May 162020
 


John French Sloan Backyards, Greenwich Village 1926

 

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)
French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)
How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)
China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’
Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)
Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)
FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)
Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)
Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)
Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)
Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

 

 

• US in past 24 hours: 26,337 new cases, 1,680 new deaths. Total deaths 88,507.

• Russia dives below 10K new cases for the 2nd time in 14 days with 9,200. China reports 8.

 

 

• Sweden on May 15 had 625 new cases and 117 new deaths. Total 29,207 cases, 3,646 deaths.
• Denmark had zero new deaths and a total of 537.
• Deaths per million: Australia 3.92. Sweden: 346.5
• Finns and Danes are apprehensive about opening the border to Sweden because of Swedish coronavirus protocols

 

 

 

Note: total daily new cases are rising towards 100,000, while deaths are getting lower

Cases 4,645,386 (+ 99,316 from yesterday’s 4,546,070)

Deaths 308,980 (+ 5,117 from yesterday’s 303,863)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

You would think you’d want to preserve those at all cost, lest you lose a view of the virus’s history.

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)

China on Friday confirmed it had ordered unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak, but said it was done for biosafety reasons. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said that Beijing declined to provide virus samples taken from patients when the contagion began in China late last year, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples. Liu Dengfeng, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens”. “The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,” he said at a briefing in Beijing.

When the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, “national-level professional institutes” were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it, Liu said. “Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II – highly pathogenic – and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,” he said. Liu added that this was in line with China’s standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.

[..] According to a provincial health commission notice issued in February, those handling virus samples were ordered not to provide them to any institutions or labs without approval. Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage. Chinese magazine Caixin reported in February that some hospitals had sent samples to private gene sequencing companies to identify the mystery virus early in the outbreak. Some of those results came back as early as December 27 and were identified as being from the same coronavirus family as Sars, the report said. One company had been told to destroy all virus samples, according to the report.

[..] The health commission also rejected claims by US officials that China denied a request by the WHO to visit the high-security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of conspiracy theories that the virus was engineered or escaped from the lab. Li Mingzhu, a senior official with the health commission’s international cooperation department, said the WHO did not make any request to visit the lab during two trips to Wuhan, in January and February. “The WHO has never made a request to visit a certain laboratory, so the statement that the WHO was denied a visit to the Wuhan laboratory is untrue,” Li said.

Read more …

One reason why you would want to preserve samples.

French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)

In what would mark a massive shift in the timeline of coronavirus spread, French researchers believe there is evidence coronavirus may have been in Europe as early as November 2019. X-rays obtained exclusively by NBC News show two patients with symptoms in their lungs consistent with the novel coronavirus dated Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, months before COVID-19 was believed to be spreading in the country. Researchers from Colmar, France, announced the X-rays last week and are working to confirm whether the patients had coronavirus. France had originally believed its first case to have been Jan. 24.


The study comes in conjunction with a study by other French scientists who discovered last week that a coronavirus patient had been treated in the country in December. The doctors from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis said a sample taken from a 42-year-old fishmonger admitted to the emergency room on Dec. 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus. Similarly, the U.S. recently discovered coronavirus had spread among citizens earlier than previously expected when a medical examiner’s report reclassified a California woman’s death in February as being due to COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — three weeks prior to what was originally believed to be the first U.S. coronavirus death.

Read more …

All winning countries have been told at some stage that they were overreacting.

How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)

Despite a long border with China and a population of 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded only just over 300 cases of Covid-19 on its soil and not a single death. Nearly a month has passed since its last community transmission and the country is already starting to open up. Experts say that unlike other countries now seeing infections and deaths on a huge scale, Vietnam saw a small window to act early on and used it fully. But though cost-effective, its intrusive and labour intensive approach has its drawbacks and experts say it may be too late for most other countries to learn from its success. “When you’re dealing with these kinds of unknown novel potentially dangerous pathogens, it’s better to overreact,” says Dr Todd Pollack of Harvard’s Partnership for Health Advancement in Vietnam in Hanoi.

Recognising that its medical system would soon become overwhelmed by even mild spread of the virus, Vietnam instead chose prevention early, and on a massive scale. By early January, before it had any confirmed cases, Vietnam’s government was initiating “drastic action” to prepare for this mysterious new pneumonia which had at that point killed two people in Wuhan. When the first virus case was confirmed on 23 January – a man who had travelled from Wuhan to visit his son in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s emergency plan was in action. “It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible,” says Prof Guy Thwaites, director of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, which works with the government on its infectious disease programmes.

Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. “This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past,” says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.

Read more …

The Global Times piece itself is too over the top.

China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’

China is ready to put U.S. companies in an “unreliable entity list,” as part of countermeasures against Washington’s move to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, the Global Times reported on Friday. The measures include launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc as well as suspending purchase of Boeing Co airplanes, the report said here citing a source. The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. While the Global Times is not an official mouthpiece of the party, its views are believed to reflect those of its leaders. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”

Read more …

But no M4A.

Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, progressives have argued that a single-payer health care system would prevent people who lose their jobs from going without health care and further exacerbating the public health crisis. “Medicare for All means never losing your health insurance if you lose your job,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on March 26, the day the Labor Department announced that a record 3.3 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. (The unemployment figure has since risen to 17 million, and it is expected to keep increasing.) But the Democratic leadership in Congress, none of whom are among the 118 cosponsors of the Medicare for All Act, have embraced a different approach.

The leaders are planning to include a measure in the next coronavirus package to expand subsidies for the COBRA health insurance program, allowing people who lose their jobs to keep the same insurance plan that their employer had made available to them. Under the plan, which was viewed by Vox, the federal government would pay the full cost of the premiums to private health insurance companies to keep laid-off people on their plans. The COBRA expansion would not provide coverage to people who become unemployed but were not receiving coverage through their employers. It would also not cover people’s deductibles.

“The Democrats could push to simply expand Medicaid, but instead they are pushing new subsidies for private health insurance companies,” David Sirota, a journalist and former Sanders campaign staffer wrote on Twitter. [..] The Democrats’ proposal mirrors a recommendation put forward recently by the health insurance industry. Less than a week before the Democrats floated their plan, the presidents and CEOs of Blue Cross Blue Shield and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s top lobbying group, sent a list of policy proposals to Congress including a recommendation that it provide full federal subsidization of COBRA premiums.

Read more …

Yeah, let’s worry about NOT having access to a drug that does NOT work.

Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc’s two clinical studies of its potential coronavirus treatment remdesivir will wind down by the end of May, closing off a path of patient access to the antiviral medication, according to U.S. researchers involved in the studies. The drug was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1, but hospitals are concerned about access. “We would like to see equitable and transparent distribution of this very precious resource,” Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters. Gilead’s studies – one in patients with severe COVID-19 and the other in moderate disease – have enrolled around 8,000 subjects, according to FDA statistics.

The trials are “open label” meaning they do not compare the treatment to a placebo and participants know they are getting the drug. Interest in Gilead’s drug has been high given some promising early data and the lack of approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 4 million people and killed more than 305,000 worldwide. Preliminary results from a trial conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that remdesivir cut hospital stays by 31% compared to a placebo. The NIH is now studying remdesivir alone compared to remdesivir in combination with Olumiant, an anti-inflammatory drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis and sold by Eli Lilly and Co.

Remdesivir is still available on a compassionate use basis for pregnant women or children under the age of 18, but most COVID-19 patients will soon have access only under the emergency use authorization. “We participate in the Gilead clinical trials here at Tufts,” Dr. Boucher said. “We were notified that they will wind down … no later than the end of May.” Gilead told Tufts it is transitioning to product distribution under the emergency use authorization.

Read more …

The tests used at the White House don’t appear very accurate, either. Can we shift some of the billions spent on elusive vaccines to better testing?

FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a coronavirus testing program promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and Seattle health officials pending reviews. The program sought to send test kits to the homes of people both healthy and sick to try to bring the country to the level of testing officials say is necessary before states can begin safely reopening. The program, which had already gone through thousands of tests, found dozens of cases that had been previously undiagnosed. The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) said on its website that the FDA had asked it to pause testing while it receives additional authorizations, but maintained its procedures are safe.

“[T]he Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently clarified its guidance for home-based, self-collected samples to test for COVID-19. We have been notified that a separate federal emergency use authorization (EUA) is required to return results for self-collected tests,” the program said. “The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization.” The pause is emblematic of the fractured national response to the coronavirus, with federal officials proposing guidelines but leaving much of the implementation and administering of tests to states and localities.

Concerns have recently arisen over the reliability of coronavirus antibody tests, which can gauge if someone previously had the illness. However, the SCAN tests do not test for antibodies, and the program said it is working to get back up and running. “We are actively working to address their questions and resume testing as soon as possible,” the program said. Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft who has dedicated much of his personal fortune to global health issues, said the program could be an effective tool in guiding public health responses. “Not only will it help improve our understanding of the outbreak in Seattle, it will also provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world,” Gates wrote in a blog post this week.

Read more …

This just about has it all: Bill Gates, forced vaccinations, nanochip implants. Only thing missing is a secret plan to depopulate the planet,

Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)

On Friday, Donald Trump announced his appointment of Moncef Slaoui, a former executive with vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, to lead “Operation Warp Speed”, Trump’s plan to fast track the development of vaccines for COVID-19. Slaoui will serve in a volunteer position, assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command. According to the Trump administration, Operation Warp Speed program is focusing on four vaccines, with the hopes of testing and producing 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. At Friday’s press conference, Slaoui said he believes the goal of vaccines by January 2021 is a “credible goal”.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was more adamant, stating that, “winning matters and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine”. Operation Warp Speed and the calls for public-private partnerships mimic the National Institutes of Health’s recent call for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The NIH plan, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, emphasizes “a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

The appointment of Slaoui follows previous statements regarding Trump’s desire to have vaccines available to Americans by the fall. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. Trump also told the Fox Business Network that because of the “massive job to give this vaccine” the military is now being mobilized. “We’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump concluded.

At Friday’s press conference Trump said his team has been working 24 hours a day to develop treatments for COVID-19. Despite the heavy focus on vaccines, Trump did state that his administration is working on other treatments, including “therapeutics”. “It’s not solely vaccine based, other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. I don’t people to think this is all dependent on a vaccine, but it would be tremendous,” Trump stated.

Read more …

Big Tech Rules.

Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)

The state of Ohio won’t deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to work during the COVID-19 pandemic after people targeted the website it was using to track these workers, according to officials at the state’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state previously set up a “fraud” website encouraging employers to report those who refused to go back on the job, angering workers and labor rights advocates. State officials say they are now reconsidering the policy after Motherboard reported that a hacker created a script to flood the “COVID-19 Fraud” website with junk data, with the goal of making it impossible to process these claims.


“No benefits are being denied right now as a result of a person’s decision not to return to work while we continue to evaluate the policy,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall told Cleveland.com. “Because Ohio is still examining its policies in this area, no adjudications concerning a refusal to return to work have been initiated,” Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the department, told Motherboard in an email. The anonymous hacker previously told Motherboard they created the script as a form of direct action in support of working people. Ohio is among several states that have prematurely reopened against the advice of health experts, forcing many workers to return to their jobs and put themselves at risk of contracting the deadly virus.

Read more …

Or 88? Your guess is as good as theirs.

Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)

Coronavirus could cut global economic output by as much as $8.8 trillion, with the outlook having worsened significantly in the past month, the Asian Development Bank has said. The bank warned on Friday that Covid-19 would result in $5.8 trillion to $8.8 trillion of lost gross domestic product – or 6.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent of the world’s output. That’s more than twice as bad as the ADB forecast in April. However, government measures to mitigate the economic impact could reduce that figure by as much as 40 per cent, ADB’s chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said. As some countries, including the UK, lay out plans to ease lockdowns and get more people back to work, Mr Sawada cautioned that containing the pandemic is key to reducing the economic cost.


Testing, tracing, isolation, effective social distancing, and securing protective and medical equipment are all “essential elements” of containing Covid-19, he said. He also pointed to the importance of government support for struggling families and businesses to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic and to avoid long-term consequences for growth and development. “Rapid and effective containment will allow for a faster recovery,” he said. [..] His words came as the UK government faced criticism from scientists over its easing of lockdown restrictions this week. The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned on Tuesday that the UK faces “inevitable” future lockdowns if the government implements its “potentially dangerous” coronavirus strategy.

Read more …

People who still see it as such will be badly surprised.

Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

Those sharing #Obamagate hashtags on Twitter would do best to avoid the hysterics we saw from Russian-collusion believers, but they have no reason to ignore the mounting evidence that suggests the Obama administration engaged in serious corruption. Democrats and their allies, who like to pretend that President Obama’s only scandalous act was wearing a tan suit, are going spend the next few months gaslighting the public by focusing on the most feverish accusations against Obama. But the fact is that we already have more compelling evidence that the Obama administration engaged in misconduct than we ever did for opening the Russian-collusion investigation.

It is not conspiracy-mongering to note that the investigation into Trump was predicated on an opposition-research document filled with fabulism and, most likely, Russian disinformation. We know the DOJ withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA-warrant applications — almost every one of them, actually — were based on “fabricated” evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.

What’s more, the larger context only makes all of these facts more damning. By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist, shopping his case to three judges until he found one who let him name the reporter as a co-conspirator. The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”

And though it’s been long forgotten, Obama officials were caught monitoring the conversations of members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party? If anyone does, they shouldn’t, because on top of everything else, we know that Barack Obama was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1261378778464309249

Read more …

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Apr 302020
 


Wyland Stanley Golden Gate Bridge under construction 1935

 

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)
Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)
Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research
The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)
WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)
Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)
Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)
UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)
Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)
After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)
Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)
Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)
COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)
Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)
Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

 

 

• US records 2,502 #coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours:

• Ben Hunt @EpsilonTheory
– 2,390 Americans died today of CV-19, the sixth worst day of this nat’l disaster. 2,470 Americans died yesterday, the fifth worst day of this nat’l disaster. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you thought the death toll was improving. Now ask yourself, WHY wasn’t I told this?

• The coronavirus may have killed more people in the U.S. than is officially known: Total deaths in 7 hard-hit states are nearly 50% above normal, CDC data shows. That’s 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts.

 

 

 

Yesterday we had 6,120 new deaths. Today it’s 10,135. Not sure what caused that surge. I did the screenshots at roughly the same time.

