May 052019
 


Giovanni Bellini The transfiguration c1490

 

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)
Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)
Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)
Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)
Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)
Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)
May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)
Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)
Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)
American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)
US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)
Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

 

 

The Democrats, as personified by Pelosi, Schumer, Hillary, Biden etc., have no identity other than being against everything Trump. There are people in the party who do have ideas and an identity, like Tulsi Gabbard, AOC, and I’m not saying they’re all great ideas, but at least they have some. But they’re being sidelined.

And it’s of course funny to see Pelosi “pre-accusing” Trump of doing what she has done for 2+ years now. Accuse your opponent of what you yourself have done. Classic.

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)

In a New York Times interview on Saturday, Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal), shared her concerned that President Trump would not voluntarily step down unless Democrats win by a “big” enough margin in 2020. The Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative, expressed her concern over a possible scenario where Trump would not accept the election results if he were to lose re-election by a slim margin, the NY Times reported. “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Pelosi told the newspaper Wednesday.


“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections. “He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people,” she added. “We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.” In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.

Read more …

Biden literally has nothing at all. Other than scolding Trump.

Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)

As Joe Biden storms through Iowa and prepares for his first visit as a presidential candidate in South Carolina, the Democratic front-runner has said he doesn’t “have the time” to lay out the details of his healthcare plan. “I don’t have time; I don’t want to keep you standing any longer,” Mr Biden said recently in Iowa City, declining to lay out his vision for America’s healthcare future to the assembled crowd, according to POLITICO. Likewise Mr Biden has been less than exhaustive when it comes to his other plans, be it foreign policy, or how to tackle climate change. The approach — one in which the former vice president has focused on the values needed in an American president, instead of on specifics of policy — stands in contrast to some of his stiffest competition from fellow Democrats hoping to shake up Democratic politics as we know it.


For months now, his closest competitor in the polls, Bernie Sanders, has been plugging his universal healthcare plan on the campaign trail, which he has dubbed Medicare for All. It’s a policy the Vermont senator has introduced repeatedly in Congress, and ran on in 2016, too. But Mr Sanders isn’t alone in pushing policy in the race. Elizabeth Warren has become known for doing so, offering up plans on issues ranging from healthcare – increase consumer subsidies, force insurers to accept tougher rules, and make insurance cheaper in the US — to improving accountability for private companies in charge of military housing.

Read more …

Two different takes on the same topic. First, the Press Association, which labels Paul Joseph Watson and James Woods as “Right-Wing Extremists”. A bit much, perhaps? Other labels I see flash by are far-right, alt-right, extremist conservatives. Isn’t it the labeling itself that is extremist?

Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)

US president Donald Trump has criticised social media companies after Facebook banned a number of extremist figures and has declared he was “monitoring and watching, closely!!” Mr Trump, who tweeted and retweeted complaints on Friday and Saturday, said he would “monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms”. He has previously claimed social media companies are biased against conservatives, something the companies have rejected as untrue. His comments came after Facebook this week banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals”.


The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Mr Jones’s site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to Facebook’s main service and to Instagram, and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. Facebook’s move signalled new effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism. The company said it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology. On Twitter, Mr Trump cited a number of individuals he said were being unfairly treated by social media companies, including Mr Watson and actor James Woods. He insisted it was “getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

Read more …

But here’s how Cristina Laila at Gateway Pundit, the site known for Cassandra Fairbanks’ reporting on Julian Assange, phrases the issue. Whole different vocabulary.

Still, there’s a much bigger issue here. As I wrote in the comments the other day: What Facebook and Google are doing is very dangerous for the fabric of society. They’re turning us into China. It’s equal to saying: you cannot have a car, or gas, or a phone, a home. Because you grow a beard, or you have a crappy old car, or whatever.

Or it’s like saying you cannot drive on a certain road, maybe that’s a better example. At some point infrastructure must be available to everyone. You can’t say: this is private, go build your own road, or put up your own telephone poles, because your skin is black and we don’t like that around here.

“Facebook is a private company” is dead before you hit the water (for the same reason as AT&T). Problem is, no politician wants to burn their hands on the issue, which they don’t understand to begin with, until it’s too late. It’s much easier to say: look over there, those guys don’t do anything either.”

So, should Facebook be able to throw people out that haven’t been accused of anything criminal?

Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)

The tech tyrants at Facebook went into overdrive this week and banned Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones — without any explanation, the conservative journalists were labeled “dangerous” by Facebook. President Trump fired off a tweetstorm Friday evening on the social media censorship of conservatives and named James Woods and Paul Joseph Watson. “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!” Trump tweeted. “We’re looking into it,” Trump said as he defended his friends Diamond and Silk.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump said linking to a Breitbart article on Twitter’s silencing of James Woods. Paul Joseph Watson works for Infowars and has been employed by Alex Jones for several years. On Thursday Paul Joseph Watson was banned from Facebook for being associated with Infowars and Alex Jones. Paul Joseph Watson has NEVER broken Facebook rules… But he associates with Alex Jones. Facebook is now banning anyone who is linked to Infowars or has shared too many stories from the conservative Infowars page. But it’s even worse… It is now a violation of Facebook policy to speak positively ANYWHERE about people they don’t like.

Twitter also banned conservative actor James Woods last weekend for paraphrasing American essayist, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, for “abusive behavior.” James Woods tweeted, “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss.” #HangThemAll – similar to a quote from an essay Emerson wrote on Plato:“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

Read more …

If Americans were interested in the truth, they’d insist on their politicians and media and intelligence talking to the VIPS and Julian Assange. The fact that they haven’t, tells you all you need to know.

Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)

George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate. The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness. From time to time the discussion turned to the absence of a legal “predicate” to investigate President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia. That is, of course, important; and we can expect to hear a lot more about that in coming months. More important: what remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years. With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.


The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny. Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he does not “do evidence.” In the same odd vein, Brennan’s former FBI counterpart James Comey chose not to “do evidence” when he failed to seize and inspect the DNC computers that a contractor-of-ill-repute working for the DNC claimed were hacked by Russia. Call us old fashioned, but we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) still “do evidence” — and, in the case at hand, forensic investigation. For those who “can handle the truth,” the two former NSA technical directors in VIPS can readily explain how the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else — but rather were copied and leaked by someone with physical access to the DNC computers.

Read more …

The Fed is a socialist organization.

Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)

Before 2009, the Fed did not pay interest on banks’ excess reserves held at the Fed. This practice was introduced as a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the banks during the crisis (taxpayer-funded because the Fed turns over any profit at the end of the year to the Treasury). After beginning this practice, the Fed’s chief trader, Simon Potter, realized it could be used to raise interest rates without expelling excess reserves from the Fed, by sucking liquidity out of the short-term markets. In fall 2015, it began raising the interest rate on excess reserves, with the anticipated effect. At a current rate of about $36 billion a year, this is a cost to the Treasury that is indefensible. This amount is about half the budget for food stamps, for example, which politicians want to cut. There is no provision for these funds ever to be paid back. It is welfare for the bankers.

If the banks had been required to take excess reserves back onto their books it would have required financial disclosure of their quality, which is probably toxic for many. However, with the Financial Accounting Standards Board recently promulgating Financial Accounting Statements 56 and, previously, 157, the “extend and pretend” statement, it would seem they feel less and less need for financial disclosure of any kind. FAS 56 states that the government does not have to disclose what it spends taxpayers’ money on because of national security concerns.

Read more …

Lose big and do a deal. It would be voted down.

May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stepped up calls on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a cross-party deal to leave the European Union, following poor results for both parties in local elections on Thursday. May’s Conservatives lost more than a thousand seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour – which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote – instead lost 81. Both parties have been locked in talks for the past few weeks to try to broker a Brexit deal that can get a majority in Parliament, after May’s minority government suffered three heavy defeats on her preferred deal earlier this year.

Senior Conservatives said on Saturday there was an increased need for compromise after the local election results, and the leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party said a deal with Labour could be done within days. May added her voice to these calls in an essay published in a Sunday newspaper. “To the Leader of the Opposition I say this: Let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour when talks restart on Tuesday, including a temporary customs union with the European Union, which would last until a national election due in June 2022.

“At that point Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit,” a source cited by the Sunday Times said.

Read more …

There is no solution. the sooner everyone understands that the better. Even a national government is now out of the question.

Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)

Last-ditch efforts by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to strike a compromise on Brexit looked doomed on Saturday as the party leaders faced mounting revolts from their own MPs and activists. Following Thursday’s local elections, in which both the Conservatives and Labour were punished severely by voters for failing to break the political deadlock, May and Corbyn have insisted their parties must now urgently agree a way forward in cross-party talks which will resume on Tuesday. On Saturday the prime minister reiterated her appeal, saying: “We have to find a way to break the deadlock. I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.”

But opposition MPs and Tory Brexiters warned any deal the leadership teams stitch up behind the scenes would face inevitable defeat in parliament and cause more acrimony in the parties. The Observer can reveal that 104 opposition MPs, mainly from Labour but also SNP, Change UK, Green and Plaid Cymru, have written to May and Corbyn insisting they will not back a “Westminster stitch-up” unless there is a firm guarantee that any deal is then put to a confirmatory referendum. The MPs say: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”

They say that, “whatever the deal” is, it must be the subject of another referendum so voters can have the “final say”. Separately, senior Tory MPs insisted that any deal struck with Labour that involved anything close to a customs union – Corbyn’s central demand in the talks – would be rejected by more than 100 of the party’s MPs, who would see it as a betrayal of May’s promises on Brexit.

Read more …

No, both.

Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)

In my book Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment (2015), I pointed out that the “age of austerity” experienced during the post-1945 Attlee government was unavoidable as a debilitated UK adapted from a wartime economy to peacetime. Resources were strictly limited, and production had to be channelled away from armaments towards the normal needs of the population. Spending power was restricted because goods and food were in short supply. The austerity policy imposed by the Cameron-Osborne administration in 2010-15 – in coalition, let us not forget, with the Lib Dems – was a policy choice. George Osborne, in particular, seized the opportunity of the financial crisis of 2007-09 to cut back on public spending, or at least restrain its rate of growth.


The most obvious victims were local authorities and the electors they serve. Cuts varying between 30% and 40% were imposed on central government grants to local authorities, and the consequences were cumulative. Hardly a day goes by without sad reports of the impact the cuts are having on public services, one of the most recent being the way teachers in overstretched state schools are having to dip into their own pockets to provide textbooks. There are countless other examples. We were told by Theresa May and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, that austerity was coming to an end. But there is precious little sign of it. Which brings us back – I know you have been waiting for it – to the way that Brexit would compound the deleterious effects of austerity, a conclusion reached by every forecast I have examined.

Read more …

Big Ag wants it all. But YOU can still go look for a farmers’ market.

American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)

The collapse of multi-generational family farms has sent bankruptcies in the Midwest to ten-year highs. “Bankruptcies in three regions covering major farm states last year rose to the highest level in at least 10 years. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, had double the bankruptcies in 2018 compared with 2008. In the Eighth Circuit, which includes states from North Dakota to Arkansas, bankruptcies swelled 96%. The 10th Circuit, which covers Kansas and other states, last year had 59% more bankruptcies than a decade earlier,” reported WSJ. Steffes Group, a top auction firm in the upper Midwest, has seen auction activity rise 40% in 2019. “Up until now, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to exit farming,” said auctioneer Scott Steffes. “Now, what I’m hearing from folks is, ‘It’s no longer fun to farm.’”

Read more …

There are far too many trucks anyway.

US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)

Orders for Class-8 trucks – the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US to feed the goods-based economy – plunged 52% in April compared to April last year, to 16,400 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence on Friday. It was the lowest April since 2016 when the industry cycled through its last transportation recession. This comes after orders had already plunged 67% year-over-year in March, 58% in February and January, and 43% in December. The collapse in orders is on the scale of the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016. The chart shows the percent change of orders for each month compared to a year earlier:

The industry is very cyclical with big swings in both directions. Trucking companies get exuberant when capacity tightens and freight rates shoot up as they did in late 2017 and 2018, and they’re inclined to order when business is booming, but it takes a while to get these trucks built, and order backlogs at truck manufacturers piled up to reach close a year at the peak in 2018. Fear of not getting the equipment when they need it can cause industry-wide bouts of over-ordering at the peak of the cycle, which was summer 2018. But as capacity rises, and the cyclical freight business backs off from its blistering growth phase and ticks down a little as it has been since late 2018, trucking companies adjust by reducing their orders, and when push comes to shove, if they can still do it, by cancelling their orders. And that’s what is happening here.

Read more …

I think perhaps everyone intuitively understands how to re-design cities. Cars must go first.

Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

The current climate and ecological crisis demands a radical redesign of how we live and organise our societies. Yet these urgent changes, though complex, are far from impossible. Some of them are simple, beautiful, and beneficial to all. By greening our cities with street trees, urban parks, and community and rooftop gardens, we can keep ourselves cool amid rising temperatures, reverse the steady erosion of the rich tapestry of life on Earth, and foster happiness and social connection in the process. It is widely known that greenery in urban spaces helps improve city microclimates.

Thanks to heat generated by traffic and industrial activity, as well as the spread of heat-trapping concrete buildings that have steadily replaced plant life, urban air temperature is often higher than in rural environments. Hotter cities compel urban denizens to opt for air conditioners in order to stay cool, which further strains energy demands and worsens the urban heat island effect. Plants can help cool cities through the water that evaporates from their leaves when exposed to the sun’s rays, and by shading surfaces that otherwise might have absorbed heat. Research has found that on a sunny day, a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units.

Plants also help keep harmful pollutants such as microscopic particulate matter at bay through a complex process known as dry deposition, whereby particles penetrate and become trapped in the wax or cuticles of leaves. Although banning or at least restricting vehicle use in city centres is crucial, mass greening can further reduce pollution and keep cities cool in the increasingly scorching summers that lie ahead.

