Activist global warming strategies have now caused the European Investment Bank to ban its fossil fuel project funding. After more than a year of internal and external lobbying by several EU member states and an ever-growing list of activist NGO and pressure groups, the EIB has decided to cut its financial support for all new fossil fuel projects by 2021. It will also support €1 trillion of investments in climate action and environmental sustainability. This is meant to force European countries to put an end to new gas-fueled power projects and keep in line with the Paris Agreements and EU CO2 emission targets. EIB VP Andrew McDowell stated to the press that the EIB’s new energy lending policy, seen as a landmark decision, has been approved with “overwhelming” support. He reiterated that it will bar investments or financing for most fossil fuel projects, including those that employ the traditional use of natural gas.
There is still a small loophole for fossil fuel projects, as the EIB funding will still be available for projects that can show they can produce one kilowatt-hour of energy while emitting less than 250g of carbon dioxide. New technologies could therefore be the savior in the end for traditional gas-burning power plants.
The significance of this decision by the EIB cannot be understated.
As a major financial institution, a wide range of energy-related projects inside and outside of the EU, such as gas pipeline projects in Central Asia, Turkey and the recent discussions on East Med offshore gas projects, are now being endangered. While various Green Parties and environmental NGOs are celebrating this move as a major victory, it is a victory that comes with some real risks. The decision, which was largely inevitable after that EU finance ministers unanimously agreed to initiate stricter measures to combat climate change, will put more pressure on all parties to phase out gas, oil and coal projects.
Non-EU projects will be hit hardest, as they will have a much more difficult time trying to find enough lending support for new projects. EIB support has always been an important piece of the energy puzzle, with third parties using it as leverage to arrange finance consortia to start up new gas-related projects.
The decision by the EIB and the EU finance ministers is very much a political one, not based on real assessments of the overall energy market situation inside of the EU, or taking into account economic and geopolitical risks for the regions bordering the EU. Brussels has, for decades, been targeting a higher level of security of energy supply (mainly gas) in order to wean Europe off its Russian gas addiction. This strategy has been far from a success story, with European countries today seemingly more addicted than ever to Russian gas.
Official figures from EuroStat show that natural gas dependency in EU reached an all-time high of 77.9 % in 2018, up from 74.4 % in 2017. While core EU gas consumption is slightly down, imports will have to increase as European gas production is decreasing (Groningen, North Sea). To decrease dependency on Russia, other sources will be needed. Those new sources would normally be supported by the EIB, a support that is now coming to an end in 2021.
At the same time, experts seem to agree that the best way to target lower CO2 emissions in the EU is to substitute oil and coal power generation in Eastern Europe with natural gas. At present these traditional power plants are struggling to find gas supplies. For a functional Paris Agreement strategy to be enacted, natural gas demand must increase. Additional transport infrastructure is also needed, but this decision by the EIB will also impact that.
Even in the most optimistic projections, renewable energy options, such as wind or solar, are not going to be able to counter the need for power generation capacity. If the EIB blocks a soft energy transition via natural gas, the Paris Agreement will almost certainly fail.
Another concern that the EIB seems not to have considered is that the removal of financial support for natural gas related projects in the Mediterranean or Central Asia/Caucasus will challenge the security of supply in the region. The EIB’s economic support has been crucial for key energy projects outside of Europe, not only supplying additional volumes to the EU but also increasing economic growth in politically fragile countries. Energy infrastructure connections also link regions, such as Algeria-EU, Azerbaijan-EU or East Med. Without these viable economic and strategic options available, Western Europe’s renewable energy sector will get maybe a boost, but the security, stability and security of energy supply to Eastern Europe and others will be threatened. The current European focus of energy producers in the Mediterranean and Central Asia can easily shift from West to East if incentives disappear. The EIB’s latest decision may appear sensible on the surface, but the geopolitical and economic fallout of this new policy will likely be disastrous.
Following last month's IMF summit where central bankers from around the world conceded the negative rates no longer stimulate the global economy, the ECB's new head, convicted criminal Christine Lagarde has found herself in a quandary: besides demanding a fiscal stimulus boost from Germany, one which is unlikely to come for at least another 6 months now that Berlin narrowly avoided a technical recession, what else can she demand to stimulate Europe's moribund growth at a time when Europe's key offshore growth dynamo, China, is not only set to grow at the slowest pace on record but is furiously exporting deflation?
The answer came on Saturday courtesy of ECB policy maker Madis Muller, the governor of the Bank of Estonia, who essentially hinted that the ECB could very well buy stocks during the next recession, saying that the central bank could broadened its asset-purchase program, if the economic situation in the euro area deteriorates significantly.
“Right now, we are doing unconventional things,” he told students at a Bundesbank event in Frankfurt on Saturday. "You could - of course - imagine even more unconventional things if the situation gets really bad", which it will of course with slow motion trainwreck Christine Lagarde at its helm whose crowning achievement was approving the IMF's biggest loan on record to Argentina just a few months before the Latin American nation made it clear it is headed for another default. While Muller declined to cite which specific assets the ECB would buy next, the answer is clear - as Larry Fink said point blank in July, the ECB will buy stocks next to somehow stimulate the European economy, when in reality all it will do is stimulate the bank accounts of those Europeans lucky enough to own stocks.
Ironically, Muller opposed September’s decision to resume ECB net asset purchases. Even so, he cited the Japanese and Swiss central banks as examples of policy makers pursuing wider stimulus efforts than in the euro zone - of course, both central banks openly purchase both stocks and ETFs; in fact, as we reported just a few days ago, the SNB now owns a record $93.2 billion in US stocks after a Q3 buying spree.
Muller spoke as the ECB continues to struggle to revive inflation through stimulus measures, while also running the risk of hitting self-imposed limits on how many bonds it can buy from each of the euro zone’s 19 member governments. As we reported one month ago, the ECB now has roughly 10 months left of German bond purchases before it hits a brick wall and is forced to change its self-imposed
sovereign debt financing debt purchasing rules.
There "are ways to go beyond the government bonds, and a little bit of corporates and other assets that we are buying now," Muller said. And while he didn’t recommend it, it was clear that someone higher up in the food chain wood.
Mueller is not the first to suggest the ECB can and will expand its universe of eligible assets. Aside from several Reuters trial balloons, back in May 2016, in a moment of what appeared to be either drunken insanity or brutal honesty, Lithuania's central banker and ECB member Vitas Vasiliauskas said that "we still have a lot of tools and we can make surprises for the market. I don’t see for the moment any need for a new rabbit because we should implement what was agreed, what was announced.”
Vasiliauskas' punchline: “Markets say the ECB is done, their box is empty. But we are magic people. Each time we take something and give to the markets - a rabbit out of the hat."
Stay off the drugs, Vitas.
Meanwhile, just to prove him right, the ECB is once again buying €20 billion euros of bonds per month after amassing €2.6 trillion during previous rounds of purchases that ended last year, yet was restarted after just 10 months. Coupled with the Fed's own $60 billion/month in T-Bill purchases, the Fed and ECB will buy a near record $420 billion in assets next 6 months according to Bank of America.
And still it won't be enough, forcing the world's biggest hedge fund also known as the ECB, to start openly buying stocks.
Once it starts, it is unclear when - and if - it will ever stop: the European central bank has pledged to continue quantitative easing until inflation is firmly within its target of just under 2%, something that its own forecasts don’t foresee until at least 2021. Furthermore, as European investors and corporations are incentivized to buy stocks instead of investing in growth and spending money on capex, asset prices will promptly surge even as broader economy inflation slides to zero and eventually turns into outright deflation.
Separately, Muller, who is the youngest member of the ECB's Governing Council at 42, said the central bank needs to think about how low it wants to push government bond yields and what "benefits" that would bring. Of course, one can just ask any European bank about those benefits. Or not: as we reported yesterday, as of this moment, Disney alone has a market cap greater than the capitalization of Europe's top 5 biggest banks.
Muller also noted the usual disclaimers the precede any episode of full-blown equity purchases by an entity that literally prints money out of thin air, stating that policy makers also have to be “aware of different side effects and think twice before you do something,” particularly given how many unconventional steps the ECB has already taken.
We are confident that just like years and years of BIS warnings, the young central banker's attempt to instill some caution among his peers will be for nothing.
Having very low interest rates “makes sense” in the current economic situation, said Muller, who was in favor of the decision to reduce the deposit rate to minus 0.5% in September. Still, going much further may not help as Bundesbank head Weidmann stated on Friday, when he said that rates are close to the lower bound, i.e., that the ECB's reversal rate - or the rate below any further rate cuts become a headwind to the economy - is fast approaching.
"There is a question of how low you can go,” he said. “At some point you could be facing a question of how effective it is."
For rates that is; because somehow when it comes to buying bonds, both sovereign and corporate, and soon stocks, apparently nobody has ever faced a question of how effective that is and to the smart people in the room shown below, only wonderful things come out of central banks directly becoming the only marginal buyer in the world's most important capital markets.
I was pleased to invite my new Governing Council colleagues to join me at an off-site retreat yesterday. We discussed in an open and informal setting the running of the Governing Council. pic.twitter.com/ifMxiNh7uh— Christine Lagarde (@Lagarde) November 14, 2019
There’s something happening that the unelected oligarchs I like to call The Davos Crowd hate more than anything else. They can’t seem to buy people off anymore...
When we look around the world today at the plethora of popular/populist uprisings both peaceful and unruly we see the same thread running through them at their core.
The people simply don’t believe that the system works for them anymore. Whatever the catalyst was that got them off their couches and into the streets was the proverbial last straw.
And they can’t be bought.
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the Gilet Jaunes protests in France. The original €0.25 tax on diesel fuel died a long time ago. President Macron of France though he could just throw the unruly peasants some scraps, not take their final piece of bread from their tables and that would placate people bereft of not only their future but, more importantly, their dignity.
We’re three and a half years from the Brexit vote and Nigel Farage is still fighting the establishment in the U.K. who are dead set against it. This week he stood down 317 candidates to stave off a Remainer-heavy hung parliament and the Tories responded by trying to buy off even more of his candidates.
The big scandal wasn’t that the Tories tried to buy off Farage, they’ve been trying to do that for years and it hasn’t worked. Now, they are brazenly trying to buy off the people around him to deny the Brexit Party any seats in Westminster to pave the way for the ultimate Brexit betrayal.
This goes far beyond putting party before country. This is all about protecting the political establishment from all threats domestic, but not foreign since they’re all committed neoliberal globalist scumbags.
Farage knows this and that’s why he went public with this information. The jury is still out whether the voters will respond to this and reward Farage’s people with seats in Westminster to finally change the dynamic in the heart of the old imperial capital of Europe.
Because it’s a lot easier to bribe a dozen or so candidates than it is to bribe the hundreds of thousands they could represent. This is the fundamental reason why representative governments don’t work.
It’s why they are just as bad as top-down unelected oligarchies regardless of the type — secular, religious, technocratic, communist, democratic.
It’s reached a boiling point in Iran where protests have broken out again like in 2009, and just like in France, over a hike in fuel prices. Governments can have all the extra territorial ambitions they want but at some point they have to provide the basic services the people expect of them.
Just wait until the cost of living here in the U.S. rises to the point where government handouts here can’t cover the costs of the basics. We haven’t quite reached that point nationally, and we won’t in the next couple of years as capital flees into the U.S. in a massive safe-haven trade, but we will.
Because while that safe-haven trade is occurring our government masters won’t get the hint about how much we don’t like them. They will keep the gravy train running on-time just often enough to maintain the illusion of control until things get so expensive here the people revolt.
In Chile, the protesters there are fed up with the fake, corporatist privatization and rampant corruption of the country’s basic infrastructure. Again, a real revolt over a This is a revolt against false liberation of nationalized businesses. It’s the same thing we see all over the West.
It will spark a push in Chile back towards the Left and socialist nationalizations which will give rise to adolescent criticisms of capitalism from the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.
And the sad part is, they’ll be right. It’s what they’ve been doing with health care in the U.S. for decades, purposefully destroying the marketplace for health care while allowing the worst excesses of the private portion of it to thrive in a captured market of regulatory nightmares and obscene wealth extraction.
These systems become so cocked up that even reasonable people scream for a nationalized solution to make things better, at least in the short run.
Why do you think the big tech firms are acting like openly evil overlords? Because they’re stupid? No. It’s because the longer-term goal is complete centralized regulation of speech in the public forum.
And the only way to get there and have it be sustainable is if the people scream for it themselves. Conservatives are being gaslit into pushing for oversight into Facebook and Google because they are being treated with such obvious bias.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that while we’re still falling for a lot of these false dichotomies, these Hobson’s choices, at the electoral level we are fundamentally aware of who the enemies to civil society are.
And that’s why The Davos Crowd is getting nervous. That’s why they are bribing Brexit Party members to stand down. It’s why they are ramping up the Project Fear on the economic costs of Brexit, Climate Change, Private Health Care and decrying tax cuts as tyrannical.
While at the same time they continue to try and buy us off with cheap money, rising stock markets and easier credit terms to buy depreciating junk like new cars which cost more than many have equity in their homes.
But we’re not for sale anymore.
If we were we wouldn’t keep voting for these populist reformers from the left, right and center. We wouldn’t be descending into the kind of toxic political discourse that is only interested in scoring points against the other side to validate our own anger and dispossession.
We would be looking for solutions. But we’re not ready for that yet. We may not be for sale anymore but we’re not ready to take on the responsibility of fixing what’s broken.
It’s why we keep hearing stories about Millennials making peace with living like rats in cages for $800 a month rather than building enough wealth to *gasp* find a mate and *gasp* start a family.
But they know, deep down, this isn’t sustainable. It’s inhuman. But curling up in a rat’s nest and calling it home is better than taking to the streets, for now. And their depression will turn to nihilism, if it hasn’t already, and eventually will explode in the ugliest ways.
People are capable of selling themselves on the virtues of a terrible life only for so long, of putting up with suffering because there’s still a small comparative advantage to going along versus striking out.
There is little to no direct cost for voting against the system that is bankrupting you financially, emotionally and spiritually. That’s why we see things like Trump, Brexit, Catalonia and Italy.
But eventually voting isn’t enough, especially when it’s obvious that if voting changed anything they would have outlawed it years ago… only they pretty much have.
Over and over we’re being told we voted wrong, that our betters will fix our mistakes for us. But it’s not working anymore. And as the inherent inconsistencies of these institutions take center stage over the next few years, we’ll see even more uprisings around the world.
Let’s hope it stays peaceful. That enough people like Farage and his ilk simply say, “No. I’m not for sale.” And the voters, cynical as they are, believe them.
* * *
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Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on Germany to stop training Chinese soldiers "in light of the human rights situation in China and the general role of the military there," according to the group's arms and human rights expert, Mathias John.
"...there is no justifiable reason for Germany to help train the Chinese military," John told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, adding that in light of the current situation in Hong Kong, "the German government should send a clear sign and immediately cease any military cooperation," per DW.
Hong Kong has been gripped by increasingly violent protests over the past several months, stemming from a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would allow suspects to be deported to mainland China to face trail in communist courts. Much like France's Yellow Vest protests, the original issue has expanded to a general anti-goverment movement.
Bild said it had seen a top-secret military report that lists 62 countries, including China, whose soldiers are expected to participate in training exercises with the German military in 2020. German soldiers are pegged to train foreign soldiers in the areas of management, logistics, and press and public relations.
Responding to Amnesty's demand, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry said that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, the newspaper reports. These include international officer courses as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.
"Our goal is to share our democratic values with citizens of other countries," said the spokesperson. -DW
So, Germany gets their gas from Russia and trains Chinese soldiers. And how much are they kicking into NATO?
How a fuel-tax protest turned into a full-blown revolt against the elites...
One year ago, 288,000 protesters took to the streets in over 2,000 locations across France. Dressed in their unmistakable hi-vis jackets, the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) blockaded highways and petrol stations, occupied roundabouts and toll booths, and marched through town centres. The protests were initially sparked by a hike in fuel tax but they quickly came to embody a wider resentment towards the status quo. This weekend will be the yellow vests’ acte 53 – the 53rd consecutive week of protest to mark the anniversary of the movement.
Just a year-and-a-half after the election of President Macron, which was hailed by liberals across the West as a turning point against the populist wave of 2016, the yellow-vest movement staged what would become the most significant revolt in France since les événements of May 1968. The French working classes, who had for so long been marginalised economically, politically and culturally, were finally making their voices heard.
A proposed hike in fuel tax was the spark that lit the fuse. Priscilla Ludovsky, an entrepreneur who sells cosmetics online, started a Change.org petition back in May calling for fuel prices to be lowered. Initially, it only had a small amount of traction. But it was picked up by local radio and in a local newspaper article, which went viral on Facebook. By October the petition had gained over 800,000 signatures. Truck drivers Eric Drouet and Bruno Lefevre created a Facebook event calling for people to block roads on 17 November. But this only gives a tiny glimpse of what was happening online – all kinds of viral videos, petitions and Facebook groups were springing up. Though some figures, like Drouet, emerged as unofficial spokespeople, suddenly finding themselves invited on to TV debates with politicians, the movement began without leaders and has remained leaderless to this day.
The causes of the yellow-vest revolt go far deeper than the fuel tax. Nevertheless, the tax is a useful prism through which to understand the movement, and, in particular, the chasm between the elites who make decisions and the people on the receiving end of them.
On a purely technocratic basis, the fuel tax makes sense. The French government is committed to meeting its international obligations to reduce CO2 emissions. The fuel-price hike would be used to finance renewable-energy projects and would discourage the use of diesel and petrol cars.
But then the actual politics kick in. The fuel-tax hike was implemented at a time when the price of diesel had already risen by 23 per cent in a single year. While only 13 per cent of people in Paris drive cars, people who live outside the major cities rely heavily on their cars and they were being hammered by the policy. A carbon tax that disproportionately affected the working class was only ever going to add insult to injury. As one oft-repeated yellow-vest slogan goes:
‘The government talks about the end of the world. We are talking about the end of the month.’
Another source of irritation was the government’s decision to cut the speed limit on rural roads from 90km/h to 80km/h (around 50mph) in early January. Perhaps a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but again, this was experienced by many people as a needless imposition from an aloof and indifferent elite. Many saw it as an excuse to make money out of speeding tickets. In response, the yellow vests managed to take nearly 60 per cent of the country’s speed cameras out of operation, usually by covering them in tape, painting them black, or smashing them up.
These measures came against a broader backdrop of widening regional inequality. More than 10 years ago, geographer Christophe Guilluy foresaw a backlash to these developments when he came up with the concept of ‘peripheral France’. This described the France of post-industrial towns, urban sprawl, villages and suburbs that have been left behind – or actively excluded – from the modern globalised economy.
Police clash with the yellow vests near the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, on 8 December 2018.
As Guilluy points out in Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, Periphery and the Future of France, ‘peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of citizens – around 60 per cent of the population according to Eurostat figures. Despite this, government policy for the past four decades has consistently favoured larger metropolitan areas. Because the lion’s share of state funding for transport, health and education goes to the cities, people are having to drive further and further afield to access basic services. Between 2000 and 2010, 75 per cent of growth occurred in France’s metropolitan areas, and the GDP of these areas is now 50 per cent higher than the rest of the country. Across the West, working-class people are living further and further away from where their country’s wealth is being generated.
According to Guilluy, the French working class has effectively been decommissioned. Its members are surplus to requirements in the globalised economy. The prospects for peripheral France are gloomy. People who live in these areas suffer high rates of unemployment and many who are employed live precariously. A gilet jaune could be earning anything between 1,000 and 2,000 euros per month. He or she could be unemployed or even middle class. But as Guilluy explained to spiked: ‘[The gilet jaunes] know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.’ Meanwhile, admission to the big cities to find work has become nigh-on impossible as housing costs soar beyond reach. Over recent years, these regional disparities have started to express themselves through new political divides. The story of Paris vs the France of the yellow vests is also true of London vs Brexit Britain, or Milan vs the rest of populist Italy.
As the French working class has been economically marginalised, it has been sidelined from politics, too. The denial of democracy has forced people to find new and innovative – sometimes insurrectional – ways of making their voices heard.
The most blatant attempt by the elites to deny democracy came after the 2005 referendum on the European Constitution. Just before the vote, leading pollster Roland Cayrol noted the ‘clear division between a well-off, confident France and an anxious, struggling France’, with blue and lower-grade white-collar workers, the self-employed and farmers firmly in the No camp. In the end, 55 per cent of the French electorate voted No. But the political class in France and in the EU all agreed that the message from the No vote was insufficiently clear, and just a few years later the rejected constitution was simply repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty and signed into law.
The French are, of course, famous for protesting and going on strike. But this noisy engagement disguises the way the French political system militates against democracy. The French presidency is one of the most powerful offices in the democratic world. This makes France, in effect, a ‘republican monarchy’. Parliament, on the other hand, is toothless. It was rendered even more so by reforms in 2001 that changed the electoral calendar to align parliamentary elections with presidential ones. Although the reforms shortened the presidential term, they also entailed the removal of midterm elections that could put an electoral check on presidents. For historian Robert Tombs, the monarchical nature of the presidency makes it prone to political failure:
‘Policies are frequently decided by the president without significant consultation, then, in the absence of an effective legislative body to channel criticism within the system, are instead abandoned in the face of public outcry, including strikes and resistance in the streets.’
The political parties must also take responsibility for failing to give voice to the concerns of working-class people. Nearly three-quarters of French people think that politicians are ‘corrupt’ and 87 per cent feel that governments (of the left and the right) take no interest in ‘people like them’. Consequently, the centre parties have been reduced to rumps. In the 2015 regional elections, the centre-right Republicans, the centre-left Socialist Party, the Left Front and the Greens were voted for by just 18 per cent of the working-class electorate.
Working-class voters had been slowly drifting away from the Socialists since the 1980s, when Francois Mittérand’s government quickly abandoned its planned socialist reforms in order to embrace European integration. By the time of the 2017 presidential election, just five years after its first presidential victory in decades, the Socialist Party had slumped to just 6.36 per cent of the first-round vote.
The 2017 election was supposed to be a watershed moment. France had rejected populism and had instead embraced a new centrist politics. Emmanuel Macron was held up as a liberalising reformer, an adept technocrat and a popular anti-populist. The former Rothschild banker was to be the saviour of France and of the EU. The Economist, the bible of liberal centrists, celebrated his election victory by depicting him as a modern-day Jesus: literally walking on water.
But beneath the headlines, disenchantment with the political class was clear. Some 10million people expressed their anger by voting for Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National (re-named National Rally in 2018). According to IPSOS polling, the only socioeconomic category to back Le Pen over Macron was blue-collar workers. Among voters who said they found it ‘very difficult’ to cope financially at their current income level, 69 per cent voted for Le Pen.
Though many voters might have relished giving the establishment a bloody nose, clearly Le Pen’s unpalatable politics was not a price worth paying. Abstentionism was perhaps a more acceptable outlet for voters’ frustrations. In the second round of the presidential election, there was a record three million votes blancs (expressing a preference for neither candidate). The legislative elections that followed had the lowest turnout in the history of the Fifth Republic.
It took the emergence of the gilets jaunes to galvanise members of forgotten France. Around the time of the first yellow-vest protests, just 25 per cent of French voters said they approved of President Macron. In contrast, 73 per cent told pollsters they supported the gilets jaunes.
Despite having no leader and no official manifesto, the gilets jaunes have coalesced around popular demands for better living conditions and for a greater say in political life. Democratic reform is high on the agenda. Many protesters have the letters ‘RIC’ scrawled on their jackets or on placards, which stand for référendum d’initiative citoyenne (citizens’ initiative referendum). They are calling for a referendum to be triggered on any proposal that can gather 700,000 signatures or more. They argue that this would allow the public to veto laws, withdraw from treaties and amend the constitution.
Of course, the problem with referendums alone is that the political class can simply ignore or frustrate any results it dislikes, as happened in France in 2005 and as has been the story of Brexit since 2016. Real, lasting change needs real representation. Attempts to set up formal political parties have, however, been unsuccessful. Ingrid Levasseur, a care worker, set up a gilets-jaunes party in January, based around the referendum demand to contest the EU elections. Early polls put the party at 13 per cent – just behind Macron’s La Republique En Marche and Le Pen’s Rassemblement National or National Rally. But just three weeks later, Levasseur quit. Lots of gilets jaunes were angry at what they saw as a use of the movement for personal political gain. Another prominent campaigner, Jacline Mouraud – who became famous for a viral video attacking Macron – also set up a party in January, Les Émergents, to contest the local elections in 2020. But by April, a number of members resigned from the party, not wanting to be part of a ‘cult of personality’.
Emmanuel Macron addresses supporters after winning the French Presidential Election, at The Louvre, 7 May 2017.
Others have experimented with other forms of direct democracy. In Commercy, a small north-eastern town which has faced two decades of industrial collapse, a group of yellow vests have started their own citizens’ popular assembly. They constructed a wooden hut in the town square – nicknamed the Chalet of Solidarity – to hold meetings and to organise (though it has since been demolished by the mayor). From these regular meetings they have elected delegates to attend national assemblies, meeting with other delegates involved with similar initiatives across France. Some 600 yellow-vest delegates from 200 groups gathered in Montpellier earlier this month to discuss plans for the big anniversary on 17 November.
Almost as soon as the first yellow vests emerged, members of the liberal establishment felt the need to denounce them. President Macron was quick to decry the protests as ‘shameful’. Ministers immediately briefed the press that the yellow vests had links to the far right. Macron’s strongest rebuke was made in his New Year’s message, which he used to brand the yellow vests a ‘hate-filled crowd’, who attack ‘elected representatives, the forces of law and order, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals’.
The centre-left daily Libération noted that following the first weekend of protests, commentators were divided between those who saw the protesters as representing the ‘just anger of the people’, and those who saw them as a ‘band of polluting oafs, addicted to their cars, who need to be dealt with by the police’. One prominent Brussels correspondent tweeted that the yellow vests were simply a ‘movement of hicks’.
The script could have almost been written in advance. The dismissal of working-class grievances or any challenge to the status quo as ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’ has become a tragic feature of politics common to almost all Western nations. Much of the same hysteria that followed the Brexit vote appeared in France in reaction to the yellow vests. The gilets jaunes are, in class terms, the French equivalent of the ‘deplorables’ or ‘gammon’. Only in France, the elite backlash took a violent turn.
There have, of course, been many acts of violence from yellow-vest protesters. The third weekend, for instance, was one of the most violent, as protests in Paris turned into full-blown riots. In Paris, the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised, daubed with graffiti. A bust of Napoleon was smashed. Over 100 cars were set on fire. In early January, protesters broke into a government ministry with a forklift truck. On many weekends, the day began peacefully as protesters from the provinces marched up and down the Champs Élysées. But by the early evening, a different crowd had joined the fray, often among them some black-bloc agitators, some donning a yellow vest, others not.
Nevertheless, the violence from the police has been extraordinary and out of all proportion. Between November 2018 and June 2019, according to figures compiled and verified by independent journalist David Dufresne and Médiapart, 860 protesters were injured by the police – 315 suffered head injuries; 24 lost the use of an eye; and five had hands torn off. Among these victims are not only protesters but also journalists and medics. Police have been filmed beating elderly and disabled people, as well as using tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. The main source of injuries has been ‘Flashball’ rubber bullets. This non-lethal weapon has been banned in every EU country except France.