Cases 3,232,992 (+ 83,759 from yesterday’s 3,149,233)

Deaths 228,520 (+ 10,135 from yesterday’s 218,385)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 18%

 

 

From SCMP: Note: SCMP has a new layout for its tracker.

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: watch Peru, it’s rising fast. As are Russia and Brazil, Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Found something not corona to start off with today. What an insane tale this has already become. Sidney Powell has promised more soon.

Think back before she became Flynn’s lawyer, and now look at this. The man had been bankrupted by these shenanigans; I still wonder who pays her.

So we have Comey, McCabe, Priestap. And then what about Obama, Hillary, Biden?

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)

A senior FBI official’s handwritten notes from the earliest days of the Trump administration expressed concern that the bureau might be “playing games” with a counterintelligence interview of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to get him to lie so “we could prosecute him or get him fired.” The notes and other emails were provided to Flynn’s lawyers under seal last week and released Wednesday night by court order, providing the most damning evidence to date of potential politicalization and misconduct inside the FBI during the Russia probe. The notes show FBI officials discussed not providing Flynn a Miranda-like warning before his January 2017 interview — a practice normally followed in such interviews — so that he could be charged with a crime if he misled the agents, the officials said.

“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?,” the handwritten notes of the senior official say. The notes express further concern the FBI might be “playing games.” Multiple officials confirmed to Just the News that the author of the notes is William Priestap, the now-retired FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and the ultimate supervisor for fired agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia probe. Justice Department officials are investigating whether Priestap’s notes were written in conjunction with meetings he had with top leaders like then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, officials said.

A special prosecutor is reviewing DOJ’s and the FBI’s handling of the Flynn prosecution, which led to the former Trump adviser and retired general pleading guilty to lying to the FBI under a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia case. Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell filed a court motion last week saying new evidence has emerged showing Flynn was “framed” and his conviction should be dismissed. The officials said the notes are part of that new evidence and had been withheld from Flynn’s defense team for years even though they were potential evidence of innocence.

Read more …

There’s plenty to be said against Flynn, that’s not it. I think of his lobbying for Turkey in 2016.

The Sparrow Project @sparrowmedia on Twitter:

PRO TIP: “The FBI are not your friends, don’t lionize the FBI. Also, Michael Flynn is an Islamophobic, criminal, neo-crusader who should be sent to the gallows for the brutality he oversaw in JSOC, and at Camp Bucca in Iraq, brutality that ultimately gave birth to ISIS.”

Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan unsealed four pages of stunning FBI emails and handwritten notes Wednesday, regarding former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, which allegedly reveal the retired three star general was targeted by senior FBI officials for prosecution, stated Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell. Those notes and emails revealed that the retired three-star general appeared to be set up for a perjury trap by the senior members of the bureau and agents charged with investigating the now-debunked allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, said Sidney Powell, the defense lawyer representing Flynn. Moreover, the Department of Justice release 11 more pages of documents Wednesday afternoon, according to Powell.

What is especially terrifying is that without the integrity of Attorney General Bill Barr and U.S. Attorney Jensen, we still would not have this clear exculpatory information as Mr. Van Grack and the prosecutors have opposed every request we have made,” said Powell. It appears, based on the notes and emails that the Department of Justice was determined at the time to prosecute Flynn, regardless of what they found, Powell said. “The FBI pre-planned a deliberate attack on Gen. Flynn and willfully chose to ignore mention of Section 1001 in the interview despite full knowledge of that practice,” Powell said in a statement. “The FBI planned it as a perjury trap at best and in so doing put it in writing stating ‘what is our goal? Truth/ Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

The documents, reviewed and obtained by SaraACarter.com, reveal that senior FBI officials discussed strategies for targeting and setting up Flynn, prior to interviewing him at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. It was that interview at the White House with former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka that led Flynn, now 61, to plead guilty after months of pressure by prosecutors, financial strain and threats to prosecute his son. Powell filed a motion earlier this year to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and to dismiss his case for egregious government misconduct. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017, under duress by government prosecutors, to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak about sanctions on Russia. This January, however, he withdrew his guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

He stated that he was “innocent of this crime” and was coerced by the FBI and prosecutors under threats that would charge his son with a crime. He filed to withdraw his guilty plea after DOJ prosecutors went back on their word and asked the judge to sentence Flynn to up to six months in prison, accusing him of not cooperating in another case against his former partner. Then prosecutors backtracked and said probation would be fine but by then Powell, his attorney, had already filed to withdraw his guilty plea.

The documents reveal that prior to the interview with Flynn in January, 2017 the FBI had already come to the conclusion that Flynn was guilty and beyond that the officials were working together to see how best to corner the 33-year military veteran and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The bureau deliberately chose not to show him the evidence of his phone conversation to help him in his recollection of events, which is standard procedure. Even stranger, the agents that interviewed Flynn later admitted that they didn’t believe he lied during the interview with them.

Read more …

As if we couldn’t have guessed. Note the role played by Victoria Nuland.

Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research

Steele recently testified in a British court that he believed both then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and then-Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice were aware of his dossier research as it was going on in summer 2016. The testimony makes his most direct link yet between his Russia collusion research and the top of the Clinton campaign and Obama White House. Steele told a British court he believed he had been hired by the Fusion GPS firm owned by Glenn Simpson through the Democratic National Committee-linked law firm Perkins Coie to assist the Clinton campaign during the election, according to a transcript of the testimony.

“I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. “You knew it was the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign didn’t you?” a lawyer for the businessmen asked. “I believed it was the campaign. Yes,” he answered. “The leadership of the Clinton campaign?” he was asked. “Fine, the leadership of the campaign,” Steele conceded. The lawyer persisted. “You also understood that Hillary Clinton herself was aware of what you were doing?” the lawyer asked. “I think Glenn had mentioned it, but I wasn’t clear,” Steele answered.

Then Steele was confronted with what lawyers said were notes he took at a meeting with the FBI in 2016 in which he purported to tell agents that Clinton was aware of his research. The lawyers read from those notes during the court proceedings. The notes, according to the transcript, read: “We explained that Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion was our commissioner but the ultimate client were the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign and that we understood the candidate herself was aware of the reporting at least, if not us.” The lawyers prodded: “It’s your note, so we assume it’s accurate?” “Yes,” Steele answered during the March 17 testimony. You can read that testimony here.

[..] A day later in additional testimony, Steele was asked how he came to present some of his dossier findings to the U.S. State Department during an October 2016 meeting with then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. The former British MI6 agent turned private intelligence investigator said his meeting was set up by State officials Jonathan Winer and Victoria Nuland after longtime Clinton adviser and friend Strobe Talbott had reached out to him. “The meeting was set up by a State Department official called John Winer,” Steele explained. “At your request?” the lawyers asked. “No, at his request, his suggestion. He invited us into meet, as I understood it, at her request, Assistant Secretary of State Nuland,” Steele answered.

Read more …

Not much use waxing nostalgic about a washed out rag.

The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)

The New York Times is widely admired for owning up to its errors. In addition to the corrections it runs each day, it has a tradition of publishing extensive Editor’s Notes and even full-length investigations when it has determined that flawed reporting misled readers and botched the rough first draft of history.[..] During the last few years the Times has published two other sets of deeply flawed articles that also demand such extended corrections: “The 1619 Project” and its Trump-Russia coverage. It is a sign of how much the Times, and mainstream journalism in general, have changed that it appears highly unlikely the “paper of record” will correct the record.

[..] The Trump-Russia coverage, even with caveats pinning assertions to sources rather than solid evidence, clearly created a false impression that Donald Trump and his team were in cahoots with the Russians. It’s hard to believe that former Times Executive Editor Max Frankel would have written an op-ed for the paper declaring that an “obvious bargain [was] reached during the campaign of 2016” between the Trump campaign and Russia if he hadn’t read those unmistakable insinuations in the Times. The Trump campaign is suing the Times for libel over Frankel’s claims. (Full disclosure: I was hired as an editor at the Times in 1988 under Frankel.)

A fuller accounting by the Times is especially necessary because the media’s pushing of Trump-Russia conspiracy theories was central to an unprecedented and possibly criminal effort to subvert or remove a president under false pretenses. Unless the Times and other sources come clean about who was feeding them misleading and partisan information, we may never understand this momentous chapter of history. Protecting confidential sources is, of course, one of the bedrocks of journalism. The free flow of information depends on people being able to share hard truths without jeopardizing their careers or lives.

But not when sources lie or mislead. When that happens, the confidentiality deal is off and “your responsibility would be to set the record straight,” Lynn Walsh, ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, confirmed to me recently in a general conversation about SPJ’s standards for anonymous sourcing. When sources engage in gross deception on a matter of such import, even committing national security crimes in the process, the news media involved should honor their higher duty – to their readers or viewers – to expose the malfeasance and correct the record.

Read more …

Even the WHO won’t commit. A handful scary reports of people dying from 70-year old, tried and tested and never lethal, chloroquines, followed by upbeat though opaque stories on remdesivir.

Note the tweet below about 65,000(!) Italian RA, lupus patiens on long term hydroxychloroquine. Deadly, right? With a 90% reduction in COVID19 infection rate…

One difference: chloroquine patents have run out, so no big profits for “investors”. Which they will get from remdesivir if it “works”.

WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)

A top World Health Organization official declined comment on Wednesday on reports that Gilead Science’s remdesivir could help treat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but said that further data was needed. “I wouldn’t like to make any specific comment on that, because I haven’t read those publications in detail,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online briefing in response to a question, adding it can sometimes take a number of publications to determine a drug’s efficacy. “Clearly we have the randomised control trials that are underway both in the UK and US, the ‘Solidarity trials’ with WHO. Remdesivir is one of the drugs under observation in many of those trials. So I think a lot more data will come out,” he said. Ryan added: “But we are hopeful this drug and others may prove to be helpful in treating COVID-19.”

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Reauters headline spells it out: “US Stocks Surged As Hopes For An Effective COVID-19 Treatment Prompted A Broad Rally”.

Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)

Concerns over leaks compelled the top U.S. infectious disease official to reveal data on Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental drug remdesivir, the first in a scientifically rigorous clincial trial to show benefit in treating COVID-19. The dramatic announcement by Dr Anthony Fauci in the Oval Office on Wednesday prompted concerns among scientists that the Trump administration was raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment before sharing the full data with researchers. As a cautionary example of inflating the potential value of a therapy, some pointed to President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no evidence that it works. Newer data suggests the malaria treatments may carry significant risks for some sufferers of the respiratory disease caused by the virus.


Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is running the trial, said he took the first opportunity to get the word out that patients taking a dummy treatment or placebo should be switched to remdesivir in hopes of benefiting from it. He expressed concern that leaks of partial information would lead to confusion. Since the White House was not planning a daily virus briefing, Fauci said he was invited to release the news at a news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards(D). “It was purely driven by ethical concerns,” Fauci told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I would love to wait to present it at a scientific meeting, but it’s just not in the cards when you have a situation where the ethical concern about getting the drug to people on placebo dominates the conversation.”

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The numbers tell us it’s a matter of days before Britain overtakes Italy in having most deaths in Europe.

Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)

Britain now has Europe’s second highest official COVID-19 death toll with more than 26,000, according to figures published on Wednesday that raised questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak. Some 26,097 people died across the United Kingdom after testing positive for COVID-19 as of April 28 at 1600 GMT, Public Health England (PHE) said, citing daily figures that included deaths outside of hospital settings for the first time. That means the United Kingdom has suffered more COVID-19 deaths than France or Spain have reported, though less than Italy, which has Europe’s highest death toll and the second worst in the world after the United States.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there are many human lives that have tragically been lost before their time,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told reporters. “We are still coming through the peak and…this is a delicate and dangerous moment in the crisis.” Such a high UK death toll increases the pressure on Johnson just as opposition parties accused his government of being too slow to impose a lockdown to limit contagion from the new coronavirus, too slow to introduce mass testing and too slow to get enough protective equipment to hospitals. Johnson returned to work on Monday after recuperating from COVID-19, which had left him gravely ill in intensive care at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. He celebrated the birth of a baby son on Wednesday.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s response to the world’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak. Johnson had spoken of Britain’s “apparent success” in tackling COVID-19 in a speech to the nation on Monday. “We are possibly on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe,” Starmer told parliament. “Far from success, these latest figures are truly dreadful,” he added, referring to previously published data. Starmer said his calculations showed 27,241 had died in the UK from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March the government’s chief scientific adviser said keeping Britain’s death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

Read more …

Government reveal their failures piecemeal, after shouting out loud about BIG targets. This model does require cooperation of the media at all times.

UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)

The UK government is likely to miss its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests by the end of April, a cabinet minister has admitted. After weeks of ministers insisting the deadline would be met, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, said it was “probable that we won’t” reach it on Thursday but said it was likely in the next few days. “Even if we don’t hit it, we will in the next few days hit that target. We are up to 52,000 being tested, capacity is rising and I think it was right to set an ambitious target. Sometimes if you don’t hit a target on the due date, the direction of travel is the most important thing. And I believe we are going to get there and move beyond it because we need more,” he told Sky News.

The target was set by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on 2 April as the government came under pressure over low testing levels. At that point, there was capacity for 12,799 daily tests in England, with just over 10,650 tests carried out. The total as of 9am on Wednesday was 52,429 tests with capacity to do 73,000, but only 33,000 individuals were tested because of multiple retests. [..] .. hospital leaders launched a strident attack on the government’s testing strategy, regardless of the target. Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts in England, dismissed the 100,000 target as a “red herring” that distracted from the lack of a coherent overall strategy.

NHS Providers said in a report on Wednesday: “NHS trust leaders believe they have done all they can to support the national testing effort so far but are increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity on how the testing regime will be developed for this next phase. “At the moment they feel they are on the end of a series of frequent tactical announcements extending the testing criteria to new groups with no visibility on any longer term strategy, and are being expected at the drop of a hat to accommodate these changes with no advance notice or planning.”

Read more …

Might be good news. Might even be very good. But it’s also yet another condemnationn of testing as a whole.

Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)

South Korea’s infectious disease experts said Thursday that dead virus fragments were the likely cause of over 260 people here testing positive again for the novel coronavirus days and even weeks after marking full recoveries. Oh Myoung-don, who leads the central clinical committee for emerging disease control, said the committee members found little reason to believe that those cases could be COVID-19 reinfections or reactivations, which would have made global efforts to contain the virus much more daunting. “The tests detected the ribonucleic acid of the dead virus,” said Oh, a Seoul National University hospital doctor, at a press conference Thursday held at the National Medical Center.


