Aug 092020
 


Albert Kahn Paris, Autochrome Lumière color photo 1914

 

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)
What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)
Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)
SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)
Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)
Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)
No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)
Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)
Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)
US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)
Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)
Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)
George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)
West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)
Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

 

 

Weekend, so lower numbers. US new deaths were below 1,000 (976), so I lost that grpah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedge funds dollar

 

 

Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump?

COVID19 Pandemic To ‘Bring Socialism To US’, Transform The World – Taleb (RT)

In a remarkable twist, the raging coronavirus pandemic has forced even countries like the US to adopt “socialist” welfare programs, acclaimed author and risk analyst Nassim Taleb has told RT. While people spend days worrying about global wars, our biggest threats have always been the pandemics, the author of ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Skin in the Game’ told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze on her show SophieCo. Visionaries. The advent of the novel coronavirus will tremendously change societies in many ways, making them better ready for future crises, he said. “So the world will be different, wiser. But, hopefully, it will be good for peace, because people will understand tomorrow that the enemy is not some person with weapons. The enemy is that thing you don’t see: a tiny little germ you can have on top of a pencil,” the writer added.

What I think is going to happen is a transformation of economic structures to accommodate potential pandemics. Even if they never happen again, people will be prepared for them. He cited the boom of teleworking, Zoom conference calls, and online shopping as examples of people adapting to the new reality. According to Taleb, globalization would become more “guarded,” rather than disappear entirely. “The physical movement of population… would be reduced, and business travel will not be as active as we saw in the past,” he said. One of the most remarkable changes the pandemic has brought, the writer noted, was how some governments have been “extremely helpful” to citizens trapped in quarantines and lockdowns.

This touched the US as well, where a $2 trillion stimulus package was adopted in May, the largest in the nation’s history. Who would have thought that the first socialist president of the United States would be Donald Trump? He gave people universal basic income for a few months, and they took possession of companies. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is. So, the individuals got a protective net that they didn’t have before. “Mark my words, if you want a headline done – ‘Who would have expected the Covid to run both domestic and foreign policy?’, ‘Covid to bring socialism to countries like the United States,’” Taleb said.

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Yeah. No. Everyone may get this wrong or confused, but from what I can see he signed just one executive order (on payroll tax), the other three are memoranda. Details on that:

The hierarchy is: Proclamations, executive orders, presidential memoranda, presidential notices, and presidential determinations. Notices and determinations are usually required by Congress on specific issues. Authority: Under an executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy, an executive order must cite the authority the president has to issue it. That could be the constitution, or a specific statute. Presidential memoranda have no such requirement.

What’s In Trump’s Coronavirus Executive Orders (R.)

After failing to reach a deal with the U.S. Congress for a fresh round of coronavirus pandemic relief, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at pumping up America’s pandemic-hit economy. The orders are likely to face some legal challenges. Trump’s order cuts enhanced federal unemployment benefits – a lifeline for the tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work during the pandemic – from $600 to $400 per week. Democrats had been lobbying to extend the original $600 a week enhanced benefits, which expired on July 31. Trump proposes taking most of the money from the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – $44 billion, according to the order – with 25% of the money coming from states.

It’s not clear how Trump will convince state governments, whose revenues have been hard hit by the crisis, to pony up their proposed share. Trump called the reduced payments “generous.” Trump’s first order waives the payroll tax that funds Social Security in a bid to inject extra money directly into salaried employees’ pockets. Trump has been pushing the idea for a while but it has found little support in Congress from Democrats or his fellow Republicans. The executive order says the cut comes into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump said it “most likely” would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and translate into “bigger paychecks for working families.”

Trump’s order protecting homeowners and renters from evictions is unlikely to face a challenge from Democrats; indeed, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week encouraged the move. But it isn’t clear how it will be executed. The order directs authorities to provide “temporary financial assistance” to renters and homeowners “struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.” Even Trump seemed a little hazy on the order’s ultimate effects, saying “we don’t want people being evicted and the act that I am signing will solve that problem – largely, hopefully, completely.” Trump said that interest on student loan payments – frozen since March – would be suspended until the end of the year.

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“Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first..”

Russia COVID19 Vaccine Registration Expected August 12 (RT)

Moscow’s Gamelei Center could register the world’s first coronavirus vaccine on August 12, Russia’s deputy health minister has revealed. Oleg Gridnev says medical workers and the elderly will be given priority for immunization. The senior minister at the department, Mikhail Murashko, announced last week that a nationwide mass vaccination program is planned to begin in October. Murashko added that all expenses will be covered by the government. “The registration of the vaccine developed at the Gamelei Center will take place on August 12,” Gridnev told journalists in Ufa on Friday morning, as cited by RIA Novosti. “Now the last stage, the third, is underway. This is the testing part and is extremely important. We have to understand that the vaccine itself must be safe.”

The Health Ministry, in an official statement, clarified that “the documents required for registration of the vaccine developed by the Gamelei Center, including data from clinical trials, are under examination. The issue of its registration will be decided upon the results of the examination.” Clinical trials of the formula began at Moscow’s Sechenov University on June 18. In a study involving 38 volunteers, it passed safety protocols. It was observed that all those who took part developed immunity to the infection. The speed with which Russia has managed to research and approve a formula has raised some eyebrows in the West, but Vadim Tarasov, a top scientist at Sechenov, said the country had a head start as it has spent the last 20 years developing skills in this field and trying to understand how viruses transmit.

The haste is fairly easy to grasp when you consider the effect Covid-19 has had on the world’s largest country. With more than 870,000 cases, it is among the four countries worst affected by the epidemic, along with the US, Brazil, and India. Russia’s 14,725 fatalities is the 11th highest in the world, although when measured per capita, the death rate ranks 47th, below Germany, but above Austria. The technology behind the Russian vaccine is based on adenovirus, the common cold. Created artificially, the vaccine proteins replicate those of Covid-19, triggering “an immune response similar to that caused by the coronavirus itself,” Tarasov said. In other words, immunization is similar to having survived the virus, but without its life-threatening risks.

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which has bankrolled the research, last week compared the vaccine discovery process to the Space Race. “Americans were surprised when they heard Sputnik’s beeping, it’s the same with this vaccine. Russia will have got there first,” he told US TV.

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Much deadlier in men. Much deadlier than the seasonal flu.

SARS-CoV-2 Fatality Risk In A Nationwide Seroepidemiological Study (Medrxiv)

The magnitude of the infection fatality risk (IFR) of SARS-CoV-2 remains under debate. Because the IFR is the number of deaths divided by the number of infected, serological studies are needed to identify asymptomatic and mild cases. Also, because ascertainment of deaths attributable to COVID-19 is often incomplete, the calculation of the IFR needs to be complemented with data on excess mortality. We used data from a nation-wide seroepidemiological study and two sources of mortality information -deaths among laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and excess deaths- to estimate the range of IFR, both overall and by age and sex, in Spain.


The overall IFR ranged between 1.1% and 1.4% in men and 0.58% to 0.77% in women. The IFR increased sharply after age 50, ranging between 11.6% and 16.4% in men ≥80 years and between 4.6% and 6.5% in women ≥80 years. Our IFR estimates for SARS-CoV-2 are substantially greater than IFR estimators for seasonal influenza, justifying the implementation of special public health measures.

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Not the first time that the Dems cry murder over something Trump says, only to make it look like they invented it mere weeks later.

Chuck Schumer Says Schools Must Reopen Or Economy Suffers (RT)

Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a compromise on a Covid-19 economic relief bill, but one comment from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) about schools needing to reopen has some seeing hypocrisy on the left. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Schumer addressed the press after failed negotiations with Republicans on a potential relief bill. While many of their complaints about Republicans refusing to continue robust unemployment and other government programs was to be expected, one comment from Schumer went viral as it didn’t seem to match the outrage shown to President Donald Trump when he mentioned the same thing. “If you don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly,” Schumer said, “because lots of people can’t go to work.”

The president has floated the idea of fully reopening most schools in the fall despite the coronavirus pandemic, but he has found pushback with liberal critics each and every time. Schumer’s admission that not reopening schools will hurt the economy, which the president has argued, was seen as a surprising “moment of clarity” by critics on social media who latched onto the comment. The disagreement on reopening schools comes down to federal funding. Schumer and Pelosi have argued the only way to safely let kids back into the in-person education system is through major federal funding. Trump has argued that schools in hotspots for the coronavirus should be taking precautions when reopening, but the failure to add federal funding into a Covid-19 economic package has the left and right at a standstill on the issue.

Already a heated debate, it is only bound to get more heated as the country draws nearer to the dates schools would normally open their doors again. Experts have argued since schooling is a childcare issue, keeping them closed affects not only children and employees of the education system, but also parents who cannot return to work. “Because children and parents are dying from that trauma, too. They’re dying because they can’t do what they’re doing. Mothers can’t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child, and fathers,” the president told CBS News last month when asked why he considered not reopening schools a “terrible decision.”

Pelosi has argued the president is “messing” with childrens’ health and risking another outbreak of the virus with his support for reopening schools. “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus,” she told CNN. “If there are CDC guidelines, they should be requirements.”

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Oh, we’re going to have so much fun over the nest three months. And then there may be another three months needed to count the votes. Solid entertainment into Spring 2021. And Pelosi as President.

Trump Aides Exploring Executive Actions To Curb Voting By Mail (Pol.)

Just because Trump’s claims of rampant mail-in voting fraud aren’t supported by evidence doesn’t mean election experts aren’t concerned about problems holding a presidential election during a pandemic. It’s unknown whether the United States Postal Service can handle a surge of mail-in ballots in a timely fashion, and other officials have cautioned about long lines and a shortage of workers at in-person polling stations, which have been limited during the coronavirus outbreak. Some have predicted the crush of remote voting could mean a final winner in the presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t be known for days or even weeks.

Democrats are pushing for $25 billion for USPS in the next coronavirus recovery bill to help address those concerns, but it remains a source of disagreement with Republicans. There have already been some some notable delays in down-ballot elections during the pandemic, including one New York race this summer. Six weeks after a Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, all of the ballots have yet to be counted. “This is a rare case where the president is not overstating the case,” argued Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that has sued in North Carolina and Pennsylvania over the accuracy of voting rolls. “Frankly he’s understating the problem that I think we are going to face on Election Day. The system is going to break.”

