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[l] at 8/15/20 12:30pm
Why Goldman Just Raised Its S&P Price Target By 20% To 3,600 Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 14:30

So much can change in less than five months.

Back on March 22, one day before the Fed went all in on central planning by announcing unlimited QE and crossing the Rubicon into buying corporate bonds, Goldman nuked its EPS forecast after the US economy basically shutdown to "fight" the covid pandemic, and cut its near-term S&P forecast to 2,000:

In the near-term, we expect the S&P 500 will fall towards a low of 2000.   The stock market is a leading indicator of business trends, and corporate activity continues to deteriorate with no signs yet of a bottom. The first quarter has not even ended and companies have yet to release 1Q results but   equities have already collapsed by 32% in one month.   The speed of business erosion is unprecedented .

To be sure, Goldman also hedged its bet laying out what it thought was the absolute upside case: one where in the aftermath of the economic collapse, the market - if not the economy  - would recover its losses:

If all goes according to plan, S&P 500 EPS will leap by 55% to $170 in 2021, and the index will end 2020 at 3000 (30% above the current level). Earnings and investor sentiment will be recovering later in 2020. Using the Fed Model, applying a Treasury yield of 1% and a yield gap of 465 bp, suggests a P/E multiple of 18x on 2021 EPS and a year-end 2020 level of 3000

Well, fast forward to today, less than five months later, when the S&P is now more than a 1000 points above its March 23 lows, closing Friday at a whopping 3,372.85 and just shy of its all time high, and when suddenly the stock market is no longer a "leading indicator of business trends" as Goldman so aptly put it back in late March.

This means that Goldman - which a few months ago quietly capitulated on its bearish case and said its 2020 year-end target reverted back to 3,000 - had found itself in the unpleasant position of chasing the (centrally-planned) market alongside most other sellside research teams, and one week after the bank's chief economist Jan Hatzius hiked his GDP outlook for 2020 and 2021 and chief equity strategist David Kostin hinted that the market was outperforming his cautious take, late on Friday Goldman confirmed that on Wall Street that only thing that matters is price in the rearview mirror, and that so-called "analysts" will goalseek any narrative to justify both the current prices and where momentum impliesit will be in a few months, when Kostin raised his S&P price target from 3,000 to an all time high 3,600.

This is how Kostin began his latest capitulation to the market... and what is likely Goldman's latest top-tick of stocks now that Goldman has become the new Gartman:

The S&P 500 level has returned to its pre-pandemic high, but the building blocks supporting the price have shifted dramatically. Share prices reflect not just the expected future stream of earnings but also the rate at which the profits are discounted to present value

And here are the details behind Goldman's latest narrative shift:

Back to the future. Six months ago, on February 19th, the S&P 500 Index reached an all-time high of 3386. The world was in a far distant place compared with today. US GDP was expected to grow by an average of 2.1% in 2020. Both the fed funds rate and the 10-year US Treasury yield equaled 1.6%. Consensus 2020 and 2021 EPS estimates for the S&P 500 were $176 and $196, implying 1-year and 2-year forward P/E multiples of 17.3x and 15.8x, respectively. Our calculation of the market-implied equity risk premium (“ERP”) equaled 5.4%.

Then, the coronavirus hit. The world stopped. Economies froze. The S&P 500 plunged by 34% in 23 trading days. More than 20 million people globally and 5 million individuals in the US contracted COVID-19. Tragically, more than 750,000 people worldwide have died of the virus, including 167,000 in the US. The Fed cut the funds rate to near-zero (0-25 bp). Congress opened the fiscal spigot and implemented a variety of income-replacement policies designed to help individuals and businesses bridge to the other side of the pandemic.

Remarkably, the S&P 500 index has fully recovered from its March trough and now trades close to its pre-pandemic peak.The five largest stocks (AAPL, MSFT, AMZN, GOOGL, and FB) accounted for 14% of the market’s 51% rally and now constitute 23% of the index capitalization. Stated differently, the other 495 stocks collectively contributed just 72% of the rebound.

And while the S&P 500 level has returned to its pre-pandemic high, the top Goldman strategist notes that the building blocks of that price have shifted dramatically during the past six months. For one, with stocks back at record highs, the economy is still facing unprecedented devastation, however optimism is returning and as we noted last week, Goldman Sachs economists now forecast US GDP will rebound by +6.4% in 2021.