The supposedly ‘liberal’ Macron has also presided over a wider climate of authoritarianism in response to the gilets jaunes. In January, French MPs passed draconian measures to ban unauthorised protests. In March, prime minister Édouard Philippe even instituted a blanket ban on protest in some of the areas most hit by vandalism, including the Champs Élysées, as well as certain parts of Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nice. Faced with running the gauntlet of tear gas, rubber bullets and possible arrest, protesting became less and less attractive as the months passed, leading to an ever-dwindling turnout.
The gilets jaunes have won some important victories, even if the establishment has won the war overall. The fuel-tax hike was put on hold, and, just three weeks into the protests, President Macron unveiled a €10 billion package of wage increases and tax cuts for low earners and pensioners. Companies were also encouraged to give out Christmas bonuses, which would be tax free up to 1,000€.
But perhaps the most important consequences have been less tangible. The hi-vis jackets became the defining symbol of a movement that made a very simple but important statement: ‘We exist.’ Those who had been long forgotten could be ignored no more. The fact that these yellow jackets are owned by all French drivers – it is a legal requirement to carry one in your car in case you break down at night – made it easy for people to identify themselves with the movement. And it did something else, too: it fostered a new and necessary solidarity in an otherwise atomised society. Long may the revolt continue.
Andrew Bacevich rightly rejects the idea that there was ever a Pax Americana in the Middle East:
“It took many decades to build a Pax Americana in the Middle East,” X writes. Not true: it took only a handful of hours - the time he invested in writing his essay. The Pax Americana is a figment of X’s imagination.
Defenders of U.S. hegemony like to make what they think is a flattering comparison between the U.S. and the Roman Empire, but where the Romans made a desert and called it peace the U.S. has gone to war in the desert again and again with no end in sight.
Not only has the U.S. not brought peace, but there is little reason to think that our government is capable of doing so. More to the point, the U.S. has no right to keep meddling in the affairs of these nations. It would also be accurate to say that the more American involvement there has been in the region, the less pax there has been there. There is nowhere else in the world where our foreign policy is as intensely militarized, and it is no accident that it is also where our foreign policy is most destructive. If the U.S. genuinely desired stability and the security of energy supplies, it would not be waging an economic war on Iran, and it wouldn’t be fueling a disgraceful war on Yemen. The author of that piece, William Wechsler, notably has nothing to say about either one of those policies.
Opponents of U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East make two major claims: that withdrawal would harm U.S. interests and that it would make the region worse off than it already is.
The second point is wrong but debatable, and the first one depends on an absurdly expansive definition of what U.S. interests are. The piece that Bacevich is answering asserts that “it would be a terrible mistake and deeply harmful to the United States” to withdraw from the region, but the author does not show that current troop levels of more than 50,000 people are necessary or even useful for securing U.S. interests. The U.S. didn’t have and didn’t need a large military presence in the Middle East for the entire Cold War, and it doesn’t need to have one now. Having a military presence in the region has directly contributed to increased threats to U.S. security through terrorism, and it made the Iraq war debacle possible. The greatest harm to U.S. security has come from our ongoing extensive military involvement in this part of the world.
Neither does the author demonstrate that U.S. foreign policy up until now has actually been doing the job he thinks it has. For instance, he mentions “supporting a delicate balance of power that promotes regional stability and protects our allies,” but looking back over just the last twenty years of U.S. foreign policy in the region there is no evidence that the U.S. has been supporting a balance of power or promoted regional stability. On the contrary, to the extent that there was a balance of power at the start of this century, the U.S. set about destroying it by overthrowing the Iraqi government, and it has further contributed to the destabilization of at least three other countries through direct or indirect involvement in military interventions. The clients that the U.S. has in the Middle East aren’t allies and we aren’t obliged to protect them, but the U.S. hasn’t done a terribly good job of protecting them, either. The U.S. has managed to indulge its clients in reckless and atrocious behavior that has also made them less secure and undermined our own security interests. Support for the war on Yemen is a good example of that. Enabling the Saudi coalition’s war has bolstered Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), devastated and fractured Yemen, and exposed Saudi Arabia to reprisal attacks that it had never suffered before.
The other major flaw with the Wechsler piece is that he is warning against something that isn’t happening:
As campaign promises tend to become governing realities for American foreign policy, the prospect of a full U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East now stands before us.
If only that were true. The U.S. has more troops in the region than it did at the start of this year. There is no sign that those numbers will be reduced anytime soon. Support for the war on Yemen continues, and the president has gone out of his way to keep arming the Saudi coalition. Even in Syria, there will still be an illegal U.S. military presence for the foreseeable future. Full withdrawal is nowhere in sight right now. The U.S. is heading in the opposite direction. The author pretends that withdrawal is in the offing and then urges the next president to “reverse this course,” but there is nothing for the next president to reverse. So why rail against something that hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to occur? This is an old tactic of making the option of withdrawing from the region seem so extreme and dangerous that it has to be rejected out of hand, but these scare tactics are less and less effective as we see the mounting costs of open-ended conflict and deep entanglement in the affairs of other countries.
The author wants the next administration “to reestablish American leadership in the Middle East, restore deterrence with our adversaries, and begin renewing trust with our partners and allies,” but he has not made a persuasive case that “American leadership” in the region is worth “reestablishing” even if it were possible to get back to the way things were before the Iraq war. Many of the “partners and allies” in question are themselves unreliable and have become liabilities, and many of the adversaries do not really threaten the U.S. Bacevich concludes that there needs to be a radical overhaul of U.S. foreign policy in the region on account of its colossal failures:
Given the dimensions of that failure, the likelihood of resuscitating X’s illusory Pax is essentially zero.
There is no going back to an imagined Golden Age of American statecraft in the Middle East. The imperative is to go forward, which requires acknowledging how wrongheaded U.S. policy in region has been ever since FDR had his famous tete-a-tete with King Ibn Saud and Harry Truman rushed to recognize the newborn State of Israel.
Once we acknowledge those errors, the next step is not to fall into the same patterns out of a misguided desire for “leadership” and domination. Instead of chasing after a fantasy of imposing peace in some other part of the world, we need to stop our destabilizing and destructive policies that perpetuate conflict and make new wars more likely.
So you've officially won the contract from Las Vegas to build a "subterranean transit system" by undercutting the bids of established players in the engineering space.
Well, now comes the hard part: the Boring Company is going to actually have to prove that they have the technology and the talent to take on a large scale commercial project, instead of a test run using a go-kart on skates in 50 feet of tunnel near Tesla headquarters.
And who better to be in charge of the project than former restaurant owner and Boring Company President Steve Davis, according to Bloomberg. Davis' former bar, not unlike the Boring Company, was a bit odd. It sold "Ring Pops, kept a Bedazzler on the premises and gave 10% off to anyone who dressed up as Carlton from the TV show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
And now he's going to be drilling a hole through Las Vegas. Perfect.
Now, Davis will be on site on Friday to mark the beginning of tunnel drilling under the Las Vegas convention center. The $48.7 million project is the first, and only, major project so far for the Boring Company. Pit construction and other preliminary work on the project began two months ago.
The plan is for Las Vegas convention center attendees to be able to board Teslas running along a throughway underground and be moved half the distance of the complex in just 1 minute.
Mike Wongkaew, who was a Boring Co. engineer until late last year, said of Davis: “He has the ability to inspire people. He also rolls up his sleeves and helps out.”
Wongkaew said Davis was among those helping the Boring Company finish its Hawthorne test tunnel. He has been called a "sharp engineer" by colleagues.
Juan Reyes, former acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration said: “He’s a technical guy. They really count on him to resolve issues.”
But there are apparently "no shortage of issues" at the Boring Company today. Two major projects - one in Washington and one in Chicago - have both been put on hold. In Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel's successor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, called Musk's promise to build the tunnel without city money “a total fantasy”.
Additional critics have called into question the safety of the company's tunnels and its lack of experience with large scale project. But the company believes that it is their new, disruptive thinking that is going to allow it to develop technology to build tunnels "faster and cheaper".
Yeah, just like the alien dreadnaught was going to revolutionize auto manufacturing. Now, we're building cars in a tent.
Davis has been working for Musk since 2003, when he was hired at SpaceX. He has two master's degrees - one in particle physics and the other in aerospace engineering. Being with Musk for almost two decades definitely makes him one of Musk's longest standing employees.
One SpaceX engineer said of him: “He’s been working 16 hours a day every day for years. He gets more done than 11 people working together.”
He has also performed major feats of engineering for Musk. For instance, Musk once assigned him with the task of making a $120,000 part for just $5,000. Davis worked on it for months and figured out a way to make the part for just $3,900.
While working for SpaceX, he also decided to get into the frozen yogurt industry:
At SpaceX, Davis spent a few years working in different locations, including Omelek Island in the Marshall Islands, where the company once had launch facilities, as well as its Southern California headquarters. Then, a little over a decade ago, he moved to Washington to open the company’s D.C. office. There, missing the type of frozen yogurt he’d grown accustomed to in California, he decided to learn to make it himself via trial and error, according to an interview with a local radio station.
As a side project, he opened his own yogurt store, Mr. Yogato, in the city’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, three months before the first successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 vehicle in 2008. Mr. Yogato customers who answered trivia questions correctly got 10% off, as did anyone who could stump Davis on a Seinfeld question, according to the “Rules of Yogato” posted on the shop’s website. Those who came dressed as tennis star Bjorn Borg got 25% off.
Davis also started working on a PhD while at SpaceX, pursuing a degree in economics at George Mason University. There, he wrote his 2010 dissertation at U.S. currency debasement. In the preface to his dissertation, as one does, he noted that he "one day hoped to open a restaurant called 'Little Yohai,' perhaps finding inspiration in Morrie Robert Yohai, inventor of the Cheez Doodle."
He has since sold his bar in 2015 and sold his yogurt shop for $1, after holding a contest to select the new owner. Davis has also "served as a member of the board of advisers of the Atlas Society," a group dedicated to exploring the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
In 2016, when Musk started Boring Company, he brought Davis on stage with him and joked with him about their plans for using the company's waste products to sell "Boring Bricks". Davis seemed to have a good rapport with Musk, which is probably why he has stayed on board with him for so long.
But not everyone is enthused about this friendship. Las Vegas' mayor, Carolyn Goodman, has taken a stance against the project, citing "the company’s track record of completing zero commercial projects so far."
But when Davis spoke about the project this spring at a Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority meeting, the group outvoted Goodman and approved the project. An integral part of Davis' job has been convincing local officials, something he was familiar with at SpaceX, too.
Reyes said: “He was always trying to adjust things so the government would ultimately approve it.”
And now the future of the Boring Company may hinge on it. Other cities that are considering tunnel projects, like San Jose, will be watching closely to see if Davis can pull off the Vegas project without a hitch.
Davis said during his presentation with Musk: “Flying cars ... they don’t really exist. Tunnels do exist. And are very buildable.”
President Trump has been very active on Twitter recently but time away from impeachment attacks to blast another establishment puppet - The New York Times' Paul Krugman - slamming the nobel prize winner:
"[Krugman] has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Anyone who has followed his “words of wisdom” has lost a great deal of money. Paul, just concede the game, say I was right, and lets start a brand new game!"
President Trump's comments follow David Harsani's National Review op-ed, exposing Krugman as "a stopped clock who has yet to be right about Trump."
This Thursday, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told the House Budget Committee that there was “no reason to think, that I can see, that the probability of a downturn is at all elevated.” Not every economic indicator is perfect, but wages are rising (especially on the lower end), unemployment is still at historic lows, and markets are booming.
You might remember that only a couple of months ago, there was a torrent of stories cautioning us about the imminent downturn. Some of the scary coverage, as Robert Shiller warned, consisted of “self-fulfilling prophecies.” Some seemed almost giddy about the political prospects of a downturn. Others just said what they felt. “I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point,” Bill Maher explained at the time. “And by the way, I’m hoping for it because I think one way you get rid of Trump is to crash the economy. So please, bring on the recession.”
One of the nation’s leading doomsayers has been the New York Times’ perpetually mistaken Paul Krugman, who warned shortly after the 2016 election that Trump’s victory would trigger a global recession “with no end in sight.”
We could file that under “post-election hysteria,” but as late as April of this year he was still telling crowds that the bond-market signals predicted “a pretty good chance of a recession sometime in the next year or so.” And he has kept this going all year:
February 11: Paul Krugman expects a global recession this year, warns “we don’t have an effective response.”
August 1: “Why Was Trumponomics a Flop?”
August 15: “From Trump Boom to Trump Gloom”
September 5: “Trumpism Is Bad for Business”
October 3: “Here Comes the Trump Slump”
October 24: “The Day the Trump Boom Died”
A couple of weeks after the Trump Boom expired, CNBC reported that “October job creation comes in at 128,000, easily topping estimates even with GM auto strike.” This cycle has been going on for three years.
(My favorite Trump-era Krugmanism, though, is when the esteemed economist explains away his bad predictions by claiming that the economy’s successes are really just driven by instances of his own political preferences playing out — “Impeaching Trump Is Good for the Economy,” “The Economics of Donald J. Keynes,” and so on.)
At some point, of course, doomsayers such as Krugman are going to be right. In the past 60 years the United States has been hit with recessions in 1960–61, 1969–70, 1973–75, 1980, 1981–82, 1990–91, 2001, and 2007–09. History says we’re probably due for another one soon. When it hits, Krugman will blame tax cuts, unfettered capitalist greed, a dearth of regulations — and maybe climate change, or whatever hobbyhorse he’s riding at the time. MSNBC hosts will hail him as a seer.
Much like most economists, I have no clue what the future holds. But I do know that Barack Obama, who oversaw the slowest recovery in American history, was constantly being given credit for averting disaster by adopting smart policies (read: spending). Years after the bailouts - which is to say years of D.C. gridlock in which the former president, by his own admission, couldn’t enact any of his preferred economic policies - Democrats were still claiming that short-term first-year spending fixes were the impetus for growth.
There’s a more rational explanation: Washington stopped helping.
Voters vastly overestimate the role that presidents play in economic growth, to be sure. But Trump-era job creation was a far tougher task, since he was operating with less room for job growth than his predecessor. And considering the (self-inflicted) trade wars, political turmoil, and foreign-policy concerns that have dominated much of his first term, conventional wisdom tells us we should be struggling. Yet it’s clear that we’ve had a pretty resilient economy.
What has Trump done? The two things Paul Krugman hates most: Regulatory rollbacks and tax cuts. And yet here we are.
Late last week, we argued that one could ignore China's sinking retail sales, industrial production, capital expenditures, record low and declining sub-6% GDP and even its fading monthly credit injections and impotent credit impulse, and instead what matters most for the world's second biggest economy with the world's biggest financial system (at around $40 trillion, roughly double that of the US) is the following chart showing the market cap to total assets ratio for the four largest commercial banks in China, which as Saxo Bank found, hit a new all-time low of 5.8% in Q3 as total assets grew an annualized 8% in Q3 while market cap of the four banks declined.
This means that Chinese investors - who happen to know best what is truly going on behind the scenes - are not valuing these new assets as high quality, and the dynamic in China right now is that the current credit expansion is just offsetting the surge in bad loans, whose real amount Beijing has been keeping under wraps ever since the great bank debt for equity swap of 1999, but which we know is far higher the propaganda number of around 1.5% The net effect is zero credit transmission to the real economy in China constraining economic growth, which in turn makes banks especially vulnerable to failure as a result of even modest capital outflows.
Confirming that there is something fundamentally broken with China's debt transmission mechanism and that, by implication, Chinese bad loans are soaring, two weeks after we reported that there was a bank run at Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank which brought the bank to the verge of collapse, the WSJ reported that Harbin Bank, a politically-linked midsize Chinese lender based in the capital of northeast Heilongjiang province, became the latest Chinese financial institution to get a state bailout after its key private shareholders were replaced by government investors.
Harbin Bank, which is one of the biggest banks in China’s northeast with 622 billion yuan in assets as of June 30, 2019, and trades on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, becomes the fifth bank - after Baoshang Bank , Bank of Jinzhou, Heng Feng Bank, and Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank - to be bailed out by the state, and will be 48%-controlled by two government entities after six private shareholders shed their stakes, according to a bank statement issued late on Friday.
Total consideration for the shares involved came to almost 15 billion yuan, or around $2.1 billion, the bank said, though it described the transactions as transfers rather than stock sales, which is to be expected if the bank was being bailed out instead of actually selling a viable stake.
As has been the customary case, the bank didn’t provide any reason for the transactions in the statement, and Chinese bank regulators made no comment on the action.
And, as was the case with at least one previous bank "rescue", Harbin Bank was connected to a former oligarch who disappeared not that long ago amid allegations of massive fraud. Indeed, as the WSJ reports, the bank is among a handful of financial businesses in China linked to once-powerful tycoon named Xiao Jianhua who in early 2017 disappeared amid a wave of prosecutions of big private investors. Businesses owned by some of those people, including Wu Xiaohui’s Anbang Insurance Group Co., have also since become government-owned.
Incidentally, the first of the year's bailouts of a troubled small lenders was that of Baoshang Bank, which as we reported at the time, was also linked to Xiao. Its government takeover in May sparked a funding crisis for many other small banks in China and helped send Harbin Bank’s shares sharply lower. The stock has fallen more than 16.5% in 2019. Incidentally, when discussing the failed lender, China’s PBOC said that Baoshang was being restructured and that the takeover was designed to “stop bleeding” at the bank and contain risks to the financial sector.
So why did Harbin Bank fail?
In its financial report for H1 2019, Harbin Bank cited deteriorating asset quality - read surging bad loans - as well as intensified competition for deposits and higher borrowing costs in money markets as China’s economy slows. Yet, paradoxically, the near-insolvent lender also said it recorded a profit of 2.18 billion yuan, or about $311.1 million, though that was off about 16% because of, drumroll, more-aggressive write-offs of bad debts. Which goes to show that corporate earnings reports in China are as "credible" as all other Chinese economic "data."
As for the oligarch behind not one but two bank failures in the country so far this year, Chinese authorities have publicly said nothing about Xiao since he abruptly left Hong Kong and entered mainland China in early 2017. He has made no public comment and can’t be reached.
Another curious fact: a little over a year ago, Harbin Bank, which in March 2018 had abandoned plans to list its shares in China, announced it would raise over $2 billion in perpetual bonds to replenish its capital after regulators in early 2018 allowed lenders to sell such instruments to bolster their balance sheets. Incidentally, a perpetual bonds is effectively the same thing as equity, but for some bizarre reason sells much better in China where the investing population is apparently stupid enough to be fooled by the clever change in designation. As such, Harbin Bank was the first Chinese lender to announce its intention to sell perpetual bonds to increase its Additional Tier 1 (AT1) capital. We now know what prompted the bank's rush.
Harbin Bank’s exiting shareholders are business entities owned by a number of individuals, according to the company’s latest annual report. The biggest holder among them, Heilongjiang Keruan Software Technologies owned a 6.55% stake and is identified in the annual report as the subsidiary of another business primarily owned by two individuals.
Who are the bank's new owners?
Under the transactions disclosed Friday, an entity controlled by Harbin city’s financial bureau, Harbin Economic Development & Investment, will control 29.63%, compared with 19.65% at the end of June. A second, new shareholder will have a 18.55% stake: Heilongjiang Financial Holdings Group Co., which was established in January by the province of Heilongjiang. Combined, these state-owned enterprises would own nearly 50% of the bailed out bank.
Meanwhile, since the PBOC refuses to admit or acknowledge that it has an unprecedented bad loan problem, and thus nothing can be done to address the underlying cause at the heart of China's failing bank problem, expect more and ever bigger Chinese bank bailouts until eventually a bank fails and its depositors are impacted, sparking a furious scramble by Chinese depositors across the country to redeem their roughly $27 trillion (190 trillion yuan) in bank deposits, which as a reminder, is more than double the total amount of US commercial bank deposits.
They are in for an unpleasant surprise.
The entrance of the former Massachusetts governor into the presidential race is more proof the party has no clue where the votes are...
Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts and newly-resigned executive of Mitt Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital, has entered the Democratic primary race, which is shaping up to be the biggest ensemble-disaster comedy since Cannonball Run.
Patrick’s entry comes after news that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put himself on the ballot in Alabama and Arkansas. It also comes amid word from Hillary Clinton that “many, many, many” people are urging her to run in 2020, and whispers in the press that an “anxious Democratic establishment” has been praying for alternate candidacies in a year that had already seen an astonishing 26 different people jump in the race.
A piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago suggested Democratic insiders, going through a “Maalox moment” as they contemplated possible failure in next year’s general election season, were fantasizing about “white knight” campaigns by Clinton, Patrick, John Kerry, Michelle Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder (!), or Ohio’s Sherrod Brown.
The story described “concern” that “party elites” have about the existing field:
With doubts rising about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s ability to finance a multistate primary campaign, persistent questions about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s viability in the general election and skepticism that Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., can broaden his appeal beyond white voters, Democratic leaders are engaging in a familiar rite: fretting about who is in the race…
LOL at the non-mention of Bernie Sanders in that passage. If Bernie wins the nomination, “Buttigieg Finishes Encouraging Fourth” is going to be your A1 Times headline.
Patrick in announcing voiced a similar set of “concerns,” basically saying he’s proud to enter this deep, richly experienced field that sucks just enough to force his emergency entrance:
“I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field. They bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat. But if the character of the candidates is an issue in every election, this time is about the character of the country.”
The Times said Patrick’s policy prescriptions place him “closer to the ideological center than to the left.” In another story about Patrick and Bloomberg, the Times explained that both men “believe there is room in the race for a more dynamic candidate who is closer to the political middle than Mr. Biden’s two most prominent challengers, Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders.”
People like Bloomberg and Patrick seem to believe in the existence of a massive electoral “middle” that wants 15-point plans and meritocratic slogans instead of action. As befits brilliant political strategists, they also seem hyper-concerned about the feelings of the country’s least numerous demographic, the extremely rich. A consistent theme is fear (often described in papers like the Times as “concern”) that the rhetoric of Warren and Sanders might unduly upset wealthy folk.
“I don’t think that wealth is the problem. I think greed is the problem,” Patrick told CBS This Morning.
He added that “taxes should go up on the most prosperous and the most fortunate,” but “not as a penalty.”
What does that mean? Should we impose higher taxes on the rich but include a note from the IRS saying, “It’s not because we don’t love you”?
Along with an alarmingly high number of press figures, politicians like Patrick seem to be trapped in an “electability” concept that hasn’t made sense since the Reagan-Bush years. Outside of a few spots on the Upper East Side and in Georgetown and L.A., the “center” has been gone a long time.
From Donald Trump to Sanders to Warren, the politicians attracting the biggest and most enthusiastic responses in recent years have run on furious, throw-the-bums-out themes, for the logical reason that bums by now clearly need throwing out.
America’s political establishment has created vast inequities not only in the economy, but in criminal justice (where street crime is heavily punished, but white collar crime is not), war (it’s mostly not the sons and daughters of politicians and CEOs getting killed in overseas conflicts), health care (where much of the population lives in fear that getting sick will trigger bankruptcy), debt forgiveness (Wall Street bailout recipients got to write off losses, but people suffering foreclosures and student loan defaults are ruined), and other arenas.
You can’t capture the widespread discontent over these issues if you’re running on a message that the donor class doesn’t deserve censure for helping create these messes. It’s worse if you actually worked — as Patrick did — for a company like Ameriquest, a poster child for the practices that caused the 2008 financial crisis: using aggressive and/or predatory tactics to push homeowners into new subprime mortgages or mortgage refis, fueling the disastrous financial bubble.
If we count Bloomberg, Patrick marks the 28th person to run in the 2020 Democratic race. Pundits from the start have hyped a succession of politicians with similar/familiar political profiles, from Beto O’Rourke to Kamala Harris to Buttigieg to Amy Klobuchar to John Delaney, and all have failed to capture public sentiment, for the incredibly obvious reason that voters have tuned out this kind of politician.
They’ve heard it all before. Every time a long-serving establishment Democrat gets up and offers paeans to “hope” and “unity” and “economic mobility,” all voters hear is blah, blah, blah. They’re not looking for what FiveThirtyEight.com calls a “Goldilocks solution,” i.e. “Buttigieg, but older,” or “Biden, but younger” (or, more to the point in the case of this Bain Capital executive, “Mitt Romney, but black”); they’re looking for something actually different from what they’ve seen before.
The party’s insiders would have better luck finding a winning general election candidate if they randomly plucked an auto mechanic from Lansing, Michigan, or a nail salon owner from Vegas, or any of a thousand schoolteachers who could use the six months of better-paid work, than they would backing yet another in the seemingly endless parade of corporate-friendly “Goldilocks solutions.” That’s assuming they can’t see past themselves long enough to at least pretend they can support someone with wide support bases like Sanders or Warren.
If what the Times calls the “Anxious Democratic Establishment” remains stuck in the same doomed, outmoded “centrist” strategy, next year’s general election season will almost certainly be a miserable repeat of 2016. It seems like everyone sees this but the people with the most money to fund challenges to Trump. Watching people like Patrick talk themselves into running into the populist wood-chipper is a cringe-worthy spectacle, like watching a relative who can’t sing at all talk himself into going on The Voice. Can someone tell these people the bad news?
While the political and financial elites across the globe (and certainly in the UK) are doing everything in their power to bury the Epstein scandal - so to speak- both literally and metaphorically, CBS reports that such efforts face a hurdle as Federal prosecutors in New York are considering bringing criminal charges against the two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein on the night of his death.
As a reminder, Epstein, who was 66 at the time of his death, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10.
The official explanation for Epstein's death was suicide, although skeptics have suggested that Epstein's sudden death was all too convenient as it also buried the toxic secrets of countless implicated "luminaries" and Wall Street and Beltway VIPs across all sectors of US life.
As a reminder, Epstein, who had been charged with sexually abusing a number of underage girls, was placed on suicide watch the month before his death after he was found on his cell floor with bruising on his neck. But multiple sources said that Epstein had been taken off suicide watch after about a week, and placed into a high-security housing unit where he was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.
At the end of October, prominent forensic expert Michael Baden refuted the official narrative, stating at the end of October that Epstein was "strangulated."
More recently, a viral meme claiming that "Epstein did not kill himself" has taken America by storm...
... culminating with an interview involving Matt Taibbi and outspoken radio host Joe Rogan, in which the viral phrase "Epstein was died" was born.
Prosecutors offered the officers the opportunity to plead guilty to the charges, but the officers declined the offer, the source added. And while the CBS source said it was not a plea deal, CNN's reporting suggested otherwise, noting that "at least one federal prison worker on duty the night before Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his prison cell was offered a plea deal in connection with the multimillionaire's death." As CNN elaborated, plea deal negotiations between prosecutors and attorneys indicate forthcoming charges by the Department of Justice relating to Epstein's death.
