Sep 212018
 
 September 21, 2018  Posted by at 1:35 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


M. C. Escher The Tower of Babel 1928

 

Two thirds of Americans get at least some of their news on social media. Google and Facebook receive well over 70% of US digital advertising revenues. The average daily time spent on social media is 2 hours. Just a few factoids that have at least one thing in common: nothing like them was around 10 years ago, let alone 20. And they depict a change, or set of changes, in our world that will take a long time yet to understand and absorb. Some things just move too fast for us to keep track of, let alone process.

Those of us who were alive before the meteoric rise of the hardware and software of ‘social’ media may be able to relate a little more and better than those who were not, but even that is not a given. There are plenty people over 20, over 30, that make one think: what did you do before you had that magic machine? When you walk down the street talking to some friend, or looking at what your friends wrote on Facebook, do you ever think about what you did in such situations before the machine came into your life?

 


From 10% to 75% in 10 years

 

We’re not going to know what the hardware and software of ‘social’ media will have done to our lives, individually and socially, for a very long time. But in the meantime, their influence will continue to shape our lives. They change our societies, the way we interact with each other, in very profound ways; we just don’t know how profound, or how, period. There can be little question that they change us as individuals too; they change how we communicate, and in such a way that there is no way they don’t also change our very brain structures in the process.

Someone who walks down a street talking to someone else 10, 100, 1000 miles away, or sees messages from such a person come in in virtual real time, experiences things that were not available ever in human history. Our brains must adapt to these changes, or we will be left behind. And while for the over-20, over-30 crowd this takes actual adaptation, for those younger than that it comes quasi pre-cooked: they’ve never known anything else. Still, their brains were formed in completely different times too. Think hunter-gatherers. And that’s just the human part of the brain.

There are too many aspects to this development to cover here. One day someone will write a book, or rather, many someones will write many books, and they will all be different. Some will focus on people’s lives being saved because their smartphones allow them to either receive or send out distress signals. Others will tell stories of teenagers committing suicide after being heckled on ‘social’ media. With yin comes yang. Millions feel better with new-found ‘friends’, and millions suffer from abuse even if they don’t kill themselves.

 

With new media, especially when it goes from 1 to 100 in no time flat, it should be no surprise that the news it delivers changes too. We went from a few dozen TV- and radio stations and newspapers to a few hundred million potential opinions in the US alone. The media are no longer a one-way street. The first effect that has had is that the chasm between news and opinion has narrowed spectacularly. If their readers post their views of what they read and see, journalists feel they have the right to vent their opinions too.

And then these opinions increasingly replace the news itself. The medium is again the message, in a way, a novel kind of way. A hundred million people write things without being restricted by due diligence or other journalistic standards, and we see journalists do that too. They will come up with lies, half-truths, innuendo, false accusations, and moreover will not retract or correct them, except when really hard-pressed. After all, who has the time when you post a hundred+ tweets a day and need to update your Facebook pages too?

Obviously, Donald Trump is an excellent example of the changing media environment. His use of Twitter was a major factor in his election victory. And then his detractors took to Twitter to launch a huge campaign accusing him of collusion with Russia to achieve that victory. They did this moving in lockstep with Bob Mueller’s investigation of that collusion accusation. But almost two years after the election, neither Mueller not the media have provided any evidence of collusion.

That, ironically, is the only thing that is actually true about the entire narrative at this point. Sure, Mueller may still have something left in his back pocket, but if he had solid proof he would have been obliged to present it. Collusion with a foreign government is too serious not to reveal evidence of. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that in September 2018, Mueller has no such evidence. But what about the thousands of printed articles and the millions of Tweets and Facebook posts claiming collusion that were presented as true?

Funny you asked. What they prove is not collusion, but the changing media landscape. The anti-Trump echo-chamber that I’ve written about many times has been going strong for two years and shows no signs of abating. There are still lots of people posting a hundred (re-)tweets etc. daily who are being read by many others, all of them confirming their biases in a never fulfilled feeding frenzy.

This is not about Trump. And I’m not a Trump supporter. This is instead about the media, and the humongous difference interactivity has made. And about the fact that it hasn’t just added a hundred million voices, it has also altered the way traditional media report the news, in an effort to keep up with those hundred million.

 

The thing here that is about Trump, is that he’s everybody’s favorite meal ticket. He confirms everyone’s opinion, whether for or against him, by the way he uses media. And most importantly, they all make a lot of money off of him. The New York Times and WaPo and MSNBC would be in deep financial trouble without Trump. Like they were before he came along. Polarization of opinions saved them. Well, not the WaPo, Jeff Bezos can afford to run 1000 papers like that and lose money hand over fist. But for the NYT and many others a Trump impeachment would be disastrous. Funny, right?

Another thing that is obvious is that one thing still sells above all others: sex. The smear campaign against Julian Assange has been successful in one way only, and it’s been a smash hit: the rape allegations. Completely false, entirely made up, dragged out as long as possible, and turning millions, especially women, against him.

The accusations against Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh haven’t been around long enough to be discredited. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. But read through newspaper articles, watch TV shows, follow Twitter, and you see countless voices already convinced ‘he did it’. And that ‘it’ is often labeled ‘rape’, though that’s not the accusation.

But it’s part of the Anti-Trump train, and the echo-chamber has gone into overdrive once again. Even if everyone understands that a 36-year old accusation must be handled with care. The accusing woman’s lawyer says the FBI must investigate, and everyone says: FBI! FBI!. Conveniently forgetting that the FBI has been far from impartial with regards to Trump, and the White House is not exactly waiting for another FBI role.

What’s wrong with waiting till you know the facts? Why judge a situation you know nothing about other than a woman accuses a man of assault 36 years ago, and doesn’t remember time, location etc.?

 

And that’s the thing all along, isn’t it? That people, both readers and journalists, all 200 million Americans of them, think they have acquired the right to judge any person, any situation they read a few lines about, just because they have purchased a smartphone. A faulty notion fed on a daily basis by the fact there are millions who think just like them.

We may want to rethink the terms ‘social’ media and ‘smart’ phone. They sound good, but they don’t cover the true nature of either. It’s hard to say where all this is going, but the sharply increasing polarization of society is certainly not a good sign. People feeling they have the right to accuse others without knowing facts, people building a Russiagate narrative without evidence, these are not things a society should welcome, whether they’re profitable or not.

Meanwhile, there are two people (there are many more, of course) who were banned from the platforms so many others use to draw baseless conclusions and spout empty accusations. And we miss them both, or we should: Alex Jones and Julian Assange. Have they really used ‘social’ media in worse ways than those 200 million Americans? Or were they banned because millions of Americans were following and reading their non-mainstream views?

We better get a grip on this, and on ourselves, or we won’t get another chance. What we have seen so far is that it’s not that hard to shape people’s opinions in a world with information overload. And that process is about to get a whole lot more intense. Until all you’re left with is the illusion that your opinion is actually your own.

 

 

Sep 212018
 
 September 21, 2018  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Green field 1888

 

Global Economic Growth Has Peaked, Warns OECD (G.)
Why Trump’s Stock Market Cheering Is Dangerous (Colombo)
Post Crisis Measures Have Failed To Tame Derivatives Risks (Yves Smith)
Woodward: “No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Looked Hard” (DV)
Brexit: It’s A Border In The Irish Sea Or The Customs Union (G.)
Emmanuel Macron Calls Brexit Campaign Leaders ‘Liars’ (Ind.)
‘Not Enough Time’ To Hold Referendum On Final Deal Before Brexit Day (G.)
Historical Monuments and Museums Moved to Greece’s Privatization Fund (KTG)
Propping Up Glaciers To Avoid Cataclysmic Sea Level Rise (AFP)
558 Million-Year-Old Fossils Identified As Oldest Known Animal (G.)
Assange’s Last Interview Before Blackout (RT)

 

 

Presented as a surprise.

Global Economic Growth Has Peaked, Warns OECD (G.)

The west’s leading economic thinktank has warned that the expansion in the global economy may have peaked after cutting its growth forecasts for an array of rich and developing countries. In its latest update on the health of the world economy, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said the outlook for both 2018 and 2019 was less good than it had predicted in May. The Paris-based OECD called for immediate action to halt the “slide towards protectionism”, noting that trade tensions were already having an impact on confidence and investment. “The expansion may now have peaked,” the OECD said in its interim economic outlook. “Global growth is projected to settle at 3.7% in 2018 and 2019, marginally below pre-crisis norms, with downside risks intensifying.”

The OECD said it was cutting its 2018 forecast by 0.1 percentage points and its 2019 forecast by 0.3 points. Britain has had its growth forecast shaved by 0.1 points in both years to 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively – with the OECD saying the squeeze on living standards was affecting consumer spending and uncertainty about Brexit leading to soft investment. [..] The US is expected to be the fastest growing of the G7 group of industrialised countries in both 2018 and 2019, and the OECD said that in contrast to the broad-based expansion in late 2017 there were widening differences in growth performance between countries.

Read more …

You break it, you own it.

Why Trump’s Stock Market Cheering Is Dangerous (Colombo)

The S&P 500 hit another all-time high today and president Donald Trump tweeted, in his usual fashion, “S&P 500 HITS ALL-TIME HIGH Congratulations USA!” Though I am a conservative myself, president Trump’s stock market cheerleading angers me because he’s fanning the flames of a dangerous asset bubble, which is extremely irresponsible. I believe that the current stock market bubble will cause severe damage to the economy and our society when it ultimately pops. Imagine if George W. Bush constantly touted how surging U.S. housing prices were making Americans rich in the mid-2000s? We all know how that ended. Well, that’s what president Trump is doing with his stock market cheerleading – history will not look kindly upon it.

To make matters worse, Donald Trump knew that we were in a dangerous stock market bubble back in 2016 before he became president – he even called it a “big, fat, ugly bubble.” Now, the S&P 500 is 35% higher (and even more overvalued), but Trump is acting as if it’s an organic, sustainable boom rather than the debt-driven bubble that it really is. This is disingenuous behavior, plain and simple. The S&P 500 has surged over 300% since March 2009 due to the Federal Reserve’s pro-asset inflation policies:

[..] According to the U.S. stock market capitalization-to-GDP ratio (also known as Warren Buffett’s “favorite indicator”), the market is more overpriced and inflated than it was during even the dot-com bubble:

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“..the crisis was a derivatives crisis, and not a housing crisis, as it is too commonly depicted.”

Post Crisis Measures Have Failed To Tame Derivatives Risks (Yves Smith)

One of the frustrating aspects of the orgy of “ten years after Lehman” stories is that writers and pundits, many of whom are old enough to have missed the credit excesses that were evident in 2006 and 2007, are now screeching “A crisis is nigh” without necessarily focusing on likely triggers. As an aside, we are already in the midst of emerging market crises. The IMF agreed to give yet another monster bailout to Argentina. Pakistan is seeking an IMF rescue (or more accurately, trying to get shored up by any one other than the IMF but keeping the agency on the front burner in case other options fail). Turkey is still on the ropes. So calling a crisis is trivial because they are on now.

However, many of these writers are presumably anticipating something more like the global financial crisis, and too often are looking in the wrong places. There is a difference between market crashes that don’t impair the financial system, like the dot-com bust, because the assets that fell in price weren’t highly leveraged. You get real economy damage but not a financial crisis. You can also have lots of loans go bad and not impair the banking system because the credit risk was either well distributed among banks and/or significantly shifted onto investors who losses aren’t leveraged back to the financial system. However, one of the sources of systemic risk being overlooked is derivatives. That is particularly worrisome since the crisis was a derivatives crisis, and not a housing crisis, as it is too commonly depicted.

Even though the US and other housing markets were certain to suffer a nasty bust, a housing crisis alone would have resulted in something like a bigger, badder saving and loan crisis, not the financial coronary of September and October 2008. Derivatives allowed speculators to create synthetic exposures to the riskiest subprime housing debt that were 4-6 times its real economy value. Those bets wound up heavily at systemically important, highly leveraged financial institutions like Citigroup, AIG, the monolines, and Eurobanks.

Read more …

“’I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard..’

Woodward: “No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Looked Hard” (DV)

After two years of exhaustive research for his book, Woodward says that he has found no evidence of collusion between Putin’s government and Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. Zilch, nada, zero. And Woodward strained very hard looking for it. This largely ignored blockbuster admission came in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt reported by Real Clear Politics [..] “In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Bob Woodward said that in his two years of investigating for his new book, ‘Fear,’ he found no evidence of collusion or espionage between Trump and Russia. Woodward said he looked for it ‘hard’ and yet turned up nothing.

“’Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research in your interviews that sounded like espionage or collusion?’ Hugh Hewitt asked Woodward. “’I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard,’ Woodward answered. ‘And so you know, there we are. …..’ “’But you’ve seen no collusion?’ Hewitt asked again to confirm. “’I have not,’ Woodward affirmed. “Hewitt would once again ask Woodward about collusion at the conclusion of the interview. “’Very last question, Bob Woodward, I just want to confirm, at the end of two years of writing this book, this intensive effort, you saw no effort, you, personally, had no evidence of collusion or espionage by the president presented to you?’ Hewitt asked. “’That is correct,’ Woodward said.”

Read more …

“The most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that it is not a negotiation..”

“..no amount of diplomatic politesse can conceal Brexit’s reality: one part of the UK will be economically split from another.”

Brexit: It’s A Border In The Irish Sea Or The Customs Union (G.)

Donald Tusk’s clear rejection of Theresa May’s Chequers plan at the Salzburg summit yesterday should not come as a surprise. The most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that it is not a negotiation, and never has been. Blessed with superior size, wealth and power, the EU has been able to dictate the framework and substance of the talks, and has refused any deviation from its red lines. The second most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that the EU will prioritise its economic and political cohesion above all else. That cohesion rests on two key outcomes: an undivided single market and an open border on the island of Ireland. It is these principles that have led us to Salzburg. The EU will not accept the Chequers plan, which proposes a single market in goods but not in services, capital or people.

It will also not accept any possibility of border infrastructure in Ireland, which is anathema to Dublin and, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, presents a credible risk of sectarian violence. That has duly paved the way for the Brexit endgame, which EU negotiator Michel Barnier has now confirmed: there will be a border for goods in the Irish Sea. The EU does not, however, want to antagonise or humiliate the UK, and has scrambled to defuse the drama of this development. Barnier stresses that most checks between Britain and Northern Ireland will take place in offices and warehouses, and only live animals and food products will need to be examined at ports themselves. But no amount of diplomatic politesse can conceal Brexit’s reality: one part of the UK will be economically split from another.

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“..they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.”

Emmanuel Macron Calls Brexit Campaign Leaders ‘Liars’ (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has branded the leaders of the campaign for Brexit “liars”, in an extraordinary attack at the close of the Salzburg summit. The Leave victory was “pushed by those who predicted easy solutions”, the French president said, adding: “Those people are liars. They left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.” At the press conference, Mr Macron also made clear he would not accept a “blind deal” – which would leave the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU to be decided after departure day. The stance is another blow to Theresa May, given that the EU’s rejection of her Chequers plan has increasingly left a “blind Brexit” as the only possible agreement.

Mr Macron did not name the “liars” behind Brexit, but he targeted those who had promised that leaving the EU would “bring a lot of money home”. The Vote Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, infamously pledged it would deliver an extra £350m a week for the NHS – a claim now widely discredited. “Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home, are liars,” Mr Macron added. “It’s even more true since they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.” Mr Macron made clear the prime minister would need to come up with fresh proposals by the next summit in October. “We all agreed on this today, the proposals in their current state are not acceptable, especially on the economic side of it. The Chequers plan cannot be take it or leave it.”

Read more …

Someone’s going to take this to court.

