Dec 312019
 
 December 31, 2019  Posted by at 10:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Peter Beard Francis Bacon on his Roof at 80 Narrow Street, London 1972

 

The Decade of Debt (R.)
I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)
Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)
Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)
Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)
Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)
States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)
Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)
How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)
UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of NATO In 1995 (G.)
Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

 

 

Leave it to Reuters to turn this into a bland story. Oh, and just you watch the next decade.

The Decade of Debt (R.)

Whatever nickname ultimately gets attached to the now-ending Twenty-tens, on Wall Street and across Corporate America it arguably should be tagged as the “Decade of Debt.” With interest rates locked in at rock-bottom levels courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policy after the financial crisis, companies found it cheaper than ever to tap the corporate bond market to load up on cash. Bond issuance by American companies topped $1 trillion in each year of the decade that began on Jan. 1, 2010, and ends on Tuesday at midnight, an unmatched run, according to SIFMA, the securities industry trade group. In all, corporate bond debt outstanding rocketed more than 50% and will soon top $10 trillion, versus about $6 trillion at the end of the previous decade.


The largest U.S. companies – those in the S&P 500 Index – account for roughly 70% of that, nearly $7 trillion. What did they do with all that money? It’s a truism in corporate finance that cash needs to be either “earning or returning” – that is, being put to use growing the business or getting sent back to shareholders. As it happens, American companies did a lot more returning than earning with their cash during the ‘Tens. In the first year of the decade, companies spent roughly $60 billion more on dividends and buying back their own shares than on new facilities, equipment and technology. By last year that gap had mushroomed to more than $600 billion, and the gap in 2019 could be just as large, especially given the constraint on capital spending from the trade war.

Read more …

Just too juicy.

I, Who Vowed to Never Short Stocks Again, Just Shorted the Entire Market (WS)

In my decades of looking at the stock market, there has never been a better setup. Exuberance is pandemic and sky-high. And even after today’s dip, the S&P 500 is up nearly 29% for the year, and the Nasdaq 35%, despite lackluster growth in the global economy, where many of the S&P 500 companies are getting the majority of their revenues. Mega-weight in the indices, Apple, is a good example: shares soared 84% in the year, though its revenues ticked up only 2%. This is not a growth story. This is an exuberance story where nothing that happens in reality – such as lacking revenue growth – matters, as we’re now told by enthusiastic crowds everywhere.

Until just a couple of months ago, the touts were out there touting negative interest rates soon to come to the US and thus making stocks the only place to be. Those touts have now been run over by the reality. Now they’re touting QE4 by the Fed, or whatever. And people were looking for any reason to buy. The unanimity of it all was astounding. I’ve seen this before, but not in this magnitude. And there is this: As stocks were surging over the past few months, investors with large gains who wanted to sell didn’t sell before year-end in order to defer that income for tax considerations. So there was reduced selling pressure from that group that would have liked to sell, and that will sell after the new year starts.

So I shorted the stock market today, December 30 – me who is on record of saying repeatedly that I would never ever short anything ever again, after the debacle of November 1999 when I shorted the most obviously ridiculous Nasdaq high-fliers a few months too early. They collapsed to near-zero, but not before ripping off my face.

Read more …

Turley’s on a roll.

Pelosi’s Half Right Constitutional Claim Leaves The House All Wrong (Turley)

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe has penned an editorial column in support of the refusal of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit House articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. Tribe declares this strategy is not just constitutional but also commendable. That view may be half right on the Constitution. However, it leaves Pelosi all wrong on her unprecedented gaming of the system. The withholding of the articles is not only facially inappropriate. It shatters the fragile rationale for the rush to impeach. Tribe focuses on a point on which I agree entirely. We both have criticized the position of Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, who testified with me in the House Judiciary Committee hearings, that President Trump has not really been impeached.

Feldman insists that impeachment occurs only when the articles and a slate of House trial managers are submitted to the Senate for trial. However, there is no support for that interpretation in the text or history of the Constitution. Indeed, English impeachments by the House of Commons often were not taken up for trial in the House of Lords, yet all those individuals still were referenced as impeached. Now for our point of disagreement. The Constitution does not state that the House must submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate at any time, let alone in a specific period of time. Tribe insists this means that the “House rules unmistakably leave to the House itself” when to submit an impeachment for trial. There are, in fact, two equal houses of Congress.

Faced with a House manipulating the system, the Senate can change its rules and simply give the House a date for trial then declare a default or summary acquittal if House managers do not come. It is the list of House trial managers that is necessary for Senate proceedings to commence. The “standing rules of procedure and practice in the Senate when sitting on impeachment trials” are triggered when the House gives notice that “managers are appointed.” The Senate is given notice of the impeachment in the congressional record shared by both houses. The articles are later “exhibited” by the managers at the trial. Waiting for the roster of managers is a courtesy shown by the Senate to the House in preparing its team of managers for the trial.

We have never experienced this type of bicameral discourtesy where the House uses articles of impeachment to barter over the details of the trial. Just as the Senate cannot dictate the handling of impeachment investigations, the House cannot dictate the trial rules.

Read more …

Feels weak overall, given the contents of his mails to Lisa Page.

Strzok Claims FBI, DOJ Violated His Free Speech, Privacy Rights (Hill)

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, a onetime member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, is claiming the FBI and Justice Department violated his rights of free speech and privacy when firing him for uncovered texts that criticized President Trump. Strzok and his legal team made the claims in a court document filed Monday that pushes back on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) motion to dismiss the lawsuit he filed in August over his ouster a year earlier. DOJ alleged in its motion to dismiss that Strzok’s role in high-profile investigations meant he was held to a higher standard when it came to speech.