The two prison staff members who are allegedly the target of a criminal probe were guarding the unit where Epstein died by apparent suicide failed to check on him that night for about three hours, even though they were supposed to check on detainees in the special housing unit every 30 minutes.
Of the two officers who had the responsibility to monitor Epstein, one was not a detention guard but was temporarily reassigned to that post, according to CNN reporting. The guard, a man not identified by officials, had previously been trained as a corrections officer but had moved to another position. Rules at the Federal Bureau of Prisons allow people who work in other prison jobs, such as teachers and cooks, to be trained to fill in for posts usually manned by regular guards.
The second staff member on Epstein duty was a woman fully trained as a guard, according to the person briefed on the matter. Both guards were working overtime shifts, but it's unclear whether that was mandatory.
As questions about how such a high-profile prisoner could have died on the correctional center's watch, both the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general investigating the death.
Meanwhile, as reported earlier, in the latest scandal to emerge from Epstein's death - and life - the attempt by the UK's Prince Andrew - the second son of Queen Elizabeth II - to explain away his friendship with the pedophile financier in a high-profile TV interview "degenerated into a farce", which as Bloomberg notes, threatens to be the British royal family’s biggest public relations disaster since its handling of the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
It is so bad, in fact, that Prince Andrew's PR Adviser Jason Stein resigned over his catastrophic interview:
Sky News confirms Prince Andrew's PR adviser Jason Stein resigned over the Duke's decision to agree to the interview with the BBC— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) November 17, 2019
So yes, some embarrassment for the Queen and her immediate circle, but will there be any long-term consequences? Hardly: we are confident the royal family will spend enough PR money to put this scandal to bed in the coming days and weeks, meanwhile all those people whose secrets could have been exposed had Epstein "talked" will be delighted that their skeletons will remain forever in the closet with Epstein's
murder suicide, because whoever ordered the Epstein hit was hardly dumb enough to leave any "fingerprints."
As such, any criminal probe into Epstein's guards will, sadly, end with them.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is now hemorrhaging evidence that the US and its allies deceived the world once again about yet another military intervention, which should be a front-page story all over the world.
Yet if you looked at American news media headlines you’d think the only thing that matters right now is indulging the childish fantasy that Donald Trump might somehow magically be removed from office via supermajority consensus in a majority-Republican Senate.
CounterPunch has published an actual bombshell of a report by journalist Jonathan Steele containing many revelations about the OPCW scandal which were previously unknown to the public. Steele is an award-winning reporter who worked as a senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian back before that outlet was purged of all critical thinkers on western imperialism; he first waded into the OPCW controversy last month with a statement made on the BBC revealing the existence of a second whistleblower on the organisation’s investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.
If you haven’t been following this story you can click here for a timeline of events to fully appreciate the significance of these new revelations about the Douma incident, but just to quickly recap, in April of last year reports surfaced that dozens of civilians had been killed in that city by chemical weapons used by the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad. This immediately drew skepticism from people who’ve been paying attention to the narrative manipulation campaign against Syria, since Assad had already won the battle for Douma and had no strategic reason to employ banned weapons there knowing that there would be a military strike in retaliation from western powers. True to form, a few days later the US, France and the UK launched airstrikes on the Syrian government.
The OPCW released its final report on Douma in March of this year, but that report has been contradicted by two separate whistleblowers from the Douma investigation. The first surfaced in May of this year with a leaked Engineering Assessment claiming the chlorine cylinders found at the crime scene were unlikely to have been dropped from the air, and that it was far more likely that they were manually placed there, i.e. staged, by the occupying opposition forces in Douma. The second whistleblower came forward last month with a day-long presentation in Brussels before a panel of experts assembled by the whistleblowing defense group Courage Foundation, the findings of which were published by WikiLeaks.
Chemical weapons watchdog accused by its own inspectors: see https://t.co/RRCu540aJv— Jonathan Steele (@steelejourno) November 15, 2019
This new report by Steele focuses on information provided to him by the second whistleblower, who is going by the pseudonym “Alex” out of fear for his safety. The information provided by Alex has turned out to be far more incendiary even than the leaked Engineering Assessment. Here are seven major highlights (hyperlinks go to the relevant article text they reference):
1- US government officials attempted to pressure OPCW investigators into believing that the Assad government was responsible for the Douma incident. The officials were placed in the same room as the investigators by the OPCW’s then-cabinet chief Bob Fairweather, which the investigators of course felt was a grossly inappropriate breach of the OPCW’s commitment to impartiality. For the record the US government already has a known history of bullying the OPCW, an ostensibly independent and international body, to force it to allow the advancement of pre-existing regime change agendas.
2- Alex reports that internal dissent on the OPCW’s official publications on the Douma incident was far more ubiquitous than previously known, saying “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.”
3- All but one member of the team agreed with the Engineering Assessment that it was far more likely that the chlorine cylinders were manually placed on the scene by people on the ground.
4- Ian Henderson, the South African ballistics expert whose name was signed on the leaked Engineering Assessment, seems to have been responsible for leaking it. The identity of the leaker was not previously known to the public.
5- Investigators experienced pressures against saying anything about their mounting findings that no chemical attack occurred, with Alex calling it “the elephant in the room which no-one dared mention explicitly”.
6- The OPCW’s Final Report on the Douma incident explicitly claimed the investigation found “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.” Yet according to Alex the levels of chlorinated organic chemicals found on the scene “were no higher than you would expect in any household environment” and were in fact “much lower than what would be expected in environmental samples”, comparable to or even lower than the World Health Organisation’s recommended chlorine levels for drinking water. This extremely crucial fact was actively and repeatedly omitted from the OPCW’s public reporting in a way Alex describes as “deliberate and irregular”.
7- Steele mentioned last month that he’d unsuccessfully reached out to the OPCW for comment on the second OPCW whistleblower’s revelations, and in his new article he confirms that the organisation is still dodging him, with both Fairweather and the OPCW’s media office refusing to respond. La Repubblica’s Stefania Maurizi has also been reporting that the OPCW is dodging the press on this important matter. The OPCW did respond to press inquiries after the first whistleblower surfaced in May, but it appears that someone has given the order to cease doing so with the claims of this second whistleblower.
This story -- 2 whistleblowers accusing OPCW of suppressing evidence, under US pressure, to reach a conclusion that justified US strikes on Syria --— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) November 16, 2019
should be a global scandal. Instead it's widely ignored, except for a principled few like @caitoz who've called it from the start: https://t.co/hGSMVAan0d
If there were any correlation between newsworthiness and actual news coverage, the OPCW scandal would be making front-page international headlines today. Instead, the mounting evidence that the US and its allies committed a war crime based on false information and that a supposedly independent watchdog organisation helped them cover it up barely registers. Why is that?
If you ask Syria narrative managers like The Guardian’s George Monbiot or The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, this isn’t a big story because even if Assad wasn’t responsible for the Douma incident, it doesn’t matter because he’s still a very bad man. But this is an extremely intellectually dishonest obfuscation on their part, because this has nothing to do with whether or not Bashar al-Assad is a nice person. The OPCW covering up its findings exculpating the Syrian government on Douma wouldn’t be significant because it would mean that Assad is a good person, it would be significant because it would mean the US deceived the world about yet another military intervention. And it would make it much harder for the US to manufacture public support for other military interventions in the future.
Which is of course the real reason the political/media class is ignoring the OPCW scandal. Military violence is the glue that holds the US-centralized empire together, which means it is of utmost strategic importance that that empire retain the ability to manufacture consent for military violence going forward. Because plutocrat-controlled news media outlets are set up in such a way that their employees know their careers depend on protecting the empire upon which the plutocratic class is built, the OPCW scandal is an obvious no-go for anyone who wishes to remain in the business.
The only way this story will get mainstream coverage is if it goes viral without the assistance of the mainstream media, at which point the propagandists will be forced to report on it to save face and begin the near-impossible task of trying to regain control of the narrative. This will only happen if enough of us work together to shove the OPCW scandal into mainstream attention. I think this would end up being a very good thing for the world.
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Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a Friday interview that in 2017, he was involved in an effort to remove alleged whistleblower Eric Ciaramella from the National Security Council over concerns about leaks.
"When I was in the White House there was a number of people in the National Security Council — the named individual eventually got let go, I believe because people were suspicious, not me, but other people around him were suspicious about his leaking, and that’s why he was let go," Bannon told VICE in an interview which published Friday.
Bannon served in the White House until August 2017, while Ciaramella - who became former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's personal aide in June 2017, was called out as a leaker by journalist Mike Cernovich that same month.
The whistleblower, who is reported to be a CIA analyst, filed a complaint on Aug. 12 accusing President Donald Trump of abusing his office in his dealings with Ukraine.
Bannon said he does not believe that the whistleblower needs to be identified publicly, but he did confirm his involvement in efforts to remove an individual now rumored to be the whistleblower from the NSC.
“I don’t think the individual naming of the whistleblower is important, although there was a story in The Washington Times … that tied me to the efforts to get, at least, the gentleman who was named out of the National Security Council,” said Bannon, who left the White House on Aug. 18, 2017.
“Is that true?” a VICE reporter asked Bannon.
“The individual that was named, absolutely true,” he replied. -Daily Caller
The last few days have seen scenes of utter carnage appearing on social media round the world as Hong Kong authorities (with the 'generous support' of the PLA) have fought with students at various universities.
However, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) was apparently the main focus of the police, and became a literal battleground.
As The Epoch Times' Tang Jingyuan points out, the answer may be simpler (and more ominous) than many suspect. Many CUHK students suspect that the real goal of the police is to control the internet, as Hong Kong’s internet center which handles 99 percent of the city’s internet traffic is located inside the CUHK campus.
The police fired multiple rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and a water cannon on Nov. 12. Students retaliated by throwing bricks and petrol bombs at the police. At least 60 students were injured, several were hit in the head. A reporter at the scene was also hit by rubber bullets in the head and lost consciousness, according to local media.
Even CUHK Vice Chancellor Rocky Tuan, who tried to negotiate with the police as a peacemaker, was among those affected by tear gas.
Many are wondering why the Hong Kong police focused on CUHK when almost all universities in Hong Kong are involved in anti-government protests. What’s more, the police seemed to be very determined to take control of the campus.
Is there anything unique and special about CUHK? The answer is yes. CUHK is the hosting university of Hong Kong Internet eXchange (HKIX)—the internet exchange center of Hong Kong.
HKIX is a cooperative project initiated by the Information Technology Services Centre of CUHK, providing service free of charge. It is now operated by HKIX Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the CUHK Foundation.
The function of HKIX is to connect internet service providers (ISPs) in Hong Kong so that intra-Hong Kong traffic can be exchanged locally without routing through the United States or any other country. About 99 percent of Hong Kong’s internet traffic goes through the center. According to Cloudflare, HKIX is the largest internet exchange point in Asia.
Many CUHK students suspect that the police is actually going after HKIX, because taking control of HKIX means Beijing can either shut down the internet or monitor internet communications.
Based on the current situation, Hong Kong authorities are more likely to control the internet than shutting it down. In theory, every single message going through the HKIX center can be intercepted and monitored if the police gain access to the center.
Needless to say, the Chinese communist regime and their Hong Kong puppet rulers indeed have the motivation to control and monitor the internet. For China’s top leaders, quickly quelling the protest in Hong Kong is now a number one political task, with a higher priority than the U.S.-China trade negotiations.
Almost nine years after the century's worst nuclear crisis - which by some counts has eclipsed Chernobyl in total radioactive emissions - nearly a thousand storage tanks are scattered across the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, holding a staggering 1.1 million tons of treated water used to keep its melted reactor cores cool while they rust in the sun.
Plant manager Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., or Tepco, plans to build more of the gigantic tanks to hold another 0.27 million tons, which is roughly the equivalent of 108 Olympic-size swimming pools. The new tanks are expected reach full capacity in four or five years. Each tank takes seven to 10 days to fill and holds between 1,000 to 1,200 tons of liquid, Tepco officials told reporters during a tour in February organized by the Japan National Press Club.
In March 2011, Fukushima No. 1 suffered three core meltdowns triggered by tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the situation with the tanks indicates that Tepco has yet to get the facility under control.
“Space isn’t a big issue at this point in time, but five or 10 years from now, after we’ve started removing the melted fuel debris, we’re going to need facilities to store and preserve it,” Akira Ono, president of Fukushima No. 1 Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Co., a Tepco unit overseeing the decommissioning process, said at a news conference in January.
The water issue is eating up both space and resources, but a solution is unlikely to emerge anytime soon.
In November 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report that said the physical constraints of the site “leave little room for additional tanks” beyond what Tepco has allocated. The IAEA report went on to say it believes storing tainted water in “above ground tanks . . . can only be a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed” and a “decision on the disposition path should be taken urgently.”
Worse, beyond 2020 Tepco has not allocated any additional space for holding treated water on the site and has no plans to do so at this time as a viable long-term sustainability plan remains elusive. The utility said the tanks will likely become a headache if they remain at the plant. “At that point, we may need to rethink how we’re using the space,” Ono said.
Yet even though Japan has failed to propose any credible, long-term plan of how to dispose of the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear power plant catastrophe, it is already looking beyond that mere "triviality", and as the Nikkei reports, Japan's prefecture of Fukushima, which was devastated during the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster, is looking to transform itself into a renewable energy hub.
A plan is under way to develop 11 solar power plants and 10 wind power plants in the prefecture, on farmlands that cannot be cultivated anymore due to radioactive fallout from the 2011 disaster, as well as on mountainous areas from where population outflows continue.
The total cost is expected to be in the ballpark of 300 billion yen, or $2.75 billion, until the fiscal year ending in March 2024.
The government-owned Development Bank of Japan and private lender Mizuho Bank are among a group of financiers that have prepared a line of credit to support part of the construction cost. Ultimately, we are confident that the Bank of Japan will be called in to monetize the "green new debt."
In theory, the maximum power output from the new hub is estimated to be about 600 megawatts, or roughly two-thirds of a nuclear power plant. The produced electricity will be sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area which was impacted by the Fukushima 1 explosion.
The plan also envisions the construction of an 80-km wide grid within Fukushima to connect the generated power with the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Co. That part of the project is expected to cost 29 billion yen.
And while we applaud Japan's vision, we wonder if instead of spending billions on its own version of a "green new deal", the money wouldn't be better spent on at least coming up with some plan that at least ensures that Fukushima won't be the source of an unprecedented leak of radioactivity into the ocean once the current plan for containing the fallout is no longer feasible, especially since the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics are scheduled to take place a mere 240 kilometers from the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Update: Racist statements come out of the mouth of Bolivia’s self-declared president:
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Jeanine Anez, one of the Bolivian Spanish elite, has declared herself the President of Bolivia. She is one of the elite allied with Washington who accused Evo Morales of rigging his reelection. But the CIA’s Bolivian lackeys who forced Morales to resign his presidency don’t bother with elections. They just declare themselves president like Juan Guaido, the CIA creep in Venezuela, who hoped to unseat Maduro, the elected president, by declaring himself president. Neither Anez nor Guaido ran for the office. They just self-appointed themselves president. The organization of American States, a CIA front organization, accepted the unelected presidents as rightful rulers. President Trump declared the CIA coup to be an increase in freedom and democracy.
As Trump approves of the attempted coup against Venezuela’s Maduro and the successful coup against Bolivia’s Morales, how can he complain about the CIA/DNC ongoing coup against him?
Live by the sword and die by the sword.
The whores that constitute the Western “media” pretend that self-declared “presidents” are the real presidents, and those elected by the people are not. Every Latin American election that does not elect Washington’s candidate is reported by the Western presstitutes as a “disputed election.” It doesn’t matter if the winning candidate gets 85% of the votes. As he is the wrong candidate from Washington’s standpoint, his election is disputed and illegitimate.
Washington paid the corrupt Bolivian military to unseat Morales, the elected president. This has always been the way Washington has ruled the entirety of Latin America. Buy the corrupt military. They will prostitute their wives for money.
In Latin America everyone is accustomed to being bought. Only Cuba and Venezuela and perhaps Nicaguara have avoided this subservience to Washington. With the pressures on them mounting, how long these three progressive regimes can hold out against Washington remains to be seen. I wouldn’t bet my life on their survival as independent countries. Even Russia and China are threatened by regime change, and both governments seem to be in self-denial about it.
It is a mystery why any Latin American country or any country that hopes to be independent would permit any US presence in the country. US presence in a Latin American country or any country precludes any independence on the part of the country’s government. I suppose it is the money.
Latin Americans would rather have Washington’s money than their independence.
In order to have an American presence in Russia, the Russian government accepts all sorts of humiliations. China is the same. Look at what Washington has done to China in Hong Kong. It is extraordinary that the Chinese government was so insouciant that China set itself up for this embarrassment.
Russia’s sizeable investments in Bolivia will now be lost. With the Spanish elite put back in control by the CIA, Russia’s investments will be appropriated by US firms. One wonders why Russia didn’t do more to protect Morales, the legitimate President. If Putin had sent Morales a regiment of Russian troops, the Bolivian military would have stood down, and democracy, instead of American Imperialism, would still exist in Bolivia.
What has happened everywhere in the world is that nothing is any longer important but money. Therefore, everything is sacrificed for money. There is no shame, no honor, no integrity, no truth, no justice.
Maybe the biblical prophesies are true, and Armageddon is our future. Who can say we don’t deserve it.
A new Redfin report specifies that only 10% of all offers written by Redfin agents on behalf of their homebuying clients faced a bidding war in October, down from 39% the same time last year and now at a 10-year low. Not even a plunge in mortgage rates this year could attract new buyers.
Three of the top metropolitan area for bidding wars in October were located in California -- San Francisco (34.8%), San Jose (20.5%), and San Diego (15.6%). On the East Coast, most of the bidding wars across major cities were non-existent, except for Philadelphia (13.8%).
The rate of bidding wars across major metro areas in California have collapsed in the last 12 to 16 months.
For example, 50% to 85% of all Redfin transactions in San Francisco from 2017 through 2Q18 faced fierce competition among buyers. But as soon as summer rolled around, demand plunged, and so did the bids, as the bidding war rate crashed to near zero by 1Q19 -- but has since bounced back to 34.8% in October.
During the same period, the national bidding war rate plummeted, now making a new 10-year low at 10.1% last month.
Seattle's bidding war among homebuyers was just 8.8% of all transactions in October, well below the 10.1% national average, and also at a 10-year low.
"Homebuyers in Seattle know that in the current market, they don't necessarily have to go through the emotional heartburn that comes with bidding wars," said Seattle Redfin agent Jessie Boucher.
"Even though there aren't a ton of homes for sale right now, buyers are able to preserve their contingencies and maybe even get a great deal," Boucher said.
Redfin's report is a warning that homebuyers are beginning to recognize a possible housing market top.
Many homebuyers don't want to pay top dollar for homes that have seen rapid price inflation over the last eight or so years. Also, home prices have risen faster than wages over the same period, so it's possible that a structural high as been put in -- one where the average American can no longer afford a home, hence why fierce bidding has disappeared across the country.
Submitted by Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management
“They can no longer get their money out,” said the investor, a builder of global institutional portfolios.
“Allocators who made private equity investments in mainland China over the past 5-10yrs are now trapped,” he continued. “Not metaphorically trapped - they’re literally not permitted to move cash proceeds out of China as those investments are sold. The problem is widespread and the sums so large that we now have internal people focused on helping these allocators hedge the exchange rate risk.”
A worse fate than having your capital simply imprisoned in a foreign country, is having it locked-up and then devalued while you plot an escape.
“As investments mature and private equity managers distribute renminbi, they now ask clients who cannot get that money out of China to re-invest in their latest funds.” But even as the globe’s most sophisticated institutional investors find their capital quietly held hostage by Beijing, passive retail retirement savings is flowing into Chinese stocks and bonds at an accelerating pace.
In March 2019, MSCI quadrupled the share of Chinese onshore equities in their indexes. The increase is estimated to force between $80bln-$125bln of overseas savings into Chinese onshore stocks. MSCI left room to go further - to get to their full weighting, another $160bln-$250bln of passive equity flows will move to Beijing. And the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate index introduced a 6% weighting to China’s $13trln domestic bond market for the first time this March. An estimated $125bln-$150bln of inflows followed.
If other bond index providers follow Bloomberg/Barclays, an additional $125bln-$150bln will race in.
After decades of ever rising global capital flows, it is easy to forget that capital enters and exits nations only with the express permission of those in power.
“In the midst of rising East/West conflict and knowing that institutional investors are struggling to get their money out, it is astonishing that MSCI and Bloomberg/Barclays index boards have forced global pensioners to fund the Party.”
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As an aside, we at ZH are quite confident that Kyle Bass - and Trump too, once the trade war theater finally implodes - will agree with all of the above.
While most people think of GoFundMe as a way to raise money for medical debt, funeral costs or small personal items, things have gone so well for our "greatest economy ever" that it is now being used as a tool by small businesses to raise cash.
Struggling businesses are now using the site, ranging from comic book stores to drive-in movie theaters, according to the Wall Street Journal. Small businesses have opened campaigns across 19 countries.
GoFundMe's Chief Executive Rob Solomon said: “These independent businesses become pillars in a community, and when they can’t stay open, the communities really rally.”
One company, Books of Wonder in Manhattan has raised $23,000 toward a $250,000 goal for moving expenses. Its owner, Peter Glassman, says he needs the money to move the store from 18th Street to a more affordable and high trafficked space in the Flatiron District. He has struggled to pay his $600,000 annual lease, he said. A previous location of his store served as the inspiration for the children's bookshop in the movie "You've Got Mail".
In 2012, Glassman raised $100,000 using Indiegogo to keep his doors open.
He said of his customers and donors: “They understand that the things that have gone wrong for us are things beyond our control. The attitude is, ‘It’s a miracle you’re still here.’”
On GoFundMe, customers can cash out everything they raise, regardless of whether or not they hit their goal. The website charges a 2.9% free.
Jessica Walker, president and chief executive of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, said:
"Small and midlevel independent businesses are squeezed by rising rents, minimum-wage increases and mandatory sick leave. Crowdfunding can help fill the gap."
She continued: “If a business is struggling, it’s much harder to get a bank loan. It’s most helpful to people, such as women and people of color, who don’t necessarily have access to a ton of wealth within their networks or an abundance of angel investors waiting in the wings.”
Nicky Perry, who owns a British grocery, the restaurant Tea & Sympathy and the fish-and-chip shop A Salt & Battery in Greenwich Village, has a similar story. She started a GoFundMe to raise $100,000 and has raised about $52,000 so far.
She commented: “We just couldn’t pay the rent. The rent is so astronomical.”
She has already cut costs by changing payroll companies, reducing headcount and redoing its menu. She says she would consider turning to GoFundMe again in the future, should she need it. Reaction to her fundraiser has been "overwhelmingly positive", she said.
Perry said: “We couldn’t believe it. I’ve had little old ladies on two different occasions waiting for me outside on my bench to give me $50 checks.”
Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University, said that the GoFundMe campaigns provide more than just money - they provide reassurance.
After a successful campaign, owners may say “‘I should hang on, I should keep going,’” Bachenheimer concluded.
Mnar Muhawesh, founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.
It’s an open secret. The deep state is working hand in hand with Silicon Valley social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google to control the flow of information. That includes suppressing, censoring and sometimes outright purging dissenting voices – all under the guise of fighting fake news and Russian propaganda.
Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.
In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.
The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.
The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York Times, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.
But for those paying attention and for those who have been following ’MintPress News’ extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.
Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.
Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.
In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:
What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.”
Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”
The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.
39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.
After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”
Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the U.S. and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.
In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.
Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote,
This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.”
The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.”
Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture, for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built.
As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue.
The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.
One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe.
McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “retarded,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.
Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.
I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby was quoted at the University of Baltimore Law's 400 Years: Slavery and the Criminal Justice System conference in saying one of the most significant civil rights issues facing African Americans in Baltimore City is the "flawed" criminal justice system that has kept many in a perpetual state of mass incarceration and economic oppression, reported The Baltimore Sun.
"Black people are six times more likely to be arrested and become a part of the criminal justice system [than] whites," Mosby said at the two-day conference on Saturday.
Mosby blamed the "over-militarization of police departments" in inner cities and unfair laws as a significant contributor to the economic disparities affecting African American communities not just in Baltimore but in major cities across the country.
"You have an over-militarization of police departments all across the country, racially unjust application of laws against poor black and brown people, [and] collateral consequences of these convictions that have kept black and brown people and communities [as] second-class citizens," she said.
Other speakers shared similar views at the conference, such as defense attorneys, law students, academics, community leaders, and city residents.
Mosby said the civil rights of African Americans in the poorest Baltimore City neighborhoods are being threatened by city police officers who are enforcing racist laws. Mass incarceration in the city has created limited economic mobility for black youth, she added.
She said her decision to stop prosecuting marijuana possessions is a new direction for the criminal justice system that would help to address racial inequities built into the system that has led to the mass oppression of low-income communities.
Mosby's five years of laissez-faire attitude on crime in Baltimore City has coincided with five-years of homicides climbing over 300 or more per year.
David Fakunle, the acting chairman of the Maryland Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, was recently quoted by The Sun as saying there needs to be a significant overhaul of the city's criminal justice system that is disproportionately affecting African Americans.
Fakunle was recently heard at a separate conference in saying, "Respect my existence, or expect my resistance."
And referring to Fakunle's comments, Law Enforcement Today said, "Hopefully citizens don't take those words out of context or use them to the extreme while dealing with police encounters, as resistance to members of law enforcement is dangerous for both the officers and the subject."
There's no question that Baltimore's criminal justice system needs a drastic overhaul, and it certainly seems that the city is nowhere close in determining which reforms will be the best solutions to end mass incarcerations that could one day liberate hundreds of thousands out of poverty.
In the meantime, Baltimore City will continue its death spiral until meaningful reform is seen. It could be decades before the real change arrives.
Via Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com,
Financial writer and book author John Rubino says he can see the end of the economic expansion fueled by massive debt creation.
Rubino explains, “Every sector of the U.S. economy is so over indebted I don’t see how we go on much longer..."
"The Fed is desperately trying to prolong this thing. We are running trillion dollar deficits now, and what that is for is to keep the system from falling apart. We are 11 years into an expansion, a record. This is the longest bull market in history, and this is the longest economic expansion in history...
These guys don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next recession, but they are afraid that the system is so highly leveraged that even a garden variety three quarters of a percent of negative growth and a garden variety of 20 % drop in stock prices might be fatal.
The system might not be able to handle that because it would cause so much damage and there are so many different places that can blow up that the system would spin out of control. We would get 2008-2009 again but on steroids because the numbers are so much bigger this time around. So, they want to avoid that at all costs.”
Rubino points out, “Fear is the enemy in a fiat currency system..."
"Everything is based on our assumption that the guys in charge know what they are doing and that the confidence in them is good. You take that away, and they let us see them sweat, and it’s over. There is no real bottom for the dollar, euro or the yen. Their intrinsic value is zero. When the economic players out there in the global financial system realize that the central banks of the world are out of ammo, and nothing these guys do is going to fix our problem, then all hell breaks loose...
What worries me about today’s world is that everything falls apart all at once, and there is no way to fix what went wrong...