‘Not Enough Time’ To Hold Referendum On Final Deal Before Brexit Day (G.)

A referendum on the Brexit deal would take at least six months to organise legally, making it very difficult to have a second vote before the UK is scheduled to exit the EU on 29 March next year, constitutional experts have said. As EU leaders including the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis called on Theresa May to change firm government policy and put a vote to the people, academics said there was not enough time if article 50 is enacted as scheduled. There are indications that a delay to the enactment of article 50 could be acceptable to the EU, but without this agreement time stands in the way of a second referendum, experts believe.

“It is just possible to hold one within six months, but the shorter the timescale, the higher the chance of the question or other aspects of the referendum being challenged over their legitimacy,” said Prof Robert Hazell of the constitution unit at the department of political science, University College London. Fresh legislation, testing of the question by the Electoral Commission and a 10-week regulated period for a campaign are all required before a referendum can take place, he pointed out. David Cameron’s Brexit referendum took just over a year to get to the ballot box.

Read more …

Liquidation. But: “Monuments are protected by the Constitution, they cannot be transferred or be sold..”

Historical Monuments and Museums Moved to Greece’s Privatization Fund (KTG)

Archaeologists and sites Guards are up in arms after the Greek Finance Ministry issued a decision ordering the trasnfer several historical sites and buildings, museums, monuments and historical buildings to the Super Privatization Fund. “They belong de facto to the state and are off any trade,” the Greek Archaeologists Association said in a statement with the title “No to sale of the country’s monuments” issued on Wednesday. According to the archaeologists a total of 10,119 archaeological sites, museums and historical buildings have been transferred to the Privatization Fund, many of them from the area in and around Chania on the island of Crete.

“Monuments are protected by the Constitution, they cannot be transferred or be sold,” the Association said, adding that this unprecedented transfer became known when the catalogue of the monuments in and around Chania became public. Among those monuments and museums in Chania are the new Archaeological Museum, the archaeological museum located inside the St Francis Church, the National Museum Eleftherios Venizelos, the Historical Archive of Crete, several Venetian and Byzantine moats, fortifications and bastions as well as properties where important Minoan architectural remains have been discovered. “Is Acropolis next?” the Association of Guards at archaeological sites said in an equally angry statement on Thursday adding that also land plot where excavations take place have been transferred. They threaten with strikes.

“Our response will be very tough. Our cultural heritage belongs to all Greeks, no government has the right to negotiate about it or transfer ownership,” they said in their statement.

Read more …

Yeah, smart species.

Propping Up Glaciers To Avoid Cataclysmic Sea Level Rise (AFP)

As global warming outpaces efforts to tame it, scientists have proposed building massive underwater structures to prevent an Antarctic glacier the size of Britain from sliding into the sea and lifting the world’s oceans by several metres. The more modest of two engineering schemes — which is still on the scale of a Panama or Suez Canal — to shore up Thwaites Glacier would require the construction of Eiffel Tower-sized columns resting on the seabed to support the glacier’s ocean-facing edge, or ice shelf. Option Two is a 100-metre tall underwater wall, or berm, running 80-100 kilometres (55-60 miles) beneath the ice shelf to block bottom-flowing warm water that erodes the glacier’s underbelly, rendering it unstable.

The ambitious projects, detailed Thursday in the European Geophysical Union journal The Cryosphere, reflect a gathering awareness that slashing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions — while essential — may not happen quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts. “Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea levels by about three metres,” said lead author Michael Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Nor will reducing carbon pollution be enough: any credible pathway to a world in which global warming is capped below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (3.6º Celsius) — the target enshrined in the 2015 Paris climate treaty — depends on sucking large quantities of CO2 out of the air.

Read more …

In the beginning there was nothing.

558 Million-Year-Old Fossils Identified As Oldest Known Animal (G.)

A fossilised lifeform that existed 558m years ago has been identified as the oldest known animal, according to new research. The findings confirm that animals existed at least 20m years before the so-called Cambrian explosion of animal life, which took place about 540m years ago and saw the emergence of modern-looking animals such as snails, bivalves and arthropods. The new fossils, of the genus Dickinsonia, are the remains of an oval-shaped lifeform and part of an ancient and enigmatic group of organisms called Ediacarans. These creatures are some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth, but their place within the evolutionary tree has long puzzled scientists. Suggestions as to what they were have ranged from lichens to failed evolutionary experiments to bacterial colonies.

Now, by identifying the remains of organic matter on newly discovered Ediacaran fossils as ancient cholesterol, the scientists have been able to confirm Dickinsonia was an animal, which makes it the oldest known animal. “It is the exact type and composition of that fat that was the giveaway that Dickinsonia was in fact an animal”, said Jochen Brocks of the Australian National University, one of the authors on the study. He added that the study solves “a decades-old mystery that has been the holy grail of palaeontology”. The fossils were discovered on two surfaces on a cliffside in the remote wilderness of north-west Russia by PhD student Ilya Bobrovskiy, who is lead author on the paper, published in the journal Science.


Dickinsonia fossils found in north-west Russia. Composite: Ilya Bobrovskiy/Ilya Bobrovskiy/ANU

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“This generation being born now… is the last free generation..”

Assange’s Last Interview Before Blackout (RT)

Before his links to the world was cut by his Ecuadorian hosts, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave an interview on how technological advances are changing humankind. He said global surveillance will soon be totally unavoidable The interview was provided to RT by organizers of the World Ethical Data Forum in Barcelona. Assange, who is currently stranded in the Ecuadorean embassy in London with no outside communication except with his legal team, has a pretty grim outlook on where humanity is going. He says it will soon be impossible for any human being to not be included into global databases collected by governments and state-like entities.

This generation being born now… is the last free generation. You are born and either immediately or within say a year you are known globally. Your identity in one form or another –coming as a result of your idiotic parents plastering your name and photos all over Facebook or as a result of insurance applications or passport applications– is known to all major world powers. “A small child now in some sense has to negotiate its relationship with all the major world powers… It puts us in a very different position. Very few technically capable people are able to live apart, to choose to live apart, to choose to go their own way,” he added. “It smells a bit like totalitarianism – in some way.”

Read more …

Sep 202018
 
 September 20, 2018  Posted by at 9:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


M. C. Escher Still life and street 1937

 

FBI, DOJ To Defy Trump Declassification Order (ZH)
Louisiana AG Jeff Landry Wants To Break Up Social Media Giants (Advocate)
Amazon Hit By EU Antitrust Probe (CNBC)
Facebook Building A ‘War Room’ To Battle Election Meddling (AFP)
Leave No Dark Corner: China Is Building A Digital Dictatorship (ABC.au)
Steve Keen Says U.S. Heading for 2020 Recession (BBG)
Digging into Wealth and Income Inequality (CHS)
Theresa May Tells EU27 She Won’t Delay Brexit Despite Lack Of A Deal (G.)
‘Seven In 10’ EU Workers In UK Would Be Barred Under Brexit Proposals (G.)
The Forgotten History of the Financial Crisis (Tooze)
Turkish Treasury Borrows $347 Million At 25% Interest Rate (Hu.)
US Officials Face Growing Pressure Over Dicamba Herbicide Use (AFP)

 

 

We’re getting real close to core constitutional issues now.

FBI, DOJ To Defy Trump Declassification Order (ZH)

Despite President Trump’s Monday order for the “immediate declassification” of sensitive materials related to the Russia investigation, “without redaction,” the agencies involved are planning to do so anyway, according to Bloomberg, citing three people familiar with the matter. “The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter.” -Bloomberg. Trump ordered the DOJ to release the text messages of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also ordered released are specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr. The DOJ and the FBI are expected to submit proposed redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – which will prepare a package for Trump to sign off on. “When the president issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. “The department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the president’s order.”

Read more …

Ahead of a meeting with Jeff Sessions.

Louisiana AG Jeff Landry Wants To Break Up Social Media Giants (Advocate)

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry would like to see Google, Facebook and other major social media behemoths broken up like the federal government did to Standard Oil more than a century ago. Landry says the internet giants are suppressing conservative agendas, stifling competition, and infringing on antitrust laws. “This can’t be fixed legislatively,” Landry told The Advocate Tuesday. “We need to go to court with an antitrust suit.” Landry – or Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Stiles – will go to Washington, D.C. next week to push that solution to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, who is considering an investigation against the social media companies, set a Sept. 25 meeting with about a half dozen Republican state attorney generals.

[..] “The U.S. Department of Justice weighing in absolutely gives us an edge … their participation accelerates the timeline,” Landry said. The federal lawyers have the funding, experience and expertise that states can’t match when handling such complex litigation. “I thought it would be years to get this going,” Landry said. “This moves up the timeline.” He is against the idea, at first blush, of letting the companies settle for some huge sum and promises to behave better in the future – a frequent outcome of anti-trust lawsuits, Landry said. “I’m not prepared to say what the exact remedy would look like,” Landry said. But his gut feel is “that breaking up the monopoly is a good idea.”

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“Vestager has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover..”

Amazon Hit By EU Antitrust Probe (CNBC)

The EU regulators behind a $5 billion fine against Google are turning their attentions to Amazon. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has begun questioning merchants on Amazon’s use of their data, Vestager said Wednesday. The issue, she said, is whether Amazon is using data from the merchants it hosts on its site to secure an advantage in selling products against those same retailers. “These are very early days and we haven’t formally opened a case. We are trying to make sure that we get the full picture,” Vestager said during a news conference Wednesday.

The probe comes as the world’s largest online retailer faces growing calls for regulation. Investors and insiders have long cited Amazon’s size and reach as reason to break the company up. President Donald Trump has hinted at antitrust action against Amazon as part of continued attacks against CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was set to meet this month with state officials to discuss antitrust concerns in Silicon Valley, though much of the regulation on Big Tech thus far has come out of Brussels. Vestager has the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules. Earlier this year, she levied a record $5 billion fine against Google related to its Android business.

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You mean, by the FBI and CIA?

Facebook Building A ‘War Room’ To Battle Election Meddling (AFP)

Facebook on Wednesday said it will have a “war room” up and running on its Silicon Valley campus to quickly repel efforts to use the social network to meddle in upcoming elections. “We are setting up a war room in Menlo Park for the Brazil and US elections,” Facebook elections and civic engagement director Samidh Chakrabarti said during a conference call. “It is going to serve as a command center so we can make real-time decisions as needed.” He declined to say when the “war room” — currently a conference room with a paper sign taped to the door — would be in operation.

Teams at Facebook have been honing responses to potential scenarios such as floods of bogus news or campaigns to trick people into falsely thinking they can cast ballots by text message, according to executives. “Preventing election interference on Facebook has been one of the biggest cross-team efforts the company has seen,” Chakrabarti said. The conference call was the latest briefing by Facebook regarding efforts to prevent the kinds of voter manipulation or outright deception that took place ahead of the 2016 election the brought US President Donald Trump to office.

Read more …

What social media tech can lead to. If they do it in China, what would keep them from doing it here?

Leave No Dark Corner: China Is Building A Digital Dictatorship (ABC.au)

What may sound like a dystopian vision of the future is already happening in China. And it’s making and breaking lives. The Communist Party calls it “social credit” and says it will be fully operational by 2020. Within years, an official Party outline claims, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”. Social credit is like a personal scorecard for each of China’s 1.4 billion citizens. In one pilot program already in place, each citizen has been assigned a score out of 800. In other programs it’s 900. Those, like Dandan, with top “citizen scores” get VIP treatment at hotels and airports, cheap loans and a fast track to the best universities and jobs.

Those at the bottom can be locked out of society and banned from travel, or barred from getting credit or government jobs. The system will be enforced by the latest in high-tech surveillance systems as China pushes to become the world leader in artificial intelligence. Surveillance cameras will be equipped with facial recognition, body scanning and geo-tracking to cast a constant gaze over every citizen. Smartphone apps will also be used to collect data and monitor online behaviour on a day-to-day basis. Then, big data from more traditional sources like government records, including educational and medical, state security assessments and financial records, will be fed into individual scores.

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The link doesn’t go to an article about the interview, but it’s what Bloomberg provided on Twitter.

Steve Keen Says U.S. Heading for 2020 Recession (BBG)

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Inequality CAN bring down societies.

Digging into Wealth and Income Inequality (CHS)

The assets of U.S. households recently topped $100 trillion, yet another sign that everything is going swimmingly in the U.S. economy. Let’s take a look at the Federal Reserve’s Household Balance Sheet, which lists the assets and liabilities of all U.S. households in very big buckets (real estate: $25 trillion). (For reasons unknown, the Fed lumps non-profit assets and liabilities with households, but these modest sums are easily subtracted.) If we look at the numbers with a reasonably skeptical view, we start wondering about aspects that might have previously been taken as “facts” that were above questioning. For example, households hold $11.6 trillion in cash (deposits). That’s unambiguous.

So is the $29.3 trillion in stocks (owned directly and indirectly, i.e. retirement funds, etc.). But what about the $16 trillion in “other financial assets”? This isn’t cash, stocks, bonds, retirement funds or noncorporate businesses–then what is it? Offshore banking? That $16 trillion is equal to all homeowners’ equity (real estate minus mortgages). It’s a non-trivial chunk of the $100 trillion in net assets everyone is crowing about. I also wonder about the valuation of noncorporate businesses–small family businesses, LLCs, sole proprietorships, etc.– $11.9 trillion. How do you value a business that’s hanging on by a thread? Or one that’s a tax shelter?

We know from other sources that roughly 85% of all this wealth is held by the top 10% of households. This isn’t included in this balance sheet, but without those statistics, these numbers lack critical context: if household wealth is soaring, that sounds wonderful. But what if 95% the gains are flowing to the top 5%, and within the top 5%, mostly to the top .1%?

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Like she’s in a position to issue ultimatums.

Theresa May Tells EU27 She Won’t Delay Brexit Despite Lack Of A Deal (G.)

Theresa May has tried to threaten EU leaders over dinner at a special summit in Salzburg by telling them the UK would not seek to delay Brexit, prompting European leaders to warn that the two sides remained far apart on trade and the Irish border despite months of negotiations. The prime minister told her counterparts “that the UK will leave on 29 March next year” and as a result “the onus is now on all of us to get this deal done” by the end of an emergency summit that the EU confirmed would happen in mid-November. It was the first time since Chequers that May has had a chance to address the EU’s other 27 heads of government instead of going through their chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, with No 10 hoping that it would inject some urgency into the divorce talks.

“We all recognise that time is short but extending or delaying these negotiations is not an option,” she said. But as the summit started Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, said that a deal remained “far away” while Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, warned that the UK’s proposals for the Irish border and future trade relations with the EU needed to be “reworked and further negotiated”. Tusk added that “various scenarios are still possible” – a clear hint that no deal was still a possibility. Despite the EU leaders’ statements, No 10 is hoping that May’s pitch to EU leaders will eventually prompt some greater flexibility on the part of Brussels in the critical period for the Brexit negotiations between a scheduled European council meeting in October and the decisive summit in November.

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No berries for you next summer.

‘Seven In 10’ EU Workers In UK Would Be Barred Under Brexit Proposals (G.)

The majority of EU workers in the UK would not be eligible to work in the country following Brexit if they were subject to proposals put forward by the government’s chief migration advisers, analysis by a leading leftwing thinktank shows. EU citizens currently in the UK are expected to be protected under the terms of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement but findings by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) illustrate how proposals by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will potentially restrict businesses recruiting migrants from the EU in future.

In its report on EU migration after Brexit, published on Tuesday, the committee recommended lifting the cap on highly skilled workers applying to take up jobs in the UK but also backed maintaining the salary threshold of £30,000. The committee also recommended only allowing in individuals at level three or above on the nine-level regulated qualifications framework (RQF). Comparing this criteria to data from the labour force survey, the IPPR estimates that around 75% of the UK’s current EU workforce would not be eligible were they subject to the proposals. The findings will likely enflame concerns from business leaders over proposals they have already branded “ignorant and elitist”.