But Strzok’s legal team disputed this in Monday’s filing, saying that the approximately 8,000 other employees in similar positions retain their privacy even when using government-issued devices. “The government’s argument would leave thousands of career federal government employees without protections from discipline over the content of their political speech,” the filing said. “Nearly every aspect of a modern workplace, and for that matter nearly every non-workplace aspect of employees’ lives, can be monitored,” it added. “The fact that a workplace conversation can be discovered does not render it unprotected.”

Strzok’s team also accuses the bureau and DOJ of only punishing those who condemn Trump, as “there is no evidence of an attempt to punish” those who verbally backed the president ahead of the 2016 election. The FBI declined to comment, saying the bureau does not comment on pending litigation. “It doesn’t matter who you are — someone, like Pete, who has devoted his whole life to protecting this country, or a Gold Star family, or a Purple Heart winner, or a lifelong Republican who spent 5 years as a POW in North Vietnam. If you dare to raise your voice against President Trump, he and his allies will try to destroy you,” Strzok attorney Aitan Goelman said in a statement to The Hill.

Read more …

Trying to please the DNC. Not.

Tulsi: Impeachment Greatly Increased Likelihood Of Trump Reelection (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) predicted Monday that it would be more difficult for House Democrats to remain in control of the House following passage of articles of impeachment against President Trump. In a video tweeted Monday evening, the 2020 candidate for president wrote that Trump’s chances of winning reelection had been “greatly increased” because of the House’s vote. “Unfortunately, the House impeachment of the president has greatly increased the likelihood Trump will remain the president for the next 5 years,” Gabbard says in the video. “We all know that Trump is not going to be found guilty by the U.S. Senate,” she added. The remarks are not the first Gabbard has made warning against Trump’s impeachment. She made similar comments just days ago in New Hampshire, arguing that Trump’s supporters would be emboldened by the House’s move heading in to 2020.

Read more …

“..the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella..”

Forecast 2020 — Whirlin’ and Swirlin’ (Kunstler)

[..] a venerable institution such as The New York Times can turn from its mission of strictly pursuing news and be enlisted as the public relations service for rogue government agencies seeking to overthrow a president under false pretenses. The overall effect is of a march into a new totalitarianism, garnished with epic mendacity and malevolence. Since when in the USA was it okay for political “radicals” to team up with government surveillance jocks to persecute their political enemies? This naturally leads to the question: what drove the American thinking class insane?

I maintain that it comes from the massive anxiety generated by the long emergency we’ve entered — the free-floating fear that we’ve run out the clock on our current way of life, that the systems we depend on for our high standard of living have entered the failure zone; specifically, the fears over our energy supply, dwindling natural resources, broken resource supply lines, runaway debt, population overshoot, the collapsing middle-class, the closing of horizons and prospects for young people, the stolen autonomy of people crushed by out-of-scale organizations (government, WalMart, ConAgra), the corrosion of relations between men and women (and of family life especially), the frequent mass murders in schools, churches, and public places, the destruction of ecosystems and species, the uncertainty about climate change, and the pervasive, entropic ugliness of the suburban human habitat that drives so much social dysfunction.

You get it? There’s a lot to worry about, much of it quite existential. The more strenuously we fail to confront and engage with these problems, the crazier we get. Much of the “social justice” discontent arises from the obvious and grotesque income inequality of our time accompanied by the loss of meaningful work and the social roles that go with that. But quite a bit of extra tension comes from the shame and disappointment over the failure of the long civil rights campaign to correct the racial inequalities in American life — everything from attempts at school integration to affirmative action (by any name) to “multiculturalism” to the latest innovations in “diversity and inclusion.”

[..] By 2020 Wokesterism has shot its wad and the Wokesters are banished to a windowless room in the sub-basement of America’s soul where they can shout at the walls, point their fingers, grimace spittlingly, and issue anathemas that no one will listen to. And when they’re out of gas, they can kick back and read the only book in the room: Mercy, by Andrea Dworkin. And then, one fine spring morning, after everyone else has given up on it, Donald Trump, social media troll-of-trolls, the Golden Golem of Greatness himself, rises in his pajamas and tweets that, at long, long last, he has finally got “woke,” changed his name to Donatella, and declared his personal pronoun to be “you’all.”

Read more …

“When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first. This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent.”

States Are Already Paying For Unfunded Pensions (Platt)

Kicking pension problems into the future is popular with politicians, enabling them to make promises and let voters worry later about borrowing costs. But large, unfunded state pension liabilities are a costly problem—and the cost is already reflected in current bond prices, research by Chicago Booth PhD candidate Chuck Boyer suggests. “The public pension funding crisis is not merely about future insolvency,” he writes. “Future obligations are having an effect on debt spreads right now.” To many Americans, it may seem unimaginable that states would fail to fully pay pensions promised to teachers, firefighters, and other public-service workers.

It has been almost 90 years since the last state default: during the Great Depression, Arkansas owed over $160 million to debt payments, which was nearly half of the state’s annual revenue (and equivalent to roughly $3 billion in 2019 dollars). The debt was restructured and “debtholders were eventually made whole,” Boyer writes in recounting this history. However, pension obligations are mounting in many states, and officials are struggling to cut costs and raise taxes to pay what is owed. And he argues that the effects can be seen in the $3.8 trillion capital market for US municipal bonds, which includes bonds issued by 50,000 state and local governments. When a company defaults, there is a clear legal framework for who gets paid back first.