Read more …

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon
– Susan Ertz

 

 

Feb 052019
 
 February 5, 2019  Posted by at 10:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


René Magritte Meditation 1936

 

How Much Could Negative Rates Have Helped the US Recovery? (FRBSF)
Bill Gross Retires (R.)
SOTU (Jim Kunstler)
EU Goods Will Be Waved Through British Ports In Case Of No Deal Brexit (Sun)
Nissan Was Offered Secret UK State Aid To Cope With Brexit (G.)
Merkel Says ‘Still Time’ To Find Brexit Solution (AFP)
An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU (ZH)
Australia Central Bank Stays Calm As Shoppers Go Missing (R.)
Recognising Juan Guaidó Risks A Bloody Civil War In Venezuela (Ponceleon)
The Venezuelan Coup and Gilets Jaunes: Great-Power Politics (Pieraccini)
Italy Vetoes EU Recognition Of Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido (RT)
Twitter Erupts After 2,000 Pro-Venezuelan Accounts Are Deleted (Telesur)

 

 

As Trump has dinner with Powell, some San Francisco Fed theorist waxes enthusiastically about what more the Fed could have done. Not pre-2008, when the crisis caused by Fed policies erupted, but post-2008, when it tried to repair the damage it had done -and ‘failed’. Get these guys out of your economy or you’re going to see a real crisis. The Fed serves rich people only. All these people claim to defend a free market, but the Fed is the biggest enemy of a free market.

How Much Could Negative Rates Have Helped the US Recovery? (FRBSF)

The Federal Reserve responded aggressively to the most recent financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-2009 by cutting the target for its benchmark short-term interest rate, known as the federal funds rate, to a range just above zero in December 2008, where it stayed until the end of 2015. Traditionally, it has been assumed that nominal interest rates cannot fall below zero, known as the “lower bound.” Ever since 2008, researchers have debated how much monetary policy was constrained by this lower bound and how much it affected economic outcomes. To work around this constraint, the Federal Reserve turned to unconventional monetary policy tools such as forward guidance and large-scale asset purchases.

Other central banks—in Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, and the euro area—took unconventional policy one step further and challenged the traditional view on the lower bound by setting their target rates below zero. In this Economic Letter, I consider whether pushing rates below zero would have improved economic outcomes in the United States in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Model estimates suggest that reducing the effective lower bound for the federal funds rate to –0.75% would have reduced economic slack by as much as one-half at the trough of the recession and sped up the ensuing recovery. While the boost to the economy would have been negligible after 2014, inflation would have been higher throughout the recovery by about half a percentage point on average.

Read more …

Alternative headline: Fed policies killed Bill Gross. Can’t support stocks without killing bonds. It’s about pensions, don’t you know.

Bill Gross Retires (R.)

Bill Gross, once the bond market’s most influential investor, will retire from Janus in coming weeks, ending attempts to reclaim the stature he enjoyed leading the world’s largest fixed-income investing firm. Gross, who turned to investing after serving as U.S. naval officer, co-founded Pacific Investment Management Co in 1971, attaining rock-star status in investing circles as he attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Under his watch, Pimco blossomed into a $2 trillion asset-management powerhouse, one so influential that the U.S. Federal Reserve tapped it to help implement its program of emergency bond purchases in the financial crisis in 2008. At Janus, however, Gross was unable to repeat his earlier success, with the performance of the fund he managed ranking near the bottom. Gross told Reuters on Friday that low rates are distorting returns.

His tenure at Pimco ended abruptly and acrimoniously in September 2014, when he was ousted. His flagship Total Return Fund – which hit a peak of $292.9 billion in assets in April 2013 – was hemorrhaging assets. At the end of April 2015, the Pimco Total Return Fund had lost its title as the world’s biggest bond mutual fund to the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, which had $117.3 billion of assets. “You have to give Bill a lot of credit because he was the prime mover, popularizing active management,” Dan Fuss, vice chairman at Loomis, Sayles & Co LP, and one of Gross’ biggest competitors, said in a telephone interview. “I had hoped he’d be out and about and stay in the business because I know he would have wound up doing a good job.”

Read more …

Here’s hoping he rips them all another one. That the SOTU may be as exciting as the Super Bowl was dull.

SOTU (Jim Kunstler)

It’s conceivable, in a nation that absolutely can’t make sense of itself, that Mr. Trump’s annual report to congress will be as incomprehensible as this year’s Superbowl halftime show. Even the weather in Atlanta was a complete mystery with Maroon 5’s front man, Adam Levine, capering half-naked in tattoo drag amid artificial fires-of-hell, and then local hero rapper Big Boi’s triumphal entry in a limo, nearly lost inside what looked like the pelt of a giant ground sloth — an eight-year-old’s idea of what it means to be important. Or maybe it was just all code for two sides of the climate change debate. You can be sure the atmosphere will be frosty to the max when the Golden Golem of Greatness lumbers down the aisle of congress’s house on Tuesday night.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Democratic majority turns its backs on him during the always excruciating preliminaries and then just walks out of the chamber. Don’t expect the usual excessive rounds of applause from the president’s own party this time, either, in the big, half-empty room. They don’t know what to do about him at this point… or what to do with themselves, for that matter. The running theme for State of the Union (SOTU) messages going back to Ronald Reagan is American Wonderfulness, so expect at least forty minutes of national self-esteem therapy, which nobody will believe. Throw in another ten minutes of elevating sob stories about “special guests” up in the galleries. But leave a little time for Mr. Trump to roll a few cherry bombs down the aisles. He must be good and goddam sick of all the guff shoveled at him for two years.

Read more …

Smugglers rejoice!

EU Goods Will Be Waved Through British Ports In Case Of No Deal Brexit (Sun)

GOODS shipped to Britain from the EU are to be waved through 20 UK ports without checks in a No Deal to avoid huge jams – HMRC has declared. In official advice released today, HM Revenue & Customs said that “for a temporary period” it would allow “most” shipments into the country before companies have even informed them they’ve arrived. Exporters would have just over 24 hours to then fill in an electronic declaration. The revelation comes just months after HMRC bosses warned the UK’s post-Brexit customs system would not work properly for two years in a No Deal. HMRC chief John Thompson told MPs last year that the Government would have a choice to make – whether to keep trade moving, ensure security at the border, or collect revenues.

Insiders said it appeared that HMRC had decided it was essential to keep trade moving rather than risk huge queues on the way to ports such as Dover or at Eurotunnel terminals. Hauliers have been furious at the lack of guidance from HMRC and the Government over how the customs system would work in the event of a No Deal. Today’s “updated guidance” warns that anyone importing into Brexit Britain will have to fill out a customs form before checking goods onto a ferry or train on the EU side. But it adds: “For a temporary period, HMRC will allow most goods moving from the listed roll on roll off locations to leave the UK port or train station before you’ve told us that the goods have arrived.”

Read more …

What other secret plans are there?

Nissan Was Offered Secret UK State Aid To Cope With Brexit (G.)

The business secretary has been forced to admit the existence of a previously secret package of state aid to Nissan that could have been worth up to £80m had the carmaker gone ahead with plans to manufacture a new model X-Trail in Sunderland after Brexit. Greg Clark released a letter dated October 2016 in which he pledged tens of millions of taxpayer support and promised the Japanese company it would not be “adversely affected” after the UK left the EU. Yet, at the time the commitments were first made, Downing Street had said “there was no special deal for Nissan” and Clark refused six times to answer a question about what was on offer when interviewed on the BBC. He even appeared to suggest no money was involved. Asked on BBC One’s Question Time about the deal, he said: “There’s no chequebook. I don’t have a chequebook.”

Clark and the government had repeatedly refused to release the 2016 letter until the promises turned out to be worthless, because Nissan had abandoned its future investment plan, partly because of uncertainty over Brexit. The four-page document, sent by Clark to Nissan’s then chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, committed the government to “a package of support in areas such as skills, R&D and innovation” which “could amount to additional support of up to £80m”. The state aid package ultimately turned out to be worth £61m when it was formally awarded to Nissan in June 2018, a fact only acknowledged by Clark in a second letter sent on Monday to the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the business select committee.

Read more …

Merkel seems to open a door just to slam it shut again the next instant.

“..she was clear that any solution could only come via the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement – rather than re-opening talks on the actual exit deal.”

Merkel Says ‘Still Time’ To Find Brexit Solution (AFP)

There is still time to find a solution to Britain’s exit from the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday, voicing optimism on a political deal over the tricky “backstop” that has stymied progress. Speaking to Japanese and German business leaders in Tokyo, Merkel stressed that “on the one hand, time is pressing” and businesses using “just-in-time” delivery processes could not afford lengthy customs procedures. However, she added: “From a political point of view, there is still time. Two months is not a long time but there is still time, and this should be used by all sides.” Britain is poised to leave the EU at the end of March following a 2016 referendum. Merkel acknowledged the issue of the unpopular Northern Ireland backstop provision was “complicating” Brexit talks.

The backstop is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with Ireland, but Brexit supporters fear it will keep Britain tied to EU customs rules. She said the issue with the backstop was a “problem that is precisely defined and therefore one should be able to find a precisely defined solution”. “But this solution depends on the question of what the future relationship between Britain and the EU will be like and what type of trade deal we sign with each other,” added the chancellor. Throwing the ball into London’s court, she stressed: “It will be very important for us to know what exactly the British side sees as its future relationship with the EU.” [..] she urged “creativity” and “goodwill” to find a solution. However, she was clear that any solution could only come via the political declaration attached to the withdrawal agreement – rather than re-opening talks on the actual exit deal.

Read more …

French banks. And Wall Street.

An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU (ZH)

Plagued by another run of bank bailouts and simmering tensions between the partners in its ruling coalition, Italy’s brief reprieve following the detente between its populist rulers and angry bureaucrats in Brussels is already beginning to fade. As Bloomberg reminded us on Monday, Italy’s $1.7 trillion pile of public debt – the third largest sovereign debt pool in Europe – is threatening to set off a chain reaction that could hammer banks from Rome, to Madrid, to Frankfurt – and beyond. Just the mention of the precarity of Italian debt markets “can induce a shudder of financial fear like no other” in bureaucrats and businessmen alike – particularly after Italy’s economy slid into a recession during Q4. While much of Italy’s debt burden is held by its banks and private citizens, lenders outside of Italy are holding some €425 billion ($486 billion) in public and private debt.

The Bloomberg analysis of Italy’s financial foibles follows more reports that Italy’s ruling coalition between the anti-immigrant, pro-business League and the vaguely left-wing populist Five-Star Movement has become increasingly strained. Per BBG, the two parties are fighting a battle on two fronts over the construction of a high speed Alpine rail and a legal case involving League leader Matteo Salvini over his refusal to let the Dicotti migrant ship to dock in an Italian port last summer. After M5S intimated that it could support the investigation, the League warned that such a move would be tantamount to “blackmail” against Salvini, whose lieutenants have been pushing for him to take advantage of the party’s rising poll numbers and push for early elections later this year. However, Salvini has rebuffed these demands, warning that there’s nothing stopping Italian President Sergio Mattarella from calling for a new coalition instead of new elections.

[..] To keep operating without massive budget cuts (something neither party in the ruling coalition has shown any sign of supporting) Italy must sell 400 billion euros ($457 billion) of debt per year. But since Italy’s banks hold so much of the country’s debt, declines in the price of Italian bonds inevitably hurts the shares of Italian banks, and also forces them to hold more capital on their books to ensure liquidity from the ECB. This creates the potential for a negative feedback loop known as the “doom loop”. Put another way, “a government crisis could drag down the banking system or a banking crisis could suck in the government.”

Read more …

And the Chinese withdraw.

Australia Central Bank Stays Calm As Shoppers Go Missing (R.)

Australia’s central bank warned of risks to growth on Tuesday but wrongfooted rate bears by steering clear from an explicit easing signal, even as data showed shoppers slashed spending during Christmas in another sign of cooling economic momentum. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left rates at a record low 1.50 percent for a 30th straight month, saying accommodative policy was supporting the economy and that further progress was expected in reducing unemployment and lifting inflation over time. The local dollar jumped as the statement sounded less dovish than the markets had wagered on.

“The main message from the RBA today was that they are still positive on the growth outlook, and particularly on the labor market, and they see the economy as still on track towards lifting inflation back to their target,” said HSBC Australia’s chief economist Paul Bloxham. Yet, interest rates futures continued to price in a 50-50 chance of a rate cut by the end of the year, reflecting the deteriorating growth momentum in the face of rising global and domestic risks. Lowe expects Australia’s A$1.8 trillion economy ($1.3 trillion) to expand at an above-trend rate of around 3 percent this year. That is a slightly more cautious view compared to “a little above 3 percent” in its previous statement.

Read more …

Temir Porras Ponceleon was chief of staff to Nicolás Maduro from 2007 to 2013. He is now a visiting professor at Sciences Po, Paris.

Stangely missing from this piece: the CIA.

Recognising Juan Guaidó Risks A Bloody Civil War In Venezuela (Ponceleon)

Falsely presented as a “fresh face”, Guaidó first came to prominence in 2007, as a member of a generation of students who led protests against Chávez’s socialism, despite his landslide presidential victory in 2006. Guaidó is part of an opposition that never stopped challenging Chávez’s popular legitimacy even in his heyday, and who naturally doubled down as soon as the less assertive Maduro took office. The challenges to Maduro’s legitimacy began the moment he was elected. His presidential opponent, Henrique Capriles, labelled the 2013 election a fraud (without providing any supporting evidence). Capriles called on his followers to ventilate their “anger” in the streets, a move resulting in the killing of a number of Chavistas.

In January 2014 Guaidó’s political party, Voluntad Popular, launched a nationwide insurrectionary movement aimed at forcing Maduro out of office. This was only nine months into Maduro’s term, and long before the country faced any serious economic or social problems. In fact, in early 2014 oil prices were at record highs, and Venezuelans were still enjoying their highest levels of income ever, in terms of GDP per capita. [..] And then oil prices collapsed in June 2014, leaving an ill-prepared country frozen in inaction. Living standards started to deteriorate, and while a Maduro-led Chavismo remained a large and organised political force, it lost its dominance. Maduro suffered a humiliating defeat in the December 2015 legislative elections, which allowed an opposition coalition to seize a potentially devastating two-thirds supermajority in the national assembly.