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Long overview by Adam Tooze.

The Forgotten History of the Financial Crisis (Tooze)

Although more banks failed during the Depression, these failures were scattered between 1929 and 1933 and involved far smaller balance sheets. In 2008, both the scale and the speed of the implosion were breathtaking. According to data from the Bank for International Settlements, gross capital flows around the world plunged by 90 percent between 2007 and 2008. As capital flows dried up, the crisis soon morphed into a crushing recession in the real economy. The “great trade collapse” of 2008 was the most severe synchronized contraction in international trade ever recorded.

Within nine months of their pre-crisis peak, in April 2008, global exports were down by 22 percent. (During the Great Depression, it took nearly two years for trade to slump by a similar amount.) In the United States between late 2008 and early 2009, 800,000 people were losing their jobs every month. By 2015, over nine million American families would lose their homes to foreclosure—the largest forced population movement in the United States since the Dust Bowl. In Europe, meanwhile, failing banks and fragile public finances created a crisis that nearly split the eurozone.

[..] bankers on both sides of the Atlantic created the system that imploded in 2008. The collapse could easily have devastated both the U.S. and the European economies had it not been for improvisation on the part of U.S. officials at the Federal Reserve, who leveraged trans-atlantic connections they had inherited from the twentieth century to stop the global bank run. That this reality has been obscured speaks both to the contentious politics of managing global finances and to the growing distance between the United States and Europe. More important, it forces a question about the future of financial globalization: How will a multipolar world that has moved beyond the transatlantic structures of the last century cope with the next crisis?

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Wow.

Turkish Treasury Borrows $347 Million At 25% Interest Rate (Hu.)

The Turkish Treasury borrowed some 2.2 billion Turkish liras (around $347 million) from domestic markets, the Treasury and Finance Ministry announced on Sept. 18. The auction was held for 12-month zero coupon bonds – new issuance – to be settled on Sept. 19 and mature on Sept. 18, 2019, according to an official statement. The average annual simple and compound interest rates of the 364-day bonds were 25.05 percent, the ministry added. According to the domestic borrowing strategy, the ministry has projected 21.9 billion liras (around $3.4 billion) of borrowing from the market through auctions in the September-November period. Sept. 18’s auction was second out of a total 11 planned auctions on the ministry’s issuance calendar for the three-month period.

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“Controversial pesticide pits farmer vs farmer in US.” Can we perhaps just stop using poison to produce food?

US Officials Face Growing Pressure Over Dicamba Herbicide Use (AFP)

US environmental regulators are under increasing pressure over a controversial pesticide known for laying waste to nearby crops as well as the harmful weeds it is meant to control. Critics worried about the harm are calling for increased restrictions, following the example of many states, while producers and some farmers want fewer obstacles to use of a chemical they view as one of their last options. Much like Roundup, another much-criticized herbicide marketed by Monsanto, dicamba has been on the market a long time. But use of the chemical has jumped since Monsanto – which was bought by Germany’s Bayer in June – introduced seeds that can resist the weed-killer.

Dicamba has been a boon for farmers at a time when they have seen other leading herbicides lose their effectiveness and the battle against damaging weeds. Use of seeds resistant to dicamba doubled over the last year, reaching 20 million hectares (50 million acres) this summer. But the product has been blamed for polluting around four percent of US soybean fields in 2017. A common complaint is that the herbicide is volatile, meaning it spreads to nearby areas. It is only meant for use during the growing season for plants resistant to the chemical, and the US Environmental Protection Agency last year received reports of “significant crop damage from off-field movement of dicamba.” The EPA authorized use of the weed-killer for two years, through November, so it will soon need to announce any changes to the rules on when and how it can be used.

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Sep 192018
 
 September 19, 2018  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Landscape with butterflies 1956

 

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)
Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)
China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)
Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)
Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)
North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)
Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)
Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)
Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)
Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)
Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

 

 

Let’s see what the declassified files have to say.

Trump: Exposing ‘Corrupt’ FBI Probe Could Be Crowning Achievement (Hill)

President Trump in an exclusive interview with Hill.TV said Tuesday he ordered the release of classified documents in the Russia collusion case to show the public the FBI probe started as a “hoax,” and that exposing it could become one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency. “What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump said in a 45-minute, wide-ranging interview in the Oval Office. “I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done… in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” he said. Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017 [..]

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.” [..] He criticizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval of the warrant that authorized surveillance of Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign aide, toward the end of the 2016 election, suggesting the FBI misled the court.

“They know this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country because basically what they did is, they used Carter Page, who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he’s been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.” [..] The president spared no words in criticizing Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page and other FBI officials who started the probe. He recited specific text messages Page and Strzok traded while having an affair and investigating his campaign, arguing the texts showed they condoned leaks and conducted a bogus probe. Those texts are to be released as a result of Trump’s announcement on Monday. “It’s a hoax, beyond a witch hunt,” he said.

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If only that could be true:“Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?”

Putin’s deal with Turkey has made US threats empty: civilians and terrorists will be separated. Israel has no reason to bomb anything either.

Trump: Expect Decision On US Role In Syria Soon (ZH)

President Trump indicated that a decision on the future of US policy in Syria is coming soon in remarks made at a press conference with his Polish counterpart. Speaking alongside President Andrzej Duda, Trump said the Monday night downing of a Russian maritime surveillance plane by accidental Syrian friendly fire was “a very sad thing”. Trump’s remarks did not include criticism of Putin, and seemed to signal regret over Monday night’s dramatic escalation over Syria after a massive Israeli attack. Earlier in the day Tuesday, Russia had pointed the finger at Israel for purposefully provoking the mishap, something Israel has since denied in a military statement that ultimately put blame on Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Trump also said that the US fight against ISIS in Syria could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said of the Pentagon mission against ISIS. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.” [..] Only months ago the president expressed a desire “to get out” and pull the over 2,000 publicly acknowledged American military personnel from the country; but the new report said that Trump has approved “an indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria”. The report revealed that “the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.”

But is it possible that Monday’s attack involving missiles flying over the Mediterranean and an “accidental” downing of a Russian plane and 15 dead Russian crew members might have jolted Trump back to his prior position of wanting to withdraw from the Syrian quagmire? [..] Monday’s events also came just after Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a demilitarized zone in Idlib will be formed by October 15. [..] The Russia-Turkey deal over Idlib has at least temporarily deflated US threats that it could intervene should Syria launch a brutal assault on the province —something the US promised to do especially if chemical weapons are used. Is it possible that Trump will take the window of opportunity to get out of Syria, and walk back from prior US threats?

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Go sit around a table, all of you, including EU and japan.

China Hits Back At US With $60 Billion Of New Tariffs (G.)

China is to slap tariffs on an additional $60bn of imports from the US in retaliation against $200bn of new trade sanctions on Chinese goods announced by Donald Trump. The latest moves represent a new step towards a full-scale trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Further escalation is deemed likely because Trump is facing low approval ratings ahead of the US midterm elections in November, while China will not want to be seen to back down. Trump announced his latest escalation of the bitter trade standoff late on Monday, promising to introduce the additional border taxes of 10% on Chinese goods from next week.

The tariffs – designed to make US domestic products more competitive against foreign imports – apply to almost 6,000 items, including consumer goods such as luggage and electronics, housewares and food. The US president threatened further tariffs on an additional $276bn of goods if Beijing unveils retaliatory measures – a step that would mean tariffs on all Chinese imports to the US and equate to 4% of world trade. Early on Tuesday he tweeted to accuse China of “actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me”. The US president added: “What China does not understand is that these people are great patriots and fully understand that China has been taking advantage of the United States on trade for many years.

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‘Buying’ a company and loading it up with lousy debt. Business 101.

Just How Wildly Exuberant is the Junk-Credit Market?” (WS)

This is considered a door-opener Leveraged Buyout (LBO): If it flies and investors buy this $13.5 billion pile of deeply junk-rated debt today, even riskier and bigger LBOs may fly. It’s the fourth largest LBO since the Financial Crisis and the ninth largest of all times in the US and Europe: Thomson Reuters Corporation is separating its largest division, the financial information, analysis, and risk businesses, now called “Refinitiv,” to sell a 55% stake to a group of investors led by private equity firm Blackstone Group. This being a “leveraged” buyout, the Blackstone consortium is making the target company, Refinitiv, borrow in total $13.5 billion to fund most of its own buyout. This consist of $9.25 billion in “leveraged loans” and $4.25 billion in secured and unsecured bonds.

Some pieces are denominated in dollars, others in euros. This debt sale is being completed today. The Blackstone Consortium will infuse $3.025 billion in cash equity. Thomson Reuters will retain a 45% stake and will receive a special dividend from Refinitiv of approximately $17 billion, according to Moody’s. And there are some other details involved. Alas, Moody’s gives Refinitiv a corporate credit rating of B3, six steps into junk, considered “highly speculative.” [..] This deal is “reminiscent of the kind of deal I would have seen in 2006 and 2007,” Scott Roberts, head of high-yield investments at Invesco, told the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the large amount of debt being issued, “you have a covenant package that’s extremely weak.”

OK, but weak covenants have become a pandemic. Companies issuing leveraged loans love weak covenants, and creditors will rue the day, but for now everything flies. The share of these so-called “covenant-lite” (“cov-lite”) loans compared to all leveraged loans outstanding keeps setting new records. LCD of S&P Global Market Intelligence reported today that cov-lite loans in August accounted for 78.6% of outstanding leveraged loans, and up from 55% in mid-2014:

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Globalism hollows out economies. And societies.

Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too (Taibbi)

[..] it’s become increasingly clear that [Bernie Sanders] lost patience waiting for the news media to pay attention to this particularly loathsome problem of CEOs using public subsidies to pad their bottom lines. The issue in his campaigns against companies like Disney, Walmart, Burger King and Amazon is simple: our biggest and most successful companies use a business model that involves giant workforces earning beneath-subsistence wages, if not worse (particularly abroad). This business model would not work without the active cooperation of governments around the world.

Amazon and Walmart are particular villains on this score. On the supply end, they gobble up super-cheap products assembled in unfree labor zones like China, where workers are treated so badly that some have threatened mass suicides to improve conditions. Then, on the distribution end, in wealthy consumer countries like the U.S., these same companies pay many workers such low wages that they end up on public assistance. One study showed that in Arizona, for instance, 1 in 3 Amazon workers are on food stamps. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is worth $160 billion, and, according to one infuriating study, earns the median salary of an Amazon employee every nine seconds.

If you go by net worth in stock holdings, Bezos earns about $277 million a day. This set of circumstances is a profound comment on how the modern global economy functions. Misguided policies like the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China long ago committed us to a world in which the industrial democracies of the West would be increasingly reliant upon human rights abusers in places like China to serve as mercantile suppliers. As manufacturing headed to the third world, domestic distributors became concentrated and de-unionized.

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They really want peace. Don’t stand in their way.

North And South Korea Sign Joint Agreement In ‘Leap Forward’ For Peace (Ind.)

The North and South Korean leaders presented a joint agreement during their summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday that Kim Jong-un said represented a “leap forward” for peace on the peninsula. At a joint press conference after the signing, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in said North Korea had agreed to “permanently” shut down all of its nuclear and missile testing facilities, in the presence of international experts, as long as the US takes reciprocal measures. The two sides agreed that Mr Kim would visit Seoul, in what would be a first for a North Korean leader. And the two leaders agreed a number of wide-ranging measures designed to increase cooperation and reduce the risk of armed clashes on the border.

Mr Kim said the pair had agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”. The US had called for concrete developments regarding denuclearisation during Mr Moon’s three-day visit to Pyongyang, and Donald Trump suggested the joint agreement did not disappoint. “Very exciting!” was his response to the news on Twitter. “Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing,” Mr Trump said.

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Trying to paint the picture that if only the EU wanted to, it could give the UK whatever it desires.

Michel Barnier Rebuffs UK Calls For Flexibility On Irish Border (G.)

Michel Barnier has rebuffed British calls for the EU to change its stance on the contested issue of the Irish border, and said a “moment of truth” was fast approaching on a Brexit deal. The EU’s chief negotiator said the bloc was ready “to improve” its proposal on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, but stopped short of accepting British ideas for compromise, after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, called on the EU to show flexibility. “The European Council in October will be the moment of truth, it is the moment when we shall see if we have an agreement,” Barnier said. The Irish border has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to the Brexit deal that Theresa May hopes to strike with the EU this autumn.

While the EU and UK have agreed there should be no hard border to prevent any return to violence, they are deadlocked over how to manage what will become a 310-mile frontier between the UK and EU. Both sides have proposed fallback plans, known as backstops, that would kick into place if trade talks fail to settle the question. The EU’s involves Northern Ireland following EU law on customs and goods, a plan May has said no British prime minister could ever accept. Barnier said the EU was working to improve its proposal, adding that the problem had been caused by “the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its single market and the customs union”. Seeking to counter British criticism that the EU plan eroded UK sovereignty, he said: “What we talking about here is not a land border, not a sea border, it is a set of technical checks and controls. We respect the territorial integrity of the UK and we respect the constitutional order of the UK.”

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I include this to show how the Guardian shapes the discussion. After running over 100 headlines aimed at connecting Corbyn and anti-semitism in less than a year, they seamlessly move into internal divisions in Labour. All of this stuff comes from the Blairite neo-liberal side of the party.

Keir Starmer Clashed With Corbyn On Brexit ‘To Brink Of Resignation’ (G.)

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, was pushed to the brink of resignation early this year after Jeremy Corbyn and his allies tried to kick his customs union plan into the long grass, senior Labour sources have told the Guardian. Labour’s Brexit policy has evolved over the past 18 months through a series of painstaking negotiations between key players at the top of the party, the most fraught of which came at a stormy meeting of the “Brexit subcommittee” early this year. Corbyn’s close allies ambushed Starmer with a paper which shelved the decision on joining a customs union, a policy he had been pushing privately for weeks.

Several people present at the meeting told the Guardian the general feeling in the room was that Starmer was willing to resign rather than accept the proposals, numbered copies of which were handed out at the start of the meeting and retrieved at the end. “He looked close to telling them to shove it – and I think that did count for something,” said one MP present. “I think Jeremy was slightly surprised at how angry Keir was, and how pissed off he was.” Another witness to the confrontation said: “Jeremy started speaking, and Keir just said, enough, this was just completely outrageous. He did lose his temper. I think they were genuinely shocked at his reaction. They tried to bounce him and it completely backfired.”

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The ultimate plan all along in some circles.

Rightwing Thinktanks Unveil Radical Plan For US-UK Brexit Trade Deal (G.)

A radical blueprint for a free trade deal between the UK and the US that would see the NHS opened to foreign competition, a bonfire of consumer and environmental regulations and freedom of movement between the two countries for workers, is to be launched by prominent Brexiters. The blueprint will be seen as significant because of the close links between the organisations behind it and the UK secretary for international trade, Liam Fox, and the US president, Donald Trump. Its publication follows a week of policy launches by the European Research Group of Conservative MPs designed to pressurise the prime minister into “chucking Chequers”, her softer Brexit proposal, in favour of a harder, clean break from the European Union.

The text of the new trade deal has been prepared by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) – a thinktank founded by the longtime Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, one of the leaders of Vote Leave – and the Cato Institute, a rightwing libertarian thinktank in the US founded and funded by the fossil fuel magnates and major political donors the Koch family. The “ideal UK-US free trade deal” was due to be launched later on Tuesday in both London and Washington but the Cato Institute appears to have accidentally posted it online early. The policy initiative was shaped in consultation with a group of other conservative libertarian thinktanks on both sides of the Atlantic, the blueprint explains. These include UK organisations whose funding is opaque, such as the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute among others in the UK, and others in the US including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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“In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.”