Following a -5% contraction in 2020, their 2021 growth estimate is well above the Blue Chip consensus estimate of 3.9%.

A key driver of Goldman's optimistic growth outlook is positive news on the vaccine front; the bank now expect at least one vaccine will be approved by the end of 2020 and will be widely distributed in the US by mid-year 2021. We think this is ludicrous in a country where more than half of the population has said it will refuse to take any hastily prepared vaccine, but hey - Goldman has an optimistic narrative to build just so its prop traders can dump their risk assets to clients.

That's also why Goldman's optimism has migrated to the broader market, and the bank's 2021 EPS estimate of $170 is also above the current consensus of $165:

We expect S&P 500 earnings will contract by 21% this year before rebounding by 30% next year and 11% in 2022 (5% CAGR). Our EPS estimate is driven by higher sales and an expansion in profit margins to 11.4%, back to the level of 2019. However, as we discussed last week, the earnings recovery will be uneven.Information Technology and Health Care will lead the way with CAGR growth through 2022 of +10%. Firms in other sectors such as Energy (-25%) and Financials (-1%) will struggle to return to their prior level of peak earnings

And yet in an economy where there are tens of million unemployed and a record number of companies filing for bankruptcy, the cognitive dissonance between the economic abyss and record stocks is screaming; so much so that even Goldman had to admit that few things make sense. Case in point, Goldman is now justifying its ludicrous - if very much probable - price targets not based on profits or cash flows, but simply on the discount rate used to pull future earnings to the present. And in a world where the discount rate is zero (and in many countries negative) it is an academic embarrassment to say that one's price target is X just because the future value of earnings can be infinite. And yet, to explain away this centrally planned "market", this is the kind of bullshit Goldman has to resort to to validate why a record high forward PE multiple...

... should not dissuade Goldman's clients from buying stocks (that Goldman is selling), to wit:

As the last few months have demonstrated, equity prices depend on not just the expected future stream of earnings but the rate at which those earnings are discounted to present value. A plunging risk-free rate partially explains why equities have performed so well despite downward revisions to expected earnings.

And with every other metric screaming record overvaluation, there is the old faithful "Fed model" explanation, aka the Equity Risk Premium that stocks are in fact cheap, that just because bond yields are at all time lows (which is due to central banks buying all gross issuance), so stocks are expensive if only in comparison to bonds. Once again, a purely academic exercise in goalseeking a selling point, but that's what Goldman has been reduced to in a "market" where David Portnoy outperforms not just Warren Buffett...

... but the market itself:

Relative to the peak on February 19th, nominal 10-year yields are 90 bp lower (from 1.6% to 0.7%). With breakeven inflation unchanged (at 1.7%), the key interest rate change has been a fall in real yields from -0.1% to -1.0%. While the Fed balance sheet has exploded by 66%, the policy uncertainty index has surged from 131 to 295 alongside lingering concerns about the virus, the election, and US-China trade. On net, the ERP has increased by nearly a full percentage point, to 6.3% from 5.4%. But falling bond yields means the effective cost of equity is unchanged at 7.0% (Ex. 9).

Thoroughly red-faced by this point, Kostin has no choice but to "explain" some more how stocks are cheap if one only focuses exclusively on the equity risk premium which is meaningless in a world where central banks have nationalized the bond market and rates no longer provide any future discounting signal:

Changes in the ERP are driven by many factors, including the strength of the economy today, the expected state of the economy going forward, and the confidence investors have in that forward path. To model those relationships, we use changes in the bond market’s pricing of future inflation as a proxy for changes in expected growth, and the policy uncertainty index as a representation of confidence. Fed policy also matters for ERP because it has an impact on future growth and investor confidence as well as indirectly increasing equity market liquidity.

