White House received a draft of a continuing resolution, produced by House Democrats, that would extend funding for the federal government. Among other provisions, the bill would push the Ukraine money out the door, whether in the final days of fiscal year 2019 or in 2020, regardless of what the president did. “The draft continuing resolution … would on September 30 immediately free up the remainder of the $250 million appropriated for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the fiscal 2019 Defense spending law and extend its availability for another year,” Roll Call reported a little after noon on Sept. 11.

According to knowledgeable sources, the Office of Management and Budget received the draft on the morning of Sept. 11. OMB Director Russell Vought informed the president around mid-day. There was no doubt the Democratic-controlled House would pass the measure, which was needed to avoid a government shutdown. Later that afternoon, Trump — who must have already known that the Republican-controlled Senate would also support the bill — had the point emphasized to him when he received a call from Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Portman, and Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus. Along with several other senators, Portman wrote to the White House on Sept. 3, imploring the president to release the aid. On Sept. 11, Portman felt the need to talk again, with the same message — only this time with the backdrop of the House preparing to pass a bill that would force Trump’s hand. At that point, the president knew he could not maintain the hold on aid in the face of bipartisan congressional action. So he gave in. By early evening on Sept. 11, the hold was lifted. It was an entirely unremarkable end to the story: President tries to do something. Congress opposes. President sees he has no support and backs down. It has happened many, many times with many, many presidents.

Read more …

Video at the link. Still trying to understand why he has so suddenly come under attack. He had been writing about this for a long time.

“The message was clear: Don’t touch these people,” Solomon said. “And the State Department confirms they delivered that message. How can this be such a big factual dispute? Now we’re debating the word list. She delivered the message.”

John Solomon: They ‘Smeared Me, Just Like Joe McCarthy Smeared People’ (Med.)

After coming under a great deal of scrutiny during the House Intelligence committee’s impeachment hearings over the past two week’s, Fox News contributor John Solomon is firing back — claiming that he was smeared. Solomon sat for an interview Thursday night with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum on The Story. The segment marked a rare appearance on a news side program for the Fox News contributor — as opposed to the opinion shows like Hannity on which he is a staple. During the interview, Solomon — a former columnist for the Hill whose controversial work on Ukraine is now being subjected to an internal review — claimed he’s being targeted because much of his reporting is favorable to President Donald Trump.


“I’m probably being punished a lot because the president’s mentioned me, he likes my reporting,” Solomon said. “But I don’t report because it makes the president happy. I report because the truth needs to get out there.” MacCallum asked Solomon about the claims made by former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that she was the target of a smear campaign led by a former top Ukraine prosecutor and Rudy Giuliani — with Solomon and several conservative media figures circulating negative stories about her. In particular, one article in which Solomon claimed that Yovanovitch pressured Ukraine into not prosecuting a number of people. Solomon stood by his work. “The message was clear: Don’t touch these people,” Solomon said. “And the State Department confirms they delivered that message. How can this be such a big factual dispute? Now we’re debating the word list. She delivered the message.”

Read more …

Adams is promoting his new book, Loserthink.

“..the two most influential politicians in the United States: [..] President Trump and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez..”

Stop Being A Loser And Start Winning Like Trump (Scott Adams)

At the time of this writing, the two most influential politicians in the United States are a real estate developer who became president and a bartender who got elected to Congress. I’m talking about President Trump and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The most striking thing they have in common is that they did not “stay in their lanes,” and it worked out great for them. Likewise, you would not be reading this, and the “Dilbert” comic strip would not exist, if I had “stayed in my lane,” which at the time meant working in a cubicle. My nomination for the most loserthinkish advice in history is: “Stay in your lane.” That is the sort of advice that is better served to an enemy, not a friend. If everyone followed that advice, you wouldn’t have civilization.

The world as we know it was engineered, designed, and built by people who left their lane and tried something outside their temporary skill stack. They figured it out as they went. I’ll agree that one size doesn’t fit all, and some people probably should stick to what they do best. But I wouldn’t want society to decide that staying in one lane is some sort of obvious wisdom. In my experience, the smartest plan for life is to leave your lane as often as you can (without inviting major risk) to pick up skills that will complement your talent stack. The more skills you have, the more valuable you will be, although you won’t necessarily know in advance where it will take you.

If you happen to be one of the best in the world at some specific skill, such as sports, music, or science — and you like what you do — it might make perfect sense to “stay in your lane” and milk that situation for all it is worth. But most of us are not the best in the world, or anywhere near it, at any particular skill. If that describes you, I recommend leaving your lane often — even at the risk of embarrassment — to pick up new skills and new ways to see the world.

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DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or user information.

I Ditched Google For DuckDuckGo. Here’s Why You Should Too (Wired)

What was the last thing you searched for online? For me, it was ‘$120 in pounds’. Before that, I wanted to know the capital of Albania (Tirana), the Twitter handle of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Ed Davey (he’s @EdwardJDavey) and dates of bank holidays in the UK for 2019 (it’s a late Easter next year, folks). Thrilling, I’m sure you’ll agree. But something makes these searches, in internet terms, a bit unusual. Shock, horror, I didn’t use Google. I used DuckDuckGo. And, after two years in the wilderness, I’m pretty sure I’m sold on a post-Google future. It all started with a realisation: most the things I search for are easy to find. Did I really need the all-seeing, all-knowing algorithms of Google to assist me? Probably not.