He went on to explain that in PCR tests, or polymerase chain reaction tests, used for COVID-19 diagnosis, genetic materials of the virus amplify during testing, whether it is from a live virus or just from fragments of dead virus cells that can take months to clear from recovered patients. The PCR tests cannot distinguish whether the virus is alive or dead, he added, and this can lead to false positives. “PCR testing that amplifies genetics of the virus is used in Korea to test COVID-19, and relapse cases are due to technical limits of the PCR testing.” As of Sunday, 263 people in Korea tested positive for the disease again after being declared virus-free, of which 17 were minors or teens, the National Medical Center said. “The respiratory epithelial cell has a half-life of up to three months, and RNA virus in the cell can be detected with PCR testing one to two months after the elimination of the cell,” Oh said.

Read more …

I saw the first graph here and thought something doesn’t add up. Vietnam didn’t do mass testing, 213,000 in a country of 96 million people is nothing compared to the 6.1 million in the 320 million US.

What the second graph shows is the clue: Vietnam tests a lot compared to confirmed cases.

After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)

Vietnam, a country of 96 million people which shares a border with China, is signalling that it has succeeded where many wealthier and more developed countries have not by containing the new coronavirus. The government is officially reporting a relatively small 270 cases and zero deaths. That puts the country on course to revive its economy much sooner than most others, according to several public health experts interviewed by Reuters. Its slightly more populous regional neighbour the Philippines, in comparison, has reported almost 30 times as many cases and more than 500 deaths. These public health experts say Vietnam was successful because it made early, decisive moves to restrict travel into the country, put tens of thousands of people into quarantine and quickly scaled up the use of tests and a system to track down people who might have been exposed to the virus.

“The steps are easy to describe but difficult to implement, yet they’ve been very successful at implementing them over and over again,” said Matthew Moore, a Hanoi-based official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who has been liaising with Vietnam’s government on the outbreak since early January. He added that the CDC has “great confidence” in the Vietnamese government’s response to the crisis. Vietnam increased the number of laboratories that can test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, from three at the beginning of the outbreak in January, to 112 by April. As of Wednesday, 213,743 tests had been conducted in Vietnam, of which 270 were positive, according to health ministry data. That ratio of 791 tests to every confirmed case is by far the highest in the world, according to data from health ministries compiled by Reuters. The next highest, Taiwan, has conducted 140 tests for every case.

[..] “It is organised, it can make country-wide policy decisions that get enacted quickly and efficiently and without too much controversy,” said Guy Thwaites, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City. Thwaites said the number of positive tests processed by his organisation’s lab was in line with government data. He said the hospital where he works on the wards – Ho Chi Minh City’s 550-bed Hospital for Tropical Diseases, serving a population of 45 million people in southern Vietnam – had not admitted any additional cases not reflected in the government’s numbers. “If there was ongoing and unreported or unappreciated community transmission, we would have seen the patients in our hospital. We have not,” he said. Thwaites said his organisation’s lab increased capacity from being able to do around 100 tests a day to around 1,000 a day.

Read more …

Get yourself tested. Don’t wait.

Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)

Los Angeles will begin offering free coronavirus tests to all residents no matter if they have symptoms or not, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. Garcetti said that all residents of Los Angeles County can get the tests. The website to schedule tests says it is open to any county resident regardless of symptoms. Those with symptoms will be given priority. The mayor said he believes Los Angeles is the first major city to offer tests to all residents. He said they now have enough testing capacity to handle the increased tests. Testing rules had previously been relaxed to allow grocery store workers, first responders and other essential workers with exposure to the virus to get tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. Health officials say that even those without symptoms can spread the virus.

Read more …

All you need to know is America doesn’t like small. But people can still buy from small farms. All it may take is some effort.

Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)

Before coronavirus hit, farmers in the U.S. were already hurting from years of falling food prices, severe weather, and, more recently, President Donald Trump’s trade war. “We’ve had a record number of farm bankruptcies [in the U.S.], total farm debt is at $425 billion, [and farmer] incomes have fallen by about half since 2013,” said Eric Deeble, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which supports small and mid-sized family farms. Now, with the global pandemic closing factories and restaurants and disrupting supply chains, already stressed farms are grappling with lower demand and fewer markets to sell in, as well as a presidential administration that favors relief for big businesses over small.

Small farmers in particular — those who sell directly to farmers markets, schools, and other local food hubs — are facing an existential crisis, as they face slim odds of accessing competitive federal stimulus money. They have reason to be pessimistic. In recent years, federal subsidies to help struggling farmers have flowed almost exclusively to large corporate farms. Of the roughly $28 billion the Trump administration has distributed to food producers to offset losses from his trade wars, almost all went to big farms. Advocates for small farmers say this is driven in part by the preference of Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Purdue, who has encouraged farmers to get bigger farms if they wanted to stay in business. “Big get bigger and small go out … and that’s what we’ve seen,” he told a group of Wisconsin dairy farmers in 2018, echoing Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary, who infamously told farmers in the 1970s to “get big or get out.”

While 91 percent of U.S. farms are small — defined by the federal government as an operation with gross cash income under $250,000 — large farms account for 85 percent of the country’s farm production. The public health crisis has already had a devastating impact on agriculture across the country. A report released in mid-March by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition estimated that small farms would see a $689 million decline in sales from March to May this year due to Covid-19, leading to a payroll decline of $103 million and a total loss to the economy of $1.3 billion. Now, as the pandemic shows no sign of slowing, the coalition worries that the impact for small farmers will be even more substantial — which could lead many small farms to permanently close.

Read more …

When are they planning to tell us that renewable energy is not renewable?

COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)

Renewable electricity will be the only source resilient to the biggest global energy shock in 70 years triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the world’s energy watchdog. The International Energy Agency said the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis. In a report, the IEA said the most severe plunge in energy demand since the second world war would trigger multi-decade lows for the world’s consumption of oil, gas and coal while renewable energy continued to grow. The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.


Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard of slump in electricity use.” Renewable energy is expected to grow by 5% this year, to make up almost 30% of the world’s shrinking demand for electricity. The growth of renewables despite a global crisis could spur fossil fuel companies towards their goals to generate more clean energy, according to Birol, but governments should also include clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus packages to ensure a green recovery. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts,” said Birol. “But the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

Read more …

What makes Sweden so successful.

Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)

The university town of Lund in Sweden is to dump a tonne of chicken manure in its central park in a bid to deter up to 30,000 residents from gathering there for traditional celebrations to mark Walpurgis Night on Thursday. “Lund could very well become an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus on the last night in April, [so] I think it was a good initiative,” the chairman of the local council’s environment committee, Gustav Lundblad, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “We get the opportunity to fertilise the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park,” Lundblad said, adding that the only potential drawback was that the smell may not be confined to the park.


“I am not a fertiliser expert, but as I understand it, it is clear that it might smell a bit outside the park as well,” Lundblad admitted. “These are chicken droppings, after all. I cannot guarantee that the rest of the city will be odourless. But the point is to keep people out of the city park.” Sweden has opted for a light touch approach to containing Covid-19, eschewing the strict lockdowns imposed by its Nordic neighbours and much of the rest of Europe and favouring personal responsibility over draconian enforcement. Walpurgis Night, celebrated on 30 April, is widely marked across central and northern Europe with parties and bonfires. The festivities are classed as “spontaneous” so cannot be banned by authorities, but to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus many towns and cities in Sweden have asked citizens to give the tradition a miss this year.

Read more …

Just in case you still thought there are financial markets.

Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco warns April’s big run will collapse. His reason: Investors are too bullish. “I understand the market has been up a lot since the March low. But what I see in the market is a retracement rally that looks very similar to the first type of rallies that you get in protracted bear markets,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday. Bianco warned last month the coronavirus turmoil would be worse than the financial crisis. In early March, he put all his money in cash and never looked back — despite the bounce. So far this month, the S&P 500 is up almost 14%. If the trend holds, it’ll be the index’s best showing since 1974.


Meanwhile, the Dow is up more than 12% in the same period and is on track for its best monthly performance since January 1987. “We’ll revisit the 2,200 S&P low, if not make a lower low — probably by late summer,” he said. “That’s going to come because we’re going to find out now is a critical time for the market.” Bianco predicts there will be an overwhelming realization that life isn’t getting back to normal when then economy starts to reopen. “What the market seems to be thinking is we’re going to restart, and we’re all going to pretend that it’s 2019,” said Bianco. “And, we’re all going to stand on the subway platform with 500 other people waiting for the next train.”

Read more …

 

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Jun 252019
 


Caravaggio Conversion on the way to Damascus 1600-01

 

Something’s been nagging me for the past few days, and I’m not sure I’ve figured out why yet. It started when Donald Trump first called off the alleged planned strikes on targets in Iran because they would have cost 150 lives, and then the next day said the US would do sanctions instead. As they did on Monday, even directly targeting Trump’s equal, the “Supreme Leader Khameini”.

When Trump announced the sanctions, I thought: wait a minute, by presenting this the way you did, you effectively turned economic sanctions into a military tool: we chose not to do bombs but sanctions. Sounds the same as not doing a naval invasion but going for air attacks instead. The kind of decisions that were made in Vietnam a thousand times.

However, Vietnam was all out war (well, invasion is a better term). Which shamed the US, killed and maimed the sweet Lord only knows how many promising young Americans as well as millions of Vietnamese, and ended in humiliating defeat. But the US is not in an all out war in Iran, at least not yet. And if they would ever try to be, the outcome would be Vietnam squared.

Still, that’s not really my point here. It’s simply about the use of having the world reserve currency as a military weapon instead of an economic one. And I think that is highly significant. As well as an enormous threat to the US. The issue at hand is overreach.

While you could still argue that economic sanctions on North Korea, Venezuela and Russia are just that, economic and/or political ones, the way Trump phrased it, comparing sanctions one on one with military strikes, no longer leaves that opening when it comes to Iran. The new Iran sanctions are a preliminary act of war. Simply because of how he presented them. He explicitly stated that he swapped one for the other.

 

There are quite a few people who have been harping on the demise of the USD as reserve currency for a long time, and I always think: look, nobody wants the yuan, let alone the ruble. There’s no trade being executed in these currencies. So taking over from the USD is a pipe dream.

But that may very well change, and perhaps very fast too, if the US uses the dollar not as an economic weapon (and there are plenty issues with that already), but as a military one. That would potentially hugely speed up any efforts to move away from the buck in international trade.

For the simple reason that it becomes unreliable. Traders hate that, they can’t have that. A reserve currency must be neutral -to a point-. The world of trade doesn’t want the yuan because Beijing controls it and can therefore change conditions and values overnight. But if and when the US uses the USD as a military tool, it essentially risks doing exactly the same: it deneutralizes the USD.

Using the USD as an economic weapon is ugly, but something global trade can deal with. A military weapon, though, is something else altogether. And I see no sign that Trump understands this. The thing is, using your currency, which also happens to be the world reserve currency, as a military tool, means you’ve become a threat to everyone, the entire globe, overnight.

And people don’t want to live that way. Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Europe, no-one. It’s one thing to use the USD for sanctions. But it’s a real different thing to use it as just a military alternative to “bombing a country into obliteration”.

 

What Trump did comes awfully close to signing the death warrant for the USD as the global reserve currency. And it’s really only because he and his people weren’t paying attention. He could have phrased the entire thing differently, and it would have been business as usual, a business that Moscow and Beijing are actively trying to undermine, but they could have waited a bit longer reacting.

Now, however, their plans have to be sped up. They’re going to be buying a lot of gold, as they’ve already been doing, they’ll try to do their mutual business in their own currencies backed by this gold, and they’ll speed up alternatives-to-USD plans with other countries in their neighborhood. Because they have no choice anymore.

I see Tyler Durden reporting that the US threatens to throw a Chinese state-owned bank out of the SWIFT system, and I think: great idea. Why not force China to quit the reserve currency system, the petrodollar, outright?! Why not force it to hasten the Asian/Russian alternative trade model into existence? What a great and lovely idea.

The US should today make friends. It should preserve the reserve currency status of the USD for as long as it can, by convincing allies and foes alike that it will protect its neutrality in global trade. But Trump and his people are doing the exact opposite, they’re playing all-on-red.

The US no longer has the economic, political or military might to dictate to the entire world any terms it wants to. Those days are long gone. That ended in Vietnam. Trump’s living in the last century, while Bolton and Pompeo, they live in their own time and world.

 

But yeah, sure, perhaps this is what the dying days of an empire MUST look like. Maybe there’s a model to follow and there’s no escape, maybe it’s all written in the stars. Like Rome and Greece and Genghis Khan. Maybe things simply just have to play out. Still, looking at that Trump statement about the new Iran sanctions that started me off, it doesn’t feel all that smart.

 

 

 

 

May 262019
 


Joseph Mallord William Turner Teasing the Donkey 1827

 

So we’re going to do this all over again? Well, not if I can help it. Not that I have much hope that I can, mind you. As the bastions of war chime on, my voice, like so many others, will be drowned out. The military industrial complex knows how to do propaganda, better than anyone. But I’ll try.

Vietnam gave the US its biggest ever defeat, both militarily and morally, and yet mere years after its deeply humiliating withdrawal was put into action, the country was back at sending its promising young boys and girls not to its school systems, but to far away battle fields to be crippled, traumatized and slaughtered.

I know, I know, the UK and France do that too, but few other places do. Russia today uses its troops to defend its territory, China has yet to reveal its intentions. But the intentions of the US have been known ever since WWII ended.

In 1956, president Eisenhower, himself a longtime military man, warned the country upon taking leave of office, of the military-industrial complex that was threatening to take over its government. Less than 10 years later, that’s exactly what the complex did, and it’s never looked back.

And I’m thinking: you never learned anything at all? Not from Ike, not from Vietnam, not from the non-existent Iraqi WMD, and not from Libya or Syria? How is that even possible? Oh wait, I know, because the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN et al is where you get your so-called news. That’s why. Gotcha.

 

Today, May 26 2019, and I’m deeply ashamed to say it, I have two stories, one concerning a speech by VP Mike Pence at West Point, the other from Caitlin Johnstone about a Twitter thread initiated by the US military itself. Pence’s speech is heart breaking in its ignorance of US history, Caitlin’s is heart wrenching in its acknowledgment of that same history, and what it does to young Americans.