We have a lot of examples of governments doing crazy things when everything falls apart.”
In closing, Rubino points out riots and protests around the world, such as in South America and Europe. Rubino says,
“This is happening largely because of financial mismanagement... They see a corrupt elite siphoning off all the wealth in their society. Does that sound familiar? That’s what a lot of people think of the U.S. right now. That’s in an expansion when there are jobs. So, take away a lot of those jobs, but leave that elite in place, and you have a powder keg. You lit the fuse that could get very, very scary. I hate this. The Mad Max scenario is a tragedy beyond belief for some place like the U.S. where it did not have to happen.”
Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with John Rubino, founder of the popular website DollarCollapse.com.
In an impassioned interview with Fox Business' Trish Regan, 'Die Hard' actor Robert Davi accused Democrats of "gerrymandering the population" with policies that encourage and protect illegal immigrants.
Why are Democrats so desperate to welcome people into the country with no visas and then, turn around and offer them healthcare? @RobertJohnDavi says Dems are gerrymandering the population. #TrishRegan pic.twitter.com/PTDT6TOEeo— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) November 13, 2019
“Every single thing that they do,” Davi began.
“The Democrats and the cabal of the GOP globalists, they’ve let down the American people for gerrymandering the population.”
As The Daily Caller's Virginia Kruta notes, Davi also referenced the Immigration and Naturalization Act, passed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson and “argued by Teddy Kennedy,” saying that they had promised the law would not encourage further illegal immigration.
“This is what’s happening, it’s pure and simple,” Davi continued.
“What they want to do is change the shape and the ideology of this nation by letting people in that have not been educated in the system. Trish, I was just in New York, I spoke to immigrant cab drivers from Bangladesh to the Dominican Republic, guys that are working their butts off that have been here legally, and they’re angry.”
Which appears to be exactly what Democrats are doing as Pat Buchanan recently noted on Bernie Sanders' Open-Borders plan:
Democrats are moving toward an “open door” policy on the U.S. border, an open borders embrace of any and all who wish to come.
America, apparently, does not belong to those who live here and love the country. America belongs to anyone who chooses to come. America belongs to the world.
Consider Bernie Sanders’ immigration proposal, outlined the week of the massacre of Mormon women and children.
On Day One, President Sanders would declare a moratorium on deportations and offer a “swift pathway to citizenship” for all illegal migrants who have been here for five years.
Bernie would break up ICE.
Border-jumping would cease to be a crime and become a civil offense like jaywalking.
The “Muslim ban” would be abolished.
President Sanders would back sanctuary cities that refuse to work with U.S. law enforcement.
Asylum seekers would not have to wait in Mexico as their claims were processed but would be welcomed into the USA.
Family separations would end.
Trump’s wall, which Bernie calls “racist,” would be history.
The administration’s treatment of illegal immigration “as a criminal and national security matter is inhuman, impractical and must end.”
Migrants who enter illegally would qualify for federal health care and the same social welfare benefits as U.S. citizens.
Immigrant officials say Sanders’ proposals would create an irresistible magnet for millions of migrants from all over the world to stampede into the USA.
Submitted by Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management
"The only way I know to get money out is to set up a Japanese company,” he whispered.
“That’s why so many Chinese nationals are in Japan. First of all, you can get a visa and permanent residency. Second of all, Japan and China don’t exchange tax information because they’re still bent out of shape about WWII. And thirdly, China’s police can’t come get you. Chinese billionaires don’t get ‘disappeared’ in Japan like they do in HK and NY,” he explained.
“That’s why they’re buying homes in Tokyo and Osaka."
"Despite capital controls, you can settle renminbi transactions in Yen,” he continued.
“So you set up a Japanese shell company, get a bank account,” he said. “Then you transfer renminbi to your company’s bank in Tokyo, settled in Yen. At that point, the money basically vanishes. The account name is in kanji. And I’m sure it doesn’t work for really big transactions, and you can’t do it as a US citizen, but the Chinese have probably set up 100k of these companies.”
In H1 2019 Chinese inquiries about Japanese property jumped 13x.
Goldman sold a 4% stake in Taikang Life. Allianz paid them 800mm euros, valuing Taikang at E20bln. Goldman bought its Taikang stake in 2010 from AXA at a E7bln valuation. AXA inherited Taikang in its 2006 acquisition of Swiss insurer Winterthur (Credit Suisse subsidiary). Winterthur bought its Taikang stake in 2000 alongside Softbank and GSIC.
The buyers/sellers have flipped Taikang shares in dollars/euros ever since, avoiding RMB. Chen Dongsheng started Taikang in 1996 (married Mao’s granddaughter too). He’s worth $4.8bln.
“They can no longer get their money out,” said the investor, a builder of global institutional portfolios. “Allocators who made private equity investments in mainland China over the past 5-10yrs are now trapped,” he continued. “Not metaphorically trapped - they’re literally not permitted to move cash proceeds out of China as those investments are sold. The problem is widespread and the sums so large that we now have internal people focused on helping these allocators hedge the exchange rate risk.”
A worse fate than having your capital simply imprisoned in a foreign country, is having it locked-up and then devalued while you plot an escape. “As investments mature and private equity managers distribute renminbi, they now ask clients who cannot get that money out of China to re-invest in their latest funds.” But even as the globe’s most sophisticated institutional investors find their capital quietly held hostage by Beijing, passive retail retirement savings is flowing into Chinese stocks and bonds at an accelerating pace.
In March 2019, MSCI quadrupled the share of Chinese onshore equities in their indexes. The increase is estimated to force between $80bln-$125bln of overseas savings into Chinese onshore stocks. MSCI left room to go further - to get to their full weighting, another $160bln-$250bln of passive equity flows will move to Beijing. And the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate index introduced a 6% weighting to China’s $13trln domestic bond market for the first time this March. An estimated $125bln-$150bln of inflows followed. If other bond index providers follow Bloomberg/Barclays, an additional $125bln-$150bln will race in.
After decades of ever rising global capital flows, it is easy to forget that capital enters and exits nations only with the express permission of those in power. “In the midst of rising East/West conflict and knowing that institutional investors are struggling to get their money out, it is astonishing that MSCI and Bloomberg/Barclays index boards have forced global pensioners to fund the Party.”
Update 3: So it begins:
As the AP reports, local police charged demonstrators at Hong Kong Polytechnic University early Monday in a bid to end a lengthy standoff with protesters who had occupied the campus for a week, even though the local police later denied they had, in fact, raided the campus.
As the WSJ adds, pro-democracy activists who had spent the night at barricades outside retreated inside the university, while those already inside campus buildings hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks at elite and riot police, who stormed the campus through the main entrance.
Several protesters had been perched on higher floors and used a large slingshot to launch Molotov cocktails. The entryway and areas around the university’s perimeter were quickly engulfed in flames. One protester shown on live-streamed video from the site fired an arrow at the officers. Police appeared to arrest a small number of demonstrators as they advanced, but it was unclear how many students remained inside.
As noted earlier in the day, police had warned they would open fire using live rounds on protesters using Molotov cocktails to attack officers, as water-cannon streams, tear gas and nonlethal projectiles failed to budge defiant demonstrators, who have occupied a university for a week.
#HongKong: the entrance to the #PolyUniversity is burning after another police charge.— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) November 17, 2019
Police were forced to retreat against meaning protesters are likely to hold out until the morning. pic.twitter.com/IbJZtt155L
Early on Sunday, protesters started a massive fire on an overpass near the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which is located near Hong Kong Polytechnic University and links Hong Kong island to Kowloon. Multiple explosions occurred, police said, with flames falling to the road underneath the overpass. The tunnel remained closed on Sunday, as it has been for days.
Shortly after 11 p.m., police again began pushing toward barricades built by protesters south of the university next to the tunnel. “We’re surrounded now,” said a PolyU student surnamed Tam, who said he had been inside the fortified campus, the last remaining occupied university, since Monday and vowed to defend the campus and fellow protesters to the end. Police arrested a number of people at the scene.
The standoff comes after one of the most violent weeks in more than five months of antigovernment protests. Escalating violence of late has raised concerns over whether the city’s district council elections, scheduled for Nov. 24, can go forward. The Hong Kong government and police are also under increasing pressure from Beijing to crack down more forcefully and find a solution to the protests, which have grown more violent since a peaceful march in June drew as many as two million people.
* * *
Update 2: Sky News in a breaking report says officers have been given the 'green light' to use lethal force if needed against 'rioters' deploying lethal weapons at student protester-occupied Polytechnic University. According to the report:
Hong Kong protestors have fired arrows and hurled petrol bombs at police, as they seek to keep control of a barricaded university. Warning they were authorized to use "lethal force", officers threatened to use live bullets if rioters continued. The territory continues to suffer some of its worst unrest in six months of demonstrations.
Throughout the weekend and into Monday the campus is resembling a war zone.
And as protester tactics escalate, including shooting at police with bows and arrows, and launching petrol bombs via sling shots off buildings, HK police gloves are now coming off.
The Resistance in the PolyU defied Police armoured truck with molotov cocktail. When the truck charged, molotov cocktail rains set the surface of the truck on fire, and it is forced to back off.— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) November 17, 2019
Gov & Police attacking yet another institution full-force. It's sad to witness this. pic.twitter.com/OciPGZGv2c
Meanwhile, anti-Beijing activists are already claiming security forces have deployed live rounds to put down protests as they lay siege to Polytechnic University and surrounding roads.
[LIVE ROUNDS FIRED] #HKPoliceTerrorists got off an AMBULANCE and fired at least 2 live bullets. No info about any protester got shot.— Demosistō 香港眾志 😷 (@demosisto) November 17, 2019
It’s not the first time that police terrorists use ambulance as police vehicle. pic.twitter.com/uwCfV9Tt0v
* * *
Update 1: The battle over student protester-occupied Polytechnic University grew more violent over the weekend and grabbed headlines Sunday after a police officer was wounded by an arrow and a riot control vehicle attempting to disperse what HK authorities have labelled 'rioters' was set aflame by dozens of Molotov cocktails.
Chinese state media has now labeled the student protesters "terrorists" and has urged police to deploy live fire given the students themselves are in possession of deadly weapons. After a night of mayhem into the early hours of Monday (local time), it appears a violent showdown is imminent, as Reuters reports police now consider 'live fire' an option:
Hong Kong police threatened on Monday (Nov 18) to use live bullets if “rioters” used lethal weapons and committed other acts of violence, after the latest flare up during five months of anti-government protests in the Chinese ruled city.
The police statement followed fresh clashes outside a university in the center of Hong Kong where protesters were hunkered down behind makeshift shields and hurled petrol bombs at police in a standoff blocking a vital tunnel link.
This video went viral on China's internet. HK looks like a battlefield tonight. Rioters attacked armored police vehicle with petrol bombs, causing it to catch fire.But police still exercise restraint. Police should be permitted to fire live rounds in this case to counter rioters. pic.twitter.com/dD9Qxl1AUf— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) November 17, 2019
It looks like the situation inside the university and in the surrounding Hum Hom neighborhood is spiraling out of control, escalating by the hour.
Residents from neighboring Hum Hom & Whompoa rushed to #PolyU to save the college kids trapped inside as AR-15-rifle-wielding cops, 2 water cannons & 2 armored vehicles besieged the campus & arrest anyone coming out, incl. paramedics. Cars poured in too. #HongKongProtests #FreeHK pic.twitter.com/Yq8i1I3NvW— Ray Chan (@ray_slowbeat) November 17, 2019
* * *
Following a week of Hong Kong student protesters occupying the city's university campuses where severe clashes with riot police have witnessed increasingly brazen and dangerous tactics such as using javelins and bows and arrows against police lines, security forces are looking to clear the last one at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) on Sunday.
Early last week protesters took control of Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) campus, and from there the war to control the city's academic centers was on.
At each, students raided sports equipment storehouses and could be seen setting up makeshift petrol bomb factories on sports fields.
Given the escalation in tactics, including deadly weapons such as bows and arrows, HK police have now designated the students occupying the university as "rioters".
Conviction for 'rioting' in Hong Kong brings a mandatory prison sentence, thus the new designation is considered a significant new step by police.
And now at least one police officer has been shot with an arrow amid a chaotic scene that's included student barricades and metal spikes set up on roadways.
Students have also been utilizing homemade catapults and slingshots, and hurling rocks, bricks, and desks off of campus buildings.
The injured officer has been described as part of police media liaison office. An arrow reportedly launched from the student side struck his leg and pierced through to the other side, as photographs showed of the gruesome injury.
He was said to be conscious when transported to the hospital and is expected to recover.
A handful of passersby and locals who at one point attempted to clear debris from a road reportedly suffered head injuries as a result of the brick throwing and were taken to the hospital.
Roads surrounding PolyU have been closed for days, and with other campuses remaining disaster zones even after student rioters have been ousted from these locations, the Education Bureau over the weekend announced all classes and schools in Hong Kong would remain suspended into Monday due to safety concerns.
Deadly weapons used by the students have included launching petrol bombs from catapults from atop campus building rooftops.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and the university's Staff Association said on Sunday there were "very worried" about the safety of all involved in the escalating situation.
"We call on both sides to exercise restraint and avoid the use of deadly weapons. The current stalemate is caused by a series of government decision-making mistakes and should be resolved responsibly," the statement said.
As the battle for the final student-occupied campus rages on, we don't have to wonder for a moment what police in America would do if bows and arrows were launched at them. Likely a severe police crackdown is coming, though it appears the Chinese military is for now still staying on the sidelines.
Even as American forces are controversially "securing" select oil fields in the Deir Ezzor region of eastern Syria, they are simultaneously continuing withdrawal from northern Syria near border areas in keeping with Trump's prior ordered draw down amid the Turkish military operation against Kurdish militias. And that means Russia is continuing to move into locations the US has abandoned.
“We entered the base and took the inner and external perimeter under control,” a senior Russian military police inspector said after on Friday Russian combat helicopters were filmed landing at a sprawling air base in northern Syria, newly vacated by US forces.
“Now sappers are looking and going through every building to make sure there aren’t some kind of explosive substances left behind or some kind of surprises here for us,” he said. Russian state media boasted that the major base is now "under new management".
The Russian military police took an airfield in northern Syria, where the American base used to be located. pic.twitter.com/5T7fpITRwx— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) November 15, 2019
Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) video showed elite forces hastily securing Sirrin Air Base in the northern Aleppo area, among the largest military installations previously occupied by American forces in Syria.
Though flying the Russian flag as they moved in, the MoD indicated Sirrin is now controlled by Syrian government forces, also to be used as a joint distribution center for humanitarian aid.
On Thursday the Russian MoD also said it had established a helicopter base at Qamishli after Americans retreated from the area, amid joint Turkish-Russian patrols based on high level talks between Putin and Erdogan.
And already there are reports that Russia has deployed its Pantsir air defense system to the Qamishli Airport in order to "protect transport helicopters deployed to northern Syria from the Khmeimim base," a Russian broadcaster which first broke the news stated.
All of these events have heightened continued uncertainty and confusion on the ground over whether the US is ultimately withdrawing from Syria or increasing its presence.
Scenes of the Russians scooping up American forward operating bases has angered hawks in Washington.
Today in Syria: Russia takes control of main U.S. military facility abandoned earlier this week by American forces on Trump’s orders. This area is south of Kobani and went to Russia under the Putin-Erdogan deal. Russia now also owns the airstrip we built. pic.twitter.com/uO5AHdKMi3— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) November 15, 2019
Early this week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of seeking to establish an illegal "quasi-state" in eastern Syria. He made the remarks while addressing the Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday.
“They left in a hurry”, #Russia 🇷🇺 broadcaster Zvezda showed Mi-35M helicopters arriving at the airfield & officers from the Russian Military Police arriving at the abandoned military base, Sirrin in #Syria 🇸🇾, one of the biggest US 🇺🇸 military outposts in the war-torn country. pic.twitter.com/QBvysEMGcd— Saad (@SaadAbedine) November 15, 2019
“On the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, they are doing everything possible to create the structure for a quasi-state, and are asking the Gulf States for major investments in order to create a local administration on the basis of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurds – the YPG People’s Protection Units and others, with the clear intention of breaking this piece of territory off from Syria, and controlling the oil fields located there,” Lavrov said.
In my July 25th article “Zelenskii’s dilemma” I pointed out the fundamental asymmetry of the Ukrainian power configuration following Zelenskii’s crushing victory over Poroshenko: while a vast majority of the Ukrainian people clearly voted to stop the war and restore some kind of peace to the Ukraine, the real levers of power in the post-Maidan Banderastan are all held by all sorts of very powerful, if also small, minority groups including:
The various “oligarchs” (Kolomoiskii, Akhmetov, etc.) and/or mobsters
Arsen Avakov’s internal security forces including some “legalized” Nazi death squads
The various non-official Nazi deathsquads (Parubii)
The various western intelligence agencies who run various groups inside the Ukraine
The various western financial/political sponsors who run various groups inside the Ukraine
The so-called “Sorosites” (соросята) i.e. Soros and Soros-like sponsored political figures
The many folks who want to milk the Ukraine down to the last drop of Ukrainian blood and then run
These various groups all acted in unison, at least originally, during and after the Euromaidan. This has now dramatically changed and these groups are now all fighting each other. This is what always happens when things begin to turn south and the remaining loot shrinks with every passing day.
Whether Zelenskii ever had a chance to use the strong mandate he received from the people to take the real power back from these groups or not is now a moot point: It did not happen and the first weeks of Zelenskii’s presidency clearly showed that Zelenskii was, indeed, in “free fall“: instead of becoming a “Ukrainian Putin” Zelenskii became a “Ukrainian Trump” – a weak and, frankly, clueless leader, completely outside his normal element, whose only “policy” towards all the various extremist minorities was to try to appease them, then appease them some more, and then even more than that. As a result, a lot of Ukrainians are already speaking about “Ze” being little more than a “Poroshenko 2.0”. More importantly, pretty much everybody is frustrated and even angry at Zelenskii whose popularity is steadily declining.
Still, it would be an oversimplification to bring it all down to Zelenskii’s total lack of experience in politics. There are objective factors which make any kind of resolution of the Ukrainian problem very complicated, even for a very strong and principled leader. Here are some of them.
1. Ukraine is a completely artificial country composed of no less than 4 different regions: the western Ukraine (Lvov), the southern Ukraine (Odessa, Nikolaev), the eastern Ukraine (Donbass) and the north-central Ukraine (Kiev). It is important to stress here that these regions do not have well-defined borders so one map might show them quite differently from another one. Here are three examples to illustrate this point:
2. The concept of an “independent Ukraine” has always been based on strong ideological founding myths. For example, the expression “independent Ukraine” is a contradiction in terms since in order to be a “ukraine” – that is a frontier/border region, you need to be “the ukraine of something”, of some other entity, like say “Serbian Krajina in Croatia” or the “Siberian Ukraine” in Siberia. These myths include all the silly stuff we have already heard (the ancient “Ukrs” built the pyramids, spoke proto-Sanskrit, taught Buddha, dug the Black Sea, came from Mars, were mentioned by Herodotus [who himself was Ukrainian] etc. etc. etc.) but also a few absolutely crucial recent founding myths including:
The Euromaidan was a “revolution for dignity” which was supported by the vast majority of the people of the Ukraine. All the shots that day were fired by “Russian agents”.
The war in the East was started when Russian agents seized official buildings and guns leading to a “covert invasion” (whatever that means) of the Russian armed forces.
The so-called “LDNR” leaders are Russian FSB agents, mafia thugs and terrorists who oppress the local population which does not support them.
The Ukrainian armed forces defeated the “Russian hordes” and successfully stopped “Putin” who was planning to invade the entire Ukraine. The Russians still have such plans and are ready to strike.
The new and improved Ukrainian armed forces are ready to liberate every inch of Ukrainian land.
The White European Ukraine stands ready to defend Europe against the Russian Asiatic hordes threatening it.
The “entire world” (no less!!) is united against Russia in support of the Ukraine.
The Donbass and Crimea will be liberated from the Russian invaders and their local collaborators who will all be carefully interrogated in special filtration camps and all the disloyal elements will be eliminated.
This gentlemen is, according to Ukronazi propaganda, a “defender of Europe from the Russia Asiatic hordes”
3. Now this set of ideological imperatives makes for a very easy to understand “program” for low-IQ wannabe storm-troopers, but it makes for an insurmountable set of obstacles to the Minsk Agreements or the Steinmeier Formula (which is simply an explication of the terms of the Minsk Agreements). The fact that it was “their” President (Poroshenko) who gave his approval to both of these makes no difference to the nationalists. The main psychological/ideological problem is that the Minsk Agreements and the Steinmeier Formula both obligate the regime in Kiev to negotiate directly with the leaders of the LDNR. So far, nobody in the powerful minorities mentioned above is ready for such a compromise. Why? Simply because IF the government in Kiev finally agrees to talk with the Novorussians then the entire recent ideological basis for the Euromaidan (mentioned above) comes tumbling down. IF the LDNR leaders are not Russian agents and terrorists, then they represent the people of Novorussia and if the people of Novorussia have elected these people, then it is the people of Novorussia who want nothing to do with the ugly “Banderastan” which the AngloZionists and the Ukronazis attempted to impose upon the people of the Ukraine in a bloody (and, not to mention, totally illegal) coup.
Another major problem for Zelenskii are two competing narratives: the Ukronazi one and, shall we say, the “Russian” one. I have outlined the Ukronazi one just above and now I will mention the competing Russian one which goes something like this:
The Euromaidan was a completely illegal violent coup against the democratically elected President of the Ukraine, whose legitimacy nobody contested, least of all the countries which served as mediators between Poroshenko and the rioters and who betrayed their word in less than 24 hours (a kind of a record for western politicians and promises of support!).
All, repeat, ALL the steps taken to sever crucial economic and cultural links between Russia and the Ukraine were decided upon by Ukrainian leaders, never by Russia who only replied symmetrically when needed.
Even with international sanctions directed at her, Russia successfully survived both the severance of ties with the Ukraine and the AngloZionist attempts at hurting the Russian economy. In contrast, severing economic ties with Russia was a death-sentence for the Ukrainian economy which has now become completely deindustrialized.
Now that the Ukraine has been completely deindustrialized, all she can export are either people or land/soil. In the case of people, we are talking primarily about cheap manual labor and prostitutes to the West and engineers and technical specialists towards Russia (especially engineers and scientists of the now defunct, but formerly very powerful, Ukrainian military industrial complex). In terms of land/soil, the party “servant of the people” is now advocating a new law which will do to Ukrainian land/soil what the famous “vouchers” did to the Soviet economy: put it all in the hands of crooks and billionaires.
Crimea is gone and nothing will ever change that, least of all an attempt by Kiev to reconquer Crimea by force (Crimea is currently one of the most defended spots on the planet).
While some western politicians simply cannot make a mea culpa and admit that they completely misread, misunderstood and mismanaged the entire Ukrainian crisis, most folks in the West are already seeing a very simple sentence written on their mental walls: the Ukraine is a dangerous failed state with only one thing left to plunder: the Ukrainian soil. In contrast, Europe really needs Russia on all levels, from energy to defense. This is especially true now that Russia and China are embarking on truly gigantic common projects.
Russia is now strong enough to take on a combined attack of NATO forces. The LDNR forces are smaller than the Ukrainian military, but much better trained, commanded, equipped and supported and they are most likely to defeat any Ukronazi attack. Still, should a Ukrainian attack be successful and the future of the LDNR be at risk, Russia could stop any such invasion without even deploying ground forces into Novorussia.
For Zelenskii or, for that matter, for any other Ukrainian leader the above contradictions are unsolvable and every step taken in a direction of pragmatism, no matter how small (and ALL his steps so far have been small), gets an immediate reaction of outrage and threats by the hardcore Nazis of Poroshenko & Co.
The subtle Ukronazi message to “Ze”
Some of the threats made by these Ukronazis are dead serious and the only person who, as of now, kinda can keep the Ukrainian version of the Rwandan “Interahamwe” under control would probably be Arsen Avakov, but since he himself is a hardcore Nazi nutcase, his attitude is ambiguous and unpredictable. He probably has more firepower than anybody else, but he was a pure “Porokhobot” (Poroshenko-robot) who, in many ways, controlled Poroshenko more than Poroshenko controlled him. The best move for Zelenskii would be to arrest the whole lot of them overnight (Poroshenko himself, but also Avakov, Parubii, Iarosh, Farion, Liashko, Tiagnibok, etc.) and place a man he totally trusts as Minister of the Interior. Next, Zelenskii should either travel to Donetsk or, at least, meet with the leaders of the LDNR and work with them to implement the Minsk Agreements. That would alienate the Ukronazis for sure, but it would give Zelenskii a lot of popular support.
Needless to say, that is not going to happen. While Zelenskii’s puppet master Kolomoiskii would love to stick this entire gang in jail and replace them with his own men, it is an open secret that powerful interest groups in the USA have told Zelenskii “don’t you dare touch them”. Which is fine, except that this also means “don’t you dare change their political course either”.
The personal future of Poroshenko and his Ukronazis will be decided in the USA. If Trump prevails over the Clinton-Biden gang, then there is a tiny theoretical chance that a joint “go ahead” between the US and Russia could give Zelenskii the go-ahead to begin denazifying the Ukraine. I find this hypothesis most unlikely. Failing that, Russia will embark on a policy of unilateral actions and decisions. What might these be?
To answer that we need to look at Russia’s real conditions (as opposed to the official ones). They are pretty straightforward:
Crimea is Russian forever
Kiev will not be allowed to seize Novorussia by force
The Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO
Russia will not pay alone for the reconstruction costs of the Ukraine
Russia can live with a unitary, but confederated, Ukraine
Russia can also live with whatever is left following a breakup of the Ukraine
Unless a viable solution is found, and in a reasonable time frame, Russia can, and will, recognize the LDNR and even allow it to re-join Russia (under what kind of status legally is yet to be determined as there are several possible options here)
They first obvious key question here is this: can the AngloZionist Empire do anything to prevent the Russians from achieving their goals as outlined above?
My personal answer is no, the Empire does not have the means to impose something different from what Russia wants, at least not in the Ukraine. This is not only because of Putin vs the clueless western leaders, it is simply that the Russians have a huge historical and geographical advantage in the Ukraine over any combination of western powers. True, Russia did pathetically drop the ball, but things are now clearly changing and Russia is now in a rather enviable position in which she can rely mostly on unilateral actions (such as handing out Russian passports) while letting the Ukronazi occupied Ukraine slowly destroy itself.
So what happens if nothing happens?
And since a (currently entirely theoretical) “united West” can’t do anything to prevent Russia from reaching one of the outcomes acceptable to her, neither can any Ukrainian President, Zelenskii or other.
Right now, the supporters of a Banderastan are going through the famous Kübler-Ross stages of griefs: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance: currently, most of them are zig-zagging between bargaining and depression; acceptance is still far beyond their – very near – horizon. Except that Zelenskii has nothing left to bargain with.