This isn’t the case for states, however, as there is no such legal structure, nor much precedent. The markets’ expectations, then, are built into bond prices. Bondholders, wary of how a default could play out, demand a premium. Using annual fiscal reports released by state governments, Boyer looked at the ratio of unfunded pension liabilities to GDP from 2002 to 2016 and estimates that every 1-standard-deviation increase is associated with a 27–32 basis-point increase in bond spreads over the Treasury rate, up to a fifth of the average total spread. Unfunded pensions cost US states more than $2 billion in lost bond-issuance proceeds in 2016, he calculates, adding that he considers that a conservative estimate.

But the penalty that a state would essentially pay in the form of higher spreads varies from state to state, providing some indication of how the market thinks a default could play out. States where pensioners have more legal protections and their unions have more bargaining power (and maybe higher public support) are paying higher borrowing costs. In these areas, debtholders see a higher risk of default—perhaps assuming states would take care of pensioners before bondholders, who are mostly high-net-worth and retail investors.

Read more …

Walking away from a $9 million bond.

Ex-Nissan Boss Ghosn Says Is In Lebanon, Fleeing Japan’s ‘Rigged’ Justice (R.)

Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn confirmed he fled to Lebanon, saying he wouldn’t be “held hostage” by a “rigged” justice system and raising questions about how one of the world’s most-recognized executives escaped Japan months before his trial. Ghosn’s abrupt departure marks the latest dramatic twist in a year-old saga that has shaken the global auto industry, jeopardized the alliance of Nissan Motor Co Ltd and top shareholder Renault SA and cast a harsh light on Japan’s judicial system. “I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied,” Ghosn, 65, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.” Most immediately, it was unclear how Ghosn, who holds French, Brazilian and Lebanese citizenship, was able to orchestrate his departure from Japan, given that he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail and had surrendered his passports. Japanese immigration authorities had no record of Ghosn leaving the country, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. A person resembling Ghosn entered Beirut international airport under a different name after flying in aboard a private jet, NHK reported, citing an unidentified Lebanese security official.

His lawyers were still in possession of his three passports, one of his lawyers, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters in comments broadcast live by NHK. Hironaka said the first he had heard of Ghosn’s departure was on the news this morning and that he was surprised. He also said it was “inexcusable behavior”. [..] Ghosn was arrested at a Tokyo airport shortly after his private jet touched down on Nov. 19, 2018. He faces four charges – which he denies – including hiding income and enriching himself through payments to dealerships in the Middle East. Nissan sacked him as chairman saying internal investigations revealed misconduct ranging from understating his salary while he was its chief executive, and transferring $5 million of Nissan funds to an account in which he had an interest.

Read more …

Words fail. It’s not just bankers that don’t go to jail.

How Fentanyl Spread Across the US (Kolitz)

Often lost in the early news reports was the fact that fentanyl alone wasn’t killing people; many different kinds of fentanyl were. Since its invention in 1959 by the Belgian chemist and doctor Paul Janssen, fentanyl has seen more than 1,400 analogues: twists on the original formula whose origins and effects vary widely. Carfentanil, for instance—100 times stronger than fentanyl—was until 2018 FDA-approved for use as an elephant tranquilizer. It is here that the opioid crisis intersects with (and amplifies) a newer scourge: NPS, or new psychoactive substances, molecularly tweaked stand-ins for traditional street drugs. The best-known of these is probably K2, or Spice, the ostensible marijuana substitute whose high bears little resemblance to the real thing and whose side effects include blood-clotting, kidney failure, and instant death.

But there are hundreds more, and likely thousands in development. Mini-pandemics have erupted across the country, as when, in the course of a single week last year, over 100 people in New Haven overdosed on what was later determined to be AB-FUBINACA, yet another synthetic cannabinoid. Ben Westhoff, in “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic”, charts this progression in harrowing detail. We are now dealing, he writes, with “the harshest drug challenge in our history.” His book is one of the first to address what the Centers for Disease Control has called the “third wave” of the opioid crisis: first OxyContin, then heroin, and now fentanyl and its analogues.

Earlier accounts of this crisis – Sam Quinones’s “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” or Beth Macy’s “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” – had in Purdue Pharma the benefit, structural and dramatic, of a villain. More or less everyone can agree that pharmaceutical companies should refrain from wantonly pursuing profit at the expense of public health. Dopesick is rarely a pleasant read, but Macy’s account of Purdue’s first major court battle – which culminated in criminal convictions for three executives and $600 million in fines—provided at least some measure of catharsis.

Read more …

I still wonder what made Yeltsin turn to Putin. Guilt, a rare moment of lucidity?

UK MoD Proposed Russian Membership Of Nato In 1995 (G.)

Russia could have become an “associate member” of Nato 25 years ago if a Ministry of Defence proposal had gained support, according to confidential Downing Street files which also expose Boris Yeltsin’s drinking habits. The suggestion, aimed at reversing a century of east-west antagonism, is revealed in documents released on Tuesday by the National Archives at Kew. Presented by Malcolm Rifkind, then defence secretary, to a Chequers strategy summit, the plan was to dispel Kremlin suspicions of the alliance’s eastwards expansion. In 1995, Yeltsin was president and the cold war over. Relations were in flux as a Russia tried to come to terms with shrunken international borders.