The Trump campaign is holding events touting its legal actions on voting rules. And privately, the White House is debating possible further action, according to two people familiar with the situation. The White House declined to comment on whether Trump would be signing an executive order on the issue. “All Americans deserve an election system that is secure and President Trump is highlighting that Democrats’ plan for universal mail-in voting would lead to fraud,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. “While Democrats continue to call for a radical overhaul of our nation’s voting system, President Trump will continue to work to ensure the security and integrity of our elections.”

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It’s just like a biblical jubilee.

No Payment, No Problem: Bizarre New World of Consumer Debt (WS)

The New York Fed released a doozie of a household credit report. It summarized what individual lenders have been reporting about their own practices: If you can’t make the payments on your mortgage, auto loan, credit card debt, or student loan, just ask for a deferral or forbearance, and you won’t have to make the payments, and the loan won’t count as delinquent if it wasn’t delinquent before. And even if it was delinquent before, you can “cure” a delinquency by getting the loan deferred and modified. No payment, no problem. Student loan borrowers were automatically rolled into forbearance under the CARES Act, and even though many students had stopped making payments, delinquency rates plunged because the Department of Education had decided to report as “current” all those loans that are in forbearance, even if they were delinquent. Yup, according to New York Fed data, the delinquency rate of student loan borrowers, though many had stopped making payments, plunged from 10.75% in Q1, to 6.97% in Q2, the lowest since 2007:

Student loan forbearance is available until September 30, and interest is waived until then, instead of being added to the loan. In a blog post, the New York Fed said that 88% of the student-loan borrowers, including private-loan borrowers and Federal Family Education Loan borrowers, had a “scheduled payment of $0,” meaning that at least 88% of the student loans were in some form of forbearance. Until September 30. And then what? And because delinquencies in student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and mortgages are being “cured” by putting the loans in deferral programs and modifying the delinquent loans, they become “current” loans even though no catch-up payments have been made.


Still, about 32 million people are claiming unemployment insurance. A much smaller employment shock during the Financial Crisis caused the percentage of delinquent loan balances to soar, and the percentage of “current” loan balances to plunge, to bottom out at 88% in Q4 2009. Not this time. As the percentage of delinquent loan balances fell, the percentage of “current” loan balances jumped to 96.4%, a record high in the New York Fed’s data going back to 2003. Yup, crazy world. Ally Financial reported in its 10-Q filing with the SEC for the second quarter that about 21% of its auto-loan customers were enrolled in its deferral program where they don’t have to make payments for 120 days. “The vast majority of our loan deferrals for customers in the program are scheduled to expire by the end of August 2020,” it said. And then what?

Lenders like these types of programs because they can kick the can of delinquencies down the road, and instead they have “performing loans” for which they can accrue interest which makes their investors happy, even though the customers don’t make any interest or principal payments. Bank regulators normally get nervous about deferral programs. But it appears that bank regulators have been told the shelter at home until further notice. Across all lenders, about 5.9% of the $1.34 trillion in auto loans – so close to $80 billion – are in forbearance, according to the New York Fed. And as a result, borrowers who cannot make the payment, don’t have to make it, and their loans are still deemed “current,” and the percentage of auto loans that are newly delinquent dropped to 6.29%, a record low in the data – while during the last crisis, the delinquent balances were above 10% for nearly two years:

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Yes, they’re censoring TV networks now. Scary. So is this: when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules.

Social Media Imposing Modern-Day ‘Hays Code’ On Political Speech (RCP)

Social media companies continued to assert their power over the political sphere this week, with Twitter temporarily suspending the Trump campaign’s ability to post until it removed a clip of a Fox News interview with the president regarding COVID-19. When the Democratic National Committee reposted the video to debunk it, Twitter similarly banned the DNC from tweeting until it too deleted the footage. With Twitter seemingly unbothered by the implications of suspending a presidential campaign’s account just 12 weeks before the election, what might the future hold as control of our public squares is increasingly centralized?

Twitch became the first social media platform to formally suspend a presidential candidate’s account this past June when it deleted two of President Trump’s campaign rally videos for violations of its “hateful conduct” rules. In doing so, it emphasized the divide between physical and virtual campaigning. At an in-person rally a candidate can present the policy proposals he or she believes supporters want. Virtual rallies, however, are policed by an army of moderators enforcing ever-changing acceptable speech policies, forcing politicians to self-censor or risk deletion from the online world that increasingly shapes elections.

In the case of this week’s ban, the story is all the more remarkable because the video in question was actually a cable TV interview with the nation’s leader, meaning that social platforms were in effect banning a major news organization’s reporting. As news is increasingly consumed through social media, the upshot is that the online platform’s acceptable speech rules are being applied to traditional news outlets. Additionally, rather than link the video to an outside fact check, Facebook simply deleted it as “a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation” while Twitter forced the campaign to delete the post as a “violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation.” Both companies cited as the offending statement Trump’s claim that children have “much stronger immune systems” than adults and thus “they don’t have a problem” when infected.

While oversimplifying, Trump’s claims are not that far removed from those of CDC Director Robert Redfield and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have cited the pathogen’s significantly reduced severity in children in their calls to safely reopen schools this fall. While more measured than the “immunity” claimed by Trump, the gist of his statement — that COVID-19’s impact on children appears to be less severe than its effect on older Americans — aligns with the public statements of his medical advisers. Moreover, when Elon Musk tweeted in March that “kids are essentially immune,” Twitter clarified that his tweet did not violate its COVID-19 rules. To this date, Musk’s tweet carries no warnings or fact-checking statements from Twitter refuting it or adding additional context to his claims.

In many ways, social media platforms have become modern-day incarnations of the Hays Code that governed Hollywood from the 1930s to 1960s, establishing “morality” standards and enforcing them with an army of censors. By shaping popular culture through its control of movies, the Hays Code ensured that generations of Americans were presented an idealized world of benevolent public institutions, including police and politicians whose good works were spotlighted and any wrongdoing was punished. Moreover, as an extrajudicial speech regulation, studios could modify the rules and exempt content at will, much as social platforms do today.

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And the censoring power will only get more centralized, unless politics calls a halt to it. But then there’s always the strong links to intelligence services.

Twitter Reportedly Joins Growing List Of Potential TikTok Suitors (ZH)

The ideological battle over the fate of TikTok is provoking fist fights in the Oval Office, and a scramble among the country’s biggest tech firms to see if they might be able to come up with a workable pitch that would allow them to win approval to buy the US operations (along with New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and possibly more) of the popular Chinese-owned social media platform – the only real obstacle to a deal at a time when corporate credit is essentially free. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the app, which the Trump Administration is threatening to shut down in the US over fears of a “national security threat” (Chinese law forces all Chinese companies to cooperate with state security forces, provoking fears that ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, might be compelled to set up a pipeline of Americans’ private information straight to Beijing), has become perhaps the biggest political football at a time of intense strain in the bilateral relationship.

But amid the chaos and the geopolitical posturing of the leaders of the world’s two largest economies, America’s tech giants apparently see an opportunity, however unlikely, to circumvent opposition to further tech-industry mergers and seal what very well might be the last major merger in the industry for quite some time. And with the world headed into a period of protracted slowdown, companies might as well take advantage of the free money, and lock in that future EPS growth while they can. Since anti-trust scrutiny is such a hot issue in the world of big tech right now, it seems every company that has reportedly engaged in “talks” about the prospects for a deal has a reason for why it might assuage regulators and lawmakers and convince both Congress and the White House to agree to the deal.

Being the smallest of the three major companies rumored to be potential suitors, Twitter obviously has the best case from a purely anti-trust standpoint (although it seems reporters keep coming up with excuses for why Microsoft or Facebook could still make it work). Plus, Twitter’s comparatively tiny $29 billion market cap means it would likely need help from outside investors – a great opportunity for Sequoia and the other big VC firms who backed ByteDance who reportedly were in talks about a deal to bring TikTok into the US under their purview. The deal would have valued TikTok at $50 billion, according to unconfirmed reports.

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How awful! Let’s do something!

US To Cut Troop Levels In Afghanistan To ‘Less Than 5,000’ – Esper (R.)

The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, adding detail to drawdown plans U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week. The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan. Trump said in an interview released Monday by Axios that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.

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Hey! You’re not driving enough! Want to collapse the economy or something?

Oil Giants Cut Production By 1 Million bpd Amid Massive Writedowns (R.)

The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand. The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30% worldwide, and still remains below pre-pandemic levels. Several executives said they took massive writedowns because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 people.


Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing re-evaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20% or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves. By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to re-center its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas. Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs. “It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

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Isn’t he also interfering by NOT investigating Burisma, Hunter and the clip where Joe Biden brags about blackmailing Poroshenko into firing a prosecutor?

Zelensky Says Ukraine Staying Out Of US Internal Politics, Elections (R.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that it was a matter of Ukraine’s national security to stay out of U.S. internal politics, particularly its election. “#Ukraine did not and will not allow itself to interfere in the elections and thus harm our trusting and sincere partnership with the #USA,” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday. Zelenskiy, 42, was a comic actor when he won a landslide election last year. But the first year of his presidency was overshadowed by Ukraine’s unwitting involvement in events that led to the impeachment of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had unsuccessfully pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.


“Never, under any circumstances, it’s acceptable to meddle in another country’s sovereign elections,” Zelenskiy wrote. Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainian politicians to avoid any actions that could be linked to U.S. elections, nor allow themselves to try to solve any of their personal, political or business problems that way. “Ukraine’s reputation is worth much more than the reputation of any of our politicians,” the president said.

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“It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us..”

Hard to read that with a straight face, let alone for him to say it.

George W. Bush Laid the Groundwork for Today’s Immigration Nightmare (MPN)

George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has announced he is releasing a new book called “Out of Many, One” which will celebrate America’s diversity and immigrant populations. “Our immigrant heritage has enriched America’s history. It continues to shape our society. Each generation of Americans — of immigrants — brings a renewal to our national character and adds vitality to our culture. Newcomers have a special way of appreciating the opportunities of America, and when they seize those opportunities, our whole nation benefits,” the former president said. The book, scheduled for release in March 2021 will feature 43 images of immigrants, painted by Bush himself [..]