The prospects for the future of the Ukraine are rather grim, at least in the short to mid term. What will actually happen is impossible to predict (it is much easier to say what will not happen), but here are a few options I find credible:
A collapse of the central authority followed by a surge in violence and a break-up of the rump-Ukraine into some entity in the West. The south will probably seek quasi-independence to make business with Russia while most of the violence will take place in the north-central region which is very polarized and only silent because of the fear of the SBU and/or Nazi deathsquads. As soon as Kiev loses control, these regions are likely to rise up. If that happens the current line-of-contact will become an international border between the LDNR and the rest of the Ukraine. Most UN members will not recognize the LDNR (fear of Uncle Shmuel) but one will: Russia. And that will be the end of the “independent Ukraine” as we know it.
I would never exclude a last minute patriotic coup or, even more likely, counter-coup by Ukrainian patriots in the armed forces, not necessarily one supported by Moscow, but one which will at least replace frankly rather demented Ukronazis with more pragmatic people. There are plenty of such people in the Ukraine, some are known and some are less known. If I were “Ze” I would keep an eye on Vadim Rabinovich, not because he is my personal ideal candidate, but because he is very smart and very well connected. He is not at all popular in the Ukraine, but he has strong support in the West and in Israel. Check out this rather interesting Wikipedia article on Rabinovich and see why he is a typical “мутный типчик” (roughly, an “unclear” guy – meaning somebody you would suspect of being a crook). He is unlikely to ever be elected by the people. But he, or somebody like him, might make a good “anti-Nazi” front-figure for a coup (or counter-coup) should the need for such a figure become useful to the Empire. By the way, the Kremlin’s reaction to a Rabinovich (or similar) led coup (or counter-coup) would be just like when Iulia Timoshenko came to power: they will work with any person who is a pragmatist and who can deliver on promises.
Finally, a war in the East is always, and by definition, a possibility for as long as a rabidly russophobic regime is in power in Kiev. From a purely military point of view, any Ukrainian attack against the LDNR would be suicidal: either the Novorussians will take care of the attacking force, or the Russians will. But either way, the Ukrainian attacking force will be destroyed. From a political point of view, however, such an attack might make sense simply because this would be a gigantic distraction allowing all the Nazi rats to leave the sinking ship and quietly slip away. Finally, there is no doubt that the Neocons have been dreaming of a (real, not fictional) Russian attack as a way to shock Europe back into total submission to Uncle Shmuel. This is also why I believe that a Russian counter-attack on Ukrainian forces might be limited to long range strikes (kinetic and electronic) and the imposition of a no-fly zone.
It’s really that simple. In fact, time was always on the Russian side here, even if not necessarily on the side of the people of Novorussia who have suffered through the horrors of this war. However, it appears now that the Novorussians have been successful in their efforts to turn a hodgepodge of more or less trained militias into a credible and disciplined military force capable of tactical and operational actions, in other words, capable of dangerous counter-attacks. Finally, Russian policies towards the rump-Ukraine and Novorussia are now all unilateral in nature, which gives Russia a great deal of flexibility.
With a weak leader like “Ze” the Ukraine looks stuck in the no man’s land somewhere between denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The faster the Ukrainian leaders get to the “acceptance” phase, the less the people of the Ukraine will have to suffer (not that anybody in the Ukronazi leadership cares about the common people).
At the end of all arguments and theories, there is a crucial fact which cannot be ignored: the Euromaidan Revolution (which is what the coup against Yanukovich and the subsequent civil war in the Donbass are) has failed. In fact, it was stillborn from Day1 being built on an ideology which most Ukrainians did not share. Furthermore, this revolution alienated the most productive and richest parts of the Ukraine: the Donbass and Crimea. Next, the Urkonazi regime was soundly defeated by the Novorussian insurgents not once, but twice. Finally, by severing all economic ties with Russia, the independent Ukraine basically committed seppuku. None of that can be reversed or easily fixed.
As always, in the battle between ideology and reality the latter prevailed. The outcome of this struggle between ideology and reality was never in doubt, at least not for rational, pragmatic, people, and so the blood and tears of all those who needlessly died, were maimed or had to become refugees will forever remain on the consciences of those who started this “revolutionary fire”: the leaders of the united West.
In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. intelligence community produced a report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
The January 2017 report, called an Intelligence Community Assessment, followed months of leaks to the media that had falsely suggested illicit ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin while also revealing that such contacts were the subject of a federal investigation. Its release cast a pall of suspicion over Trump just days before he took office, setting the tone for the unfounded allegations of conspiracy and treason that have engulfed his first term.
What was Brennan's motive? Among the possibilities is hostility within his camp toward Michael Flynn (foreground), Trump's future reform-minded national security adviser.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
The ICA's blockbuster finding was presented to the public as the consensus view of the nation's intelligence community. As events have unfolded, however, it now seems apparent that the report was largely the work of one agency, the CIA, and overseen by one man, then-Director John Brennan, who closely directed its drafting and publication with a small group of hand-picked analysts.
Nearly three years later, as the public awaits answers from two Justice Department inquiries into the Trump-Russia probe’s origins, and as impeachment hearings catalyzed by a Brennan-hired anti-Trump CIA analyst unfold in Congress, it is clear that Brennan’s role in propagating the collusion narrative went far beyond his work on the ICA. A close review of facts that have slowly come to light reveals that he was a central architect and promoter of the conspiracy theory from its inception. The record shows that:
Contrary to a general impression that the FBI launched the Trump-Russia conspiracy probe, Brennan pushed it to the bureau – breaking with CIA tradition by intruding into domestic politics: the 2016 presidential election. He also supplied suggestive but ultimately false information to counterintelligence investigators and other U.S. officials.
Leveraging his close proximity to President Obama, Brennan sounded the alarm about alleged Russian interference to the White House, and was tasked with managing the U.S. intelligence community's response.
While some FBI officials expressed skepticism about the Trump/Russia narrative as they hunted down investigative leads, Brennan stood out for insisting on its veracity.
To substantiate his claims, Brennan relied on a Kremlin informant who was later found to be a mid-level official with limited access to Putin’s inner circle.
Circumventing normal protocol for congressional briefings, Brennan supplied then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid with incendiary Trump-Russia innuendo that Reid amplified in a pair of public letters late in the election campaign.
After Trump's unexpected victory, Brennan oversaw the hasty production of the tenuous Intelligence Community Assessment.
Departing from his predecessors’ usual practice of staying above the political fray after leaving office, Brennan has worked as a prominent analyst for MSNBC, where he has used his authority as a former guardian of the nation’s top secrets to launch vitriolic attacks on a sitting president, accusing Trump of "treasonous" conduct.
Now Brennan is among the most vocal critics of the more comprehensive of the two Justice probes, the criminal investigation run by U.S. Attorney John Durham and Attorney General William Barr. "I don’t understand the predication of this worldwide effort to try to uncover dirt, real or imagined, that would discredit that investigation in 2016 into Russian interference," he recently said on MSNBC.
The Trump-Russia collusion theory was not propagated by a few rogue figures. Key Obama administration and intelligence officials laundered it through national security reporters who gave their explosive claims anonymous cover. Nevertheless, Brennan stands apart for the outsized role he played in generating and spreading the false narrative.
The government’s official story as detailed in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s April 18 report casts the Trump-Russia probe as an FBI operation. It asserts that the bureau launched its investigation, code-named “Crossfire Hurricane,” on July 31, 2016, after receiving information that junior Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was informed that Russians had politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
John Durham: His probe aims "to better understand the intelligence that flowed from the C.I.A. to the F.B.I. in the summer of 2016," as the New York Times put it.
United States Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut/Wikimedia
But a great deal of evidence – including public testimony and news accounts – undermines that story. It indicates that the probe started earlier, with Brennan a driving force. Many of the clues are buried in public testimony and reports published by the New York Times and Washington Post, the primary vehicles for intelligence community leaks throughout the Russiagate saga.
One signal came in June when the Times reported that the Barr-Durham investigation had "provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A." Among Barr's aims, the paper noted, was "to better understand the intelligence that flowed from the C.I.A. to the F.B.I. in the summer of 2016."
That intelligence "flowed from the C.I.A. to the F.B.I" underscores that the agency played a larger role in the early stages of the Trump-Russia probe than is publicly acknowledged. Late last month, the Times ran a more ominous piece suggesting that the CIA may have been a prime mover of the probe through deception. It reported that Durham has been asking interview subjects "whether C.I.A. officials might have somehow tricked the F.B.I. into opening the Russia investigation." In anticipation of being asked such questions, the paper added, "[s]ome C.I.A. officials have retained criminal lawyers."
If that reflects an accurate suspicion on Durham's part, then Brennan, by his own account, has already outed himself as a key suspect. Brennan has publicly taken credit for the Russia probe's origination and supplying critical information to the FBI after it began. "I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about," he told Congress in May 2017. That information, Brennan added, "raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians," which then "served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion-cooperation occurred."
A BBC report suggests that Brennan may be referring to April 2016 – a month before Papadopoulos allegedly mentioned Russian dirt and three months before the FBI launched its probe – when “an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States" provided Brennan with "a tape recording" that "worried him" – "a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the U.S. presidential campaign."
Stefan Halper: This CIA and FBI informant targeted Carter Page as early as May 2016, Page says.
It is not clear whether the BBC account is accurate, but the April date coincides with other activity suggesting an earlier start date to the collusion probe than the official version. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified before a congressional panel that in the “late spring” of 2016 then-FBI Director James Comey briefed National Security Council principals about concerns surrounding newly appointed Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. According to the Guardian newspaper, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele began briefing the FBI on his discredited dossier in London as early as June; after that, "his information started to reach the bureau in Washington." In mid-July, veteran CIA and FBI informant Stefan Halper made contact with Page at a British academic conference; according to Page, the invitation had come at the end of May or early June.
Halper has also been accused of taking part in a smear operation aimed at spreading false information about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian nationals. In May, Halper was sued in the U.S. by Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British academic, for defamation. Lokhova alleges that Halper, while working as a U.S. intelligence asset, spread rumors suggesting that she and Flynn had an improper relationship.
While Russiagate's exact starting point is murky, it is clear that Brennan placed himself at the center of the action. After the investigation officially got underway in the summer of 2016, as Brennan later told MSNBC, "[w]e put together a fusion center at CIA that brought NSA and FBI officers together with CIA to make sure that those proverbial dots would be connected." (It is not clear whether this was a Freudian slip suggesting the center included Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired by the Clinton campaign that produced the Steele dossier of fictitious Trump-Russia dirt – but regardless, it is likely that at least some of Brennan's "dots" came from the firm.) According to the New Yorker, also that summer Brennan received a personal briefing from Robert Hannigan, then the head of Britain’s intelligence service the GCHQ, about an alleged "stream of illicit communications between Trump's team and Moscow that had been intercepted." A U.S. court would later confirm that Steele shared his reports with at least one "senior British security official."
As Brennan helped generate the collusion investigation, he also worked to insert it into domestic American politics – at the height of a presidential campaign. Starting in August, Brennan began giving personal briefings to the Gang of Eight, high-ranking U.S. senators and members of Congress regularly apprised of state secrets. Breaking with tradition, he met them individually, rather than as a group. His most consequential private meeting was with Harry Reid.
Harry Reid: Brennan gave this top Senate Democrat an irregular individual briefing, putting the collusion narrative in motion.
AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz.,File
Afterward, the Democrats’ Senate leader sent a pair of provocative public letters to FBI Director Comey. Reid's messages – released to the public during the final months of the presidential race – made explosive insinuations of illicit ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, putting the collusion narrative into motion. "The prospect of individuals tied to Trump, WikiLeaks and the Russian government coordinating to influence our election raises concerns of the utmost gravity and merits full examination," Reid wrote on Aug. 27. Russia, he warned, may be trying to "influence the Trump campaign and manipulate it as a vehicle for advancing the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Two days after Comey's "October surprise" announcement that newly discovered emails were forcing him to reopen the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while serving as secretary of state, Reid followed up with even more incendiary language: "It has become clear," he complained to Comey, "that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government."
Reid’s letters show the extent to which Brennan maneuvered behind the scenes to funnel collusion to a public audience. In their book "Russian Roulette," Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that Reid "concluded the CIA chief believed the public needed to know about the Russia operation, including the information about the possible links to the Trump campaign."
The separate briefings and the Reid letters gave rise to suspicion that Brennan was driven by what Reid, according to Isikoff and Corn, saw as an "ulterior motive." Although Brennan has claimed publicly that he "provided the same briefing to each gang of eight member," Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) says that is not true. Nunes, who was then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is quoted in journalist Lee Smith’s new book, "The Plot Against the President," saying, "Whatever Brennan told Reid, he didn’t tell me."
Reid’s letters also undermine a common, but false, talking point used to defend Brennan and other U.S. intelligence officials behind the Russia investigation: If they really sought to hurt the Trump campaign, they would have made their Trump-Russia collusion speculation public. As Comey put it: "If we were 'deep state' Clinton loyalists bent on stopping him, why would we keep it secret?" Reid's extraordinary letters – released at the height of the campaign – were one of the ways in which Brennan did exactly the opposite.
FBI's Peter Strzok texted Lisa Page suggesting the CIA was "leaking like mad." And he wrote colleagues of his concern the agency was deceiving both the bureau and the public.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
After Trump's election victory in November, Brennan's CIA was the source of yet more leaks. Reports in early December claimed that the agency had assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the explicit aim of helping Trump. The leaks sparked worry inside the FBI.
"Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad," Peter Strzok, the lead FBI agent on the Russia probe, texted his colleague Lisa Page on Dec. 15. "Scorned and worried and political, they're kicking in to overdrive." In an April 2017 email to colleagues, Strzok worried the CIA was deceiving both the bureau and the public. "I'm beginning to think the agency got info a lot earlier than we thought and hasn't shared it completely with us," he wrote. "Might explain all these weird/seemingly incorrect leads all these media folks have. Would also highlight agency as a source of some of the leaks."
At the same time that he was sharing his "concerns" about alleged Trump-Russia contacts with the FBI and Congress, Brennan was raising alarm bells at the White House about an alleged Russian interference campaign. In the process, he went to significant lengths to safeguard his claims from internal scrutiny.
In early August, Brennan told the White House about supposed intelligence from a Kremlin mole that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered an interference operation to hurt Clinton and install Trump in the White House. Brennan, the New York Times reported, "sent separate intelligence reports, many based on the source’s information, in special sealed envelopes to the Oval Office." Brennan made sure that those envelopes evaded scrutiny.
On Brennan’s orders, Greg Miller of the Washington Post reported, "no information on Russia's interference was ever included in the president's daily brief." Brennan's purported fear was that even a highly restrictive distribution list might prove too leaky for the CIA’s explosive claims about Putin’s supposed secret orders to elect Trump.
Miller also reported that Brennan holed up in his office to pore over the CIA's material, "staying so late that the glow through his office windows remained visible deep into the night." Brennan ordered up, not just vetted, "'finished' assessments – analytic reports that had gone through “layers of review and revision," but also "what agency veterans call the 'raw stuff,' the unprocessed underlying material," Miller adds.
John Kiriakou, ex-CIA analyst: Brennan's actions were "a very big red flag."
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
To former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou, all of this raises "a very big red flag" that suggests Brennan circumvented his colleagues and normal intelligence safeguards. "As a matter of practice, you never, ever give the raw data to the policymaker," Kiriakou says. "That was something that was done during the George W. Bush administration where Vice President Cheney demanded the raw intelligence. But more often than not raw intelligence is just simply incorrect – it’s factually incorrect, or it’s the result of the source who’s a liar, or it’s the result of the source who has only part of the story. And so you can’t trust it. You have to vet it and compare it to the rest of your all-source information to see what’s true, what’s not true, and then only the true information you use in your analysis. For the director of the CIA to be using the raw data is highly unusual because that’s what you have a staff of thousands to do for you."
The timing of Brennan's supposed delivery of the information sourced to the mole – later identified as Oleg Smolenkov – also raises questions. Although it is unclear when Smolenkov would have conveyed his intelligence to the CIA, the Washington Post reported Brennan delivered it to the White House in early August 2016 – just days after the FBI officially launched its Russia investigation. But if Smolenkov was able to capture Putin's orders to conduct a sweeping election interference campaign – which allegedly began in March – it would be odd that this information arrived only after the U.S. election interference investigation began, and not – at minimum – months earlier, when Putin's supposed operation would had to have been ordered.
When Brennan's material did reach eyes outside Obama's inner circle, "other agencies were slower to endorse a conclusion that Putin was personally directing the operation and wanted to help Trump," the Washington Post reported. “‘It was definitely compelling, but it was not definitive,' said one senior administration official. 'We needed more.'" Faced with that skepticism, Brennan "moved swiftly" to brief congressional leaders -- including Reid.
The internal doubts about Brennan's claims now make more sense in light of the recent outing of the supposed Kremlin mole that he relied on to make them.
Smolenkov has been revealed to be a mid-level Kremlin official who was outside of Putin's inner circle. According to Russian media, Smolenkov disappeared during a visit to Montenegro in June 2017, in what other reports call a CIA extraction over fears that a loose-lipped Trump could put him in peril. After that, Smolenkov turned up in the U.S., remarkably living under his own name – easily discoverable in public records – in the Virginia suburbs.
Even putting aside Putin’s reputation for having operatives abroad hunt down and assassinate those who cross him, Kiriakou said this open visibility is "astounding." CIA informants, Kiriakou says, "were never, ever resettled in their own names and they were almost never resettled in the Washington area. That tells me a couple of things: one, this source wasn’t as sensitive as we may have been led to believe; or, two, even if he was sensitive, the information that he provided either has been overtaken by events, or isn’t really that important in the long run."
Nevertheless, Brennan’s Kremlin mole remains the only known direct source for a central claim that Putin worked to elect Trump.
Brennan has countered questions about the intelligence process he directed by insisting that his conclusions were broadly shared and corroborated. That is misleading.
During private briefings to Congress in December 2016, it was the CIA that aggressively pushed the belief that Putin had ordered a secret campaign to elect Trump, while FBI officials said that the intelligence was not conclusive. An unnamed official told the Washington Post that "a secret, new CIA assessment" made "direct and bald and unqualified" statements that the Russian government sought to elect Trump. But days later, "a senior FBI counterintelligence official" appearing before the committee gave "fuzzy and "ambiguous" remarks on the same issue. "It was shocking to hold these [CIA] statements made about Russian intentions and activities, and to hear this guy basically saying nothing with certainty and allowing that all was possible," an official who attended the briefing told the Post.
James Clapper: He suggested the Steele dossier influenced the Intelligence Community Assessment. Brennan denied it.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File
A March 2018 report from Republican members of House Intelligence Committee fleshed out these concerns. It determined that the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, which Brennan managed, was subjected to an "unusually constrained review and coordination process, which deviated from established CIA practice." Contrary to the widespread portrayal of a vetted, consensus-based intelligence product, the ICA was in fact "drafted by CIA analysts" working under Brennan and merely "coordinated with the NSA and the FBI." The report found that the ICA also suffered from "significant intelligence tradecraft failings that undermine confidence in the ICA judgments regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategic objectives for disrupting the U.S. election."
Another question is whether the Steele dossier influenced the ICA's production. Brennan has insisted in congressional testimony that the dossier was "not in any way used as the basis for the intelligence community's assessment," and that he was unaware of the fact that Hillary Clinton's campaign had funded it. But multiple accounts, including in RealClearInvestigations, report that the dossier was inserted as an appendix to the ICA, and that Brennan personally advocated its inclusion. In an October 2017 interview with CNN, where he works as analyst, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that "some of the substantive content of the dossier we were able to corroborate in our Intelligence Community Assessment" – suggesting that it was indeed relied on.
President Obama's role in U.S. intelligence is yet one more mystery. In both the final months of his presidency and in the period since, Obama has said very little publicly about the Russia investigation. But he attended various meetings with top officials about Trump-Russia theories. It’s not clear what he said, but their efforts ramped up in the months that followed.
Most of Obama’s documented efforts occurred during his final days in office. On Jan. 5, 2017 he convened a meeting where he and top principals decided to withhold details about the ongoing FBI investigation of the incoming Trump administration. A week later his administration issued a new rule allowing the NSA to disseminate throughout the government “raw signals intelligence information.” Republicans viewed this as an effort to make it easy to leak damaging information against Trump and harder to identify the leakers. Also after the election, Obama made the curious decision to nix a proposal from inside his own administration to form a bipartisan commission that would have scrutinized Russian interference and the U.S. response.
Since stepping down from the CIA in January 2017, Brennan's incendiary rhetoric has fanned the flames. From MSNBC to the New York Times to Twitter, Brennan has denounced Trump as "treasonous," "in the pocket of Putin," and dismissed the president's now substantiated "claims of no collusion," as "hogwash." In the final weeks of the Mueller probe, Brennan boldly predicted a wave of indictments against Trump's inner circle for a Russia conspiracy. When Mueller completed his probe with no such indictments, Brennan changed his tone: "I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was," he told MSNBC.
Brennan is now a bitter Trump critic on MSNBC.
MSNBC/"The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell"
The Mueller report accepted Brennan’s claim that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. But as a previous RCI investigation found, the report's evidence failed to support its claim of a "sweeping and systematic" interference campaign. Nor did it show that such interference impacted the outcome.
It is still not clear why the Obama administration, with major media playing along, not only embraced the false Trump-Russia narrative but also used it as a rationale to spy on a presidential campaign and then on a presidency. Brennan’s reasons also remain opaque.
One early motivation may have been the intelligence community’s broad dislike of Flynn – Trump’s first national security adviser, who was one of the earliest targets of the collusion narrative.
Flynn had served as Obama’s head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but fell out of favor by 2014, in part because of his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and the CIA's arming of anti-Assad militants in Syria. Obama had specifically warned Trump against hiring Flynn.
A longtime critic of the bureaucracy, Flynn earned particular enmity from Brennan’s CIA with an effort to create a new Pentagon spy organization, Foreign Policy reported in 2015.
One of Trump’s first high-profile supporters, Flynn was also the subject of the first news articles – starting in February of 2016 – portraying members of the Trump campaign as overly sympathetic to Russia. In February 2017, “nine current and former officials” from multiple agencies leaked about him to the Washington Post over his contacts with the Russian ambassador -- an article that helped the Post win a Pulitzer Prize with the New York Times. The episode also brought Flynn much grief, including a widely questioned “process crime” conviction for lying to the FBI, which he is now trying to reverse. Meanwhile, a CIA “whistleblower” hired and placed in the White House by Brennan has provided the impetus for the current Democrat-led impeachment effort against President Trump.
The Barr-Durham probe is set to determine, among other things, whether Brennan’s actions and faulty information amounted to incompetence or something considerably worse.
New data from the US Commerce Department shows at least 30 states, many of them Trump states, have observed double-digit declines in merchandise exports to China through Sept. of this year.
In Wyoming, which exports chemical products to China, recorded a -80% plunge in shipments in the first nine months. Alabama's automobile industry reported a -49% fall in shipments, Idoha -46%, Washington -45%, Aaraknsa -44%, Florida -40%, and Texas -39%. Merchandise exports to China as a whole slumped 15% to $78.8 billion during the period.
Brad Setser, a senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke to Bloomberg about the trade war devastation impacting manufacturing hubs in US states.
Setser said as the trade war escalated this year, China's demand for imports in many Trump states fell off a cliff.
He warned that some of these manufacturing hubs "will never recover," even if there's a trade deal.
It's becoming increasingly apparent that China, has struck back at the Trump administration, though it was silent, and now what appears to be very targeted, it could turn out to be a disaster for the administration ahead of an election year.
With manufacturing hubs across the country crushed, it should be no surprise that the manufacturing recession continues to deepen into Q4.
Already, preliminary estimates for Q4 GDP data has fallen to a dismal 0.4% on Friday, take out government spending, and it's likely the recession has already started.
US economic data has been rather poor since Sept., including today's disappointing retail sales and dismal industrial production as the US economic surprise index has slipped back into the negative after peaking in late September.
The manufacturing recession and services slowdown has already led to a downturn in employment. This will start to hit consumer spending trends and lead to a reverse in sentiment.
Put this all together, and a broader slowdown is already underway -- contagion has spread from manufacturing to services. Trump states are getting hit the hardest. It's only a matter of time before the next recession begins.
The timing is right for everyone to understand what Donald Trump is doing, and try to decrypt the ambiguity of how he is is doing it. The controversial President has a much clearer agenda than anyone can imagine on both foreign policy and internal affairs, but since he has to stay in power or even stay alive to achieve his objectives, his strategy is so refined and subtle that next to no one can see it. His overall objective is so ambitious that he has to follow random elliptic courses to get from point A to point B, using patterns that throw people off on their comprehension of the man. That includes most independent journalists and so-called alternative analysts, as much as Western mainstream fake-news publishers and a large majority of the population.
About his strategy, I could make a quick and accurate analogy with medication: most pills are designed to cure a problem, but come with an array of secondary after-effects. Well, Trump is using medication solely for their after-effects, while the first intent of the pill is what’s keeping him in power and alive. By the end of this article, you’ll see that this metaphor applies for just about every decision, move or declaration he’s made. Once you understand what Trump is about, you’ll be able to appreciate the extraordinary presidency he’s conducting, like no predecessor ever came close to match.
To start off, let’s clear the one aspect of his mission that is straightforward and terribly direct: he’s the first and only American President to ever address humanity’s worst collective flaw, its total ignorance of reality. Because medias and education are both controlled by the handful of billionaires that are running the planet, we don’t know anything about our history that’s been twisted dry by the winners, and we don’t have a clue about our present world. As he stepped in the political arena, Donald popularized the expression «fake news» to convince the American citizens, and the world population as well, that medias always lie to you. The expression has now become commonplace, but do you realize how deeply shocking is the fact that nearly everything you think you know is totally fake?
Media lies don’t just cover history and politics, but they have shaped your false perception on topics like economy, food, climate, health, on everything. What if I told you that we know exactly who shot JFK from the grassy knoll, that the foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor was proven in court, that the CO2 greenhouse effect is scientifically absurd, that our money is created through loans by banks who don’t even have the funds, or that science proves with a 100% certainty that 911 was an inside job? Ever heard of a mainstream journalist, PBS documentary or university teacher telling you about any of this? 44 Presidents came and went without even raising one word about this huge problem, before the 45th came along. Trump knows that freeing the people out of this unfathomable ignorance is the first step to overall freedom, so he started calling mainstream journalists and their news outlets for what they are: pathological liars.
«Thousands of mental health professionals agree with Woodward and the New York Times op-ed author: Trump is dangerous.»
– Bandy X. Lee, The Conversation 2018
«The question is not whether the President is crazy but whether he is crazy like a fox or crazy like crazy.»