Yeltsin was proving an unpredictable ally. Files show that he urged western leaders at a summit in Halifax, Canada to delay Nato enlargement until after Russia’s elections because “public discussion could provoke trouble”. But poor health and heavy drinking jeopardised his authority. The previous year he had notoriously failed to disembark from a plane during a stopover in Ireland amid rumours of alcoholism and a heart attack. In July 1995, the Moscow embassy cabled about Yeltsin going into hospital due to his “longstanding heart condition”. At Hyde Park, the Roosevelt home in New York, according to US diplomats, Yeltsin subsequently appeared “rolling, puffy and red”. He consumed “wine and beer greedily … and regretted the absence of cognac. One of his aides took a glass of champagne from him when the aide felt enough was enough and he was alcoholically cheerful at his press conference with Clinton.”

[..] In a 10-page submission, Rifkind argued that: “A possible solution would be to create a new category of associate member of Nato. Such a status could not involve article V guarantees [which declares an attack on one state is an attack on all members], membership of the IMS [Nato’s International Military Staff] or Russian vetoes and would not therefore change the essence of Nato. “It would, however, give Russia a formal status within Nato, allow it to attend, as of right, ministerial and other meetings and encourage a gradual convergence and harmonisation of policy, doctrine and practice.”

Read more …

The photos have now all turned red. NOTE: the army still hasn’t been sent in, apparently. The people dying are volunteer firemen.

Images Of ‘Mayhem’ And ‘Armageddon’ As Bushfires Rage (G.)

Thousands of people fled to the lake and ocean in Mallacoota, as bushfires hit the Gippsland town on Tuesday. The out-of-control fire reached the town in the morning and about 4,000 people fled to the coastline, with Country Fire Authority members working to protect them. The town had not been told to evacuate on Sunday when the rest of East Gippsland was, and authorities decided it was too dangerous to move them on Monday. People reported hearing gas bottles explode as the fire front reached the town, and the sound of sirens telling people to get in the water. By 1.30pm the fire had reached the water’s edge. A local man, Graham, told ABC Gippsland he could see fire in the centre of the town, and 20m high flames on the outskirts where he believed homes were alight.

“We saw a big burst of very big flames in Shady Gully,” he said. “As I speak to you I’m looking across Coull’s Inlet and there are big flames … and they would be impacting houses. That’s not good at all.” People in Mallacoota posted in community social media groups estimates of about 20 houses lost, with the school, bowling club and golf club also hit. Hundreds more evacuees sheltered in the community centre. “There are a lot of people at the waterfront jetty, in the lake, on the sand spit between the lake and the ocean, and there are people on a sandbar, and some on boats,” Charles Livingstone told Guardian Australia from the community centre. He said there were at least 350 people in the community centre, many with children and pets. He, his wife and their 18-month-old baby were at the jetty on Monday night but moved to the community centre to avoid the heavy smoke.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please put the Automatic Earth on your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

Dec 202019
 
 December 20, 2019  Posted by at 10:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Butter bean vines across the porch, Negro quarter, Memphis, Tennessee 1938

 

“Let Them Impeach And Be Damned” (Turley)
House-Senate Impeachment Impasse Would Mean Trump Wasn’t Impeached At All (ZH)
Durham Reportedly Seeking Ex-CIA Director Brennan’s Emails, Call Logs (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Fall Below 2014 Level. Answers Emerge (WS)
Japan Cabinet Approves Record $939 Billion Budget Spending Plan (R.)
Fukushima Daiichi No.1 Reactor To Be Covered (NHK)
Sturgeon Demands Independence Referendum Powers Be Devolved (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill ‘Tears Up’ Protections For Child Refugees (Ind.)
Assange CANNOT Be Extradited Because Of Treaty Between US-UK: Legal Team (RT)

 

 

One of the few good things to emerge from the impeachment tragedy: Jonathan Turley’s clear voice.

“Let Them Impeach And Be Damned” (Turley)

“Let them impeach and be damned.” Those words could have easily come from Donald Trump, as the House moves this week to impeach him. They were, however, the words of another president who not only shares some striking similarities to Trump but who went through an impeachment with chilling parallels to the current proceedings. The impeachment of Trump is not just history repeating itself but repeating itself with a vengeance.

The closest of the three prior presidential impeachment cases to the House effort today is the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson. This is certainly not a comparison that Democrats should relish. The Johnson case has long been widely regarded as the very prototype of an abusive impeachment. As in the case of Trump, calls to impeach Johnson began almost as soon as he took office. A southerner who ascended to power after the Civil War as a result of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Johnson was called the “accidental president” and his legitimacy was never accepted by critics. Representative John Farnsworth of Illinois called Johnson an “ungrateful, despicable, besotted, traitorous man.”

Johnson opposed much of the reconstruction plan Lincoln had for the defeated south and was criticized for fueling racial divisions. He was widely viewed as an alcoholic and racist liar who opposed full citizenship for freed slaves. Ridiculed for not being able to spell, Johnson responded, “It is a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.” Sound familiar? The “Radical Republicans” in Congress started to lay a trap a year before impeachment. They were aware that Johnson wanted their ally, War Secretary Edwin Stanton, out of his cabinet, so they then decided to pass an unconstitutional law that made his firing a crime.

To leave no doubt of their intentions, they even defined such a firing as a “high misdemeanor.” It was a trap door crime created for the purposes of impeachment. Undeterred, Johnson fired Stanton anyway. His foes then set upon any member of Congress or commentator who dared question the basis for the impeachment. His leading opponent, Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania demanded of them, “What good did your moderation do you? If you do not kill the beast, it will kill you.”

Read more …

Feldman also makes a solid argument, instead of the opinionated statements he made in the House.