[..] Unless the international community is willing to risk a needless war on the American continent, it must urgently create conditions for a national dialogue aimed at reaching a political agreement. [..] The idea that Maduro has managed to remain in office during the past six years solely through corruption and the use of force is a gross misrepresentation. It ignores that, beyond the president, the Chavismo social movement counts millions of supporters, primarily from lower-income communities, and is strongly embedded within the Venezuelan military.

Read more …

“The protests seen in France and the interference in the domestic politics of Venezuela highlight Western double standards, which stand in contrast to the respect for international law maintained by China, India and Russia.”

The Venezuelan Coup and Gilets Jaunes: Great-Power Politics (Pieraccini)

In France on November 17, 2018, hundreds of thousands of citizens, angered by the diminishing quality of their lives, the social iniquity in the country, and the widening gap between rich and poor, took to the streets in protest. The protests can easily be encapsulated in the following slogan: “We the people against you the elite.” This slogan has been a recurring theme throughout the West over the last three years, shaking up the British establishment with the pro-Brexit vote, discombobulating the United States with Trump’s victory, overturning Italy with the Lega/Five-Star government, and bringing Merkel’s star crashing down in Germany.

Now it is the turn of Macron and France, one of the least popular leaders in the world, leading his country into chaos, with peaceful protests drawing a bloody response from the authorities following ten weeks of unceasing demonstrations. In Venezuela, Western elites would like us to believe that the situation is worse than in France in terms of public order, but that is simply a lie. It is a media creation based on misinformation and censorship. In Europe, the mainstream media has stopped showing images of the protests in France, as if to smother information about it, preferring to portray an image of France that belies the chaos in which it has been immersed for every weekend over the last few months.

In Caracas, the right-wing, pro-American and anti-Communist opposition continues the same campaign based on lies and violence as it has customarily conducted following its electoral defeats at the hands of the Bolivarian revolution. The Western mainstream media beams images and videos of massive pro-government Bolivarian rallies and falsely portrays them as anti-Maduro protests. We are dealing here with acts of journalistic terrorism, and the journalists who push this narrative, instigating clashes, should be prosecuted by a criminal court of the Bolivarian people in Caracas.

Read more …

Good on them. All these EU countries don’t deem it needed to explain why they do it, other than: Maduro is a dictator. Well, his approval rating is higher than any of theirs.

Italy Vetoes EU Recognition Of Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido (RT)

Rome has effectively derailed an EU statement meant to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader if President Nicolas Maduro fails to set up snap elections, a Five Star Movement source confirmed to RT. Italy announced the veto at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers that started on January 31 in Romania, the source said. The statement, which was supposed to be delivered by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini recognized Guaido as interim president if snap elections were not held. The European Parliament is the first European body to recognize Guaido “as the only legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy.”

The parliament urged the EU to follow suit but the effort stalled due to internal discord. A range of European nations have separately recognized the opposition chief as Venezuela’s acting president, including the UK, France, Sweden, Spain, and Austria. The coordinated move came after an eight-day deadline for Maduro to call presidential elections expired on Monday. The US announced that it is backing the new interim leader and pledged their full support immediately after what has been labeled “a coup” by officials in Caracas. However Russia, China, Turkey and Iran said they see Maduro as the only legitimate leader, warning against meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Read more …

Orwell.

Twitter Erupts After 2,000 Pro-Venezuelan Accounts Are Deleted (Telesur)

Nearly 2,000 pro-Venezuelan Twitter accounts have been removed for “engaging in a state-backed influence campaign,” the social media company said in a blog post on Thursday. A total of 1,196 social media accounts based in Venezuela suspected of attempting to “influence domestic audiences” were purged last week. Another 764 accounts were deleted, although the San Francisco-based company told users, “We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country.” Allegations of censorship soon filled the site’s timeline.

Television host for the investigatory series, Empire Files, Abby Martin tweeted, “While pro-coup Venezuelans & right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere, tech companies are actively censoring pro-government accounts they say are working to “influence” people.” Another journalist, Ben Norton, accused the company of catering to “U.S. government interests:” Twitter is now removing thousands of accounts supposedly linked to Venezuela’s sovereign government. This comes after Twitter suspended Venezuelan government accounts 1.5 years ago. Social media corporations act as an extension of US government interests.” In another blog post, Twitter announced the release of five new datasets which were allegedly created in relation to suspected foreign interference efforts it had encountered.

Read more …

Oct 262018
 
 October 26, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Ernst Haas Greece 1952

 

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)
Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)
Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)
ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)
UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)
Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)
World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)
Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)
Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)
Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)
Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

 

 

So what’s the net effect of QE?

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)

October has been a terrible month for equities. Yet, this is only a start of what’s to come.

Despite the rout, the S&P is just barely down for the year.

Expect a “Lost Decade”

Why?

The Shiller PE Ratio also known as “CAPE”, the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio, is in the stratosphere. It’s not a timing mechanism, rather it’s a warning mechanism. The main idea is that earnings are mean reverting. On that basis, stocks are more overvalued than any time other than the DotCom era. But that is misleading. In 2000 there were many sectors that were extremely cheap. Energy was a standout buy then. So were retail and financials. It’s difficult to find any undervalued sectors now other than gold.

Read more …

Another Reuters headline says: “World stocks head for worst losing streak in over half a decade..”

Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)

Asian shares skidded to 20-month lows, S&P futures fell sharply and China’s yuan weakened at the end of a turbulent week for financial markets on Friday, as anxiety over corporate profits added to lingering fears about global trade and economic growth. The gloom enveloping Asia was at odds with a bounce on Wall Street overnight, highlighting fragile investor confidence, as shares of tech titans Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc fell sharply after the closing bell on disappointing earnings. In Friday’s Asian session, S&P E-mini futures slumped 0.88 percent, setting up a potentially rough session for U.S. markets which had crumbled on Wednesday on concerns about earnings and sent global equities into a tailspin.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04 percent, erasing tiny gains made in the opening hour and hitting its lowest level since February 2017. Not helping was a slide in the Chinese yuan past a key level, refocusing market attention on slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. Shares in Europe are seen following Asia down, with London’s FTSE expected to open 0.9 percent lower, Germany’s DAX off 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 down 1.2 percent, according to David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “There’s no question that the weight of sentiment has been building,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Brisbane, highlighting in particular rising geopolitical tensions including Brexit, and “internal financial tension” in China.

Read more …

Big tech big losses.

Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)

So far in October, the S&P 500 has booked 13 losing days, including October 10, when the index dropped 3.3%, and October 24, when it dropped 3.1%. Then came today, with the feel-good moment of a boisterous 1.9% gain. And then came after-hours trading, and nearly everything went to heck, particularly the FANGMAN stocks that weigh so heavily on the index with their $4-trillion market cap. And Friday morning looks already ugly.

All of the FANGMAN stocks were in the red in late trading:
Facebook [FB]: -2.3%
Amazon [AMZN]: -7.4%
Netflix [NFLX]: -2.8%
Google’s parent Alphabet [GOOG]: -3.7%
Microsoft [MSFT]: -1.5%
Apple [AAPL]: -0.4%
NVIDIA [NVDA]: -2.8%

There were some standout reasons: Amazon plunged after it reported record profit but missed on revenues and guided down Q4 expectations for sales and profits, a sign of slowing revenue growth. It was down as much as $150 a share, or almost 9%. Google’s parent Alphabet reported that revenues grew 22%, which missed expectations. Earnings beat, but a considerable slice – $1.38 billion! – of those earnings came from the gains in its portfolio of equity securities. CFO Ruth Porat warned that traffic acquisition costs would increase further as consumers are shifting search activity from desktop computers to mobile devices. Shares plunged up to 5%.

Read more …

Can Draghi stop purchasing Italian bonds?

ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) took no action on Thursday, leaving its benchmark interest rates unchanged. However, the ECB confirmed that its plan to end monetary easing by the end of the year remains on track. “Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018,” the ECB said in a statement. “The Governing Council anticipates that, subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook, net purchases will then end,” the bank added.

The decision takes place as concerns mount over Italy’s fiscal policies and their potential impact over the stability of the euro area. The end of the ECB’s massive crisis-era stimulus program could be a challenging moment for European bonds, given that the ECB will no longer be in the market purchasing sovereign paper and providing some sort of backstop. This could add further pressure, mainly on Italy, given the widespread concerns over its debt pile.

Read more …

There’s a taste of Italy here, though political leanings are very different.

UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would reverse cuts made by the government since 2010 as Labour highlighted more than £108bn needed to “end austerity”. Labour’s pre-budget review said it would take £42bn to reverse departmental spending cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had already highlighted another £19bn needed to stop further cuts to government. Some £33.5bn would be required to reverse cuts to social security and social care, Labour said. McDonnell pledged to increase spending on the National Health Service, adult social care, and schools, at a speech in London to business and trade union representatives.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Theresa May, also said she would end the policy of austerity instituted by her predecessor David Cameron and continued by the current government. May told the Conservative party conference: “After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off.” However, policy experts have highlighted that the government’s pledge leaves room for manoeuvre. The £19bn bill calculated by the IFS, a non-partisan thinktank, would be needed to prevent further cuts in spending to government departments whose budgets are not protected, under one definition of “ending austerity”.

Read more …

Why invite more of the same?

Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)

Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, has referred the lawyer Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, for criminal investigation. In a statement, Grassley said he was referring the two to the justice department for a “criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation”. Swetnick, who was represented by Avenatti, came forward in late September to allege that Kavanaugh took part in efforts to gang-rape women at drunken parties. She said she too was gang-raped at one such party, but did not directly accuse Kavanaugh of being involved.

Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusations calling them “a joke” and “a farce” in his testimony before the Senate. Avenatti has become an increasingly high-profile opponent of Donald Trump after coming to prominence as the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has been an outspoken critic of Trump on cable TV and social media. He is also mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Swetnick was the third woman to come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process for the supreme court. The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50-48 vote in early October.

Grassley accused Swetnick and Avenatti of knowingly misleading the committee. “That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” said the Iowa Republican. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future,” Grassley said.

Read more …

Inequality has become a dangerous game, but greed wins the day every day.

World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said.

“That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created.” The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year, more than the GDP of Spain or Australia, as booming stock markets helped the already very wealthy to achieve the “greatest absolute growth ever”. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.

Read more …

Completely insane.

Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)

Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog. He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.

The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.” [..] The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”

“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” -Sputnik. Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”

Read more …

So Assange still doesn’t have his internet back, but he does talk to an Ecuador court via video link.

Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)

The presiding judge in WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s case against the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has reportedly said that the court made a mistake by appointing an English translator who doesn’t speak Australian. The anecdote was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday and allegedly took place at the first hearing of Assange’s lawsuit against the ministry. Speaking via video link, Australian-born Assange complained to the court that his state-appointed translator from English to Spanish was not cutting it. It’s unclear what exactly the issue was, but Judge Karina Martinez apparently thought Assange’s Australian accent was thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert.

While Australian English is the most spoken dialect Down Under, it is by no means a separate language. The Australian dialect originated in the late 18th and early 19th century from convicts who were the first British settlers to arrive in New South Wales. Admittedly, the Australian vernacular is quite distinct, has rich slang, and peculiar terms. Differences in pronunciation and vocabulary can at times leave an average British or American English speaker perplexed. Assange’s accent, however, is far from the thickest around. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, accusing the government of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms” with a set of new rules.

The government files released by an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker last Tuesday outline the efforts of the Latin American country to prevent Assange from engaging in activities that “could be considered political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states.” They also limit Assange’s visitation rights, force him to pay his own medical bills, and even threaten to take away his cat if he doesn’t look after it properly. Assange’s lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, has accused Valencia of “isolating and muzzling” the fugitive, himself an Ecuadorian citizen since December 2017. Garzon said Assange still has no access to the internet, despite Ecuador’s earlier announcement it would restore communications.

Read more …

Worth a try.

Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)

A group of Canadian doctors are to begin prescribing trips to an art gallery to help patients suffering a range of ailments become a picture of health. A partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will allow patients suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues, along with their loved ones, to take in the benefits of art on health with free visits. The pilot project is unprecedented globally, according to its organizer. The project will see participating physicians prescribe up to 50 visits to the MMFA during treatment, each pass valid for up to two adults and two minors.

So far 100 doctors have enrolled to take part over the course of a year, Nicole Parent, head of the MFdC, told AFP Thursday. The numbers offer proof that doctors have “a sensitivity and openness to alternative approaches if you want” Parent said, citing scientifically proven benefits of art on health. The benefits are similar to those patients can get from physical activity, prompting the secretion of a similar level of feel-good hormones, and can help with everything from chronic pain to depression, stress and anxiety. The pilot program will allow organizers to gather data and analyze results, allowing for the development of protocol for identifying patients.

Read more …

This summer (which starts Dec 20).

Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017.

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” said marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.” Hoegh-Guldberg said it was particularly worrying that the long-range forecasts were already showing high chances of bleaching and mortality before March, which is the main month of the year for bleaching events.

He said if the models proved accurate it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. “To really have the full picture we’re going to have to wait for those projections that cover the main part of bleaching season,” he said. “Given sea temperatures usually increase as we get towards March, this is probably conservative.”

Read more …

Oct 232018
 
 October 23, 2018  Posted by at 9:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Still life 1918

 

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)
Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)
Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)
Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)
The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)
Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)
Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)
EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)
By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)
US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages
Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)
Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

 

 

Timing’s a bit weird. As Erdogan prepares his speech fior noon local time (5am EDT), I’m doing this with what may soon be old news. Trump flew CIA head Gina Haspel to Ankara overnight, did she convince Erdogan not to talk?