– Masha Gessen, The New Yorker 2017
Let’s make one thing clear: to the establishment, Trump isn’t mentally challenged, but he’s definitely seen as a possible nemesis of their world. Ever since he moved in the White House, Trump has been depicted as a narcissist, a racist, a sexist and a climate-skeptic, loaded with shady past stories and mental issues. Even though an approximate 60% of the American people don’t trust medias anymore, many have bought the story that Trump might be slightly crazy or unfit to rule, and the statistic climbs even higher when you get out of the USA. Of course, Donald isn’t doing anything special to change the deeply negative perception that so many journalists and people alike have about him. He’s openly outrageous and provocative on Twitter, he sounds impulsive and dumb most of the time, acts irrationally, lies on a daily basis, and throws out sanctions and threats as if they were candy canes out of an elf’s side bag in a mall in December. Right away, we can destroy one persistent media myth: the image Trump is projecting is self-destructive and it’s the exact opposite of how pathological narcissists act, since they thrive to be loved and admired by everyone. Donald simply doesn’t care if you like him or not, which makes him the ultimate anti-narcissist, by its psychological definition. And that’s not even up for opinion, it’s a quite simple and undeniable fact.
His general plan exhales from one of his favorite motto: «We will give power back to the people», because the United States and its imperialist web woven over the world have been in the hands of a few globalist bankers, military industrials and multinationals for more than a century. To achieve his plan, he has to end wars abroad, bring back the kids, dismantle the NATO and CIA, get control over the Federal Reserve, cut every link with foreign allies, abolish the Swift financial system, demolish the propaganda power of the medias, drain the swamp of the deep state that’s running the spying agencies and disable the shadow government that’s lurking in the Council on foreign relations and Trilateral Commission’s offices. In short, he has to destroy the New World Order and its globalist ideology. The task is huge and dangerous to say the least. Thankfully, he’s not alone.
Before we get on his techniques and tactics, we have to know a little bit more about what’s really been going on in the world.
Since Peter the Great, the whole history of Russia is a permanent demonstration of its will to maintain its political and economical independence from international banks and imperialism, pushing this great nation to help many smaller countries fighting to keep their own independence. Twice Russia helped the United States against the British/Rothschild Empire; first by openly supporting them in the Independence War, and again in the Civil War, when Rothschild’s were funding the Confederates to politically break down the nation to bring it back in the British colonial Empire’s coop. Russia also destroyed Napoleon and the Nazis, whom were both funded by international banks as tools to crush economically independent nations. Independence is in their DNA. After almost a decade of Western oligarchy taking over Russia’s economy after the fall of USSR in 1991, Putin took power and drained the Russian swamp. Since then, each and every move that he has made aims to destroy the American Empire, or the entity that replaced the British Empire in 1944, which is the non-conspiracy theory name of the New World Order. The new empire is basically the same central banking scheme, with just a slightly different set of owners that switched the British army for NATO, as their world Gestapo.
Until Trump came along, Putin was single handedly fighting the New World Order who’s century-old obsession is the control of the world oil market, since oil is the blood running through the veins of the world economy. Oil is a thousand times more valuable than gold. Cargo ships, airplanes and armies don’t run on batteries. Therefore, to counter the globalists, Putin developed the best offensive and defensive missile systems, with the result that Russia can now protect every independent oil producer such as Syria, Venezuela and Iran. Central bankers and the US shadow government are still hanging on to their dying plan, because without a victory in Syria, there’s no enlarging Israel, thus ending the century-old fantasy of uniting the Middle East oil production in the hands of the New World Order. Ask Lord Balfour if you have any doubt. That’s the real stake of the Syrian war, it’s nothing short of do or die.
Now, because a shadow government is giving direct orders to the CIA and NATO in the name of banks and industries, Trump has no control over the military. The deep state is a rosary of permanent officials ruling Washington and the Pentagon, that only respond to their orders. If you still believe that the «Commander in chief» is in charge, explain why every time Trump ordered to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan, more troops came in? As I’m writing this text, US and NATO troops pulled out of the Kurdish zones, went to Iraq, and came back with heavier equipment around the oil reserves of Syria. Donald has a lot more of swamp draining to do before the Pentagon actually listens to anything he says. Trump should be outraged and denunciate out loud that the military command doesn’t bother about what he thinks, but this would ignite an unimaginable chaos, and perhaps even a civil war in the US, if the citizens who own roughly 393 million weapons in their homes were to learn that private interests are in charge of the military. It would also lead to a very simple but dramatic question: «What is exactly the purpose of democracy?» These weapons are the titanium fences guarding the population from a totalitarian Big Brother.
One has to realize how much trouble the US army and spying agencies have been going through in creating false-flag operations for more than a century, so that their interventions always looked righteous, in the name of democracy promotion, human rights and justice around the planet. They blew up the Maine ship in 1898 to enter the Hispanic-American war, then the Lusitania in 1915 to enter WW1. They pushed Japan to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, knew about the attack 10 days in advance and said nothing to the Hawaiian base. They made up a North Vietnamese torpedo aggression on their ships in the Tonkin Bay to justify sending boots on the Vietnamese ground. They made up a story of Iraqi soldiers destroying nurseries to invade Kuwait in 1991. They invented mass destruction weapons to attack Iraq again in 2003, and organized 911 to shred the 1789 Constitution, attack Afghanistan and launch a War on terror. This totally fake mask of virtue has to be preserved for controlling the opinion of the American citizens and their domestic arsenal, who have to believe that they wear the white cowboy hats of democracy.
So how did Trump react when he learned that American troops were re-entering Syria? He repeated again and again in every interview and declaration that «we have secured the oil fields of Syria», and even added «I’m thinking about sending Exxon in the region to take care of the Syrian oil». Neocons, Zionists and banks were thrilled, but everyone else is outraged, because the vast majority doesn’t understand that Trump is swallowing this pill solely for its after-effects. On this single bottle is written in fine print that «the use of this drug might force American-NATO troops out of Syria under the pressure of the united world community and flabbergasted American population.» Trump made the situation unsustainable for NATO to stay in Syria, and how he’s been repeating this deeply shocking, politically incorrect position clearly shows his real intention. He destroyed over a century of fake virtue in a single sentence.
Trump is only the fourth president in US history to actually fight for the people, unlike all 41 others, who mainly channeled the people’s money in a pipeline of dollars that ends up in private banks. First there was Andrew Jackson who was shot after he destroyed the Second National Bank that he openly accused of being controlled by the Rothschild and The City in London. Then there was Abraham Lincoln, who was murdered after printing his «greenbacks», national money that the state issued to pay the soldiers because Lincoln had refused to borrow money from Rothschild at 24% interest. Then there was JFK, who was killed for a dozen reasons that mostly went against the banks and military industries profits, and now is Donald Trump, who shouted that he would «Give America back to the people».
Like most businessmen, Trump hates banks, for the formidable power that they have over the economy. Just take a peek at Henry Ford’s only book, «The International Jew» to find out how deep was his distrust and hatred of international banks. Trump’s businesses have suffered a lot because of these institutions that basically sell you an umbrella, only to take it back as soon as it rains. Private banking’s control over money creation and interest rates, through every Central Bank of almost every country is a permanent power over nations, far above the ephemeral cycle of politicians. By the year 2000, these nation looters were only a few steps away from their planetary totalitarian dream, but a couple of details stood still: Vladimir Putin and 393 million American weapons. Then came along orange-faced Donald, the last piece in the puzzle that we the people, needed to terminate 250 years of the banking empire.
Early in his mandate, Trump naively tried the direct approach, by surrounding himself with establishment rebels like Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon, then by annoying each and everyone of his foreign allies, shredding their free-trade treaties, imposing taxes on imports and insulting them in their face in the G7 meetings of 2017 and 2018. The reaction was strong and everyone doubled-down on the Russiagate absurdity, as it looked like the only option to stop the man on his path of globalism destruction. Predictably, the direct approach went nowhere; Flynn and Bannon had to go, and Trump was entangled in a handful of inquiries that made him realize that he wouldn’t get anything accomplished with transparency. He had to find a way to annihilate the most dangerous people on the planet, but at the same time, stay in power and alive. He had to smarten up.
That’s when his genius exploded on the world. He completely changed his strategy and approach, and started taking absurd decisions and tweeting outrageous declarations. As threatening and dangerous as some of these first looked, Trump didn’t use them for their first degree meaning, but was aiming at the genuine second degree effects that his moves would have. And he didn’t care about what people thought of him as he did, for only results count in the end. He would even play buffoon over Twitter, look naive, lunatic or downright idiotic, perhaps in the hope to impregnate the belief that he didn’t know what he’s doing, and that he couldn’t be that dangerous. He’s willfully being politically incorrect to show the ugly face that the United States are hiding behind their mask.
The first test on his new approach was to try to stop the growing danger of an attack and invasion of North Korea by NATO. Trump insulted Kim Jung-Un through Twitter, called him Rocket Man, and threatened to nuke North Korea to the ground. His raging political incorrectness went on for weeks until it sank in everyone’s minds that those were not good reasons to attack a country. He paralyzed NATO. Trump then met Rocket Man, and they walked in the park with the start of a beautiful friendship, laughing together, while accomplishing absolutely nothing in their negotiations, since they have nothing to negotiate about. Many were talking about the Nobel price for peace, because many don’t know that it’s usually handed to whitewash war criminals like Obama or Kissinger.
Then came Venezuela. Trump pushed his tactic a step further, to make sure that no one could support an attack on the free country. He put the worst neo-cons available on the case: Elliott Abrams, formerly convicted of conspiracy in the Iran-Contras deal in the ’80s and John Bolton, famous first-degree warmonger. Trump then confirmed Juan Guaido as his choice for president of Venezuela; an empty puppet so dumb that he can’t even see how much he’s being used. Again, Trump threatened to burn the country to rubbles, while the world community watched in awe the total lack of subtlety and diplomacy in Trump’s behavior, with the result that Brazil and Colombia backed away and said they wanted nothing to do with an attack on Venezuela. Trump’s medicine left only 40 satellite countries worldwide, with Presidents and Prime Ministers brain dead enough to shyly support Guaido the Jester. Donald checked the box beside Venezuela on his list and kept scrolling down.
Then came the two gifts to Israel: Jerusalem as a capital, and the Syrian Golan Heights as its confirmed possession. Netanyahu whom isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box jumped of joy, and everyone yelled that Trump was a Zionist. The real after-effect result was that the whole of the Middle East united against Israel, which no one can support anymore. Even their historical accomplice Saudi Arabia had to openly disapprove this huge slap in the face of Islam. The two Trump gifts were in fact back stabs in the Israel state, whose future doesn’t look too bright nowadays, since NATO will have to move out of the region. Check again.
But there’s more! With his lack of control over NATO and the army, Trump is very limited in his actions. At first glance, the outstanding multiplication of economical sanctions on countries like Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Venezuela and other nations look tough and merciless, but the reality of these sanctions pushed those countries out of the Swift financial system designed to keep enslaving nations through the dollar hegemony, and they’re all slipping away from the international banks’ grip. It forced Russia, China and India to create an alternative system of trade payments based on national currencies, instead of the almighty dollar. The bipolar reality of the world is now official, and with his upcoming next sanctions, Trump will push more countries out of the Swift system to join the other side, while important banks are starting to fall in Europe.
Even in the political hurricane Trump is in, he still finds time to display his almost childish arrogant humor. Look at his grandiose mockery of Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, as he sat down with the most straight-faced generals he could find, to take a picture in a so-called «situation room» as they faked the monitoring of the death of Baghdadi somewhere he couldn’t be, exactly like his criminal predecessors did a long time ago with the fake Bin Laden killing. He even pushed the farce to adding the details of a dog recognizing Daesch’s fake caliph by sniffing his underwear. Now that you understand what Trump is really about, you will also be able to appreciate the show, in all of its splendor and true meaning.
«We have secured the oil fields of Syria». Indeed, with this short sentence, Trump joined his voice to that of General Smedley Butler who rocked the world 80 years ago with a tiny book called «War is a racket». Looting and stealing oil is definitely not as virtuous as promoting democracy and justice. What amazes me is those numerous «alternative» journalists and analysts, who know on the tip of their fingers every technical problem about 911, or scientific reality on the absurd global warming story, but still don’t have a clue about what Trump is doing, 3 years in his mandate, because they bought the mainstream media that convinced everyone that Trump is mentally challenged.
For those who still entertain doubts about Trump’s agenda, do you really believe that the obvious implosion of American Imperialism over the planet is a coincidence? Do you still believe that its because of the Russian influence on the 2016 election that the CIA, the FBI, every media, the American Congress, the Federal Reserve, the Democratic party and the warmongering half of the Republicans are working against him and are even trying to impeach him? Like most stuff that comes out of medias, reality is the exact opposite of what you’re being told: Trump might be the most dedicated man to ever set foot in the Oval office. And certainly the most ambitious and politically incorrect.
The world will change drastically between 2020 and 2024. Trump’s second and last mandate coincides with Putin’s last mandate as President of Russia. There may never be another coincidence like this for a long time, and both know that it’s now or perhaps never. Together, they have to end NATO, Swift, and the European Union should crumble. Terrorism and anthropogenic global warming will jump in the vortex and disappear with their creators. Trump will have to drain the swamp in the CIA and Pentagon, and he has to nationalize the Federal Reserve. Along with Xi and Modi, they could put a final end to private banking in public affairs, by refusing to pay a single penny of their debts, and reset the world economy by shifting to national currencies produced by governments, as private banks will fall like dominos, with no more Obama-like servant to bail them out at your expense. Once this is done, unbearable peace and prosperity could roam the planet, as our taxes pay for the development of our countries instead of buying useless military gear and paying interests on loans by bankers who didn’t even have the money in the first place.
If you still don’t understand Donald Trump after reading the above, you’re hopeless. Or you’re might be Trudeau, Macron, Guaido, or any other useful idiot, unaware that the carpet under your feet has already slipped away.
The generational wealth gap has widened to historic levels, according to a recent study comparing millennial earnings to older generations', according to CNBC.
When adjusted for inflation, millennials earn 20% less than baby boomers did at the same stage in their careers, according to the study, entitled "the Emerging Millennial Wealth Gap". Median incomes for workers aged 18 to 34 are way down from their levels in the 1980s. The disparity is nothing new: Other studies have arrived at a similar conclusion. Despite being the most well-educated generation of all time (aside from Gen Z, probably), millennials earn comparatively less than their older peers did during similar periods.
Nearly 40% of millennials have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 25% of baby boomers, and 30% of Gen Xers during the same period.
The lower wages will likely lead to long-term problems for millennials, the experts said. Already, many millennials are struggling with jobs that are either inconsistent, like contract or freelance work (which doesn't offer benefits), or don't pay enough. This is already having a serious impact on their ability to build wealth, since most millennials still can't afford basics like their own home. For prior generations, homes were important tools for building wealth, in addition to providing a place to live.
Among young families, households headed by someone under the age of 35 in 2016 had an average net worth of $10,900, roughly half the level from 1995.
Much of this disparity stems from the Great Recession. Those who entered the workforce in its aftermath came in with low wages, leaving them at a career disadvantage. Many are also struggling with the $1.4 trillion-plus pile of student loan debt that has been accumulated by American students. For many, student debt payments make building wealth and buying homes unthinkable.
"Even as the economy steadily added back jobs lost, the protracted recovery was experienced unevenly, with well-off households doing better at the expense of others," said Reid Cramer, director of the office that oversaw the study.
Using data from the St. Louis Fed, CNBC put together a generational "balance sheet" to illustrate how economic circumstances have changed.
Unfortunately for millions of workers, the uneven he recovery left many behind, and wealthier households typically found it easier to get back on their feet. By 2016, the top 10% of the country’s highest income earners received half of the total income generated in the US, a dramatic increase from just 38% of the country’s total income in 1992.
Anybody interested in reading the entire study can find it here.
The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion according to a pair of reports published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
"The numbers continue to accelerate, not only because many wars continue to be waged, but also because wars don't end when soldiers come home," said Costs of War co-director and Brown professor Catherine Lutz, who co-authored the project's report on deaths.
"These reports provide a reminder that even if fewer soldiers are dying and the U.S. is spending a little less on the immediate costs of war today, the financial impact is still as bad as, or worse than, it was 10 years ago," Lutz added. "We will still be paying the bill for these wars on terror into the 22nd century."
The new Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars report (pdf) tallies "direct deaths" in major war zones, grouping people by civilians; humanitarian and NGO workers; journalists and media workers; U.S. military members, Department of Defense civilians, and contractors; and members of national military and police forces as well as other allied troops and opposition fighters.
The report sorts direct deaths by six categories: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria/ISIS, Yemen, and "Other." The civilian death toll across all regions is up to 335,745 — or nearly 42% of the total figure. Notably, the report "does not include indirect deaths, namely those caused by loss of access to food, water, and/or infrastructure, war-related disease, etc."
Indirect deaths "are generally estimated to be four times higher," Costs of War board member and American University professor David Vine wrote in an op-ed for The Hill Wednesday. "This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen is likely to reach 3.1 million or more —around 200 times the number of U.S. dead."
"Don't we have a responsibility to wrestle with our individual and collective responsibility for the destruction our government has inflicted?" Vine asked in his op-ed. "Our tax dollars and implied consent have made these wars possible. While the United States is obviously not the only actor responsible for the damage done in the post-2001 wars, U.S. leaders bear the bulk of responsibility for launching catastrophic wars that were never inevitable, that were wars of choice."
Referencing the project's second new report, United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion (pdf), Vine wrote, "Consider how we could have otherwise spent that incomprehensible sum — to feed the hungry, improve schools, confront global warming, improve our transportation infrastructure, and provide healthcare."
"At a time when everyone from Donald Trump to Democratic Party candidates for president is calling for an end to these endless wars, we must push our government to use diplomacy — rather than rash withdrawals, as in northern Syria — to end these wars responsibly," he concluded. "As the new Costs of War report and 3.1 million deaths should remind us, part of our responsibility must be to repair some of the immeasurable damage done and to ensure that wars like these never happen again."
The project's $6.4 trillion figure accounts for overseas contingency operations appropriations, interest for borrowing for OCO spending, war-related spending in the Pentagon's base budget, medical and disability care for post-9/11 veterans (including estimated future obligations through FY2059), and Department of Homeland Security spending for prevention of and response to terrorism.
Costs of War co-director and Boston University professor Neta Crawford co-authored the project's death toll report and authored the budget report. For the latter, she wrote that "the major trends in the budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars include: less transparency in reporting costs among most major agencies; greater institutionalization of the costs of war in the DOD base budget, State Department, and DHS; and the growing budgetary burden of veterans' medical care and disability care."
Both reports were released as part of the project's new "20 Years of War" series. Crawford, Lutz, and fellow Costs of War co-director Stephanie Savell were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to present the reports' findings at a briefing hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.
"We have already seen that when we go to Washington and circulate our briefings, they get used in the policymaking process," Lutz said in a news story published by Brown Wednesday. "People cite our data in speeches on the Senate floor, in proposals for legislation. The numbers have made their way into calls to put an end to the joint resolution to authorize the use of military force. They have real impact."
Lutz pointed out that "if you count all parts of the federal budget that are military-related— including the nuclear weapons budget, the budget for fuel for military vehicles and aircraft, funds for veteran care — it makes up two-thirds of the federal budget, and it's inching toward three-quarters."
"I don't think most people realize that, but it's important to know," she added. "Policymakers are concerned that the Pentagon's increased spending is crowding out other national purposes that aren't war."
Something fascinating took place on January 3: on that day AAPL slashed its revenue guidance, blamed China, and triggered a cascade of flash crashes across various carry currency pairs. More importantly, that day also saw the lowest stock print for AAPL since the summer of 2017, and triggered an unprecedented ramp in AAPL stock which since then is up a mindblowing 86%...
... largely as a by-product of its gargantuan stock buyback program, which started in Q3 2013, and which has seen a third of AAPL's total stock repurchased in the past 6 years. If one extrapolates the current trend, AAPL will fully LBO itself, i.e., have no public shares outstanding some time in 2030.
And while a record buyback in an abysmally illiquid market can do miracles to give the impression that there is a natural buyer, there is only so much that Tim Cook can do to offset the inevitable selloff that will follow the collapse of the US-China trade talks which will also drag down any company that has exposure to the Chinese market, not to mention the next recession which will see consumer spending on AAPL service grind to a halt, until that moment comes, Bank of America's Michael Hartnett has made a stunning observation: with a market cap of $1.17tn, AAPL now has a greater capitalization than the entire US energy sector.
And there is more to come: Apple this week issued a euro-denominated bond with a 0% coupon (whose proceeds AAPL will then promptly use to repurchase even more stock), which as Hartnett puts it is the "QE-induced bull market in "growth" & "yield" in a nutshell."
There's more. Now that Walt Disney has joined the deflation fray by trying to snatch market share from Netflix and Amazon by offering its streaming video service at roughly half the price (with remarkable success so far, adding 10 million users in just 24 hours) it too has enjoyed an amazing lift in its stock price now that it too is seen as a "growth" company, and at a market cap of $268 billion, Disney is now bigger than market cap of the 5 largest European banks - BNP, Santander, ING, Intesa and Credit Agricole.
Hartnett's take: this is the "QE-induced bull market of "growth" over "value" in a nutshell."
What happens next? Stock buybacks aside, as Hartnett puts it, 2019 was anything but data dependent... oh, and Bank of America once again has no qualms about calling "NOT QE" by its true name - "QE":
Powell '19 rate cuts & QE a success…recovery in credit market (US BBB credit 14.1% YTD), housing market (purchase & refi mortgage activity strongest since 2013 - MBAVBASC), stock market (global market cap up $12.1tn YTD), labor market still strong (unemployment 3.6%);
The punchline: "Fed now on hold but QE remains supportive for risk (Fed + ECB will buy $420bn assets next 6 months)." Here, regular readers will recall that at the start of August, this website was the first to correctly predicted that QE is coming, and just over two months later it was proven correct. And so the Fed has once again decided to reflate assets - of not the real economy - at any price, which means that until Powell stops, or more likely is forced to stop, the best trade may well be not to fight the Fed and the liquidity gusher it has again unleashed.
Speaking at BlockShow Asia 2019, Todalarity CEO Toufi Saliba posed a hypothetical question to the audience:
“How many people would take a pill that made you smarter, knowing they can be controlled by a social entity?”
No one raised their hand, and he was unsurprised.
“That’s the response that I get, zero percent of you,” he continued.
“Now imagine at the same time the pill has autonomous decentralized governance so that no one can control or repurpose that pill but the host – yourself.”
This time hands were raised in abundance.
Decentralized governance represents a necessary step for the tech community to build up a trust in digital developments related to securely managing big data.
“Economics and ethics can go together thanks to decentralization,” commented SingularityNET CEO Ben Goertzel.
But does the decentralized governance represent a step forward from centralization, or it is just an illusion of evolution?
Cole Sirucek, co-founder of DocDoc, shared his vision:
“It is when we are at a point of centralizing data that you can begin to think about decentralization. For example, electronic medical records: in five years the data will be centralized. After that, you can decentralize it.”
Goertzal didn’t fully agree: “I don’t think it is intrinsic. The reason centralized systems are simpler to come by is how institutions are built right now. There is nothing natural about centralization of data.” He elaborated on the mutual dependence of two important technologies:
“Blockchain is not as complex as AI, but it is a necessary component of the future. Without BTC, you don’t have means of decentralized governance. AI enables the future, blockchain secures it.”
Looking for a fixer-upper to kick back, relax and survive a nuclear apocalypse? Look no further!
Located 20 minutes outside of Tucson, Arizona underneath 12 acres of land, potential buyers are looking at a "BOLD opportunity to owned a decommissioned Titan II missile complex" of their own - for just $395,000!
According to the listing:
This property was once one of the most top secret of government assets and is now ready to fulfill a new mission. That mission is for you to define amongst the limitless scenarios. Secure storage facility? Underground bunker? Remarkable residence - literally living down under? The property is situated on a 12 + acre parcel with boundless views. Private yet not too remote.
The new owner will enter their 'quaint' complex via a ladder which descends into the missile Launch Control Complex (LCC) - where "three Titan II crewmen, the Missile Combat Crew Commander, the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander, Ballistic Missile Analyst Technician, and the Missile Facilities Technician lived in shifts," according to Popular Mechanics.
Some background on Titan II missile facilities:
The Titan II missile entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1963. Titan II was an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of being launched from the U.S. and striking targets across the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the Soviet Union and China. The Titan II carried a single W-53 thermonuclear warhead with the explosive power of 9 megatons, or 9,000,000 tons of TNT. By comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was a relatively paltry 16,000 tons of TNT.
Titan II was also the first U.S. missile that was based in missile silos. These silos were sprinkled across the U.S., and some were parked outside Tuscon, Arizona. - Popular Mechanics
Sure, you'll have to deal with the rust, and there's no internal plumbing (septic system required) or electricity, or water - BUT the listing notes that the buyer is welcome to drill for a well.
In the land of the free, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits the government from abridging the freedom of speech. However, we’ve seen citizens pepper-sprayed, assaulted, and arrested for there acts of free speech, showing just how little law enforcement cares about upholding the oaths they swore to this very Constitution. Now, a new piece of legislation that is quickly passing through the legal process in New York goes one step further.
If you annoy a police officer in upstate New York, you could find yourself facing massive fines and even jail time. Seriously.
In a vote this week, lawmakers in the Monroe County Legislature passed a proposal in a 17-10 vote to fine and/or jail a person who annoys, alarms or threatens the personal safety of an officer. The jail sentence is up to one year and the fine is up to $5,000.
According to the legislation, the anti-disrespecting applies to all first responders, not just cops.
Naturally, those who have respect for the constitution and freedom of speech in general, are up in arms over the passage of such a tyrannical piece of legislation.
As PIX 11 reports, “Iman Abid with the New York Civil Liberties Union said it will have a chilling effect on complaints against police. Abid said she is also concerned over what the legislation could mean for communities of color.”
“Members of the community have every right to challenge police officers, particularly those that engage in unnecessary behavior,” she said in a statement.
“At a time when more accountability of police departments is needed, this law takes us incredibly backward.”
But advocates for this tyranny claim that it “looks after those who look out for us” — because people need to be jailed if they talk back to a cop.
“This local law aims to crack down on behaviors of disrespect and incivility toward law enforcement and first responders in the hopes that these smaller incidents do not escalate,” County Legislator Kara Halstead said in a statement.
According to PIX 11:
Delores Jones-Brown, professor emerita at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said courts have found that the use of the words annoying or alarming in statue is overbroad and unconstitutionally vague.
The legislation, she said, could create a situation where people are scared to exercise their First Amendment rights. An officer could be annoyed by a person who asks them their badge number or who records them with a cellphone while on the job, Jones-Brown said.
“This statute definitely has the capacity to make people afraid to do that,” she said
We agree. This legislation is nothing short of tyranny and is paving the way for abuse by snowflake cops who cannot handle citizens talking back or disrespecting their authority. Instead of making respect a two-way street and earning it, this legislation sets out to mandate it through the threat of violence and kidnapping.
In the land of the free, a person can be kidnapped and thrown in a cage for arbitrary sounds made with their mouth or raising their middle finger that causes harm to no one.
Aside from this being clearly asinine, it’s well established by the Supreme Court that arresting someone for swearing and raising the middle finger is unconstitutional.