Tesla To Be Investigated By US DOJ Over Elon Musk Tweets (Ind.)

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation looking at whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke the law by musing on Twitter about taking the company private. The firm was contacted by the Department of Justice after Mr Musk made the comments on Twitter last month in a tweet that spurred theories the tech CEO was trying to communicate he was smoking marijuana because he suggested he would take his company private once shares had reached $420 a share. In the US, the number 420 is associated with April 20, when annual marijuana celebrations take place.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Independent in an emailed statement. The spokesperson continued: “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

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They have limitless legal budgets.

Monsanto Asks US Court To Toss $289 Million Glyphosate Verdict (R.)

Bayer unit Monsanto on Tuesday asked a California judge to throw out a $289 million jury verdict awarded to a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, gave him cancer. The company said in motions filed in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California that the jury’s decision was insufficiently supported by the evidence presented at trial by school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. Johnson’s case, filed in 2016, was fast-tracked for trial due to the severity of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, that he alleged was caused by years of exposure to Roundup and Ranger Pro, another Monsanto herbicide that contains glyphosate.

Monsanto asked Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos, who oversaw the trial, to set aside the verdict or, in the alternative, reduce the award or grant a new trial. A hearing on the motions is set for Oct. 10. The company, which denies the allegations, has previously said it would appeal the verdict if necessary. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer. Monsanto is facing some 8,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. Shares in Bayer, which bought Monsanto this year for $63 billion, slid following the Aug. 10 jury decision and the stock was still trading some 20 percent below its pre-verdict value of 73.30 euros ($85.45) on Tuesday.

“The jury’s decision is wholly at odds with over 40 years of real-world use, an extensive body of scientific data and analysis … which support the conclusion that glyphosate-based herbicides are safe for use and do not cause cancer in humans,” Bayer said in a statement on Tuesday. Bayer said Johnson failed to prove glyphosate caused his cancer and the scientific evidence he presented at trial “fell well below the causation standard required under California law.”

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Sep 182018
 
 September 18, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


M. C. Escher Development II 1939

 

Trump Orders More Russia-Related Probe Documents To Be Declassified (R.)
David Stockman Exposes The “$20 Trillion Elephant In The Room” (ZH)
An Economic Recovery Based Around High Debt Is Really No Recovery (G.)
Four Lessons (Not) Learned From The Financial Crisis (F.)
Trump Is ‘A Symptom And Not The Cause’ Of The Trade War With China (CNBC)
UK Will Shift Brexit Stance In Its ‘Darkest Hour’ Claim EU Officials (G.)
Christine Lagarde Warns Of ‘Dire Consequences’ Of Disorderly Brexit (G.)
Monsters All the Way Down (Kunstler)
Vulnerable Migrant Groups Must be Removed from Greek Island – MSF (GR)
WikiLeaks Slams AP “Assange Letter” As Fake, Denies He Sought Russian Visa (ZH)

 

 

As I said would happen a few weeks ago. Inevitable. But what a curious choice of headline for Reuters. The docs are related to the probe, not to Russia.

Trump Orders More Russia-Related Probe Documents To Be Declassified (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump has directed the Justice Department to immediately declassify more information related to the investigation into possible election meddling by Russia, the White House said on Monday. Trump’s demands mark his latest effort to turn up the heat on the Justice Department, whom he and his Republican allies have accused of running a tainted probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Among the documents Trump ordered the Justice Department and the director of national intelligence to make public are 20 additional pages of FBI surveillance warrant applications related to his former campaign adviser Carter Page.

Trump also ordered the release of FBI interview reports with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr related to the Russia probe, and FBI interview reports related to the Page surveillance warrant applications, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement. Finally, Trump directed the Justice Department to release, without redactions, text messages relating to the Russia probe from former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and other officials, including FBI agent Peter Strzok.

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, originally citing the Russia probe, and then saying that the firing was not “because of the phony Russia investigation.” McCabe was fired in March by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Strzok was also recently fired, and has been criticized for sending texts disparaging Trump as a presidential candidate.

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Look at that graph. And keep looking.

David Stockman Exposes The “$20 Trillion Elephant In The Room” (ZH)

In a recent interview with Sprott Media in Vancouver, Stockman reiterated that he remains a skeptic, particularly in an era where central banks (thanks to their $20-trillion-plus aggregate balance sheet) have destroyed price discovery and contributed to the blowing of a debt bubble that – when it finally pops – will make the aftermath of the financial crisis appear tame by comparison. Stockman begins his interview by clarifying that he would be optimistic about the long-term prospects for growth and markets if it wasn’t for this $20 trillion ‘elephant in the room’.

“I am an optimist, I truly am – if it weren’t for the fact that central banks are totally out of control. So my talk centered on the Great $20 trillion elephant in the room, which is the balance sheets of all the central banks in the world, in excess of what it probably should be in a rational stable historically prudent world”. As central banks have bought up assets, they’ve repressed interest rates, rigged equity prices and provided the fuel for the explosion of debt that has occurred over the past 20 years, Stockman said.And when the music finally stops – as they say – it will be the central banks that bear the brunt of the blame.

“And it’s that $20 trillion, built up over the last two decades, that has basically distorted everything – falsified prices, repressed interest rates, caused an explosion of debt. Twenty years ago there was $40 trillion of debt in the world today there is $250 trillion worth of debt in the world. The leverage of the world has gone from 1.3 times which is stable…to 3.3 times, which basically means the world has created a huge temporary prosperity by burying itself in debt.

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Same difference.

An Economic Recovery Based Around High Debt Is Really No Recovery (G.)

Rickard Nyman and Paul Ormerod have compared economic forecasting by humans and machines in both the US and the UK, and come up with some stark conclusions. At the start of 2008 the survey of professional forecasters in the US failed to predict that within a year their country would be in a deep recession. Had US policymakers relied on machine-learning algorithms they would have been much better prepared for the trouble ahead. Even more impressive results using machine learning were obtained for the UK. There’s more, however. Nyman and Ormerod sift through all the economic and financial variables that might have been responsible for causing the downturn and come up with a conclusion that explodes the myth that overspending governments were to blame.

“The evidence suggests quite clearly that public sector debt played no causal role in generating the Great Recession” they say. “In contrast, the ratio of private sector debt to GDP does appear to have played a significant role, especially in the UK.” In truth, the idea that state profligacy caused the Great Recession has never been credible. What really happened was that the expansion of the global marketplace led to cheap goods flooding the west. Inflationary pressure abated and that persuaded central banks to cut interest rates. Financial deregulation meant the only remaining constraint on excessive borrowing – high interest rates – was removed – and so credit was cheap and readily available. The private sector loaded up on debt, which was fine so long as the assets on the other side of the balance sheet were going up in value. When the markets turned, things went pear-shaped very quickly.

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Excellent example.

Four Lessons (Not) Learned From The Financial Crisis (F.)

Let’s say you know three people: Alexandra, Meg and Melanie. Alex owes Meg $5, and Meg owes Melanie $5. Further say that they have run into financial trouble. You, the government, believe that if this is not addressed then it could have terrible consequences for the rest of the macroeconomy. So you decide to come to the rescue by paying the $5 . . . but to whom? You have three choices, each of which costs exactly $5: i. Give the money to Alexandra, who passes it to Meg, who passes it on to Melanie. All debts are retired and the economy returns to financial health. ii. Give the money to Meg, who passes it on to Melanie. They both return to economic health, while Alexandra remains saddled with debt. iii. Give the money to Melanie, who then becomes viable once again. Alexandra and Meg remain weighed down.

Guess which one we did? The one that bailed out Wall Street while leaving Main Street indebted. This has two huge consequences. One, higher levels of debt reduce spending and therefore represent a drag on the economy. Second, they increase “financial fragility,” or the likelihood of system-wide insolvency. If the second part sounds like the financial crisis, it should. Fortunately, however, we have avoided such a consequence. Reuters suggests that the structure of debt has changed in a positive way and we should be especially thankful for the low unemployment rate which has meant that people have not had difficulty making payments.

But data from the Bank for International Settlements (displayed below) show two things: 1) the ratio appears to be making an upward turn and 2) it remains much closer to the dangerous levels of the 2000s than those of the New Economy of the 1990s. It was precisely that 2000s level that raised red flags to analysts like Steve Keen, who went on to be recognized as the economist who most accurately forecast the financial crisis. Incidentally, he’s worried again.

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It should have been resolved years ago.

Trump Is ‘A Symptom And Not The Cause’ Of The Trade War With China (CNBC)

George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, said at the conference that the “big story” here was the rise of China. The trade war is but one manifestation in the tensions between the world’s two largest economies which could go on for years, he added. There’s a growing anxiety in the U.S. about China’s rise, said Yeo, who is currently chairman of logistics company Kerry Logistics Network. He pointed to how former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said it was an “economic war” and not a trade war. “For Peter Navarro, it’s Death by China,” Yeo added, referring to Trump’s trade advisor and fierce China critic, who wrote a book of that title. “It’s not difficult for an economic war to become a political war to become a real war,” he said.

Both superpowers need to find some kind of “accommodation” in this multi-polar world, Rodrik stressed. China may say that it knows how to manage its economy, and the West needs to recognize Asia’s largest economy has its own model. “On the other hand, I think China will need to understand that it has been a free rider on the system created by the U.S., of openness, and it would have to provide a certain amount of … policy space for the Europeans and the Americans too,” he said, adding that this would be an example of “peaceful co-existence.” “China is playing the long game,” Rodrik said, and the question is how the world can accommodate such a new power. “I view Trump really as a temporary phenomenon, there are deeper issues,” he concluded.

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Oil on fire.

UK Will Shift Brexit Stance In Its ‘Darkest Hour’ Claim EU Officials (G.)

The British government will have to experience its “darkest hour” and stare into the abyss of a no-deal Brexit before it will cave in to Brussels demands, senior EU diplomats have predicted. Ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Salzburg, diplomats in Brussels privately warned that Theresa May still needed to make a significant shift on her red lines for a deal to be possible, with the Irish border issue remaining a major hurdle in the talks. The stark prediction came as a French government official said that the president, Emmanuel Macron, wanted to nail down the key terms of the future deal now, rather than allow any ambiguous drift on the major issues after 29 March 2019.

That was at odds with the UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, who had claimed over the weekend that any deal with the EU on the political declaration could be undone by MPs after Brexit, as he urged his Tory colleagues to support the Chequers proposals “for now”. Brussels wants credible assurances from May that any deal will not be unpicked by her successor. The prime minister was only to be given “a few minutes” to talk to leaders at a dinner on Wednesday night in Salzburg before the 27 talk among themselves the following day, in a sign of the low expectation that she will have anything significant to say until after the Conservative party conference.

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Let’s hope someone pays attention.

Christine Lagarde Warns Of ‘Dire Consequences’ Of Disorderly Brexit (G.)

The UK economy would rapidly start to contract in the event of a disruptive exit from the EU next spring, according to a stark International Monetary Fund report that highlights the recession risks of a no-deal Brexit. Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, added that there would be costs to the UK under any outcome that involves leaving the EU. Expressing the IMF’s growing concern at the possibility of an acrimonious divorce next March, Lagarde said: “If that happened there would be dire consequences. It would inevitably have consequences in terms of reduced growth, an increase in the [budget] deficit and a depreciation of the currency. “In relatively short order it would mean a reduction in the size of the economy.”

Lagarde said the IMF’s forecast of 1.5% growth next year was based on a smooth exit from the EU. Her remarks were seized upon by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, as evidence that the UK had to strike a deal that would safeguard jobs and prosperity. “As the IMF has said, no deal would be extremely costly for the UK as it would be for the EU,” Hammond said. “Despite contingency planning, it would put at risk the significant progress made over the past 10 years in repairing the economy.” No 10, however, pointedly refused to endorse Hammond’s gloomy predictions. When asked about what he had said, her spokesman referred to what Theresa May told the BBC in an interview broadcast earlier: “The PM said very clearly that she believes our best days are ahead of us and that we will have plans in place for us to succeed in all scenarios.”

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All roads lead to Podesta.

Monsters All the Way Down (Kunstler)

Robert Mueller’s fishing crew was out trawling for Manafort, a blubbery swamp mammal valued for its lubricating oil when, by happenstance, a strange breed of porpoise called a Podesta got caught up in the net. Turns out it was a traveling companion of the Manafort. Back in 2014, the pair swam all the way to a little country called Ukraine via the Black Sea where the Podesta used some Manafort SuperLube on then-president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. The objective was to grease the wheel of NATO and the EU for Ukraine to become a member. But the operation went awry when Yanukovych got a better offer from the Eurasian Customs Union, a Russian-backed trade-and-security org.

And the next thing you know, the US State Department and the CIA are all over the situation and, whaddaya know, the Maidan Square in Kiev fills up with screaming neo-Nazis and Mr. Yanukovych gets the bum’s rush — and despite the major screw-up, the Manafort and the Podesta swim off with a cool few million in fees and return to the comforts of the swamp where they finally part ways. Mr. Mueller is apparently concerned about just what happened with those fees. Possibly the loot ended up getting washed and rinsed through an international banking laundromat, and somehow went unreported to the federal tax authorities.

Of course, the charge raises some interesting questions, such as: were Manafort and Podesta over in Ukraine as opportunistic freelancers, or were they part of phase one of a US government effort to get Ukraine to sign up for Team West against its old Uncle Russia, the manager of Team East? Kind of seems like that was exactly what they were doing, so it will be interesting to see whether Mr. Mueller may have stepped into a big pile of dog shit on his way to the Manafort plea session in federal court.

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Please stop it.

Vulnerable Migrant Groups Must be Removed from Greek Island – MSF (GR)

Greek authorities must remove children and other vulnerable groups from the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos as their physical and mental health is in danger, the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency said on Monday. A total 615 migrants arrived on Lesvos island in the past three days, local authorities say, adding to the already overcrowded Moria migrant registration center and making living conditions hazardous to public health. The MSF suggests that at least the vulnerable groups (children, elderly, ill) must me moved to the mainland. Overall, there are 11,000 asylum seekers on Lesvos at the moment, with 9,000 of them at the Moria camp.

The policy of over-concentrating migrants and refugees in the Greek islands has led to more than 9,000 people — one third of them children — to be packed in the Moria camp, which has a maximum capacity of 3,000 people, MSF says. “Every week, Medecins Sans Frontieres teams see incidents of adolescents who have attempted suicide or make self-inflicted wounds. They also offer help in serious incidents of violence and self-harm. The lack of access to emergency medical care shows the significant gaps in the protection of children and other vulnerable groups,” the aid agency statement says.

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Picked the story up yesterday on Twitter. Tyler doesn’t do the greatest write-up, but I can’t really repost the AP thing either. WikiLeaks was very clear in its reaction:

“”Mr. Assange did not apply for such a visa at any time or author the document. The source is document fabricator & paid FBI informant Sigurdur Thordarson who was sentenced to prison for fabricating docs impersonating Assange, multiple frauds & pedophilllia.”

Pointing to this 3-year old Iceland news article: https://grapevine.is/news/2015/09/25/siggi-the-hacker-gets-3-years-in-prison/.

“Thordarson distributed these docs to Scandinavian media outlets years ago who found them to be untrustworthy. Thorsdarson, a proven serial document fabricator & media hoaxer has been released, so the docs are being recycled yet again.”