“While I recognize that immigration can be an emotional issue, I reject the premise that it is a partisan issue. It is perhaps the most American of issues, and it should be one that unites us,” he said in a press release. “My hope is that this book will help focus our collective attention on the positive impacts that immigrants are making on our country.” With immigration becoming an increasingly hot partisan issue, the move celebrating the practice is the latest in a series of actions that Bush has taken to distance himself from the current Republican president. Both Bush and his father claimed they did not vote for Trump in 2016, leading to delight from many Democrats. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example, yearned for a by-gone age, admitting to wishing Bush were still president, even though at the time she described him as a “total failure” in every aspect of governing.

[..] Bush bragged about greatly increasing the U.S.’ detention capacity for immigrants, using drones to patrol the area, and building 700 hundred miles of fencing and wall, which served as a stepping stone to Trump’s border plans. The increasingly militarized border mirrored the increasingly hostile rhetoric towards immigrants that dominated the Republican Party today. Bush is no stranger to covering controversial topics in his art. In 2017, he released a similar bestselling book called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.” In it, he painted dozens of fallen American servicemen, all of whom died fighting in wars he started under false pretenses and has expressed no remorse for doing so. Neither Bush nor the great number of outlets who praised the book appeared at all interested in Middle Eastern victims of his policy.

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A Trojan horse in the 2020’s.

West’s Favorite Hong Kong ‘Freedom Writer’ Is American In Yellowface (GZ)

An American man with ties to Amnesty International and key Hong Kong separatist figures has been posing online as a Hong Kong native named Kong Tsung-gan. Routinely cited as a grassroots activist and writer by major media organizations and published in English-language media, the fictitious character Kong appears to have been concocted to disseminate anti-China propaganda behind the cover of yellowface. Through Kong Tsung-gan’s prolific digital presence and uninterrogated reputation in mainstream Western media, he disseminates a constant stream of content hyping up the Hong Kong “freedom struggle” while clamoring for the US to turn up the heat on China.


Whispers about Kong’s true identity have been circulating on social media among Hong Kong residents, and was even mentioned in a brief account last December by The Standard. The Grayzone spoke to several locals outraged by a deceptive stunt they considered not only unethical, but racist. They said they have kept their views to themselves due to the atmosphere of intimidation looming over the city, where self-styled “freedom fighters” harass and target seemingly anyone who speaks out publicly against them.

The Twitter user Kong Tsung-gan (@KongTsungGan) first appeared in March 2015. Kong Tsung-gan’s earliest tweets featured commentary about Tibet and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. At some point, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to a black-and-white headshot of an unknown Asian person. A search of the Wayback Machine internet archive shows that this photo remained up until sometime in late 2019. Later, Kong changed his Twitter avatar to an image depicting Liu Xia, the wife of the late Nobel Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo was a right-wing ideologue who celebrated the US wars on Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and was rewarded with the 2014 Democracy Award by the National Endowment for Democracy – the favorite meddling machine of the US government.


[..] At around the time he created his Twitter account, Kong Tsung-gan published his first Medium post. He has since filled his Medium feed with protest timelines, lists of recommended human rights books and journalism (including a link to the questionable China “expert” Adrian Zenz), and “first-hand accounts” of his protest experiences on the ground. In one account, Kong Tsung-gan claimed he attended a Band 1 government school, implying he was a native Hong Kong resident. Kong’s work has been amplified by Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong protest poster-boy who has enjoyed photo-ops with neoconservative Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton.

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Rich eat poor everywhere.

Solidarity with the Germans (Varoufakis)

A recent study has confirmed that half of Germany’s population owns just 1.5% of the country’s wealth, while the top 0.1% own 20%. And inequality is getting worse. During the last two decades, the real disposable income of the poorest 50% has been falling while that of the top 1% has been rising fast, along with house and share prices. It is against this background of high and rising inequality that the mood of the German public must be understood, in particular popular resistance to the idea of a eurozone fiscal union. German workers, who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, understandably refuse to endorse the idea of huge amounts of money being constantly channeled to citizens of other countries. The fact that Germany is getting richer overall is irrelevant to them.

From experience, they know that any money sent to Italy or Greece will probably come from them, not the top 0.1% – not to mention that it will probably end up in the pockets of vile Greek oligarchs, or of private German companies that have purchased Greek assets for next to nothing. As a result, the European Union’s recently agreed €750 billion ($880 billion) pandemic recovery fund, dubbed Next Generation EU, threatens to deepen divisions across Europe, rather than being the unifying balm of many commentators’ dreams. Setting aside the scheme’s macroeconomic insignificance, it is important to take a fresh look at it from the perspective of a typical German worker languishing among the bottom 50% of the country’s wealth distribution.

Her government, a typical German worker is told, will be liable for €100 billion of new debt that the EU will use to help foreigners recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. “Italians will receive €80 billion from Europe’s Recovery Fund,” she hears. “Spaniards will collect €78 billion, and even the Greeks will pocket €23 billion.” And what will she get? Less than nothing. Because her government is already in fiscal consolidation mode, trying to return its budget to a small surplus by 2021, she can expect only stagnant wages and more austerity for her local hospitals, schools, roads, and other infrastructure.1 While she may well feel compassion to the Italians and Spaniards, who lost so many people to COVID-19, she will never accept repeating this exercise in debt mutualization on behalf of southern or East Europeans. The solidarity of German workers, toward whom no one shows any solidarity, has its limits – as it should.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Couple on a bench 1943

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More from yesterdays’ “Law experts”:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pelosi Says Impeachment Inquiry Is About Russia, Not Ukraine

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

 

 

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Nov 202019
 
 November 20, 2019  Posted by at 7:35 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The resurrection of Christ 1639

 

Man, I don’t want to do this but I get drawn back in all the time. I haven’t followed the latest episode of the Schiffwives of DC live today, I wasn’t behind my laptop, but I did make a bunch of notes on my phone and mailed them to myself. And all the time I’m thinking: we do remember how this all started, don’t we?

Ukrainegate got started on the premise that Trump wanted to hurt Joe Biden for the 2020 election. But what we see today from Gordon Sondland, and before from Taylor, Volker, Vindman, et al, goes back to spring/summer 2019, a year and a half before the election. Isn’t that premise at least a little bit flimsy, then?

Yeah, Joe Biden was leading in the Dems polls earlier this year, but there are now 28 candidates if I’m not mistaken, and Biden is not shoe-in for the nomination. So is Trump playing the same kinds of games he’s accused of playing with Biden with a handful of others, Bernie, Warren, Buttigieg? How much of this makes sense to you?

Tyler Durden earlier today said something to the effect that Sondland was supposed to be the BIG ONE, but that Taylor, Volker, Vindman were previously going to be just that as well, and turned out not to be. And that reminded me of Russiagate, in which every week or even day there were announcements of this is the BIG ONE, and we all know where that went: Robert Mueller turned out to be America’s biggest loser in decades.

So isn’t it perhaps a reasonable assumption (just as Trump targeting Biden for 2020 is also merely an assumption for now) that what Trump was looking for is fact finding about what happened in 2016? See, I would think it IS reasonable. We’re talking assumptions, not facts, no matter how much either side wants to believe their view is the BIG ONE.

And sure, I’ll admit that I have trouble believing that Trump wanted to hit Biden because of 2020, and I find it more credible that he wanted to figure out what happened in 2016, if only because that is what -perhaps indirectly, but still- led to the Mueller investigation and him being investigated from even before he took office.

And, this is again me speaking for myself, I don’t find Joe Biden’s line that “nothing has ever been proven” about him, his son Hunter and Burisma, particularly strong, because there’s never been an investigation. Or, rather, if we may believe former Ukraine prosecutors, investigations were shut down more than once.

In that light, how crazy exactly is/was it for Trump to ask Zelensky for such an investigation? Only Ukraine can do that, it’s not like the FBI can, or at least not officially. Biden/Burisma/Ukraine warrants an investigation, and saying no such thing should happen because “nothing has ever been proven” is the -apple- cart before the horse. So why are they trying to sell us the idea that Trump wanting to find this out is close to Judas betraying Jesus?

 

As I said, I was following proceedings on my phone earlier, and this headline from the Guardian stuck out: “Sondland’s Bombshell Testimony Blows Holes In Trump’s Ukraine Defence”. And that was after I read Tyler Durden quoting Michael Every at Rabobank:

“Impeachment rumbles on in the US, and while one’s reading of events depends on one’s political leanings, an objective analysis shows very little damage being done to Trump so far.”

And I thought: yeah, not damage to Trump, but what about to the nation? Here are two quotes form BBC and Guardian “live commentaries” on the Sondland testimony. Because these things change on the fly, it’s not much use adding URL’s. But just read them and tell me what you think. Note that both news outlets are strongly anti-Trump.

Sondland put two and two together and figured out the military aid was conditioned on the investigations, he said: “President Trump never told me directly that the military aid was conditioned on the investigations,” Sondland said, but Giuliani said “the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meetings.” That contradicts Bill Taylor testimony about the nature of the quid pro quo, that Sondland told Taylor that Trump demanded investigations for aid. But “I never heard from president Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of elections [sic],” Sondland says. 


Now Sondland is talking about a phone conversation in which Trump told him there was no quid pro quo. Earlier Sondland had said he took the president at his word. Now Sondland is saying he and everyone else knew there was a clear quid pro quo.  Sondland said after “frantic emails to me and to others about the security assistance” from ambassador Bill Taylor, Sondland called Trump and asked, “what do you want from Ukraine… what do you want?”
It was a very short abrupt conversation, he was not in a good mood. He said I want nothing, I want nothing, there’s no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.”

 

And then this, I don’t remember if it was BBC or Guardian, but what’s the difference anyway?:

 

Vice president Mike Pence’s office denies that the scene with Sondland in Warsaw happened. From Pence chief of staff Marc Short, per @maggieNYT: “Marc Short responds to Sondland: “The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations…”


1/ “Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened…” 2/ “Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting”.