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)

Turkey has not yet shared any information with any country from its probe into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, hours before President Tayyip Erdogan was due to reveal what he has said were details in the case. Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comment in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency. Cavusoglu also said that Turkey is ready cooperate with any international investigation into Khashoggi’s killing. Authorities have been investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2. After weeks of denial, Saudi Arabia at the weekend said the journalist had been killed at the consulate. Erdogan has said that he would share the information of the investigation in a speech on Tuesday.

Read more …

Or so he says.

Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears primed to assemble two weeks of leaks, insinuation and police evidence in an explosive speech in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday alleging that the Saudi Arabian government murdered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil. After weeks of leaks by Turkish police implying that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have known of a premeditated murder, there was no last-minute sign that the Turkish president would hold back from revealing what he has described as the “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s death. On Monday an aide vowed: “Nothing will remain secret.” Erdogan’s statement to members of his AK party coincides with the opening by the crown prince himself of an investment conference in Riyadh. Aides say Erdogan will address Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate, where he was last seen on 2 October.

[..] Erdogan also has the chance in his speech to reveal details of an audio recording that purportedly exists of the moments of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment. Reports on Monday suggested Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, participated in a Skype call to the room in the consulate where Khashoggi was held. A Turkish intelligence source told Reuters that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog,” he said. If true, the allegations would confirm reporting in the Guardian on Sunday that Turkey had intercepted the hit squad’s communications.

Read more …

The info drip-drip continues to the last minute.

Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)

Turkish authorities believe part of Jamal Khashoggi’s body was transported out of Turkey by one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bodyguards, sources have told Middle East Eye. Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, an intelligence officer implicated in the killing of the Saudi journalist, is thought to have taken the body part out in a large bag, the sources said. Mutrib, who is often seen travelling with the heir to the Saudi throne, left Istanbul on 2 October, the day of Khashoggi’s death, on a private jet that departed at 18:20 local time. His bags were not checked as he passed through the VIP lounge at Ataturk airport and neither was the plane, with tail registration HZ-SK1.

This was because the plane left before the alarm was raised. A second plane was searched from top to bottom and nothing was found, according to the sources. Mutrib, who carried a diplomatic passport, appeared to be in a hurry, they said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to reveal the “naked truth” over the killing of Khashoggi, saying that he would make a new statement on the case on Tuesday. “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified “in all its aspects,” a Turkish presidential source said. Saudi Arabia, which on Friday finally admitted after 17 days that its officials had killed Khashoggi, says it does not know the body’s whereabouts. Anonymous Saudi officials have told media that the body was rolled into a carpet and handed to a “local collaborator” to be disposed of. However, on Sunday a Turkish source told MEE that Khashoggi’s body was cut into 15 pieces. “They did not roll anything up in anything,” the source said.

Read more …

Lots of theories. This one’s an option.

Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)

At about noon on Tuesday two regional leaders are due to make landmark addresses. In Riyadh, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will open an investment showpiece declaring the kingdom open for business. In Ankara, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to make a speech that may well shut down the beleaguered kingdom. Such are the stakes when Erdogan takes to a podium to discuss the death of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi that the region may not be the same when he’s finished. Three weeks to the day since Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Erdogan has pledged to table the “naked truth” about what happened to the columnist and critic, whose fate continues to grip both countries and polarise the Middle East.

If he stays true to his pledge, much of the evidence that Turkey has gathered, incriminating Saudi Arabia in a plot to kill Khashoggi, will be revealed: in pictures, video and even bloodcurdling audio said to document his torture and death. Setting the scene on Monday, a spokesman for the ruling party for the first time described Khashoggi’s death as a “complicated murder” that was “monstrously planned”. [..] Erdogan has the Saudis – in particular, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (AKA MbS) – right where he wants him. Out of crisis has come opportunity for the veteran Turkish leader, who has never warmed to the brash 33-year-old, and thinks even less of his regional allies.

The two men have vastly different visions for the future of the region: Erdogan has been a champion of political Islam both at home and abroad, particularly since the rise and fall of Mohamed Morsi, the ill-fated former president of Egypt who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish president has partnered with Qatar, Riyadh’s regional foe, given shelter to those exiled after Morsi fell, and remained a bulwark for a movement that Riyadh and its ally the United Arab Emirates see as existential threats. But he has remained on the losing end of the struggle for regional power and influence.

Read more …

Not entirely my view, but good bits for sure.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals. Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared. The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again. For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful. Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable.

Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents. Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

Read more …

On what authority? Jones must sue Jack.

Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)

Twitter Inc confirmed on Monday it has removed more accounts affiliated with Infowars, the website of U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The company confirmed a CNN report, which said Twitter permanently suspended 18 accounts, partly because of their attempts to help Infowars and Jones circumvent the ban placed on them by Twitter in September. Last month, Twitter permanently banned Jones and Infowars from its platform, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. Twitter had said back then that it would evaluate any reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with Jones and Infowars. Tech companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook have also recently banned Infowars and content produced by Jones while payments processor PayPal had ended its business relationship with the website in September.

Read more …

The idea is better than the article.

Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)

If Tom Wolfe were still alive, he might be turning his critical pen towards people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, playfully describing the disruption that their companies bring to our lives on a daily basis. Just as Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities focused on the financiers whose greed defined the economy of the 1980s, the writer might today focus on the behaviour of these entrepreneurs whose technological innovations are overthrowing the old economy, creating entirely new digital marketplaces. And rather than the greed of the 1980s, ethics might be the focus of Wolfe’s attention. Not the ethics of the algorithms running these businesses, for algorithms don’t have ethics. Even smart algorithms don’t have ethics.

Algorithms are just bits of mathematics. Algorithms do, however, capture the ethics of the people behind them. And there is so much material Wolfe could write about this in 2018. Wind back the clock nearly two years. In October 2016, the investigative nonprofit newsroom ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers exclude black, Hispanic and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing adverts. In the United States, housing and job adverts that exclude people based on race, gender and similar factors are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Facebook admitted this was “a failure” and promised to prevent such discrimination in the future. More than a year later, in November 2017, ProPublica found Facebook was still allowing such adverts to be placed.

[..] This isn’t the first time we’ve faced such problems. In the first industrial revolution, some of the first to benefit were so rapacious they became known as the “Robber Barons”. Chief among them was the industrialist John D Rockefeller, arguably the wealthiest man to live in modern times. Rockefeller was notorious for the unethical and illegal business practices that helped his company Standard Oil control up to 90% of the world’s oil refineries. The History of the Standard Oil Company, published by Ida Tarbell in 1904, described the espionage, price wars and courtroom antics that allowed the company to dominate the oil business. Eventually Standard Oil became so powerful it had to be broken up into 34 new companies.


John D Rockefeller (left). Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Read more …

The EU doesn’t understand what the internet is, how it has changed news and info dissemination. They don’t understand the amount of information, and how it necessitates changes. They’re handing the internet to America and taking it away from their own citizens.

EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)

YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web. The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies. “It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote. While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.” She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

[..] The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year. World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

Read more …

Playing hardball is all Brussels knows how to do.

By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)

Former Dutch Minister of Finance and former President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, went on CNBC on Friday to declare all-out financial war on Italy. That’s the way Zerohedge put it. As a ‘former’ big wig it was his job to go out and state the position of those currently in power who can safely hide behind his words. And if you watch the clip from CNBC in the linked article you’ll note that CNBC excised the most important quotes, where Dijsselbloem threatened the Italians that no exit from the euro is on the table. But, why would he say this when Italy hasn’t brought it up at all? In fact, Italy’s leadership has been nothing but supportive of the European Project while standing firm on it adopting fairer rules for member countries.

[..] As always, the heavy-handed Djisselbloem has his thumb on the pulse of the EU’s problems, opening his mouth and making things worse, just like he did with Greece. In Greek negotiations, the EU was calm. It told Greece over and over, “No.” Greece threatened the nuclear option, leaving the euro and its bluff was called. So, Dijesselbloem’s warning is just like Greece’s threats and they are going nuclear on Italy. They have to. The EU has zero leverage over Italy. The so-called populists in charge in Italy know exactly what they are doing. They are killing the EU with kindness. Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio reiterated over the weekend that there is “no Plan B” for leaving the EU. The goal is to reform it from within.

Read more …

Nice, but as teh Guardian adds: “The judge said in her ruling Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.”

US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages (R.)

A U.S. judge on Monday affirmed a verdict against Bayer unit Monsanto that found its glyphosate-based weed-killers responsible for a man’s terminal cancer, but said the $250 million punitive damages portion of the award had to be reduced. According to a ruling in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said she would slash the punitive damages award to $39 million if lawyers for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson agreed. Monsanto, which denies the allegations, had asked the judge to throw out the entire original $289 million verdict or order a new trial on the punitive damages portion. A jury on Aug. 10 found the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including RoundUp and Ranger Pro, had caused Johnson’s cancer and that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The verdict wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and marked the first such decision against Monsanto, which faces more than 8,000 similar lawsuits in the United States. “The court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal,” Bayer said in a statement. [..] Lawyers for Johnson in a statement on Monday said they were still reviewing whether to accept the reduced award or retry the punitive damages portion. “The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming,” the lawyers said.

Read more …

But we’re still going to poison most of our food, and that of others?

Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)

Cutting out pesticides by eating only organic food could slash your cancer risk by up to 86 percent, a new study claims. The biggest impact was seen on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk, which plummeted among those who shunned chemical-sprayed food, according to the survey of nearly 70,000 French adults. Overall, organic eaters were 25 percent less likely to develop any cancer, and their risks of skin and breast cancers dropped by a third. The finding comes amid a flurry of interest in the cancer risks of pesticides, spurred by this summer’s Monsanto trial, when a jury awarded a cancer-suffering groundsman $250 million after concluding that Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer. The health benefit was far greater for obese people, they found.

However, the diet had no significant effect on bowel cancer – which is soaring in numbers globally – or prostate cancer. ‘Our results indicate that higher organic food consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer,’ lead author Dr Julia Baudry of the Centre of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne, Paris said. ‘We observed reduced risks for specific cancer sites – postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas – among individuals with a higher frequency of organic food consumption. ‘Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.’

Read more …

By the time we acknowledge how bad this is, we’ll be full of plastic already.

Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

Scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of every person who took part in a Europe-wide study. On average, researchers found 20 microplastic particles in every 10 grams of stool, suggesting humans are swallowing them in food. Particles between 50 and 500 micrometres across were found, the most common being polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Diaries kept by each participant in the week before the stool tests showed that they were all exposed to plastic by consuming plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles. Plastic in the gut could suppress the immune system and aid transmission of toxins and harmful bugs or viruses, experts believe.

Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said: “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. “Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.” The pilot study recruited eight participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. None were vegetarians, and six ate sea fish. It is estimated up to 5 per cent of all plastics produced end up in the sea.

Read more …

Oct 122018
 
 October 12, 2018  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


M. C. Escher Order and chaos 1950

 

Donald Trump is Right About the Fed (Whalen)
Stocks Could Fall 40% To 50% To Reach Fair Value – Yusko (CNBC)
4 Pillars of Debt in Danger of Collapse (Nomi Prins)
The Dollar and its Discontents (Eichengreen)
China September Exports Surge, Creating Record Surplus With US (R.)
Facebook, Twitter Purge More Dissident Media Pages (CJ)
Italian Parliament Approves Controversial New Spending Targets (AP)
Turks Had Saudi Consulate Bugged With Audio (ZH)
Journalist’s Disappearance Hardens Congress Stance On Saudi Arms Deals (R.)
More Than A Million UK Residents Live In ‘Food Deserts’ (G.)

 

 

Chris Whalen on the absence of price discovery.

Donald Trump is Right About the Fed (Whalen)

President Donald Trump has been criticizing the Federal Open Market Committee for raising interest rates. The reaction of the US equity markets is self explanatory. But while the economist love cult in the Big Media may take umbrage at President Trump’s critique of the central bank, in fact Trump is dead right. First, the Fed’s actions in terms of buying $4 trillion in Treasury debt and mortgage paper has badly crippled the value of the fixed income market as a measure of risk. The Treasury yield curve no longer accurately describes the term structure of interest rates or risk premiums. This means that the Treasury yield curve is useless as an indicator of or guide for policy. Nobody at the Federal Reserve Board understands this issue or cares.

Second, Operation Twist further manipulated and distorted the Treasury market. By selling short-term paper and buying long dated securities, the Fed suppressed long-term interest rates, again making indicators like the 10-year Treasury bond useless as an measure of risk. Without QE 2-3 and Operation Twist, the 10-Year Treasury would be well over 4% by now. Instead it is 3% and change and will probably rally to test 3% between now and year end. Third is the real issuing bothering President Trump, even if he cannot find the precise words, namely liquidity. We have the illusion of liquidity in the financial markets today. Sell Side firms are prohibited by Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule from deploying capital in the cash equity and debt markets. All bank portfolios are now passive. No trading, no market making. There is nobody to catch the falling knife.

The only credit being extended today in the short-term markets is with collateral. There is no longer any unsecured lending between banks and, especially, non-banks. As we noted in The Institutional Risk Analyst earlier this week, there are scores of nonbank lenders in mortgages, autos and consumer unsecured lending that are ready to go belly up. Half of the non-bank mortgage lenders in the US are in default on their bank credit lines. As in 2007, the model builders at the Fed in Washington have no idea nor do they care to hear outside opinions. If you understand that the Fed’s previous “extraordinary” policy actions have the effect of understating LT interest rates by at least a percentage point, then you know why President Trump is howling like a wounded hound. Nobody understands the danger of leverage better than a real estate developer.

Read more …

But nobody says it’ll take 70-80%. Why?

