Jul 312019
 
 July 31, 2019  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustav Klimt Field of poppies 1907

 

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)
Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)
Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)
FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)
China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)
China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)
German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)
Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)
Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)
Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)
Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)
Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

 

 

Judge said DNC “claims entirely divorced from the facts”.

Judge Dismisses DNC Suit Against Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks (Pol.)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit the Democratic National Committee filed against the Trump campaign, the Russian government, WikiLeaks and various Trump campaign officials over alleged involvement in the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts during the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected the central theory of the racketeering suit: that the Trump campaign, campaign aides and Trump allies abetted the theft of the emails by encouraging WikiLeaks to publish the messages and by urging they be released when they would be of maximum political benefit to then-candidate Donald Trump. Koeltl said such actions were protected by the First Amendment when taken by people not involved in the actual hacking.

“Even if the documents had been provided directly to the Campaign [and] the Campaign defendants … they could have published the documents themselves without liability because they did not participate in the theft and the documents are of public concern,” the judge wrote in an 81-page opinion. “The DNC cannot hold these defendants liable for aiding and abetting publication when they would have been entitled to publish the stolen documents themselves without liability.” The judge said the DNC’s suit did not allege that anyone beyond the Russian Federation took part in the hacking of the Democratic Party computer systems or email accounts. And he concluded that WikiLeaks could not legitimately be sued as a recipient of that information because what it released was of genuine public interest.

“The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election,” Koeltl wrote. “This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.” Koeltl, a Manhattan-based appointee of President Bill Clinton, also rejected the DNC’s contention that fundraising-related records amount to trade secrets that get special protection under the law. “The DNC’s interest in keeping ‘donor lists’ and ‘fundraising strategies’ secret is dwarfed by the newsworthiness of the documents as a whole,” the judge wrote. “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

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They turned on him.

Trump Wants To Rein In Intelligence Agencies (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his choice for the next U.S. spy chief as someone who could “rein in” intelligence agencies that “have run amok,” fueling concerns Trump seeks assessments that support his own views. Trump’s choice of Republican Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas as the next director of national intelligence, has been greeted with scant enthusiasm by his fellow Republicans and charges by former intelligence officials and Democrats that he is unqualified and will frame intelligence to suit the president.


Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee for six months, would replace Dan Coats, whose judgments on Iran, North Korea and Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections clashed with Trump’s views, earning the president’s disdain. Returning to the White House from an appearance in Virginia, Trump on Tuesday said Ratcliffe “is going to do an incredible job, if he gets approved” by the Senate. “I think we need somebody like that in there,” he continued. “We need somebody strong that can rein it in. Because, as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They have run amok.” Trump denied he had a “conflict” with Coats, saying he was “a friend of mine” and a “terrific person.” But, he added, “Dan made statements and they were a little confused.”

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Overreach.

Trump’s Tax Returns Required Under New California Election Law (LAT)

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that immediately took effect Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates. The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on his final day to take action and passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November in order to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill approved by the Legislature earlier this month. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back. “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”

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That potato is darn hot.

FAA Hopes Global Regulators Simultaneously Approve Boeing 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration hopes civil aviation authorities around the world will decide at about the same time to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to resume flying, the agency told Congress on Tuesday in a letter seen by Reuters. The FAA and other regulators grounded the plane in March after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in letters to Senators Susan Collins and Jack Reed that the agency “hopes to achieve near simultaneous approval from the major civil aviation authorities around the world” but added that every regulator will make its own determination. “We are working with our colleagues from the European Union, Canada and Brazil to address their concerns,” he wrote.


Collins will chair a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that will feature four senior FAA officials, including Ali Bahrami, who oversees aviation safety. Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last week he was confident the MAX would be back in service as early as October after a certification flight in “the September time frame.” Ryan Air Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said Monday that he had been told that flight would be delayed until October. Boeing on Tuesday reiterated Muilenburg’s recent comments. Elwell said in his letter the FAA “will lift the 737 MAX grounding order only when it is safe to do so.”

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Shareholders buy each other’s stock with borrowed money and then use it as collateral to borrow more money..

China Probes Small Bank Shareholdings As Risk Worries Persist (R.)

China is sharpening its scrutiny of small banks’ shareholders amid fears that loans from the lenders to big investors could prove a weak point in the country’s financial system, jolted by the state’s weekend rescue of one lender and recent takeover of another. While nominally small, China’s numerous small city commercial banks risk having outsized significance because of their close ties to the rest of the banking system as well as with bigger shareholders, many of whom are giant companies. Earlier this month, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) asked banks and some other financial firms for details of any investor building up stakes of 5% or more without required regulatory approvals.

The regulator also asked the firms if they had disclosed all business transactions with their main owners, according to a regulatory notice seen by Reuters. Regulators have also conducted spot checks at some smaller banks in the last two months to probe possible misuse of capital linked to shareholders and transferring of ownership interests, said four people with direct knowledge of the matter. The scrutiny comes amid concerns that some debt-heavy Chinese private enterprises have amassed substantial stakes in smaller banks without regulatory approval and are using the lenders for their personal borrowings.

“There may be many shareholders using small Chinese banks as ATM machines, but I don’t think we have enough understanding of bank ownership to know,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Hong Kong-based Orient Capital Research. “Certainly if there are under-capitalized corporates as majority shareholders of the less well-funded smaller banks you could have a bank run,” he said, adding the regulators have so far done a good job of rescuing ailing financial firms.

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Blame outsiders: “..this is the creation of the U.S.”

China Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest (ZH)

Massive anti-Beijing protests which have gripped Hong Kong over the past month, and have become increasingly violent as both an overwhelmed local police force and counter-protesters have hit back with force, are threatening to escalate on a larger geopolitical scale after the White House weighed in this week. With China fast losing patience, there are new reports of a significant build-up of Chinese security forces on Hong Kong’s border, as Bloomberg reports: “The White House is monitoring what a senior administration official called a congregation of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.”

From nearly the start of the protests which began over a proposed extradition bill (which would see Hong Kong citizens under legal accusation potentially extradited to the mainland) interpreted as major Chinese overreach inside historically semi-autonomous Hong Kong, officials in Beijing have suggested an “external plot” afoot, more recently alleging the hidden hand of the United States. The latest charge made Tuesday by mainland government officials is that the still escalating Hong Kong unrest is the “creation of the US” — something which the Trump admin official speaking under anonymity to Bloomberg firmly denied.

On Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press interview that “protest is appropriate” and that “we hope the Chinese will do the right thing” regarding respecting Hong Kong’s historic “one country, two systems” status. This was enough to elicit a quick response alleging US meddling out of Beijing on Tuesday. It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”

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Here’s thinking fraud is a serious offence in Germany.

German Prosecutors Charge Ex-VW Boss With Fraud (AFP)

German prosecutors said Monday they had charged former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other managers over “dieselgate”, bringing the cheating scandal back into the headlines just as VW battles to move on from the affair. Prosecutors in Brunswick, near VW’s Wolfsburg HQ in northern Germany, said they had charged Winterkorn and four other managers. Among the accusations against the former chief executive were “a particularly serious case of fraud”, “infraction of the law against unfair competition” and “breach of trust”. Winterkorn was CEO during a period when VW fitted 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide with so-called “defeat devices” – software that made them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions.


Such allegations have hit other German manufacturers since, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler confirming Sunday it was facing a regulatory probe, reportedly over 60,000 vehicles. At the helm from 2007 to 2015, Winterkorn, a trained engineer, had a reputation as a detail-obsessed executive who was familiar with “every screw” of each VW model. The group admitted to the fraud in September 2015, beginning a drawn-out process of fact-finding and legal action that has so far seen it pay out $33 billion in fines, compensation and buyback schemes, much of it in the United States.

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Wishful thinking?!

Jeremy Corbyn’s Finest Hour? (Varoufakis)

Since the 2016 referendum, a civil war-like atmosphere has made it increasingly impossible for Leavers and Remainers to hold a civilized conversation. Corbyn valiantly tried to keep Labour’s Leavers and Remainers together by seeking an honorable compromise: The UK would formally leave the EU, to respect the referendum’s outcome, while remaining in as many of the bloc’s structures as possible – including a customs union. Instead of applauding Corbyn for this tricky balancing act, his opponents within the Labour Party, together with a liberal establishment unprincipled enough to deliver all Leavers to Nigel Farage and Johnson, attacked him with extraordinary viciousness. But that was then and this is now.

With Johnson as prime minister, and his strategy crystal clear, Corbyn’s task is to expose the truth about Johnson’s no-deal Brexit – namely, that it means a Trump-deal Brexit – and put forward Labour’s plan to end the interminable Brexit ordeal immediately. Corbyn must first show voters that a Johnson government will turn the UK into a vassal state of a Trumpian US and of the multinationals eager to usurp the country’s cherished institutions (especially the National Health Service). Johnson will bind the UK to a global alliance of populist/nationalist regimes and destroy Britain’s chances to lead Europe and the world with a Green New Deal that overhauls a failed UK business model based on low taxes, low wages, low investment, zero-hour contracts, and unregulated finance.

Corbyn’s second task is to offer an alternative for ending the humiliation of the ongoing negotiations. That means committing to revoke Article 50 to allow a Labour government time to implement a green-investment, anti-austerity policy agenda in tune with the party’s progressive internationalism, while simultaneously organizing a Citizens’ Deliberative Assembly to formulate the question(s) to be put to voters in a second Brexit referendum. A general election fought over these two unequivocal alternatives, Johnson’s and Corbyn’s, would empower the UK’s people, at last, to determine their country’s future.

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Boris wants to ditch the backstop, and that automatically messes with Good Friday.

Mess With Good Friday And We’ll Block UK Trade Deal, US Politicians Warn (G.)

Any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked by the US Congress if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland, congressional leaders and diplomats have warned. Boris Johnson has presented a trade deal with the US as a way of offsetting the economic costs of leaving the EU, and Donald Trump promised the two countries could strike “a very substantial trade agreement” that would increase trade “four or five times”. Trump, however, would not be able to push an agreement through a hostile Congress, where there would be strong bipartisan opposition to any UK trade deal in the event of a threat to the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and to the open border between the two Irelands.


Johnson’s rise to power, and his demand for the EU to drop the backstop, which is intended to safeguard the open border after Brexit, has galvanised determination in Congress to make a stand in defence of the landmark accord, to which the US is guarantor. “The American dimension to the Good Friday agreement is indispensable,” said Richard Neal, who is co-chair of the 54-strong Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress, and also chairs the powerful House ways and means committee, with the power to hold up a trade deal indefinitely. “We oversee all trade agreements as part of our tax jurisdiction,” Neal, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. He pointed out that such a complex trade deal could take four or five years, even without the Northern Ireland issue.

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He said it as an observer, it’s not what he wants.

Dominic Cummings: Tories Do Not Care About Poor People Or NHS (G.)

Voters are right to think Tory MPs largely do not care about poorer people or the NHS, according to Dominic Cummings in comments that have emerged from two years ago. Boris Johnson’s new senior adviser and a key architect of Brexit gave his damning view on Conservative MPs at a conference in 2017, where he said: “People think, and by the way I think most people are right: ‘The Tory party is run by people who basically don’t care about people like me.’ “That is what most people in the country have thought about the Tory party for decades. I know a lot of Tory MPs and I am sad to say the public is basically correct. Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS. And the public has kind of cottoned on to that.”


Cummings is now integral to Johnson’s administration, which has a majority of just two and is relying on Conservative and DUP MPs to back his Brexit strategy of taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October – unless he suspends parliament to achieve a no-deal exit. Ian Lavery, the chair of the Labour party, said it was a “staggering admission from the prime minister’s right-hand man”. “As Dominic Cummings says himself, the Conservatives don’t care about anything apart from looking after their rich friends – whether that means selling off our NHS to American corporations in pursuit of a Trump trade deal, or giving tax cuts to big businesses while cutting public services. We need a general election and a Labour government to protect our health service from the likes of Boris Johnson,” Lavery said.

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Shattering.

Toxic History Of Monsanto In The UK (OffG)

A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe. Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need.

While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says: “We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.” Mason begins by offering a brief history of Monsanto in the UK. In 1949, that company set up a chemical factory in Newport, Wales, where it manufactured PCBs until 1977 and a number of other dangerous chemicals. Monsanto was eventually found to be dumping toxic waste in the River Severn, public waterways and sewerage. It then paid a contractor which illegally dumped thousands of tons of cancer-causing chemicals, including PCBs, dioxins and Agent Orange derivatives, at two quarries in Wales – Brofiscin (80,000 tonnes) and Maendy (42,000 tonnes) – between 1965 and 1972.

Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston US in 1971 because of various scandals. However, the British government agreed to ramp up production at the Monsanto plant in Newport. In 2003, when toxic effluent from the quarry started leaking into people’s streams in Grosfaen, just outside Cardiff, the Environment Agency – a government agency concerned with flooding and pollution – was hired to clean up the site in 2005. Mason notes that the agency repeatedly failed to hold Monsanto accountable for its role in the pollution (a role that Monsanto denied from the outset) and consistently downplayed the dangers of the chemicals themselves. In a report prepared for the agency and the local authority in 2005 but never made public, the sites contain at least 67 toxic chemicals. Seven PCBs have been identified, along with vinyl chlorides and naphthalene. The unlined quarry is still leaking, the report says:

“Pollution of water has been occurring since the 1970s, the waste and groundwater has been shown to contain significant quantities of poisonous, noxious and polluting material, pollution of… waters will continue to occur.” Apart from these events in Wales, Mason outlines the overall toxic nature of Monsanto in the UK. For instance, she discusses the shockingly high levels of weedkiller in packaged cereals. Samples of four oat-based breakfast cereals marketed for children in the UK were recently sent to the Health Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, an accredited laboratory for glyphosate testing. Dr Fagan, the director of the centre, says of the results: “These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).”

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“A list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia..”

Xenophobia About Russians Is Never Condemned In Western Media (Ryan)

Pretending to ‘understand’ Russia has become quite the lucrative business for Western media professionals in recent years – and “leading” Russia expert extraordinaire Keir Giles is the latest to believe he has cracked the code. Generous Giles has published a list of 10 “ground rules” for befuddled Westerners seeking to unravel the enigma that is Russia – but before we delve into the finer details, let’s add some important context. This Russia whisperer is a “senior consulting fellow” at Chatham House – a British think tank receiving funding from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), the UK Ministry of Defence, the British Army and the US embassy, as well as an impressive array of arms manufacturers.


Very often, those posing as ‘experts’ on Russia pepper their analysis with outright xenophobia. Yet, this problematic and bigoted language is rarely noticed by their admiring peers because, as I have written before, “the Russians” are an exception to current cultural rules around political correctness. Xenophobia, when it is about Russians, is never condemned in Western media and ‘think tank’ circles. Rather, it has become an essential component of any celebrated ‘analysis’ of the country and its actions. Recall a recent New York Times article which claimed corruption is in the Russian “DNA” and sharing is “not the Russian way.” Before that, there was James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence, telling NBC that Russians are “genetically driven” to lie and cheat. Now, enter Giles.

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Jul 272019
 


Pablo Picasso Houses 1937

 

For The First Time In 6 Years, No Central Bank Is Hiking
China Moves To Regulate ‘Blind’ Expansion Of Financial Holding Firms (R.)
Is This the End of Office of Special Counsel? (Alan Dershowitz)
A Purview of Dust (Kunstler)
Highest-Ranking House Democrat To Date Calls For Trump Impeachment (NBC)
US House Panel Seeks Grand Jury Evidence To Assess Trump Impeachment (R.)
It’s Time To Forget The Mueller-Fuelled Impeachment Fantasies (Robinson)
Highly Unlikely Conspiracies (Dmitry Orlov)
Trouble Feared As Hong Kong Activists Return To Scene Of Triad Attack (R.)
US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero (Escobar)
Irish PM Says No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To United Ireland (AFP)
Dominican Republic Sends McAfee to Britain, Without Guns or Yacht (R.)

 

 

They are stuck, the lot of them. They can’t turn back, they can only double down.

For The First Time In 6 Years, No Central Bank Is Hiking

The global central bank experiment with renormalization is officially over. After roughly half the world’s central banks hiked rates at least once in 2018, the major central banks have returned to easing mode, and as the chart below shows, for the first time since 2013, not a single central bank is hiking rates. Commenting on the violent reversal away from tightening financial conditions which emerged following the Q4 2018 selloff, Goldman’s Jan Hatzius writes that “The FOMC looks set to cut the funds rate next week, the ECB today sent a strong signal that action in September is likely, and China has resumed easing policy after a spring pause. With global growth running at a below-trend rate of 2.75% -down from about 4% a year ago- a synchronized tilt towards easing looks like a natural response to a weaker outlook.”