The risk premium for US equities is likely to decline by year-end 2020 (to 5.7%) and during the first half of 2021 (to 5.2%).Under their baseline forecast, our economists expect nominal Treasury yields will rise by 50 bp to 1.1% by year-end and to 1.4% in 12-months, led by higher breakeven inflation and higher real rates [ ZH : this will be the 11th year in a row in which Goldman has incorrectly predicted higher rates]. If realized, the rise in rates and inflation through year-end would be a roughly 80th percentile 3-month move relative to the past 15 years and the 12-month move would rank in the 85th percentile. They expect the Fed balance sheet will increase by $800 billion through year-end and by another $1.3 trillion during 2021. We assume the current elevated level of political uncertainty persists into year-end, but declines in early 2021 as investors gain clarity around the administration’s legislative agenda. Our forecast ERP would remain above-average at year-end before declining to the 15-year average in 12 months.

And so the scene is set to "explain" why until just last week Goldman was perfectly happy with a 3,000 S&P price target, and now sees the S&P some 20% higher. Why the Equity Risk Premium of course (the real reason: Goldman is now aggressively selling its risk assets to clients who need to get bulled up and buy from their favorite neighborhood Goldman salesman).

A fall in ERP will be partially offset by a rise in bond yields but the combination will ultimately boost the S&P 500 index to 3600 by year-end (+7%) and to 3800 (+6%) in 12-months’ time.

Our revised year-end 2020 price target represents a significant increase from our previous forecast of 3000, driven by valuation. In February 2020, the S&P 500 traded on a FY2 P/E multiple of 17x consensus 2021 EPS. Today, the market trades at 20x consensus 2021 EPS. Our year-end target of 3600 implies a P/E multiple of 21x our 2021 EPS estimate.

But what if this ridiculous approach to analysis is flawed - as it will be shown to be quite soon? Why Goldman's chief strategist is smart enough to know he needs an "out" for when he is called out for being massively wrong, and sure enough he embeds just that by noting that the US election, which is now just 80 days away, "represents a significant risk to our year-end forecast."

As we have highlighted previously, the coronavirus introduces a major complication in the timely tabulation of voting results. Consider the New York 12th Congressional District Democratic primary, where it took six weeks to count all the absentee ballots and determine a winner. And this was just a primary election.

And then there is the (flawed) polling that just like in 2016 sees a Democratic sweep in November. Here'

Prediction markets imply post-election Democratic control of Washington, DC. Equity investors are most focused on the prospect of higher corporate tax rates. We have previously estimated that Vice President Biden’s current plan, if fully enacted, could reduce our baseline 2021 EPS to $150 and our 2022 EPS could be closer to $170. However, the potential for changes in government policies outside of tax policy, such as fiscal spending, trade policy, and regulation, suggest a combination of upside and downside risks to earnings depending on the outcome of November’s elections.

In short, Goldman admits that "election uncertainty suggests near-term risk to our target is tilted to the downside. Of course, the largest risk to our forecast is the timing of a vaccine and path of recovery from the pandemic."

Stated otherwise, everything can - and will - go wrong, and just because Goldman desperately needs to cash out before it does it has no choice but to boost its S&P price target to get the handful of investors who are still on the fence about stocks to buy whatever Goldman has to sell, before everyone else joins the liquidation puke.

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[l] at 8/15/20 12:05pm
The Ninth Circuit Strikes Down California's Ban On High-Capacity Magazines Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 14:05

The Ninth Circuit, which is the most far-left and most frequently overruled federal appellate court in America, finally produced a decision that is in line with the Constitution.

As AmericanThinker's Andrea Widburg writes, a three-judge panel held that California’s ban on high-capacity magazines violated citizens’ rights under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms.

Presidents Trump and George W. Bush appointed the two judges who ruled against the ban and in favor of the Constitution. The dissenting judge, a district court judge sitting by assignment, is a Clinton appointee.

Writing at RedState, Bonchie summarizes what was at issue in the case, not just for California, but for many citizens in Democrat-run states that are trying to use backdoor methods to undo the Second Amendment:

If you weren’t aware, many states limit magazine capacity, with the most common stipulation being nothing over ten rounds. This has been a round about way to try to enforce some level of “gun control” in places like California. It’s also an incredibly arbitrary measure. What make [sic] it constitutional to ban eleven rounds but not nine?

The Court’s lucid summary in Duncan v. Becerra is the best way to understand the decision:

California's near-categorical ban of LCMs [so-called "large-capacity magazines," which is to say magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds] strikes at the core of the Second Amendment—the right to armed self-defense. Armed self-defense is a fundamental right rooted in tradition and the text of the Second Amendment. Indeed, from pre-colonial times to today's post-modern era, the right to defend hearth and home has remained paramount.