 

Presumption, assumptions, interpretations and “I thought (or I was sure) he meant” are not facts. They are what they are: personal reflections on what someone thought they had observed. They mean zilch in a court of law. or rather, they are not the kind of thing that can get someone convicted: witnesses in a court room may say what they think happened, but no judge or jury can convict based solely on that.

You need evidence. You need the body. You need the weapon. You need the BIG ONE. But Sondland, like all witnesses before him thus far, doesn’t have the BIG ONE. Or it would have been presented by now, either by him or by Adam Schiff. How many more of these supposed witnesses are we going to have to listen to in the Schiff theater?

I fully agree with people who say Schiff himself should be sworn in and conduct his theatrics under oath. Presently, he can say what he wants, accuse Trump of whatever he wants, and he can never be held to account for any of it. As he attempts to hold Trump accountable for a myriad of things that a myriad of civil servants “think” he meant to say or do. The playing field must be leveled. This is not a fair game.

Moreover, do remember that this whole impeachment thing must go to the Senate to get any real meaning; until it does it’s just a circus in which the clowns – or any of the animals- cannot be held to account. And the crows will insist that Jumbo did it. But, you know, that’s still just Disney, it’s entertainment.

 

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Nov 012019
 
 November 1, 2019  Posted by at 8:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Salvador Dali Landscape near Cadaques 1921

 

‘Nothing Illegal In Trump-Zelensky Call’ – NSC’s Tim Morrison (ZH)
Voters In Key Battleground States Oppose Impeachment (ZH)
Debunking Some Of The Ukraine Scandal Myths (Solomon)
The Two Democrats Who Voted ‘No’ On The Impeachment Inquiry Resolution (CNN)
Telling the Truth Has Become an Anti-American Act (PCR)
Trump’s Antiwar Speech Deserved A Better Reception (Sjursen)
QE Has Radically Changed The Nature Of The West’s Financial System (Saker)
Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole (Denninger)
Workington Man (George Galloway)
11 Years Ago Today Satoshi Nakamoto Published the Bitcoin White Paper (CT)

 

 

Well, that deflated fast. On the very day the House votes for the Dems’ resolution, the long awaited savior says nothing was wrong. This literally happened at the same time. Rep Jim Jordan said he had to leave the hearing to go vote on the resolution.

Now we have three people that Bill Taylor claimed to quote last week, contradicting what he said. There’s Volker, there’s Sondland, and now Tim Morisson. I think we call this ‘reaching’, and we find it ugly.

Mind you, others, like Reuters, claim Morrison fully agreed with Taylor. But really, he said something entirely different.

‘Nothing Illegal In Trump-Zelensky Call’ – NSC’s Tim Morrison (ZH)

A top National Security Council official who was present on a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Volodomyr Zelensky, Tim Morrison, told House investigators on Thursday that he does not believe anything illegal was discussed, according to The Federalist. “I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” said Tim Morrison, former NSC Senior Director for European Affairs who was on the July 25 call between the two leaders. Morrison also testified that the transcript of the phone call which was declassified and released by the White House “accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call.”


“Morrison testified that Ukrainian officials were not even aware that certain military funding had been delayed by the Trump administration until late August 2019, more than a month after the Trump-Zelensky call, casting doubt on allegations that Trump somehow conveyed an illegal quid pro quo demand during the July 25 call. “I have no reason to believe the Ukrainians had any knowledge of the [military funding] review until August 28, 2019,” Morrison said. That is the same day that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chief anti-Trump inquisitor in the U.S. House of Representatives, disclosed on Twitter that funding had been held up. Politico also published a story that day, sourced to anonymous leaks, that military funding had been temporarily held up.” -The Federalist

Read more …

“..in these states where the election is really going to be fought, we’re seeing that voters oppose impeachment, and there’s an intensity to that opposition.”

Voters In Key Battleground States Oppose Impeachment (ZH)

New polling from several 2020 battleground states reveal that more people oppose than support using impeachment to remove President Trump from office, according to The Hill, which describes the results as “a potential danger sign for Democrats.” Voters in Wisconsin and Florida – two key states which Trump won in 2016, oppose impeachment. Of note, Wisconsin turned red for the first time in decades, while Florida flipped red again after Obama won the state twice. In the swing states of Arizona and New Hampshire, most voters similarly oppose impeachment.

“A New York Times–Siena College battlegrounds poll released Wednesday found that majorities in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida oppose removing the president from office through impeachment. Majorities or pluralities do support an investigation of Trump, however. Trump’s reelection campaign is emboldened by the polling, which it believes shows that Democrats are running against public opinion in the states that matter the most. “-The Hill. “We’ve known for a long time that everybody in California and New York want Trump to be impeached, they’ve wanted that since the day he came into office,” one Trump campaign official told The Hill, adding “But in these states where the election is really going to be fought, we’re seeing that voters oppose impeachment, and there’s an intensity to that opposition.”

Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight’s impeachment polls tracker reveals that 51% of voters across the country support the House impeachment inquiry vs. 42% who don’t support it. 47.6% of voters support impeaching and removing Trump vs. 43.4% who oppose it. According to the report, “some Republicans believe those surveys are overly weighted by left-leaning independents in states that won’t matter in 2020” – a theory which may hold water given the polling in swing states.

Read more …

Sometimes we get the impression John Solomon is the only person out there who knows the facts. And cares about them.

Debunking Some Of The Ukraine Scandal Myths (Solomon)

There is a long way to go in the impeachment process, and there are some very important issues still to be resolved. But as the process marches on, a growing number of myths and falsehoods are being spread by partisans and their allies in the news media. The early pattern of misinformation about Ukraine, Joe Biden and election interference mirrors closely the tactics used in late 2016 and early 2017 to build the false and now-debunked narrative that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin colluded to hijack the 2016 election. Facts do matter. And they prove to be stubborn evidence, even in the midst of a political firestorm. So here are the facts (complete with links to the original materials) debunking some of the bigger fables in the Ukraine scandal.

Myth: There is no evidence the Democratic National Committee sought Ukraine’s assistance during the 2016 election. The Facts: The Ukrainian embassy in Washington confirmed to me this past April that a Democratic National Committee contractor named Alexandra Chalupa did, in fact, solicit dirt on Donald Trump and Paul Manafort during the spring of 2016 in hopes of spurring a pre-election congressional hearing into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The embassy also stated Chalupa tried to get Ukraine’s president at the time, Petro Poroshenko, to do an interview on Manafort with an American investigative reporter working on the issue. The embassy said it turned down both requests.

Myth: There is no evidence that Ukrainian government officials tried to influence the American presidential election in 2016. The Facts: There are two documented episodes involving Ukrainian government officials’ efforts to influence the 2016 American presidential election. The first occurred in Ukraine, where a court last December ruled that a Parliamentary member and a senior Ukrainian law enforcement official improperly tried to influence the U.S. election by releasing financial records in spring and summer 2016 from an investigation into Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lobbying activities. The publicity from the release of the so-called Black Ledger documents forced Manafort to resign.

Myth: The allegation that Joe Biden tried to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian gas firm employer has been debunked, and there is no evidence the ex-vice president did anything improper. The Facts: Joe Biden is captured on videotape bragging about his effort to strong-arm Ukraine’s president into firing Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Biden told a foreign policy group in early 2018 that he used the threat of withholding $1 billion in U.S. aid to Kiev to successfully force Shokin’s firing. It also is not in dispute that at the time he forced the firing, the vice president’s office knew Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings, the company where Hunter Biden worked as a board member and consultant.

Team Biden was alerted to the investigation in a December 2015 New York Times article. The unresolved question is what motivated Joe Biden to seek Shokin’s ouster. Biden says he took the action solely because the U.S. and Western allies believed Shokin was ineffective in fighting corruption. Shokin told me, ABC News and others that he was fired because Joe Biden was unhappy that the Burisma investigation was not shut down. He made similar statements in an affidavit prepared to be filed in an European court. You can read that affidavit here.

[..] Myth: Ukraine’s investigation into Burisma Holdings was no longer active when Joe Biden forced Shokin’s firing in March 2016. The Facts: This is one of the most egregiously false statements spread by the media. Ukraine’s official case file for Burisma Holdings, provided to me by prosecutors, shows there were two active investigations into the gas firm and its founder Mykola Zlochevsky in early 2016, one involving corruption allegations and the other involving unpaid taxes. In fact, Shokin told me in an interview he was making plans to interview Burisma board members, including Hunter Biden, at the time he was fired.

Read more …

Well, they must be shamed then. CNN does the honors.

The Two Democrats Who Voted ‘No’ On The Impeachment Inquiry Resolution (CNN)

Two Democrats broke from their party and voted against the resolution the House passed Thursday formalizing the procedures of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Reps. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota both voted “nay” on the historic resolution. They also voted against going forward with resolution during the preliminary procedural vote. The resolution passed with a vote of 232-196. Their votes are no surprise as both were initially part of a group of Democrats who have not made public statements in support of starting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump or have only posited conditional support for it. They also represent districts where Trump won in 2016.


No Republicans supported the resolution. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who is an independent and left the Republican party earlier this year, voted in favor. Van Drew said he believes the inquiry will “further divide the country” without bipartisan support. “Without bipartisan support I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate,” he said in a statement after the vote on Thursday. “However, now that the vote has taken place and we are moving forward I will be making a judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations. My hope is that we are still able to get some work done to help the American people like infrastructure, veterans’ benefits, environmental protections, immigration reform, reducing prescription drug cost, and strengthening Social Security.”

Read more …

“..the state of tension today between the United States and Russia is more dangerous than during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union..”

Telling the Truth Has Become an Anti-American Act (PCR)

Stephen Cohen and I emphasize that the state of tension today between the United States and Russia is more dangerous than during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. For calling needed attention to the risk of nuclear war heightened by the current state of tension, both Cohen and I have been called “Russian dupes/agents” by PropOrNot, a website suspected of being funded by an element of the US military/security complex.

Cohen and I emphasize that during the Cold War both sides were working to reduce tensions and to build trust. President John F. Kennedy worked with Khruschev to defuse the dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis. President Richard Nixon made arms control agreements with the Soviet leaders, as did President Jimmy Carter. President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev worked together to end the Cold War. President George H.W. Bush’s administration gave assurances to Gorbachev that if the Soviets agreed to the renunification of Germany, the US would not move NATO one inch to the East.