Yet even Goldman can’t help but ask just why the Fed is rushing to commence the first easing cycle in years, pointing out that “the US economy is in decent shape, with a tight labor market, inflation close to target and— in our forecast— growth running a little above 2% both this year and next. We are modestly above consensus because we expect the negative inventory cycle to end and final demand to continue growing robustly on the back of easier financial conditions.” This, according to the Goldman economist, should limit Fed easing to two 25bp insurance cuts, one next week and another in September, although the bank, which until very recently did not expect any rate cuts at all, fails to justify just why the Fed is doing what it is about to do, unless of course Powell is merely folding to Trump pressure.

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They get too big, they becomes threats to Xi’s power.

China Moves To Regulate ‘Blind’ Expansion Of Financial Holding Firms (R.)

China’s central bank on Friday unveiled the first draft rules to regulate the country’s vast and often complex financial holding companies, which it said have had “blind business expansion” in recent years. The draft rules set minimum asset requirements and ban the holding companies from involvement in non-financial business activities. “There’s a blank in the regulation of the sector, and the risks are accumulating and become exposed,” the People’s Bank of China said in a statement. “Financial holding firms, especially those formed by non-financial companies, witness a blind business expansion over the past few years,” it added.


The opaque cross-holding structures and “blind” expansion of financial holding companies have alarmed policymakers, who say the control of multiple financial institutions by conglomerates and their ability to do business across different sectors could pose wider, systemic risks. China has been working towards specific rules regulating financial holding companies since last year. [..] According to the draft regulations, financial holding conglomerates with at least 500 billion yuan ($72.69 billion) in assets or have non-bank affiliates that manage 100 billion yuan of financial assets or more will be subject to the rules. Financial holding firms cannot engage in any non-financial business in order to prevent cross-sector risks, the PBOC said, and it will be illegal for them to inject capital into financial institutions.

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Dershowitz is far too close to Epstein of course, but he’s right on why this is wrong:

“It contained negative information about people, including the president, who will have no opportunity to respond in a legal proceeding.”

Is This the End of Office of Special Counsel? (Alan Dershowitz)

Robert Mueller’s performance in front of Congressional committees should mark the end of special counsels, special prosecutors, independent counsels and the like. These hearings demonstrated, if any further demonstration was required, how dangerous it was to go outside of the normal processes of criminal justice. Ordinary prosecutors are not allowed to comment about why they decided not to prosecute the subject of an investigation. The Mueller Report, when made public, violated that salutary tradition. It contained negative information about people, including the president, who will have no opportunity to respond in a legal proceeding. The report and the testimony introduced the novel and dangerous concept into our legal vocabulary: “Not exonerated.”

This concept, which finds no basis in the rules of the Justice Department or the Special Counsel, is a variation on the nefarious theme articulated by the disgraced former FBI director, James Comey, when he went beyond announcing that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted, and expressed his opinion that she had been extremely careless in her treatment of emails. This statement said, in effect, that Hillary Clinton was not being exonerated. Mueller’s testimony was confused and confusing on many scores. He couldn’t explain why he had reached a formal decision on conspiracy with Russia but had failed to reach a formal conclusion about obstruction of justice. He had to pull back on his answer to whether the decision not to charge the President was based on a Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.

There was no explainable pattern as to why he chose to answer some questions while declining to answer others. He seemed not to be familiar with the contents of the Report that bears his name. It was almost as if he had signed his name to the Report without carefully reading or understanding it. [..] Prosecutors, like the Special Counsel, operate behind closed doors and in secret. They hear only one side of the story. They are restricted in what Grand Jury information can be made public. Non-partisan expert commissions, on the other hand, operate primarily in public (except when hearing classified material) and hear all sides of every issue in an effort to hear the whole truth.

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Mayor of Munchkin Land.

A Purview of Dust (Kunstler)

In all this long and excruciating public playing-out of dark schemes, Mr. Trump, first candidate and now president, seems to have acted as little more than a tackling dummy for the Mueller Team and its backstage Clinton confederates. He tweeted childishly about the deeply partisan composition of the Mueller Team when he should have mounted a forceful legal opposition to the effrontery of their selection in the first place. It’s interesting to follow the pronouncements of the bit-players in this spectacle, now that Mr. Mueller has inadvertently destroyed the basis of the sacred narrative. Rep. Jerold Nadler turned up yakking with Anderson Cooper on CNN last night, looking every inch like the Mayor of Munchkin Land, bloviating against the supposed imminent Russian takeover of America (read: by witches) and for the now-receding fool’s errand of impeachment, which would only further expose the criminal culpability of his own Democratic Party in this sordid misadventure.


Mr. Cooper looked deeply pained by the chore, and yet his own professional credibility is on the line after two years of allowing himself to be played like a flugelhorn by the folks who matter in this country, and he contested nothing in Mr. Nadler’s mendacious pratings. And now a fretful silence will descend around this colossal goddamned mess as the momentum of history shifts against the perpetrators of it, and the true machinery of American justice is brought to bear upon them. The playing-out of Act Three will probably coincide with epic global financial disorder in the months ahead, further obscuring what people and nations can do to arrest the collapse of Modernity and its sidekick Human Progress.

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You just had a 22 month inquiry.

Highest-Ranking House Democrat To Date Calls For Trump Impeachment (NBC)

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., became the highest-ranking House Democrat to call for opening an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. “I deeply respect the committee work of House Democrats to hold the president accountable, including hearings, subpoenas and lawsuits. All of our efforts to put the facts before the American people, however, have been met with unprecedented stonewalling and obstruction,” the sixth-ranking House Democrat said in a statement Thursday evening, adding, “That is why I believe we need to open an impeachment inquiry that will provide us a more formal way to fully uncover the facts.” Clark made her announcement the day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before two House committees about his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, possible coordination with the Trump campaign and subsequent efforts by the president to obstruct the probe.


“Since the release of the Mueller report in April, it has been clear that the president committed impeachable offenses by welcoming interference from a hostile foreign power in the 2016 election and then attempting to obstruct the investigation into his unpatriotic actions,” Clark said. “Moreover, he said he would do it all again if given the chance.” Four other House Democrats also publicly called for moving ahead with impeachment since Mueller’s testimony — Reps. Andre Carson of Indiana, Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware — which brings the number to 94 Democrats who are backing an impeachment inquiry, according to an NBC News count.

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People are going to turn against this.

US House Panel Seeks Grand Jury Evidence To Assess Trump Impeachment (R.)

The Democratic-led U.S. House Judiciary Committee asked a federal court on Friday for access to grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe that lawmakers say they need to determine whether to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Democratic lawyers from the House of Representatives filed a 53-page petition in U.S. District Court seeking permission to review evidence involving interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russian agents, and Trump’s alleged efforts to direct former White House Counsel Don McGahn to remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The action moved the House one step closer to impeachment, a politically contentious issue that has divided Democrats as Congress prepares to pivot to the 2020 election season.

“We have just given notice that we are actively considering articles of impeachment … that is as serious a step as we should take at this time,” an attorney for the committee told reporters during a background briefing held after the filing. A separate committee lawsuit expected early next week to compel McGahn to testify before the panel will also cite the need to decide on impeachment, though McGahn could avoid court action by agreeing to appear as a result of negotiations, aides said. The grand jury evidence, which is protected from outside scrutiny by federal law, was compiled by Mueller’s 22-month probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s efforts to impede the investigation.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told a news conference that since Justice Department policy prohibits prosecution of a sitting president, the House of Representatives is the only institution of government capable of holding Trump accountable for actions outlined in the Mueller report.

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” Instead of grappling with the very serious reasons why working-class people of all races are disillusioned with the Democratic party, prominent figures focus on litigating the various ways in which they were robbed of their rightful prize.”

It’s Time To Forget The Mueller-Fuelled Impeachment Fantasies (Robinson)

What a time-wasting farce this has all been. Robert Mueller’s confused, lethargic testimony before Congress this week confirmed how foolish Democrats have been to hope Mueller would “bring down” Donald Trump. For years, people have hoped that Mueller would swoop in like a “deus ex machina” with blockbuster charges against the president. For years, it has also been obvious that this would not happen, and that defeating Trump would require the traditional hard work of political organizing. Now that Mueller has conclusively showed that the Russia investigation was a pitiful sideshow, perhaps Democrats can finally get back to the issues that Americans actually care about.

It’s embarrassing to recall just how absurdly some people elevated Mueller, and how much faith was placed in him. Memes compared Mueller to Superman, or portrayed him as a top cop who was secretly fitting Trump for an orange jumpsuit. He appeared on votive candles and earrings. SNL sang him a Christmas carol. There was an action figure. But faith in Mueller was born of desperation. He was an ageing Republican bureaucrat, with no track record of seriously challenging people in power. He had been an apologist for the Iraq war and mass surveillance, and a reliable servant of the DC establishment. It took a great deal of wishful thinking to envision Mueller as a caped crusader.

[..] Democrats complaining about Russian interference have always seemed like “sore losers”. Instead of grappling with the very serious reasons why working-class people of all races are disillusioned with the Democratic party, prominent figures focus on litigating the various ways in which they were robbed of their rightful prize. In many ways, the Democratic obsession with the Mueller investigation was symptomatic of a party that has lost touch with the real concerns of working people. People are upset because they’re drowning in debt, their rent is too damn high, they can’t afford their health insurance and they are working crappy jobs.[..]As Thomas Frank has pointed out, the “party of the people” has become a party of Wall Street, unwilling to contemplate policies that threaten the interests of the wealthy.

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Why are we still entertaining any thoughts about this? Sorry, but I seem to have forgotten.

Dmitry also persuasively burns down the likelikood of a successful moon landing here. Click the link for that.

Highly Unlikely Conspiracies (Dmitry Orlov)

A year and a half ago the British PM Theresa May stunned the world by introducing into international relations a new, rather casual standard of proof—“highly likely”—in regard to the very strange case of the Sergei Skripal poisoning. It is part of a technique that is applied as follows. Make an unsubstantiated accusation of some party being “highly likely” to have committed a certain crime. Demand that the accused party confess to the crime, disclose all relevant information and agree to pay reparation. If this demand is not met, impose punishment. It is “highly likely,” the British government claimed, that a couple of Russian tourists secretly employed by a nonexistent Russian government agency called “GRU” smeared some poison gas on the doorknob of the front door of the house occupied by Sergei Skripal, a former Russian officer who had been caught spying, did time in Russia and was released in a spy swap deal.

This heinous act of smearing poison gas on the doorknob occurred after Skripal had left his house, never to return. So badly was the doorknob contaminated with poison gas that the entire roof of the building had to be replaced. [..] Well, clearly, Putin ordered this retired former spy to be murdered by a couple of bumbling tourists on a hookers and weed tour of London who took a side trip to look at a cathedral using an exotic poison gas in order to make sure that the FIFA World Cup championship, which Russia was hosting and which was just about to start, would go off without any international embarrassment. It is rather untraditional to assassinate spies exchanged in a spy swap because it undermines future spy swaps, but Putin, being a former spymaster himself, probably wouldn’t have known that and nobody at the mythical “GRU” knew either.

In any case, it is “highly likely” that this is exactly how and why all of this happened, and if you don’t believe that then you are a conspiracy theorist and your conspiracy theories need to be subjected to a thorough, lavishly funded debunking campaign. Elements of this campaign include accusing you of lack of patriotism and of aiding and abetting the enemy, paying “experts” to browbeat you with their superior acumen and knowledge (including secret knowledge to which you are not privy because of national security concerns) and feeding you false information as bait in order to discredit you once you take the bait and try to run with it.

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Rumor has it Chinese troops are gathering.

Trouble Feared As Hong Kong Activists Return To Scene Of Triad Attack (R.)

Several thousand protesters defied a police ban on Saturday to converge on a rural Hong Kong town where suspected triad gangsters attacked protesters and commuters at a train station last weekend. Police, widely criticized for failing to better protect the public from the triad raid in Yuen Long, refused to allow a planned march in the town on safety grounds.But activists insisted they would push ahead and by 3.30 pm (0730 GMT) several thousand had gathered in sweltering heat, many chanting anti-police slogans such as “black police” and “know the law, break the law.”


Residents described a mounting police presence on Saturday morning, with force chiefs insisting they will still seek to keep order despite the ban. Extra fortifications have been placed around the local police station. Police inside the station were filming the protesters as the march began. Activists told Reuters they feared the protest could turn violent, given feelings of palpable anger among protesters over last Sunday’s events and a determination among some to challenge villagers they believe are close to long-standing triad groups in the area. “The situation is escalating, and (Saturday) could be the start of a more violent period,” one told Reuters.

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Stand down.

US and Iran Stuck on Negotiation Ground Zero (Escobar)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a fervent Trump groupie, has turned the country into a tropical U.S. neo-colony in less than seven months. On U.S. sanctions, Bolsonaro said, “We are aligned to their policies. So we do what we have to.” Tehran for its part has threatened to cut its imports of corn, soybeans and meat from Brazil – $2 billion worth of trade a year – unless the refueling is allowed. This is an extremely serious development. Food is not supposed to be — illegally — sanctioned by the Trump administration. Iran now has to use mostly barter to obtain food — as Tehran cannot remit through the CHIPS-SWIFT banking clearinghouse. If food supplies are also blocked that means that sooner rather than later the Strait of Hormuz may be blocked as well.


Beltway sources confirmed that the highest level of the U.S. government gave the order for Brasilia to stop this food shipment. Tehran knows it well – as this is part of the “maximum pressure” campaign, whose goal is ultimately to starve the Iranian population to death in a harrowing game of chicken. How this may end is described by an ominous quote I already used in some of my previous columns, from a Goldman Sachs derivatives specialist: “If the Strait of Hormuz is closed, the price of oil will rise to a thousand dollars a barrel representing over 45 percent of global GDP, crashing the $2.5 quadrillion derivatives market and creating a world depression of unprecedented proportions.” At least the Pentagon seems to understand that a war on Iran will collapse the world economy.

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For now wishful thinking, but things could move fast. Scotland will vehemently protest being taken out of the EU.

Irish PM Says No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To United Ireland (AFP)

A no-deal Brexit could lead to a united Ireland as more people in Northern Ireland would “come to question the union” with Britain, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said. His comments came after new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the current Brexit deal was unacceptable and set preparations for leaving the EU without an agreement as a “top priority” for his right-wing government. Tension around the withdrawal deal centres on the so-called Irish backstop — a mechanism designed to preserve the bloc’s single market and prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Varadkar warned a no-deal Brexit could see more people in the North question the union with England, Scotland and Wales.


“People who you might describe as moderate nationalists or moderate Catholics who were more or less happy with the status quo will look more towards a united Ireland,” Varadkar said Friday at a summer school in county Donegal, the Irish Independent newspaper and other media reported. “And increasingly you see liberal Protestants, liberal unionists starting to ask the questions as to where they feel more at home. “Is it in a nationalist Britain that’s talking about potentially bringing back the death penalty and things like that? Or is it part of a common European home and part of Ireland?” said Vardakar, whose heavily trade-dependent nation stands to lose most from a messy EU-UK split.

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Colorful?

Dominican Republic Sends McAfee to Britain, Without Guns or Yacht (R.)

Tech guru John McAfee, creator of the eponymous antivirus computer software, has arrived in Britain from the Dominican Republic, where he was detained with his wife for entering the Caribbean nation with firearms on his yacht, his lawyer said on Friday. The attorney general’s office “asked him where he wanted to go, and he decided on London,” said lawyer Candido Simon, who McAfee hired to represent him in the Dominican Republic. McAfee, born in 1945 at a U.S. military base on British territory, has both nationalities. After Dominican authorities ensured the United States had no active legal cases or extradition requests for McAfee, they allowed him to choose where he would be sent, Simon said.


McAfee, who is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for U.S. president in 2020, recently told Reuters in an interview he could help Cuba defeat the U.S. trade embargo by launching a cryptocurrency. On Friday, he asked his Twitter followers whether he should also campaign to be British prime minister. The Dominican Republic’s Public Ministry said it had seized the weaponry onboard McAfee’s yacht when it docked on the country’s northern coast and McAfee, his wife Janice, and four associates were detained.. The customs authority said it found pistols, a shotgun and bars of suspected silver on the yacht, the Great Mystery.

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Jul 262019
 
 July 26, 2019  Posted by at 1:52 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper Sailing 1911

 

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 

There’s Bernie and the Squad, the declared socialists, who will never be accepted as leaders by a party so evidently predicated upon support for the arms industry. And they in turn can’t credibly support candidates who do. The Democratic Party will never be socialist, they will have to leave the label behind in order to share that message and remain believable.