Stocks Could Fall 40% To 50% To Reach Fair Value – Yusko (CNBC)

Investors should brace themselves for a significant stock market correction, as well as a recession in the first half of next year, investor Mark Yusko warned on Thursday. In fact, he says, fair value for equities would be down about 40 percent to 50 percent. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the stock market will have to go to fair value, Yusko said. “If interest rates keep normalizing, if liquidity keeps falling, if earnings go to where I think they are going to go, which is lower, I think we are going to have a meaningful correction,” the founder and chief investment officer at Morgan Creek Capital said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

Yusko, a noted stock picker who took first place in Portfolios with Purpose’s fantasy stock-picking contest in 2016, predicts a recession in the first or second quarter of 2019. “Things are paying out now just like they did in 2000, 2001, 2002,” he said. In the back part of 2000, the stock market went down, 2001 brought a recession, and in 2002 the stock market took a big turn down. “It’s just going to be painful for a while to adjust this overvaluation,” Yusko added. [..] Yusko also questioned whether the economy is really strong. “We had one good quarter. We’ve been sub 2 percent [economic growth] for six years,” he said. Plus, forecasts are that GDP is going to be lower than expectations in the third quarter and even lower in the fourth quarter, and there are bad demographics and bad debt, he added.

Read more …

“..there’s now even less reason to believe the Fed will raise rates at the next meeting in December.”

4 Pillars of Debt in Danger of Collapse (Nomi Prins)

Last month I was in a series of high-level meetings with members of Congress and the Senate in Washington. While there’s been major news about the Supreme Court, my discussions were on something that both sides of the aisle are coming to consensus over. You see, issues that impact your own bottom line are way more about economics than they are about politics. On Capitol Hill, leaders know that. They also know that voters react to what impacts their money. That’s why, behind the scenes, I’ve been discussing issues focused on protecting the economy. Behind closed doors, we’ve been working on how to shield the economy from Too Big to Fail banks and how the U.S. can better fund infrastructure projects. These are initiatives that all politicians should care about.

Underneath the surface of the economy is a financial system that is heavily influenced by the Federal Reserve. That’s why political figures and the media alike have all tried to understand what direction the system is headed. Also last week I joined Fox Business at their headquarters to discuss the economy, the Fed and what they all mean for the markets. On camera, we discussed this week’s Federal Reserve meeting and the likely outcomes. Off camera, we jumped into a similar discussion that those in DC have pressed me on. Charles Payne, the Fox host, asked me what I thought of new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, in general. Payne knew that I view the entire central bank system as a massive artificial bank and market stimulant.

What I told him is that Powell actually has a good sense of balance in terms of what he does with rates, and the size of the Fed’s book. He understands the repercussion that moving rates too much, too quickly, or selling off the assets, could have on the global economy and the markets. Savvy investors know that if the U.S. economy falters, because everything is connected, it could reverberate on the world. That’s why I could forecast that the Fed would raise rates by 25 basis points last week ahead of time. And they did. However, there’s now even less reason to believe the Fed will raise rates at the next meeting in December.

Read more …

Could USD lose its position in just 5-10 years?

The Dollar and its Discontents (Eichengreen)

It is worth recalling how the dollar gained international prominence in the first place. Before 1914, it played essentially no international role. But a geopolitical shock, together with an institutional change, transformed the dollar’s status. The geopolitical shock was World War I, which made it hard for neutral countries to transact with British banks and settle their accounts using sterling. The institutional change was the Federal Reserve Act, which created an entity that enhanced the liquidity of markets in dollar-denominated credits and allowed US banks to operate abroad for the first time. By the early 1920s the dollar had matched and, on some dimensions, surpassed sterling as the principal vehicle for international transactions.

This precedent suggests that 5-10 years is a plausible time frame over which the US could lose what Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then France’s finance minister, famously called the “exorbitant privilege” afforded it by issuing the world’s main international currency. This doesn’t mean that foreign banks and companies will shun the dollar entirely. US financial markets are large and liquid and are likely to remain so. US banks operate globally. In particular, foreign companies will continue to use dollars in transactions with the US itself.

But in an era of US unilateralism, they will want to hedge their bets. If the geopolitical shock of Trump’s unilateralism spurs an institutional innovation that makes it easier for European banks and companies to make payments in euros, then the transformation could be swift (as it were). If Iran receives euros rather than dollars for its oil exports, it will use those euros to pay for merchandise imports. With companies elsewhere earning euros rather than dollars, there will be less reason for central banks to hold dollars in order to intervene in the foreign exchange market and stabilize the local currency against the greenback. At this point, there would be no going back.

Read more …

Before more tariffs kick in.

China September Exports Surge, Creating Record Surplus With US (R.)

China reported on Friday an unexpected acceleration in export growth in September and a record trade surplus with the United States, which could exacerbate an already-heated dispute between Beijing and Washington. September exports rose 14.5 percent from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed. That blew past forecasts for an 8.9 percent increase in a Reuters poll and was well above August’s 9.8 percent gain. Growth in imports for September instead showed a moderate slowdown to 14.3 percent from 19.9 percent in August, slightly missing analysts’ forecast of a 15.0 percent growth.

China’s trade surplus with the United States widened to a record in September despite wider application of U.S. tariffs, an outcome that could push President Donald Trump to turn up the heat on Beijing in their trade dispute. The politically-sensitive surplus was $34.13 billion in September, surpassing the record of $31.05 billion in August. China’s export data has been surprisingly resilient to tariffs, possibly because companies ramped up shipments before broader and stiffer U.S. duties went into effect.

Read more …

Is it election time?

Facebook, Twitter Purge More Dissident Media Pages (CJ)

Facebook has purged more dissident political media pages today, this time under the pretense of protecting its users from “inauthentic activity”. In a statement co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher (who also happens to be the former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy), the massive social media platform explained that it has removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

This “inauthentic behavior”, according to Facebook, consists of using “sensational political content -regardless of its political slant- to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites,” which is the same as saying they write about controversial things, and posting those political articles “in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.” In other words, the pages were removed for publishing controversial political content and trying to get people to read it. Not for writing “fake news”, but for doing what they could to get legitimate indie media news stories viewed by people who might want to view it.

[..] Two of the most high-profile pages which were shut down have probably been seen at some point by any political dissident who uses Facebook; the Free Thought Project, which had 3.1 million followers, and Anti-Media, which had 2.1 million. [..] As if that wasn’t creepy enough, some of the accounts purged by Facebook appear to be getting censored on Twitter as well, bringing back memories of the August cross-platform coordinated silencing of Alex Jones. The aforementioned Anti-Media has now been suspended from Twitter just hours after tweeting about being removed from Facebook, along with one of its top writers Carey Wedler, and a Unicorn Riot activist named Patti Beers who had more than 30,000 Twitter followers has just been removed from both sites as well.

Read more …

“EU rules do not allow the ECB to help a country unless this has already agreed on a rescue “program”..

Italian Parliament Approves Controversial New Spending Targets (AP)

Italy’s parliament approved on Thursday deficit-raising spending targets, defying markets and Italy’s eurozone partners who had been pressing for changes. The parliamentary vote clears the proposals to be forwarded to the European Commission for review. But the document already has been criticized as unrealistic by the parliament’s own budget office and the Bank of Italy. The new spending targets are set to raise Italy’s deficit to 2.4 per cent of GDP next year. In a slight softening, Italy’s leaders pledged to lower the deficit in the subsequent two years. But that has done little to assuage concern over the boost in spending to meet a raft of campaign promises made by the two populist parties that formed the governing coalition, and the impact it will have on Italy’s high public debt.

Also on Thursday, five senior sources told Reuters that the European Central Bank won’t come to Italy’s rescue if its governments or bank sector run out of cash unless the country secures a bailout from the European Union. Italy has seen its borrowing costs surge on financial markets since its new government unveiled plans to increase its budget deficit, defying EU rules and reawakening concerns about its huge pile of public debt. The sources, attending an economic summit in Indonesia, said Italy could still avoid a debt crisis if its government changed course but should not count on the central bank to tame investors or prop up its banks.

This is because EU rules do not allow the ECB to help a country unless this has already agreed on a rescue “program” – political jargon for a bailout in exchange for belt-tightening and painful economic reforms, an option the Italian government has firmly rejected. Any attempt to circumvent those rules would damage the ECB’s credibility beyond repair and undermine acceptance of the monetary union in creditor countries, such as Germany, the sources said. “It’s a test-case to show Europe and its mechanisms work,” said one of the sources on the sidelines of the IMF’s annual meetings in the Indonesian resort town of Nusa Dua.

Read more …

You don’t need 15 guys to kill someone.

Turks Had Saudi Consulate Bugged With Audio (ZH)

The Washington Post has provided further details on its prior reporting that US intelligence knew full well that Saudi Arabia was seeking to lure the now disappeared and allegedly murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi to its embassy in Istanbul in order detain or kill him. In an interesting new revelation the Post speculates based on intel sources that the whole October 2nd incident may have been an attempted “rendition” gone wrong. As more damning evidence emerges showing a Saudi “hit team” of 15 military and intelligence individuals murdered Khashoggi and chopped up his body to carry out of the country, there now appears a strong consensus that the order may have come straight from the top, most likely from crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) himself.

Middle East Eye, for example, concludes based on WaPo’s prior report, “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, ordered an operation targeting journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi… citing US intelligence intercepts.” What’s more is that NBC now reports that the Turks had the Saudi consulate bugged with listening devices before the disappearance and what now appears to be gruesome murder — which suggests Turkey is currently in possession of an audio recording of the alleged killing.

Read more …

Yeah, right..

Journalist’s Disappearance Hardens Congress Stance On Saudi Arms Deals (R.)

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has hardened resistance in the U.S. Congress to selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, already a sore point for many lawmakers concerned about the humanitarian crisis created by Yemen’s civil war. Even before Turkish reports said Khashoggi was killed at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Democratic U.S. lawmakers had placed “holds” on at least four military equipment deals, largely because of Saudi attacks that have killed Yemeni civilians. President Donald Trump was wary of halting arms sales over the case, saying on Thursday the kingdom would just move its money into Russia and China.

[..] An informal U.S. review process lets the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees stall major foreign arms deals if they have concerns such as whether weapons would be used to kill civilians. Corker said he recently told a defense contractor not to push for a deal with the Saudis, even before the Khashoggi case. “I shared with him before this happened, please do not push to have any arms sales brought up right now because they will not pass. It will not happen. With this, I can assure it won’t happen for a while,” Corker said. While details of all the blocked Saudi deals were not immediately available, one was the planned sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of high-tech munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Read more …

“She occasionally gets a taxi but finds that depletes her food budget. “A taxi is a meal..”

More Than A Million UK Residents Live In ‘Food Deserts’ (G.)

More than a million people in the UK live in “food deserts” – neighbourhoods where poverty, poor public transport and a dearth of big supermarkets severely limit access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, a study has claimed. Nearly one in 10 of the country’s most economically deprived areas are food deserts, it says – typically large out-of-town housing estates and deprived inner-city wards served by a handful of small, relatively expensive corner shops. Public health experts are concerned that these neighbourhoods – which are often also “food swamps” with high densities of fast-food outlets – are helping to fuel a rise in diet-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes, as well as driving food insecurity.

The most deprived areas include Marfleet in Hull, Hartcliffe in Bristol, Hattersley in Greater Manchester, Everton in Liverpool and Sparkbrook in Birmingham. Eight of Scotland’s 10 most deprived food deserts are in Glasgow, and three of Wales’s nine worst are in Cardiff. The study, by the Social Market Foundation thinktank and food company Kellogg’s, says poor, elderly and disabled people are disproportionately affected, as they cannot afford or are physically unable to travel to large supermarkets.

Food deserts are defined by the report as neighbourhoods of between 5,000-15,000 people served by two or fewer big supermarkets. In “normal” areas of this size there are typically between three and seven large food stores, it says. Small shops are less likely to sell fresh or healthy food. The report cites Lisa Cauchi, a mother of eight in Salford, in the north-west of England, who said the nearest reliable source of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables was a big supermarket half an hour’s walk away. She occasionally gets a taxi but finds that depletes her food budget. “A taxi is a meal,” she said.

Read more …

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


M. C. Escher The Tower of Babel 1928

 

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

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

 


From 10% to 75% in 10 years

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


Winslow Homer Salt Kettle, Bermuda 1899

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Sep 072018
 
 September 7, 2018  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


René Magritte The false mirror 1928

 

I Know Who the “Senior Official” Is Who Wrote the NY Times Op-Ed (PCR)
Pompeo Denies Being Author Of ‘Sad’ NYT Op-Ed On Trump (AFP)
Mueller Hardens Stance On Trump Interview In Russia Probe, Giuliani Says (R.)
‘Lots Of Evidence’ Syria Preparing Chemical Weapons In Idlib- New US Envoy (R.)
Operation Yellowhammer: Secret Government Paper On No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
Brexit Negotiators Risk Sleepwalking Into Crisis – Former UK Envoy To EU (G.)
The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $250 Billion (WS)
Twitter Permanently Bans Alex Jones, Website Infowars (R.)
Google and Apple’s Systems to Track you in Person (CP)
Moon Says Is Seeking To Establish ‘Irreversible’ Peace On Korean Peninsula (YH)
Paris Official Seeks To Outlaw Airbnb Rentals In City Centre (AFP)
Most Of British Countryside Now Devoid Of Hedgehogs (G.)

 

 

Paul Craig Roberts: “The New York Times wrote it.”

I Know Who the “Senior Official” Is Who Wrote the NY Times Op-Ed (PCR)

I know who wrote the anonymous “senior Trump official” op-ed in the New York Times. The New York Times wrote it. The op-ed is an obvious forgery. As a former senior official in a presidential administration, I can state with certainty that no senior official would express disagreement anonymously. Anonymous dissent has no credibility. Moreover, the dishonor of it undermines the character of the writer. A real dissenter would use his reputation and the status of his high position to lend weight to his dissent. The New York Times’ claim to have vetted the writer also lacks credibility, as the New York Times has consistently printed extreme accusations against Trump and against Vladimir Putin without supplying a bit of evidence.