House-Senate Impeachment Impasse Would Mean Trump Wasn’t Impeached At All (ZH)

While Nancy Pelosi threatens to withhold articles of impeachment passed Wednesday night by the House, Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman says that President Trump isn’t technically impeached until the House actually transmits the articles to the Senate. Feldman, who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings earlier this month, argues in a Bloomberg Op-Ed that the framers’ definition of impeachment “assumed that impeachment was a process, not just a House vote,” and that “Strictly speaking, “impeachment” occurred – and occurs — when the articles of impeachment are presented to the Senate for trial. And at that point, the Senate is obliged by the Constitution to hold a trial.”

“If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all. That’s because “impeachment” under the Constitution means the House sending its approved articles of to the Senate, with House managers standing up in the Senate and saying the president is impeached. As for the headlines we saw after the House vote saying, “TRUMP IMPEACHED,” those are a media shorthand, not a technically correct legal statement. So far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message.” -Noah Feldman

Pelosi, meanwhile, won’t transmit the articles until the Senate holds what she considers a “fair” trial. Roughly modeled after England’s impeachment procedures, the framers in Article I of the constitution gave the House “the sole power of impeachment,” while giving the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” [..] In closing, Feldman says “if the House never sends the articles, then Trump could say with strong justification that he was never actually impeached,” adding “And that’s probably not the message Congressional Democrats are hoping to send.”

Read more …

Where is he on Clapper?

Durham Reportedly Seeking Ex-CIA Director Brennan’s Emails, Call Logs (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr told “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that by the time Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, it had become clear that allegations raised by the FBI against a former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos were largely baseless, and that pursuing George Papadopoulos’ “had very little probative value.” Additionally, Barr admitted, in a very candid (for him) moment, that federal prosecutor John Durham (who is scrutinizing the Russia investigation) “isn’t just looking at the FBI, he’s looking at other agencies, departments, and private actors,” but that “the other agencies are cooperating very well.”

Which is all the more intriguing as, at the same time as his interview aired, The New York Times dropped a bombshell, reporting that, according to three people briefed on the inquiry, Durham’s investigation has begun examining the role of the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference. Specifically, Durham has requested Brennan’s emails, call logs, and other documents from the C.I.A. (and judging by Barr’s statement that “other agencies are cooperating very well,” we suspect Durham will get what he wants. Additionally, NYT reports that Durham is also examining whether Mr. Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including May 2017 testimony to Congress, about both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia’s interference.

Of course, NYT is quick to ‘warn’ readers that Durham’s decision to probe Brennan’s actions deeper will “add to accusations that Mr. Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies.” But we ask, just as with Ukraine and the Bidens, is it only ‘not allowed’ to root out corruption if the corrupt is a representative of ‘the other’? We will let AG Barr respond to that implied problem: “The president bore the burden of probably one of the greatest conspiracy theories – baseless conspiracy theories – in American political history.” [..] We suspect that if Durham cracks Brennan, he will take everyone else down with him. Maybe Nancy will hand the impeachment articles over at that moment… as a distraction from the real threat to America’s democracy, constitution, and common man.

Read more …

If you’re into climate issues, this should make you rejoice.

US Freight Shipments Fall Below 2014 Level. Answers Emerge (WS)

Freight shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge of consumer and industrial goods but not bulk commodities declined 3.3% in November from a year ago, the 12th month in a row of year-over-year declines, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. This follows a huge boom in shipments through much of 2018, but by November last year, that boom was already fizzling, and by December last year, shipments declined on a year-over-year basis for the first time since the last freight recession. Note the infamous boom-and-bust cycles of the business:

The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods, industrial products such as construction materials, equipment and components being shipped to or by manufacturers, supplies and equipment for oil & gas drilling, and many other things. But it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. Cass derives the data from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of its clients ($28 billion in 2018). The boom levels last year had been stimulated by pandemic efforts all around to front-run the tariffs by loading up on merchandise. But November’s drop in shipment volume didn’t just put the index below November last year, but also below 2017 levels and 2014 levels and nudged it closer to the lows of the 2015 and 2016 freight recession. In the stacked chart below – note the seasonality of the business – the red line represents the index for 2019. The top black line represents 2018, the purple line 2017, and the yellow line 2014:

The Oil-and-Gas-Bust Factor. For more granularity, we’ll look at durable goods shipments – which include anything from washing machines (knock on wood in term of “durable”) to industrial equipment. Durable goods shipments in November fell 1.5% year-over-year. But within that group, shipments of machinery and equipment for agriculture, construction, and mining, which is dominated by equipment for shale oil-and-gas drilling, plunged 13.6% year-over-year. During the peak of the Oil Bust in late 2015 and early 2016, shipments of equipment to these sectors plunged by as much as 37% year-over-year, much worse than the plunge during the Financial Crisis when they’d bottomed out at -29%. This is how important the oil-and-gas sector has become to US industry.

Read more …

Take a spoonful of Abenomics, add several pounds of sugar.

Japan Cabinet Approves Record $939 Billion Budget Spending Plan (R.)

Japan’s government has approved a record budget spending plan worth $939 billion for the coming fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance said on Friday, as it struggles to curb spending and manage the industrial world’s heaviest public debt burden. The 102.7 trillion yen ($939 billion) general-account budget for the year beginning April 1 marks a 1.2% rise from the current year, boosted by record outlays for welfare and the military and other spending aimed at boosting the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prioritized growth over fiscal reform under his “Abenomics” reflationary policy of monetary stimulus and flexible spending, and planned spending has increased for eight straight years.