But without them, what will be left? Joe Biden, or perhaps Hillary silently waiting in the wings? I don’t see it. Not after Mueller, not after two-three years of gambling all on red anti-Trump. At least the Squad have an identity, got to give them that. Whether it will sell in 2019 America is another thing altogether.

I personally think the term socialist is too tainted, on top of being too misinterpreted, for it to be “electable”, but I also understand there are large swaths of the US population who are in dire straits already with a recession on the horizon, but 2020 seems too soon. And I would ditch the term regardless. It’s like painting a target on your back for Trump and Hannity to aim at.

If you remember the 2016 campaign and the clown parade on stage with the likes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush glaring at the headlights, you know that the GOP has issues that are very similar to those of the Dems. But Trump came along.

The Dems have no Trump. They do have a DNC that will stifle any candidate they don’t like (Bernie!), though. Just think what they would have done if Trump had run as a Democrat (crazy, but not that crazy).

 

The UK’s issues are remarkably similar to those of the US. Only, in their case, the socialists have already taken over the left-wing party (if you can call the Dems left-wing). This has led to absolute stagnation. Tony Blair had moved Labour so far to the right (which he and his Blairites call center, because it sounds so much better), that injecting Jeremy Corbyn as leader was just too fast and furious.

So they labeled Corbyn an anti-semite, the most successful and equally empty smear campaign since Julian Assange was called a rapist. Corbyn never adequately responded, so he couldn’t profile himself and now the Blairites are again calling on him to leave. Oh, and he never gave a direct answer to the question of Brexit yes or no either. Pity. Corbyn’s support among the people is massive, but not in the party.

Which is why it’s now up to Boris Johnson to ‘deliver the will of the people’. And apparently the first thing the people want is 20,000 more policemen. Which were fired by the very party he at the time represented first as first mayor of London and then foreign minister, for goodness sake. His very own Tories closed 600 police stations since 2010 and will have to re-open many now.

Some survey must have told him it polled well. Just like polling was an essential part of pushing through Brexit. There’s a very revealing TV movie that came out 6 months ago called Brexit: The Uncivil War, that makes this very clear. The extent to which campaigns these days rely on data gathering and voter targeting will take a while yet to be understood, but they’re a future that is already here. Wikipedia in its description of the film puts it quite well:

 

After the opening credits, [Dominic] Cummings rejects an offer in 2015 by UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and political strategist Matthew Elliott to lead the Vote Leave campaign due to his contempt for “Westminister politics”, but accepts when Carswell promises Cummings full control.

The next sequences show Cummings outlining the core strategy on a whiteboard of narrow disciplined messaging delivered via algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools. Cummings rejects an approach by Nigel Farage and Arron Banks of Leave.EU to merge their campaigns, as his data shows Farage is an obstacle to winning an overall majority.

[..] In a eureka moment, Cummings refines the core message to “Take Back Control”, thus positioning Vote Leave as the historical status quo, and Remain as the “change” option. Cummings meets and hires Canadian Zack Massingham, co-founder of AggregateIQ, who offers to build a database using social media tools of [3 million] voters who are not on the UK electoral register but are inclined to vote to leave.

[..] In the final stages, high-profile senior Tory MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson join the Vote Leave campaign emphasising the need to “Take Back Control”, while Penny Mordaunt is shown on BBC raising concerns over the accession of Turkey. Gove and Johnson are shown as having some reticence over specific Vote Leave claims (e.g. £350 million for NHS, and 70 million potential Turkish emigrants) but are seen to overcome them.

 

Dominic Cummings, played in the movie by Benedict Cumberbatch, is an independent political adviser who belongs to no party. But guess what? He was the first adviser Boris Johnson hired after his nomination Wednesday. Cummings didn’t want Nigel Farage as the face of Brexit, because he polled poorly. He wanted Boris, because his numbers were better. Not because he didn’t think Boris was a bumbling fool, he did.

And now Cummings is back to finish the job. Far as I can see, that can only mean one thing: elections, and soon (it’s what Cummings does). A no-deal Brexit was voted down, in the same Parliament Boris Johnson now faces, 3 times, or was it 4? There is going to be a lot of opposition. Boris wants Brexit on October 31, and has practically bet his career on it. But there is going to be a lot of opposition.

He can’t have elections before September, because of the summer recess. So perhaps end of September?! But he has Dominic Cummings and his “algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools”. Without which Brexit would never have been voted in. So if you don’t want Brexit, you better come prepared.

Cummings and his techies weren’t -just- sending out mass mails or that kind of stuff. That’s already arcane. They were sending targeted personalized messages to individual voters, by the millions. Algorithms. AI. Tailor made. If you’re the opposition, and you don’t have those tools, then what do you have exactly?

Already thought before it all happened that it was funny that Boris Johnson’s ascension and Robert Mueller’s downfall were scheduled for the same day. There must be a pattern somewhere.

You can find the movie at HBO or Channel 4, I’m sure. Try this link for Channel 4. Seeing that movie, and thinking about the implications of the technology, the whole notion of Russian meddling becomes arcane as well. We just have no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 252019
 
 July 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Piet Mondriaan Trafalgar Square 1939-43

 

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)
Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)
Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)
Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)
Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)
Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)
Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)
With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)
Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)
California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

 

 

There are still people calling for impeachment after Mueller’s horror show yesterday. Saw both AOC and Rob Reiner do just that. The somewhat more awake amongst us merely feel sorry for the old man, but that goes too far. He put himself in that position. He’s never delivered any proof of Russian meddling, but that doesn’t appear to bother many. He refused to talk to Assange just so that meddling narrative could be kept alive.

But the biggest takeaway from the hearing must be that Mueller didn’t write his own report, something that became glaringly obvious when he didn’t know what Fusion GPS was. Mueller has just been the face of an investigation that was conducted by others. He is the supposed hero who’s ideal as the front for such a thing. But the thing is hollow and empty.

There were far too many things Mueller said were not in his purview (he said that 16 times) of which at least some certainly were. Moreover, as several members of Congress pointed out, Mueller got far too close to ignoring the presumption of innocence. Trump does not have to prove he’s innocent, Mueller had to prove he’s guilty – and failed.

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)

In a rare meeting of minds Wednesday between two opposing American political voices, Michael Moore earned plaudits from President Donald Trump when the liberal filmmaker blasted former special counsel Robert Mueller’s “stumbling” congressional testimony. Moore, a frequent Trump critic who has also warned of the Democratic Party’s failure to resonate with working-class America, let loose on Mueller as he testified in often halting fashion before Congress about Russian election interference and possible connections to Trump and his 2016 campaign. “A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions,” Moore said in a scathing tweet after Mueller appeared uncertain and asked for several questions to be repeated during some of the most closely watched congressional hearings of the year.

“I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today — All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller — just STFU from now on,” he added, using a crass acronym that includes an expletive. Trump seized on the famed documentarian and Academy Award winner’s fury, retweeting the post and adding his observation that “Even Michael Moore agrees that the Dems and Mueller blew it!” Mueller, 74, appeared reluctant to take the gloves off as he sat for hours in hearings before two House panels, often sounding dispassionate and unsteady.

At times lawyerly and assured, he was also dull and sluggish, declining to stray beyond the confines of his report or to push back aggressively on his Republican questioners and light the fireworks that several Democrats no doubt had been looking for. “Trump must be gloating in ecstasy,” tweeted Moore, director of films like “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me.” “Not because of the failure that is Robert Mueller — his Report is still a damning document of crimes by Trump — but because Trump understands the power of the visual, and he understands that the Dems aren’t street fighters and that’s why he’ll win.”

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If the Dems wouldn’t waste so much time and credility with Russiagate, they could protest this. And sure, Pelosi tries, but they are not a believable anti-war party.

Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Iran and tension has mounted between the UAE and Tehran over several issues, including the UAE’s coordination with US efforts to curb what it calls Iran’s malign activities in the region. But Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way that would have bypassed congressional review infuriated lawmakers. In a pushback to Trump’s foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans banded together to pass resolutions to block the weapons sale.


The White House had argued that stopping the sale would send a signal that the US did not stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them were increasing. The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support. Anger has been mounting in Congress over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fuelled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen – a military campaign the US is assisting – and the killing of the US-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons further inflamed the tensions. “The president’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement.

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Let’s start a casino and call it a market.

Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)

You see, Tesla is different. It just reported another doozie, a loss of $408 million in the second quarter, after its $702 million loss in the first quarter, for a total loss in the first half of $1.1 billion. In its 14-year history, it has never generated an annual profit. It has real and popular products and surging sales, but it subsidizes each of those sales with investor money. And here’s where it’s different this time: investors don’t care. They dig how the company has been consistently overpromising and underdelivering. They dig the chaos at the top. They dig everything that should scare them off.

Yeah, its shares plunged 11% afterhours today, but that takes those shares only down to where they’d been on May 1. Big deal. Shares are down 32% from the peak. But their peak should have been a small fraction of that. Even today, the company is still valued at over $40 billion. Tesla lacks a viable business model in the classic sense. Its business model is a new business model of just burning investor cash that it raises via debt and equity offerings on a near-annual basis because investors encourage it to do that, and love it for it, and eagerly hand it more money to burn, and they’re rewarding each other by keeping the share price high. It’s just a game, you see. And nothing else matters.

Then there is Boeing. It just reported the largest quarterly loss in its history of $2.9 billion due to a nearly $5-billion charge related to its newest bestselling all-important 737 Max, two of which crashed, killing 346 people, due to the way the plane is designed. The flight-control software that is supposed to mitigate this design issue is not working properly. And a software fix that is acceptable to regulators remains elusive. The plane has been grounded globally since March. No one, especially not the regulators, can afford a third crash. So today, Boeing announced that it may further cut production of the plane or suspend it altogether if the delays continue to drag out. This is big enough to start impacting US GDP.

[..] But here we go: From 2013 through Q1 2019, Boeing has blown a mind-boggling $43 billion on share buybacks (buyback data via YCharts): Blowing these $43 billion on share buybacks has caused Boeing to have a “total equity” of a negative $5 billion. In other words, it has $5 billion more in liabilities than in assets. This company is out of wriggle room. If it can’t borrow enough money to make payroll, it’s over.

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Shouldn’t he wait for the DOJ investigation?

Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that online giant Amazon.com Inc “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.” Mnuchin said he looked forward to hearing the results of a Justice Department probe, announced on Tuesday, into whether big U.S. technology firms engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign yet that the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech. “If you look at Amazon, although they’re certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I don’t have an opinion other than I think it’s absolutely right the attorney general is looking into these issues and I look forward to listening to his recommendations to the president.”


Amazon defended itself, saying that 90% of all sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores. “Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018,” a spokesman for Amazon said. A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Tuesday which companies it would scrutinize under the antitrust probe, but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” – an apparent reference to Google, Amazon, Facebook, and potentially Apple.

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No more parking spaces left.

Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)

Boeing said it could halt production of the 737 Max jet on Wednesday as it reported the company’s largest ever quarterly loss following two fatal accidents involving the plane. The company lost $2.9bn in the three months to the end of June, compared to a profit of $2.2bn for the same period last year. Sales fell 35% to $15.8bn. Chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said production of the plane could be slowed or halted if regulators do not move to lift the ban on the plane. The 737 Max was Boeing’s best selling aircraft until the fleet was grounded worldwide in March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. In January Boeing’s executives said the Max was the fastest selling plane in its history and the company expected to deliver between 895 and 905 airplanes this year.


Now it has become the most costly plane in Boeing’s history. Boeing has predicted that the Max will be flying again by the end of the year, but this month the Wall Street Journal reported that government and industry officials believe a return date of January 2020 is more likely. On a call with analysts Muilenburg said the company may have to consider slowing or halting production if there are further delays in getting the plane back into the skies. Boeing is still producing 42 of its 737 jets a month and plans to boost that rate to 57 next year. But if there are further setbacks, Muilenberg said: “We might need to consider possible further rate reductions or other options including a temporary shutdown of the Max production.”

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It got him out of jail…

Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls, was found unconscious in a Manhattan jail cell with injuries to his neck, media reported late on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources. Epstein was found by guards sprawled on the floor of cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Wednesday, media reported. Some media reported that his face appeared blue. The billionaire financier was taken to hospital, the New York Post reported, but it was unclear where he was taken or what his condition was. It was not clear how he suffered his injuries. Epstein was recently denied bail, a move his lawyers plan to appeal according to a court notice made public on Tuesday.


Epstein was expected to ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the judge’s July 18 rejection of his request to remain under house arrest in his $77 million mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the appeal for bail was expected. His lawyer Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment. The charges, concerning alleged misconduct from at least 2002 to 2005, were announced more than a decade after Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida. In denying him bail, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said the government had shown by clear and convincing evidence that Epstein would pose a danger to the community if released pending trial.

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Impressive.

Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)

Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Rossello announced his resignation late Wednesday following two weeks of massive protests triggered by the release of a chat exchange in which he and others mocked gays, women and hurricane victims. “I announce that I will be resigning from the governor’s post effective Friday, August 2 at 5 pm,” Rossello said, in a video statement posted on the government’s Facebook page. As soon as the video ended, a joyous commotion and cries of “ole ole ole” were heard from protesters who had rallied since the afternoon at the gates of the governor’s mansion.


“I trust that Puerto Rico will continue united and move forward as it always has,” Rossello said. “And I hope that this decision will serve as a call for citizen reconciliation.” Rossello said that Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez would temporarily succeed him. Puerto Ricans had waited expectantly for the announcement throughout the day, as rumors of the governor’s forthcoming resignation swirled.

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Christine Lagarde is stuck even before she takes the job. There is no way out of ultra-low rates.

With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)

The European Central Bank is all but certain to ease policy further on Thursday, with the biggest question whether it staggers its moves over several months or opts for a big bang. With inflation stuck well below its target and the U.S. Federal Reserve already in easing mode, the ECB has flagged more stimulus, hoping to prop up confidence amid a steady flow of bad news that threatens to unravel years of unprecedented support. It could cut interest rates, perhaps while also helping banks offset the costs to them, restart a recently shuttered bond-buying program or raise the bar for any future tightening of monetary policy.


But with economic data relatively stable there is little urgency to deliver a comprehensive package this week, suggesting the ECB could take its time to prepare the measures and wait for the Fed to set its own course. This will be crucial for determining the euro’s exchange rate against the dollar, presently the single most-watched variable for ECB policymakers. Having stoked easing expectations already, ECB President Mario Draghi will have to deliver at least something on Thursday. If nothing else, he is likely to unveil revamped interest rate guidance that makes it clear a rate cut is coming and that rates will stay at record lows for much longer than the ECB had previously expected.

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As I said: all they can do is to prolong the agony.

Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)

Deutsche Bank has issued its results for the second quarter of 2019. They make grim reading. The bank reported a headline loss of €3.1bn ($3.44bn), which it said was due to “charges relating to strategic transformation” of €3.4bn ($3.78bn). But both net income of £231m ($256.67m) and underlying profits of €441m ($490m) were significantly down on the same quarter in 2018. The restructuring announced earlier this month has yet to impact fully. The “capital release unit” into which the bank plans to put €74bn ($82.22bn) of poorly-performing and non-strategic assets and business lines, including its entire equities trading division, is not yet up and running, and although headcount is about 4,500 lower than it was a year ago, the latest round of sackings doesn’t yet show up in the redundancy costs.


Restructuring costs themselves therefore only contribute €50m ($55.56m) to the headline loss. A further €350m ($388.89m) comes from junking software and service contracts that will no longer be needed because of the restructuring. But by far the largest part of the headline loss arises from impairment of goodwill to the tune of €1bn ($1.11bn) and a €2bn ($2.22bn) reduction in the value of the bank’s deferred tax asset. This may sound like accounting gobbledegook, but it sends a very important message. Deutsche Bank’s management has admitted the bank will never return to the profitability of the past. When the restructuring is complete, it will be a much smaller, poorer bank.

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Let’s end with something positive.

California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

The California condor, North America’s largest bird, once ruled the American Southwest and California’s coastal mountains. The vulture-like bird was revered by Native Americans and was believed to contain spiritual powers. Hundreds of years later, its future seemed all but certain. Defying odds, conservation efforts brought the species back and prevented it from joining the dodo in extinction. Now, condor reintroduction celebrates a milestone: Chick No. 1,000 has hatched. In the 1980s, fewer than two dozen condors were left in the world. Conservationists rounded up the remaining condors and began breeding them in captivity.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the condor became critically endangered in the 20th century — one classification behind extinct in the wild. The decline came from poaching, habitat destruction and lead poisoning as condors scavenged for carrion containing lead shots. Today, more than 300 California condors exist in the wild. Including captivity breeding programs, there are more than 500 in the world, says Tim Hauck, the condor program manager at the Peregrine Fund.