The New York Times has consistently misrepresented unsubstantiated allegations as proven fact. There is no reason whatsoever to believe the New York Times about anything. Consider also whether a member of a conspiracy working “diligently” inside the administration with “many of the senior officials” to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting” Trump’s “worst inclinations” would thwart his and his fellow co-conspirators’ plot by revealing it! This forgery is an attempt to break up the Trump administration by creating suspicion throughout the senior level. If Trump falls for the New York Times’ deception, a house cleaning is likely to take place wherever suspicion falls. A government full of mutual suspicion cannot function.

The fake op-ed serves to validate from within the Trump administration the false reporting by the New York Times that serves the interests of the military/security complex to hold on to enemies with whom Trump prefers to make peace. For example, the alleged “senior official” misrepresents, as does the New York Times, President Trump’s efforts to reduce dangerous tensions with North Korea and Russia as President Trump’s “preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un” over America’s “allied, like-minded nations.” This is the same non-sequitur that the New York Times has expressed endlessly. Why is resolving dangerous tensions a “preference for dictators” and not a preference for peace? The New York Times has never explained, and neither does the “senior official.”

Read more …

As have lots of others. If PCR is right, makes sense.

Pompeo Denies Being Author Of ‘Sad’ NYT Op-Ed On Trump (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied Thursday being the author of a damning, anonymous op-ed in the New York Times about President Donald Trump, calling it “sad”. “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the New York Times, a liberal newspaper that has attacked this administration relentlessly, chose to print such a piece,” Pompeo said in New Delhi. “If it’s accurate… they should not… have chosen to take a disgruntled, deceptive bad actor’s word for anything and put it in their newspaper. It’s sad more than anything else,” he told reporters.

He added: “I come from a place where if you’re not in a position to execute the commander’s intent, you have a singular option, that is to leave. And this person instead, according to the New York Times, chose not only to stay but to undermine what President Trump and this administration are trying to do. “And I have to tell you, I just, I find the media’s efforts in this regard to undermine this administration incredibly disturbing. The editorial, by an anonymous senior US official according to the New York Times, said that Trump’s own staff see him as a danger to the nation. Trump has questioned whether the “gutless” piece, entitled “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration”, might be treasonous. “It’s not mine,” Pompeo added.

Read more …

“We’ve said no, and let’s see how they deal with it.”

Mueller Hardens Stance On Trump Interview In Russia Probe, Giuliani Says (R.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants President Donald Trump to commit to a follow-up interview to written answers to questions in his probe of any coordination between Trump campaign members and Russia in the 2016 U.S. election, Rudy Giuliani, who is representing the president, said on Thursday. Giuliani, who said talks between the two sides were continuing, saw Mueller’s stance as a hardening in the position prosecutors are taking after offering to allow Trump to answer questions in writing. “I thought we were close to having an agreement until they came back with, ‘You have to agree now that you’ll allow a follow-up,’ and I don’t see how we can do it,” Giuliani told Reuters.

Lawyers for Trump have been negotiating over a potential interview with Mueller’s team since last year in the U.S. investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election, which Moscow denies. Trump has denied any campaign collusion, calling the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.” In a letter to Trump’s lawyers last week, Mueller expressed a willingness to accept written responses on questions about collusion, but did not rule out a possible interview as a follow-up, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday. After receiving the written responses, Mueller’s investigators would decide on a next step, which could include an interview with Trump, the person said. But Giuliani said on Thursday that Mueller’s team had stiffened its position in the latest talks. “They want a commitment” to a follow-up interview, Giuliani said. “We’ve said no, and let’s see how they deal with it.”

Read more …

In crease the pressure on Trump with anon op-eds and Mueller, and see if he bombs Assad. Transparent.

‘Lots Of Evidence’ Syria Preparing Chemical Weapons In Idlib- New US Envoy (R.)

There is “lots of evidence” chemical weapons are being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib, north-west Syria, the new US representative for Syria has said, warning any attack on the last big rebel enclave would be a “reckless escalation”. “I am very sure that we have very, very good grounds to be making these warnings,” said Jim Jeffrey, who was named on 17 August as secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s special adviser on Syria overseeing talks on a political transition. “Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation,” Jeffrey said. “There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared.”

Washington has issued a strong warning to Syria’s government against using chemical weapons in the widely expected operation. Jeffrey said any offensive by Russian and Syrian forces, and the use of chemical weapons, would force huge refugee flows into south-eastern Turkey or areas in Syria under Turkish control. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has massed his army and allied forces on the frontlines in the north-west and Russian planes have joined his bombardment of rebels there – the prelude to a possible assault. The fate of the insurgent stronghold in and around Idlib province now seems to rest on a meeting to be held in Tehran on Friday between the leaders of Assad’s supporters Russia and Iran, and the rebels’ ally Turkey.

Read more …

“..its song is said to have a rhythm like “a little bit of bread and no cheese”

Operation Yellowhammer: Secret Government Paper On No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

A secret Treasury document has raised questions about “rail access to the EU” after a no-deal Brexit. The document – snapped as it was carried into a Whitehall meeting – also reveals that Philip Hammond’s department has codenamed its contingency planning “Operation Yellowhammer”. It warns that government departments will have to make cuts to prepare for crashing out of the EU, saying: “Their first call should be internal reprioritisation.” And it acknowledges the need to “maintain confidence in the event of contingency plans being triggered – particularly important for financial services”.

Operation Yellowhammer is being overseen by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, which is usually responsible for coping with emergencies such as floods and disease outbreaks. The document was photographed just hours after the health secretary admitted that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for stockpiling NHS medicines in a no-deal Brexit. A Treasury spokesman refused to be drawn on the paper, saying: “We don’t comment on leaked documents.” The yellowhammer is a bird with a bright yellow head, a brown back streaked with black and chestnut rump, often seen perched on top of a hedge or bush, singing. Intriguingly for critics of a no-deal Brexit, its song is said to have a rhythm like “a little bit of bread and no cheese”.

Read more …

“Rogers says the prime minister’s compromise plan “contains many wholly unsaleable elements and will not [and] cannot be agreed by the 27..”

Brexit Negotiators Risk Sleepwalking Into Crisis – Former UK Envoy To EU (G.)

Brexit negotiators on both sides of the Channel risk “sleepwalking into a major crisis” that could poison relations for a generation, the UK’s former ambassador to the European Union Sir Ivan Rogers, has warned. In a speech to the British Irish Chambers of Commerce in Dublin, he urged EU leaders to move beyond a technocratic approach to Brexit and give serious thought to “the British question” or risk “endless toxic running battles”. “There is now, in my view, a higher risk than the markets are currently pricing of a disorderly breakdown in Brexit negotiations, and of our sleepwalking into a major crisis,” he said. “Not because either negotiating team actively seeks it, but precisely because each side misreads each other’s real incentives and political constraints and cannot find any sort of landing zone for a deal, however provisional.”

He said it was “tempting” and “an understandable accusation” for European capitals to think that “the British have brought all this on themselves without much apparent thought or honesty”. But he urged leaders to take a longer view, or risk a brittle settlement that would not last. Rogers resigned as the UK’s ambassador to the EU last January after being attacked as “the gloomy mandarin” by Tory Eurosceptics, who dismissed his warnings that leaving the EU would be be complicated process that would dominate UK political life for a decade.

In a parting email to staff he urged British officials to challenge ill-founded arguments and “muddled thinking”, while another former top civil servant lamented his departure as a “wilful and total destruction of EU expertise”. In his speech on Thursday night Rogers criticised the “delusional” thinking of British Eurosceptics and said they knew that a genuine no-deal Brexit “would bring several key sectors of the economy to a halt”. He said that advocates of a no-deal Brexit expected to trigger a host of mini deals at the 11th hour.

[..] Much of his speech was a plea to EU27 member states to take a strategic approach to Brexit, recognising that they cannot have “just a bog-standard third-country relationship like any other” with the UK. But Rogers was not attempting to sell Theresa May’s Chequers plan, an array of proposals that includes an unprecedented customs deal and “common rule book” for goods that the EU has rejected. Rogers says the prime minister’s compromise plan “contains many wholly unsaleable elements and will not [and] cannot be agreed by the 27”.

Read more …

Just a start, but getting serious.

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $250 Billion (WS)

In August, the Federal Reserve was supposed to shed up to $24 billion in Treasury securities and up to $16 billion in Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), for a total of $40 billion, according to its QE-unwind plan – or “balance sheet normalization.” The QE unwind, which started in October 2017, is still in ramp-up mode, where the amounts increase each quarter (somewhat symmetrical to the QE declines during the “Taper”). The acceleration to the current pace occurred in July. So how did it go in August? The Fed released its weekly balance sheet Thursday afternoon. Over the period from August 2 through September 5, the balance of Treasury securities declined by $23.7 billion to $2,313 billion, the lowest since March 26, 2014. Since the beginning of the QE-Unwind, the Fed has shed $152 billion in Treasuries:

The step-pattern of the QE unwind in the chart above is a consequence of how the Fed sheds Treasury securities: It doesn’t sell them outright but allows them to “roll off” when they mature; and they only mature mid-month or at the end of the month. On August 15, $23 billion in Treasuries matured. On August 31, $21 billion matured. In total, $44 billion matured during the month. The Fed replaced about $20 billion of them with new Treasury securities directly via its arrangement with the Treasury Department that cuts out Wall Street – the “primary dealers” with which the Fed normally does business. Those $20 billion in securities were “rolled over.” But it did not replace about $24 billion of maturing Treasuries. They “rolled off” and became part of the QE unwind.

Read more …

They have to reveal their grounds.

Twitter Permanently Bans Alex Jones, Website Infowars (R.)

Twitter on Thursday permanently banned U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his website Infowars from its platform and Periscope, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. “As we continue to increase transparency around our rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action, given the broad interest in this case,” the company tweeted. “We do not typically comment on enforcement actions we take against individual accounts for their privacy.” In a video posted on the Infowars website on Thursday Jones said, “I was taken down not because we lied but because we tell the truth and because we were popular.”

The ban came weeks after Apple, Alphabet’s YouTube, and Facebook took down podcasts and channels from Jones, citing community standards. Jones, whose conspiracy theories include that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax, hosts the syndicated radio program “The Alex Jones Show.” Last month, Jones lost a bid to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against him by the parents of a boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. On Wednesday, Jones attended a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ways to counteract foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections and political discourse. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey testified at the hearing.

Read more …

Bluetooth ‘beacons’ everywhere that track you. Lovely.

Google and Apple’s Systems to Track you in Person (CP)

Google is in the news (again) for creepy surveillance practices. Google, AP reported, is tracking your physical whereabouts even after you tell them to shut Location History off. Now Bloomberg reports they bought data about Mastercard transactions to link online ads with in-store purchases. These make for interesting stories, but the real story, not being discussed, is the online-physical advertising systems engineered by Google and Apple.

Over the last few years, there’s been a quiet revolution in retail marketing empowering advertisers to track consumers in physical space. Retailers have realized that, contrary to popular misconceptions, most retail purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar stores– not the online world of Amazon and Walmart. The capacity to track each of us in the physical world offers an untapped market for high-tech advertising. Google previously called this the Physical Web, a new Internet of Things frontier that melds the online and offline worlds into one.

To facilitate online-offline tracking, Google and Apple developed protocols for communications with mobile devices like smartphones. The idea is to make the physical world, like a poster on a building, something you can “click on” (i.e. interact with) without installing a special app. The dominant weapon of choice is the bluetooth beacon – silly putty-sized units that broadcast bluetooth signals to track your precise location and send messages to your phone. Bluetooth beacons are now scattered about stores, airports, sporting arenas, malls, and other locales. The technology is several years in the making.

Read more …

Let him.

Moon Says Is Seeking To Establish ‘Irreversible’ Peace On Korean Peninsula (YH)

South Korea is seeking to formally end its hostile relations with North Korea before the year’s end to establish permanent peace that would be irreversible, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in an interview published Friday. “The most basic goal of our policy is that there must never be another war on the Korean Peninsula,” the president said in a written interview with Indonesian newspaper Kompas. The rare interview came ahead of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s three-day trip to Seoul. Moon and Widodo will meet Monday, one day after the Indonesian leader arrives on a state visit. Moon noted he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have already agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and establish permanent peace.

“The issue is sincerely implementing the agreement reached by the leaders, and the plan is to make enough progress by the year’s end so the process cannot be reversed,” the South Korean president said, according to a script of his written interview released by his office Cheong Wa Dae. Moon’s remarks came as he is set to hold his third bilateral summit with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20. Moon and Kim earlier met in the border village of Panmunjom on April 27 and May 26. He expressed hope for a formal end to the Korean War before the year’s end. “As a practical way of building trust, it would be great if a declaration of the war that would mark the end of hostile relations on the Korean Peninsula can be made this year,” Moon said.

Read more …

“We’ll be living in an open-air museum.”

Paris Official Seeks To Outlaw Airbnb Rentals In City Centre (AFP)

The Paris city council member in charge of housing said Thursday that he would propose outlawing home rentals via Airbnb and other websites in the city centre, accusing the service of forcing residents out of the French capital. Ian Brossat told AFP that he would also seek to prohibit the purchase of secondary residences in Paris, saying such measures were necessary to keep the city from becoming an “open-air museum”. “One residence out of every four no longer houses Parisians,” said Brossat, who is expected to head the Communist party list for European Parliament elections next year. With some 60,000 apartments on offer in the city, Paris is the biggest market for Airbnb, which like other home-sharing platforms has come under increasing pressure from cities which claim it drives up rents for locals.

“Do we want Paris to be a city which the middle classes can afford, or do we want it to be a playground for Saudi or American billionaires?” he said. Brossat has had Airbnb and its rivals in his sights for years, and recently published a book assailing the US giant titled “Airbnb, or the Uberised City”. He wants to forbid any short-term tourist rentals of entire apartments in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Arrondissements of Paris, home to some of the world’s most popular sites including the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Louvre museum. “If we don’t do anything, there won’t be any more locals: Like on the Ile Saint-Louis, we’ll end up with a drop in the number of residents and food shops turned into clothing or souvenir stores,” he said, referring to the Seine island in the shadow of the Notre-Dame cathedral. “We’ll be living in an open-air museum.”