Now, I think this is not about Trump, as many will undoubtedly claim, it’s about Trump and Pelosi and Pence and McCain and Bolton and Hillary and Pompeo and Obama and all of the people hanging around both administrations. Let’s see what YOU think.

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America at Some Point in Your Life

Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.


Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”

Mike Pence is a very dangerous person. He’s planning to send American children into endless wars once again, 45-odd years after Vietnam and 20-odd years after Iraq. And there’s no-one left to stop him, other than Trump, Not exactly a solid guarantee. The Democrats will cheer this on, and their media will too. They always have.

Now, I’m not old enough to remember the whole story of the US involvement in Vietnam, but I do recall this 1985 video from Paul Hardcastle, which stated that the average age of the US soldier in Vietnam -towards the end- was 19. I have also seen Coppola’s movie “Apocalypse Now”, and many others, and yes, I’m wondering where today’s versions of these movies are.

 

 

Because, you know, when I read the Twitter thread picked up by Caitlin Johnstone listing what was supposed to be a promo thing from the army, my heart sinks and hurts and in the end is downright defeated. It’s like reading the accounts from Vietnam, and nothing has changed in 50+ years. How can that be? Says innocent me.

But religious nut Mike Pence has the guts to present this as some sort of heroic thing. For young Americans to go die in a desert for nothing at all other than Exxon’s access to oil and the profits of Boeing and Raytheon. And of course they’ve been setting this up for decades, that young kids -certainly blacks- who have no shot at a proper education, can get one only if they agree to become cannon fodder.

That’s ‘Nam, guys, that’s the 1960’s, history. And just look at how terribly that failed. Well, Mike Pence would like to repeat that failure.

The US Army Asked Twitter How Service Has Impacted People. The Answers Were Gut-Wrenching.

After posting a video of a young recruit talking to the camera about how service allows him to better himself “as a man and a warrior”, the US Army tweeted, “How has serving impacted you?” As of this writing, the post has over 5,300 responses. Most of them are heartbreaking. “My daughter was raped while in the army,” said one responder. “They took her to the hospital where an all male staff tried to convince her to give the guy a break because it would ruin his life. She persisted. Wouldn’t back down. Did a tour in Iraq. Now suffers from PTSD.”

“I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years,” said another. Tweet after tweet after tweet, people used the opportunity that the Army had inadvertently given them to describe how they or their loved one had been chewed up and spit out by a war machine that never cared about them. This article exists solely to document a few of the things that have been posted in that space, partly to help spread public awareness and partly in case the thread gets deleted in the interests of “national security”.

 

“my grandpa served in vietnam from when he was 18–25. he’s 70 now and every night he still has nightmares where he stands up tugging at the curtains or banging on the walls screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. he refuses to talk about his time and when you mention anything about the war to him his face goes white and he has a panic attack. he cries almost every day and night and had to spend 10 years in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideations from what he saw there.”

 

“My best friend joined the Army straight out of high school because his family was poor & he wanted a college education. He served his time & then some. Just as he was ready to retire he was sent to Iraq. You guys sent him back in a box. It destroyed his children.”

 

“My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”

If you got the stomach for it, guys, do read it. But I got to tell you, I find it hard.

The US killed millions of people and maimed ten times that in Vietnam, and that very much includes its own young and promising American citizens, and they did it again in Iraq. Mike Pence wants to repeat that in Iran and other theaters. Supported by Pelosi, Pompeo, Schumer, Bolton etc. Shame for them John McCain passed.

There’s only one US presidential candidate who’s explicitly spoken out against this mad repeat of Vietnam, and that’s Tulsi Gabbard, who actually “served” in Iraq. So she will be pushed aside by the DNC. Who are funded by the military industrial complex, don’t you know. Must serve the machine. We have a long way to go.

I always thought that Springsteen talking about Vietnam from Born In The USA is sort of like a haiku, encompassing the essence in just a few words, even if he doesn’t catch all the misery and bloodshed and mental anguish and broken lives and all of it (but how could you?):

 

I had a brother at Khe San;

Fighting off the Viet Cong

They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon

I got a picture of him in her arms now

 

I know people older than me have many more examples of this and from the time when the ‘war’ was actually ongoing. Eve of Destruction? Creedence? Please send suggestions.

But also, please recognize the similarities in the madness then and now.

And let’s try and make it stop.

Let’s try and stop history from even rhyming, let alone repeating.

Nassim Taleb likes to point out that in olden days those who declared wars would also be first in line to fight them. By design. The fair thing to do.

Let’s send Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer and Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and all of their families into Iran first. And then we can talk.

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 062019
 


Pablo Picasso Portrait de femme au col d’hermine (Olga) 1923

 

Trump Calls For End To ‘Politics Of Revenge,’ Touts ‘Hottest Economy’ (AP)
Trump, Kim To Hold Second Summit In Vietnam At End Of February (AP)
Too Fast, Too Furious (Roberts)
Elizabeth Warren Apologizes For Identifying As Native American (MW)
May Rules Out Brexit Delay And Hard Border With Ireland (G.)
Ireland And EU Discuss Emergency Funding For No-Deal Brexit (G.)
China: Expansion, Stagnation and Decline (CHSmith)
French Lawmakers Approve Controversial ‘Anti-Riot’ Bill (F24)
Judge Pauses Lawsuits Against Cryptocurrency Company Quadriga (R.)
5G Wireless: A “Massive Health Experiment” (SHTF)
18% Of Young People In UK Do Not Think Life Is Worth Living (G.)
50,000 Elderly In UK -77 Per Day- Die Waiting For Social Care (G.)

 

 

At least they all agree on Venezuela.

Trump Calls For End To ‘Politics Of Revenge,’ Touts ‘Hottest Economy’ (AP)

Facing a divided Congress for the first time, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Washington to reject “the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution.” He warned emboldened Democrats that “ridiculous partisan investigations” into his administration and businesses could hamper a surging American economy. Trump’s appeals for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address clashed with the rancorous atmosphere he has helped cultivate in the nation’s capital — as well as the desire of most Democrats to block his agenda during his next two years in office. Their opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience formed a sea of white in a nod to early 20th-century suffragettes.

Trump spoke at a critical moment in his presidency, staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.

[..] One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months. He said the U.S. has “the hottest economy anywhere in the world.” He said, “The only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations. The diverse Democratic caucus, which includes a bevy of women, sat silently for much of Trump’s speech. But they leapt to their feet when he noted there are “more women in the workforce than ever before.”

Read more …

Haven’t heard Moon for a while. There’s talk of a NoKor industrial area reopening.

Trump, Kim To Hold Second Summit In Vietnam At End Of February (AP)

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will hold a two-day summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam to continue his efforts to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. Trump has said his outreach to Kim and their first meeting last June in Singapore opened a path to peace. But there is not yet a concrete plan for how denuclearization could be implemented. Denuclearizing North Korea is something that has eluded the U.S. for more than two decades, since it was first learned that North Korea was close to acquiring the means for nuclear weapons. “As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump said in his State of the Union address.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress last week that U.S. intelligence officials do not believe Kim will eliminate his nuclear weapons or the capacity to build more because he believes they are key to the survival of the regime. [..] At the second Trump-Kim summit, some experts say North Korea is likely to seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a U.S. promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea. “Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months,” Trump said. “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.

Read more …

Interesting, good graph. It’s just that referring to ‘markets’ means you’re guaranteed to get so many things wrong. There are no markets when the Fed decides prices insead of allowing markets to do so.

Too Fast, Too Furious (Roberts)

As noted by Deutsche Bank’s Parag Thatte noted recently: “While the S&P 500 rallied +15% since late December, equity funds have continued to see large outflows. As Thatte elaborates, “US equity funds in particular have continued to see large outflows (-$40bn) since then, following massive outflows (-$77bn) through the sell-off from October to December.” This confirms our concern the recent rally has primarily been a function of short-covering and repositioning in the markets rather than an “all-out” buying spree based on a “conviction” the “bull market” remains intact.

David Rosenberg recently confirmed the same: “Let’s go back to December for a minute. This was the worst December since 1931, mind you, followed by the best January since 1987. This is nothing more than market that has gone completely manic. To suggest that there is anything fundamental about this dead-cat bounce in equities is laughable. This is an economy, and a market, that couldn’t even sustain a 3% yield on the 10-year T-note. It sputtered at the thought of the Fed taking the funds rate marginally above zero on a ‘real’ basis, even as it feasted on unprecedented stimulus for a such a late-cycle economy. Yes, Powell et al. helped trigger this latest up-leg, not just at last week’s meeting, but in the lead-up to the confab as well. The Fed has been crying uncle for weeks now.”

Read more …

Too many attempts at covering lies with other ones. What was she thinking?

Elizabeth Warren Apologizes For Identifying As Native American (MW)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologized Tuesday for previously identifying herself as a Native American. In an interview with the Washington Post, the Massachusetts Democrat expanded on an apology issued last week to the Cherokee Nation. “I can’t go back,” she told the Post. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.” As a presidential candidate, Warren has been trying to fight accusations that she identified as Native American to advance her career as a professor at Harvard and Penn law schools. In the same report, the Post published Warren’s previously undisclosed 1986 registration card to the State Bar of Texas, in which she handwrote her ethnicity as “American Indian.”

Read more …

Thought she might flee into an Article 50 extension. But it wouldn’t bring anything. She’s close to checkmate.

May Rules Out Brexit Delay And Hard Border With Ireland (G.)

Theresa May fired a warning shot at Brexit supporters on Tuesday, insisting there was “no suggestion” Britain would leave the EU without an insurance provision to protect against a hard border in Northern Ireland. At a speech in Belfast, May would only accept that technology could “play a part” in any alternative arrangements and that she would not countenance anything that would disrupt the lives of border communities. Brexit supporters immediately expressed their alarm at some of May’s language, which they fear could be read as a step back from previous assurances. “She knows what she promised us,” one ERG source said. “Even if she didn’t mean what she said, we do.”

The comments came as May prepared to meet EU leaders in Brussels for the first time since the historic defeat of her Brexit deal, where she is expected to formally request the reopening of the withdrawal agreement in order to address concerns about the backstop. The prime minister will travel to the Belgian capital on Thursday, meeting the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU parliament president Antonio Tajani, and the European council president. Donald Tusk. Both Tusk and Juncker have been adamant that the withdrawal agreement will not be reopened.

Number 10 sources suggested they did not expect a warm reception, but that it would signal the start of a new diplomatic process, involving proposals on the backstop worked on by MPs and ministers. Earlier on Tuesday, May told her cabinet she would not countenance any delay to the UK’s exit on 29 March, a message to ministers such as Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid who have suggested at least some delay might now be inevitable. Ministers who are more pessimistic about the prospects of the UK leaving on time with a deal held their tongues in the meeting after May’s warning. “She was pretty clear she had no time for anyone calling for it to be extended,” one cabinet source said.

Read more …

“He has previously said Ireland would seek “mega-money” from the EU.”

Ireland And EU Discuss Emergency Funding For No-Deal Brexit (G.)

Ireland is in talks with the EU over a substantial Brexit emergency fund to offset the damage caused to the country’s €4.5bn (£3.96bn) food exports to Britain if the UK crashes out of the bloc with no deal next month. As Theresa May prepares for a crunch meeting in Brussels on Thursday, officials at the European commission are already looking at continuous compensatory measures for Ireland as part of an ongoing arrangement that could last years. Contingency funds to compensate farmers have already been discussed at the highest levels and are expected to arise in talks with the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, during a round of meetings in Brussels on Wednesday.

Sources say Ireland will be looking for a “long-term fix” in EU budget talks in April rather than a lump sum Brexit bailout. Politicians have cited the ongoing assistance given to the Baltic states after Russia banned certain food exports from the EU as an example of financial solidarity it hopes to win in a no-deal Brexit. Ireland exports €4.5bn worth of food and drink a year to the UK, ranging from beef to cheddar cheese. Calculations by the Department of Agriculture put the cost of tariffs under World Trade Organization rules at €1.7bn. Michael Creed, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, has said this would be an “existential challenge” for the food and drink sector. He has previously said Ireland would seek “mega-money” from the EU.

Read more …

“China entered 2008 with $8 billion in officially counted debt; 10 years later that debt is $40 trillion..”

China: Expansion, Stagnation and Decline (CHSmith)

China entered 2008 with $8 billion in officially counted debt; 10 years later that debt is $40 trillion, plus unknown trillions more in the shadow banking system which expanded the options for risky speculation and massive expansions of credit. Like all the other stagnating economies, China’s “solution” to stagnation was to expand debt-funded speculation and “investments” with little to no actual return. The high water mark of China’s financialization orgy was 2018. From now on, adding debt simply adds more drag on the underlying economy, as income is diverted to service speculative debt and defaults start hollowing out both the official banking system and the shadow banking system.

All the policies that worked in the Boost Phase no longer work. the policy tool chest is empty, and so China’s leadership is doing more of what’s failed: burying bad debt off the visible balance sheets, re-issuing new loans to pay off defaulted debt, and all the usual tricks of a failed banking/credit system. Japan has papered over its systemic rot and decline for 30 years by using a financial Perpetual Motion Machine: the state borrows and spends trillions by selling bonds to the central bank, which in effect prints “free money” for the state to burn propping up a sclerotic, corrupt, failed status quo.

If that’s policy makers’ idea of success, they are delusional. Credit/asset bubbles all deflate, and central bank buying of assets only gives the lie to the illusion of stability and market liquidity. Simply put, there is no indication China’s leadership has any plan to manage the inevitable stagnation and decline of China’s economy that is now painfully obvious to anyone with the slightest willingness to look beneath the flimsy propaganda of official statistics. They are not alone, of course; every other major economy is equally bereft of policies and equally dependent on bogus statistics and debt to paper over the decline.

Read more …

Macron support slips further. “50 MPs from Macron’s own party abstained from voting”.. but “The main thing is that there were no votes against..”, says the party.

French Lawmakers Approve Controversial ‘Anti-Riot’ Bill (F24)

French MPs on Tuesday approved an anti-rioting bill giving security forces the power to ban suspected hooligans from demonstrating, in a controversial bid to crack down on violence that has marred Yellow Vest protests over the last three months. Opponents say the bill, approved by the lower house of parliament by 387 votes to 92, contravenes the constitutional right to demonstrate. Under its most contentious provision, government officials would be able to ban people suspected of being hooligans from taking part in demonstrations – without oversight from a judge. Inspired by legislation used to crack down on football hooligans, the new law calls for a six-month prison sentence and a €7,500 ($8,500) fine for violators.