So I made a simple change: I opened up Firefox on my Android phone and switched Google search for DuckDuckGo. As a result, I’ve had a fairly tedious but important revelation: I search for really obvious stuff. Google’s own data backs this up. Its annual round-up of the most searched-for terms is basically a list of names and events: World Cup, Avicii, Mac Miller, Stan Lee, Black Panther, Megan Markle. The list goes on. And I don’t need to buy into Google’s leviathan network of privacy-invading trackers to find out what Black Panther is and when I can go and see it at my local cinema.

While I continue to use Google at work (more out of necessity as my employer runs on G-Suite), on my phone I’m all about DuckDuckGo. I had, based on zero evidence, convinced myself that finding things on the internet was hard and, inevitably, involved a fair amount of tracking. After two years of not being tracked and targeted I have slowly come to realise that this is nonsense. DuckDuckGo works in broadly the same way as any other search engine, Google included. It combines data from hundreds of sources including Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and Bing, with its own web crawler, to surface the most relevant results. Google does exactly the same, albeit on a somewhat larger scale. The key difference: DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or user information.

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A letter signed by 60 medical doctors from around the world: “Medical doctors have a professional duty to report suspected torture of which they become aware, wherever it may be occurring.”

They will be ignored.

Doctors Petition UK Home Secretary Over Julian Assange (CN)

Open Letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott

We write this open letter, as medical doctors, to express our serious concerns about the physical and mental health of Julian Assange. Our professional concerns follow publication recently of the harrowing eyewitness accounts of Craig Murray and John Pilger of the case management hearing on Monday 21 October 2019 at Westminster Magistrates Court. The hearing related to the upcoming February 2020 hearing of the request by the US government for Mr Assange’s extradition to the US in relation to his work as a publisher of information, including information about alleged crimes of the US government. Our concerns were further heightened by the publication on 1 November 2019 of a further report of Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in which he stated: ‘Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.’

[..] Medical doctors have a professional duty to report suspected torture of which they become aware, wherever it may be occurring. That professional duty is absolute and must be carried out regardless of risk to reporting doctors. We wish to put on record, as medical doctors, our collective serious concerns and to draw the attention of the public and the world to this grave situation. The World Health Organisation Constitution of 1946 envisages ‘the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.’20 We are indebted to those who have sought to uphold this right in the case of Mr Assange.

From a medical point of view, on the evidence currently available, we have serious concerns about Mr Assange’s fitness to stand trial in February 2020. Most importantly, it is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care). Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Mr Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.

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I warned about the new right-wing government.

Aid Groups Condemn Greece Over ‘Prison’ Camps For Migrants, Refugees (G.)

Greece is poised to create “prison” island camps, say aid groups amid growing criticism of government plans to overhaul refugee reception centres on Aegean outposts facing Turkey. As the UN refugee agency’s top official, Filippo Grandi, prepared this week to fly to Lesbos, where almost 16,000 people are crammed into a single facility, Athens was criticised for adopting legislation in contravention of basic human rights. Disquiet mounted as the centre-right administration, which was elected on a tough law and order platform in July, declared that the country again at the forefront of the migration crisis had “reached its limits”. Announcing measures to tackle a significant increase in arrivals, not seen at such levels since 2015 when nearly a million Syrians entered Europe via the isles, it promised future policies would be defined by deterrence.

Under the scheme, closed installations will replace vastly overcrowded, open-air camps; land and sea borders will be reinforced with about 1,200 more guards and extra patrol vessels and deportations stepped up. “We are in the eye of the storm,” said the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, conceding that pressure on Greece to patrol its eastern frontiers had risen dramatically in the wake of Europe’s decision to seal off the nation’s northern borders against migrant flows. “The country needs a national strategy.” With the new structures, which are built to hold no more than 5,000 people, the era “of shameful scenes” spawned by the deplorable conditions of notorious island camps would, he vowed, finally be replaced “by images of modern, properly functioning installations”.

International aid groups have overwhelmingly condemned the measures. After criticising asylum legislation also passed this month, they predicted the remodelled facilities would only exacerbate the humanitarian disaster unfolding on Europe’s frontiers. Martha Roussou, senior advocacy officer for the International Rescue Committee in Greece, said: “The government’s announcements represent a blatant disregard for human rights. The creation of closed facilities will simply mean that extremely vulnerable people, including children, will be kept in prison-like conditions, without having committed any crime.”

The Greek branch of Amnesty International called the plans “outrageous”. Likening Lesbos’s infamous Moria refugee camp to a “human rights black hole”, it said: “In reality, we are talking about the creation of contemporary jails with inhumane consequences for asylum seekers, and more widely, negative consequences for the Aegean islands and their inhabitants.” About 37,000 asylum seekers are trapped on islands that since the summer have been targeted with renewed vigour by traffickers.

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