These accomplishments were all destroyed by the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama neoconized regimes. President Donald Trump’s intention to normalize US/Russian relations has been blocked by the US military/security complex, presstitute media, and Democratic Party. The Russiagate hoax and currently the illegitimate impeachment process have succeeded in preventing any reduction in the dangerous state of tensions between the two nuclear powers. Those of us who lived and fought the Cold War are acutely aware of the numerous occasions when false warnings of incoming ICBMs and other moments of high tension could have resulted in nuclear Armageddon.

Read more …

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major. “let’s review some of the sensible things Trump said in the meat of his speech, nuggets of earthy wisdom that this forever war veteran, for one, wishes Trump would follow through on…

Trump’s Antiwar Speech Deserved A Better Reception (Sjursen)

There were parts of President Trump’s latest speech on Syria, which, if read without the sound of The Donald’s gruff, bombastic voice, sounded a whole lot like Bernie Sanders might’ve delivered it. That’s right, sandwiched between Trump’s standard braggadocio about how he single-handedly secured “a better future for Syria and for the Middle East,” and his cynical pivot to decry his opponents’ supposed desire to accept “unlimited migration from war-torn regions” across the U.S. border, was one of the strongest blasts of antiwar rhetoric delivered by a sitting U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower.

If any other president—think Obama—or major liberal political figure had spoken so clearly against endless war and so poignantly diagnosed the current American disease of military hyper-interventionism, CNN and MSNBC would’ve gushed about Nobel Peace Prizes. It must be said, of course, that Trump has hardly governed according to these peacenik proclamations—he has, after all added more troops in the region, especially in Saudi Arabia, and merely reshuffled the soldiers from Syria across the border to Iraq. Nevertheless, even if the president’s actions don’t match his words, the words themselves remain important, especially from a 21st century, post-9/11 commander in chief.

No doubt, Trump’s partial withdrawal from Syria was initially clumsy, and it’s extremely difficult to parse out any sort of coherent doctrine in his muddled Mideast policy. Reducing troop levels in Syria isn’t much of an accomplishment if it’s followed, as it might be, by a shift toward drumming up or executing a Saudi/Israeli-pressured war with Iran. Still, the speech, though problematic in several areas, deserved a fairer reception from the corporate media establishment.

Beyond the intellectual dishonesty of some press outlets’ displays of reflexive anti-Trumpism, there’s the salient fact that none of the president’s critics have proposed a practical, long-term alternative strategy for the U.S. military in Northeast Syria. Crocodile tears for the Kurds are naught but a cynical cudgel with which to attack the president; there was never any established plan to permanently carve out a viable Kurdish statelet in Syria, or serious weighing of the military, diplomatic and economic costs of such an endeavor. So, since none of the mainstream networks were willing to do it, let’s review some of the sensible things Trump said in the meat of his speech, nuggets of earthy wisdom that this forever war veteran, for one, wishes Trump would follow through on…

Read more …

“..once artificial demand is no longer being fabricated then these assets will plummet in value, with huge ripple effects in the “real” economy.”

QE Has Radically Changed The Nature Of The West’s Financial System (Saker)

Because they are so ensconsed in their little bubble and because they profit so much from maintaining the status quo, Western mainstream media pundits don’t – or perhaps can’t – admit how Quantitative Easing policies have so quickly and so radically changed the financial system of the West and their satellites. I imagine that most everyone reading this is already aware of what has transpired economically across the West over the last decade: • Elite-class asset (stuff rich people own – stocks, real estate, financial derivatives, luxury goods, etc.) prices have ballooned to pre-2008 levels • Debt (which is, of course, another elite-owned asset), mainly to pay for banker bailouts and their usurious interest levels, has ballooned national accounts to incredible levels. • The “real” economy has only weakened, as proven by endemic low economic growth across the West and Japan.


As a pro-socialist who has no faith that capitalism seeks anything but inequality, I believe that creating and compounding these issues has been the unstated goal of Western policy over the last decade. But that’s not the main point: what cannot be denied is that those ARE the economic results of the West’s “easy money” policies – i.e., QE and ZIRP (Zero percent interest rate policy) for the 1%, and austerity for the 99% (all coins have two sides). Similarly, I imagine that everyone reading this is generally aware of what will happen should the West stop easy money: obviously, once artificial demand is no longer being fabricated then these assets will plummet in value, with huge ripple effects in the “real” economy. The West will be right back to dealing with most of the same toxic assets they had back in 2007, but now compounded by a decade of more debt, more interest payments, and a “real” economy which was made weaker via austerity.

Read more …

Somone in the Comments linked to Karl Denninger. Been a long time. And Karl once again describes the obvious:

Fed Has Shovel, Digs Bigger Hole (Denninger)

You and your wife own a small, 2 bedroom “starter” house. You decide to have a family. You need a bigger house. Your house has gone up in value by 50% over the last 10 years. Good, right? Wrong! The new, larger house has gone up by the same percentage; in dollars it’s gone up by much more! 50% of $100,000 is $50,000. But 50% of $200,000 is $100,000! Not only that but the property taxes have gone up by that same 50% and they’re due every year forevermore into the future and, what’s worse, the interest is due on the loan too. So you say “well but I sell the $150,000 house and made $50k!”


Ah, Grasshopper, but the $200,000 house is now $300,000, and you only have $150k! You got ****ed out of another $50,000; if there had been no price change your net requirement was another $100,000. It’s now another $150,000 instead! SURPRISE! Of course the Realtor loves this because 6% of $300,000 is 50% more money than 6% of $200,000. And the bank loves it too because they to charge a percentage interest on the principal, MSRs are typically computed not on a “dollars per loan” but as a percentage and similar. The insurance company loves you too, because the higher “value” means premiums go up, since if the house burns or is hit by a tornado the loss is higher. And the city loves it because millage is just a fancy word for percentage and they get it every year.

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“George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator.”

Workington Man (George Galloway)

Britain’s liberal europhiles, still convinced that they lost the Brexit vote because ‘Workington Men’ are too old and stupid to appreciate their virtues, would rather euthanize them from the ballot box. That political discourse has coarsened during this century can scarcely be gainsaid. The availability of the means to insult people without looking them in the eyes, to slander without much fear of legal retribution, has emboldened the most egregious slurs and stereotypes. The British General Election has only just begun and a new stereotype – ‘Workington Man’ – has been produced by the spin-doctors as the microcosm of swing-vote Britain.

Predictably, it is a ‘he’ (he has no wife, daughters, sisters or mother, apparently), is northern working class and has no university education. Speaking as a northern working class male with no university education myself, I can well understand the sting of the assumption that we are thick, probably racist, and voted for Brexit. The meme that Brexit voters – all 17.4 million of us – are Workington Men, much loved by liberal Europhiles, has spread mightily over the three years since the Brexit referendum, when the best guess of the defeated party – like the Clintonites before them – was that they lost because we were too stupid to appreciate their virtues.

But another meme out of the very same stable is that we – the Brexit-supporting, economically radical, socially ‘conservative’ voters – are ‘Old.’ Full disclosure: I am 65 but I have four children under 12, so not quite typical. It is offensive to be described as old when it is used as a lazy explanation by people who have failed to convince us. One of the reasons seriously advanced for re-running the Brexit referendum was that more of us than them had died!

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The Automatic Earth is older than bitcoin…

11 Years Ago Today Satoshi Nakamoto Published the Bitcoin White Paper (CT)

Today, Oct. 31, marks eleven years since the publication of the Bitcoin white paper by the still-mysterious person or group pseudonymously identified as Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System — published on Oct. 31, 2008 — outlined a tamper-proof, decentralized peer-to-peer protocol that could track and verify digital transactions, prevent double-spending and generate a transparent record for anyone to inspect in nearly real-time. The protocol represented a cryptographically-secured system — based on a Proof-of-Work algorithm — in which Bitcoins (BTC) are “mined” for a reward by individual nodes and then verified by other nodes in a decentralized network.

This system contained the possibility of overcoming the need for intermediaries such as banks and financial institutions to facilitate and audit transactions — a major disruption to a siloed, monopolized field of centralized financial power. Eleven years on, Bitcoin is consistently setting new records for its network hash rate — a measure of the overall computing power involved in validating transactions on the blockchain at any given time. More power and participation establishes greater network security and attests to widespread recognition of the profitability potential of Bitcoin mining.

As of the middle of this month, network data revealed that since the creation of the very first block on the Bitcoin blockchain on Jan 3, 2009 — known in more technical language as its “genesis block” — miners have received combined revenue of just under $15 billion. The figure includes both block rewards — “new” bitcoins paid to miners for validating a block of transactions — as well as transaction fees, which broke the $1 billion mark this week. Bitcoin’s first-ever recorded trading price was noted on Mar. 17, 2010 — on the now-defunct trading platform bitcoinmarket.com, at a value of $0.003. The cryptocurrency’s appreciation thus stands at a staggering 304033233% as of press time, with Bitcoin currently trading at $9,120.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 102019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Small self portrait 1627-28

 

Man, I want to get away from US (and UK) politics, it’s too depressing and I’ve already covered it so much. But I keep getting drawn back in by the nonsensical propaganda out there. I read a lot of stuff every single day, and every single piece is starting to look like any other. I took the following from the Guardian, but it could have been any MSM outlet really. The whole thing is one big insult to my one remaining brain cell (which I’m trying to kill but can’t find).

First: if you see written or otherwise pronounced anywhere that Donald Trump fears Joe Biden, in elections or anywhere else, you’re reading propaganda. Trump has no reason to be afraid of Biden. Not that he minds the Democrats thinking he is. Second: if you see people claiming that accusations about Biden’s ‘dealings’ in Ukraine are unproven, remember that they’ve never been investigated. Maybe a Special Counsel would be an idea. Say, three years and $40 million? Let’s see after that.

Despite the lack of scrutiny, both from the DOJ and the media, we do know that Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 a month by Ukrainian energy company Burisma for not knowing anything about gas, oil or Ukraine. And we know from a Ukrainian MP that Joe Biden himself was paid $900,000 by Burisma. Those are not unproven allegations, as almost every outlet calls them. And they sure as hell ain’t unfounded.