The legislation, if passed by the upper house and approved by the constitutional council, would also allow fines of €15,000 ($17,000) and a one-year prison term for demonstrators covering or masking their faces to escape identification. It would also hand French police greater powers to search would-be demonstrators for weapons. [..] Unusually, some 50 MPs from Macron’s own party, the Republic on the Move (LREM), abstained from voting in favour of the legislation on Tuesday in a sign of divisions within the group. [..] “The main thing is that there were no votes against,” Gilles Le Gendre, who heads LREM’s parliamentary group, told reporters after the vote on Tuesday.

Read more …

A very curious case. We’ll hear much more of it.

Judge Pauses Lawsuits Against Cryptocurrency Company Quadriga (R.)

A cryptocurrency platform that lost access to millions of dollars when its founder died with sole knowledge of company passwords has been granted a temporary reprieve from creditor lawsuits. Halifax judge Michael Wood on Tuesday ordered a 30-day stay that precludes filing of claims against Quadriga, a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange that has left thousands of investors without their money after the death of founder Gerald Cotten. Customers have threatened lawsuits. Ernst & Young has been appointed the company’s third-party monitor, to help manage Quadriga’s finances during the process.

Cotten, who died in December of complications from Crohn’s disease while in India, was the only person who had passwords to digital wallets containing C$180 million ($137.13 million) in cryptocurrencies, according to court filings. He was 30 years old. “Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find (the passwords) written down anywhere,” his widow Jennifer Robertson said in an affidavit. A court file indicates Quadriga owes 115,000 users the equivalent of C$250 million ($190.46 million). The document showed Quadriga has $30 million in bank drafts, many of which it has had trouble depositing. Lawyer Maurice Chiasson told the court the company wants time to find the C$250 million it owes users. According to court filings the company is considering selling its platforms to cover its debts.

Read more …

The riches of smartphones.

5G Wireless: A “Massive Health Experiment” (SHTF)

Experts are warning that superfast broadband known as 5G could cause cancer in humans, and the usage of 5G is nothing more than a “massive health experiment.” 5G could very well be a global catastrophe that kills wildlife, gives people terminal diseases, and causes the Earth’s magnetic field to change, according to shocking claims by a technology expert. Arthur Robert Firstenberg is an American author and an activist for electromagnetic radiation and health. In his 1997 book Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution, he claimed: “The telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927.”

Firstenberg has also founded the independent campaign group the Celluar Phone Task Force and since 1996 he has argued in numerous publications that wireless technology is dangerous. According to a report by the Daily Star, Firstenberg has also recently started an online petition calling on world organizations, such as the United Nations, World Health Organisation (WHO), and European Union to “urgently halt the development of 5G,” which is due to be rolled out this year. In fact, Verizon has activated the world’s first 5G networks in four cities in the United States: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. According to the Firstenberg, wireless networks are “harmful for humans” and the development of the next generation is “defined as a crime” under international law, as he states it in the online petition.

When speaking to The Daily Star Online, Firstenberg said this 5G rollout is deadly. “There is about to be as many as 20,000 satellites in the atmosphere. The FCC approved Elon Musk’s project for 12,000 satellites on November 15th and he’s going to launch his in mid-2019. I’m getting reports from various parts of the world that 5G antennas are being erected all over and people are already getting sick from what’s there now and the insect population is getting affected,” Firstenberg stated.

Read more …

More riches of smartphones. Someone soon will propose a better term than ‘smart’-phones.

18% Of Young People In UK Do Not Think Life Is Worth Living (G.)

The number of young people in the UK who say they do not believe that life is worth living has doubled in the last decade, amid a sense of overwhelming pressure from social media which is driving feelings of inadequacy, new research suggests. In 2009, only 9% of 16-25-year-olds disagreed with the statement that “life is really worth living”, but that has now risen to 18%. More than a quarter also disagree that that their life has a sense of purpose, according to a YouGov survey of 2,162 people for the Prince’s Trust, a charity that helps 11 to 30-year-olds into education, training and work. Youth happiness levels have fallen most sharply over the last decade in respect of relationships with friends and emotional health, the survey found, while satisfaction with issues like money and accommodation have remained steady.

The Prince’s Trust has been gauging youth opinion for 10 years and found that just under half of young people who use social media now feel more anxious about their future when they compare themselves to others on sites and apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. A similar amount agree that social media makes them feel “inadequate”. More than half (57%) think social media creates “overwhelming pressure” to succeed. The gloomy view on life being taken by a growing minority of young people comes amid reports of an increased rate of teenage suicide. It was reported on Sunday that official statistics due later this year will show that suicides now occur at more than five in 100,000 teenagers in England. That contrasts with a figure of just over three in 100,000 in 2010.

“Social media has become omnipresent in the lives of young people and this research suggests it is exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time,” said Nick Stace, UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust. “Young people are critical to the future success of this country, but they’ll only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms. It is therefore a moral and economic imperative that employers, government, charities and wider communities put the needs of young people centre stage.”

Read more …

Britain gets rid of its old and its young. And presumably other ‘weaker’ groups.

50,000 Elderly In UK -77 Per Day- Die Waiting For Social Care (G.)

More than 50,000 people have died waiting for care while ministers dither over long-awaited plans to overhaul the funding of social care, a charity has claimed. Age UK estimated that 54,000 people – or 77 a day – have died while waiting for a care package in the 700 days since the government first said in March 2017 it would publish its social care green paper, which has since been delayed several times. The claim came as a cross-party group of MPs warned that the government was “in denial” about the perilous state of English local authority finances – a crisis driven by a growing demand for the care of vulnerable adults and children.

The Commons public accounts committee (PAC) said that after eight years in which central government funding had halved, councils were under “enormous pressure” just to maintain essential services. MPs accused ministers of having no meaningful plan to ensure local authority finances were sustainable in the future. Overall spending by local authorities on services fell by 19.2% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2016-17, according to the report. Meg Hillier, the committee chair said: “Government needs to get real, listen fully to the concerns of local government and take a hard look at the real impact funding reductions have on local services.”

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a funding boost for councils at last autumn’s budget, amounting to £1.4 bn in 2018-19 and 2019-20. But the PAC said such short-term fixes failed to deal with the underlying challenges facing councils. It urged the government to focus on assuring the long-term sustainability of local authority finances, and be more ambitious than simply allowing them to “cope”.

Read more …

May 142018
 


Brassaï Cat 1945

 

What’s happening to John McCain is tragic. It’s not something one should ever wish upon another human being. Nor is it decent, let alone useful, to wish that he would die. Wishing bad things upon someone because they did bad things is too close for comfort to what he himself did. But it’s good to remember that his brain tumor is not the most tragic part of McCain’s life on earth. And no, neither is his time as prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain’s main tragedy is that he didn’t learn the one lesson he should have learned about his time in Vietnam, and didn’t turn his back on warfare. Instead, he turned into the biggest and loudest pro-war campaigner in Washington for decades. Talk about a missed opportunity, a life wasted. If there was one person who was presented with the first-hand experience needed to turn against bloodshed, it was John McCain.

What’s more, during his time in the House and later the Senate, McCain completely missed out on a development that might yet have changed his mind. That is, wars became unwinnable. Something even that the US losing their war in Vietnam might have taught him. It entirely passed him by. McCain still never saw an opportunity to wage battle somewhere, anywhere on the planet, that he didn’t like.

That makes him a dinosaur and a fossil who should never have been allowed to remain in the Senate for as long as he did. At the age of 81, and after ‘serving’ for 35 years in Washington, it apparently becomes too difficult to see how the world outside changes, let alone to adapt to those changes. If you limit the time a president can serve, why not do the same for senators? Is it because those same senators would have to vote on that?

Moreover, if wars are unwinnable, but you incessantly call for new wars anyway, then regardless of moral issues about going to war in the first place, you have de facto become a threat to your own people and your own country that you purport to serve. Especially, and first of all, to the American soldiers you desire to send out there to fight those wars. But also a threat to the image of America around the globe.

 

When wars are unwinnable, there is no reason to fight them. Again, even apart from morals and ethics. You will have to find other ways to deal with ‘elements’ that feel and act less than friendly towards you. To find out what, it helps to realize that they understand it’s just as futile for them to attack you militarily as it is for you to attack them. It also helps to figure out why they are unfriendly.

What doesn’t help is to take yet another stab at Putin and say “Vladimir Putin is an evil man, and he is intent on evil deeds”, as McCain does in a forthcoming book. If that’s the best you can do, your best-by date has long since passed. That’s language fit for a 4-year old. And George W.

McCain’s father and grandfather were both 4-star US Navy admirals. Perhaps that partly explains his blindness to the evils of war, and the role the US has played in many conflicts, including -but certainly not limited to- Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine Apocalypse Now, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket being McCain’s favorite Hollywood classics.

And that is a bigger problem than it may seem. Because America has indeed been able to paint a vivid portrait for itself of why Vietnam was such an insane venture that should never have happened, and certainly not repeated. If your culture has the ability to put that in words and images, and as a nation you still don’t learn the lesson embedded in them, you’re pretty much lost.

Oh, and besides, you lost too, remember? You lost the war and the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of young Americans and over a million Vietnamese. To have been part of that and then turn around and strive to be Washington’s premier warmonger, that’s just totally bonkers. Or worse. Has McCain been promoting war all this time because he subconsciously wanted to redo Vietnam but this time not lose?

 

Unwinnable wars are bad news for the weapons industry. They will deny the existence of even such a concept as long and as strongly as they can. Because if you can’t win a war, why wage them? There will continue to be technological developments, but there’s no “throughput”. You can fire some missiles into some desert somewhere from time to time, and that’s it.

The military-industrial complex is happy only -because most profitable- if and when guns and missiles and jets constantly need to be replaced because they’ve been lost in a theater of war, along with young Americans. McCain knows this better than most. And he knows the captains of this complex, both the military side and the weapons producers. Far too well.

Being as beholden as it is to the arms makers and dealers, has made America lose whatever edge it once had militarily. In the US weapons are developed and sold to generate the largest profits possible; in Russia, they are developed to protect the country. This is largely why the American defense budget is 10 times larger than its Russian counterpart. All this happened on John McCain’s watch.

The entire narrative of “protecting and sharing our values” has become hollow propaganda. Because the US has engaged its military in more theaters of war and invasion than we can even keep track of anymore. The US armed forces don’t protect democracy or human rights around the world, they protect the financial interests of America’s elites, including the military-industrial complex. Does anyone believe John McCain doesn’t know this?

 

Unbeknownst to John McCain, the world has entered a whole new era. And this didn’t happen yesterday. Russia and China may have only recently announced new hypersonic missile technology, but it didn’t fall out of the sky. It does profoundly change things though. It ends all notions and dreams of American exceptionalism and unilateralism.

And America needs to learn that lesson. It will have to do it without John McCain. And it might as well, because McCain was incapable of changing, and of seeing the changes around him. But the American view of the world will have to change, because the world itself has.

Still, you’re right: the real tragedy is not that John McCain wasted his own life. It’s that he helped destroy so many others.

 

 

Sep 232017
 
 September 23, 2017  Posted by at 8:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Salvador Dalí Mi esposa desnuda 1945

 

Why the Stock Market’s Up and Why it Won’t Last (MO)
The Great Corporate Cash Shell Game (BBG)
Debt Has Become A Way Of Life In Canada (OweC)
Housing Affordability NEVER Worse…By a Long-Shot (Hanson)
The Demise of the Dollar: Don’t Hold Your Breath (CH Smith)
China Slashes Trade Ties With North Korea (BBC)
Russia Steps In To Prevent ‘Domino Effect’ In Its Banking Sector (CNBC)
UK’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s (BBC)
The Scandals That Brought Down Uber (Ind.)
Uber Had This Coming – It Was Never Just A ‘Tech Platform’ (Ind.)
Puerto Rico Is Back In The 18th Century (Kunstler)
It Gets Ugly in Catalonia (DQ)
The Killing of History (John Pilger)

 

 

“Once the Fed stops buying that paper, the dealers will have a lot less cash and that means a lot more selling.”

Why the Stock Market’s Up and Why it Won’t Last (MO)

The U.S. Treasury has been up against its debt ceiling since March 15 when the ceiling was re-imposed. Since then, there has been no net new issuance from the Treasury. The Treasury has run down its cash balances and borrowed internally from its own resources, which are not subject to the ceiling. This period has been very helpful to the financial markets. With the federal government not selling any net new supply of securities—just rolling the maturing stuff over—the markets have been flush with cash that would otherwise have been absorbed by the government. This hit of extra liquidity is about to disappear and then some. President Trump has made a three-month debt ceiling deal with the Democrats which means that the Treasury can resume borrowing without restrictions through December.

This increase in the debt ceiling is needed to reliquify the federal government (which is down to $38 billion in cash) and repay the internal funds the Treasury raided since the debt ceiling was imposed back in March. The Treasury needs to borrow a substantial amount of money. There hasn’t been a material increase in the Treasury’s borrowing schedule yet, but it is coming. The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC), a group of senior Wall Street executives, has advised the Treasury to issue $501 billion in net new supply in the fourth quarter, virtually all in November and December, and the Treasury almost always follows the TBAC script. That’s an outrageous amount of money. The cash the Treasury needs is not sitting somewhere in primary dealer bank accounts; it’s invested in the financial markets. Securities will have to be sold to accommodate this new issuance.

This is not new. A borrowing spike happens every time we have an increase in the debt ceiling as the chart demonstrates. Note that this chart reflects an estimate of net new issuance needed to return to last year’s cash on hand and was produced before TBAC had issued its recommendations. TBAC is proposing to move more slowly. Nonetheless, past funding spikes are clearly demarcated and the next one is going to be big. While Treasury supply will increase, the trend of demand for Treasuries has been going the other way. Bid coverage at auctions has been declining in recent months and the largest banks have been reducing their inventories of Treasury securities. Falling demand in the face of increasing supply is a recipe for a bear market in bonds. Bond yields will rise and that will put pressure on stocks as well.