The 1,000th successful birth signifies an optimistic future for the condor recovery mission. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR’s Scott Simon. “And that’s just a step towards success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” The hatchling is currently in Zion National Park — it emerged from its shell in May, but its survival was just confirmed in July. The chick, whose sex cannot be identified without a blood test, will be ready to fledge — or take flight — for the first time in November. If the chick successfully leaves the nest, it can expect to grow up to have a 10-foot wingspan. The bird’s average lifespan is 60 years, one of the world’s longest-living bird species.


Photo by National Park Service – AP

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Jul 222019
 
 July 22, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Claude Monet Impression, sunrise 1872

 

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)
Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)
Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)
From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)
Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)
Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)
Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)
The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)
Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)
Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)
Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

 

 

Curious to see what that evidence is, and curious to know why iot has remained hidden to date.

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)

The eyes of America will be trained on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Robert Mueller testifies before two House committees about his report on Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president. On Sunday, the chairman of the judiciary committee indicated the stakes when he said the 448-page report contained “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours” – the benchmark for impeachment. “It’s important that we not have a lawless administration and a lawless president,” the New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler told Fox News Sunday.


“And it’s important that people see what we’re doing and what we’re dealing with.” Nadler’s committee would initiate impeachment proceedings. Mueller, a former director of the FBI, will also appear before the intelligence panel. “The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours,” he said, “and we have to present, or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.”

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Surprise: not everyone agrees with Nadler. Is everybody citing from the same report? Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)

The president has nothing to fear from the testimony from Robert Mueller because nothing Mueller could possibly say will change the result of the report he delivered. He conclusively found that there was no collusion with the Russians by the Trump 2016 campaign, and he did not bring any indictments for obstruction of justice against the President or even a referral. What Mueller left open with regard to obstruction — if at all — was conclusively dealt with by the Justice Department through the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who found that there was no probable cause to bring criminal charges against the president.


Congress is not bound by the Mueller investigation or its findings. Congress on its own could bring on impeachment proceedings in the House based on the report — if there was evidence contained therein to warrant such actions. Mueller’s testimony will add nothing other than to further politicize an investigation that was supposed to be apolitical. Mueller reminds me of the patient who decides not to be resuscitated only to find that doctors did so against his wishes. At best, Mueller is a reluctant witness and at worst — for Democrats — a hostile witness. He made it clear in his press conference months ago that he would like the report to speak for itself and that he would not go beyond his own reporting. Congress now runs the risk of further being seen as conducting a witch-hunt against the president by calling a witness who clearly has nothing further to add.

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Quite a few could walk, starting today, but most on Wednesday, when he takes over.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)

Boris Johnson’s hoped-for triumphant march into Downing Street this week is set to be dampened by a carefully timed series of resignations by senior ministers, who will retreat to the backbenches with a vow to thwart any moves towards a no-deal Brexit. The announcements by Philip Hammond and David Gauke that they will step down on Wednesday, immediately before Johnson is likely to head to Buckingham Palace, highlight the perilous political climate for Theresa May’s expected successor. It comes amid predictions that the Conservatives’ already wafer-thin working Commons majority of three could entirely disappear by the time MPs return from their summer recess, with mooted defections to the Lib Dems coming on top of a predicted byelection defeat.


Barring a hugely unexpected twist, Johnson is expected to be announced on Tuesday as the victor over Jeremy Hunt in the vote of Conservative members, formally taking over the next day, after May holds a valedictory prime minister’s questions. However, some of the gloss will be removed with the promised resignations of Hammond, the chancellor, and Gauke, the justice secretary, with predictions that other ministers and junior ministers opposed to no deal, such as the international development secretary, Rory Stewart, could follow.

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Headline is just wrong. The EU has seen Boris coming from miles away. They know he will put the blame with Brussels. They know he wants to ditch the backstop, and they won’t let him. Then Boris will be known as the man who broke the Good Friday Agreement.

Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)

While Westminster has been gripped by the Conservative leadership race, Brussels has been on a Brexit break. That respite will soon be over. And despite rumours of Brussels compromises in the works, the EU has no off-the-shelf Brexit plan for the new prime minister, who is expected to be announced on Tuesday. “It wouldn’t make any sense to start working on this now,” one senior EU source said. “Because we really need to know [what he wants]. The only thing we have seen are his public statements.” EU negotiators have had no contact with the teams of Boris Johnson – the widely presumed winner – or his rival, Jeremy Hunt. Danuta Hübner, a Polish centre-right member of the European parliament’s Brexit steering group, said there was a “worrying” lack of time to find a compromise before Britain’s departure day on 31 October.


She could not imagine the EU putting anything new on the table, but said it remained open to renegotiating the political declaration on future relations. “We cannot change the major red lines on our side, that there is no possibility of renegotiating the agreement, including the backstop.” Johnson and Hunt have vowed to tear up the backstop, the fallback plan to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, which both men have voted for at least once. Recent reports have suggested the EU is ready to offer a five-year transition to break the deadlock over the backstop. But three EU sources said this was a rehash of debates from the negotiation period, rather than fresh ideas. “It’s all quite ancient” and “not something that we are considering at all”, an official said.

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Ann Pettifor: “Hammond has quietly overseen the dismantling through austerity of a decent society…..”

From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)

As Mr Johnson takes over as Leader of the Conservative Hard Brexit Cult, and by virtue thereof as Prime Minister, it is timely to take a quick look at what his economic and fiscal policy options are – at least in the lead up to DD-Day (Do or Die) on 31st October. It’s equally important to take stock of Mr Hammond’s record as he quietly fades away after three years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson proposes tax cuts for corporates (reduction in corporate tax rate, already one of the lowest of major economies), and praises President Trump’s example: “He has been very clever in allowing businesses to offset capital investment in tax, with capital allowances. I think we should think about that sort of thing for start-ups, in addition to cutting corporation tax, which would also be effective.” (Via Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun)


Johnson also promises significant tax cuts for the rich and well-to-do, notably by a big rise in the 40% income tax threshhold to £80,000 and by raising the starting-level of earnings for national insurance contribution (NIC) purposes. On the higher tax threshold, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says this “costs about £9 billion and benefits the 4 million or so income taxpayers with the highest incomes. Most of the gain goes to those in the top 10% of the income distribution would gain an average of nearly £2,500 a year.” On the NIC issue, he calculates this costs £3 billion for every £1,000 the starting level is raised. All these measures will reduce the immediate tax take for government, probably by £20 to 30 billion per year initially, which is 1-1.5% of GDP.


Messrs Johnson & Hammond, circa 1910

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“The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe..”

Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed victory Sunday for his ruling coalition in the upper house election, but appeared to fail to secure a “super majority” in the chamber in support of his dream to amend the nation’s pacifist constitution. With the results, the 64-year-old Abe, who is on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, aims to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington. “The ruling parties were given a majority … as people decided to urge us to firmly push for policies under the stable political base,” Abe told public broadcaster NHK.

“I want to meet their expectations soundly,” he said at the headquarters of his Liberal Democratic Party. Abe’s LDP and its coalition partner Komeito are forecast to take at least 69 of the 124 seats – about half the chamber – up for election on Sunday, with six seats still undecided, according to NHK. The two parties control 70 seats in the half of the 245-seat chamber that is not being contested, putting them on track to maintain their overall majority. [..] Local media did predict that forces in favor of revising the constitution, led by Abe’s LDP, were certain to fail to reach 85 of the seats up for grabs, which would have given them a two-thirds “super majority” in the chamber.

Following the vote, however, Abe said he would continue trying to expand support for the revision even if the pro-revision group eventually misses the target, necessary for proposing a constitutional amendment. Abe has pledged to “clearly stipulate the role of the Self-Defence Forces in the constitution,” which prohibits Japan from waging war and maintaining a military. The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive.

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Crazy. But Chinese.

Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)

Hong Kong has been left in shock after a night of violence on Sunday which saw dozens of masked men storm a train station. The men – dressed in white shirts and suspected to be triad gangsters – assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passers-by in the Yuen Long area. This is the first time this kind of violence has been seen in the ongoing anti-extradition demonstrations. Several lawmakers questioned why police were slow to arrive at the scene. Footage posted on social media showed dozens of men attacking people with batons inside the station. Forty-five people were injured, with one person in critical condition.


Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said police had taken more than an hour to arrive. “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio,” said another pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan in a tweet. “Where were [they?]” Police on Monday said they had not made any arrests but were still carrying out investigations. The mob attack followed a pro-democracy rally on Sunday in the centre of Hong Kong, where riot police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. The masked men stormed Yuen Long MTR station at about 22:30 local time (14:30 GMT), attacking passengers and people making their way back from the protest.

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“Protesters gave an ultimatum to the Governor after his address. “You have until 11:59pm to leave. If you refuse, we will make this country unmanageable“

Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico Saturday, marking the eighth straight day of rallies calling for the resignation of the island’s governor. The crowds show no sign of ebbing, and analysts say that the protests are quickly becoming the biggest political demonstration in the US territory’s modern history. The protests arose in response to the leak of Telegram app messages in which Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his inner circle make light of the casualties caused by Hurricane Maria and disparage political opponents using vulgar, homophobic, and sexist language.

The text message leak came days after another scandal: The FBI arrested two former top officials in Rosselló’s government as part of a corruption probe over their handling of $15.5 million in contracts. The officials, former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and Ángela Ávila-Marrero (former chief of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration), are accused of funneling the contracts to businesses they had personal ties to, regardless of those companies’ relevant experience or ability. The incidents have galvanized a public that feels neglected and exploited by political and economic elites, and one that has endured great suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a seemingly unresolvable debt crisis.

Calls for Rosselló’s resignation were growing following the corruption scandal; they exploded after the group chat scandal. Two cabinet officials have resigned in the wake of the scandals, but so far Rosselló has said that he plans to stay in office. Pressure on the governor is rising, however. The protests have garnered international attention, and a number of Puerto Rican celebrities like singer Ricky Martin (who was mocked in the leaked texts), Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and reggaeton star Bad Bunny have backed the demonstrations. “They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough. This cannot be,” Martin said in a video on Twitter.

Many politicians from the US mainland have started to weigh in on the issue as well. President Donald Trump — who has called Puerto Rican officials “incompetent or corrupt” and who has opposed increased Hurricane Maria aid to the territory — was critical of Rosselló on Twitter. “The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

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Populism as a result of decaying power.

“As European affairs minister in Portugal, I had quickly become used to thinking of Poland as the EU’s fourth power, ahead of Spain and Italy”

The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)

Populism is a direct result of significant shifts in the global distribution of power. Namely, it is a reaction to the loss of power by a formerly hegemonic West. The populist parties competing for power in many European countries are reminiscent of the nationalist movements of the 1800s and 1900s in developing countries, which won support from people tired of feeling dependent on Europe and the United States. In particular, they sensed that their ancient civilizations had come to abandon their way of life for Western ideas. They lamented that their countries had been so deeply Westernized that only the sense of emptiness remained. “Our country resembles a hospital,” the Turkish writer Kazim Nami wrote in Turkish Country, a journal published between 1911 and 1931, “deprived of medicine, doctors and care.”

In Russia, a Europeanized aristocracy existed in an entirely different world from the peasantry. They spoke French, listened to different music and songs, ate different food, and had a radically different view of religion and the ends of life. It was as two countries rather than as two classes that they looked at each other, plotting a final and decisive struggle over Russia’s soul. Even in France, England, Germany, and the United States, a creeping sense of alienation was slowly developing between the classes, but it was of a different sort. Because these were the world’s ruling nations, elites assumed the responsibility of managing the affairs of foreign countries. Their outlook was more universal in character, although rooted in colonialism, and that created an inevitable distance with their compatriots.

Of course, as long as Western hegemony persisted, the spoils of empire flowed to the lower classes and reconciled them with those in power. But as the balance of power shifted, cosmopolitan elites appeared in a different light. It was implausible for them to dictate to the rest of the world from a position of growing weakness, and some had learned too well to incorporate the interests of the rest of humanity when formulating their positions. Today, many voters in Europe and the United States are starting to regard the elites as profoundly disconnected from what they see as the national interest. Distrust and alienation will keep growing.

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Divide and rule. Long read. Here’s one of its stories.

Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)

In April 1941, nationalist army officers known as the Golden Square staged a coup in Iraq, overthrowing the pro-British regime, and signalled they were prepared to work with German and Italian intelligence. In response, the British embarked on a military campaign and eventually crushed the coup leaders two months later. But Suarez discovered in the files that the British were already wanting such a “military occupation of Iraq” by November 1940 – well before the Golden Square coup gave them a pretext for doing so. The reason was that Britain wanted to end “the mufti’s intrigues with the Italians”. One file notes: “We may be able to clip the mufti’s wings when we can get a new government in Iraq. FO [Foreign Office] are working on this.”

Suarez notes that a prominent thread in the British archive is: “How to effect a British coup without further alienating ‘the Arab world’ in the midst of the war, beyond what the empowering of Zionism had already done.” As British troops closed in on Baghdad, a violent anti-Jewish pogrom rocked the city, killing more than 180 Jewish Iraqis and destroying the homes of hundreds of members of the Jewish community who had lived in Iraq for centuries. The Farhud (violent dispossession) has been described as the Iraqi Jews’ Kristallnacht, the brutal pogrom against Jews carried out in Nazi Germany three years earlier.

There have long been claims that these riots were condoned or even orchestrated by the British to blacken the nationalist regime and justify Britain’s return to power in Baghdad and ongoing military occupation of Iraq. Historian Tony Rocca noted: “To Britain’s shame, the army was stood down. Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Britain’s ambassador in Baghdad, for reasons of his own, held our forces at bay in direct insubordination to express orders from Winston Churchill that they should take the city and secure its safety. Instead, Sir Kinahan went back to his residence, had a candlelight dinner and played a game of bridge.” Could this be the reason that UK government censors want the file to remain secret after all these years? It would neither be the first, nor the last time that British planners used or created pretexts to justify their military interventions.

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“Between 1910 and 1997, African-Americans lost about ninety per cent of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families.”

Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)

In the spring of 2011, the brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels were the talk of Carteret County, on the central coast of North Carolina. Some people said that the brothers were righteous; others thought that they had lost their minds. That March, Melvin and Licurtis stood in court and refused to leave the land that they had lived on all their lives, a portion of which had, without their knowledge or consent, been sold to developers years before. The brothers were among dozens of Reels family members who considered the land theirs, but Melvin and Licurtis had a particular stake in it. Melvin, who was sixty-four, with loose black curls combed into a ponytail, ran a club there and lived in an apartment above it. He’d established a career shrimping in the river that bordered the land, and his sense of self was tied to the water. Licurtis, who was fifty-three, had spent years building a house near the river’s edge, just steps from his mother’s.

Their great-grandfather had bought the land a hundred years earlier, when he was a generation removed from slavery. The property—sixty-five marshy acres that ran along Silver Dollar Road, from the woods to the river’s sandy shore—was racked by storms. Some called it the bottom, or the end of the world. Melvin and Licurtis’s grandfather Mitchell Reels was a deacon; he farmed watermelons, beets, and peas, and raised chickens and hogs. Churches held tent revivals on the waterfront, and kids played in the river, a prime spot for catching red-tailed shrimp and crabs bigger than shoes. During the later years of racial-segregation laws, the land was home to the only beach in the county that welcomed black families. “It’s our own little black country club,” Melvin and Licurtis’s sister Mamie liked to say.

In 1970, when Mitchell died, he had one final wish. “Whatever you do,” he told his family on the night that he passed away, “don’t let the white man have the land.” Mitchell didn’t trust the courts, so he didn’t leave a will. Instead, he let the land become heirs’ property, a form of ownership in which descendants inherit an interest, like holding stock in a company. The practice began during Reconstruction, when many African-Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era, when black communities were suspicious of white Southern courts. In the United States today, seventy-six per cent of African-Americans do not have a will, more than twice the percentage of white Americans.

Many assume that not having a will keeps land in the family. In reality, it jeopardizes ownership. David Dietrich, a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Preservation Task Force, has called heirs’ property “the worst problem you never heard of.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized it as “the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land—3.5 million acres, worth more than twenty-eight billion dollars. These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.

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Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years.

Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

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Jul 212019
 
 July 21, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong, who’s reflected in his visor

 

 

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)
Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)
The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)
Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)
British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)
Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)
UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)
Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)
Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)
Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)
War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)
Final Voyage (Kunstler)

 

 

A lot about Britain today, with a new PM being announced on Tuesday and taking over from Theresa May on Wednesday. And that at a point in time when the country has committed its biggest international blunder in years (though competition’s stiff) with the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker two weeks ago.