Plus, Trump has every right to ask questions about this, whether in the US or elsewhere. Where he won’t be able to ask questions, if Pelosi and Schiff have their way, is in the fake impeachment inquiry. There he may not even be able to bring a lawyer. Who’s afraid of whom exactly, and of what? Here’s that Guardian piece:

‘He’s Laughing At Us’: Joe Biden For First Time Calls For Trump To Be Impeached

Joe Biden has for the first time called for Donald Trump to be impeached for abusing the powers of his office to help his own re-election. Delivering a blistering 25-minute speech at a campaign event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Biden, the former vice-president under Barack Obama, departed from his usual campaign pitch and signalled that he will aggressively confront Trump as the president pushes unfounded accusations that Biden and his son Hunter had nefarious dealings in Ukraine.


Trump is “shooting holes in the constitution”, Biden said, by asking foreign powers to interfere in the 2020 election by pursuing dirt on the Bidens and then refusing to cooperate with a resulting House impeachment inquiry. “This is a president who has decided this nation doesn’t have the tools, the power, the political will” to punish bad behavior, Biden said, cataloguing a litany of Trump’s misdeeds that he said warrant impeachment. “He’s not just testing us,” Biden said. “He’s laughing at us.” Trump retorted via Twitter. “So pathetic,” he wrote.

It is curious. The entire fake impeachment inquiry is based on Trump pursuing dirt on Biden, specifically in his phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky. Something Zelensky himself more than once has squarely denied ever happened. What must he think of the US, when his denials are completely ignored?

What did happen, says John Solomon, is that a DNC contractor solicited Trump dirt in 2016 in Ukraine. Given the above, is it any wonder Zelensky’s said he’d be happy to investigate what happened in Ukraine in 2016? He might take a look at the Biden family while he’s at it.

Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives speaker and the most powerful Democrat in Congress, announced an impeachment inquiry against Trump on 24 September after a whistleblower alleged the White House had attempted to cover up a July call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. At issue is the question of whether Trump abused his office by using its power to his own political advantage, by pushing a Ukrainian investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.


There is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that Biden exploited his influence as vice-president to aid his son or his business. Biden on Wednesday again condemned Trump’s “lies and smears and distortion” and said the president peddles them because he fears facing Biden in a general election. “He’s trying to create a campaign where truth and facts are irrelevant,” Biden said, adding that the spectacle covers the president’s “manifest incompetence”. “We’re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for president,” Biden added. “I’m not going to let him get away with it. He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.”

Joe, Joe, Trump didn’t pick a fight with you. And he’s not scared of you either (but he loves for you to think he is). You’re flattering yourself. And you’re not some tough guy either, you’ve lived on Capitol Hill for too long to be tough.

Without evidence, and contrary to the accounts of several Ukrainian officials, Trump has claimed Biden used his role as vice-president to protect his son from corruption investigations when he pressed for the firing of the top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, during Obama’s second term. Ukrainian officials, including one Shokin successor, have disputed Trump’s claims, and Biden has previously noted that the Obama administration’s position was supported by many other western governments, who saw Shokin as incompetent or corrupt.

Yeah, you know who called Shokin incompetent or corrupt? Victoria Nuland, that’s who. The story was that he wasn’t tough enough on corruption, but in reality he was too tough on corruption involving the US and its friends. For instance, he was investigating Burisma, and Joe Biden didn’t like that one bit. And the ‘many other western governments’ didn’t have enough knowledge to contradict the US in this.

Many of the other 19 Democratic 2020 candidates have long supported the opening of an impeachment inquiry into Trump, following the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election and links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Moscow.

This takes the cake. And eats it too. What the Guardian claims here is that the utter failure that was the Mueller probe, which failed to find any dirt on Trump, has been reason for the Democratic candidates to support an impeachment inquiry into Trump over a phone call with Ukraine. How convoluted is that? There were no links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Moscow. Don’t take my word for it, Mueller said so.

“Following the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation..” Mueller didn’t find anything, remember? The only things left standing in his report were accusations against Julian Assange and a bunch of anonymous Russians, because he knew these were people who couldn’t defend themselves. Because of that, I said back in February that Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar. He is. He is not a stand-up straight shooter.

Biden’s speech on Wednesday came as his campaign continues internal deliberations over the best way to handle Trump’s broadsides and an impeachment inquiry that could last months and potentially never result in the Republican-led Senate removing Trump from office – even if the Democratic-led House impeaches him. “When I announced my candidacy,” Biden recalled,“I said I was running in order to restore the soul of America. That wasn’t hyperbole.”

Ha ha. Could have fooled me there, Joe. Restore the soul of America without hyperbole. Brilliant!

But his advisers also point to the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump dominated media narratives of the Republican primary and the general election against Hillary Clinton with a barrage of attacks on his opponents that forced them to campaign on his terms. Biden nodded at that reality, as well, and promised he won’t let that get in his way. “I’m not going to be distracted,” he said. “None of these attacks are true, and I’m going to stay focused on your lives. That’s what this election is about,” he continued.

Look, it’s not okay that whistleblower rules are changed in half-secrecy overnight from requiring first-hand to second (or third) hand information. It’s not okay that the Democrats try to start an impeachment inquiry while disregarding the rules that have long existed for such an inquiry. It’s not okay that they do so on the basis of a phone call that the Ukraine president himself says contained none of the ingredients the Dems claim it did.

It’s not okay to try and keep the Republican House minority out of the proceedings, and it might even disqualify those proceedings entirely. If Trump is as bad a person and politician as the Democrats claim, it must be possible to figure that out while at the same time respecting the rules, regulations and the entire political system. Once you deviate from all that, you put the system itself at risk. Is that worth it? There’s an election in just over a year.

The media continues to refer to Trump’s allegations about Biden as unproven, knowing full well they’ve never been investigated. At the exact same time, they also keep bringing up Trump’s alleged ‘nefarious’ dealings with Russia, even though 2+ years of Robert Mueller and an entire platoon of lawyers came up empty on those. A level playing field?

I think I have an idea who’s afraid of whom. And there’s also this creeping/creepy feeling that the impeachment inquiry that isn’t one, is part of the 2020 election cycle. And that isn’t, and should not be, what such inquiries are for. Not even if you’re afraid of losing the election – that’s cheating.

 

 

 

 

Oct 022019
 
 October 2, 2019  Posted by at 9:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1919

 

Trump-Zelensky-Ukraine: What Is Really Going On Here? (OffG)
Kiev Agrees To EU-Backed Roadmap Aimed At Peace In Eastern Ukraine (RT)
Final Proposal: UK PM Johnson To Unveil Brexit Offer To EU (R.)
US House Committees Seek To Hold Line On Pompeo In Impeachment Probe (R.)
Barr Investigating The Investigators Of Russian Meddling (R.)
Japan Raises National Sales Tax Despite Recession Worries (AP)
US Gross National Debt Up $1.2 Trillion in Fiscal 2019 to $22.7 Trillion (WS)
Major US Investors Have Billions At Risk In Chinese Stocks (R.)
Zuckerberg Says Warren As US President Would Be Bad For Tech (R.)
Institutional Libra Backers Are Getting Cold Feet (CD)

 

 

Interesting take. It’s all about Russia.

Trump-Zelensky-Ukraine: What Is Really Going On Here? (OffG)

Let’s start with the foreign policy goals. Both Trump and Zelensky are operating in highly constrained and threatening foreign policy environments at home. At the time of their phonecall, Trump still had the warmonger Bolton to deal with inside the house: and even now he is still under the watchful scrutiny of the Russophobe imperial state figure of his Secretary of State Pompeo, closely though undeclaredly linked to the Washington imperial party on Ukraine-Russia as on other East-West issues. Zelensky is similarly constrained and threatened in Kiev by the anti-Russian fanaticism that has been indoctrinated in large sections of the Ukrainian population by decades of nationalist, often neo-Nazi, Russophobe propaganda.

It is a tribute to the instinctive good sense of the Ukrainian electorate that Zelensky was able to defeat in the polls the discredited NATO stooge Poroshenko so comprehensively and decisively. The maturity of this vote gives me renewed hope for Ukraine. But there is a long way to go still towards political normalisation and economic recovery there. Zelensky is smart enough to see that his country must achieve a normalisation of relations with Russia, but knows that he cannot yet say this openly. Putin wants this also, very much. But both men know it will take a very long time after the accumulated bitter grievances on both sides over recent decades, and especially since the lethal and destructive civil war on Eastern Ukraine that was begun by Poroshenko in April 2014 – no doubt on American advice.

This war has had terrible human consequences: loss of life, wounded and disabled casualties, destroyed communities, massive forced refugee outflows. Neither side can get over this easily or quickly. The reciprocal prisoner release on 7 September was an essential symbolic action. Putin’s release of the navy crews who took part in the provocative and foolish Ukrainian raid on the Kerch Strait bridge a year ago was a key part of building Ukrainian confidence and trust in Zelensky’s leadership. Russophobes in the West are in consternation at new green shots of possible hope for progress towards Kiev-Moscow normalisation under the Normandy diplomacy format.

[..] As I interpret the Trump-Zelensky conversation, both leaders were cautiously but in a friendly way exploring the boundaries of what might be possible for each of them as presidents to revisit the troubled history of the past few years. I see nothing dishonourable or intimidating in this conversation. Trump critics are reading into it only what they want to read.

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Zelensky ran on promoting peace. But it puts him in danger.

Kiev Agrees To EU-Backed Roadmap Aimed At Peace In Eastern Ukraine (RT)

The government in Kiev has agreed to the so-called ‘Steinmeier Formula,’ the process for Ukraine’s breakaway eastern regions to receive autonomy, which is expected to revitalize the stalled peace process. Named after Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister who suggested it back in 2015, it’s an addition to the second Minsk agreement that explains exactly how elections must be held in eastern regions of Ukraine in order to end the bloodshed and reintegrate the breakaway Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. According to the formula, the “special status” – i.e. autonomy – law must enter into force temporarily on election day and become a permanent one after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) deems the elections legitimate.