The Federal Reserve has given the market extraordinary support over the past eight years by financing most new Treasury supply. Even after it stopped outright QE in November of 2014, the Fed continued to buy $25–$45 billion per month in maturing Mortgage Backed Securities from the primary dealers. That cashed up the dealers and helped finance their purchases of new Treasuries. But now, the Fed intends to join the Treasury as a net seller of Treasuries (and MBS) as it starts to reduce its balance sheet this fall. Once the Fed stops buying that paper, the dealers will have a lot less cash and that means a lot more selling.

Read more …

“These companies have a record amount of cash and they’re more deeply indebted than ever before.”

The Great Corporate Cash Shell Game (BBG)

There’s a mystery hidden on the balance sheets of Corporate America: These companies have a record amount of cash and they’re more deeply indebted than ever before.This seems paradoxical and kind of silly. Why raise money from bond investors when you already have the liquid assets on hand? As Bloomberg News reported Thursday, non-financial companies’ liquid assets, which include foreign deposits, currency as well as money-market and mutual fund shares, reached a record of almost $2.3 trillion in the second quarter. That’s an increase of nearly 60% since mid-2009. This cash cushion also appears sort of comforting; companies can do whatever they want. They’re rich. But in reality, it is neither silly nor overly comforting.

First of all, a disproportionate amount of the cash is held by the biggest companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and General Electric, and it is mostly held in overseas accounts. These corporations can’t bring that cash back without incurring steep tax bills, so they’ve been keeping it offshore. When they need money, they simply raise dollars by borrowing from the bond market at record-low rates. Indeed, the amount of bonds issued by these companies has surged, rising 66% from mid-2009 to $5.24 trillion of bonds outstanding as of the end of June, Federal Reserve data show. That isn’t necessarily a recipe for default because a large chunk of this is an exercise in financial engineering aimed at avoiding onerous taxes. But it has consequences.

First, it limits the benefit to the economy if and when those tax policies are changed because much of the money has already been released through the bond market. And second, to the extent that companies have cash, they’re not using enough of it for exciting projects. There hasn’t been a tremendous wave of innovation or salary increases. Instead, companies have repurchased billions of dollars of their own shares, which is great for the stock market but doesn’t do a whole lot to bolster economic growth.

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A bit poorly written, but still: “For each $1.00 the economy grew in this 1 year period the total debt outstanding increased by $5.48.”

Debt Has Become A Way Of Life In Canada (OweC)

The borrowing and spending binge by Canadian households, businesses and governments (all levels) continues unabated. Growing the debt in the economy significantly faster than the economy itself grows seems to have developed into a way of life in Canada. At the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding in Canada was $7.51 trillion. At the end of June, 2016 it was $7.13 trillion. In the 1 year period from the end of June, 2016 to the end of June, 2017 it increased by $375 billion. This is an increase of 5.2%. The approximate beginning of the global financial crisis was June, 2007. At the end of June, 2007 the total debt outstanding in Canada was $3.99 trillion. In the last 10 years it has increased by $3.52 trillion. This is an increase of 88.3%. At the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $5.32 trillion.

At the end of June, 2016 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $5.04 trillion. In the 1 year period from the end of June, 2016 to the end of June, 2017 it increased by $278 billion. This is an increase of 5.5%. At the end of June, 2007 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors was $2.84 trillion. In the last 10 years it has increased by $2.47 trillion. This is an increase of 86.9%. At the end of June, 2017 the annual GDP at market prices in Canada was $2.12 trillion, and in the preceding 1 year it grew by 6.3%, – ie: the size of the economy grew by $133.9 billion. In the 1 year period from the end of June, 2016 to the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding in Canada increased by $375 billion. For each $1.00 the economy grew in this 1 year period (using the GDP at market prices metric) the total debt outstanding increased by $2.80.

Looking at just the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors in Canada: In the 1 year period from the end of June, 2016 to the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors increased by $278 billion. For each $1.00 the economy grew in this 1 year period (using the gdp at market prices metric) the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors increased by $2.08. At the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding in Canada was 3.5 times greater than our annual gdp at market prices, and looking at just the total debt outstanding of domestic non-financial sectors, that was 2.5 times greater than our annual gdp at market prices. [..] In the 1 year period from the end of June, 2016 to the end of June, 2017 the total debt outstanding in Canada increased by $375 billion. For each $1.00 the economy grew in this 1 year period the total debt outstanding increased by $5.48.

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Communities and societies don’t matter. Only money does.

Housing Affordability NEVER Worse…By a Long-Shot (Hanson)

My chart highlights how for DECADES the income required to buy a median priced house – using popular programs & rates for each era – remained mostly flat (red line) and WELL BELOW the level of household income (black line). How could house prices rise so much for decades but income required to buy (red) them remain flattish? Because of the accompanying falling rates/easing credit guideline cycle. In fact, during Bubble 1.0 house prices soared but exotic loans legitimately made them more affordable than ever, as shown.

But in ’12, as trillions in unorthodox capital, credit & liquidity began to drive massive speculation (just like Bubble 1.0) income required to buy began to surge, with prices, shooting above median HH income (boxed in yellow). Meaningful sales growth with this affordability backdrop is impossible. …This is the point in this inflationary cycle at which affordability detached from end-user fundamentals. Now, in ’17, end-user purchase power & house prices have never been more diverged from the multi-decade trend line and a mean reversion – via surging wages, new era exotic loans, plunging rates, and/or falling house prices, as speculation ebbs – is inevitable.

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Must read. Like Charles, I don’t see it either. There is nothing to replace the USD for the foreseeable future.

The Demise of the Dollar: Don’t Hold Your Breath (CH Smith)

Every form of credit/debt is denominated in a currency. A Japanese bond is denominated in yen, for example. The bond is purchased with yen, the interest is paid in yen, and the coupon paid at maturity is in yen. What gets tricky is debt denominated in some other currency. Let’s say I take out a loan denominated in quatloos. The current exchange rates between USD and quatloos is 1 to 1: parity. So far so good. I convert 100 USD to 100 quatloos every month to make the principal and interest payment of 100 quatloos. Then some sort of kerfuffle occurs in the FX markets, and suddenly it takes 2 USD to buy 1 quatloo. Oops: my loan payments just doubled. Where it once only cost 100 USD to service my loan denominated in quatloos, now it takes $200 to make my payment in quatloos. Ouch. Notice the difference between payments, reserves and debt: payments/flows are transitory, reserves and debt are not.

What happens in flows is transitory: supply and demand for currencies in this moment fluctuate, but flows are so enormous–trillions of units of currency every day–that flows don’t affect the value or any currency much. FX markets typically move in increments of 1/100 of a percentage point. So flows don’t matter much. De-dollarization of flows is pretty much a non-issue. What matters is demand for currencies that is enduring: reserves and debt.The same 100 quatloos can be used hundreds of times daily in payment flows; buyers and sellers only need the quatloos for a few seconds to complete the conversion and payment. But those needing quatloos for reserves or to pay long-term debts need quatloos to hold. The 100 quatloos held in reserve essentially disappear from the available supply of quatloos.

Another source of confusion is trade flows. If the U.S. buys more stuff from China than China buys from the U.S., goods flow from China to the U.S. and U.S. dollars flow to China. As China’s trade surplus continues, the USD just keep piling up. What to do with all these billions of USD? One option is to buy U.S. Treasury bonds (debt denominated in dollars), as that is a vast, liquid market with plenty of demand and supply. Another is to buy some other USD-denominated assets, such as apartment buildings in Seattle. This is the source of the petro-dollar trade. All the oil/gas that’s imported into the U.S. is matched by a flow of USD to the oil-exporting nations, who then have to do something with the steadily increasing pile of USD.

The USD is still the dominant reserve currency, despite decades of diversification. Global reserves (allocated and unallocated) are over $12 trillion. Note that China’s RMB doesn’t even show up in allocated reserves–it’s a non-player because it’s pegged to the USD. Why hold RMB when the peg can be changed at will? It’s lower risk to just hold USD. While total global debt denominated in USD is about $50 trillion, the majority of this is domestic, i.e. within the U.S. economy. $11 trillion has been issued to non-banks outside the U.S., including developed and emerging market debt:

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Well, not entirely.

China Slashes Trade Ties With North Korea (BBC)

China has moved to limit North Korea’s oil supply and will stop buying textiles from the politically isolated nation, it said on Saturday. China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, and one of its only sources of hard currency. The ban on textiles trade will hurt Pyongyang’s income, while China’s oil exports are the country’s main source of petroleum products. The tougher stance follows North Korea’s latest nuclear test this month. The United Nations agreed fresh sanctions – including the textiles and petroleum restrictions – in response. A statement from China’s commerce ministry said restrictions on refined petroleum products would apply from 1 October, and on liquefied natural gas immediately.

A limited amount, allowed under the UN resolution, would still be exported to North Korea. The current volume of trade between the two countries – and how much the new limits reduce it by – is not yet clear. But the ban on textiles – Pyongyang’s second-biggest export – is expected to cost the country more than $700m a year. China and Russia had initially opposed a proposal from the United States to completely ban oil exports, but later agreed to the reduced measures. North Korea has little energy production of its own, but does refine some petroleum products from crude oil it imports – which is not included in the new ban. The AFP news agency reports that petrol prices in Pyongyang have risen by about 20% in the past two months.

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Spring cleaning: “Russia’s central bank has reportedly now closed more than a third of the country’s banks – approximately 300 lenders – in the last three years..”

Russia Steps In To Prevent ‘Domino Effect’ In Its Banking Sector (CNBC)

Russia’s central bank has been forced to rescue two major lenders in less than a month, intensifying concerns among global investors that a systemic banking crisis could be in the offing. The Russian government’s latest rescue of a major bank was confirmed on Thursday, when the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) said it had nationalized the country’s 12th largest lender in terms of assets, B&N Bank. Last month, the CBR stepped in to launch one of the largest bank rescues in Russia’s history when Otkritie Bank required a bailout to help plug a $7 billion hole in its balance sheet. Russia’s central bank moved to dismiss intensifying concerns that a brewing systemic crisis could be forthcoming on Thursday, as it said its second major bank nationalization in three weeks had prevented a “domino effect” in the country’s ailing banking sector.

“We realized that it’s better to isolate a bit more so that the domino effect does not arise, and according to the results of this work the domino effect is excluded, there is no risk of this,” Vasily Pozdyshev, deputy governor at the CBR, told a press conference as reported by state media. B&N Bank requires an estimated capitalization of around $4.3 billion to $6 billion, according to Pozdyshev, an amount approximately equivalent to 25% of the lender’s balance sheet. The failure of two major lenders in relatively quick succession has fueled anxiety over the health of Russia’s banking sector, which has been hampered by an economic slowdown and Western sanctions in recent years.

In 2014, Russian regulators were jolted into action after a dramatic slump in oil prices as well as tough international sanctions for its annexation of Crimea and Russia’s perceived role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine. The CBR has been attempting to clean up the banking sector since 2013, shutting down scores of banks that it believed represented a risk to the system. Russia’s central bank has reportedly now closed more than a third of the country’s banks – approximately 300 lenders – in the last three years as it sought to eradicate undercapitalized institutions.

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Brexit becomes expensive.

UK’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s (BBC)

The UK’s credit rating has been cut over concerns about the UK’s public finances and fears Brexit could damage the country’s economic growth. Moody’s, one of the major ratings agencies, downgraded the UK to an Aa2 rating from Aa1. It said leaving the European Union was creating economic uncertainty at a time when the UK’s debt reduction plans were already off course. Downing Street said the firm’s Brexit assessments were “outdated”. The other major agencies, Fitch and S&P, changed their ratings in 2016, with S&P cutting it two notches from AAA to AA, and Fitch lowering it from AA+ to AA.

Moody’s said the government had “yielded to pressure and raised spending in several areas” including health and social care. It says revenues were unlikely to compensate for the higher spending. The agency said because the government had not secured a majority in the snap election it “further obscures the future direction of economic policy”. It also said Brexit would dominate legislative priorities, so there could be limited capacity to address “substantial” challenges. It added “any free trade agreement will likely take years to negotiate, prolonging the current uncertainty for business”. Moody’s has also changed the UK’s long-term issuer and debt ratings to “stable” from “negative”.

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Uber was allowed to grow massively, elbowing any competition out of the way. It’s just dumb.

The Scandals That Brought Down Uber (Ind.)

Transport for London has announced it will not renew ride-sharing app Uber’s licence, because it had identified a “lack of corporate responsibility” in the company. The statement highlighted four major areas of concern: the company’s approach to reporting criminal offences, the obtaining of medical certificates, its compliance with Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on employees, and its use of controversial Greyball software to “block regulatory… access to the app”. The company has recently been dogged by a number of corporate scandals in the UK and its international operations, which ultimately led to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick in June. Uber has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of allegations of sexual assault by its drivers against passengers.

Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sun last year showed that the Metropolitan Police investigated 32 drivers for rape or sexual assault of a passenger between May 2015 and May 2016. In August, Metropolitan Police Inspector Neil Billany wrote to TfL about his concern that the company was failing to properly investigate allegations against its drivers. He revealed the company had continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault. According to Inspector Billany, the same driver went on to assault another female passenger before he was removed. The letter said: “By not reporting to police promptly, Uber are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.”

The statement by London’s transport body also expresses concern about “its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London”. In March it emerged that Uber had been secretly using a tool called Greyball to deceive law enforcement officials in a number of US cities where the company flouted state regulations. Greyball used personal data of individuals it believed were connected to local government and ensured that its drivers would not pick them up if they requested a ride on the app. It was used in Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Boston, and Las Vegas, as well as France, Australia, China, South Korea and Italy. Uber denies ever using the software in the UK.

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Politicians are too scared to call for regulation of things they don’t understand.

Uber Had This Coming – It Was Never Just A ‘Tech Platform’ (Ind.)

Uber isn’t the only sharing economy app that has become part of daily life in the capital. Since 2008, over four million people have stayed in an Airbnb in London. The company, which links guests up with empty rooms or homes in the capital, recently came under fire in the US for not properly screening a host who attempted to sexually assault a woman (a spokesman for Airbnb later told The Independent that a background check had been done on the host and that there had been no prior convictions). The legal ruling over Uber could now bring the responsibilities of other companies such as Airbnb into the limelight. The rapid proliferation of these types of “gig economy” companies over the past few years has meant that many of them have forgotten their basic responsibilities toward their customers.