Looks like AP was had. Why they run with it anyway is unclear. Due diligence, anyone? Yeah, they claim to have talked to FIVE different Wikileaks people, all anonymous of course. AP claims to have 1000s of docs, and this is the best they can get out of all that?

WikiLeaks Slams AP “Assange Letter” As Fake, Denies He Sought Russian Visa (ZH)

For years international media outlets worked collaboratively with WikiLeaks to publish leaked files on subjects ranging from the Iraq and Afghan wars to Syria to State Department diplomatic cables, but now it’s WikiLeaks itself that media outlets are attempting to expose. An exclusive Associated Press story claims that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought to obtain a Russian visa as his legal troubles and pressures from Western politicians grew. This comes after US officials have long sought to smear Assange as a Russian asset and the WikiLeaks organization as a whole as working with Russian intelligence.

The AP has published a letter it says is from a WikiLeaks laptop and penned by Julian Assange only days after the group made world headlines by publishing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables in 2010, however WikiLeaks immediately disputed the authenticity of the letter. The AP story begins as follows: “Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his WikiLeaks website, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars. Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London. “I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.

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Amazon is scary.

Sep 162018
 
 September 16, 2018  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Tête de femme 1926

 

Typhoon Mangkhut Heads Towards China As Dozens Killed In Philippines (G.)
Florence Dumps ‘Epic’ Amounts Of Rain On Carolinas (BBC)
‘We’re Using the Future for a Fiscal Dumping Ground’ (Barron’s)
The Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy (ET)
Give Britain A New Referendum On Brexit – London Mayor (G.)
Italy Faults France for Gaddafi’s Downfall and Migrant Crisis (Sp.)
Trump ‘Likely’ To Announce New China Tariffs As Early As Monday (R.)
Europe’s Meat And Dairy Production Must Halve By 2050 (G.)

 

 

Mangkhut is twize the size of Florence and a lot stronger. Tons of scary videos from Hong Kong.

Typhoon Mangkhut Heads Towards China As Dozens Killed In Philippines (G.)

Typhoon Mangkhut killed at least 30 people in the Philippines as it obliterated homes and crops and caused massive flooding, and is now on course to plough into China’s southern coast. Presidential adviser Francis Tolentino said the heaviest casualty was recorded in the mountainous Cordillera region in northern Luzon, where heavy rains caused landslides that left 24 people dead and 13 more missing. Four others – including two children – were buried in a landslide in Nueva Ecija, another in Kalinga, and one person was killed by a falling tree in Ilocos Sur, Tolentino said.

The storm, which was the strongest the region has seen this year, was not as ferocious as feared, though due to the remote areas where the typhoon hit, the full death toll and extent of the destruction is still unknown. By Sunday morning, it was hurtling towards China’s heavily populated southern coast with winds of 177km/h (110mph). In Hong Kong, where the huge storm is expected to skirt just 100km (62 miles) south of the city, officials raised the storm alert to a T10, its highest level. Businesses have been boarded up and most flights cancelled.

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The water has nowhere to go.

Florence Dumps ‘Epic’ Amounts Of Rain On Carolinas (BBC)

US east coast communities face “epic amounts of rainfall” from tropical storm Florence, which has been linked to at least 12 deaths. It has caused catastrophic flooding since arriving as a category one hurricane on Friday. Some towns have already seen 2ft (60cm) of rain in two days, with totals forecast to top 3.5ft (1m) in places. It is feared that more communities could become deluged as the storm crawls west at only 2mph (3km/h). “This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall, in some places measured in feet and not inches,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Saturday. He urged against residents attempting to return home, warning that “all roads in the state are at risk of floods”.

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“There’s no snooze button on the national debt clock..”

‘We’re Using the Future for a Fiscal Dumping Ground’ (Barron’s)

There’s no snooze button on the national debt clock, though you wouldn’t know it by the way public alarm has quieted as the situation grows worse. October begins a new fiscal year for the U.S. government—and a faster ballooning of how much it owes. Barring a behavioral miracle in Congress, trillion dollar yearly budget shortfalls will return, perhaps as soon as the coming year. And unlike the ones brought by the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2007-09, these will start during a period of relative plenty, and won’t end. Debt held by the public, a conservative tally of what America owes, will swell from $15.7 trillion at the end of September, or 78% of GDP to $28.7 trillion in a decade, or 96% of GDP.

Those estimates, provided by the Congressional Budget Office, are based on reasonable assumptions about economic growth, inflation, employment, and interest rates, but they leave out some important things. They assume that the nation’s need for increased infrastructure investment, estimated by the American Society of Civil Engineers at $1.4 trillion through 2025, goes unmet. They don’t account for the possibility of another financial crisis, or war, or a rise in the frequency or severity of natural disasters, and they assume that some Trump tax cuts will expire in 2025.

There is no clear milestone that marks the moment a country loses control of its finances, but consider how the bar has already been lowered for what seems possible in Congress. Even debt scolds no longer talk seriously about America paying down what it owes, or holding the dollar amount steady. The new path of fiscal prudence involves containing debt at some manageable percentage of GDP, and the opportunity for that is slipping.

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“If I have to blame anybody, I will blame Bernanke..”

The Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy (ET)

Sept. 15 marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which had unprecedented ramifications worldwide. Painful lessons have been learned, but the debate continues among economists about whether the crisis could have been handled better. Lehman was the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank before it filed for bankruptcy. With $639 billion in assets, it was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. It was also the largest victim of the subprime mortgage crisis that swept through global financial markets. And its collapse intensified the market shock, which wiped out nearly $10 trillion from global equity markets in October 2008, the largest monthly decline on record. The policymakers who handled Lehman’s bankruptcy in 2008 argue they did all they could.

However, economist Steve Keen, author of “Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis?”, believes policymakers had a great deal of responsibility for causing the crisis. Keen is a harsh critic of mainstream economists who ignored mounting private debt in their forecasts and policy recommendations. “They could have prevented the bubble burst in the first place,” he said. He thinks the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, was one of those who failed to recognize the risk created by the private debt explosion. “All these regulators were collecting data on global private debt and not worrying about it because economic theory said it did not matter,” he said. “If I have to blame anybody, I will blame Bernanke,” he said, adding that Bernanke “was the main academic economist saying ‘Don’t worry about the level of private debt.’”

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But when? It’ll take a long time still before it becomes an option, and by then Brexit will be much closer.

Give Britain A New Referendum On Brexit – London Mayor (G.)

The mayor of London has issued a dramatic call for another referendum on EU membership, insisting that the people must be given the chance to reject a Brexit deal that will be bad for the economy, jobs and the NHS. Writing in the Observer, Sadiq Khan says that, with so little time left to negotiate, there are now only two possible outcomes: a bad deal for the UK or “no deal” at all, which will be even worse. “They are both incredibly risky and I don’t believe Theresa May has the mandate to gamble so flagrantly with the British economy and people’s livelihoods,” he writes. Khan says that backing a second referendum was never something he expected to have to do.

But so abject has been the government’s performance, and so great is the threat to living standards and jobs, he says, that he sees no alternative than to give people a chance to stay in the EU. “This means a public vote on any Brexit deal obtained by the government, or a vote on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit if one is not secured, alongside the option of staying in the EU,” he writes. “People didn’t vote to leave the EU to make themselves poorer, to watch their businesses suffer, to have NHS wards understaffed, to see the police preparing for civil unrest or for our national security to be put at risk if our cooperation with the EU in the fight against terrorism is weakened.” The intervention from one of Labour’s most powerful politicians will put yet more pressure on the party leader Jeremy Corbyn to throw his support behind another referendum at Labour’s annual conference, which opens in Liverpool next weekend.

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Italy had signed -oil- deals with Gaddafi.

Italy Faults France for Gaddafi’s Downfall and Migrant Crisis (Sp.)

In Rome, the responsibility for the influx of migrants is laid on France, which persuaded NATO countries to get rid of Gaddafi. As a result, Libya is now torn apart by rival factions and an ongoing conflict between its two governments. “It is clearly now undeniable that this country (Libya) finds itself in this situation because someone, in 2011, put their own interests ahead of those of the Libyan people and of Europe itself,” Italian Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta wrote on Facebook. “France, from this point of view, is partly to blame,” she added. Italian parliamentary speaker Roberto Fico was even more explicit, pointing to “a serious problem that has come from France.”

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini also chimed in, blaming former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for unleashing the war in Libya and the present government for adding fuel to the flames of the Libyan conflict. Italians are filled with nostalgia each time they recall the time when Rome and Tripoli signed an agreement to allow Italian companies to extract oil in Libya. The Gaddafi government was holding back the flow of migrants to Europe and the country’s GDP was the second biggest in Africa and the first among the Arabic-speaking states of the Maghreb. In Rome, the emphasis is that the decision to overthrow Gaddafi was made without taking into account the views of Italy.

Seven years on, the French look equally unenthusiastic about the so-called “Libyan Revolution,” with President Emmanuel Macron admitting that the intervention was a mistake. “I remember how some people decided to get rid of the Libyan leader without having any action plan for the future. We plunged Libya into a situation of lawlessness without having a chance to rectify the situation,” Macron said when speaking in the Tunisian parliament earlier this year.

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Don’t stop talking.

Trump ‘Likely’ To Announce New China Tariffs As Early As Monday (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to announce new tariffs on about $200 billion on Chinese imports as early as Monday, a senior administration official told Reuters on Saturday. The tariff level will probably be about 10 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting people familiar with the matter. This is below the 25 percent the administration said it was considering for this possible round of tariffs. The upcoming tariffs will be on a list of items that included $200 billion worth of internet technology products and other electronics, printed circuit boards and consumer goods including Chinese seafood, furniture and lighting products, tires, chemicals, plastics, bicycles and car seats for babies.

It was unclear if the administration will exempt any of the products that were on the list, which was announced in July. On Friday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Trump “has been clear that he and his administration will continue to take action to address China’s unfair trade practices. We encourage China to address the long-standing concerns raised by the Unites States.” Trump had already directed aides to proceed with tariffs, despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s attempts to restart trade talks with China.

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Do you see it happening?

Europe’s Meat And Dairy Production Must Halve By 2050 (G.)

Europe’s animal farming sector has exceeded safe bounds for greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient flows and biodiversity loss, and urgently needs to be scaled back, according to a major report. Pressure on livestock farmers is set to intensify this century as global population and income growth raises demand for meat-based products beyond the planet’s capacity to supply it. The paper’s co-author, Professor Allan Buckwell, endorses a Greenpeace call for halving meat and dairy production by 2050, and his report’s broadside is squarely aimed at the heart of the EU’s policy establishment.

Launching the report, the EU’s former environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said: “Unless policymakers face up to this now, livestock farmers will pay the price of their inactivity. ‘Protecting the status quo’ is providing a disservice to the sector.” The study calls for the European commission to urgently set up a formal inquiry mandated to propose measures – including taxes and subsidies – that “discourage livestock products harmful to health, climate or the environment”. Livestock has the world’s largest land footprint and is growing fast, with close to 80% of the planet’s agricultural land now used for grazing and animal feed production, even though meat delivers just 18% of our calories.

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


Winslow Homer Salt Kettle, Bermuda 1899

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Sep 102018
 
 September 10, 2018  Posted by at 9:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory 1954

 

Trump To Declassify Bruce Ohr, Carter Page Documents As Early As This Week (ZH)
Stronger US Economy May Warrant ‘Restrictive’ Rates: Boston Fed’s Rosengren (R.)
Brexit Will Fail Regardless Of Boris Johnson And Theresa May’s Jabs (Ind.)
Battle Over EU Copyright Law Heads For Showdown (G.)
US Senator: MI6 Planning Fake Chemical Weapons Attack On Syria (WaPo)
What Caused The Crash Of 2008 Now Shapes Our Post-Modern 1930s (Varoufakis)
Greek Bank Profits Are Hurt By Credit Contraction (K.)
Greek PM Promises Relief Measures After Years Of Austerity (G.)
Petition To Offer Assange Asylum To Be Presented To New Zealand Parliament (RT)
US Lawyers Say They Have ‘Explosive’ Documents About Monsanto In Europe (EN)
Turtles, Whales And Birds Under Threat From Brexit Funding Cuts (Ind.)

 

 

Nice way to start the week. I said this would happen, become a trend. Open thee, Sesame.

Trump To Declassify Bruce Ohr, Carter Page Documents As Early As This Week (ZH)

President Trump is expected to declassify documents connected to the Obama administration’s surveillance of the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election, according to Axios, citing allies of the president who say it could happen as soon as this week. Specifically mentioned are documents concerning former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as well as the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months. • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election – a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.) • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page – all to take down Trump. -Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill’s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele. Three weeks ago, Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions “Justice” Department? A total joke!” According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign. “Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help

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To reiterate once again: not long after Lehman, Bernanke said the Fed had entered ‘uncharted territory’. They’re still there, groping in the dark. Not a clue, but faking it like pros.

Stronger US Economy May Warrant ‘Restrictive’ Rates: Boston Fed’s Rosengren (R.)

When Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren switched from advocating low interest rates to tighter monetary policy, he argued it was time to start crawling back toward “normal” rates even with 5% unemployment and weak growth and inflation. Two years later, Rosengren has joined colleagues in beginning to lay the groundwork for those rate hikes to potentially continue longer and to a higher level than currently expected as the outlook for the economy strengthens. Rates may not only need to become “restrictive,” but the definition of that may be moving up as well, Rosengren said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday following an economic conference here.

“This is not hair on fire. There is upward pressure on inflation, and given that we are already at 2%, labor markets are already tight … that is going to be a situation where we start persistently having inflation above what our target is,” Rosengren said. “There is an argument to normalize policy and probably be mildly restrictive.” The Fed maintains a 2% inflation target, which it is only now reaching after a decade struggling to consistently hit and maintain it. He said the Fed does not need to move faster than the current gradual pace, which has translated into roughly one rate hike per quarter, with the next expected later this month. That steady pace is a luxury gained by starting early, he said, skirting the need to move more quickly and catch up with a tightening economy.

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Incompetent one and all.

Brexit Will Fail Regardless Of Boris Johnson And Theresa May’s Jabs (Ind.)

When Boris Johnson decides to go on leadership manoeuvres he tends to be noisy. His latest line is that the prime minister is like some sort of incompetent suicide bomber, handing over the ignition button on her suicide vest to none other than Michel Barnier. Presumably, Mr Johnson would like us to believe that he would in fact willingly blow himself to kingdom come, shouting “Leave means Leave” on his way to enjoying the company of the promised 72 virgins of the Leave campaign. These may prove as mythical as the extra £350m a week for the NHS he once promised his own fanatical supporters. Or something like that.

As Mr Johnson has discovered, metaphors around Brexit can easily get misconstrued and extended way too far. With the suicide bomber analogy, Mr Johnson displayed his usual contempt for good taste and, as ever, took delight on winding up his opponents. These include two of his own former ministers at the Foreign Office, Alistair Burt and Sir Alan Duncan, who know his ways well and may be forgiven for letting off steam. Sir Alan called it disgusting. True, but it did the trick: Johnson is dominating the headlines again, just ahead of the Tory conference and crucial EU summits. It’s pretty obvious what he is up to.

On the substance though, there was little new in this intervention. Mr Johnson has, at least privately, let it be known that he regards the issue of the Irish border as a subsidiary one, unnecessarily getting in the way of his vision of Brexit. He apparently now regards the whole question as a plot by closet Remainers to keep the UK either in the EU or as close to the EU as makes no difference – Brexit in name only.

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The EU can’t solve these issues by moving back to laws that cover traditional media. They need education, or this will fail spectacularly.

Battle Over EU Copyright Law Heads For Showdown (G.)