Part of the planned spending will help finance a $122 billion fiscal package put together this month by Abe’s cabinet to shore up growth beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after hits from the U.S.-China trade war and an Oct. 1 sales tax hike to 10%. [..] Japan’s public debt is more than double the size of its $5 trillion economy, by far the highest among advanced economies. Bond yields have been suppressed by Bank of Japan money printing under a policy that caps 10-year JGB yields around 0%, allowing the government to rely on cheap borrowing. Perhaps mindful of fiscal discipline, Japan aims to cut new bond issuance for a 10th straight year – to 32.6 trillion yen from 32.7 trillion yen this year, helped in part by additional revenues from the sales tax hike.

Read more …

Scary people.

Fukushima Daiichi No.1 Reactor To Be Covered (NHK)

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will install a giant cover over one of the reactors that underwent a nuclear meltdown as part of its dismantling process. Tokyo Electric Power Company announced the decision on Thursday regarding the No.1 reactor building, which was affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The covering will measure 65 meters high, 65 meters long and 50 meters wide. Its ceiling will have cranes that can be used to remove debris. The reactor’s fuel storage pool still holds 392 nuclear fuel units. As part of their removal process, TEPCO is clearing scattered debris from the building.


TEPCO says that by installing the cover, it aims to lower the risks of radioactive dust spreading outside during the debris removal process. It added that the device will also prevent rainwater from getting into the reactor building, thereby helping to reduce the volume of newly contaminated water. TEPCO says it cannot tell when the device will be completed, as it is still in the process of making a detailed construction plan.

Read more …

Self-determination in 2020. Scotland has to ask the country they want to separate from if that’s okay.

Sturgeon Demands Independence Referendum Powers Be Devolved (G.)

Nicola Sturgeon has called for the Scottish parliament to be given permanent powers to hold subsequent referendums on independence from the UK. Describing the SNP’s success in last week’s general election as an “unarguable mandate by any normal standard of democracy”, Scotland’s first minister confirmed on Thursday morning that she had formally written to Boris Johnson to request the powers to legally stage another referendum under section 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act. Alongside this, the SNP leader published a 38-page document that also sets out draft amendments to the statute, which would devolve the right to hold votes on leaving the UK to Holyrood.

Insisting that she was not advocating for a third independence referendum – “not least because I think when Scotland gets the chance to vote again, it will vote for independence” – she refused to rule one out for ever, underlining that no first minister could bind the hands of their successors over the right to self-determination. Entitled Scotland’s Right to Choose, the publication argues that there has been a “material change of circumstance” since the independence referendum of 2014, based on “the prospect of Scotland leaving the EU against its will and what EU exit has revealed about Scotland’s position within the UK”.

Launching the document at an event at her official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said she “fully expected to get a flat no” from Westminster initially. “I’m going to stand my ground. I fully expect today we will get the flat no of Westminster opposition, but that will not be the end of the matter and Boris Johnson should not be under any illusion that it is.”

Read more …

No surprise.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill ‘Tears Up’ Protections For Child Refugees (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans “tear up” a government pledge to protect child refugees in Europe seeking to reunite with family in the UK, campaigners have said. The Prime Minister’s new withdrawal agreement bill, which sets out plans for the UK’s exit from the EU, has scrapped a previous commitment to negotiate a new deal for child refugees after Brexit. The explanatory notes of the bill observe that the obligation to negotiate an agreement that “an unaccompanied child who has made a claim for international protection in a member state can come to the UK to join a relative” has been dropped. That obligation, which was pushed for and celebrated by Lord Alf Dubs and the wider Labour Party as well as refugee charities, has been replaced with a requirement only to make a statement to parliament.


Reacting to this, Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “During the last Parliament, Labour’s Alf Dubs led the campaign to protect child refugees post-Brexit. The Tories now want to tear up those protections. “As we leave the EU we cannot abandon our values of human rights and internationalism. Labour must continue to stand up for the most vulnerable people in the world.” Lord Alf Dubs told The Independent it was a “retrograde step” that could leave hundreds of children with relatives in the UK stranded alone in Europe. “It’s deeply depressing and deeply disappointing. We’re talking about children and young people who had some hope of a decent life with their relatives,” he said.

Read more …

Today Assange is set to be moved to the courtroom to face the Spanish judge via videolink.

Assange CANNOT Be Extradited Because Of Treaty Between US-UK: Legal Team (RT)

Lawyers for journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will argue that a treaty between the US and UK explicitly bans extradition for political offenses when his hearing begins in early 2020. Assange faces 18 counts in the US including conspiracy to hack government computers and violating espionage laws with a possible penalty of decades in prison. His full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020 and his defense team have made clear their intention to fight his extradition using any and all means at their disposal. “We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offense and these offenses as framed and in substance are political offenses,” Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.


Assange’s defense lawyers will also submit medical evidence, public comments made by US officials and details from the Chelsea Manning case to fight the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US and are also expected to call up to 21 witnesses to testify. Manning is currently in prison for contempt of court after she refused to testify before a federal grand jury seeking to level additional charges against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Assange appeared via video link but the whistleblower is due to make an in-person appearance in court tomorrow to answer questions from a Spanish judge in relation to “revelations about bugging of conversations with his lawyers” during his prolonged seven-year exile at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegations of rape which have subsequently been dropped.

Medical observers from #Doctors4Assange were denied access to Thursday’s case management hearing for #JulianAssange, despite members of the public offering to give up seats for them.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please put the Automatic Earth on your Christmas charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

 

 

Dec 062019
 
 December 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein President Roosevelt tours drought area, near Bismarck, North Dakota Aug 1936

 

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)
Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)
Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)
Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)
Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)
Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)
French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)
UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)
Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)
Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)
BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

 

 

There’s a concerted effort to bring back Mueller into the impeachment narrative. I’m not entirely sure why the Dems would want that. A little video with the article suggests Trump would have lied to Mueller -in writing- about contacts with WikiLeaks. You know, Julian Assange, the man who can’t defend himself. The same reason why Mueller could leave him in the report. Along with the 13 Russians. Pelosi can swing from Ukraine back to RussiaRussia. She already did, actually.