As The Independent’s Josie Cox has written, they forgot that the sharing economy business model was based on trust – we had to have confidence that the strangers we were sharing cars with were safe, and they couldn’t provide that. For too long, Uber tried to evade its role as anything more than a provider of tech. But we were never just sharing software; we were sharing our lives. Uber tried to get away with pretending it was a neutral software platform for far too long – all it did was link people together, and its responsibilities went as far as fixing glitches. But it was always a private taxi hire firm. It was a company with employees, who it should have been paying properly from that start, and customers, who it should have been protecting.

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“We’re only two days past the Hurricane Maria’s direct hit on Puerto Rico and there is no phone communication across the island, so we barely know what has happened. We’re weeks past Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and news of the consequences from those two events has strangely fallen out of the news media. Where have the people gone who lost everything? The news blackout is as complete and strange as the darkness that has descended on Puerto Rico.”

Puerto Rico Is Back In The 18th Century (Kunstler)

Ricardo Ramos, the director of the beleaguered, government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN Thursday that the island’s power infrastructure had been basically “destroyed” and will take months to come back “Basically destroyed.” That’s about as basic as it gets civilization-wise. Residents, Mr. Ramos said, would need to change the way they cook and cool off. For entertainment, old-school would be the best approach, he said. “It’s a good time for dads to buy a ball and a glove and change the way you entertain your children.” Meaning, I guess, no more playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on-screen because you’ll be living it — though one wonders where will the money come from to buy the ball and glove? Few Puerto Ricans will be going to work with the power off.

And the island’s public finances were in disarray sufficient to drive it into federal court last May to set in motion a legal receivership that amounted to bankruptcy in all but name. The commonwealth, a US territory, was in default for $74 billion in bonded debt, plus another $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations. So, Puerto Rico already faced a crisis pre-Hurricane Maria, with its dodgy electric grid and crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water and sewage systems. Bankruptcy put it in a poor position to issue new bonds for public works which are generally paid for with public borrowing. Who, exactly, would buy the new bonds? I hear readers whispering, “the Federal Reserve.” Which is a pretty good clue to understanding the circle-jerk that American finance has become.

Some sort of bailout is unavoidable, though President Trump tweeted “No Bailout for Puerto Rico” after the May bankruptcy proceeding. Things have changed and the shelf-life of Trumpian tweets is famously brief. But the crisis may actually strain the ability of the federal government to pretend it can cover the cost of every calamity that strikes the nation — at least not without casting doubt on the soundness of the dollar. And not a few bonafide states are also whirling around the bankruptcy drain: Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky. Constitutionally states are not permitted to declare bankruptcy, though counties and municipalities can. Congress would have to change the law to allow it. But states can default on their bonds and other obligations. Surely there would be some kind of fiscal and political hell to pay if they go that route.

Nobody really knows what might happen in a state as big and complex as Illinois, which has been paying its way for decades by borrowing from the future. Suddenly, the future is here and nobody has a plan for it. The case for the federal government is not so different. It, too, only manages to pay its bondholders via bookkeeping hocuspocus, and its colossal unfunded obligations for social security and Medicare make Illinois’ predicament look like a skipped car payment. In the meantime — and it looks like it’s going to be a long meantime – Puerto Rico is back in the 18th Century, minus the practical skills and simpler furnishings for living that way of life, and with a population many times beyond the carrying capacity of the island in that era.

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Still 8 days to go. How can this remian peaceful? Will Rajoy try to provoke violence (if he isn’t already) and blame it on the Catalans?

It Gets Ugly in Catalonia (DQ)

Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options. A case in point: At last night’s demonstration, spread across multiple locations in Barcelona, were two friends of mine, one who is fanatically apolitical and the other who is a strong Catalan nationalist but who believes that independence would be a political and financial disaster for the region. It was their first ever political demonstration. If there is a vote on Oct-1, they will probably vote to secede. The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan officials in dawn raids.

Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,000. The Civil Guard also staged raids on key administrative buildings in Barcelona. The sight of balaclava-clad officers of the Civil Guard, one of the most potent symbols of the not-yet forgotten Franco dictatorship, crossing the threshold of the seats of Catalonia’s (very limited) power and arresting local officials, was too much for the local population to bear. Within minutes almost all of the buildings were surrounded by crowds of flag-draped pro-independence protesters. The focal point of the day’s demonstrations was the Economic Council of Catalonia, whose second-in-command and technical coordinator of the referendum, Josep Maria Jové, was among those detained. He has now been charged with sedition and could face between 10-15 years in prison. Before that, he faces fines of €12,000 a day.

[..] yesterday’s police operation significantly — perhaps even irreversibly — weakens Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum on October 1, as even the region’s vice-president Oriol Junqueras concedes. But that doesn’t mean Spain has won. As the editor of El Diario, Ignacio Escolar, presciently notes, yesterday’s raids may have been a resounding success for law enforcement, but they were an unmitigated political disaster that has merely intensified the divisions between Spain and Catalonia and between Catalans themselves. Each time Prime Minister Rajoy or one of his ministers speak of the importance of defending democracy while the Civil Guard seizes posters and banners related to the October 1 vote and judges rule public debates on the Catalan question illegal and then fine their participants, a fresh clutch of Catalan separatists is born.

In the days to come they will be swarming the streets, waving their flags, clutching their red carnations and singing their songs. For the moment, the mood is still one of hopeful, resolute indignation. But the mood of masses is prone to change quickly, and it’s not going to take much to ignite the anger.

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Pilger was a Vietnam correspondent. He knows what he’s talking about.

The Killing of History (John Pilger)

One of the most hyped “events” of American television, The Vietnam War, has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films, “They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely new way”. In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its “exceptionalism”, Burns’ “entirely new” Vietnam war is presented as “epic, historic work”. Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam. Burns says he is grateful to “the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans”.

Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives. I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start. The narrator says the war “was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings”. The dishonesty of this statement is not surprising. The cynical fabrication of “false flags” that led to the invasion of Vietnam is a matter of record – the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in 1964, which Burns promotes as true, was just one. The lies litter a multitude of official documents, notably the Pentagon Papers, which the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg released in 1971.

There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me – as it must be for many Americans – it is difficult to watch the film’s jumble of “red peril” maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences. In the series’ press release in Britain – the BBC will show it – there is no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans. “We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick is quoted as saying. How very post-modern. All this will be familiar to those who have observed how the American media and popular culture behemoth has revised and served up the great crime of the second half of the twentieth century: from The Green Berets and The Deer Hunter to Rambo and, in so doing, has legitimised subsequent wars of aggression. The revisionism never stops and the blood never dries. The invader is pitied and purged of guilt, while “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy”. Cue Bob Dylan: “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”

I thought about the “decency” and “good faith” when recalling my own first experiences as a young reporter in Vietnam: watching hypnotically as the skin fell off Napalmed peasant children like old parchment, and the ladders of bombs that left trees petrified and festooned with human flesh. General William Westmoreland, the American commander, referred to people as “termites”. In the early 1970s, I went to Quang Ngai province, where in the village of My Lai, between 347 and 500 men, women and infants were murdered by American troops (Burns prefers “killings”). At the time, this was presented as an aberration: an “American tragedy” (Newsweek ). In this one province, it was estimated that 50,000 people had been slaughtered during the era of American “free fire zones”. Mass homicide. This was not news.

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Feb 272017
 
 February 27, 2017  Posted by at 2:04 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Bruce Davidson Iran 1964

 

Let’s see. On February 18, I wrote an essay called “Not Nearly Enough Growth To Keep Growing”, in which I said “..the Automatic Earth has said for many years that the peak of our wealth was sometime in the 1970’s or even late 1960’s”.

That provoked a wonderfully written reaction from long-time Automatic Earth reader Ken Latta, which I published on February 23 as “When Was America’s Peak Wealth?”. Ken put peak wealth sometime in the late ’50s to early 60’s. As I said then, I really liked his definition of ‘wealth’ as being “best measured by the capacity to be utterly wasteful”. The article spawned a series of nice comments, for some reason largely by people in his age bracket (Ken’s 73).

Which is nice, but it poses as many questions as it provides answers. Like: why does the Automatic Earth have so many ‘older’ readers? Should that be a reason for worry? And also: why don’t the young react in equal numbers? Don’t younger Americans have as many ideas as the generation(s) before them about when America’s peak wealth might have occurred?

Must one have been an eye-witness to the decline to know that it happened? Do only old farts ponder these things? Are there lessons to be learned, be they personal or history-wide? Interesting, all of it, if you ask me. Do younger people not acknowledge that peak wealth is behind us, and perhaps occurred before they were even born? Me, I like history lessons, and Ken’s for sure.

Tomorrow, I’ll have another take on all this written by Charles A. Hall, Emeritus Professor at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse. Charlie thinks neither Ken nor myself have given nearly enough attention to the role energy plays in wealth, and the peak thereof.

But first, here’s Ken Latta’s response to the comments on his article.

 

 

Ken Latta: The responses to my article on peak wealth were so thought-provoking that a follow-up article seemed appropriate. You can’t cover the history of the world in one blog post and I appreciate the additional ideas from the commentariat.

John Day: I remember 1969 as better than 1970. That first moon landing was a real high point for all of us. Everybody thought 1971 sucked. Things were different after November 1963. LBJ was a “sonofabitch”, as he put it. It’s hard to nail a year down, but after we lost our president, things were never the same.

John Day: Reminded us of a substantial breaking point the assassination of John Kennedy represented to the flow of history. But, history has its own problems. The finer details are oh so often swamped by a popular narrative. JFK was way more beloved dead than alive. Like Trump he could draw big crowds, but he very narrowly beat Nixon. Detractors favored referring to him as weak on foreign affairs.

I clearly recall were I was when the news came in about him being shot in Dallas. I was hanging out with some of my squadron mates in our team office when our Captain came by to inform us. He was African-American and clearly disturbed by it. It was much less concerning to the enlisted ranks. He had not been popular with most of us. It was a divided nation even then. I think his mourners should not forget that JFK presided over the early stages of the Viet-Nam adventure. With Green Berets and meddling in the South Viet-Nam government’s affairs, as is our custom.

It was just another case of his bad luck really. The American War on Viet-Nam could have happened to Eisenhower. My older brother was staged in a Korean Port waiting for orders to board a troop ship for transport to what was then still usually known as French Indo-China to support the French Army in their losing battle against the Viet Minh. But, Ike was a fairly sensible man and called it off.

 

 

V. Arnold: Wow, great thread. I’m 72 and was there also; I remember it pretty much as you tell it. I’d agree with your time-line also as to when peak wealth occurred. The beginning of the downturn was very late in the 50’s/early 60’s with our war in Vietnam and then; Nixon going off the gold standard. That allowed the next chapter of crony capitalism.

I attribute an accelerating deterioration to Friedman and his Chicago School of Economics and the age of the neo-liberal. Don’t forget Reagan; I felt the effects of his union busting first hand with stagnant wages until I retired over seas in 2007. I hope to read more of your writings from time to time. Cheers.

V. Arnold: Wrote very derogatory words about Uncle Miltie Friedman and the Chicago School of Terror. For that I salute him or her. Hell is too good for Milton and his apostles.

Forget Reagan? Not as long as I live. I also remember where I was when he was declared the next president. Sitting in the nicest bar in the little mountain town of Boulder Creek, Ca, nursing a drink. The bar was crowded and broke into loud celebration at the news. All I could think of was how f**king doomed we were. How I wish I had been wrong.

 

 

Hotrod: Thank you for your thought provoking article. I sometimes look at the health of the surviving car companies after WWII as a bellwether to the shape of the economy. Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, Packard all were struggling mightily by the mid 50’s. For the farming community the peak was about 1952. After the post war demand had been met, and greatly exceeded, farming declined into a real recession during the middle and late 50’s and never was quite the same.

Since then, machinery and technology, mostly purchased on credit, has kept production up and prices down for farmers, typically at or below the cost of production. Many of these labor saving and production enhancing tools stand unused, but are still being paid for. The only exception to this situation is massive drought, or massive flooding which can temporarily insert profitability to those not affected.

Hotrod: Reminisced on the tribulations of many car makers [Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, Packard], some of them long established, in the early 1950’s. I remember that too. I think a substantial part of their problems probably stemmed from not having enough dealerships. People were traveling more and wanted reassurance that a dealer with parts and experienced mechanics would be available in the next town. I think it actually surprising that those companies lasted as long as they did. Actually Nash and I think it was Packard merged to become American Motors and lasted another three decades.

He (my assumption) also mentioned farming and its trials. Farming is not the easy route to riches. The compensation has always been that if you hadn’t pledged your feal to the Lord of a Manor or signed up to be a share cropper, you were your own boss.

The late 40’s thru early 50’s were pretty good on our farm. When I was a little tike, we had an already ancient Macormick-Deering 10-20 tractor and a team of draught horses. My eldest brother having been told of his tour of northern and central Europe under the guidance of a man named Patton, wrote to dad asking him to take the money he had been sending home and buy a new tractor. All dad could find at a local dealer was a Minneapolis-Moline as they were about the only company allowed to build tractors during the war.

Many of them were shipped to England to help the British increase their food production. That was the only brand new tractor our family has ever owned right up to this day. My nephew still has it, but it’s in bits and pieces now. By around 1950 we were fully mechanised. Shortly after dad died in 1959, my brother rented out the land got himself a factory job. The prices of equipment steadily increased. The value of crops did not.

Crop prices did increase substantially about a decade ago, but not nearly enough to pay for new equipment unless you operated a very large farm. And more recently crops have declined in value again. I think a lot of farmers are in trouble.

 

 

Patricia: I am worried. Everybody who comments here is in their 70s as I am. Is that because we have more time to reflect and write down our thoughts or is it because the youth of today aren’t interested in anything except Facebook? If that is the case then I am so glad I am at the end of my life but what about my darling grandchildren.

Patricia: Expressed concern over whether the prevalence here of geezers was due to us having too much time on our hands or the youth having no time for anything except Facebook. Based on my own family, I can say that their devotion to Facebook is tempered by addiction to gaming. I mean video not casino. I think we can say that Patricia is right on both counts.

I too feel a certain gratitude for having been born during the war years with the expectation that I may be expired before the ordure collides with the air circulator. We oldies do have a psychological quandary with regard to our descendants. Knowing as we do that it’s coming. I too have grandchildren and a great grandchild. I desperately wanted to make them aware and try to offer some guidance.

What I learned was that they are at least vaguely aware of the looming threats and don’t want to hear more about it. They know there isn’t really much they can do about it. I think they believe that when it happens they will just do what they can to deal with it. All things considered (apologies to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I wonder if that program is still on) that is probably about the best attitude any of us can have.