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)

The Leave campaign that Johnson led to a stunning victory in the Brexit referendum of June 2016 owed much of its success to its carefully calibrated slogan “Take Back Control.” Akrasia, which is discussed in depth by Socrates, Plato, and especially Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, is the contrary of control. It means literally “not being in command of oneself” and is translated variously as “weakness of will,” “incontinence,” and “loss of self-control.” To Aristotle, an akratic is a person who knows the right thing to do but can’t help doing the opposite. This is not just, as he himself seems to have intuited, Boris Johnson to a tee. It is also the reason why he embodies more than anyone else a Brexit project in which the very people who promised to take back control are utterly incapable of exercising it, even over themselves.

To grasp how Johnson’s akratic character has brought his country to a state approaching anarchy, it is necessary to return to the days immediately before February 21, 2016, when he announced to an expectant throng of journalists that he would support the Leave campaign. This was a crucial moment—polls have since shown that, in what turned out to be a very close-run referendum, Boris, as the mayor of London had branded himself, had a greater influence on voters than anyone else. “Character is destiny, said the Greeks, and I agree,” writes Johnson in The Churchill Factor, his 2014 book about Winston Churchill, which carries the telling subtitle “How One Man Made History.”

While the book shows Johnson to be a true believer in the Great Man theory of history, his own moment of destiny plays it out as farce, the fate of a nation turning not on Churchillian resolution but on Johnsonian indecision. For Johnson was, in his own words, “veering all over the place like a shopping trolley.” On Saturday, February 20, he texted Prime Minister David Cameron to say he was going to advocate for Brexit. A few hours later, he texted again to say that he might change his mind and back Remain. Sometime between then and the following day, he wrote at least two different columns for the Daily Telegraph—his deadline was looming, so he wrote one passionately arguing for Leave and one arguing that the cost of Brexit would be too high. (Asked once if he had any convictions, Johnson replied, “Only one—for speeding…”)

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Nothing wrong with leaving the EU, but everything wrong with how it’s been executed.

Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)

If, during the 2016 referendum campaign, you had told voters that MPs would be scrambling to stop the prime minister shutting down the legislature in order to force through food shortages, mass job losses and a crash in the pound, someone might have needed to change the slogan on the side of that bus. What is happening right now in Britain goes beyond any previously conceivable limits of responsible or accountable governance. Viewed against the country which seemed to exist just a few years ago, it is quite literally unbelievable. It’s not just that Brexit is a case of “I told you so”: the harm to our national political fabric has been more catastrophic than even the most pessimistic Remainer could have contemplated.

Britain is now heading into immediate, unabated crisis, but the consequences could last for years or even decades. Even the most conservative estimates suggest damage to our economy in all circumstances if we leave, contrary to everything campaigners promised. The neutral Office for Budget Responsibility this week forecast a significant recession in the event of no-deal. But the economic damage will almost certainly take less time to repair than the damage to our politics and society. What was billed as a way for people to take back control of democracy has become a systematic attack on every institution which underpins it.

First the Brexiters came for political opponents. Any prominent Remainer who dared question the legitimacy of the referendum or, heaven forbid, suggested a new one in the light of changed circumstances, was branded a traitor, an enemy of democracy, an elitist, a Remoaner, someone who wanted to subvert the will of the people, someone who knew best, someone who hated Britain. It was devastatingly effective. Brexit’s leaders rapidly and comprehensively refigured democratic opposition as opposition to democracy. All potential opponents, particularly in parliament itself, were cowed into affirming “respect for the result.” It became a standard vow of allegiance to a movement they knew to be disastrous, and they had little choice but to make it.

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“The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)

The morning after a group of 30 Royal Marines helped seize the Iranian-flagged Grace 1 in Gibraltar, tired Foreign Office officials did not look exactly jubilant. There was not exactly a sense of foreboding, but diplomats were aware of the wider bilateral consequences for British-Iranian relations. Now, with the capture of a British-owned oil tanker in the Gulf, some of their worst fears have been realised. The Stena Impero and its crew of more than 20 are now in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – and the UK has been shown to be unable to protect British shipping going through the waterways of the strait of Hormuz.

The British insist that they only impounded Grace 1 due its suspected destination – a port in Syria – not due to the fact that the ship was carrying Iranian oil. European Union sanctions against the regime of Bashir al Assad regime were there to be enforced and international law upheld, the British argued. There seemed little doubt, given its circuitous route, that the ship was bound for Syria. Yet there were some oddities to the British decision. Few previous shipments of oil to Syria have been impounded. The Spanish claim that the British acted under the instruction of the Americans. The Trump administration is trying to freeze all Iranian oil exports as part of its policy of maximum economic sanctions designed to force the Iranians to reopen talks on the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

But Britain opposes that US policy, arguing that it is counterproductive and only likely to strengthen the hands of hardliners in Tehran. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European council on foreign relations, pinpointed the ambiguities of the British action in Gibraltar: “The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

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He didn’t lure Britain, but a handful of intellectually challenged posh kids. And anyway it’s far too easy to blame this on Bolton. They did it themselves, May and Hunt et al.

Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)

John Bolton, White House national security adviser and notorious Iraq-era hawk, is a man on a mission. Given broad latitude over policy by Donald Trump, he is widely held to be driving the US confrontation with Iran. And in his passionate bid to tame Tehran, Bolton cares little who gets hurt – even if collateral damage includes a close ally such as Britain. So when Bolton heard British Royal Marines had seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar on America’s Independence Day, his joy was unconfined. “Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” he exulted on Twitter. Bolton’s delighted reaction suggested the seizure was a surprise.


But accumulating evidence suggests the opposite is true, and that Bolton’s national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident. The suspicion is that Conservative politicians, distracted by picking a new prime minister, jockeying for power, and preoccupied with Brexit, stumbled into an American trap. In short, it seems, Britain was set up. The consequences of the Gibraltar affair are only now becoming clear. The seizure of Grace I led directly to Friday’s capture by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although it has not made an explicit link, Iran had previously vowed to retaliate for Britain’s Gibraltar “piracy”. Now it has its revenge.

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I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter. Moreover, Spain says Gibraltar is not British either.

British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)

Britain told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.” “The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s U.N. mission wrote to the Security Council. “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.” The letter, seen by Reuters, was also sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war. It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria. “Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter read. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.” Britain called on Iran to release the Stena Impero tanker and told the Security Council it was working to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

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Ha ha. You mean there are sanctions that haven’t been applied yet?

Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)

British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report. Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.

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This is about weaponry, but I’d suggest the UK is mentally too weak.

UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)

The government has repeatedly failed to invest in defence and security, leaving the UK struggling to cope with emerging threats, an influential parliamentary committee was due to warn on Sunday in a report thrown into sharp relief by the developing crisis in the Persian Gulf. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy says the next prime minister will have to tackle major challenges – from growing strains on the UK’s relationship with the US and the EU, to the rise of China – if the UK is to meet its defence ambitions.

“If the Government wants to turn the ‘Global Britain’ concept into a meaningful strategy for a positive and self-assured role for the UK after its departure from the EU, then it needs to be more honest about how it proposes to address these challenges,” said the committee chair, Margaret Beckett MP. “It must also back this up with the necessary funding and resources, especially for defence and diplomacy.”

The report’s publication comes after the former chief of defence staff, Lord Richards, warned that the Royal Navy was “just too small to have a significant effect without being with allies”. Speaking in response to the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iranian authorities, Richards told BBC radio’s Today programme: “The fact is, for whatever reason, our government has invested relatively little against the threat and the risks that we face, particularly more and more in the longer term.” The former first sea lord, Lord West of Spithead, told Sky News that the navy had “too few ships” to escort merchant vessels in dangerous waters.

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@Jack has gone into politics. Bad move.

Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)

A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith. Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure. But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran. It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.


“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts. Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil. Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.

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Wednesday July 24, big day: Boris becomes British PM and Bob Mueller’s circus comes to town.

Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)

The Mueller report, which had no choice as there was no evidence, but to clear Donald Trump of conspiring with Russian President Putin to steal the last US presidential election from Hillary Clinton, nevertheless managed to keep an aspect of the manufactured hoax known as “Russiagate” alive by indicting some Russian intelligence officers and a Russian Internet clickbait operation for attempting to discredit Hillary with Internet postings. At the time I noticed that Muller’s indictments were based only on his assertion and not on any evidence. As there was no prospect whatsoever of the fake indictments coming to trial, I did not comment on them. I focused instead on Mueller’s statement that Trump might have obstructed justice although he lacked evidence to support the charge.


I noted how corrupt American law has become when it is possible to obstruct justice in the absence of a crime. Democrats and presstitutes were determined to get Trump by any means and remain uninterested in how justice is obstructed when there is no crime. In retrospect, not picking up on Mueller’s indictment-by-hearsay of Russians was a mistake. Not only have the Democrats continued their Russiagate campaign on the basis of the unsubstantiated indictments, but, more importantly, the indictments-by-assertion-alone show Mueller’s total lack of moral character. A prosecutor, indeed a former Director of the FBI, who confuses his unsubstantiated allegation with evidence, is not only a person devoid of any respect for law, but also an extremely dangerous person to have been vetted for the high government positions that he has held.

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Or is that the Liberals?

Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)

There is a disturbing trend in some libertarian circles and among some libertarian organizations to be increasingly enamored with foreign interventionism and US government backed regime change overseas. For those focused on foreign affairs, this is particularly troubling as it is abandoning a key tenet of libertarianism: non-interventionism. Not “your government 6,000 miles away must be changed… but I don’t support the US military doing it.” That is not non-interventionism. Non-interventionism is accepting that others may wish to live in a way you may not approve of. Non-interventionism in your neighbor’s affairs – whether he enjoys reading the Bible or lighting up a marijuana cigarette (or maybe both) – is really the sine qua non of the libertarian mindset: “aint nobody’s business if you do.”

You do not aggress against your neighbor just because you disagree with his life choices that do not infringe on your person or property and you extrapolate that dynamic to where you demand that to the highest extent possible your local, state, and federal governments treat you as you would treat your neighbor. The idea that this critical impulse somehow becomes null and void when it comes to international affairs is truly bizarre. In fact many self-described libertarians full-throatedly cheer when people are in the streets thousands of miles away trying to overthrow their governments. Somehow from this far distant vantage point they are just convinced that the mythical “free state” is about to break out somewhere.

And when someone points out that the semi-hidden hand behind these uprisings is the US government, which seeks to create overseas governments of subservient elites to prop up the (anti-libertarian) US empire, they accuse that person of being an extremist or a conspiracy theorist…or they get really lazy and stupid and just claim you are a “supporter” of the dictator of the day. So, many US libertarians (who knew next to nothing about Venezuela) demanded our support for that great “libertarian” liberator of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, who turned out to be just another crook with zero support from Venezuelans (but a lot of support from the CIA!).

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Dmitry, from a Russian perspective, shining his light on what I’ve repeatedly said: the US makes weapons for profit, Russia makes them to defend itself (from US weapons).

War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)

Within the vast bureaucratic sprawl of the Pentagon there is a group in charge of monitoring the general state of the military-industrial complex and its continued ability to fulfill the requirements of the national defense strategy. Office for acquisition and sustainment and office for industrial policy spends some $100,000 a year producing an Annual Report to Congress. It is available to the general public. It is even available to the general public in Russia, and Russian experts had a really good time poring over it. In fact, it filled them with optimism. You see, Russia wants peace but the US seems to want war and keeps making threatening gestures against a longish list of countries that refuse to do its bidding or simply don’t share its “universal values.”

But now it turns out that threats (and the increasingly toothless economic sanctions) are pretty much all that the US is still capable of dishing out—this in spite of absolutely astronomical levels of defense spending. Let’s see what the US military-industrial complex looks like through a Russian lens. It is important to note that the report’s authors were not aiming to force legislators to finance some specific project. This makes it more valuable than numerous other sources, whose authors’ main objective was to belly up to the federal feeding trough, and which therefore tend to be light on facts and heavy on hype. No doubt, politics still played a part in how various details are portrayed, but there seems to be a limit to the number of problems its authors can airbrush out of the picture and still do a reasonable job in analyzing the situation and in formulating their recommendations.

What knocked Russian analysis over with a feather is the fact that these INDPOL experts (who, like the rest of the US DOD, love acronyms) evaluate the US military-industrial complex from a… market-based perspective! You see, the Russian military-industrial complex is fully owned by the Russian government and works exclusively in its interests; anything else would be considered treason. But the US military-industrial complex is evaluated based on its… profitability! According to INDPOL, it must not only produce products for the military but also acquire market share in the global weapons trade and, perhaps most importantly, maximize profitability for private investors. By this standard, it is doing well: for 2017 the gross margin (EBITDA) for US defense contractors ranged from 15 to 17%, and some subcontractors—Transdigm, for example—managed to deliver no less than 42-45%. “Ah!” cry the Russian experts, “We’ve found the problem! The Americans have legalized war profiteering!”

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“I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat.”

Final Voyage (Kunstler)

[..] the party’s pathetic attempt to revive the walking dead narrative of RussiaGate is not working too well down on Jerold Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. The chairman apparently discovered that his star witness, Robert Mueller, might have to answer some embarrassing questions about the conduct of his investigation — like, why did it go on for two years when his chief deputy, Mr. Weissmann, was informed from the get-go that the main predicate document was a fraud? So, Mr. Mueller’s turn in the witness chair keeps getting postponed clear into the August recess. I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat. If I was him, I sure wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Oh, did anyone notice the House staged an impeachment vote on Wednesday? It flopped too.


Finally, there is the walking time-bomb known as Jeffrey Epstein, Democratic Party poohbah and impresario of an underage sex racket featuring the “Lolita Express” airplane service to his private “Orgy Island” in the Caribbean, with auxiliary party shacks in New York City and the New Mexico Desert. Rogue reports have been styling Epstein’s doings as an international blackmailing operation associated with the CIA and other Intel outfits, including the UK’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad, for the purpose of keeping international bigshots on a short leash. Who knows? At the center of it all is former President Bill Clinton, listed twenty-six times on the Lolita Express’s flight manifest — though the ex-Prez said last week in a statement that it was only four times. (Consider the source.) A raft of unsealed documents in the matter has been court-ordered to drop any day, and power-players all over the world — especially in our nation’s capital and on Wall Street — are rumored to be chewing their fingernails down to the nubbins as they wait for it.

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Jul 202019
 
 July 20, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

‘Looking to Break Status Quo,’ Iran Seizes UK Tanker (Defense One)
Deflationary Bust Baked in the Cake (Mish)
Fed’s Rosengren Doesn’t See The Case For A US Rate Cut (R.)
Market Needs Deep Rate Cut To Prevent Earnings Recession – Bianco (CNBC)
After Williams “Misguidance”, Fed Leaks No 50bps Rate Cut This Month (ZH)
Airlines Delay Boeing Max 737 Return Until November (G.)
Kids Could End Up In Foster Care Over Unpaid School Lunch Bills (USAT)
In a Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange (Hayase)
Jim Acosta Won’t Condemn Espionage Act Being Used Against Julian Assange (CF)
Trump Was Oddly Reasonable About Plastic Straws (G.)
Germany’s Forests On The Verge Of Collapse (DW)

 

 

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, knows exactly what’s going on, and only narrowly shies away from blaming US and UK for the problems:

“They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for.. But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.”

‘Looking to Break Status Quo,’ Iran Seizes UK Tanker (Defense One)

Iranian forces have seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, heightening the uncertainty in the region amid the disintegrating Iran nuclear deal and reigniting fears that simmering tensions with Iran could flare into conflict. A Liberian-flagged tanker was also seized, British officials said Friday. None of the captured crew are British citizens and it was not immediately apparent whether there were any casualties. Iran has protested the July 4 British seizure of one of its tankers in Gibraltar, which the U.K. said was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Asked on Friday whether Friday’s incident was a likely retaliation for the detention of their ship, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Iran typically looks for “things that are proportional in nature” to respond to actions from other nations that it considers a threat. Broadly, Iran is seeking to “break the status quo” of the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign of stifling sanctions, Ashley said. “They’re not looking to do something that is going to spiral out of control because war is not what they’re looking for,” Ashley told a small group of reporters at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “But at the same time, their decision calculus is they’ve gotta do something in response.”

The Trump administration has warned since May that Tehran is carrying out an intensifying campaign of provocative actions. Last month, President Trump ordered and then canceled airstrikes in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone that Iran said was flying in its airspace. (The United States says that the drone was flying over international waters.) On Thursday, U.S. Marines destroyed a drone that the White House said was Iranian (Tehran denies it) and which Pentagon officials said was closing in on an amphibious assault ship operating in the region.


If the United States hadn’t ordered airstrikes in June, this latest episode might not have drawn as much attention, said Mara Karlin, a Brookings Institution fellow and former defense official. But now, she said, Trump’s flirtation with airstrikes in June makes it almost impossible to predict how the White House, which has made constraining Iran a key pillar of its foreign policy, might respond to the seizure of a ship flagged to its closest ally. “We’re now in a totally different landscape,” she said, where both Iran and U.S. allies like the U.K. don’t understand Trump’s “escalation ladder.”