So will they bring back Mueller’s bumbling testimony as well? Be careful what you wish for.

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)

Democrats are debating a risky step that may immeasurably bolster their impeachment case but could multiply the political price for ramming it home. Including elements of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report suggesting President Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction would help arguments he did exactly the same in the Ukraine investigation. But reviving the controversy over the special counsel’s probe could blur the much clearer current abuse of power case and play into Trump’s claims that both Washington intrigues are all part of the same “hoax.” Such an accusation would not be based in fact, but it would surely increase the exposure of swing state Democratic House members already facing an existential vote over impeachment. [..]

Democrats provoked fresh speculation that they were moving towards admitting some Mueller evidence by scheduling a Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday with staffers from two committees: Intelligence, which investigated the Ukraine scandal, and Judiciary, which dealt with allegations of obstruction in the Mueller report. This followed comments by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that could be taken as a hint that Democrats were examining the Mueller option. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election,” Nadler said in his committee’s opening impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

But in a situation as emotionally and politically fraught as an impeachment, confronting each action can provoke a politically damaging counter-reaction. Democrats who wanted to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after the release of the Mueller report failed to convince a critical mass of their own leadership that the case was sufficiently clear to the American people. That was one reason why Pelosi held out so long against rising pressure in her own caucus for an effort to oust the President, amid fears of a political backlash. In the CNN town hall, the speaker suggested that the Ukraine case was far more black and white. “It wasn’t so clear to the public,” Pelosi said, referring to Mueller’s findings.

“The Ukraine (situation) has removed all doubt, it was self-evident that the President undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our election as he violated the oath of office.” The President and his supporters, perpetrating a massive disinformation campaign to create uncertainty and ambiguity about the Ukraine case, has been trying to brand it as an extension of the Mueller saga. Folding in the special counsel’s evidence could help do his work for him. For instance, in the first televised House Intelligence Committee hearing last month, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, told witnesses: “the main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

Read more …

Turley of course is the one expert who disagreed with the three others.

Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)

The most dangerous place for an academic is often between the House and the impeachment of an American president. I knew that going into the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of Donald Trump. After all, Alexander Hamilton that impeachment would often occur in an environment of “agitated passions.” Yet I remained a tad naive in hoping that an academic discussion on the history and standards of it might offer a brief hiatus from hateful rhetoric on both sides. In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views.

My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record. Some of the most heated attacks came from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. [..] As I stated Wednesday, I believe the Clinton case is relevant today and my position remains the same. I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation. Instead, Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes such as bribery and extortion to use those in drafting articles of impeachment.

In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized. As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

Read more …

More Mueller.

Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)

Warning that U.S. democracy is at stake, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a congressional committee on Thursday to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step setting up a fight over whether to oust him from office. In a dramatic televised statement, Pelosi accused the Republican president of abusing his power and alluded to Britain’s King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in forming the United States in 1776, saying that in the United States, “the people are the king.” “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.

At the heart of the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry is Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting Joe Biden. The former vice president is a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. She had opened the investigation in September. She was referring to Jerrold Nadler, whose House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility of drawing up the formal charges that would later be voted on by the full House. Two people knowledgeable about the process said the panel could draft and recommend the articles of impeachment to the House as early as Dec. 12.

[..] Judiciary Democrats said the report by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election could be part of testimony they hear on Monday from a committee lawyer, who is presenting evidence along with a Democratic lawyer from the House Intelligence Committee. Republican committee lawyers are also expected to testify. Including material from Mueller’s report in an article of impeachment would demonstrate a pattern of behavior involving foreign interference in U.S. elections, House Judiciary Democrat Pramila Jayapal said.

Read more …

Talk about a swamp. Giuliani is talking to Ukraine people. Not sure where that fits in.

Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)

Ukraine has fired the prosecutor investigating cases involving Hunter Biden and Burisma and has transferred responsibility to the Soros-controlled ‘National Anti-Corruption Bureau’ (NABU) for disposal. This is the same NABU led by Artem Sytnyk who was caught on tape bragging about helping the Clinton campaign in its effort to discredit Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Konstantin Kulik was fired from the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 22 due to corruption charges against him. Sources for CD Media describe the firing as being political in nature, as a way to ‘tidy up’ any loose ends regarding Biden and Burisma, to keep the information from the public eye during the ‘impeachment’ campaign in the United States.

They describe Victor Trepak (New Deputy General Prosecutor), Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, and Sytnyk as being under the control of the George Soros/Deep State infrastructure in-country. Trepak was involved in the infamous ‘black ledger’ in the Manafort affair, which is now considered to be fake. The State Bureau of Investigation may be headed by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak it was reported by “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to sources, reported Ukrainian news outlet GordonUA.com. “Soros and the Democrats appointed their agents of influence to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Kasko and Trepak). They put Sytnyk in NABU and Kholodnitsky in SAP (Special Prosecutor) in order to destroy the evidence of corruption of the Democrats in Ukraine and to continue the process of the country’s rape with impunity. They are corruption. If they put Trepak, the author of the ‘black ledger’, as the head of the State Bureau of Investigation, then the process of covering up their crimes will be completed,” declared a confidential intelligence source in Ukraine.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Babel, Kasko discusses the development of Kulik’s firing. According to him, the National Bureau of Investigation will deal with almost all of the cases that Kulik conducted: “All the cases that Kulik was involved in are currently being inventory. In 99 percent of cases, NABU will deal with them. This is a good body to put an end to and clarify what actually happened in these matters. “

Read more …

End the Fed.

Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)

The total amount of repurchase agreements (“repos”) on the Fed’s balance sheet as of December 4, released today, declined to $209 billion, from $215 billion a month ago. These repos included: • $70 billion in overnight repos, issued on Wednesday morning that unwound today; all prior overnight repos had already unwound. • $88 billion in multi-day repos with maturities of up to two weeks; • $50 billion in 42-day repos; of which $25 billion were issued on November 25 and $25 billion on December 2. They will unwind early next year. Before the repo market blew out in mid-September, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet were zero. This chart shows the weekly balances of repos on the Fed’s balance sheet as of each Wednesday:

In these “repo operations,” the Fed buys Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and government “Agency” securities, under an agreement whereby the counter parties have to repurchase those securities on a set date at a set (higher) price. The interest rate is determined by the difference between the price the Fed buys the securities at, and the pre-set higher price it sells the securities back to the original counter party. [..] The Fed has stated many times that it wants to get rid of its holdings of MBS. And it’s progressing with the plan. In November, the Fed shed $22 billion in MBS, exceeding the self-imposed cap of $20 billion per month for the seventh month in a row. Over the past seven months, it has shed $160 billion in MBS, or about $22.8 billion a month on average. Its holdings are now down to $1.42 trillion, below where they had first been in November 2013:

Read more …

Big Brother appears inevitable.

Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)

A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service).


If they don’t, their visas could be denied. Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.” “They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.”

Read more …

“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down…”

French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)

France faced a second day of travel chaos, shuttered schools and understaffed hospitals on Friday as unions said they would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms until the president backed down. Much of France ground to a halt on Thursday as transport workers went on strike – joined by teachers, doctors, police, firemen and civil servants – while smoke and tear gas swirled through the streets of Paris as some protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. On Friday there were heavy cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services.


Traffic jams totaling more than 350 kilometers clogged the main roads in and around the capital, according to traffic app Styadin, as many commuters took to their cars. Rail workers extended their strike through Friday, while unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. “We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos. The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who took office in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

Read more …

With 6 days left, what’s the use?

UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)

Labour’s co-campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne said they had recorded numerous examples where his party’s leadership had received “more negative treatment, harsher scrutiny and slanted editorial comment” than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. “That bias has been reflected in the framing, content and balance of BBC reporting during the campaign,” Gwynne wrote in a letter to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. “If the Conservatives are allowed to ‘play’ or manipulate the BBC, and this behavior goes unchecked, then the corporation will have effectively been complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.”

The broadcaster, which is funded by a tax on all television-watching households and regularly faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum, is bound by strict rules to ensure impartiality. “The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favor,” a BBC spokesman said. Labour, trailing the Conservatives by about 10 points in opinion polls before the Dec. 12 vote, are particularly unhappy that Johnson has not agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, who has already subjected the other major party leaders to tough questioning.

Labour said they had agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding that Johnson had also signed up. “Instead, the BBC allowed the Conservative leader to pick and choose a platform through which he believed he could present himself more favorably and without the same degree of accountability,” Gwynne said. On Thursday, having just interviewed the head of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on BBC TV at prime-time, Neil issued an on-air challenge to Johnson to appear before him. He also detailed a series of questions he would ask, focusing on whether Johnson could be trusted over campaign promises.

Read more …

Ready for prime time TV. If Boris is MIA, just broadcast this.

Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)

The BBC’s Andrew Neil says he wants to quiz Boris Johnson about whether he can be trusted. The Conservative leader is – so far – the only main party leader not to submit to an election grilling on BBC One.

Read more …

Great story. Who has the movie rights?

Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)

We first started noticing major ‘odd’ exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. “Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.” Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran. The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes.

His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.” In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey’s president. “Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila – a director at Turkey’s Halkbank – who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange. And since then “one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever” has disappeared from the headlines… until now. Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

Read more …

We’ll end humanity yet.

BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

Humans are probably being exposed to far more of a widely used dangerous chemical – found in plastics, canned goods and receipt paper – than previously understood, according to a new study. The analysis, in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Lancet, uses a new method for evaluating exposure to BPA, or bisphenol-A. BPA disrupts hormones critical to many body functions and is linked with obesity and other diseases. Pregnant women who are exposed to it are more likely to have children who have problems with growth, behavior and fertility, as well as a higher cancer risk. Many companies have phased out using BPAs, marketing new products with similar replacement bisphenols as safer without sufficient evidence for their claims, experts say.


The new research examined levels of BPA in urine but also counted the metabolites of BPA. Metabolites are formed when the body breaks down and eliminates a chemical. Using the new method, the scientists analyzed the urine of 29 pregnant women in their second trimester and found their BPA exposure levels to be an average of 44 times higher than what was measured with the traditional method. Patricia Hunt, a co-author of the study who is a molecular biosciences professor at Washington State University, said she was “horrified” by the high levels her group found in the pregnant women.

Read more …

 

 

 

Please support the Automatic Earth on Paypal and Patreon so we can continue to publish.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

 

 

Dec 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Couple on a bench 1943

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More from yesterdays’ “Law experts”:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pelosi Says Impeachment Inquiry Is About Russia, Not Ukraine

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth on your Christmas Donations list on Paypal and Patreon for 2020. We literally can’t do it without you.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.