What bothers me most about our youth is what they don’t seem to know. I’m talking about the kinds of knowledge that will likely be very useful when things get stinky. Larding debt onto the kids so they could go to college and learn computer science, physics, art history and how to be a social justice warrior was probably to their detriment.

I don’t exactly know what would be absolutely best for them to know, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t those kinds of things. I tend to believe that it will be good to know, as examples, how to shoot, how to fish, how to tell the difference between weeds and food, how to loosen rusted bolts and how to turn hemp into rope in addition to dope.

 

 

Feb 232017
 
 February 23, 2017  Posted by at 2:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Times Square New York City, 1958

 

A few days ago, I wrote an essay entitled “Not Nearly Enough Growth To Keep Growing”, in which I posited, among many other things, that “..the Automatic Earth has said for many years that the peak of our wealth was sometime in the 1970’s or even late 1960’s” along with the question “..was America at its richest right before or right after Nixon took the country off the gold standard in 1971?”

That same day, I received an email from (very) long time Automatic Earth reader and afficionado Ken Latta, who implied he thought the peak of American wealth was even earlier. That turned into a nice conversation. I really like the way his head works to frame his words. And Ken knows what he’s talking about by grace of the fact that he was a witness to it all.

I like that he defines wealth as “best measured by the capacity to be utterly wasteful”, and the early 1960’s in America as “a golden age, overshadowed, of course, by excess hubris.”. And I wonder many of you would agree that America was at the summit of its wealth perhaps as much as 55-60 years ago?

Here’s his first mail:

Ken Latta: Ilargi, A darned good editorial, but I would like to suggest a different baseline for America’s peak wealth. As experienced by the common man, now pronounced “deplorable”.

In my humble estimation based on having been there at the time. Peak wealth occurred somewhere in the neighborhood of 1963. It was a time when the Beach Boys and their music biz competitors were making money with songs about hi-powered cars and a life of surfing waves. Working Joes bought those cars and drove them on the street. Those on the coasts spent inordinate amounts of time surfing. A lot of ordinary car buyers were committed to trading in every three years. Some of the better off even thought every two years was the way to go. We wuz feelin invincible and we enjoyed such a comfortable way of life without forcing the majority of our wimmin into wage slavery. It was a golden age, overshadowed, of course, by excess hubris.

The national perception of wealthiness was such that the Pedernales Poltroon (LBJ) felt emboldened to declare simultaneous war on Poverty and Viet-Nam. When both had finished kicking our ass, wealth was something only to be found in the future. The best and the brightest immediately set about creating ways to steal that wealth. Most of the female population faced a choice between wage slavery or more privation than they were prepared to tolerate.

So, here we are in that future with the wealth thoroughly plundered and nothing much more comforting to anticipate than a new version of iPhone. Wealth is best measured by the capacity to be utterly wasteful and today for a large segment a new phone seems to be close to the limit. As for a big segment of new car buyers, instead of trying to calculate the optimal trade-in period, many focus on hiding it from the repo man.

To which I replied:

Yeah, there’s a good argument to be made for 1963 as well. But then, the whole Woodstock thing seems similar to that, in the terms you use. The carefree and wasteful. Where did the hippies get the time to be hippies? Then again, you could argue that Woodstock was already a first protest against that very attitude. On the finance front, Nixon couldn’t pay back everyone in gold anymore, so that’s a bad sign right there. His 1971 move was born of necessity.

And Ken said:

Ken Latta: I just picked 1963 because it happened to be a significant year for me personally. I don’t think it really useful to think of peaks as being so much like a curve with zero radius. I’d really put the period of peak actual American wealth as approximately 1958 to about 1967. Being a hippy didn’t cost much and in most cases their parents could comfortably provide their essentials. Hippies weren’t opposed to working, when they needed to, and they generally existed within a sharing economy.

Yes, Nixon had no choice on closing the gold window. The rumors of Fort Knox vault being more or less empty might well be true. What we know is that in recent times we always steal the bank gold from our conquests. Somali pirates are second raters in comparison.

I suspect that an important factor behind the gold rush might have been a consequence of an MIC logistical move prior to our little Viet-Nam adventure. A huge stockpile of decommissioned WW-II bomb casings had been sold for scrap to European companies. You know since we weren’t going to fight any more non-nuke wars. The Pentagon desperately bought them back because we had very limited production capacity at the beginning of the project for rapid promotion of military officers. That must have created a pretty big pile of Eurodollars and de Gaulle seems to have preferred gold.

When Tricky closed the window we were already poor and Detroit’s new cars were almost without exception, junk. They like to credit news anchor Walter Cronkite for ending the war when he told his audience that the war couldn’t be won. I suspect we was put up to it by Washington when they could no longer ignore that it was unaffordable. It has been downhill ever since. The borgified media cooperated in obscuring that by focusing our attention on acts of petty criminals, acts of god, the Kardashian sisters and their ilk. Plus, of course, random examples of techno dazzlement.

That’s when I thought getting an article out of him would be great:

You should write an article about this. It’s the most crucial thing, and I wasn’t there. Why that period was what it was, vs not being what this one is, will be a very big story.

And he complied. So here’s Ken Latta:

 

 

Ken Latta: A recent post on The Automatic Earth contained a question regarding the point of peak wealth in The United States and whether President Nixon’s closing of the gold window initiated the decline. Being now 73 years old and still able to recall many impressions of that era, I pondered the issue to see if I might come up with a somewhat acceptable answer.

Back in the day we commonly joked that statistics lie and we have the numbers to prove it. Us having the numbers was the joke part. When it comes to concepts like wealth, I do not see numbers such as GDP as being reliable indicators. As the French and Russian revolutions revealed, a grossly unequal society is a poor society. Though it might display an image of being rich and powerful, that is only a mirage.

As was once common knowledge to most Earthlings, the 1930’s saw wealth disappear all over the world. That was the common view, but it is wrong. The social wealth was well and truly squandered during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The creeping social impoverishment just burst into public view in the 30’s. As is the custom, when poverty haunts the land barbarians will appear at the gates. And so the first half of the fifth decade was devoted to destroying as much of civilization as was deemed feasible at the time.

The USA government borrowed massive amounts of money to create the means of wreaking such havoc. There are always consequences from such actions. At the beginning of USA mobilization almost all of its industrial capacity was re-engineered and expanded to efficiently produce war materiel. The factories hummed and employed large numbers of women on the production lines. A consequence was the very limited availability of consumer goods, which were subject to rationing. With steady pay envelopes and little available to buy, lots of small denomination war bonds were sold to the populace. We might assume that some of it found its way into mattresses.

 

When peace broke out the populace had surplus cash and claims against the government. They were exuberant over victory and tired of not having anything new to enjoy. Millions of men were being discharged from the armed forces and those young factory girls wanted some babies. Those men would replace many of the women in the factories, but the factories needed to retool again to produce the consumer goods everybody wanted. Part of the new consumer demand was met by selling military surplus goods to the public. A lot of jeeps, trucks, industrial tools, materials such as steel panels for Quonset Huts and even light aircraft and cargo planes ended up in the hands of former GI Joe’s.

The Industrial Concerns gained another respite when President Truman signed an executive order declaring the USA would be forever more a permanent war economy. So outfits like Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Martin et al could keep right on producing large numbers of warplanes. Shipyards continued building aircraft carriers, submarines, etc. New versions of battle tanks rolled off the lines every few years. And of course, the nuclear devices kept getting more powerful and numerous.

Those GI Joe’s had experienced in the services a sense of brotherhood and unity in the face of us versus them. They brought those ideas into the factories and cemented the gains made by prewar union organizers. Very lucrative contracts were forced on employers and for once national wealth was being spread fairly evenly across social strata.

 


Ad for Ford Woodie, 1960

 

The working class began to feel sufficiently wealthy that they turned to indulging their fantasies and emulating as best they could the actions of the truly rich. Around the middle of the 1950’s they increasingly opted for more luxuriously appointed and/or higher performance cars and trucks than the economical versions that had been the norm for that class. Many also embraced the published suggestions that these vehicles should be traded for a new one every three years, which at that time was the standard term for auto financing.

In other words, why enjoy the net worth benefits of driving a paid for vehicle when you could enjoy the increased status of once again driving a brand new car. The propaganda was quite effective and the practice quite wasteful. They discovered the joys of power boating and over time the boats kept getting bigger and fancier. It is with much justification that this period is often described as the Golden Age. It wasn’t just that so many people were living well. It was a time when the working class seemed to have been most comfortable with their civilization. I put it down to people having full permission to be as wasteful as they wanted.

 

It could not last. The rulers filled with hubris arrogantly declared simultaneous war on poverty, Viet-Nam and the Moon. While also running a bodacious arms race with the USSR. At first it seemed to bode well for old GI Joe. The already very active military industries had to gear up to supply the weapons, munitions and materiel. Not to mention moon rockets. More good jobs to be had. But, as it turned out only the Moon war went mostly as planned. Though there were casualties. The flamboyant Gus Grissom and two crew mates were burned alive in a sealed Apollo capsule while waiting for launch. The Moon war ended with a unilateral cease fire when it was finally determined there was nothing there worth destroying. Aside from some junk scattered across the Lunar landscape, the Moon was left largely unmolested. Except for a few pounds of stolen rocks.

The other two wars unleashed a whole lot of grief across the land. GI Joe found himself looking out across a land he no longer understood. His kids had become hippies, freedom riders and flag burners. A good many had fled to Canada. The kids that failed to avoid the draft, after too many bad experiences in pursuit of an apparently phantom goal started behaving mutinously. A not entirely rare action was to slip an armed hand grenade into an officers tent. It happened to a young Marine officer who the author had met at my fiancée’s family home prior to his shipping out.

 

The Golden Age was over. Worse yet, petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert’s prediction of a peak of US oil production in the early 70’s was about to come true. Confidence began to wain and habits changed. Auto buyers increasingly focused on finding a model that might last long enough to get it paid for and be economical to operate. The door was opened for Japan and Germany to sell cars here and they soon sold a lot of them. US manufacturers fell victim to a labor force that no longer believed and management hubris.

The nation was hemorrhaging dollars to Europe, Japan and the OPEC cartel. According to the Bretton Woods agreement, those dollars were convertible to gold. Some nations, in particular France under de Gaulle, decided they wanted the gold. As the gold pile diminished, Nixon had no choice and closed the so called gold window thus breaking the Bretton Woods agreement. The subsequent creeping expansion of poverty and financial insecurity has reduced our civilization to a sullen mockery of its glory days.

The period following WW-II was anomalous for the era in that the State was encumbered with enormous debt while private debt was very modest. According to economists like Michael Hudson and Steve Keen, that is a recipe for citizen prosperity. The post war era seems to be a good example. Prior to the war state debt had been very low and private debt had swollen enormously. That ended rather badly. As Keen insists, private debt is a killer. A good reason being for example that it’s hard to repossess a government, but things like cars and houses are fairly trivial exercises.

When people see themselves as at constant risk of losing almost everything they are rarely happy campers. During the 70’s buyers and their lenders began offering ridiculous prices for houses. Car dealers often marked desirable new cars above MSRP. In the years that followed almost everything was bought on credit. To paraphrase Sen. Dirksen, a debt here a debt there after a while it turns into a real nightmare.

 

According to Dr. Hudson, in ancient Babylon credit was widely used. The principle creditors were the palace and the temple. It mostly consisted of running a tab for citizens using their services and buying supplies and typically paid when the crop came in. A practice of our small town grocer back in the 50’s. Though not for such extended periods. The custom of their civilization was, on ascension of a new king or crop failure or a war, to forgive all the palace and temple debts. This was deemed necessary to prevent too many of the population from falling into bondservitude, which would have brought down the kingdom.

In more recent times that was called a debt jubilee. It could work because most debt was owed to entities that had ultimate claims on all wealth in the domain. They could handle writing off debt without suffering bankruptcy. Private creditors, written as banksters, cannot do so unless the Palace (White House) and Temple (Federal Reserve) pay them full price for their worthless paper. In 2008 even the intellectually challenged GW Bush observed that ‘this sucker could go down’. I would never bet that it won’t go down next time, which could be most any time now. The barbarians are already wearing war paint (well actually pussy hats) and brandishing war clubs (signs on sticks). One can guess that unaccredited schools may already be training a cadre of mixologists in the proper preparation of Mr Molotov’s favorite cocktail.

It seems like a cosmic joke that Hammurabi and his ilk had better economic advisors than any of our modern meathead leadership. Of course, in his time civilization and turning wasteful practices into wealth was still a fairly new idea. It’s an old idea now apparently closing in on its pull date. I am drawn to wonder if civilization could ever have worked any other way. I’m calling it not very likely.

 

 

Jun 042016
 
 June 4, 2016  Posted by at 8:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Ali escorted to jail April 28 1967

“Boxing legend dies”, is what most headlines say. And the news was first reported on sports pages, though it did soon move to frontpages, fast.

Muhammad Ali was so much more than a boxing legend. So much more that to mention boxing first doesn’t do him justice. Ali was first and foremost a very brave and intelligent man, who changed America for the better. Or should we say: changed Americans?

He grew up in an intensely racist, segregated and divided America, and in the arguably most divided part of that America. That shaped him. Boxing was merely his way out, his way to fight discrimination and racism.

But it didn’t come easy. His was a lonely fight, for most of it. But then, he wasn’t the greatest for nothing.

The only people who stood by him were the Nation of Islam, who made him say some crazy things and from whom he later split acrimoniously; Ali wanted peace, they, not so much. Ali found he was much closer to Martin Luther King at heart. But still.

I saw some numbers flash by earlier. America’s been at war in 223 of the 240 years of its existence since 1776.

Ali refused to go. No matter what the cost. He could easily have been killed for doing it, or locked away for the rest of his life, and he knew it. But he didn’t even flinch. He would not fight the fight of those who set their dogs on his people. He would instead fight against them.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize… But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.

This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here.

I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow.

I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

(NOTE: Whether Ali ever actually said: “No Vietcong ever called me a nigger” is not entirely clear. But he did say this:)

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Whether Ali was the greatest American alive when he died a few hours ago is of course a personal view. That he was way up there is beyond dispute. And he had been there for 50 years, while he was still alive. Oh, yeah, and he was a good boxer too. And very pretty.