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Rate cuts no longer matter, says Mish.

Deflationary Bust Baked in the Cake (Mish)

A number of Fed governors and economic writers want a big cuts for insurance purposes. These people are economic illiterates. Rate cuts now as economic insurance is like trying to buy insurance on your car after you wrecked it. The bubbles have been blown. Rate cuts cannot unblow economic bubbles any more than they can unblow a horn.The bottom line at this point is an economic recession is baked in the cake. The global economy is slowing and the US will not be immune. It’s possible the US is in recession already, but consumer spending does not point that way, unless it’s revised. It’s all moot. The Fed has been fighting the deflation boogeyman.


Yet, the BIS did a historical study and found routine deflation was not any problem at all. “Deflation may actually boost output. Lower prices increase real incomes and wealth. And they may also make export goods more competitive,” stated the study. In the Fed’s foolish attempt to stave off consumer price deflation, the Fed sowed the seeds of a very destructive set of asset bubbles in junk bonds, housing, and the stock market. The widely discussed “everything bubble” is, in reality, a corporate junk bond bubble on steroids sponsored by the Fed. A 50 or even 100 basis point cut won’t matter now. It’s too late to matter. The debt deflation horn has already sounded.

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But if rate cuts no longer matter, then neither does the Fed. Can’t have that.

Fed’s Rosengren Doesn’t See The Case For A US Rate Cut (R.)

Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren on Friday pushed back against expectations for an interest-rate cut when Fed policymakers meet later this month, saying the U.S. economy does not need a boost the way some other countries might. “It makes sense that if I was in Japan or if I was at the ECB (European Central Bank) that I would seriously be thinking about easing,” Rosengren said in an interview with CNBC. “The U.S. economy is not at that point, the economy is actually quite reasonable at this stage. So, if that were to change, I’d be happy to ease that point. But I don’t want to ease if the economy is doing perfectly well without that easing.”


In a separate interview, conducted Thursday and published Friday, Rosengren told the Wall Street Journal that economic data had improved since the Fed met in June, when it held rates steady. On Thursday, comments by New York Fed President John Williams stoked expectations that the U.S. central bank would cut rates by a half-percentage-point when it meets on July 30-31. But those expectations were deflated just hours later when a New York Fed representative said the comments were not meant to signal policy actions at the upcoming meeting. The Fed is widely expected to cut rates for the first time in a decade at its July meeting. Friday was the last day that investors will hear from Fed officials until they release their policy statement at the close of the July meeting.

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Imagine seeing your self as a ‘market guy’, but failing to see there is no market left.

Market Needs Deep Rate Cut To Prevent Earnings Recession – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco believes Wall Street is teetering closer to an earnings recession. Unless the Federal Reserve intervenes with a bigger-than-expected 50 basis point cut, he’s worried that year-over-year earnings growth rates for the second and third quarters will go even lower. “The estimates for the third quarter are somewhere just below zero. This is not earnings growth. This is just struggling to stay at zero,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation ” on Wednesday. Bianco is building his case on an ominous trend in the current quarter’s S&P 500 earnings expectations.


“The estimates have just gone negative in the last week or so,” said Bianco. “They’re only down a couple of 10ths, but they are negative. And, they’ve been in a downtrend of several months.” Bianco, who calls himself a “market guy,” has been firmly in the rate-cut camp. He has been calling for the Fed to slash rates four times over the next 12 months. He is concerned the longer the 10-year and 3-month U.S. Treasury yields are inverted, corporate profits could sustain more damage. “It’s telling you that money is too tight for four or five months,” Bianco said. “Better to go 50 [basis point cut] now and you can raise rates later.”

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I see a bunch of spoiled, undereducated and overpaid kids shouting out to hide their ignorance.

After Williams “Misguidance”, Fed Leaks No 50bps Rate Cut This Month (ZH)

How do you put the monetary genie back in the bottle? That is what the Federal Reserve is scrambling to figure out today after a day of unprecedented miscommunication by NY Fed president John Wiliams, who as we reported on Thursday, not only singlehandedly repriced market expectations for a 50bps rate cut on July 31, but went so far as to hint that ZIRP is coming back. The fact that even uber dove, St Louis Fed president James Bullard, afterwards said they were expecting 25bps at best, was their desperate attempt to reset market expectations back to 25bps, but by then it was too late, and as of moments ago, the market was pricing in roughly 40% odds of a 50bps rate cut in two weeks, down from 70% yesterday. In retrospect, Williams made a massive communication mistake.

As Bank of America explained earlier today in a note from chief economist Michelle Meyer titled “The 50bps head fake”, in which she wrote that “on Thursday NY Fed President Williams gave a speech titled “Living Life Near the ZLB” arguing for monetary policy to be proactive and aggressive when confronting an “adverse” outlook. He argued that when short-term interest rates are close to zero, policymakers shouldn’t “keep their powder dry” and that they could not afford to take an “`wait and see’ approach to gain additional clarity about potentially adverse economic developments.” Shortly after, in a TV interview, Vice Chair Clarida strongly argued that it is prudent to take preventative measures with monetary policy when close to the zero lower bound (ZLB). Together, these comments moved markets closer to a 50bp cut at the end of the month.”


However, in an unprecedented move, the NY Fed subsequently released a statement stating that President Williams’s speech on Thursday afternoon was not intended to send a signal that the Fed might make a large interest rate cut this month but rather it was “an academic speech on 20 years of research.” Why did the NY Fed do this? Simple: as BofA explains, “the FOMC was uncomfortable with the market moving toward a 50bp cut and wanted to push the market back to a 25bp baseline.” In other words, as Meyer puts it, “Williams unintentionally misguided the markets”.

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Like they have any say in the matter.

Airlines Delay Boeing Max 737 Return Until November (G.)

The swift return of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft to the skies was put further in doubt this week with airlines signalling that they do not hope to operate the plane any time soon. With more than four months already elapsed since the plane was grounded by regulators, Southwest and American, two of the jet’s main US operators, followed United Airlines in saying they would be taking the Max out of their schedules until November. Ryanair, Europe’s biggest short-haul carrier, also announced it would have to curb expansion plans pinned on the arrival of its 737 Max orders and that some airport bases would have to shut as a result. Making the announcement on Tuesday, its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said he remained committed to the plane: “We’ve described them as gamechangers – and they remain gamechangers.”


But O’Leary admitted even its biggest customers – Ryanair has ordered 135 models – have little visibility on its immediate future: “We’re still operating in the realms of considerable uncertainty … there are no guarantees.” [..] Elsewhere this week, it became clear that restoring trust among passengers could take longer than fixing the plane. In Washington, relatives of passengers who died in the Ethiopian disaster told Congressional hearings that Boeing had focused on profits “at the expense of human life”. In a blistering attack on the manufacturer and the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), Paul Njoroge, who lost five family members including his wife and three children in the crash, warned that, without change, “another plane will dive to the ground, killing me, you”.

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“After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.”

Kids Could End Up In Foster Care Over Unpaid School Lunch Bills (USAT)

A Pennsylvania school district is warning children could end up in foster care if their parents do not pay overdue school lunch bills. The letters sent recently to about 1,000 parents in Wyoming Valley West School District have led to complaints from parents and a stern rebuke from Luzerne County child welfare authorities. The district says that it is trying to collect more than $20,000, and that other methods to get parents to pay have not been successful. Four parents owe at least $450 apiece. The letter claims the unpaid bills could lead to dependency hearings and removal of their children for not providing them with food. “You can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child’s right to food. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter read. After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.

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This is good.

In a Crisis of Democracy, We Must All Become Julian Assange (Hayase)

The framers of the constitution wanted to have power over people. As a testimony to this, the original draft of the constitution did not have a Bill of Rights. They were added to the constitution as amendments. This didn’t come about without a struggle. The proponents of the Bill of Rights demanded them in order to safeguard individual liberty and challenged those who seek to preserve levers of control. Even after the constitution was ratified with a Bill of Rights, the existence of this unaccounted power was never truly addressed. The wording of the First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Here, the First Amendment was aimed to restrict the governmental power. It was specifically addressing what Congress can’t do. However, the constitution didn’t ensure that corporations would not be able to circumvent laws and restrict freedom of speech. This lack of oversight made the system of governance vulnerable to corruption, as was observed by Thomas Jefferson, when he warned American people about a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism”.

The managed democracy relies on secrecy and deception to control the will of the populace. With the infiltration of commercial interests and the consolidation of media, the big business class has found a way to regulate free speech on their terms. The establishment of corporate media turned journalists’ First Amendment protection into a privilege that they can use against the public. Journalists, who have now become a new class of professionals, no longer share interests with ordinary people. They serve the agendas of the powerful state in maintaining an illusion of democracy, by restricting the flow of information and controlling narratives. For instance, the New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.


With the merger of the state and corporations, the power of private companies to influence governments and erode civil liberty has increased. Transnational corporations can now revoke and restrict basic rights at any time, crossing the judicial boundaries on the borderless cyberspace. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter censor free speech online and, without warrant, spy and invade the privacy of users.

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Cassandra.

Jim Acosta Won’t Condemn Espionage Act Being Used Against Julian Assange (CF)

CNN talking head, and resident White House activist, Jim Acosta refused to condemn the Espionage Act being used against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at an event where he was attempting to portray himself as a defender of the free press. Acosta’s book is titled, “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” but do not let that headline fool you into thinking that he supports the freedom of the press. Acosta was asked about his thoughts on the subject by YouTuber Matt Orfalea at an event at the Newseum over the weekend titled, “The President and the Press: The First Amendment and the First 100 Days.”

The question asked by Orfalea was simple, “what do you think of the Trump administration’s use of the controversial Espionage Act to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified information in the 2010s that exposed war crimes, informed the public, and didn’t harm anyone?” Assange has been charged for his release of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs which were provided to him by Chelsea Manning. He is not currently charged with anything related to the 2016 election, but that did not stop Acosta from trying to make a case for why he wants to see him punished for the 2010 release as payback for the completely unrelated publication of the Democratic National Committee emails.

“I am probably not gonna give you a satisfactory answer,” Acosta correctly began, “but I’m gonna do the best that I can. “I do think, and forgive me if you don’t agree with me on this, I do think what happened with us and my press pass case is slightly different than what happened with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,” Acosta said. The CNN pundit was correct here, as Assange has published world changing information and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on seven occasions. Acosta simply attempts to insert himself into news cycles to go viral and keep his face on television.


“My understanding about the Julian Assange situation is that, you know, he is being charged not just for trying to speak truth to power, and trying to reveal things. He’s in trouble for other things. What we’ve seen during the 2016 campaign where there were contacts between WikiLeaks and Russian operatives — that I think takes WikiLeaks and Julian Assange into sort of a different category than just a straight news organization — straight publisher of news around the world,” Acosta stammered on, as if he himself is part of a “straight news organization.” Acosta added that he is not “rendering a verdict on Julian Assange” and that he should have his day in court.

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The Guardian struggles to agree with Trump on anything at all.

Trump Was Oddly Reasonable About Plastic Straws (G.)

[..] it was the question from a reporter who piped up after Trump had stonewalled a question on his felonious former fixer that was the last, well … “Are you in favor of banning plastic straws?” the reporter asked. “I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws,” Trump responded. “You know, it’s interesting about plastic straws: so, you have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers, and everything else that are much bigger and they’re made of the same material? So, the straws are interesting. Everybody focuses on the straws. There’s a lot of other things to focus on. But it’s an – it’s an interesting question.”

Trump’s response is largely remarkable for how reasonable it is. Straws are an interesting question that have garnered disproportionate focus, and other single-use plastics, such as cups, plates and wrappers, do need to be part of efforts to address our unsustainable addiction to plastic. [..] Plastic straws only make up about 1% of the plastic waste in the ocean, according to Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions. And while plastic straw bans alone will solve neither climate change nor plastic pollution, they have also been criticized by advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, who often need straws to drink. Kim Sauder, a PhD student in disability studies, has described such bans as “environmental theater”.

[..] Trump’s response is also surprising because, for once, he eschewed fanning the fire of a culture war that his campaign has been attempting to stoke. Plastic straw selfies were a mini-Maga meme last summer, with various rightwing pseudocelebrities photographed themselves wasting plastic for no reason other than to “own the libs” who care about sea turtles and sustainability. This week, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale attempted to recapture the meme magic with a tweet comparing the efficacy of paper straws to “liberal progress”. “This is exactly what they would do to the economy as well,” he tweeted. “Squeeze it until it doesn’t work.”


The campaign website is also selling packs of 10 plastic straws “laser engraved” with Trump’s name for $15, with the tagline: “Liberal paper straws don’t work.” But if the campaign message was supposed to be “Vote for Trump because the libs are coming for your straws”, Trump himself failed to get the memo.

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Didn’t need the sensationalist headline. Issues are bad enough.

Germany’s Forests On The Verge Of Collapse (DW)

Germany’s forests are undoubtedly suffering as a result of climate change, with millions of seedlings planted in the hope of diversifying and restoring forests dying, warns Ulrich Dohle, chairman of the 10,000-member Bunds Deutscher Forstleute (BDF) forestry trade union. “It’s a catastrophe. German forests are close to collapsing,” Dohle added in an interview with t-online, a online news portal of Germany’s Ströer media group. Low rainfall last summer saw Germany’s rivers reach extreme lows, with some waterways still struggling and forests prone to fire. “These are no longer single unusual weather events. That is climate change,” said Dohle.

Helge Bruelheide, co-director of Germany’s Center for Integrative Biodiversity, warned: “if the trend prevails and the annual precipitation sinks below 400 millimeters (15.7 inches) then there will be areas in Germany that will no longer be forestable.” Lüdenscheid, a densely forested area in central Germany, was no exception, Bohle added. Its precipitation had slumped from one-meter (3.2-meters) in 2017 to only 483 millimeters last year. Catchments in central Europe collected only 10% more rainfall in the first half of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018, a trend exacerbated by uneven wet-then-dry months,Germany’s Institute of Hydrology (BFG) reported Thursday.


Low river levels “remain unchanged” in many parts of Germany, the BFG said, with only the Rhine River currently carrying sufficient water for shipping. It’s expected to fall in the coming weeks as dry, warmer weather returns. What Dohle of the forestry trade union termed “dramatic tree deaths” began with winter snow dumps in early 2018 which broke branches, weakening the trees’ natural defences and letting in fungal infections, “followed by drought and bark beetle infestation” that killed off European spruce trees. One million older trees have since died — not only heat susceptible spruces, but even Germany’s prized European Red Beech which had been widely planted over the past decade in the hope of creating climate stable forests, Dohle added.

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Picture Zero Hedge used with my article yesterday:

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 192019
 
 July 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse Walter 1937

 

Trump Denounces ‘Send Her Back’ Chant About Rep. Ilhan Omar (BI)
US Navy Ship ‘Destroyed’ An Iranian Drone – Trump (CNN)
Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Says Tehran Has Not Lost Any Drones (R.)
Rand Paul Angles To Become Trump’s Emissary To Iran (Pol.)
Manhattan and DC Brace For Epstein Impact (VF)
Beijing’s Credibility and the Baoshang Bank Dilemma (RG)
Obscure Data Suggests China Housing Bubble Has Burst (ZH)
Boeing Takes $4.9 Billion Charge As 737 Max Fiasco Drags On (ZH)
Congress Must Not Cede Its Authority To Raise Debt (Hill)
Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass (ZH)
More Puerto Rico Protests Planned As Governor Resists Calls To Resign (R.)
US Lawmakers Urge Trump To Sanction Turkey (R.)
Cyprus: American Promises, Turkish Arms, Russian Money And Missiles (Helmer)
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids (Hartung)
IUCN Red List Reveals Wildlife Destruction From Treetop To Ocean Floor (G.)

 

 

Of course people will see he didn’t really denounce it, or not fast enough or strong enough, but he did say it. Whatever you think of this, Trump got what he wanted: the Dems have moved hugely to the left. And he thinks they’re much easier to defeat in elections now. They can pick Biden or Kamala, but from now on in, it’ll be: yes but what do AOC and Omar think?

Trump Denounces ‘Send Her Back’ Chant About Rep. Ilhan Omar (BI)

President Donald Trump is distancing himself from attendees at his North Carolina rally on Wednesday who chanted about “send her back” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a US citizen who has been a strident Trump critic. In the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump said he “disagreed” with the chants, was “very unhappy” with them, and would try to stop them in the future. Omar came to America as a refugee from Somalia in the 1990s, and is a US citizen. At the rally, Trump went on an extended monologue criticizing Omar and falsely linking her to terrorism and accusing her of supporting al-Qaeda, drawing loud boos from the audience. The crowd broke into “send her back” chants after Trump accused her of “launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds.” But if Trump was unhappy with the chants, he didn’t show it.