In Cohen v. California, the U.S. Supreme court upheld a citizen’s First Amendment right to wear a jacket to court that read “F**k the Draft,” the court held:
“WHILE THE PARTICULAR FOUR-LETTER WORD BEING LITIGATED HERE IS PERHAPS MORE DISTASTEFUL THAN MOST OTHERS OF ITS GENRE, IT IS NEVERTHELESS OFTEN TRUE THAT ONE MAN’S VULGARITY IS ANOTHER’S LYRIC. INDEED, WE THINK IT IS LARGELY BECAUSE GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIALS CANNOT MAKE PRINCIPLED DISTINCTIONS IN THIS AREA THAT THE CONSTITUTION LEAVES MATTERS OF TASTE AND STYLE SO LARGELY TO THE INDIVIDUAL.”
What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in City of Houston v. Hill, that police must tolerate even more abusive speech than an average citizen—which certainly includes looking at someone’s middle finger. The court concluded that “in the face of verbal challenges to police action, officers and municipalities must respond with restraint,” and added that, “the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.”
Here at the Free Thought Project, we feel there are no such things as ‘bad words’ but, rather, certain words some people don’t like to hear. The same goes with raising random fingers.
The arbitrary nature of government enforcing laws that dictate what vocabulary a person can use and which finger they can display to a cop is as ridiculous as it is tyrannical. Sadly, it remains a part of society and as this legislation illustrates, it is getting worse.
Have we learned nothing from history?
Telling people what words they can and can’t say or which fingers they can raise, to ‘protect’ a cop’s feelings is chilling. Freedom of speech does not come with terms and conditions.
Industry insiders have told South China Morning Post (SCMP) that President Trump's alleged $50 billion agriculture deal with China is merely a fantasy, used to stimulate his Farm Belt supporters ahead of an election year, and even used as a communication tool to drive the stock market to new highs. Still, the likelihood of it actually happening is very low.
SCMP notes that China has never confirmed the $50 to $60 billion agriculture deal that President Trump consistently tweets about and touts in headlines.
The deal I just made with China is, by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country. In fact, there is a question as to whether or not this much product can be produced? Our farmers will figure it out. Thank you China!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2019
Agricultural analysts said even if China agreed to purchase additional US agriculture products, the numbers that the Trump administration uses are incorrect.
Darin Friedrichs, senior Asia commodity analyst at trading house INTL FCStone in Shanghai, told SCMP that since the African swine fever wiped out 50% of the pigs in China, demand for soybean and corn has disappeared.
"With the African swine fever, there's just not much demand for the stuff that the US has to offer in terms of corn or soybeans to feed pigs – because we just do not have any pigs. We've lost half of them!" said Friedrichs.
With soybean prices falling from $13 per bushel two years ago to $9 today, "even if they [China] bought the same amount they did before the trade war, it's just not going to make the same dollar value," Friedrichs added.
Nick Marro, head of the Economist Intelligence Unit in Hong Kong, told SCMP that there is a tremendous "disconnect between the political and economic realities here."
"China has made real efforts to diversify its meat sourcing in recent months, signing export deals with France and Brazil. From the US too, diversification has been the order of the day."
Chinese buyers are rushing to diversify away from the US and have signed landmark deals with Argentina and Brazil for corn and soybean. They've also signed trade deals in Australia, Europe, South America, and New Zealand for beef, dairy, and pork to fill supply gaps.
John Reeve, director at Agree Commodities Australia, said China sourced very little beef from Australia in 2012 -- but at present day, China is purchasing an unbelievable amount, as it continues diversifying from the US.
"We've gone from virtually no beef going to China in 2012 to it being our biggest market now. There are 30 to 40 years of hard graft in developing the premium name, so we are very vulnerable to any fluctuation in the trade policy related to tariffs," Reeve said.
An overwhelming number of analysts found that it would be challenging for the US to restore its market share in China considering the damage the Trump administration caused by escalating the trade war.
Even though China is purchasing some agriculture products from the US in recent weeks, the numbers President Trump uses are propaganda to hype up his base for re-election and send the stock market to new highs.
While unsuspecting iPhone users read their daily dose of mainstream media news, the Facebook app is secretly accessing the camera on their smartphones. But Facebook says not worry: it’s only a bug...
Users, however, are rightly concerned that Facebook is recording them as they use the app. Unlike on Apple’s computers, there is no indicator when an app is accessing the camera, so it is possible for an app to do so in secret, as reported by The Independent.
Facebook says the strange behavior is caused by a bug that was added to the code by accident and that there is no indication that photos or videos are being sent to its servers. The company claims an update has already been submitted to Apple that should remove it. In the meantime, the potential security flaw can be avoided by a simple fix in the iPhone settings that keeps Facebook from seeing the camera at all.
The bug first came to light after users noted that the app would occasionally shift the entire feed over to the right, as part of what appeared to be a bug. Underneath that main app a different screen could be seen – which showed video from the phone’s built-in camera. –The Independent
“We recently discovered that version 244 of the Facebook iOS app would incorrectly launch in landscape mode,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“In fixing that issue last week in v246 (launched on 8 November) we inadvertently introduced a bug that caused the app to partially navigate to the camera screen adjacent to News Feed when users tapped on photos.
“We have seen no evidence of photos or videos being uploaded due to this bug. We’re submitting the fix for this to Apple today.”
“We’ve confirmed that we didn’t upload anything to FB due to this bug and that the camera didn’t capture anything since it was in preview mode. We’ve submitted a fixed version to the App Store which is already rolling out,” wrote Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen in a series of Tweets.
The problem can be fixed by revoking Facebook’s access to the camera. That is done by heading into the Settings app and navigating to the Facebook option – clicking that should bring up a number of permissions that have been granted to the app, including the ability to access the camera, which can be turned off by changing the toggle.
Paging Elon Musk...
SimpliPhi is a company based in Oxnard, California that is trying to tackle the problem of making a clean battery to store power. The company makes what it calls "clean, safe lithium-ion batteries, free of cobalt, the toxic element that can lead batteries to overheat and catch fire."
The company's power systems use lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which is a compound that doesn't carry the risks of traditional lithium ion batteries, according to Bloomberg. Companies like Blue Planet Energy and Sonnen are also using the LFP technology to make safer batteries.
ClintoSimpliPhi's batteries have already been adopted by groups like the n Foundation, who has installed their batteries, management software and other tools in hospitals and clinics on Puerto Rico after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. The model is also working for California homeowners and businesses that are dealing with persistent blackouts as a result of the state's ongoing wildfires.
Each of these companies is also competing with Tesla and other battery makers to play a larger role in shifting energy away from fossil fuels.
Lithium ion batteries are a decades old technology and are considered crucial to widespread adoption of green energy, like wind and solar, because the electricity generated needs to be stored somewhere. Energy storage worldwide is expected to "multiply exponentially" over the next 20 years, necessitating $662 billion in investments. The market today relies on cobalt chemistries, but the LFP compound is increasing in its market share.
Even better yet is the fact that SimpliPhi hasn't burned through hundreds of millions of dollars, like every other startup company. It has been profitable since 2013 and has been doubling or tripling revenue annually. It expects to do $20 million in revenue in 2019. Its systems - tens of thousands of them - have been deployed in more than 40 countries. All of its employees are part-owners.
Electrical engineer Josh Crosby, president of power-system consulting firm CatalystE in Huntsville, Ala., has been using SimpliPhi’s batteries in projects for the U.S. military since 2014. He said:
"Their safety track record, efficiency, and price—two to three times less than what military battery makers charge—led [me] to SimpliPhi. Its batteries have been tested at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Cobalt is more energy-dense and lighter, but it’s not going to last as long, and you have an inherent risk of fire.”
Catherine Von Burg, SimpliPhi’s co-founder said:
“How can we talk about clean energy if we’re using a chemistry that is fundamentally hazardous and toxic?”
That's a great question: maybe someone should ask Elon Musk.
Recall, it was only days ago we wrote about one Tesla owner not being able to dispose of his wrecked vehicle as a result of the toxins in its battery.
Something to bear in mind the next time Pelosi starts burbling about how “prayerful” this process has been for them.
Apparently Jesus told her to start focus-grouping battleground states to find the way forward.
Chris Wallace passed along the info to Fox viewers this morning...
...and WaPo reported on it last night:
Several Democrats have stopped using the term “quid pro quo,” instead describing “bribery” as a more direct summation of Trump’s alleged conduct.
The shift came after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted focus groups in key House battlegrounds in recent weeks, testing messages related to impeachment. Among the questions put to participants was whether “quid pro quo,” “extortion” or “bribery” was a more compelling description of Trump’s conduct. According to two people familiar with the results, which circulated among Democrats this week, the focus groups found “bribery” to be most damning. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the results have not been made public.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a House Intelligence Committee member, kicked off the effort to retire “quid pro quo” from the Democratic vocabulary during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said “it’s probably best not to use Latin words” to explain Trump’s actions.
It makes me laugh to think of Dems needing a focus group to explain to them that “bribery,” a concept even kindergarteners grasp as wrong, is a bit more effective than “quid pro quo” when trying to turn public opinion against the president. That’s so elementary that I assumed they switched to bribery in their messaging for legal reasons, because it’s an impeachable offense specified in the Constitution. No more hiding by the GOP behind the vagueness of the term “high crimes and misdemeanors”! Pelosi was about to put them on the spot: This is bribery, son. It’s right there in black and white in Article II. If the facts are there, you must vote to remove.
But no, turns out she and Schiff needed a group of average joes to officially confirm that bribe sounds worse than some Latin term known mainly to lawyers.
I’m surprised Trump hasn’t highlighted the focus-grouping on Twitter yet.
Not only does it underline that impeachment is a political process, being run by people who stand to gain electorally by investigating him, but it leaves Democrats open to the claim that they’re not just tweaking the terminology based on public opinion, they’re tweaking the actual charges. If the facts, which haven’t changed materially since this started, told a straightforward story of bribery all along then why was the less definitive “abuse of power” cited until recently as the core claim against POTUS?
Ah well, doesn’t matter. Probably no one is watching these hearings who hasn’t already been persuaded one way or the other already:
Lots of Democrats are watching, no doubt because they’re psyched to see Trump formally accused of wrongdoing by witnesses. Lots of Republicans are not watching, either because they don’t want to see it or because they’re not going to be convinced by some Democratic production. Maybe the numbers will move for Trump’s Senate trial, when the stakes are higher and the GOP is in charge.
If I were Pelosi, I’d be worried about those independent numbers, though. It stands to reason that they’re the most persuadable voters out there. It’s one thing for partisan Republicans to skip the hearings but if indies are tuning out too then whose mind is to be changed by them? No one’s. As they’re increasingly coming to realize.
Baltimore has just hit 300 homicides for the fifth consecutive year, reported The Baltimore Sun.
On a per-capita basis, Baltimore is one of the most dangerous cities in America. If you have plans on going to Baltimore for the holidays -- cancel them immediately -- that's because the city is imploding on itself, likely to get worse in the early 2020s.
The murder crisis in Baltimore could hit a record this year. There are 47 days left, and as of Saturday morning, 301 homicides have been logged into The Baltimore Sun murder map -- as shown below:
Homicides trends for the year are above average -- even in the "greatest economy ever," where President Trump continues to pump headlines detailing how black youth are doing better than they ever have. As to why anyone would believe government jobs data ahead of an election year is beyond us -- come to Baltimore, and you'll see first hand many of the inner cities stuck in a decades-long depression of extreme wealth inequality that has led to the collapse of economic mobility for hundreds of thousands of African Americans.
The murder crisis isn't slowing down but rather accelerating into year-end. One would think because of seasonal factors, such as cold weather, that homicide trends would weaken -- but not this year -- it's likely total homicides for the year will range from 330 to 345.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison told reporters on Thursday that the murder crisis is "ruining families and it's horrifying, and we're all disgusted by it."
Harrison is right, the disgust among working-class families is so high that a massive exodus has been seen in the last several years as the city's total population has collapsed to 100-year lows. Many are fleeing for the suburbs, escaping death and destruction.
Harrison, who previously served as New Orleans' police chief, told reporters last week that it could be several years before crime trends are reversed.
He said a new deployment strategy in Baltimore had been implemented to address the "culture of violence" in the city affecting the youth.
So if you have holiday plans to visit Baltimore City -- please cancel them if you value your life.
In its November 2019 Financial Stability Report released on Nov. 15, the Fed highlights stablecoins and their potential impact on the U.S. and beyond.
Rather than dismissing the phenomenon, officials eye potential use cases for the future but insist any stablecoin must adhere to regulatory demands.
“Innovations that foster faster, cheaper, and more inclusive payments could complement existing payment systems and improve consumer welfare if appropriately designed and regulated,” the report explains.
At the same time, the Fed warns:
“However, the possibility for a stablecoin payment network to quickly achieve global scale introduces important challenges and risks related to financial stability, monetary policy, safeguards against money laundering and terrorist financing, and consumer and investor protection.”
It added rare official praise of Facebook’s embattled Libra concept, describing it as an example of stablecoins, which “have the potential to rapidly achieve widespread adoption.”
“A global stablecoin network, if poorly designed and unregulated, could pose risks to financial stability,” it states elsewhere.
The report comes as the Fed takes an increasing interest in digital currency. As Cointelegraph reported earlier this month, the central bank is currently looking for a dedicated research manager for the sphere, as China prepares to launch its state-backed digital currency.
At the same time, a former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump revealed last month he plans to issue his own stablecoin, which is not fully backed by reserves.
U.S. lawmakers have sought to vet existing stablecoin offerings, notably market leader Tether (USDT), which currently faces a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that Bitcoin (BTC) figures have broadly dismissed.
This week, Fed chair Jerome Powell meanwhile admitted that the $23 trillion U.S. national debt was no longer “sustainable,” but that the consequences of not paying it off were not critical.
There's now substantial evidence - in the Chinese government's own words - that they are detaining Muslims in massive numbers.
403 pages of internal documents have been leaked to the New York Times that describe a clampdown in Xinjiang - a resource-rich territory located on the border of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia - where authorities have "corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years."
In Xinjiang, Muslim ethnic minority groups make up more than half the region's population of 25 million. The largest group is the Uighurs. Beijing has fought with the Uighurs for decades, who have offered resistance to Chinese rule.
The current crackdown began after a surge of antigovernment and anti-Chinese violence, including ethnic riots in 2009 in Urumqi, the regional capital, and a May 2014 attack on an outdoor market that killed 39 people just days before Mr. Xi convened a leadership conference in Beijing to set a new policy course for Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has called these camps "job training centers" to fight Islamic extremism, but the documents seem to confirm the coercive nature of the crackdown in the words of the Chinese government.
The campaign is being called "ruthless and extraordinary". Senior party leaders are recorded ordering "drastic and urgent" action, including mass detentions. The leaked papers show how the country carried out its "most far-reaching internment campaign since the Mao era."
President Xi Jinping laid the groundwork for the camps during speeches to officials in Xinjiang in April 2014, after Uighur militants stabbed more than 150 people at a train station, killing 31. In his speech, Xi called for "an all-out struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism using the organs of dictatorship and showing absolutely no mercy.”
Xi also said: “The methods that our comrades have at hand are too primitive. None of these weapons is any answer for their big machete blades, ax heads and cold steel weapons. We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy.”
Xi also urged his party to "emulate aspects of America’s war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks."
“We say that development is the top priority and the basis for achieving lasting security, and that’s right. But it would be wrong to believe that with development every problem solves itself,” Xi said in one speech.
In another speech, he said: “After the United States pulls troops out of Afghanistan, terrorist organizations positioned on the frontiers of Afghanistan and Pakistan may quickly infiltrate into Central Asia. East Turkestan’s terrorists who have received real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan could at any time launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.”
The camps expanded rapidly in 2016 when Chen Quanguo was appointed new party boss for the region. He handed out Xi's speeches to stay on message and implored his officials to “round up everyone who should be rounded up.” Any local leaders that stood in Chen's way were immediately purged, including one official who was jailed.
And the leak suggests that there could be discontent from within the party. The Chinese, who often undertake policymaking under the cloak of secrecy, are certainly not known for leaking internal government documents.
Since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang. One leaked document describes how to handle minority students returning home to Xinjiang in summer 2017 to find that their relatives have been detained. The document says that students should be informed that their relatives are receiving “treatment”.
One document ordered: "Keep up the detentions. Stick to rounding up everyone who should be rounded up. If they’re there, round them up.”
Officials in Eastern Xinjiang drafted the Q and A script and distributed the guide across the region, urging officials to use it as a model.
The document says: “Returning students from other parts of China have widespread social ties across the entire country. The moment they issue incorrect opinions on WeChat, Weibo and other social media platforms, the impact is widespread and difficult to eradicate.”
Authorities suspected that the answers wouldn't work well with students and also supplied answers to follow up questions like:
The guide recommends answers that get firmer in nature, eventually culminating telling students that their relatives have been "infected" by the "virus" of radical Islam and must be quarantined and cured. Even grandparents could not be spared, officials were told to say.
One answer says: “If they don’t undergo study and training, they’ll never thoroughly and fully understand the dangers of religious extremism. No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study.”
Another says: “Treasure this chance for free education that the party and government has provided to thoroughly eradicate erroneous thinking, and also learn Chinese and job skills. This offers a great foundation for a happy life for your family.”
The authorities are using a scoring system to see who can be released from camps. Students are told that the system takes into account their daily behavior, which has a direct effect on when their relatives may be released.
“There must be effective educational remolding and transformation of criminals. And even after these people are released, their education and transformation must continue,” President Xi said during one trip to Xinjiang.
You can read the New York Times' full longform piece, including all of the leaked documents, here.
With the S&P closing above 3,100 and the Dow sprinting higher in the last seconds of Friday trading to close above 28,000 for the first time ever, one can argue that the long awaited melt-up has finally arrived.
After a year of relentless retail and institutional outflows from equity funds yet which has seen a record buyback tide prop up the entire stock market (just last week BofA recorded its 6th busiest week on record for client buybacks, up 26% from the already record buyback pace in 2018 and making a mockery of the so-called buyback blackout period), equity flows are finally picking up as bond flows slow down. According to EPFR, flows into bond funds (+$4.2bn) slowed sharply this week from the very strong pace seen for most of this year ($10bn a week on average), while flows into equity funds (+$9.6bn) on the other hand remained strong for a third straight week, in contrast to the trend for almost a year (-$5bn a week since December) according to Deutsche Bank. Indeed, over the last three weeks, flows into equity funds ($33bn) overtook those into bonds ($23bn), for the first time since early December 2018 over comparable rolling three week periods.
Yet with most pieces in place to explain the melt up, there was one minor glitch in the matrix: even as US stocks soared in the past few weeks with just 2 down days the entire month of November, equity flows are rotating away from the US. Within equities, US (-$0.4bn) funds saw outflows this week which were more than offset by strong inflows into EM (+$3.2bn), Europe ($1.5bn) and funds with a global mandate (+$5.2bn). Within global funds in particular, Deutsche Bank noted that those which invest only outside the US saw very strong inflows ($3.1bn), their strongest since March of last year. Meanwhile, for European funds, inflows over the last four weeks have been the strongest since March of last year.
Actually, it's not just outflows from US stocks that doen't fit the narrative: recent US data has been unexpectedly disappointing, with the Citi US economic surprise index sliding back in the red after surging from deep negative in June, until it hit the most positive print in the past year at the end of September.
At the same time, various GDP Nowcasts and consensus estimates have tumbled, with the average Q4 GDP print now expected to come in at around 0.83%, down sharply from just last week's 1.25%.
Then there are US corporate earnings: according to Factset, with 92% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting, the blended earnings decline for the index for the third quarter is -2.3%. Meanwhile, consensus EPS forecasts have tumbled in recent weeks, and Q4 EPS growth is now also in the red, suggesting US corporations are knee-deep in an earnings recession.
What is amusing, is Goldman strategist Alessio Rizzi summarizes these recent transformations, writing on Friday that "since the end of the summer, the baton has been passed from monetary policy to global growth, supporting a sharp re-rating of risky assets led by the underperformers in the first part of the year."
This is, in a word, laughable: not only has the baton not been passed to global growth, as US growth is once again backsliding, and Germany just escaped a recession by literally the smallest of possible margins growing at just 0.1% in Q3, the same dismal growth as Japan, but the latest Chinese data have been downright miserable, with GDP now expected to print below 6% and China's credit impulse just barely rebounding from cycle lows at a time when China's total credit injection was the lowest in years.
Perhaps what Rizzi meant to say is that the baton has been passed from monetary policy to NOT QE as investors has plowed into risk assets following the Fed's recent decision to buy $60 billion in T-Bills per month (which as both Bank of America last week, and Citi's Matt King on Friday now admit IS in fact, QE). Incidentally, anyone who wishes to understand what is really going on in the market is urged to read Matt King's latest "Has the monetary tsunami restarted?" (spoiler alert: yes).
Yet where the Goldman strategist is right is that as a result of the Fed's latest intervention, the bank's Risk Appetite Momentum indicator - also known as Goldman's "euphoria meter" - is now at all-time highs.
This is a problem, because while Goldman may have totally butchered the cause and effect of the recent NOT QE (but really QE)-driven meltup, where it does provide some actionable information is that record high levels of its Risk Appetite Momentum, those above 1, have historically signaled negative asymmetry for equity returns.
And while the sharp increase in risk appetite has likely been exacerbated by bearish positioning, the high RAI Momentum suggests that investors have started to price in a bottoming of the growth slowdown, which thanks to the market's reflexivity, increases the risk of disappointments: after all, the catalyst for the Q4 2018 crash was the collapse in central bank liquidity and fears that the Fed would hike even more (obviously, all that ended in Q1 of 2019 after the market's mini bear market on Christmas Eve 2018).
There is another risk according to Rizzi - one where investors turn from overly bearish to overly bullish, or as he put it, as markets shift from TINA (there is no alternative) to FOMO (fear of missing out), "there is a risk of an overshoot vs. the data, especially as noise around growth is likely to remain high."
So far, early signs of FOMO are coming from the options market, where call options have been well bid. Indeed, after a record high at the end of September, implied volatility skew has declined sharply across assets, equity spot-vol correlation has become much less negative and call vs. put volume has risen materially.
That said, for now it appears that euphoria is largely confined to the near future with longer-term option pricing still pointing to a less constructive stance. To wit, "while 1m equity call skew has become more expensive, long-dated call skew still looks considerably cheaper."
In addition, equity put skew has only marginally declined and the volatility term structure is now very steep, as long-term volatility has materially lagged the decline in short-term vol. This suggests investors’ concerns over 2020 remain high, likely owing to the US political agenda - i.e., will Warren beat Trump in the 2020 presidential elections - and uncertainty around the growth upside.
Add to the above observed euphoria the fact pointed out at the very beginning of this article that investors are finally throwing in the towel on defensive positioning and rotating into risk assets, and one can correctly conclude that the latest melt up has arrived.
Goldman's Rizzi is not fully convinced just yet, noting that "overall positioning does not appear very bullish" but as he warns "with market prices moving sharply higher recently and our RAI Momentum indicator being at historical highs, the hurdle rate for further positive surprises that sustain the strong momentum seems to have increased."
As such, Goldman concludes that "a moderation in the pace of the ‘risk on’ move is now more likely, unless a more sizeable improvement in the macro and political outlook materializes", or, more accurately, unless the Fed doubles down on its NOT QE. Alternatively, it is quite possible that the blow-off top accelerates into year end without any justification - besides the Fed's latest massive liquidity injection which have boosted the Fed's balance sheet by nearly $300 billion in the past 2 months, a faster rate than that observed during QE3.
Incidentally, the last time we had a similar market melt-up was in late January 2018, just before vol sellers overextended themselves, resulting in the overnight annihilation of the entire inverse VIX ETN complex, and the market collapsed. Back then, however, the Fed and other central banks were actually on hiatus from explicitly supporting risk assets; this time, however, with the Fed and ECB once again engaging in full-blown debt monetization, a sudden loss of confidence in risk assets - and by extension central banks - could prove catastrophic, especially with a record number of investors shorting the VIX...
... potentially setting up the biggest VIX short squeeze in history.
Former President Obama cautioned 2020 Democratic candidates not to move too far to the left, as messages of sweeping societal and government transformations risk turning off the party's moderate base, according to the New York Times.
"Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality," said Obama - who told a room of wealthy liberal donors: "Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision we also have to be rooted in reality."
"The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."
Obama joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Florida Senator Bill Nelson, and other moderate Democrats in his implicit warning over plans by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who have called for a "political revolution" and "big structural change" with ideas that would eliminate private health insurance and place a moratorium on deportations according to The Hill.
The comments marked an extraordinary entrance into the primary contest by the former president, who has been careful to avoid even the appearance of influencing the direction of the race.
His remarks offered an implicit critique of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have urged voters to embrace “political revolution” and “big, structural change,” as well as proposals once widely considered to be left to the liberal fringes of the party, including court packing and decriminalizing illegal border crossings. -NYT
"I don't think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven't heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that's going to activate them," added Obama. "There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who just want to see things make sense. They just don’t want to see crazy stuff. They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important."
In April, the former president said "One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States — maybe it’s true here as well — is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,' and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues," adding "And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens."
In early November, Pelosi suggested that 2020 Democrats may strike out against Trump with ultra-liberal policies that may fire up coastal leftists, but may not go over well elsewhere.
"What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,"Pelosi said in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg. "What works in Michigan works in San Francisco — talking about workers’ rights and sharing prosperity."
Bill Nelson, meanwhile, also said earlier this month that if Warren or Sanders become the party's nominee in 2020 that Democrats would effectively be ceding Florida to Trump.
"The answer is yes," said Nelson - a Biden supporter who narrowly lost his re-election in 2018. "I say this with the greatest respect and admiration and friendship for those other senators who embrace Medicare for All. But the hard reality is, it is going to be a stretch too far for the Democrat candidate."
And while Obama is now cautioning 2020 progressives against straying too far left, he's still not endorsing his former VP Joe Biden, the moderate Democratic frontrunner.
One of my primary concerns regarding the forthcoming economic chaos and societal breakdown is that there will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. As normalcy bias evaporates like tears on dehydrated sunken cheeks, hungry neighbors and pre-collapse friends and acquaintances will soon assimilate into zombie hoards and come knocking like its Halloween.
What are you going to do? Shoot them?
Regardless, saying “I told you so” or “I tried to warn you, but you didn’t listen” will not be an effective deterrent. Furthermore, the resultant chaos will also deliver local strongmen and gangs ready to thieve and plunder amidst widespread violence and starvation.
In such a scenario, any lone bananas are sure to be skinned.
Are you ready?
Because very few will have the opportunity to bug out to a remote location and surprisingly, an isolated cabin in the woods, or a fenced-off hidden homestead in a rural area may not be best after all. Take it from Fernando Ferfal Aguirre, who survived the economic collapse in Argentina. In his book, “Surviving the Economic Collapse”, he described geographic areas as like organisms dying; where the extremities perish first. Aguirre identifies the urban areas as the safer places to work, trade, and live; with the rural areas as targets for roving gangs to raid and set up camp out of the reach of city services, police, and fire departments.
Therefore, since we know the endgame, what if we could parlay that into building trust with others now? Perhaps entire regions could be fortified in a balkanized America, simply by reorganizing current civil administrations. All that would be required would be for the heads of select institutions and agencies to work in coordination, quickly, and decisively as the proverbial excrement collides into the whirling flabellum. Roving bands, gangs, cartels, and feral feds, might then decide to move on to easier targets.