Fought with hashtags, mailshots, open letters and celebrity endorsements, the battle over the European Union’s draft directive on copyright heads for a showdown this week. After two years of debate, members of the European parliament will vote on Wednesday on the legislation, which could change the balance of power between producers of music, news and film and the dominant websites that host their work. Proposed in 2016 to update copyright law for the age of Facebook and Google, the directive has unleashed a ferocious lobbying war. Lawmakers have been bombarded with millions of emails and thousands of calls, many based on standard scripts written by lobbyists. Some have even received death threats, according to the French MEP Virginie Rozière.

Critics claim the proposal will destroy the internet, spelling the end of sharing holiday snaps or memes on Facebook. Proponents are exasperated by such claims, described by German Christian Democrat Axel Voss as “totally wrong” and “fake news”. Amid last-minute writing and rewriting of amendments, the final outcome cannot be predicted. The proposals were rejected by the European parliament in July, despite earlier support in a relevant committee. Among the latest to mobilise in favour were 165 film-makers and screenwriters, including the British director Mike Leigh, who launched an appeal at the Venice film festival last week calling on EU lawmakers to pass the law. In July McCartney pressed MEPs to stop tech firms exploiting musicians.

Europe’s biggest news agencies have also urged MEPs to vote for the law, as they accused Google and Facebook of “plundering” the news and their ad revenues, resulting in a “threat to democracy”. “For the sake of Europe’s free press and democratic values, EU lawmakers should press ahead with copyright reform,” said a statement signed by 20 agencies, including the Press Association and Agence France-Presse. Opponents are no less forceful. Wikipedia shut down its pages in some countries in protest at the plans, which it claims would force the closure of its user-generated encyclopaedia. Berners-Lee is among 70 internet luminaries to oppose the law, arguing it would be transform the internet from an open platform into a tool for “automated surveillance and control”. The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, has raised concerns about “prepublication censorship”.

Read more …

RT reports first US chemical attck in Syria over the weekend.

US Senator: MI6 Planning Fake Chemical Weapons Attack On Syria (WaPo)

Fresh off a sitdown with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Virginia state senator Richard Black turned up on Arab TV last week making an extraordinary claim about one of the US’ closest allies. Mr Black said Britain’s MI6 intelligence service was planning a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, which it would then blame on Mr Assad. “Around four weeks ago, we knew that British intelligence was working towards a chemical attack in order to blame the Syrian government, to hold Syria responsible,” Mr Black said on Al Mayadeen, an Arab news channel based in Beirut. Mr Black said later that he meant the British were planning not to carry out an attack themselves, but to either direct rebels to do so or stage a phoney attack, with actors posing as victims.

Mr Black also said some chemical attacks previously reported to have occurred in Syria were British fakes, pulled off with help from volunteer first responders known as “White Helmets”. “From what I can tell, they have been planning a fake attack, not a genuine one, but one where they actually move people out of a town and they have trained people to portray victims of a gas attack,” Mr Black said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And the plan is to use the White Helmets who have always been involved in these notorious deceptions, to portray an attack.” The State Department flatly rejected Mr Black’s allegations, which echoed what it called “outrageous” Russian and Assad-regime claims that Britain and the US have carried out chemical attacks with help from the White Helmets.

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Not sure looking backward is the way to go. Tempting because of choice details that seem to fit, but this is new.

What Caused The Crash Of 2008 Now Shapes Our Post-Modern 1930s (Varoufakis)

In the autumn of 2008 events unfolded in Wall Street that the crushing majority of people around the world had been led to believe could never occur. It was the financial equivalent of watching the sun spinning out of control soon after it rose above the horizon. Humanity watched on in collective disbelief. The ancient Greeks had a term for moments like that one: aporia – a state of intense bafflement urgently demanding a new model of the world we live in. The Crash of 2008 was such a moment. Suddenly, the world ceased to make sense in terms of what, a few weeks before, passed as conventional wisdom.

Before long, the repercussions were felt everywhere. The certainties created by decades of of establishment thinking were gone, along with around $40 trillion of equity globally, $14 trillion of household wealth in the US alone, 700,000 US jobs every month, countless repossessed homes everywhere; the list is as long as the numbers it includes are unfathomable. Even McDonald’s, for goodness’ sake, could not secure an overdraft from Bank of America! The collective aporia intensified by the response of governments that had hitherto clinged tenaciously onto fiscal conservatism, as perhaps the 20th century’s last surviving ideology: the pouring of trillions of dollars, euros, yen etc. into a financial system which had been, until a few months before, on a huge roll, accumulating fabulous profits and provocatively professing to have found the pot of gold at the end of some globalised rainbow.

And when that response proved too feeble, our Presidents and Prime Ministers, men and women with impeccable anti-statist neoliberal credentials, embarked upon a spree of nationalising banks, insurance companies and automakers that put even Lenin’s 1917 exploits to shame. Ten years on, the crisis unleashed in Wall Street in 2008 is still with us. It takes different forms in different countries (i.e. a Great Depression in places like Greece, a scourge of middle class savers in countries like Germany, history’s greatest sponsor of brutal inequality in the United States, a permanent cause of geopolitical and trade tensions in Asia, Eastern Europe etc.). It migrates from continent to continent, from country to country. It morphs from an unemployment-generator to a deflation-machine, to another banking crisis, to a maximiser of trade and capital global imbalances.

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Given their role in the whole crisis, why do these banks still exist?

Greek Bank Profits Are Hurt By Credit Contraction (K.)

The return of Greek banks to profit becomes particularly fragile as long as the credit contraction persists. The reduction of loan issues, which has gone on for almost a decade, is depriving the credit system of its main source of revenues – takings from interests – while undermining efforts to improve the expenditure index that in the first half of the year deteriorated for local banks. Domestic lenders’ January-June financial results point to a fresh reduction in interest revenues, ranging from -1.5% to -22.5%, depending on the bank.

At the same time, revenues from commissions have increase by between 0.5% and 5.5% as banks have shifted their focus to increasing takings from commissions, especially after the imposition of capital controls in June 2015. However, the commissions are just a fraction of the interest revenues and cannot offset the losses from the main source of operating profits of banks. The biggest drop in interest revenues in the first half of the year belonged to National Bank (-22.5% to 564.4 million euros), which is attributed to the application of the new accounting standards (IFRS 9) in the first quarter and the repricing of mortgage loans amounting to 800 million euros. At the same time the NBG’s loan issues dropped 7.1% year-on-year.

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Perfecting the art of faking it.

Greek PM Promises Relief Measures After Years Of Austerity (G.)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has announced a raft of relief measures “to mend wounds” created during Greece’s prolonged economic crisis, as he attempts to recover the popularity he has lost since enforcing contentious austerity measures. In his first major policy address since debt-stricken Athens ended more than eight years of foreign tutelage under international bailout in August, the leftist leader pledged to raise wages, cut taxes and forge ahead with welfare spending. Far from backsliding on the fiscal progress the crisis-plagued country has made, the counter measures would help kickstart growth, Tsipras said, hailing a “new era of rebirth”.

“Higher wages, labour market regulation and respect for labour rights … are a prerequisite for growth,” he told delegates attending the Thessaloniki International Fair where annual economic policy goals are traditionally laid out. “The Greek economy is stabilised … we are a normal country now.” Tsipras said the tax cuts will include dramatically reducing a property levy for those worst affected by the crisis in 2019, and lowering sales VAT in 2021. Corporate tax, the bane of business development in the nation long on the frontline of the euro crisis, would be reduced from 29% to 25% by 2022. “It is the least we can do to mend wounds, reduce great burdens and create a growth dynamic in the Greek economy,” Tsipras said.

Other measures ranged from reinstating collective wage bargaining – a highly sensitive point among international creditors who have sought to trim the power of unions – and applying retroactive pay rises worth €1bn for university professors, the police, military and judiciary. [..] On Sunday, in his annual state of the nation press conference, Tsipras said because Greece was “outperforming all fiscal targets” his government would not only meet the new goals but argue that other cuts Athens has committed to were no longer necessary. At the behest of eurozone creditors the government has agreed to further scale back pensions in January 2019. “The economy is doing well,” Tsipras told reporters assembled in Thessaloniki. “I don’t know if you understand that, but the economy is doing well.”

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By someone who doesn’t support it.

Petition To Offer Assange Asylum To Be Presented To New Zealand Parliament (RT)

A petition with thousands of signatures supporting Julian Assange’s political asylum will be presented to New Zealand’s parliament. Labour Party politician Greg O’Connor said while he personally does not support Assange obtaining asylum in NZ, he will present the petition to parliament after more than 2,000 people signed their names in support of the WikiLeaks founder, reports Newstalk ZB. The parliamentary petition, launched in July 2018, will now be delivered to the Clerk of the house for allocation to a select committee for formal consideration. The ‘Free Assange NZ’ group said they haven’t forgotten the Australian’s plight and are following whistleblower Chelsea Manning on her tour of the country to remind people of the petition and its political progress. On Saturday night Assange supporters gathered outside the Embassy Theatre where Manning was speaking.

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Let’s see them.

US Lawyers Say They Have ‘Explosive’ Documents About Monsanto In Europe (EN)

US lawyers say they have “explosive” documents about crisis-hit agribusiness giant Monsanto and their affairs in Europe. Those involved in a successful lawsuit against the firm have been in Brussels, addressing a European Parliament special committee. Last month, Monsanto was ordered to pay 289 million dollars to a former school groundskeeper dying of cancer, after it was agreed the firm’s Roundup weedkilled contributed to his disease. “What we have is the tip of the iceberg. And in fact we have documents now in our possession, several hundreds documents, that have not been declassified and some of those are explosive,” said US lawyer Robert Jr. Kennedy.

“And many of them are pertinent to what Monsanto did here in Europe. And that’s just the beginning.” Beyond the environmental battle, what’s happened also raises the issue of transparency. For one Green MEP, the US legal battle is also one for democracy. “They are fighting a fight for more democracy and for transparency and to get a better insight in how big corporation such as Monsanto act and try to manipulate the facts,” said Belgium’s Bart Staes. Last November, the EU approved the use of glyphosate, a chemical used in Monsanto’s Roundup product, for five years after a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

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Britain has shrunk to a sixe too small to have overseas territories.

Turtles, Whales And Birds Under Threat From Brexit Funding Cuts (Ind.)

Whales migrating across the Atlantic Ocean, turtles in the Caribbean and unique cloud forests in St Helena are all under threat as EU conservation projects are set to grind to a halt after Brexit. Following reports of the Falkland Islands’ penguins entering troubled waters as European funding dries up, conservationists working across Britain’s overseas territories have raised the alarm about the wider impact of this lost money. Due to their unusual status as neither fully parts of the UK nor independent states, these territories cannot access most domestic and international funding. This means EU money has offered a lifeline, and supports around a third of their conservation efforts.

There is currently no plan to make up for the shortfall that will emerge when existing projects finish. Stretching from the British Antarctic Territory to the Cayman Islands, the 14 UK overseas territories are home to hundreds of creatures found nowhere else on Earth. “There’s lots still unknown about the territories, they are quite a frontier,” said Jonathan Hall, who leads the RSPB’s overseas territories operations. “But they do hold at least 1,500 unique species – compared to the UK which has about 90.” These forgotten corners of the globe are home to more penguins than any other nation, a third of the world’s albatrosses and the largest coral atoll on the planet.

Many of the animals and plants found in these territories are critically endangered, and scientists estimate there are more than 2,000 species still awaiting discovery in their forests and lagoons. As the Brexit date looms, the government has promised to continue supporting ongoing projects in these regions, but beyond that local environmental groups are worried about how they will stay afloat. “It’s a huge concern,” said Charlie Butt, Caribbean territories programme manager at the RSPB. “The loss of a third of funding would be catastrophic from a conservation perspective.”

Read more …

Sep 092018
 
 September 9, 2018  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh A Restaurant at Asnieres 1887

 

The ‘Most Striking Development’ In 40 Years Of The US Economy (BI)
This Insider Betrayal Is A Sorry Precedent (Observer ed.)
Argentina, Turkey, Mexico … Fear Of Contagion Haunts Emerging Markets (G.)
No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To “Military On The Streets” (Ind.)
Brexit Talks At Risk Of Collapse (Ind.)
Bombshell Poll Reveals Heavy Union Backing For Second Brexit Vote (G.)
YouGov Poll Shows Support For A People’s Brexit Vote Is Solid (G.)
Fresh From End Of Bailout, Greek PM Announces Tax Breaks (R.)
Protect Assange From US Extradition, Amnesty International Tells UK (RT)
The Latest Incarnation of Capitalism (Jacobin)
What’s The Biggest Influence On The Way We Think? (G.)

 

 

This is going spectacularly wrong. Somone better stop it.

The ‘Most Striking Development’ In 40 Years Of The US Economy (BI)

French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading researchers of global income and wealth inequality, and became well-known in the United States when the English translation of his book “Capital in the 21st Century” became a surprise bestseller. For the past year, Piketty has been speaking about the 2018 World Inequality Report, published by the Paris School of Economics’ World Inequality Lab last December. Piketty coauthored the report alongside Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman. In his talks in the US, Piketty has paid special attention to the following chart, which shows what he and his coauthors called “perhaps the most striking development in the United States economy over the last four decades.”

The authors write that “the incomes of the top 1% collectively made up 11% of national income in 1980, but now constitute above 20% of national income, while the 20% of US national income that was attributable to the bottom 50% in 1980 has fallen to just 12% today.” Further, “while average pre-tax income for the bottom 50% has stagnated at around $16,000 since 1980, the top 1% has experienced 300% growth in their incomes to approximately $1,340,000 in 2014. This has increased the average earnings differential between the top 1% and the bottom 50% from 27 times in 1980 to 81 times today.”

Read more …

The Guardian/Observer, leading anti-Trump voice, has a piece ‘Unfit for President, but…” Look, just like the NYT, you no longer are a voice, because you’ve spent two years 24/7 denouncing the man with rumors and half-truths -like you did with Corbyn being anti-semite. You can’t now turn around and be a voice for democracy. You’re done.

This Insider Betrayal Is A Sorry Precedent (Observer ed.)

[..] the president’s discomfort, and his detractors’ glee, should not obscure more serious issues raised by this affair and by similarly critical revelations contained in a new exposé by the celebrated Watergate reporter Bob Woodward. Whatever one’s opinion of Trump, it is a matter of concern that unelected, unnamed officials are apparently willing and able to act in ways contrary to an elected president’s stated wishes and calculated to thwart his policies. Trump’s worst instincts must undoubtedly be resisted, as Barack Obama, rejoining the fight last week, has declared. The best way to achieve that, as ever in a democracy, is through public scrutiny and open debate. Every leader needs candid advisers.

But who are these self-described “adults in the room” to clandestinely decide what is in the best interests of the country? Their motives may be sound, but their illicit actions, boasted of publicly, set a worrisome precedent. They have also gifted Trump a golden opportunity to peddle his favourite narrative of an establishment conspiring against him, aided and abetted by media organisations – which he terms “enemies of the people”. Speaking in Montana on Thursday, he seized his chance. “Unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself,” he declared.

The anonymous writer tried to provide reassurance that things in the White House are not as bad as they seem. Woodward’s new book, Fear, suggests the exact opposite: they are worse. It describes a “Crazytown” of tantrums, endless crises, serial lying, unhinged behaviour, and an administration in a recurring state of nervous breakdown.

Read more …

It’s not so much dominoes falling one by one, it’s the USD that crashes down everything.

Argentina, Turkey, Mexico … Fear Of Contagion Haunts Emerging Markets (G.)