Read more …

In the end this means a countryside devoid of countryside.

Most Of British Countryside Now Devoid Of Hedgehogs (G.)

A “perfect storm” of intensive farming and rising badger populations has left most of the countryside in England and Wales devoid of hedgehogs, according to the first systematic national survey. The research used footprints left by hedgehogs in special tunnels to reveal that they were living at just 20% of the 261 sites surveyed. Hedgehogs, which topped a vote in 2013 to nominate a national species for Britain, were significantly less common where badgers were more numerous. Badgers eat hedgehogs and also compete for the beetles and worms the prickly animals consume. However, hedgehogs and badgers lived alongside each other in half the hedgehog sites, while a quarter of all the sites had neither animal, showing the destruction of habitat such as hedgerows and coppices was also a major factor.

“There are lots of areas in the countryside that are not suitable for hedgehogs or badgers,” said Ben Williams, at the University of Reading, who led the new work. “There is something fundamentally wrong in the rural landscape for those species and probably lots of other species as well,” such as birds and shrews. Previous work based on visual sightings and roadkills indicated that the number of hedgehogs living in the British countryside has plummeted by more than half since 2000. Historical hedgehog numbers are hard to estimate, but scientists think populations have fallen by at least 80% since the 1950s. The new survey, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is much more detailed and reliable. It concludes: “The combined effects of increasing badger abundance and intensive agriculture may have provided a perfect storm for hedgehogs in rural Britain, leading to worryingly low levels of occupancy over large [areas].”

Read more …

Sep 062018
 
 September 6, 2018  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Night Cafe (Place Lamartine in Arles) 1888

 

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration (NYT)
Who Wrote The Anti-Trump Op-Ed? (MW)
Trump May Declassify the 20 FISA Docs Congress Wants (Sara Carter)
Trump Accuses Social Media Firms Of Interfering In 2016, 2018 Elections (CNBC)
Jack Dorsey Tops Sheryl Sandberg As Tech’s DC Rep (R.)
Sheryl Sandberg Misled Congress About Facebook’s Conscience (IC)
Only 17% Expect A Good Brexit Deal For Britain, Just 40% Back Leave (ES)
Chequers Plan Is Dead,’ Says MP, Who Reported Rejection By Barnier (G.)
Kim Jong Un Wants To Denuclearize During Trump’s First Term (R.)
BOJ Board Member Urges More Stimulus, ‘No Room For Complacency’ (R.)
Huge Surplus Draws Germany Back Into Trump’s Trade War Line Of Fire (R.)
Here’s Another Headache For Beaten-Up Auto Stocks (MW)
Tunisian Fishermen Await Trial In Italy After ‘Saving 100s Of Migrants’ (G.)
The Impossible Photo (Craig Murray)

 

 

Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with democracy. Trump was elected, not some faceless group around him.

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration (NYT)

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader. It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall. The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them. To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office. The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.

At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright. In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic. Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more. But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

Read more …

“Our job is to publish op-eds that further the public’s understanding of what the hell is going on, and I think this piece makes a significant contribution.”
Jim Bennett, New York Times editorial page editor

Who Wrote The Anti-Trump Op-Ed? (MW)

So who wrote it? From newsrooms to coffee-house chatter to the White House itself, that was the big question on everyone’s mind Wednesday night after the New York Times published an anonymous, bombshell anti-Trump op-ed written by a “senior administration official.” The article, which described an “amoral” and “reckless” President Donald Trump being covertly held in check by the “adults in the room” to preserve the country’s democratic principles, sent Trump into a rage, the Washington Post reported. Trump said the author was gutless, and tweeted “TREASON?” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the author was “pathetic” and should resign. But the author remained a mystery.

The White House was in “total meltdown” Wednesday night, a source told Politico. “It’s like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house,” another source told the Post. Some criticized the Times for running an anonymous opinion piece, but editorial page editor Jim Bennett told Vanity Fair that the newspaper had a responsibility to run it. “The question for us was, does making this unusual grant, is it merited by the significance of the piece? We feel that it was,” Bennett said. So who was it? That’s the million-dollar question. Literally, since the author could very well receive a book deal once his or her identity is revealed.

The Times, at least, isn’t telling. In an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter, Times op-ed editor Jim Dao said the official reached out through an intermediary several days ago. He said the Times did speak to the author directly. “We were simply trying to abide by the standard that the Times in general would use when referring to someone who’s not named,” Dao told CNN. Only a “very small number of people within the Times who know this person’s identity,” Dao said, and the Times used “special precautions” to protect their identity.

Read more …

As I said in The Shape of Trump to Come, declassifying is the way to go. But some will resist it, for sure.

Trump May Declassify the 20 FISA Docs Congress Wants (Sara Carter)

President Trump is expected to declassify the redacted 20 pages of documents from the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that have still not been made public, which allowed the FBI to spy on short-term campaign volunteer Carter Page, numerous sources told SaraACarter.com. This comes after nearly a year of stonewalling by the Department of Justice at the demand of lawmakers, who claim that the 20 redacted pages will reveal explosive information about the FBI’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation, according to sources.

However, President Trump, who has been under pressure from some DOJ officials not to release the classified documents, “could always change his mind and it’s not a guarantee that it will happen, but the indications are that it more than likely will possibly be before the end of this week,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

In July, the Justice Department released over 400 previously top-secret documents connected to the Page warrant. However, more than 20 pages of the FISA document remained highly classified and have only been viewed by a select group of Congressional members and investigators. The lawmakers are now asking that those documents be made public. Behind the scenes, the battle between Justice Department officials and senior members of Congress intensified over the past year, leading lawmakers to call on President Trump to intervene and declassify the documents.

In a 38 minute interview with the Daily Caller Tuesday, President Trump said the White House is “looking at it very seriously right now because the things that have gone on are so bad, so bad. I mean they were surveilling my campaign. If that happened on the other foot, they would’ve considered that treasonous. They would’ve considered that spying at the highest level. Can you imagine if we were doing that to Obama instead of Obama and his people doing that to us? Everybody would’ve been in jail for the next 500 years. OK? Can you believe it, where they paid this guy millions of dollars, it turned out? If you look at all of the things that are happening.”

Read more …

Only one way out: make it impossible. But that means giving them a different status.

Trump Accuses Social Media Firms Of Interfering In 2016, 2018 Elections (CNBC)

President Donald Trump accused social networks of interfering in the 2016 presidential election and November’s midterm elections. Trump told online conservative publication The Daily Caller he thinks big tech firms “already have” intervened in the midterms, and said Facebook and Google intervened in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “I mean the true interference in the last election was that — if you look at all, virtually all of those companies are super liberal companies in favor of Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, according to the outlet.

“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter and I’m good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side.” The president also warned tech firms not to continue with alleged bias against conservatives. Trump accused Google last week of rigging search results to prioritize negative coverage and left-leaning news outlets. He warned the issue “will be addressed,” suggesting regulatory consequences for social media companies. Trump then mentioned rivals Facebook and Twitter by name, saying all three companies were “treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful.” Google, Twitter and Facebook have denied political bias in the algorithmic tailoring of news content.

Read more …

“In an afternoon House hearing, Dorsey said if you sat down with a cup of coffee and read Twitter’s rules, you would not be able to understand them.”

Jack Dorsey Tops Sheryl Sandberg As Tech’s DC Rep (R.)

Jack Dorsey surprisingly topped Sheryl Sandberg as Big Tech’s best Washington representative. Twitter’s usually dry chief executive seemed more genuine than the polished Facebook No. 2 in his first congressional hearing. In Wednesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Dorsey said he is a man of “few words.” It was a stark contrast to Sandberg, who is more at ease speaking in public; her Washington experience as Larry Summers’ chief of staff at Treasury two decades ago also showed through. But she sounded more like a politician, repeatedly saying “we can do better” and using jargon like “inauthentic accounts.”

Dorsey gave a more honest analysis of the existential dilemma facing his $25 billion micro-blogging site and other social-media platforms – from toxic interactions between users, to promulgation of actual fake news to election meddling. Yet inflammatory content often produces more user engagement, leading to growth and advertising revenue. Nonetheless, Dorsey told lawmakers he is taking a fundamental look at Twitter’s business model and user incentives. For example, the company is examining whether it’s right to entice a user to gather more followers by putting that figure in a noticeable font. The same goes for retweets. Dorsey said those metrics should not be a proxy for how much a user contributes to healthy dialogue on Twitter, one of the goals of the platform.

[..] The companies brought the scrutiny on themselves, partly by acting too slowly. But Dorsey sounded humbled and acknowledged reality while Sandberg seemed to think Facebook can manage lawmakers by outtalking them. In an afternoon House hearing, Dorsey said if you sat down with a cup of coffee and read Twitter’s rules, you would not be able to understand them. In the Senate, Sandberg sounded defensive when asked about Facebook’s terms of service.

Read more …

That’s some pretty brazen lies.

Sheryl Sandberg Misled Congress About Facebook’s Conscience (IC)

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg draped herself in the star-spangled banner of American principles before today’s Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on social media. Sandberg proclaimed that democratic values of free expression were integral to the company’s conscience. “We would only operate in a country where we could do so in keeping with our values,” she went on. Either this was a lie told under oath, or Facebook has some pretty lousy values. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., questioned Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about the fact that they are both ostensibly American companies, but also firms with users around the world — including in countries with legal systems and values that differ drastically from the United States.

Rubio cited various governments that crack down on, say, pro-democracy activism and that criminalize such speech. How can a company like Facebook claim that it’s committed to free expression as a global value while maintaining its adherence to rule of law on a local level? When it comes to democratic values, Rubio asked, “Do you support them only in the United States or are these principles that you feel obligated to support around the world?” Sandberg, as always, didn’t miss a beat: “We support these principles around the world.” Shortly thereafter she made the claim that Facebook simply would not do business in a country where these values couldn’t be maintained. Based on the information Facebook itself makes available, this is false.

In its latest publicly available “transparency report,” Facebook says it helps block free expression as a matter of policy — so long as it’s technically legal in a given market. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates, a country that Human Rights Watch says “arbitrarily detains and in some cases forcibly disappears individuals who criticize the authorities,” Facebook does its part to help.

Read more …

if only the UK had functioning media.

Only 17% Expect A Good Brexit Deal For Britain, Just 40% Back Leave (ES)

Fewer than one in five voters now expect Britain to secure a good Brexit deal as Theresa May’s plans remain under fire, according to damning new research. The proportion of people expecting a good deal has slumped dramatically from 33% in February last year to just 17% in June 2018, the survey showed. The data was conducted and shared ahead of the publication of the Prime Minister’s heavily criticised Chequers plan for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Some 57% of voters now predict Britain will end talks with a bad deal, up from 37% since February 2017. That’s according to the survey for NatCen Social Research. Just over 50% now expect the UK’s economy to be worse of as a result of Brexit, while just 38% said Britain’s departure would mean lower immigration.

According to the new figurers, only 13% said the Government had handled negotiations well so far. That’s down from 29% in February last year. Some 64% said it had handled talks badly. There was also very little support for the EU’s approach to negotiations, with 57% saying Brussels had handled them badly. Only 16% said it had handled them well. The report, by polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice of Strathclyde University, found that 59% of members of a NatCen panel now say they would vote Remain in a second referendum. Just 41% were backing Leave. However, the researchers cautioned that this apparently comfortable lead for Remain may be skewed by the fact those responding reported voting against Brexit by a margin of 53-47% in the 2016 referendum.

Read more …

Chequers is all May has.

Chequers Plan Is Dead,’ Says MP, Who Reported Rejection By Barnier (G.)

Theresa May’s Brexit plan was left mired in uncertainty after reports that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told British MPs that “les propositions sont mortes” in a Brussels meeting. The Labour MP Stephen Kinnock revealed that in talks this week Barnier had declared the Chequers proposals “dead” and suggested that there was a fundamental misunderstanding in the UK about how the single market worked. “I can tell you absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt that Chequers is dead in the water. Michel Barnier made it crystal clear that Chequers is completely unacceptable to the EU,” Kinnock said.

The senior remainer urged the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, and the prime minister’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, appearing before the European scrutiny committee on Wednesday, to accept that Brussels was not simply “sabre rattling” as a negotiating tactic. May faces a concerted campaign to “chuck Chequers” from disgruntled Tory MPs, led by the former ministers Boris Johnson and David Davis. There are also deep-rooted concerns in Brussels over her facilitated customs arrangement and common rulebook proposals. Bill Cash, the veteran Tory Eurosceptic, told the committee that Chequers should be “put out of its misery” as the plan satisfied “virtually no one” while the former Brexit minister David Jones asked why the government was “flogging this dead horse”.

Read more …

Only thing to do for the US is to get out of the way, let Kim and Moon do what their people want them to: make peace, reunite. Trump understands this, Pompeo does not.

Kim Jong Un Wants To Denuclearize During Trump’s First Term (R.)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he wants to denuclearize the Korean peninsula during U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term, as he agreed to hold a third summit with his South Korean counterpart this month in Pyongyang, Seoul officials said on Thursday. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in the North Korean capital on Sept. 18-20, during which they will discuss “practical measures” toward denuclearization, the South’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters a day after meeting Kim in Pyongyang.

Kim told the South Korean officials that his faith in Trump remains “unchanged” and he wanted to denuclearize and end long-standing hostile relations between North Korea and the United States during Trump’s first term ending early 2021, Chung said. Kim’s remarks to South Korean officials mark the first time that the North Korean leader has offered a potential timeline for dismantling his country’s nuclear weapons programme. Kim “reaffirmed his determination to completely denuclearize” the peninsula, and expressed his willingness for close cooperation with South Korea and the United States in that regard, Chung said.