But any micro- constitutional republics must become self-sufficient very quickly; or at least before “every man for himself” requires a strongman to maintain order.
So, in the meantime, how can we attempt to convert the unconverted? How can we wake up the sleeping sheeple and lead them into the ideological promised land prior to any cataclysmic post-apocalyptic tribulations?
These are the questions.
Years ago, I wrote an article on “How to Woo a Moonbatted Snowflake” outlining a prospective strategy for red-pilling our blue-pilled friends. Accordingly, over the last several days, I’ve utilized my online blogging experience and three-dimensional relations to hone what I believe might be another effective strategy. So I had breakfast with a socialist physician friend and tested my new tactic. My desire was to overcome the left-rightdichotomy by establishing commonality toward the goal of achieving a political rapport. Then, I could potentially close the deal and wake him up.
So far, in its early stages, the strategy has worked pretty well with one test subject. Overall, I am pleased with the results. Better to have friends than enemies in the post-apocalypse and that’s what’s at stake in my opinion.
I chose a socialist who self-identifies as a liberal because I knew he would be one of the more difficult to convert of all my friends and acquaintances. First, we made small talk and eventually our conversation drifted into current events and, in particular, a text exchange I had on Tuesday November 12, 2019 with one of our RINO (Republican In Name Only) friends who identifies as a Republican. The RINO sent me the following meme this last Tuesday, or the day before the “public” congressional impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump’s alleged malfeasance in Ukraine:
Consequently, the following is a screenshot of our ensuing text exchange. The RINO’s messages are boxed in green and mine is in gray.
Of course, the main point here is that I said impeachment would implode and, the next day, on Wednesday November 12, 2019 – the collapse started. The fatal blows were delivered by Republican Devin Nunes in his opening statements, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan’s ridiculing of the Democrat’s supposed “star witnesses” and, especially, when Texas Republican John Ratcliffe asked acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor and U.S. State Department drone George Kent the following question:
So, in this impeachment hearing today where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes, where is the impeachable offense in that call?
Their answer? Crickets.
I commented to the socialist how the RINO always projects concern for my emotional state every time I refuse to accept his faulty premises.
To which the socialist said: “We have hope that you will wake up someday when it comes to Trump and the Republicans”.
“But”, I said, “That’s strange because I sent the RINO a link to an article on Tuesday that was not very flattering of Trump”.
The socialist replied: “My Dad used to be a Republican until he came to his senses in his old age. We have the same hope for you”.
And this is where I began my latest approach.
I said: “It seems to me so much of this left-right dichotomy is comparable to watching a football game while the roof is on fire. Ya know?”
Of course, he nodded because Trump. I continued: “I know this is where you will once again call me a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, but did you know Abraham Lincoln predicted a day when America would be taken over by corporations?
He smiled and asked if I saw a series called “Continuum” on Netflix that was about corporations ruling the world. I replied that I had not seen that one, but the films “Rollerball” and “Network” came to my mind regarding that subject (I am older than him).
Next, I mentioned how Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, referenced powerful men who were afraid to speak “condemnation” of a concentric inner circle consisting of even more powerful men:
Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the U.S., in the field of commerce and manufacturing, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.
– Woodrow Wilson, “The New Freedom” (1913).
Then I commented on how former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the “Military Industrial Complex” in his farewell address and on John F. Kennedy’s “Secret Society” speech delivered just 100 days after Ike’s.
Next, I spoke of the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and mentioned the book “The Creature from Jekyl Island” before saying that I viewed Wall Street and Main Street as distinctly separate constructs.
At this, the socialist commented on how only the rich ever got richer.
I then stated how I believe some things are worth conserving like the U.S. Constitution, and how I was grateful that I was able to grow up in, at least, the fading light of Norman Rockwell’s America.
“Sure”, I continued, “You might say that blacks were treated badly in the 1950s, but leftists today have coopted civil rights when, in truth, it began in the churches of Montgomery County, Alabama. Ya know?”
At this, the socialist paused and seemed like he was going to say something but, then, just slightly nodded.
Next, I mentioned how Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, after leaving the Washington Post, wrote a 25,000-word cover story in Rolling Stone magazine in October 1977 on how the mainstream media has coordinated “hand in glove with the Central Intelligence Agency” (CIA). I chose Bernstein because I thought he might find him more accessible than any potential “conspiracies” regarding “Operation Mockingbird”.
I furthermore shared how I’ve watched politics closely from the times of Jimmy Carter’s gas lines, hostages in Iran, Ronald Reagan, “Borked” Supreme Court nominees, a thousand points of light, a new world order, blue dresses, hanging chads, and lost friends from drunken tirades over Benghazi.
I told him how I was a patriotic neocon in the wake of September 11, 2001 and that I agreed with George the Younger that it was better for us to kill them over there than them killing us over here. I mentioned how I disagreed with one of my politically independent friends who said it was a mistake for us to invade Iraq over “weapons of mass destruction”.
The socialist smiled, and added: “They weren’t there”.
I replied: “Nope. Yet, even after that, I swore to my friend that we had the Iran mullahs shaking in their slippers before Democrat Harry Reid, as Senate Majority leader in 2007, exclaimed to the world that the U.S. had lost the war in Iraq.
“That really pissed me off”, I said, “But, still, I was fooled and my friend was right.”
The socialist looked at me seriously. It seemed he appreciated my candidness and was curious as to where I might be going with all this.
So I continued.
I commented how the same media outlets that tricked us with “weapons of mass destruction” are now being used by the Military-Industrial Complex as “weapons of mass distraction”. In other words, the same corporate media who tricked me with non-existent WMD’s fooled him with Russian collusion.
“Trump was elected on the platform of immigration and trade”, said I. “But just as Bush II doubled the national debt and Obama doubled debt once more, so, too, do the deficits grow under Trump. The bankers always win.”
To which the socialist mentioned tax cuts as the reason for Trump’s exploding deficits and our discussion drifted into other economic topics.
Eventually, I asked him: “What if Trump was meant to be a wrecking ball? I mean, think about it. All of our institutions are now failing – the media, the FBI and Department of Justice, Congress, and even U.S. elections. What happens in 2020 if Trump says illegal immigration turned Texas blue and contests the results? Civil war?”
I could see the socialist thinking about that one. He added: “The extremes on both sides are the problem. Maybe what we need is a new Centrist Party”.
“But really…”, I stated, “there are two primary dynamics at play. Globalism, or rather, centralized power via the United Nations as opposed to constitutional national sovereignty. In that regard, then, the globalists must destroy America. Do you see?”
He just looked at me blankly, but I could see the wheels turning. Maybe he liked that idea. I didn’t ask. Instead, I kept going.
“What if the Trump Show was reality TV?” I asked. “Because he talked about financial bubbles as a candidate, but now, as president, he has taken complete ownership of the financial markets. If the economy crashes, Warren or Sanders or one of the current Democratic Party primary contenders will likely win the presidency. And if they do and then try to take the guns, then that could spark a civil war as well. Ya know?”
I added that I thought Trump was either 1.) real and trying to drain the swamp, 2.) real and unwittingly serving as a scapegoat for the global financial elite or 3.) a Judas Goat working in conjunction with the globalists.
The socialist responded by saying that he thought Trump was just an asshole using the presidency for his personal financial gain and that he would hate Trump no matter what party he represented. “He used to be a Democrat, you know.”
I then mentioned how the infamous underworld attorney, Roy Cohn, Trump’s mentor, once said in an interview that Trump was the closest thing to a genius he’d ever seen on earth.
To which the socialist responded by saying: “He may be a marketing genius, but that’s it.”
We then talked about how Hillary Clinton benefited from super-delegates in 2016 in order to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. He said he thought Bernie would have beat Trump.
In turn, I replied: “So if that was rigged, maybe the powers-that-be wanted Trump to win.”
He nodded to that and this is where we stopped for the day. All in all it was a good conversation and we avoided the left-right talking points and positions.
At some point, however, I want to take it to new levels and I do believe he may be receptive.
It is my intention to eventually mention the secret CIA initiative revealed by former United States Naval Intelligence Briefing Team member William Cooper. In his 1991 book “Behold a Pale Horse”, Cooper described a plan by the CIA to utilize drugs and hypnosis on mental patients in order to coerce them into shooting children in schools. The project was meant to inflame the antigun lobby and cause middle-class Americans to beg their government “protectors” into obliterating the 2nd Amendment.
– Cooper, Milton William. (1991). “Behold a Pale Horse”, Light Technology Publications, page 225
If the socialist is receptive, I might explain to him some of the mass killing event timelines as described in my August 2019 article “Politicians Promote Murder, Mayhem, & Terror to Propagandize Political Agendas & Consolidate Power”; some of the more recent examples, of course, taking place prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections.
Just after the Democrats bared their collective asses during the Kavanaugh Hearings, right on schedule, an anti-semitic white nationalist shot up a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a Republican, with “Make America Great Again” stickers on his white van, was arrested for mailing explosive devices to President Trump’s most prominent political opponents.
Then, later, immediately after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s pathetic testimony before Congress on July 24, 2019 – the following occurred:
– On Sunday July 28, 2019 suspect Santino William Legan, 19, used an AK-47 rifle to murder three people and maim 13 others at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California.
– Six days later, on Saturday August 3, 2019, at a Walmart in El Paso Texas – Patrick Crusius, 21, used an AK-47 rifle to kill 24 people; injuring 22 more.
– And the very next day, on Sunday August 4, 2019 Connor Stephen Betts, 24, used a .223-caliber rifle to murder 10 people and wound at least 27 others.
And, the most recent shooting? It occurred at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita California on November 14, 2019; the day of this writing and, obviously, the day after the public impeachment hearings collapsed on live television.
What a way to change the narrative, because, today, the Santa Clarita shooting had been the leading story on AM radio top-of-the-hournewsbreaks as well as populating the twitter feeds of Democratic Party leaders.
These events quite often appear to unveil in similar ways: There are shots fired, followed by eyewitness accounts of more than one shooter. Then, the YouTube videos of those reporting on multiple attackers will be scrubbed from the internet.
Within hours, the murderers will be reported to be extremely troubled, if not insane, and likely on psychotropic drugs, as several people claim they all “saw it coming”, or, in some instances, saying they were completely surprised that the person they knew could massacre so many.
Additionally, prophetic postings placed prior on social media by the shooter will be revealed – but most always after it’s too late. And, typically, of course, an AR-type rifle, or semi-automatic handgun will have been used and most often with larger-capacity magazines. And, quite often, a manifesto of some sort is discovered.
Then, finally, like the sun rising after a long dark night, the political establishment will loudly crow like over-caffeinated roosters about “doing something” so “it never happens again”.
The national narrative has been changed as if by explosive remote control; the ensuing gun debate will further divide the country as it mobilizes the Political Left and Right; as President Trump is once again placed under tremendous political pressure to move against guns. In so doing, he loses the support of his base.
Yet, in spite of all these outcomes, can anyone PROVE these timely massacres are false flags? Of course not. Because bullshit fills the air while the world turns. To the victims and their families, please accept my condolences. And Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Marijuana investors realize their investments in Canopy Growth, Tilray, Cronos, and Aurora Cannabis are going up in smoke after the latest round of earnings, reported The Wall Street Journal.
2019 has been a wake-up call to the millennial investor, many of whom went out on the risk curve and piled all their savings into pot stocks.
In the last eight months, ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF
Shares of Canopy Growth slid last week, has a 6.85% weight in MJ, after revenue in Q3 plunged and missed Wall Street expectations after guiding lower. Shares of Canopy Growth have crashed 41% this year.
Cronos (7.18% weight in MJ) and Tilray (7.76% weight in MJ), also plunged last week amid disappointing earnings. Year to date, their shares are down 72% and 34%, respectively.
Canopy Growth CEO Mark Zekulin told analysts Thursday during a conference call that "It's been a challenging couple quarters in the cannabis sector."
Zekulin said the future is bright, but short-term challenges persist. "There is still an emerging global cannabis opportunity with hundreds of billions of dollars across medical, pharmaceutical, CBD and recreational cannabis," he added.
Todd Harrison, Founding Partner and CIO of CB1 Capital, said the implosion of pots stocks this year could rival past bubbles he's traded.
"Been trading 30 yrs and I've seen a lot of hate. Tech stocks during the dot-com implosion. Home-builders during the housing crisis. Bank stocks into teeth of the GFC. IDK if #cannabis is there yet; but it's close."
Been trading 30 yrs and I've seen a lot of hate.— Todd Harrison (@todd_harrison) November 15, 2019
Tech stocks during the dot-com implosion.
Home-builders during the housing crisis.
Bank stocks into teeth of the GFC.
IDK if #cannabis is there yet; but it's close.
The saving grace for marijuana investors is apparent, a Democrat would need to win the presidential election next year, considering all candidates on the left support legalizing marijuana at a federal level, which could double the cannabis industry.
As for now, the pot bubble has imploded and perhaps could suggest market liquidity is becoming scarce.
Recently, there has been a parade of central bankers along with their lackeys on Wall Street coming on the financial news networks and desperately trying to convince investors that there are no bubbles extant in the world today. Indeed, the Fed sees no economic or market imbalances anywhere that should give perma-bulls cause for concern. You can listen to Jerome Powell’s upbeat assessment of the situation in his own words during the latest FOMC press conference here. The Fed Chair did, however, manage to acknowledge that corporate debt levels are in fact a bit on the high side. But he added that “we have been monitoring it carefully and taken appropriate steps.” By taking appropriate steps to reduce debt levels Powell must mean slashing interest rates and going back into QE. The problem with that strategy being that is exactly what caused the debt binge and overleveraged condition of corporations in the first place.
Global central banks have abrogated the free market and are in the practice of repealing the business cycle and ensuring stocks are in a permanent bull market. Massive and unrelenting money printing is the “tool” that they use. The good old USA had its central bank cut rates to 0 percent by the end of 2008 to combat the Great Recession; and that paved the way for the EU to join the free-money parade by 2016. In fact, the Band of Japan had already been at the zero-bound range years before. This means much of the developed world has been giving money away gratis for the better part of a decade.
And now central banks actually want you to believe that multiple years' worth of global ZIRP has somehow left asset prices devoid of any significant distortions. All is normal here, or so we are told. So, I thought it would be prudent to shed some light on a few of those glaring imbalances that should be obvious to all except a debased central banker. To be blind to them screams of incompetence or mendacity--or both.
Forty percent of Europe's investment grade corporate debt offers a negative yield and there are at this time $15 trillion worth of sovereign debt globally with a negative yield as well.
The valuation of equities in the U.S. is now for the first time ever 1.5 times its phony and free-money-goosed GDP.
Yet, at the same time S&P 500 margins and earnings are shrinking.
The U.S. has increased its business debt by 60 percent since the Great Recession--it now totals $16 trillion, which is an all-time high in nominal terms and as a percent of GDP.
Much of this debt has been used to buy back stock and reduce share counts to boost EPS. Corporate buybacks, which were illegal in the U.S. before 1982, will breach $1 trillion this year. As far as the Fed is concerned, issuing a record amount of debt to buy back stocks at record high valuations is just fine.
According to the BIS, 12 percent of businesses in the developed world have become zombies--having to issue new debt just to pay the interest on existing debt—this figure is also at a record. The average interest rate on the U.S. 10-year Treasury Note prior to the Great Recession was about 7 percent. Today, this rate is a lowly 1.8 percent.
It appears central banks are completely oblivious to the global bond bubble even though they are its very progenitor. For further examples, back in the European debt crisis of 2012, the borrowing costs for the insolvent countries known as the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) shot up to the thermosphere. The Greek 10-year Note hit a yield of 40 percent and caused the economy to crash under the weight of its mountain of debt and skyrocketing servicing costs. This led to an explicit and partial debt default of its obligations and a humongous European Central Bank bond-buying program that promised “to do whatever it takes” to bring down yields. The Greek 10-year yield is now just 1.6 percent, even though the country's National debt to GDP ratio has actually increased from 159 percent in 2012, to just under 200 percent today. How can this be? The answer is, Greek debt is once again in a gargantuan bubble, but this time around it is now and forever on the life support of ECB counterfeiting. It is the same story in Portugal. Its 10-year Note yield shot up to an untenable 16 percent in 2012. But through the magic of the printing press it is now just under 0.25 percent. As incredible as that rate is, it exists even though Portugal’s National debt to GDP ratio is still over 120 percent; just about the same level it was back in 2012 when the market caused its rate to skyrocket.
The U.S. deficit increased by 26 percent y/y and is now $1 trillion per annum. The annual deficits are projected by the CBO to be at least $1.2 trillion for the next decade. That is, if everything goes perfectly fine in the economy and rates stay at historic lows--and there is never another recession. For Mr. Powell and company, all this is viewed as being completely normal.
In addition, history has proved throughout the centuries that once an economy has more than a 90 percent total debt to GDP ratio, its economic growth becomes impaired. The total in the U.S. is now 330 percent, in the EU it is 450 percent, and Japan has over 600 percent total debt to GDP. How did the entire developed world become so debt-disabled? The answer is simple: artificial interest rates provided by central banks have incentivized, facilitated and enabled governments to issue massive amounts of debt with impunity. Again, according to central bankers there is nothing to see here.
These are just a few of the many examples of market distortions arising from central banks artificially pushing yields into the sub-basement of history. Now they have destroyed the market-based pricing of fixed income and equities across the globe. These markets have now become wards of the state forever and ever amen.
The sad truth is that the entire artificial and tenuous construct of markets is predicated on interest rates that perpetually fall and never increase. As long as this baneful dynamic is in place, asset bubbles grow bigger, and debt levels rise. Thus, making the economy increasingly more dependent on lower and lower interest rates. The problem is most central banks have already arrived at the zero-bound range and/or are in various stages of QE. Even the horrific Fed only has one and half percentage points from running out of ammo to reduce borrowing costs and is already printing $60 billion per month in QE. And yes, that is exactly what it should be called. Hence, when (not if) the next economic contraction begins, money markets will once again freeze and the record number of zombie companies will begin laying off millions of employees as a result of being shut out of the credit market. Then, the global bubble in junk corporate debt will crater and cause panic in equity markets like never before in history.
According to the Fed and the deep-state on Wall Street, all is completely normal.
The China stock bubble burst 12 years ago, and the Shanghai exchange is still down 50 percent from that high. Japan's bubble burst 30 years ago, and investors are still down 40 percent. Global central banks have set the table for a record implosion of markets and the major U.S. averages are by far the most overvalued. This is why it is imperative to model the dynamics in credit markets to ensure you can participate in the upside of stocks while the charade lasts. But most importantly, also avoid getting slaughtered like a passively managed pigeon once interest rates spike and the global credit bubble finally bursts.
With protests and unrest raging in multiple hot spots around the globe from Latin America to Hong Kong to Lebanon and Iraq, it could be Iran's turn to join in.
Amid a fresh price hike in gasoline — the latest in a string of woes to hit the sanctions ravaged Iranian economy, ultimately making life miserable for the common populace — rare mass protests have broken out in multiple cities.
Protests and clashes with police began Friday when petrol prices suddenly rose by at least 50% after government subsidies on it were slashed. Government statements said the plan is to divert the funds in order to make cash payments to low-income households.
In essence Tehran authorities dubiously claim they were forced to "free up money" to assist the poor; however, it appears more drastic scrambling as Tehran struggles to find global purchasers to offload its oil.
And as of Saturday Reuters Persian reports that gas prices have tripled, taking millions of angry middle class demonstrators to the streets across the country.
Early report about middle class and upper class protesting in Tehran Pars is now confirmed. People are on t he streets chanting “down with the dictator” and burning Sina Bank. https://t.co/AUOt9kFtw1 pic.twitter.com/BNB5x0Tils— Raman Ghavami (@Raman_Ghavami) November 16, 2019
The BBC reports that the protests are fierce enough to have already led to at least two deaths and multiple injured as demonstrations are active in at least a dozen cities:
One person was killed during protests in the central city of Sirjan. State news agency Irna said there were clashes with police when protesters attacked a fuel storage warehouse and tried to set fire to it.
Several more people were injured. A protester also died in the city of Behbahan.
Other cities were also affected including the capital, Tehran, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Tabriz, Karadj, Shiraz, Yazd, Boushehr and Sari.
Burning a public transportation bus by Iranian Protesters in #Tabriz the capital city of East #Azerbaijan Province, in northwestern #Iran.— Ahmad Batebi (@radiojibi) November 16, 2019
16th November 2019#IranProtests#IranUprising#IslamicRepublicMustGo#IranRegimeChange pic.twitter.com/1dVAJCDOKP
The AP reported that while at the start of this week drivers were allotted up to 250 liters a month at the pump at at a controlled 10,000 rials per liter, as of Friday that changed drastically to an allowance of 60 liters (or 13 gallons) of petrol a month at 15,000 rials ($0.13; £0.10) a liter. Additional liters after that cost 30,000 rials.
In response, one protest method has been for motorists to turn off their vehicles in the middle of busy streets, blocking traffic and adding the frustration of security forces.
Meanwhile, Iranian state media has admitted that violent clashes with police are underway. As Deutsche Welle reports of the official statements:
In the city of Sirjan in central Iran, demonstrators tried to set a fuel warehouse on fire in protests that police described as "severe."
The semi-official news agency INSA reported that one civilian was killed and several others injured.
Acting governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi said some people had exploited the "calm gathering" and had destroyed public property and damaged fuel stations. He added it was unclear whether the victim had been shot dead by security forces who were "trying to bring back calm to the city."
There are also reports that protesters have begun targeting banks, after video was posted online of what appears to show the Central Bank In Behbahan, Iran being engulfed in flames as demonstrators chant.
Burning a bank building by #IranianProtesters in #Behbahan, capital of Behbahan County, #Khuzestan Province, #Iran.— Ahmad Batebi (@radiojibi) November 16, 2019
16th November 2019#IranProtests#IranUprising#IslamicRepublicMustGo#IranRegimeChange pic.twitter.com/7zg5FvDoEq
Brief local news coverage of the bank building going up in flames:
In the below video now circulating widely among Iranian opposition activist accounts, live gun fire is heard as both protest and police lines scatter.
Security forces appear to be retreating into a police headquarters amid an attacking crowd. And what sounds like live ammo is then fired by police defenders of the HQ.
Face to face battle field, escaping Islamic Republic oppressive forces and their direct fire on #IranianProtesters.— Ahmad Batebi (@radiojibi) November 16, 2019
Mali Abad Boulevard police station, #Shiraz, Fars Province, #Iran
16th Nov 2019#IranProtests#IranUprising#IslamicRepublicMustGo#IranRegimeChange pic.twitter.com/3W3uNfZkmN
On Saturday the protests have appeared to get more confrontational, as police were filmed using riot control measures against crowds, and with some unconfirmed reports of live fire being used, as has been the case over the past month in neighboring Iraq.
The entire system of health needs to be re-organized from the ground up, and funding the rackets will only speed the collapse of the system.
The core problem with "socialist" proposals such as Medicare-for-All is that they don't actually fix what's broken--they just expand existing rackets such as the healthcare/sickcare racket, the higher education racket, and so on.
Let's start by separating "real socialism" (state ownership of the means of production) from "faux socialism" (the state borrows trillions of dollars to fund self-serving public-private rackets).
The basic idea of classic socialism is that state ownership of the means of production enables the state to harvest the surplus production and invest it in the public good. If the state is organized as a democracy, then the public gets a say in defining "the public good" and changing course if the national surplus is being mal-invested or diverted into the hands of the few under the guise of "the public good."
What's being labeled "socialist" in present-day U.S.A. is nothing more than the state borrowing from future generations to fund profiteering rackets today. It's hardly a secret that the U.S. spends twice as much per person on healthcare but trails the pack of other developed nations in actual health. (See infographic below for the facts, which I have discussed here for 14 years.)
Problem #1 is robust health isn't profitable, while managing chronic lifestyle diseases and pushing needless/harmful medications and procedures are immensely profitable.
Problem #2 is the external costs of destructive but oh-so-profitable products are not paid by either producers or consumers at the point of purchase. The tobacco industry offers an example of this decoupling of "price discovery" and externalities that manifest years or decades later.
Selling tobacco was and is an enormously profitable venture, but only because the full costs of tobacco use manifest many years after the products are purchased and consumed, and these costs do not fall on the tobacco producers but on the consumers (who suffer terrible health consequences and early death), and on the healthcare system and society at large, which must absorb the staggering direct cost of dealing with the diseases caused by tobacco addiction and the indirect costs of lost productivity and early death.
For every $1 of profit the tobacco companies earned, $100 of future external costs were imposed on the consumers of tobacco and society at large. If the full external costs were levied at the point of sale, tobacco would be extremely expensive, and if the true risks had been advertised as heavily as the products themselves, the tobacco companies' liability exposure would have made the packaging and selling of tobacco an unprofitable business.
To maintain profitability, the tobacco companies engaged in a decades-long campaign to mask the real-world health consequences of using their products. The goal was three-fold: hide the well-known consequences of tobacco addiction, maintain that tobacco wasn't addictive, and maintain that it wasn't unhealthy, decoupling the sale of tobacco from the eventual costs.
The same dynamic is in play with America's food industry. Garbage in, garbage out: garbage "food" in, garbage health out.
This plays perfectly into sickcare's PR, which is that there is a magic handful of oh-so-profitable pills one can swallow to "fix" all the disorders caused by a garbage diet and near-zero fitness. And in case your doctor didn't adequately explain the wunnerful benefits of the magic handful of oh-so-profitable pills, Big Pharma helpfully spends billions of dollars on ads to promote a magical-thinking belief that some new med or procedure will "fix" complex, inter-connected metabolic disorders created by poor diet and an absence of fitness.
Medicare-for-All is simply a way to fund the racket as painlessly as possible, which is to borrow from future generations to fund profiteering rackets in Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Packaged Food/Fast Food, and so on--the equivalents of Big Tobacco.
Just as smokers were encouraged to kill themselves without being aware of the eventual consequences of tobacco addiction, consumers of highly processed foods are killing themselves without being aware of the eventual consequences.
The promoters of Medicare-for-All offer a Band-Aid to fund the racketeering nature of U.S. healthcare: we're gonna tax the billionaires and they'll pay for the racket. It would be comical if it wasn't so painfully obvious that in our pay-to-play political circus, any new tax bill will be larded with exceptions and loopholes.
Let's say the "tax the rich" proposals raise $50 billion -- woohoo. But this is a drop in the bucket of additional costs incurred by Medicare-for-All, which could easily top $500 billion a year.
Nobody pushing Medicare-for-All dares connect the dots between garbage in, garbage out lifestyles and an unsustainably costly healthcare system of gargantuan waste, fraud, shameless profiteering, needless/harmful med and procedures, etc., a system which consumes twice as much money per person as our developed-world competitors for a measure of national health that is, if we're honest with ourselves (gasp), actually declining.
The entire system of health needs to be re-organized from the ground up, and funding the rackets will only speed the collapse of the system.
U.S. Healthcare Spending, courtesy of Peter G. Peterson Foundation
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