In the past six months, some of the world’s fastest-growing economies have found themselves flat on the floor, gasping for breath and, in one case, seeking help from the global financial rescue centre otherwise known as the IMF. Argentina’s $50bn bailout by the Washington-based lender of last resort is the most extreme event so far, but it sits alongside the dramatic collapse of the Turkish lira, a recession in South Africa and dire economic predictions for the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico. Making matters worse, the US is poised to slap tariffs as high as 25% on as much as $200bn worth of Chinese goods. If the US goes ahead, Beijing has already threatened to retaliate, which would only incense President Donald Trump further.

This tit-for-tat might only end when tariffs are applied to the entire $500bn of Chinese goods imported by America each year. In response, the stock markets of many developing nations have slumped in value, leaving investors to ask themselves whether they are witnessing an emerging-markets meltdown akin to the Asian crisis of 1997: a panic that wrecked the finances of several hedge funds and proved to be an hors d’oeuvre before the dotcom crash of 1999 and the global financial crisis of 2008. Investors have run for safety to such an extent that the MSCI Emerging Markets index, which measures the value of shares in emerging economies, has tumbled by more than 20% since the beginning of the year.

That slump appeared to be over in July, when Turkey and Argentina were seen as being isolated, and more importantly ringfenced, economic trouble spots. But figures last week showing that the US economy is steaming along like a runaway train – underlining the likelihood of more US interest rate rises – have sent the currencies and stock markets of most emerging-market economies tumbling again. Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at currency dealer FXTM, says that a sense of doom is lingering in the financial markets as fears of contagion from the “brutal emerging-market sell-off” rattle investor confidence. “More pain seems to be ahead for emerging markets as the combination of global trade tensions, prospects of higher US interest rates and overall market uncertainty haunt investor attraction,” he says.

Read more …

Now we’re talking.

No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To “Military On The Streets” (Ind.)

A no-deal Brexit could lead to the “real possibility” of police calling upon the military to help with civil disorder, a leaked document claims. Contingency plans are being drawn up by police chiefs if there is chaos on the streets due to shortages of goods, food and medicine, The document prepared by the National Police Co-ordination Centre (NPoCC) warns of traffic queues at ports with “unprecedented and overwhelming” disruption to the road network. Concerns around medical supplies could “feed civil disorder”, while a rise in the price of goods could also lead to “widespread protest”, the document obtained by the Sunday Times said.

The potential for a restricted supply of goods raised concerns of “widespread protest which could then escalate into disorder”. It could also trigger a rise in non-Brexit-related acquisitive crime such as theft. The document, set to be considered by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) later this month, also sets out concerns of increased data costs, loss of warrant cards and queues at ports and docks around the country. Shadow police minister Louise Haigh lashed out at the Government’s handling of the situation. “This is the nightmare scenario long feared; according to the UK’s most senior police officers a no-deal Brexit could leave Britain on the brink,” she said.

Read more …

May keeps pushing the same button after it’s failed 1000 times. The EU won’t give.

Brexit Talks At Risk Of Collapse (Ind.)

Brexit talks are at risk of collapse as a planned EU compromise on the critical question of the Irish border has been branded “unacceptable” by British cabinet ministers. The Independent has learnt that EU officials believe they have struck upon “the only way” to bring the two sides together on the Irish border in a bid to secure a withdrawal agreement later this year. But their proposal has already been outright rejected by at least two cabinet ministers, with one going further and branding the EU’s suggestion “bollocks”. The impasse over the Irish border threatens to bring the talks crashing down with Theresa May’s beleaguered Chequers proposal already lacking support both in Europe and among her own MPs in Westminster.

The Independent now understands that the EU will try to break the deadlock in negotiations by offering the UK a vague political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship in return for a deal on the Irish border. A well-placed Brussels source said: “This may well prove the only way to respect the EU’s red lines and allow Theresa May to win approval for a deal in the UK parliament. “The political declaration holds the key to reaching a deal.” Since the start of Brexit talks Brussels has insisted the UK sign up to a legally binding “backstop”, which would come into play if no arrangement to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland is found before Brexit day. It would see Northern Ireland effectively remain in the EU’s customs union and single market, creating a customs border down the Irish sea – something both Ms May and her DUP partners say is unacceptable.

[..] The strength of opposition indicates Ms May could face a further round of cabinet resignations if she were to consider agreeing to such a proposal, with Boris Johnson and David Davis having already quit earlier this year. A government spokesman said: “We don’t comment on speculation. The proposals we have put forward for our future relationship would allow both sides to meet our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland in full and we are working hard to get a deal on that basis. “But we are clear the EU backstop proposals are unacceptable.”

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The Tories are thinking: we got rid of unions, didn’t we?

Bombshell Poll Reveals Heavy Union Backing For Second Brexit Vote (G.)

Members of Britain’s three biggest trade unions now support a new referendum on Brexit by a margin of more than two to one, according to a bombshell poll that will cause political shockwaves on the eve of the party conference season. The survey of more than 2,700 members of Unite, Unison and the GMB by YouGov, for the People’s Vote campaign, also finds that a clear majority of members of the three unions now back staying in the EU, believing Brexit will be bad for jobs and living standards. The poll comes as union delegates gather in Manchester for the annual TUC conference, where Brexit will be debated on Monday, and two weeks before the Labour party conference in Liverpool, where delegates are expected to debate and vote on Brexit policy. They will also consider calls to keep open the option of a fresh referendum on any deal Theresa May may strike on the UK’s exit from the EU.

In an interview with the Observer before the poll findings were released, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said his preferred option was still for voters to be offered a say on the government’s handling of Brexit – and any deal brought back from Brussels by May – in a general election. But he said that if Labour was unable to force one in the coming months, he wanted to “keep all options open”, including supporting a new referendum. McDonnell said he was sure there would be a full debate, and votes, on Brexit at the Labour conference. And he went out of his way to praise the People’s Vote campaign, which he said had been very “constructive” and had made clear that its attempts to influence Labour policy should not be seen “as an attack on Jeremy Corbyn or positioning around the leadership. It should be a constructive debate and that is right.”

The poll found that members of Unite, the country’s biggest union, and Labour’s largest financial backer, now support a referendum on the final Brexit deal by 59% to 33% and support staying in the EU by 61% to 35%. GMB’s members support putting the issue back to the people by 56% to 33% and its members want the UK to stay in the EU by 55% to 37%. Unison members back another referendum by 66% to 22% and would opt to stay in the EU by 61% to 35%.

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That second vote will come, or else…

YouGov Poll Shows Support For A People’s Brexit Vote Is Solid (G.)

Thirty years ago this week, Jacques Delors came to Bournemouth to urge Britain’s trade unions to change their stance on Europe. The president of the European commission told TUC delegates that the EU was good for workers’ jobs, workers’ rights and workers’ living standards. It was a decisive moment in the union movement’s relationship with Brussels. This week could be equally decisive for the TUC – perhaps even more so – given the precarious balance of forces at Westminster. And the clear message from YouGov’s poll of more than 2,700 members of the TUC’s three biggest unions is that most trade union members think Brexit is bad for jobs; they want a fresh public vote and the chance to keep the UK in the EU.

Can we be sure that YouGov’s figures are right? Do the people it polled accurately reflect the views of all the members of the three big unions? I recall the same questions being asked when YouGov first showed Jeremy Corbyn well ahead in the race for the Labour leadership three years ago. Nonsense, said the critics. YouGov’s respondents, they claimed, were hopelessly biased towards leftwing activists. When it came to it, Corbyn won by almost precisely the majority reported in the final poll. And the methods YouGov used in the latest union survey are essentially the same as it used in Labour’s leadership election three years ago.

It’s not that trade union members are indulging in gesture politics or ideological breast-beating. They are worried about the impact of Brexit on jobs, taxes, living standards and the NHS. They fear a Brexit Britain would find it harder to sell products and services abroad. Their attitudes to immigration are especially significant. In the 2016 referendum, one of the arguments for Brexit was that immigrant workers were undercutting the pay of low-paid British workers. Brexit, so the argument ran, would allow Britain to stop this. As a result, there would be more, and better-paid, jobs for British workers.

Many Unite, Unison and GMB members earn below-average wages. They might be expected to support that part of the Brexit agenda. They don’t. Overwhelming majorities, ranging from 74% to 85%, want EU citizens either to have complete freedom of movement to come to the UK, or the freedom to settle here if they have a job or university place lined up.

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Tsipras is trying to create the impression that he decides and is bold. He has no say at all.

Fresh From End Of Bailout, Greek PM Announces Tax Breaks (R.)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday unveiled plans for tax cuts and pledged spending to heal years of painful austerity, less than a month after Greece emerged from a bailout program financed by its EU partners and the IMF. Tsipras, who faces elections in about a year’s time, used a keynote policy speech in the northern city of Thessaloniki to announce a spending spree that he said would help fix the ills of years of belt-tightening, and help boost growth. But he said Athens was also committed to sticking to the fiscal targets and reforms promised to its lenders. Greece has agreed to maintain an annual primary budget surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 3.5 percent of GDP up to 2022.

So far, it has outperformed on fiscal goals and the economy has returned to growth. “We will not allow Greece to revert to the era of deficits and fiscal derailment,” he told an audience of officials, diplomats and businessmen. He said would beat its primary surplus target again this year and, following a debt relief deal in June, he could “safely plan its post-bailout future”. Government officials have put this year’s fiscal room at 800 million euros. Tsipras promised a phased reduction of corporate tax to 25 percent from 29 percent from next year, as well as an average 30 percent reduction in a deeply unpopular annual property tax on homeowners, rising to 50 percent for low earners.

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Amnesty’s Aussie branch. Timing?!

Protect Assange From US Extradition, Amnesty International Tells UK (RT)

Amnesty International has backed calls to not extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, arguing that this would put his human rights at serious risk of abuse. The statement, issued Friday by the group’s Australian branch, backed Assange’s lawyers and supporters’ claim that if he is sent to the US, “he would face a real risk of serious human rights violations due to his work with WikiLeaks.” Amnesty said that Assange could face several human rights violations in the event that he is extradited to the US, including: violation of his right to freedom of expression; right to liberty; right to life if the death penalty were sought; and being held in conditions that would violate his right to humane treatment.

While Amnesty said it took “no position” on Ecuador’s decision to grant, and then withdraw, Assange’s diplomatic asylum, it did call on the UK government to recognize the “need for international protection vis-a-vis the USA” in relation to the whistleblower’s case. Amnesty has joined several other humanitarian organizations by backing Assange and denouncing any extradition attempt. These include the UN Human Rights office, Human Rights Watch, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

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How cheap money saved and doomed the world at the same time.

The Latest Incarnation of Capitalism (Jacobin)

Financialization — “the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy” — is a process that began in the 1980s with the removal of barriers to capital mobility. Global capital flows rose from about 5 percent of world GDP in the mid-1990s to about 20 percent in 2007. This is about three times faster than world trade flows. Increases in capital mobility helped facilitate the emergence of large imbalances between creditor countries with large current account surpluses and debtors with large current account deficits. According to textbook economic theory, these imbalances should be self-correcting.

When a country runs a deficit, currency is flowing out of the country. If this currency does not return in the form of capital inflows, the resulting increase in supply will exert downward pressure on the currency. A less valuable currency makes your exports cheaper to international consumers and should therefore increase demand for those exports. Played out over the scale of the global economy, this should lead to equilibrium. In the lead-up to the crisis, the fact that this equilibrium was not forthcoming puzzled some economists. Deficit countries should have been experiencing large currency depreciations, given the size of their current account deficits. These depreciations should, in turn, then have increased the competitiveness of their goods.

Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Fed, accused a number of emerging economies of “hoarding” savings to protect themselves from future crises, preventing the global economy from reaching equilibrium. In fact, deficit countries were able to maintain strong currencies because, even though there was relatively little demand for their goods, there was strong demand for their assets — particularly financial assets. The main reason for the high demand for UK and US assets was the financial deregulation undertaken by neoliberal governments in these states in the 1980s, which facilitated a dramatic expansion in the provision of private credit to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions.

In the UK, consumer debt — primarily composed of mortgage lending — reached 148 percent of household disposable incomes in 2008, the highest it has ever been. While UK banks’ lending to the non-financial economy rose 50 percent between 2005-8, their lending to other financial institutions rose by 260 percent. Capital from the rest of the world flowed into banks in the UK and the US, which were generating significant returns from this lending.

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Google shapes are thought and we have no idea.

What’s The Biggest Influence On The Way We Think? (G.)

Google search is in a different league from earlier tools, and so the consequences of being dependent on it are more serious and far-reaching – for two inter-related reasons. The first is that it can influence what you think you know and shape the way you think because it knows more about you than you realise. And secondly, it’s not a passive tool that you own and control, but the property of a huge corporation that has acquired strange – and in some ways unprecedented – powers. Ten years ago, Nicholas Carr published a striking article – “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” – in the Atlantic. The title was misleading because the thrust of the piece was actually about how the internet might be messing with our brains, and in that sense Carr was using Google as a proxy for the technology in general.

Which is a pity because there are plenty of important questions to be asked about Google’s impact on the way we think. Its search results, for example, are heavily influenced by how many websites it finds that are supposedly relevant to a query. Sometimes, that’s fine. But sometimes it’s toxic – yet many people think it provides the “truth”. And because people’s search queries can sometimes be very revealing, the company knows more about people’s innermost secrets, fears and fantasies than even their friends or partners. We ask Google questions that we would not breathe to any living soul.

So Google, as philosopher Benjamin Curtis points out, is anything but a passive cognitive tool. Its current offerings, boosted by machine learning algorithms, are increasingly suggestive. Its Maps not only provide navigational help but give us “personalised location suggestions that it thinks will interest us”. Gmail makes helpful suggestions about what to type in a reply and Google News highlights stories that it believes we will find interesting. “All of this,” says Curtis, “removes the very need to think and make decisions for ourselves.” It “fills gaps in our cognitive processes, and so fills gaps in our minds”.

In two short decades, therefore, Google has gone from being a geeky delight to something that influences the way we think. All of which brings to mind something that John Culkin, a buddy of Marshall McLuhan, said many years ago: “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Amen to that. And you can Google him to check the quote.

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Sep 082018
 
 September 8, 2018  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Rispal Restaurant at Asnieres 1887

 

Obama Claims Ownership Of US Economic Recovery (MW)
Trump Has Set Economic Growth On Fire. Here Is How He Did It (CNBC)
May Urged To Ignore ‘Three Stooges’ In Brexit Negotiations (G.)
Cohen Seeks To Vacate Hush-Money Deal With Stormy Daniels (Hill)
Papadopoulos Sentenced To 14 Days In Prison For Lying To FBI (ES)
Secret Grand Jury Proceedings Underway Against Andrew McCabe (ZH)
Apple Bans Alex Jones App For ‘Objectionable Content’ (R.)
Erdogan Legacy Construction Projects Stall In Turkish Financial Crisis (Ind.)
Slouching Toward Okeefenoke (Kunstler)
Russia Asks Britain For Help In Identifying Novichok Suspects (G.)
Nike Online Sales Jump 31% After Company Unveiled Kaepernick Campaign (MW)

 

 

I’d say be careful what you claim ownership of. Because you break it, you own it

Obama Claims Ownership Of US Economic Recovery (MW)

Former President Barack Obama on Friday used a speech at the University of Illinois to sharply criticize his successor as well as claim ownership of the U.S. economic recovery. Speaking in Urbana, Ill., where he received an award for ethics in government, Obama recalled that the U.S. economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month when he entered office. “We worked hard to end that crisis but also break some of these longer-term trends,” said Obama, who is planning a series of campaign trips ahead of the midterm elections in November. “By the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate had hit an all-time low and wages were rising,” he said. “I mention all this so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started.