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But have they?

US Navy Ship ‘Destroyed’ An Iranian Drone – Trump (CNN)

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of the Navy ship and ignored “multiple calls to stand down” — marking yet another escalation in the already tense situation playing out between Washington and Tehran. Speaking at the White House, Trump said the drone was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew” in the Strait of Hormuz and was “immediately destroyed.” The drone was destroyed using electronic jamming, according to a US defense official. The crew of the Boxer took defensive action after the drone came within a threatening distance of the US ship, the official said.


“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” Trump added. “The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interest and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.” He called on other countries to condemn Iran’s action and protect their own vessels.

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“I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!..”

Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Says Tehran Has Not Lost Any Drones (R.)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi denied on Friday that Iran had lost a drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the United States said that a U.S. Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone. “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!,” Araqchi said on Twitter, referring to a U.S. warship in the strategic waterway. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (meters) of the USS Boxer and had ignored “multiple calls to stand down” in the latest episode to stir tensions in the Gulf.

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Much better than Bolton or Pompeo.

Rand Paul Angles To Become Trump’s Emissary To Iran (Pol.)

Over a round of golf this past weekend, Sen. Rand Paul asked President Donald Trump’s blessing for a sensitive diplomatic mission. Paul proposed sitting down with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend a fresh olive branch on the president’s behalf, according to four U.S. officials. The aim: to reduce tensions between the two countries. Trump signed off on the idea. With Zarif in New York City this week for U.N. meetings and private sitdowns with journalists and think-tank experts, the prospect of the dovish Kentucky senator serving as the administration’s chief diplomatic emissary has rankled many administration officials, who are expressing concern that Paul’s intervention threatens to scuttle the president’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.

It is unclear whether the senator will meet with Zarif. He and his office declined multiple requests for comment. But the president’s willingness to tap Paul as the go-between with a top Iranian official is a demonstration both of his unorthodox approach to foreign affairs and his continuing desire, even as his aides threaten to squeeze Iran until it capitulates to U.S. demands, to entice the Islamic Republic’s leaders to the negotiating table. Trump has been attempting to start negotiations with Iran for months, a campaign that has included letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an attempt to use Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an emissary to Tehran, and public comments expressing his desire to talk. Some Iranian officials have said that they are open to negotiations, but only after the administration removes sanctions. Khamenei, however, has likened talking with the U.S. to drinking “poison.”

Paul, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), played a round of golf with the president on Saturday at his club in Sterling, Va. The libertarian-leaning Paul has long been wary of U.S. foreign intervention, and he’s clashed with Trump administration officials over the possibility of a military conflict with Iran. When Trump last month called off retaliatory military strikes against Iran after an Iranian military official downed a U.S. drone over international waters, Paul went on the president’s favorite television network to offer unqualified praise. “It really takes a statesman to show restraint amidst a chorus of voices for war,” Paul told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum.

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How wise is Epstein’s web?

Manhattan and DC Brace For Epstein Impact (VF)

The Jeffrey Epstein case is an asteroid poised to strike the elite world in which he moved. No one can yet say precisely how large it is. But as the number of women who’ve accused the financier (at least, that’s what he claimed to be) of sexual assault grows to grotesque levels—there are said to be more than 50 women who are potential victims—a wave of panic is rippling through Manhattan, DC, and Palm Beach, as Epstein’s former friends and associates rush to distance themselves, while gossiping about who might be ensnared. Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, architect of the original 2007 non-prosecution agreement that let Epstein off with a wrist slap, has already been forced to resign.

The questions about Epstein are metastasizing much faster than they can be answered: Who knew what about Epstein’s alleged abuse? How, and from whom, did Epstein get his supposed $500 million fortune? Why did Acosta grant Epstein an outrageously lenient non-prosecution agreement? (And what does it mean that Acosta was reportedly told Epstein “belonged to intelligence”?) But among the most pressing queries is which other famous people might be exposed for committing sex crimes. “There were other business associates of Mr. Epstein’s who engaged in improper sexual misconduct at one or more of his homes. We do know that,” said Brad Edwards, a lawyer for Courtney Wild, one of the Epstein accusers who gave emotional testimony at Epstein’s bail hearing. “In due time the names are going to start coming out.”

Likely within days, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will release almost 2,000 pages of documents that could reveal sexual abuse by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders,” according to the three-judge panel’s ruling. The documents were filed during a civil defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a former Mar-a-Lago locker-room attendant, against Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. “Nobody who was around Epstein a lot is going to have an easy time now. It’s all going to come out,” said Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies. Another person involved with litigation against Epstein told me: “It’s going to be staggering, the amount of names. It’s going to be contagion numbers.”

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Free markets? Nah…

Beijing’s Credibility and the Baoshang Bank Dilemma (RG)

Baoshang Bank’s seizure by regulators on May 24 has created structural liquidity distribution problems in China’s interbank money market, which is vital to the financial system’s overall function. The market’s liquidity chain, with money lent from policy banks and large banks to small banks and then to non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), remains ruptured, even as the central bank tries to piece it back together. However, authorities did not act capriciously, even if the Baoshang failure seems to have been foisted upon Chinese regulators at an awkward time.


The central bank chose explicitly to impose haircuts or discounts on corporate and interbank Baoshang depositors even while guaranteeing household and small deposits: they did not choose to fully support all depositors. By addressing some systemic risks officials necessarily create new counterparty credit risks: breaking moral hazard is difficult to do. Beijing cannot drive the probability of bank defaults back to zero, nor do they want to. Additional bank defaults have to be possible if system-wide risk taking is to be managed. The dilemma is fundamental: Does Beijing want the market to price the risk of potential bank failures, or do authorities want “stable” production of riskier and riskier forms of credit? Beijing can have one or the other, not both.

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Intriguing.

Obscure Data Suggests China Housing Bubble Has Burst (ZH)

[..] there was a delightful surprise to appease those who are wondering whether record credit injections and more easing measures than during the financial crisis had any effect at all. To wit, China retail sales and industrial production rebounded handsomely with the former spiking 9.8% YoY – the most since March 2018. There’s just one thing though – the entire surge in retail sales (and industrial production) seems to have been triggered by an almost unprecedented sudden surge in auto sales to – who else – the government itself, in the form large, state-owned enterprises. Think Cash for Clunkers on steroids – if the clunkers belonged to the Federal Government, and the new cars purchased were made by the Government.

Yet there was one critical data set in China’s manipulated economic data spreadsheet, which failed to get the royal goalseek treatment, one with dramatic implications for the broader market. According to Commodore Research, Chinese June data showed that furniture sales in China totaled only 18.4 billion yuan last month. This marks a year-on-year decline of 14% from the 21.3 billion yuan in sales that was reported last year for June 2018’s furniture sales. This is puzzling in light of the official Chinese data according to which the local housing market continues to hum along, firing on all cylinders, with the average, 70-city primary market property price rising 10.5% Y/Y in May.

Alas, that does not seem feasible when one considers that furniture sales in China have now contracted on a year-on-year basis for eighteen straight months. What does this mean? As Commodore Research concludes, “we continue to believe that there is a good chance that the ongoing plummet in furniture sales in China is pointing to much greater weakness existing in the Chinese housing market than is generally being recognized.”

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So: $100 million for the victims and $5 billion for the airlines. Yeah, makes perfect sense.

Boeing Takes $4.9 Billion Charge As 737 Max Fiasco Drags On (ZH)

In a long-overdue step that suggests Boeing is eager to put the 737 MAX debacle behind it, the Seattle airplane company announced it would take a $4.9 billion charge in Q2 related to the grounding of the 737 Max aircraft, which represents that troubled aircraft maker’s first estimate of the cost of compensating airlines for schedule disruptions and delays in aircraft deliveries. The charge will result in a $5.6 billion hit to pre-tax earnings when the company reports earnings on July 24, the company said in a statement issued on Thursday. There is just one problem: there is no assurance Boeing’s 737 MAX woes will end in Q2, with media reports suggesting the grounding of the jet may last into 2020.


That scenario is not being contemplated by the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, which said it assumes regulatory approval will be granted for the Max to return to global skies in the fourth quarter of this year. “This assumption reflects the company’s best estimate at this time, but actual timing of return to service could differ from this estimate,” the company said. To address the possibility of an extended grounding, Boeing said that although the charge equal to $8.74 per share, would be taken in the second quarter, the company said it expects “potential concessions or other considerations” would come “over a number of years”. As the FT notes, “concessions in such circumstances often take the form of price cuts on aircraft orders rather than cash payments.”

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History lessons.

Congress Must Not Cede Its Authority To Raise Debt (Hill)

Last Friday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress to increase the debt limit. And so begins another contentious debate. Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have had a love-hate relationship with the national debt. Alexander Hamilton insisted that debt was the price of liberty. Without it, the young country would be unable to protect itself from foreign threats. Yet, throughout much of U.S. history, many Americans regarded debt itself as a threat, to individual freedoms. The ability to raise debt was linked directly to power, and debt issued to finance the nation’s defense was viewed as particularly dangerous—a way to enrich “monied interests” and increase the power of government at the expense of everyone else.

To impede this potential for abuse, the Constitution vested the power to take on debt and regulate currency with the people—through Congress. As a Congressman during the 1790s, James Madison argued that debt and spending were equally important issues and should be debated separately, rather than rolled together in a single bill. Moreover, he felt that to not manage debt would have be an abdication of Congress’s role representing the people. During our nation’s first 130 years, Congress authorized debt as needed to meet the challenges of the day. Government debt financed revenue shortfalls derived from wars, economic recessions or even infrastructure investments. The big difference from modern times is that, back then, once the challenge precipitating the debt was resolved, Congress turned its attention to debt eradication.

President Andrew Jackson believed that repaying debt was a symbol that the nation could sustain independence. After the Civil War, Congress turned to paying off the national debt, which eventually fell from 32 percent of GDP in 1869 to 5 percent in 1916. But America’s aversion to government debt changed throughout the 20th Century. At the forefront of this change were three major developments: the enactment of the first permanent income tax; the creation of the Federal Reserve and the onset of World War I.

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As I wrote a few weeks ago, can’t use a reserve currency as a military tool.

Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass (ZH)

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational. And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.


Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year. ““Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.” … and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

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Wednesday’s protest, the biggest so far, included singer and actor Ricky Martin and reggaeton artist Bad Bunny.

More Puerto Rico Protests Planned As Governor Resists Calls To Resign (R.)

Massive and at times violent protests in Puerto Rico showed no sign of stopping as labor unions on Thursday organized a Friday march to keep up pressure on the governor to resign, while dozens of guns were stolen in a raid on police firearms center. Thousands of protesters have jammed streets in San Juan since Saturday, calling on Governor Ricardo Rossello to step down after the leak of a raft of controversial and vulgar text messages between him and his closest allies. The scandal comes on the heels of a federal probe into government corruption on the bankrupt island. The guns were stolen from a police station in the coastal city of Guayama, which was vandalized with graffiti calling for the governor to resign or face bullets, according to a Thursday police statement. The FBI was investigating, it said.


The political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the U.S. territory’s bankruptcy. It has also raised concerns with U.S. lawmakers who are weighing the island’s requests for billions of federal dollars for healthcare and for recovery efforts following devastating hurricanes in 2017. “Like never before, all factions of the country agree that Ricardo Rossello has to go,” Juan Cortés, president of the Central Federation of Workers, a public- and private-sector union, said in a statement. Rossello said on Thursday he continued to ask for forgiveness for what he has called “improper” but not illegal acts on his part, while affirming his commitment to remain in office.

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He’ll wait.

US Lawmakers Urge Trump To Sanction Turkey (R.)

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers pressed President Donald Trump on Thursday to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, saying he should follow a law mandating penalties for doing business with Russia’s military. Republican Senators Rick Scott and Todd Young introduced a resolution calling for sanctions after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defence system last week, prompting the White House to announce it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme.


Separately, Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said removing Turkey from the jet programme was not enough. “The law clearly mandates sanctions penalties for ‘significant transactions’ with the Russian Federation’s defence and intelligence sectors, which would clearly include the delivery of an S-400 system,” he said in an emailed statement. But Trump’s administration has stopped short of imposing sanctions on Turkey, despite the sweeping 2017 sanctions law, known as CAATSA. Trump has not been clear on whether his administration is considering doing so.

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And here’s why he’ll wait…

Cyprus: American Promises, Turkish Arms, Russian Money And Missiles (Helmer)

This week a group of US senators has proposed to leave Turkey in control of the northern part of Cyprus, and force the Greek Cypriots to choose between the US and Russia for the economic and political future of the south of the island. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed by a large bipartisan majority on June 25 to put into law a new Eastern Mediterranean strategy. If the bill is enacted, Cyprus will be required to decide that in exchange for American protection from Turkish military threats, including Russian-made S-400 missiles to be based in southwestern Turkey, the Cyprus Government must not allow Russian naval vessels to dock at Cypriot ports, and should block all Russian money and investments on the island.


At the same time, Greece has been told the US military intends to expand its occupation of Crete around the Souda Bay base; at Larissa Air Force Base, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki; and at other Greek locations. The proposed new law is the most comprehensive plan for American military occupation of Cyprus and Greece since the Greek civil war of the 1950s. The US plan also establishes State Department censorship of the Greek-language media in Cyprus and Greece, and threatens US sanctions against the Orthodox Church bishops of the two countries. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, initiated the new policy as an amendment to Senate Bill No. 1102, “to promote security and energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean, and for other purposes.”

Menendez chaired the Foreign Relations Committee until the Republicans won control of the Senate last November. He has made a long record of legislating sanctions against Russia, while he himself has been under FBI investigation for corruption. [..] US policy in the region should be aimed, the Bill declares, at backing the development of the Cyprus offshore gas deposits, as well as future regional pipelines and liquefaction plants, in order to compete against Russian gas supplies to southern Europe. Without naming Turkey, which is currently threatening Cypriot gas exploration at sea with drilling vessels of its own, the Bill claims that Cypriot seabed exploration “must be safeguarded against threats posed by terrorist and extremist groups, including Hezbollah and any other actor in the region.”

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The real giant squid.

Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids (Hartung)

Raytheon, already one of the top five U.S. defense contractors, is planning to merge with United Technologies. That company is a major contractor in its own right, producing, among other things, the engine for the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive Pentagon weapons program ever. The new firmwill be second only to Lockheed Martin when it comes to consuming your tax dollars — and it may end up even more powerful politically, thanks to President Trump’s fondness for hiring arms industry executives to run the national security state.

Just as Boeing benefited from its former Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan’s stint as acting secretary of defense, so Raytheon is likely to cash in on the nomination of its former top lobbyist, Mike Esper, as his successor. Esper’s elevation comes shortly after another former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, left the State Department amid charges that he had improperly influenced decisions to sell Raytheon-produced guided bombs to Saudi Arabia for its brutal air war in Yemen. John Rood, third-in-charge at the Pentagon, has worked for both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while Ryan McCarthy, Mike Esper’s replacement as secretary of the Army, worked for Lockheed on the F-35, which the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has determined may never be ready for combat.

[..] Fifty years ago, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire identified the problem when he noted that: “the movement of high ranking military officers into jobs with defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years away from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

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You are part of a death cult.

IUCN Red List Reveals Wildlife Destruction From Treetop To Ocean Floor (G.)

From the tops of trees to the depths of the oceans, humanity’s destruction of wildlife is continuing to drive many species towards extinction, with the latest “red list” showing that a third of all species assessed are under threat. The razing of habitats and hunting for bushmeat has now driven seven primates into decline, while overfishing has pushed two families of extraordinary rays to the brink. Pollution, dams and over-abstraction of freshwater are responsible for serious declines in river wildlife from Mexico to Japan, while illegal logging is ravaging Madagascar’s rosewoods, and disease is decimating the American elm.

The red list, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the most authoritative assessment of the status of species. The list published on Thursday adds almost 9,000 new species, bringing the total to 105,732, though this is a fraction of the millions of species thought to live on Earth. Not a single species was recorded as having improved in status. A landmark planetary health check published in May concluded that human civilisation was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. Wildlife populations have plunged by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists.

[..] Humanity’s thirst for fresh water, particularly for farming, is having an especially big impact on river and lake wildlife. The red list update reveals that more than half of the freshwater fish in Japan and over a third in Mexico are now threatened with extinction. Recent research found two-thirds of the world’s great rivers no longer flow freely. “The loss of these freshwater fish species would deprive billions of people of a critical source of food and income, and could have knock-on effects on entire ecosystems,” said William Darwall, head of the IUCN freshwater biodiversity unit.