All members of the three-side contact group – Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE – as well as the ones from the self-proclaimed republics, agreed to the ‘Steinmeier Formula’ on Tuesday, sending letters of agreement to the OSCE special representative in Ukraine, Martin Sajdik. The official confirmed to Interfax that no joint document was signed and “the signatories have been put under separate letters.” It was not immediately clear to what extent the ‘Formula’ has become legally binding, given this quite unusual way of approval. Explaining the move, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the ‘Formula’ will be implemented into the new “special status” law – which is yet to be designed and approved by lawmakers at by the Ukrainian Rada. He also insisted that Kiev should control the border with Russia in the East.

The sides had been expected to sign ‘the formula’ a few week ago, but the negotiations fell through because Ukraine disagreed with some points. While the approval is regarded as a positive sing in peace process by politicians, it was met with a very angry reaction by Ukrainian neo-Nazis and pro-war groups. Shortly after the announcement, a protest dubbed ‘No to capitulation’, was staged outside his office. The protesters waved flags of far-right groups, shouted slogans and brandished flares, demonstrating their dissatisfaction with any attempts by the Kiev authorities to somehow settle the conflict in the east of the country. A similar reaction was voiced by the former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. He branded the ‘Steinmeier Formula’ a “Putin formula,” claiming that agreeing to it paves the way for deconstruction of Ukraine as a sovereign state.

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He knows there’s no chance it will be accepted. But he’s been told by Parliament to get a deal or ask for an extension.

Final Proposal: UK PM Johnson To Unveil Brexit Offer To EU (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Wednesday unveil his final Brexit offer to the European Union and make clear that if Brussels does not engage with the proposal, Britain will not negotiate further and will leave on Oct. 31. In his closing speech to his governing Conservatives’ annual conference, Johnson will stick to his hard line on Brexit, offering the party faithful the first details of what he will describe as his “fair and reasonable compromise”. With less than a month until Britain is due to leave the EU, the future of Brexit, the country’s biggest trade and foreign policy shift in more than 40 years, is uncertain. Britain could leave with a deal, without one or not exit at all.

Johnson, who says Britain will leave the bloc on Oct. 31 no matter what, will tell the conference he will send his proposal to Brussels, an attempt to secure a deal to smooth the country’s departure and avoid a potentially damaging no-deal Brexit. “My friends, I am afraid that after three-and-a-half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools. They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all,” he will say, according to extracts released by his office. “Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on.” More than three years after Britain voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum, Brexit talks are at an impasse.

Johnson has been firm that the Oct. 31 deadline will be met, but parliament has put roadblocks in his way – passing a law that requires the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if he fails to secure an acceptable deal at an EU summit on Oct. 17. The EU has repeatedly asked Britain to come up with “legal and operational” proposals for the changes Johnson wants to a deal his predecessor negotiated with the bloc last year.

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Head butting.

US House Committees Seek To Hold Line On Pompeo In Impeachment Probe (R.)

The leaders of three U.S. House of Representatives committees accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of intimidating witnesses on Tuesday, and said doing so is illegal and “will constitute evidence of obstruction.” Pompeo earlier on Tuesday sternly objected to the committees’ efforts to obtain depositions from five current and former State Department officials, as the Democratic-led House looks into President Donald Trump’s request to Ukraine’s president to investigate a domestic political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.


Representatives Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee, made their comments on Pompeo in a statement issued in response to Pompeo’s position. The three Democratic chairmen said Pompeo would be “a fact witness” in the House impeachment inquiry if reports are true that he was on the July call when Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” the statement said.

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Three investigations about to be published.

Barr Investigating The Investigators Of Russian Meddling (R.)

Barr’s inquiry concerns the origins of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which was ultimately taken over by Mueller. Mueller concluded that Trump’s campaign had extensive contacts with Russians who mounted a sweeping effort to influence the outcome of the election in which Republican Trump was the surprise winner against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mueller also revealed numerous attempts by Trump to interfere with his investigation, but did not conclude whether or not Trump should be charged with obstruction of justice. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently decided not to bring criminal charges.

Trump blasted the Mueller investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt”, and Trump’s allies have questioned whether U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies should have launched the investigation in the first place. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies began examining possible communications between Trump advisers and Russia in July 2016, when the Australian government alerted U.S. officials that a Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, had boasted to an Australian diplomat that the Russian government had material that could be damaging to Clinton. Several months later, the FBI secured a court order to monitor Carter Page, a Trump adviser who had traveled to Russia.

[..] Durham’s probe is “broad in scope and multifaceted,” examining the activity of U.S. and foreign-government intelligence services, as well as non-governmental organizations and individuals, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told Congress in June. As part of that effort, Trump has asked foreign leaders to introduce Barr and Durham to relevant officials in their countries, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said on Monday.

[..] The Justice Department’s internal watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, has completed a separate investigation. It is going through the process of removing classified information before it is released to the public. That probe, launched in 2018, focuses on whether the FBI followed proper procedures when it asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to monitor Page, the Trump adviser, in 2016. Separately, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 assigned Utah’s top federal prosecutor, John Huber, to review a wide range of issues that Republicans had complained about, including the FBI’s conduct during investigations related to Clinton. Huber has ceded some portions of his probe to Durham and he is waiting for Horowitz to finish his review.

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Abenomics 2.0.

Japan Raises National Sales Tax Despite Recession Worries (AP)

Japan’s national sales tax was raised to 10% from 8% on Tuesday, amid concerns that the long-delayed move could derail the fragile growth path of the world’s third largest economy. Government officials say ample measures have been taken to minimize the impact of the hike, which took effect Tuesday. Previous tax increases, a 2-point increase to 5% in 1997 and another to 8% in 2014, brought on recessions. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed this hike twice but said it was unavoidable given rising costs for elder care and a growing national debt as the population ages and shrinks. After decades of fiscal deficits that have taken the debt to more than twice the size of the economy, Abe has promised a return to balance by 2025, but that will require the economy to continue expanding at a healthy pace.


The economy expanded at an annual pace of 1.8 percent in April-June, faster than anticipated. But slowing exports and rising prices for oil are expected to drag growth lower in coming months. The increase covers most goods and services from clothes, electronics to transportation and medical fees, but the government has sought to soften its impact with tax breaks for home and car purchases. It also kept the tax for groceries unchanged for low-income households and is providing free pre-school education to families.

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“.. the longest expansion of the economy in US history..”

US Gross National Debt Up $1.2 Trillion in Fiscal 2019 to $22.7 Trillion (WS)

The US gross national debt jumped by $110 billion on the last two business days of Fiscal Year 2019, and by a breath-taking $1.2 trillion during the entire fiscal year, after having already jumped by $1.27 trillion in Fiscal 2018, the Treasury Department reported today. This ballooned the US gross national debt to a vertigo-inducing $22.72 trillion. These beautiful trillions whipping by are a joy to behold: so much action in so little time. The flat spots in the chart below are the results of the debt-ceiling charade in Congress. When the debt ceiling is lifted, the debt spikes back to trend, and nothing changed:

During Fiscal 2019, the gross national debt increased by 5.6% and now amounts to 106.5% of current-dollar GDP, up from 105.4% at the end of Fiscal 2018. The thing to remember here is that this isn’t the Great Recession or the Financial Crisis, when over 10 million people lost their jobs and credit froze up and companies went bankrupt and tax revenues plunged while outlays soared to pay for unemployment insurance and the like. This isn’t even the Collapse of Everything, but the longest expansion of the economy in US history. Over the last four quarters, the US economy as measured by nominal GDP (not adjusted for inflation) grew by 4.0%. Over the same period, the US gross national debt grew by 5.6% (not adjusted for inflation).

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Christopher Balding: “Why do none of these reports note that Chinese firms listed in the US are not currently required to abide by US accounting and auditing standards and the SEC cannot review them?”

Major US Investors Have Billions At Risk In Chinese Stocks (R.)

Major U.S. fund managers have tens of billion of dollars at stake in some of the most popular Chinese stocks on Wall Street, exposing them to potential losses should the White House move to delist Chinese firms from U.S. exchanges. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday dismissed reports that the Trump administration was considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges as “fake news,” helping Chinese stocks including JD.com and Alibaba Group Holding recover some of their declines from Friday after the reports emerged.

As Navarro’s comments reduced investor fears, the S&P/BNY Mellon China Select ADR index rose 1.1% after tumbling more than 3% on Friday. Still, the possibility of a future U.S. move to boot Chinese companies out of U.S. markets remains a topic of concern for investors. “The proposed measures would completely undermine the international ADR/GDR etc. market and would harm the US’s role as a conduit for international capital,” Jefferies equity strategist Sean Darby wrote in a client note. Leading U.S. investors across Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges include Blackrock, T. Rowe Price Associates and the Vanguard Group, with over $40 billion invested, according to Refinitiv data, based on fund filings.

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Or for him?!

Zuckerberg Says Warren As US President Would Be Bad For Tech (R.)

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told employees in July that the company would “go to the mat” to defeat Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s expected effort to break up the world’s largest social media company if she were elected president, according to audio of two internal company meetings published by The Verge. “If she (Warren) gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government,” he said, according to the leaked audio. Warren, who in March called for breaking up Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc, quickly issued a retort on Twitter.


“What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights,” Warren tweeted. In a later series of tweets, Warren noted that Facebook has built more market dominance in recent years by acquiring potential competitors WhatsApp and Instagram. “More than 85% of all social networking traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Facebook,” she wrote. “They’ve got a lot of power—and face little competition or accountability. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, undermined our democracy, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

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A step too far. And then be broken up too?!

Institutional Libra Backers Are Getting Cold Feet (CD)

Major Libra backers Visa and Mastercard are second-guessing their participation in the Facebook-led digital payments project, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Against a global regulatory blasting of the proposed cryptocurrency, the financial services pair and unnamed other companies are balking at Facebook’s call for a unified front. The Journal says that few want to boost the project publicly – leaving Facebook to defend Libra by itself. Libra has been a favorite target of world financial regulators since its announcement in June. European Central Bank members said it could destabilize the euro; China’s crypto czar called it potentially “unstoppable;” and U.S. Congressional Representatives have called for an outright freeze on its development. Now members of the Libra Association will meet on Thursday in Washington, D.C. It was not immediately clear what the meeting will be about; the members are scheduled to discuss Libra’s charter in mid-October.