“I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on … I have to kind of remind them, actually those job numbers are kind of the same as they were in 2015 and 2016.” On that, Obama is correct. U.S. job growth averaged 226,000 per month in 2015, 195,000 in 2016, 182,000 in 2017 and, so far this year, 207,000. Data also show a pickup in business and consumer confidence after Trump’s election. The U.S. is on track to grow more than 3% in 2018, a rate of economic expansion not recorded over the course of a full calendar year since the second term of the George W. Bush administration. At a North Dakota event, Trump responded. “Obama was trying to take credit for this incredible thing that’s happening,” Trump said.

“I have to say this to President Obama – if the Dems got in with their agenda in November of almost 2 years ago, instead of having 4.2 up, I believe honestly we’d have 4.2 down,” he said, referring to GDP growth of 4.2% in the second quarter. Obama meanwhile had a broader attack on Trump than just the economy. Mentioning Trump by name, Obama said political division is more manufactured than real. “Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep up cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege,” he said. “And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments. It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama said to applause.

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And these ownership claims are easy to argue.

Trump Has Set Economic Growth On Fire. Here Is How He Did It (CNBC)

President Donald Trump is more than 19 months into an administration engulfed in so much controversy that it may overshadow a tremendous achievement, namely an economic boom uniquely his. During his time in office, the economy has achieved feats most experts thought impossible. GDP is growing at a 3 percent-plus rate. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low. Meanwhile, the stock market has jumped 27 percent amid a surge in corporate profits. Friday brought another round of good news: Nonfarm payrolls rose by a better-than-expected 201,000 and wages, the last missing piece of the economic recovery, increased by 2.9 percent year over year to the highest level since April 2009.

That made it the best gain since the recession ended in June 2009. His critics, a group that includes a legion of Wall Street economists, most Democrats and even some in his own Republican Party, don’t believe it will last. They figure the current boom will begin petering out as soon as mid-2019 and possibly end in recession in 2020. But even they acknowledge that the current numbers are a uniquely Trumpian achievement and not owed to policies already set in motion when he took office. “I still believe the big story this year is an economic boom that most folks thought impossible,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council and a chief advisor to Trump, said in a recent interview with CNBC.com. “I understand that he’s been in for a year and a half, but when you look at those numbers, this is not going away.”

Indeed, the economy does seem to be on fire, and it’s fairly easy to draw a straight line from Trump’s policies to the current trends. Business confidence is soaring, in part thanks to a softer regulatory environment. Consumer sentiment by one measure is at its highest level in 18 years. Corporate profits, owed in good part to last year’s tax cuts, are coming close to setting records.

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May will have to bend a lot.

May Urged To Ignore ‘Three Stooges’ In Brexit Negotiations (G.)

An EU commissioner has likened Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage to the “Three Stooges” and issued a stern warning to Theresa May that there would be no Brexit deal next March if she insisted on sticking to her Chequers proposal. In a speech in Ireland on Friday, Phil Hogan said the EU would fight to the end to preserve the union of nations that has stood for the past 60 years. He said Brussels would not allow the bloc to be damaged just to save the UK “from its own silliness” and reiterated the EU position that the four freedoms forming the bedrock of the union were not negotiable. He said the only room for a special deal on deviating from the four freedoms would be in relation to Northern Ireland.

“The EU’s first offer, reflexively rejected, was a significant departure from our internal market policy. And it was meant for Northern Ireland only. It was that Northern Ireland could remain in the single market with the EU27,” he said. Instead of accepting that offer, the UK’s reply, he said, was “‘Let’s restrict the single market to goods and generalise it for the whole UK.’ The EU’s answer has already been given: no. “If the UK attitude is Chequers and only Chequers, there will be no agreement before March next year on the future trade relationship,” he said. He said that if May could not progress the UK’s position then the EU’s offer on a future trade deal would be the one it put forward months ago, “essentially a Canada-type trade arrangement”. He added: “There is nothing new in this. Each time she is asked about her red lines, the prime minister repeats them, making a Canada-type trade deal more likely.

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Curious development. Trying to make it look like it never happened?

Cohen Seeks To Vacate Hush-Money Deal With Stormy Daniels (Hill)

Michael Cohen’s shell company has reportedly moved to vacate a 2016 nondisclosure agreement with adult-film star Stormy Daniels, requesting that she return the $130,000 she received as part of the deal. Cohen’s lawyer Brent Blakely said Friday that California law requires Daniels to return the money that Cohen paid her in 2016 to stay quiet about her alleged affair with President Trump in 2006, CNN reports. “Today, Essential Consultants LLC and Michael Cohen have effectively put an end to the lawsuits filed against them by Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels,” Blakely told CNN.

“The rescission of the Confidential Settlement Agreement will result in Ms. Clifford returning to Essential Consultants the $130,000 she received in consideration, as required by California law,” he added. A source familiar with Cohen’s thinking told the network that Cohen no longer benefits from Daniels’s promise to keep quiet about the affair. The existence of the deal, and Daniels’s alleged affair, were reported by The Wall Street Journal originally in January, while Daniels has been outspoken about her allegations since then. Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Daniels in her defamation case against Cohen and Trump over their denials of the alleged affair, told CNN that the move was likely made in an attempt to protect Trump from being deposed.

“I haven’t had a chance to digest it, I just saw it on my email literally right before I came on,” Avenatti told CNN. “What they’re trying to do is they don’t want me to get a chance to depose Michael Cohen and Donald Trump,” he added. “This is a hail mary to try and avoid that, that’s my first guess.” Avenatti added in a tweet Friday night that Cohen “is back to playing games and trying to protect Donald Trump.” “He is now pulling a legal stunt to try and ‘fix it’ so that we can’t depose Trump and present evidence to the American people about what happened. He is not a hero nor a patriot. He deserves what he gets,” the attorney added.

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If Mueller et al had a sense of decency, they’d have let him go on “Time Served”. All they’ve proven is that Papadopoulos is indeed a nobody. BTW, rumor has it that Joseph Mifsud is dead.

Papadopoulos Sentenced To 14 Days In Prison For Lying To FBI (ES)

President Trump’s former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI. He is the first former campaign aide to be sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation. In October 2017, he pled guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” who he thought had close connections to senior government officials. Mr Papadopoulos was a member of the campaign’s foreign policy team, but Trump aides have said he played a limited role in the campaign and had no access to the candidate.

Court papers revealed that Mr Papadopoulos was told about the Russians possessing “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” on April 26 2016, well before it became public that the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails had been hacked. The interactions at the centre of the case included speaking with Russian intermediaries who were attempting to line up a meeting between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and offering “dirt” on Mrs Clinton. During the trial, Mr Papadopoulos apologised for his actions, telling a judge that he had made a “dreadful mistake” and was eager for redemption.

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See, Papadopoulos gets jailed for lying to the FBI (about nothing). Now, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lied 4x, twide under oath, about leaking FBI info to the press. Which is worse? And if this concerns the FBI so much, how come Mueller, ex-FBI head, conducts the investigation?

Secret Grand Jury Proceedings Underway Against Andrew McCabe (ZH)

Federal prosecutors have been using a grand jury over the last several months to investigate former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, reports the Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the matter. What’s more, the grand jury has summoned at least two witnesses, and the case is ongoing according to WaPo’s sources. “The presence of the grand jury shows prosecutors are treating the matter seriously, locking in the accounts of witnesses who might later have to testify at a trial. But such panels are sometimes used only as investigative tools, and it remains unclear if McCabe will ultimately be charged.” -Washington Post

McCabe was fired on March 16 after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a criminal referral following a months-long probe, which found that McCabe lied four times, including twice under oath, about authorizing a self-serving leak to the press. Horowitz found that McCabe “had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.” Specifically, McCabe was fired for lying about authorizing an F.B.I. spokesman and attorney to tell Devlin Barrett of the Wall St. Journal – just days before the 2016 election, that the FBI had not put the brakes on a separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation, at a time in which McCabe was coming under fire for his wife taking a $467,500 campaign contribution from Clinton proxy pal, Terry McAuliffe.

In order to deal with his legal woes, McCabe set up a GoFundMe “legal defense fund” which stopped accepting donations, after support for the fired bureaucrat took in over half a million dollars – roughly $100,000 more than his wife’s campaign took from McAuliffe as McCabe’s office was investigating Clinton and her infamous charities.

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Let’s go through all the apps. And through all Twitter accounts. I understand Hamas and Ahmadinejad still operate.

Apple Bans Alex Jones App For ‘Objectionable Content’ (R.)

Apple said on Friday that it had banned from its App Store the Infowars app belonging to popular U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after finding that it had violated the company’s rules against “objectionable content”. The move makes Apple the latest tech company or social media platform to take action against Jones, a deeply controversial right-wing radio talk-show host who has suggested that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, among other sensational claims. Apple said the guidelines Jones violated bar “defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national/ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or place a targeted individual or group in harm’s way.”

Representatives for Jones could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters on Friday evening. On Thursday, Twitter Inc permanently banned Jones and his website from its platform and Periscope, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. In a video posted on the Infowars website on Thursday, Jones said in response: “I was taken down not because we lied but because we tell the truth and because we were popular.” Last month, Twitter banned Jones and Infowars for seven days, citing tweets that it said violated the company’s rules against abusive behavior, which state that a user may not engage in targeted harassment of someone or incite other people to do so.

Apple said at the time that the Infowars app remained in its store because it had not been found to be in violation of any content policies, although it had removed access to some podcasts by Jones. The podcasts differ from the Infowars app by allowing access to an extensive list of previous episodes, subjecting all of those past episodes to Apple’s content rules.

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Oh well, just blame America.

Erdogan Legacy Construction Projects Stall In Turkish Financial Crisis (Ind.)

Turkey’s financial meltdown has brought the country’s years-long construction boom screeching to a halt, with even some of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s favourite projects being suspended or scaled back amid a cash crunch and debt woes. In recent weeks, worried murmurs about stalled projects among developers and ordinary Turks about dormant construction sites and half-finished buildings left untouched for months have reached a crescendo. This week local news outlets reported that a key transport project in Istanbul, the Kabatas ferry terminal connecting the city’s European and Asian sides of Turkey’s commercial capital, would be scaled back.

Across the country, experts say construction sites have gone dormant, projects suspended or delayed. The construction cranes remain in place, but the work has stopped. “The huge companies that do fancy infrastructure projects – they don’t have any money,” said one developer who is well-connected to official circles. “The government has a spending freeze. They’re going to reconsider all the projects and reprioritise.” Mr Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, built his reputation and electoral popularity on undertaking gigantic public works projects like mosques, airports, and bridges, as well as facilitating big private sector projects that included showy housing complexes, glittery office towers, and shopping malls packed with Turkish and international retail brands.

But the miracle was built on cheap credit from abroad, which has now dried up in a climate of rising US interest rates and doubts about Turkey’s economic health. And financial experts, developers, and bankers say many of Turkey’s projects – including the 45km Istanbul canal connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara that even Mr Erdogan himself called “crazy” – are now in doubt. “The Istanbul Canal is almost impossible,” said Atilla Yesilada, an economist and consultant. “Because no one wants to lend to Turkey now.”

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A caravan of grand jury’s.

Slouching Toward Okeefenoke (Kunstler)

There is now a clear evidence trail about eight-lanes wide detailing Russian collusion of the Democratic Party, the Hillary Campaign, the FBI / DOJ, plus a caravan of Robert Mueller aides, adjuncts, colleagues and former trainees. They are all mixed up with a cavalcade of events weaving through more than one Clinton investigation (and its damage control operations), and they need to appear before grand juries too. Many, I suspect are criminally culpable and will end up in the slammer. Perhaps even ole Horse-face himself, grave and aseptic as he may seem.

I’ve caught two of Trump’s rallies the past week or so. His freestyling babble at the podium makes me wish I could wave a magic wand and just make him vanish in a cloud of orange vapor, or perhaps turn him into Richard Nixon. (Doesn’t all this make you nostalgic for ole Nixie?) He can’t shut up about the economic miracles that he has wrought with his mighty “stable genius” brain. Perhaps he has not noticed that the money system is crumbling all around the world at the margins. If he does not understand that this rot eventually must reach the center, then he has washed down too many cheeseburgers with his own Kool Aid.

Having taken ownership of all this lock, stock, and barrel, then he is perfectly situated to be blamed when the honey-wagon of algo trading robots turns south and whatever remains of the world’s hot money, including the US dollar, goes up in smoke. If it coincides even bluntly with the mid-term election, then we will find ourselves living through Civil War Two.

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2 Russian secret agents who make sure they get photographed by 5-6 different camera’s. Yeah.

Russia Asks Britain For Help In Identifying Novichok Suspects (G.)

Moscow has claimed it wants to ascertain as soon as possible the identities of the two men named by Britain as suspects in the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, and has asked London to help. “We need to establish who these people are, if these are [Russian] citizens or not,” said Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokeswoman on Friday. “We want to do this with maximum haste and effectiveness, and so we are again appealing to Britain for help in ascertaining the identities of these people.” Britain announced charges in absentia on Wednesday against two men believed to be officers with Russia’s military intelligence service, known as the GRU.

Theresa May said the men flew into Britain in March to try to murder Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who sold secrets to MI6, and accused the Russian government of orchestrating the operation. Scotland Yard said the alleged secret agents travelled to Britain under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, which were probably aliases. The Kremlin has described the allegations as unacceptable and denies that any Russian officials were involved. Zakharova also accused May of a “frank lie” over her claims that Russia had not offered Britain information after the nerve agent attack, and suggested that May had “selective access” to Russian media reports. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that Russia would not investigate the two suspects because it had not received a formal request for legal assistance from Britain.

Zakharova’s comments came as a purported ex-GRU officer claimed the attempted murder was too amateurish to have been the work of professional secret service agents. If GRU agents had wanted to target Skripal, they would have done it “quietly, without fuss, and brought him [to Russia] in a mail bag, and no one would have known where he had gone,” Ivan Tarasov told Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Tarasov also claimed the Skripals could have been targeted by a Russian crime gang, possibly over unpaid debts, and mocked reports that the suspects stayed in the same room in a cheap hotel near Salisbury. “That’s how bandits act, not professional secret service officers. GRU officers don’t stay in London hotels,” he said.

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I don’t care about Nike. But I do care about Kaepernick. See, if there’s one thing wrong here that proves him right, it’s that only black people come out in support of him. Where are his white colleagues, white athletes in general? Why only Tiger, Serena and LeBron?

The world he’s protesting is the one that is killing black kids. His protest started under the first black US president. So did Black Lives matter. So where is Obama on the issue? Why doesn’t he stand with Kaepernick?

Nike Online Sales Jump 31% After Company Unveiled Kaepernick Campaign (MW)

Talk of Nike Inc. sales taking a hit from the company’s decision to put ex–NFL player Colin Kaepernick at the center of its latest “Just Do It” campaign is looking overblown, based on data from a Silicon Valley digital commerce research company. After an initial dip immediately after the news broke, Nike’s online sales actually grew 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through Tuesday, as compared with a 17% gain recorded for the same period of 2017, according to San Francisco–based Edison Trends. “There was speculation that the Nike/Kaepernick campaign would lead to a drop in sales, but our data over the last week does not support that theory,” said Hetal Pandya, co-founder of Edison Trends.

Nike’s stock has also held up after its initial slump. The stock was up 1% on Friday and remains in the black for the month. It has gained 29% in 2018, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, which since 2013 has counted Nike as a member, has gained 5%, as the S&P 500 index has risen about 8%. The news generated plenty of online buzz, with social engagement around Nike and Kaepernick rising sharply this week, according to 4C Insights, a marketing technology company. Mentions of and comments about Nike on social-media platforms rose 1,678% on Sunday and Monday, according to 4C data. Mentions of Kaepernick spiked 362,280%, the data showed.

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