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Twitter had restored the Unity4J account that supports Assange. How Pyrrhic is that victory?

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 182019
 


Mathew Brady Abe Lincoln 1864

 

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)
House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)
Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)
Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)
New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)
Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)
Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)
Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)
US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)
Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

 

 

It’s showdowns all the way down. It would be good if they can do this one with a bit more smart. But they’re losing everything so far, so no high hopes. Of course it’s beyond gross to be chanting “send her home” at a rally. But he’s winning it all and they are not. The Democrats need a plan, they need brains, they need to organize.

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald Trump after the House voted to block his administration from selling weapons and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia. The Democratic-led House on Wednesday passed the first of three resolutions of disapproval, 238-190, with votes on the others to immediately follow. Trump has actively courted an alliance with Riyadh and has pledged to veto the resolutions. The Senate cleared the measures last month, although by margins well short of making them veto proof. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority. The arms package is worth an estimated $8.1 billion and includes precision guided munitions, other bombs, ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support.

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Very predictable and therefore very stupid. It’s no time to start fights you can’t possibly win.

House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)

The House easily killed a maverick Democrat’s effort Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his recent racial insults against lawmakers of color, in a vote that provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over trying to oust him in the shadow of the 2020 elections. Democrats leaned against the resolution by Texas Rep. Al Green by about a 3-2 margin as the chamber killed the measure 332-95. The vote showed that so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been successful in her effort to prevent a Democratic stampede toward impeachment before additional evidence is developed that could win over a public that has so far been skeptical about ousting Trump.

Even so, the numbers also showed that the number of Democrats open to impeachment remains substantial. About two dozen more conversions would split the party’s caucus in half over an issue that could potentially dominate next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. “There’s a lot of grief, from a lot of different quarters,” Green, speaking to reporters after the vote, said of the reaction he’s received from colleagues. “But sometimes you just have to take a stand.” Every voting Republican favored derailing Green’s measure.

Pelosi and other party leaders considered his resolution a premature exercise that needlessly forced vulnerable swing-district lawmakers to cast a perilous and divisive vote. It also risked deepening Democrats’ already raw rift over impeachment, dozens of the party’s most liberal lawmakers itching to oust Trump. Recent polling has shown solid majorities oppose impeachment. Even if the Democratic-run House would vote to impeach Trump, the equivalent of filing formal charges, a trial by the Republican-led Senate would all but certainly acquit him, keeping him in office.

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And here’s another loss. It doesn’t stop.

Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)

Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed Wednesday. CNN reported Friday that the Manhattan US Attorney’s office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn’t poised to charge any executives involved in the company’s effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” US District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in his decision. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.” Pauley ordered a copy of the government’s July status report and copies of search warrant materials from the Cohen case to be filed publicly with very limited redactions by Thursday at 11 a.m. ET. The conclusion of federal prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump company’s role in the Cohen matter marks a significant victory for the President’s family business, although it likely doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

There had been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, CNN reported Friday. A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, said: “We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed. We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation.”

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I see many Chinese tourists here in Athens. And often think Beijing can’t let that trend continue, because these people can’t pay for their trips in yuan. But yes, it’s easier to start with halting the outflow of larger amounts.

Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)

Challenging conditions in the U.S. housing market, along with tighter currency controls by the Chinese government, caused a stunning drop in foreign demand for American homes. The dollar volume of homes purchased by foreign buyers from April 2018 through March 2019 dropped 36% from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The decline was due to a drop in the number and average price of purchases. Foreigners bought 183,100 properties with a total value of about $77.9 billion, down from 266,800 valued at $121 billion in the previous period. They paid a median price of $280,600, which is higher than the median for all existing homebuyers ($259,600), but it was down from $290,400 the previous year.


“A confluence of many factors — slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale — contributed to the pullback of foreign buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, the magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.” The Chinese were the leading buyers for the seventh consecutive year, purchasing an estimated $13.4 billion worth of residential property. Yet that was a 56% decline from the previous 12 months and comparatively the biggest percentage drop of all foreign buyers. Chinese economic growth slowed to 6.3% in 2019 compared with 6.9% in 2017, when the previous buyer survey began. The Chinese government also tightened its grip on the outflow of cash to purchase foreign property.

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New Zealand housing, like Australia and Vancouver, depends on the Chinese too.

New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)

New Zealanders usually welcome the praise when overseas authorities describe us as the best in the world. This time, not so much. In the past fortnight, global economic news authorities The Economist and Bloomberg Economics have both declared New Zealand houses to be vastly over-valued relative to both rents and incomes. They describe New Zealand as in bubble territory similar to those seen in other countries before the Global Financial Crisis and vulnerable to the sort of 30-40 percent price crash seen in the likes of Ireland and parts of the US through 2007 to 2010. The Economist’s long-running Global House Price Index was refreshed on June 27 with March quarter data for most countries and showed New Zealand top of the pops when it came to over-valuation relative to incomes and second most over-valued relative to rents behind Canada.

It found New Zealand prices in the December quarter of 2018 to be 57 percent over-valued relative to rents, just above Australia’s 42 percent overvalued in the March quarter. New Zealand was 113 percent over-valued relative to rents, just behind Canada’s 120 percent, The Economist found. New Zealand prices have more than trebled since 1990, while British and American prices are still less than double what they were 30 years ago. “On this basis, house prices appear to be on an unsustainable path in Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” The Economist wrote. “Ten years ago they reached similarly dizzying heights against rents and incomes in Spain, Ireland and some American cities, only to endure a brutal collapse,” it concluded.

[..] New Zealand’s housing market is now worth NZ$1.13 trillion, which is up by more than $1 trillion from NZ$123 billion in 1990. The increase is more than triple because there are more houses with more extras (decks/garages/rooms) added on. That’s $1 trillion in untaxed capital gains, which at the top marginal rate would have generated extra tax revenues of $330 billion, or enough to build nearly 700,000 new state houses or fund the next 14 years of New Zealand Superannuation payments. Our housing market is worth 3.9 times our GDP and more than 7.2 times the value of our stock market. For comparison sake, Australia’s housing market is worth A$6.6 trillion or 3.5 times Australia’s GDP and 3.3 times the value of its stock market. America’s housing market is worth US$33.3 trillion or 1.6 times US GDP and 1.5 times the value of the US stock market.

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Governments like bubbles.

Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)

The number of people owning their home outright has collapsed by a third as house prices have soared four-fold over the past two decades, leaving a growing number of older Australians shackled to mortgages as they head into retirement. In the mid-1990s, almost 44 per cent of people in NSW owned their home outright, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics this has now fallen to just 29.7 per cent. At the same time, the proportion of people in NSW with a mortgage has jumped by more than 30 per cent, with many of those heading towards their retirement years. The swing from ownership to mortgage has occurred over the past 20 years as the median house price in Sydney lifted by 460 per cent, even taking into account the recent market softening.

It’s a similar story in Victoria, where in the mid-1990s more than 45 per cent of people were mortgage-free, but now that figure has fallen to just 31 per cent. Victorians are among the most exposed to changing interest rates, with more than 37 per cent of people holding a mortgage. Two decades ago less than 30 per cent held a housing debt with their bank. Over the same period, the median house price in Melbourne has soared from $126,131 to $806,000. The Northern Territory has the smallest proportion of people who own their home outright, at just 17 per cent. Among the states, just 27 per cent of residents in Queensland and Western Australia enjoy life without a mortgage or rental payments.

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Dalio channels Minsky: stability leads to instability. He must be aware of that.

Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)

There are always big unsustainable forces that drive the paradigm. They go on long enough for people to believe that they will never end even though they obviously must end. A classic one of those is an unsustainable rate of debt growth that supports the buying of investment assets; it drives asset prices up, which leads people to believe that borrowing and buying those investment assets is a good thing to do. But it can’t go on forever because the entities borrowing and buying those assets will run out of borrowing capacity while the debt service costs rise relative to their incomes by amounts that squeeze their cash flows. When these things happen, there is a paradigm shift.

Debtors get squeezed and credit problems emerge, so there is a retrenchment of lending and spending on goods, services, and investment assets so they go down in a self-reinforcing dynamic that looks more opposite than similar to the prior paradigm. This continues until it’s also overdone, which reverses in a certain way that I won’t digress into but is explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises [..] Another classic example that comes to mind is that extended periods of low volatility tend to lead to high volatility because people adapt to that low volatility, which leads them to do things (like borrow more money than they would borrow if volatility was greater) that expose them to more volatility, which prompts a self-reinforcing pickup in volatility.

There are many classic examples like this that repeat over time that I won’t get into now. Still, I want to emphasize that understanding which types of paradigms exist and how they might shift is required to consistently invest well. That is because any single approach to investing—e.g., investing in any asset class, investing via any investment style (such as value, growth, distressed), investing in anything—will experience a time when it performs so terribly that it can ruin you.

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Think he means that for pension funds as well?

Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)

Hedge fund kingpin Ray Dalio is seeing a case for gold as central banks get more aggressive with policies that devalue currencies and are about to cause a “paradigm shift” in investing. Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, wrote in a LinkedIn post that investors have been pushed into stocks and other assets that have equity-like returns. As a result, too many people are holding these types of securities and likely to face diminishing returns. “I think these are unlikely to be good real returning investments and that those that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold,” the Bridgewater Associates leader said.

“Additionally, for reasons I will explain in the near future, most investors are underweighted in such assets, meaning that if they just wanted to have a better balanced portfolio to reduce risk, they would have more of this sort of asset. For this reason, I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio. I will soon send out an explanation of why I believe that gold is an effective portfolio diversifier.” [..] Dalio’s call comes two weeks before the Federal Reserve is expected to cut its benchmark interest rate by at least a quarter point. That move comes after a three-year cycle of raising rates from the historically accommodative near-zero levels implemented during the financial crisis.

The fresh trends are part of what he labeled a new “paradigm shift” that comes after the last one during the crisis. Investors, Dalio said, are going to need to change their mindset about what will work after the longest bull market run in Wall Street history. “In paradigm shifts, most people get caught overextended doing something overly popular and get really hurt,” he wrote. “On the other hand, if you’re astute enough to understand these shifts, you can navigate them well or at least protect yourself against them.”

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“Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35..”

US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)

The United States said on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week. The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing NATO ally Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent. “The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told a briefing.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the move was unfair and could affect relations between the two countries. Lord said moving the supply chain for the advanced fighter jet would cost the United States between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering costs. Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, she said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly U.S. factories as Turkish suppliers are removed. “Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord said. “It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program.”

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, is used by NATO and other U.S. allies. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s stealth system. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

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One of my greatest heroes. She does what Muhammad Ali did.

Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

Daily fines against Chelsea Manning for resisting a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks increased to $1000 on July 16. On May 16, Judge Anthony Trenga held Manning in civil contempt and ordered her to be sent back to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria. The court also imposed a fine of $500 per day after 30 days, and then a fine of $1000 per day after 60 days. From June 16 to July 15, the court fined her $500/day. Those fines total $15,000. If Manning “persists in her refusal” for the next 15 months or until the grand jury’s term ends, her legal team says she will face a total amount of fines that is over $440,000. This excessive amount may violate her Eighth Amendment rights under the Constitution.


In May, Manning’s attorneys filed a motion challenging the harshness of the fines. The federal court has yet to rule on the motion or hold a hearing. The motion asserted there is no “appropriate coercive sanction” because Manning will never testify. She should be released from jail and relieved of all fines. “Ms. Manning has publicly articulated the moral basis for her refusal to comply with the grand jury subpoena, in statements to the press, in open court, and most recently, in a letter addressed to this court,” her attorneys stated. “She is suffering physically and psychologically, and is at the time of this writing in the process of losing her home as a result of her present confinement.”

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Jul 172019
 


Salvador Dali Mme. Reese 1931

 

The circus will be coming to town a week later, but not to worry, the show will go on longer and there will be many added attractions, including a full troop of 800-pound gorillas and an entire herd of 8000-pound elephants in the room. And once the balancing acts, the clowns and the ferocious beasts pack up and move on, America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize.

The circus is the testimony of Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary (extended to 3 hours) and Intelligence Committees (2 hours). The Democrats will aim to use Mueller’s words to finally achieve their long desired impeachment of Donald Trump. But is there anyone who’s not a US Democrat who thinks that is realistic? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to think so.

In order for the Dems to get their wish, Mueller would have to say a lot of things that are not in his report. It all appears to hang on the interpretation of his assessment that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which the Dems take to mean that there actually was a crime that could -or should- be prosecuted.

It’s not clear why the hearing was delayed from July 17 to 24, but don’t be surprised if it has to do with US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision that Mueller must stop talking in public about a case that is in front of her, because his words might prejudice a jury. That is the case that Mueller brought in February 2018 against Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, their owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin (aka Putin’s cook), and 12 of his employees.

Mueller thought he could get away with presenting a case against them because they would not show up, but Prigozhin did hire a major law firm. Ironically, Friedrich has reportedly also decided that the lawyers cannot talk about the case to their own client(s). She hasn’t thrown out the case or anything, she’s simply told everyone including Mueller to stop discussing it in public.

 

So it’s quite possible that once the House Democrats figured this out (the decision stems from May 28 but was unsealed only on July 1), they had to change strategy. Mueller has been barred from saying a single word about it, including in the House.

In his report, Mueller tried to establish a link between the Russian firms and the Kremlin, but never proved any such link. They are accused of meddling in the 2016 election through emails and social media posts, an accusation that looks shakier by the day.

With that part of his report out of the way, what is left for him to talk about? He himself already gave up on the whole collusion narrative, which would appear to leave only obstruction. Well, there’s the Steele dossier, but with John Solomon blowing another gaping hole in it yesterday, that may not be the wisest topic to discuss on the House floor. By now, only the very faithful still believe in the dossier.

The Republicans surely don’t, and they also happen to be House members, and get to ask questions of Mueller on the 24th. The spectacle last night where Nancy Pelosi insisted on calling Trump a racist was nutty (you don’t do that in the House), but the Mueller hearings promise to be much much more nuts still.

 

In the background a second investigation is playing out: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been probing if DOJ or FBI officials abused their powers to spy on the Trump campaign. His report has been delayed, if reports are correct, because Christopher Steele at the very last minute agreed to testify. Those talks apparently were long and detailed. Wonder what he had to say.

And there’s a third probe too: AG Barr has tasked John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, to follow up on the Horowitz report and look at whether officials at the CIA, the NSA, and/or foreign intelligence agencies (think MI6), violated protocols or statutes.

That case is about whether the FISA court was misled to secure a warrant to put Trump campaign aide Carter Page under surveillance. It can also take a new look at the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, messages that Trump tweeted about on Saturday: “This is one of the most horrible abuses of all. Those texts between gaga lovers would have told the whole story. Illegal deletion by Mueller. They gave us “the insurance policy.”

The deletion reportedly may have been accidental. But it does set the tone. The door is wide open for the Republicans to go after Mueller. And he knows it, always has. He never wanted the hearings, he said it was all in his report. But the Dems wanted more, they want Mueller to say Trump is guilty of obstruction (of a probe that perhaps should never have taken place).

Personally, I wonder whether a Republican congressman/woman will have the guts to ask Mueller why he refused to talk to Julian Assange, the most obvious person for him to talk to in the whole wide world. But since the GOP hates Assange as much as the Dems, I don’t have high hopes of that happening.

What they certainly will ask is when he knew his probe wasn’t going anywhere. And if that was perhaps as much as a whole year before he presented his report. The Dems will tear into Mueller looking for obstruction. Like: if Trump were not the president, would you sue him? Problem with that is none of this would have happened if Trump were just a citizen.

But I lean towards Ray McGovern’s take, who says that the circus may not come to town on July 24 either. Because there’s no there there (something Peter Strzok himself said about the Steele dossier), and because the Dems know this is their last shot at glory. And the GOP doesn’t mind another week or so of preparation.

Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence. No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence.


Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

And I was serious when I said before that once the Mueller hearings are done, “America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize”. Because if and when the Mueller circus fails to provide the impeachment dream (try elections!), where are they going to go, what else is there to do?

They’ve been clamoring for impeachment for collusion (big fail), for obstruction (Mueller wouldn’t have it) and now racism, but that is merely based on interpretation of tweets. Nancy Pelosi wrote about ‘women of color’, not Donald Trump.

America needs a strong Democratic party, and it certainly doesn’t have one right now. The Dems should be calling for an end to regime change wars, that is a popular theme among their voters. But they don’t, because guess where their money comes from. They are in a very deep identity crisis, and Trump just has to pick them off one by one. They should look at themselves, not at him. Do these people ever do strategy?