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Intruiging. Major cities and towns in North America replaced by major cities across the Atlantic by latitude. Montreal=Milan. New York=Naples. Land climate vs sea climate.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 212019
 
 September 21, 2019  Posted by at 2:12 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Salvador Dali Punta es Baluard de la Riba d’en Pitxot 1918-19

 

US Democrats and MSM are running down a blind alley, telling themselves there’s light at the end. It has become a mass delusion. For the largest part, it has been for some four years now. You would think they’d learn something along the way, but there are very few if any signs of that.

Someone comes up with a rumor, a snippet of something, and the entire crowd jumps and runs away with it. This happens a few times a week. Four years is 200 weeks. Granted, it was worse when they still had the idea they could keep Trump from the presidency, but now that idea has morphed into impeachment, and they just keep at it.

I’ve said it before, but I still don’t quite understand why so little attention is paid to their own credibility. That they continue to reside inside an echo chamber undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining, but they must be aware that with only the echo chamber, they have no chance of winning in 2020.

Earlier this week the New York Times ran a new anti-Kavanaugh article, and apologized for it shortly afterwards because it was baseless: the woman quoted as accusing him didn’t even remember. By then, though, 100,000 other articles on the topic had been written and broadcast.

Perhaps to paper that over, though they might not care anymore after the first million nonsense stories, there’s a new tale in town: Trump and Ukraine. Do all the news outlets ‘reporting’ on it even realize how dangerous that issue is for ‘their own’ Joe Biden? Shouldn’t they be holding back? Or are they trying to cleverly sabotage Sloppy Joe’s campaign?

The Guardian provides a good example of how the ‘reporting’ goes. Get a catchy headline, create an atmosphere, throw in plenty innuendo, and hark back to some past rumors that are irrelevant today but linger in people’s minds. And…you can’t mention Mueller enough.

 

Ukraine Imbroglio Confirms Giuliani As Trump’s Most Off-Kilter Advocate

Cuomo: “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “No. Actually I didn’t.” Crystal clear. Except that 83 words and about 30 seconds later, Cuomo asked the question again. Cuomo: “So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “Of course I did.” That Giuliani was prepared so blatantly to contradict himself on live TV in the service of the president perfectly encapsulates his transformation. “America’s Mayor”, the hero of 9/11, has metamorphosed into what the New Yorker dubbed “Trump’s clown”.


This is not the first time Giuliani has incurred ridicule and rebuke in the cause of protecting his longtime friend – no, client. In the final days of the 2016 election the lawyer was almost the only person willing to speak in favor of Trump after the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was aired. As the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in that election reached its climax, Giuliani threw lawyerly restraint to the winds and repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a witch-hunt.

That’s quite the portrait. Guess they may have thought people forgot about Rudy.

[..] But of all the scraps in which Giuliani has engaged in recent months, of all the obfuscations and verbal sleights of hand, this week’s performance could prove the most damaging, both for him and for his White House buddy. America’s Mayor has tied himself in ever-tighter knots over claims that at Trump’s behest he improperly sought to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in the hope of dredging up damaging information.


No fewer than three House committees this week launched investigations into the Trump-Giuliani efforts in Ukraine. Though not yet on the scale of Mueller’s inquiry into whether Trump colluded with Russia, the new uproar bears chilling echoes of it.

Lovely. That’s how it’s done. Except that Giuliani did not “improperly seek to coerce Ukraine”, as we will see. Never mind, the neverending echoes still say Trump is Bad so Rudy is Bad. As for bringing up the Mueller inquiry, do they remember how that ended? Are they already fearing this narrative may end the same way?

[..] On Friday, the Wall Street Journal disclosed devastating new details of a phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky on 25 July. The paper reported that Trump pressed “about eight times” for his opposite number to look into work in the country by Biden’s son Hunter. And, the Journal wrote, Trump explicitly urged Zelensky to work with one person in forwarding the mission: Rudy Giuliani.


That Trump would be willing to attract further legal scrutiny just months after Mueller wrapped up his work, by inviting yet another foreign government to assist him in a presidential election campaign, is profoundly puzzling. After all, he partly brought the Mueller inquiry down upon his own head by inviting Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in July 2016.

I think they’re insinuating that Trump’s campaign joke -partly- started the Muller inquiry. Wow. And to link that to an anonymous source telling someone something we don’t know because it’s been kept secret..wow again. They’re starting to sound needy.

[..] Giuliani began thumping the Ukraine theme in April, when he laid out his theory – some would say, conspiracy theory – on Fox News. He accused the former vice-president of using bribery to shield his son from legal peril relating to business activities in the eastern European country. Specifically, Giuliani alleged that Biden leant on a former Ukraine president to fire a top prosecutor who had been investigating corruption within a gas company on whose board Hunter Biden then served.

We know Biden did that. There’s video of him bragging about it. Right here:

 

 

[..] Perhaps most incendiary of all are suggestions Trump and Giuliani may have tried to encourage the Ukraine government to play ball by invoking US aid to the country. “The potentially most explosive issue here is whether the president essentially offered Ukraine a quid pro quo,” said Richard Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University.

Trump did not offer Zelensky a quid pro quo. The WaPo said so yesterday. We have proof of Biden demanding quid pro quo, we have none of Trump even asking for it.

Anyway, some bits from the BBC:

 

Trump Dismisses ‘Ridiculous Story’ About Alleged Promise To Foreign Leader

President Donald Trump has dismissed a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky – calling it a “ridiculous story”. He said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”. Reports say Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.

“If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” Mr Biden wrote in a statement. In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found Mr Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying Mr Trump had urged Mr Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Mr Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security. Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky spoke by phone on 25 July. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated 12 August.

A: again, no quid pro quo, no nothing ‘in return for more US military support.’

B: Biden has guts accusing Trump of what he himself has been found guilty of. Attack is the best defense? Talk about abasing your country.

[Trump] described the complaint as “just another political hack job”. “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate,” he said [..] On Thursday, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.

Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.

Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”. They allege that Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

Wait. Why were all those investigations launched? Phishing, are we?

Here’s the no quid pro quo again, as per Tyler Durden:

 

WaPo Reports No “Quid Pro Quo” Offered During Phone Call

[..] the Washington Post quietly reported on Friday evening that a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not contain an explicit quid pro quo if Ukraine launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as initially reported. [..] “Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that had been pledged to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo in that call.”

[..] “The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the Biden probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the most detailed account so far of the president’s conduct that prompted a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower action against the president.” -Washington Post

So – the current US president asked Ukraine to conduct a legal investigation into the former US Vice President, who openly bragged about withholding $1 billion in US loan guarantees unless they fired the guy investigating his son and his son’s company – and there was no quid pro quo offered in exchange for that investigation – at least not on that phone call.

The Daily Beast found a real-life Ukraine official (or so they say). Did they slip something into the guy’s drink? He makes some strange claims.

Trump wants to take revenge for Manafort? Because of Biden? What did/does Biden have to do with Manafort? Makes little sense.

Look, Trump wouldn’t mind getting a more solid take behind the Biden video, that’s why he asked Zelensky to investigate. After already being informed that Ukraine sought contact with his government because of it (see below).

But that doesn’t mean Trump fears Biden and seeks to discredit him for that. That video is out there for everyone to see and Biden looks like he’s selling out the US. Make what you want from that.

 

Trump Urged Ukraine President 8 Times During Call To Investigate Biden’s Son

The Journal’s new report came as a top Ukraine official reportedly said that Trump “is looking” for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden’s son in that country in an effort “to discredit” Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. The official, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine is ready to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with the Ukraine gas company “as soon as there is an official request.”


But, he added, “Currently there is no open investigation.” Geraschenko is a senior advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, who would be in charge of any investigation of Hunter Biden. “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison,” Geraschenko told The Daily Beast.

And don’t think we’re done yet. John Solomon has a lot more. Turns out, Ukraine has been contacting the US, not the other way around, about handing over evidence.

 

Missing Piece To The Ukraine Puzzle: State Department’s Overture To Rudy Giuliani

The coverage suggests Giuliani reached out to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team this summer solely because he wanted to get dirt on possible Trump 2020 challenger Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in that country. Politics or law could have been part of Giuliani’s motive, and neither would be illegal. But there is a missing part of the story that the American public needs in order to assess what really happened:

Giuliani’s contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department. Giuliani didn’t initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him. [..] When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.

[..] Why would Ukraine want to talk to Giuliani, and why would the State Department be involved in facilitating it? According to interviews with more than a dozen Ukrainian and U.S. officials, Ukraine’s government under recently departed President Petro Poroshenko and, now, Zelensky has been trying since summer 2018 to hand over evidence about the conduct of Americans they believe might be involved in violations of U.S. law during the Obama years .

The Ukrainians say their efforts to get their allegations to U.S. authorities were thwarted first by the U.S. embassy in Kiev, which failed to issue timely visas allowing them to visit America.

Then the Ukrainians hired a former U.S. attorney — not Giuliani — to hand-deliver the evidence of wrongdoing to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, but the federal prosecutors never responded.

The U.S. attorney, a respected American, confirmed the Ukrainians’ story to me. The allegations that Ukrainian officials wanted to pass on involved both efforts by the Democratic National Committee to pressure Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as Joe Biden’s son’s effort to make money in Ukraine while the former vice president managed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the retired U.S. attorney told me.

Eventually, Giuliani in November 2018 got wind of the Ukrainian allegations and started to investigate. [..] Ukrainian officials also are discussing privately the possibility of creating a parliamentary committee to assemble the evidence and formally send it to the U.S. Congress, after failed attempts to get the Department of Justice’s attention, my sources say.

And just like that we have an entirely different story. But everyone in the media and the Democratic party will either ignore Solomon or try to discredit him. Until their Trump-Ukraine tale fizzles out and there’s no more readerships or ads to sell on it. By then, they reckon someone will come up with the next empty shell.

I’ll keep on wondering why they always go with these false claims. Is there really nothing actually true that they can find? It is sheer laziness, are they all not all that smart, or are they secretly on Trump’s payroll?

Me, I’ll condemn Trump for what he allows to happen to Julian Assange, and Chelsea and Snowden. But I’m not going to make up narratives for that, or play along with others who do.