Read more …

For years, Abenomics was all about stimulus will create inflation. Double or nothing!

BOJ Board Member Urges More Stimulus, ‘No Room For Complacency’ (R.)

Bank of Japan (BOJ) board member Goushi Kataoka criticized on Thursday the central bank’s decision in July to make its policy framework more sustainable, arguing that it should have instead ramped up stimulus to hasten the achievement of its elusive price target. He also warned that escalating trade frictions could weigh on Japan’s export-reliant economy by slowing global economic expansion next year. “Global trade frictions are intensifying and there’s no room for complacency,” Kataoka said in a speech to business leaders in Yokohama, a city near Tokyo. Kataoka, who opposed the BOJ’s decision in July to take steps to address the rising costs of prolonged easing, said it was counter-productive to allow long-term yields to rise at a time inflation remained low.

“There’s no need to allow long-term interest rates to move in a wider range at a time when the BOJ is cutting its inflation forecasts,” he said. “Allowing long-term rates to rise at a time inflation and inflation expectations aren’t heightening much could delay achievement of the BOJ’s price target,” Kataoka said, adding that the BOJ must instead take additional easing measures to fire up inflation. Under its yield curve control policy, the central bank guides short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent.

Read more …

Germany’s surplus inside the EU is the bigger problem.

Huge Surplus Draws Germany Back Into Trump’s Trade War Line Of Fire (R.)

German trade figures later this week will serve as a reminder to global economy watchers, especially the primary occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., of the chasm between countries that run huge current account surpluses and deficits. U.S. president Donald Trump last week renewed his attack on Germany and Europe for, in his view, manipulating the euro lower to boost exports and trade in their favour at the expense of U.S. companies. “Almost as bad as China, just smaller,” Trump told Bloomberg News. In fact, when it comes to trade surpluses vis-à-vis the United States and more broadly, Germany is bigger than China. If that U.S.-German chasm is allowed to go unchecked and stretch further, the snapback could trigger a surge in currency market volatility – currently near historic lows – and maybe even pose a threat to global financial stability.

Euro/dollar is the world’s most liquid and important exchange rate, accounting for almost a quarter of all FX trades, or around $1 trillion a day. It is so stable precisely because it is so deep and liquid. But there’s no guarantee it will remain an oasis of calm. Developed markets have been largely untouched by the volatility tearing through large parts of emerging markets right now, but no corner of world markets would be spared from turbulence, stress or rapid moves in the euro/dollar exchange rate. Germany had a larger trade surplus with the United States than any other country in the first half of this year, worth some 24.4 billion euros ($28.5 billion) which contributed to a global trade surplus of 121.5 billion euros.

Read more …

Intereting development.

Here’s Another Headache For Beaten-Up Auto Stocks (MW)

Americans are falling out of love with their cars — at least when it comes to the daily commute. Wolf Richter, of the Wolf Street financial blog, cites this growing challenge for the auto market, in our call of the day. “Driving, while still by far the top way of getting to work in America, has lost some ground,” Richter writes. “For auto makers, this is not a propitious trend.” Richter has created the chart below that’s based on recent Gallup polling. It shows a jump in the percentage of American workers who don’t use a car in their commute. That figure climbed to 16% this year, up from 9% in 2007. Instead of driving themselves or carpooling, these folks are taking public transportation, telecommuting, biking, walking or doing “something else” (maybe going by boat or scooter?). “This shift is real,” Richter says. “While the annual increments are small, spread over time they will further impact the dynamics of the auto industry.”

Read more …

The people who save lives are arrested by those who don’t. But in the end the value you attach to another person’s life is the one you attach to your own.

Tunisian Fishermen Await Trial In Italy After ‘Saving 100s Of Migrants’ (G.)

Friends and colleagues have rallied to the defence of six Tunisian men awaiting trial in Italy on people smuggling charges, saying they are fishermen who have saved hundreds of migrants and refugees over the years who risked drowning in the Mediterranean. The men were arrested at sea at the weekend after their trawler released a small vessel it had been towing with 14 migrants onboard, 24 miles from the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Italian authorities said an aeroplane crew from the European border agency Frontex had first located the trawler almost 80 nautical miles from Lampedusa and decided to monitor the situation.They alerted the Italian police after the migrant vessel was released, who then arrested all crew members at sea.

According to their lawyers, the Tunisians maintain that they saw a migrant vessel in distress and a common decision was made to tow it to safety in Italian waters. They claim they called the Italian coastguard so it could intervene and take them to shore. Prosecutors have accused the men of illegally escorting the boat into Italian waters and say they have no evidence of an SOS sent by either the migrant boat or by the fishermen’s vessel. Among those arrested were 45-year-old Chamseddine Ben Alì Bourassine, who is known in his native city, Zarzis, which lies close to the Libyan border, for saving migrants and bringing human remains caught in his nets back to shore to give the often anonymous dead a dignified burial.

[..] Giulia Bertoluzzi, an Italian filmmaker and journalist who directed the documentary Strange Fish, about Bourassine, said the men were well known in their home town. “In Zarzis, Bourassine and his crew are known as anonymous heroes”, Bertoluzzi told the Guardian. “Some time ago a petition was circulated to nominate him for the Nobel peace prize. He saved thousands of lives since.”

Read more …

The Skripal story has been a stinker from the get-go, but come on, now you have Aunt Millie photoshopping pics?

The Impossible Photo (Craig Murray)

Russia has developed an astonishing new technology enabling its secret agents to occupy precisely the same space at precisely the same time. These CCTV images released by Scotland yard today allegedly show Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov both occupying exactly the same space at Gatwick airport at precisely the same second. 16.22.43 on 2 March 2018. Note neither photo shows the other following less than a second behind. There is no physically possible explanation for this. You can see ten yards behind each of them, and neither has anybody behind for at least ten yards. Yet they were both photographed in the same spot at the same second. The only possible explanations are:
1) One of the two is travelling faster than Usain Bolt can sprint 2) Scotland Yard has issued doctored CCTV images/timeline. I am going with the Met issuing doctored images.

Read more …

Aug 292018
 


Salvador Dali The burning giraffe 1937
Dali: “The only difference between immortal Greece and our era is Sigmund Freud who discovered that the human body, which in Greek times was merely neoplatonical, is now filled with secret drawers only to be opened through psychoanalysis.”

 

An ancient Latin saying goes: “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” (what is permissible for Jupiter, is not for an ox). It feels very much on topic when social media are concerned. And as the heat over their censorship is turned up, it may well be the decisive factor.

Reuters reiterates today that on May 23, Manhattan US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Donald Trump’ Twitter account is a public forum and blocking Twitter users for their views violates their right to free speech under the First Amendment. The same, says the ruling, applies to other government officials’ accounts.

On August 10, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that remained blocked. Since, at least 20 have been unblocked. Interestingly, the same Justice Department has stated that the ruling was “fundamentally misconceived” arguing Trump’s account “belongs to Donald Trump in his personal capacity and is subject to his personal control, not the control of the government.”

Potentially even more interesting is that “the Internet Association, a trade group that represents Twitter, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com, and Alphabet Inc, filed a brief in the case earlier this month that did not back Trump or the blocked users but urged the court to “limit its decision to the unique facts of this case so that its decision does not reach further than necessary or unintentionally disrupt the modern, innovative Internet.” “

Yeah, they would like that, to make this about Trump only. But that would be strange, because the First Amendment doesn’t only apply to Trump (and/or government officials). It applies to everyone, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet. Or does it? Well, not according to the Internet Association:

“Despite any First Amendment status that this court might find in the ‘interactive spaces’ associated with President Trump’s account, Twitter retains authority to revoke access to both his account and the account of any user seeking to comment on President Trump’s account.”

Hmm. So Trump can’t block people from his own Twitter account, but Twitter can do whatever it wishes to that same account. Apart from, you know, banning him, even though many in the ‘left-leaning’ company would like to do just that. Then again, Trump’s 54 million followers make it a profitable account for Twitter. Still, this can obviously not stand. There are no different constitutions for different parties. And they’re not done:

“..there is a considerable risk that any decision that may recognize isolated public forums on Twitter will be misunderstood to hold that Twitter, too, can be subject to First Amendment scrutiny. …Twitter itself is not a state actor when it blocks or withdraws access to its account-holders or users, and it is therefore not subject to the First Amendment’s restraints.”

See? According to the Internet Association, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to its ‘members’, it applies to state actors only. It feels encouraged to make such statements directly by the wording of Judge Buchwald’s ruling. Put differently, Donald Trump’s Twitter account is a public forum but all the rest of Twitter is not (except for other officials).

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but it seems obvious that these people may well be shooting themselves in the foot after first having put it in their mouths. To date, the Internet Association’s members have been able to picture themselves as private enterprises not under the same rules as public ones.

 

But how much longer is that a feasible attitude? As I said recently, Twitter and Facebook have become the no. 1 warning system in cases of emergencies and disasters, and banning or blocking people from it is as dangerous, life threatening even, as banning people from having radio’s, phones or TVs.

When the first radio’s, phones, TVs were introduced, other warning systems were in place. But over time they became the warning system. As I put it earlier, first you’re an entity, and then you become a utility. And the US judicial system has acted decisively on this in the past, though by no means perfectly.

Twitter, Facebook, Google seek to find the magic sweetspot where they can do whatever they damn well want while raking in billion after billion. But they’re as much behind the curve as the political and legislative systems are. They have already fallen victim to their own success, but they either don’t realize it or try to obfuscate it.

Meanwhile, they’re still banning, shadowbanning and blocking to their heart’s content. They should understand that cannot go on. They’re not some Harvard hobby club anymore. They’re killing off the very legal protection they claim to be protected by, because their position in society shifts. It takes a while, largely because their rise has been meteoric, but politics will catch up; it has to.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray wrote yesterday:

Facebook has deleted all of my posts from July 2017 to last week because I am, apparently, a Russian Bot. For a while I could not add any new posts either, but we recently found a way around that, at least for now. To those of you tempted to say “So what?”, I would point out that over two thirds of visitors to my website arrive via my posting of the articles to Facebook and Twitter. Social media outlets like this blog, which offer an alternative to MSM propaganda, are hugely at the mercy of these corporate gatekeepers.

As for us, the Automatic Earth, Facebook closed our 9-year account a while back without one word of warning or explanation. We asked many times why, but never received an answer. Sent documents to prove who we are, nothing. Gone 1000s of followers, gone traffic, gone revenues. It’s simply too much power for a bunch of geeks, now aligned with the Atlantic Council, to have. It must be broken up.

Murray on the Atlantic Council: “..extreme neo-con group part funded by NATO and whose board includes serial war criminal Henry Kissinger, Former CIA Heads Michael Hayden and Michael Morrell, and George Bush’s chief of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, among a whole list of horrors.”

The companies could try and hide behind the fact that they’re international, and can’t be defined by US law only, but that would be a risky proposition. Julian Assange has by and large been denied his First Amendment rights by the current administration because he’s not an American, while Christopher Steele was granted his despite not being an American. Wobbly ground, that.

But yes, stay American and Baby Bells loom in your future. Not that this is the only issue Silicon Valley’s legal teams will have to tackle with:

Sammy Ketz, AFP’s Baghdad bureau chief, wrote yesterday:

.. it is not the news organisations who reap the profits but internet platforms, which help themselves to our reporting without paying a cent. [..] The media have endured a lot of pain for a long time before reacting to the financial drain, struggling with the consequences rather than the cause. They have laid off staff almost to the point of absurdity. Now they are demanding that their rights are respected so they can carry on reporting the news. [..]

We can no longer swallow the lie spread by Google and Facebook that an EU directive on such rights would threaten people’s ability to access the internet for free. Free access to the web will endure because the internet giants, which now use editorial content for free, can reimburse the media without asking consumers to pay.

Difficult? Impossible? Not at all. Facebook made $16bn in profits in 2017 and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) $12.7bn. They simply have to pay their dues. That is how the media will survive and the internet titans will be contributing to the diversity and freedom of the press they claim to support.

The Internet Association members don’t appear to get it yet, but their opportunity windows are fast shuttering. There is no way for them to keep on doing what they have, as they have, for much longer. They’ve drawn the ire of Donald Trump, and though they may tend to focus more on denouncing him, they’d better pay attention.

Because they don’t hold the cards. Or rather, they’ve been overplaying them. We know they’ve been meeting with the explicit goal of coming up with a general strategy for the November US mid-term elections. We also know they are left-leaning. And that they’ve banned and blocked many accounts.

All it takes is for a judge or the president to label them a utility, and put them in the same legal frame as a phone company or broadcaster. Because if they can’t be objective, while they are the no. 1 source of news for many people, the potential influence of their secret algorithms and obvious political bias is just too great.

And that is obstruction of democracy, and in the end, justice. As I wrote last week in The Shape of Trump to Come:

Trump will end the ‘monopolies’ of Facebook, Google, Twitter et al. [..] .. you simply can’t have a few roomfuls of boys and girls ban and shadowban people with impunity from networks that span the globe and reach half of the world’s population on the basis of opaque ‘Terms and Conditions’ that in effect trump the US constitution the way they are used and interpreted. Whether they are private companies or not will make no difference in the end.

I have the impression that they think they can fight this. All those billions buy good lawyers. But in the end, you can’t have the president under one set of constitutional rights, and Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg under another.

Sure, the intelligence community may protest whatever ‘solution’ the White House or DOJ comes up with. But they, too, must realize that elections that are very obviously skewed towards one side are a huge danger to America. And social media have obtained the power to skew them. Much more than a few bucks worth of Russian ads on their podium, that whole story is entirely insignificant compared to America’s ‘own’ social media.

Trump can simply say: if my account must be open, let that be true for everybody else’s too. Forbid any and all banning and blocking unless and until a judge permits it on constitutional grounds, on a case by case basis.

Judge Buchwald has opened that door by declaring Trump’s Twitter account a public forum. That speaks to the status of Twitter -and Facebook et al- in American society. She can’t take that back.