California's law imposes a substantial burden on this right to self-defense. The ban makes it criminal for Californians to own magazines that come standard in Glocks, Berettas, and other handguns that are staples of self-defense. Its scope is so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own in California. Even law-abiding citizens, regardless of their training and track record, must alter or turn over to the state any LCMs that they may have legally owned for years—or face up to a year in jail.

The state of California has latitude in enacting laws to curb the scourge of gun violence, and has done so by imposing waiting periods and many other limitations. But the Second Amendment limits the state's ability to second-guess a citizen's choice of arms if it imposes a substantial burden on her right to self-defense.

Many Californians may find solace in the security of a handgun equipped with an LCM: those who live in rural areas where the local sheriff may be miles away, law-abiding citizens trapped in high-crime areas, communities that distrust or depend less on law enforcement, and many more who rely on their firearms to protect themselves and their families. California's almost-blanket ban on LCMs goes too far in substantially burdening the people's right to self-defense. We affirm the district court's summary judgment, and hold that California Penal Code section 32310's ban on LCMs runs afoul of the Second Amendment.

The decision reflects the intersection of law and reality. That is, the judges in the majority understand the practical implications of larger magazine capacities. They know -- as Americans are learning from police body cams -- that a single bullet, or even two or three bullets, might not stop an attacker. (Seehere and here, for example.) The person shooting may miss, or the attacker may be so hopped up on drugs or be so mentally ill that it takes a barrage of bullets to stop him.

Aside from forcing Justice Roberts to take up the case, the decision makes stark the distinction between Trump continuing in the White House versus Biden and Harris taking over. Harris has made it clear that she intends to force people to give up their weapons. Here, again, is Bonchie’s take:

The other thing this ruling does is draw a line in the sand between some of the radical measures Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, if elected, want to take vs. what is legally allowed. If having more than ten rounds is constitutional, there’s simply no way a forced gun buy back is going to survive a legal challenge, nor is it likely any “assault weapons ban” would stand. An AR-15 is simply a rifle (and not even an overly powerful one) at the end of the day. 

Three years ago, George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley questioned the constitutional and practical effect of gun control reforms pushed through after the Las Vegas massacre, including limits on the capacity of magazines.

The moves, he writes in a note today, were being oversold in the media as reforms that would make such attacks less likely or deadly while also ignoring the constitutional standard for the review of such measures.  Now, one of those reforms, California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines, has been struck down by a panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Notably, the magazine laws were one of the most promising areas of gun control laws after the Court’s 2008 decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller. Indeed, while I doubted its efficacy, I thought that limits on magazines could potentially pass constitutional muster under Heller with a properly crafted and supported law.

At issue was Proposition 63, a resolution enacted in 2016, making magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds unlawful.

The decision affirmed U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez’s decision last year granting summary judgment in favor of Virginia Duncan and the California Pistol & Rifle Association.  Lee was joined by U.S. Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan but a dissent was written by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, sitting by designation from the Northern District of Texas.

In a 66-page order, U.S. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lee found Proposition 63 “struck at the core right of law-abiding citizens to self-defend by banning LCM [large-capacity magazine] possession within the home.”

As discussed in the earlier column, the problem was satisfying a strict scrutiny test with a rational basis.  Once the Supreme Court found gun ownership to be an individual constitutional right, it triggered a strict scrutiny test and the “most rigorous and exacting standard of constitutional review.” Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 920 (1995). As such, it requires that a state law be “narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.”

The two-judge majority found that the law missed that constitutional mark. Notably, the panel held that the law does not even meet the lower intermediate standard of review.  I agree with the panel in rejecting a type of agency deference under cases like Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. F.C.C., 512 U.S. 622 (1994) that would effectively gut the protections of the right itself:

“The state cannot infringe on the people’s Second Amendment right, and then ask the courts to defer to its alleged “expertise” once its laws are challenged. Put another way, intermediate scrutiny cannot mean Chevron-like deference. Indeed, this very argument advanced by the state was roundly rejected by the majority in Heller. Despite Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion explicitly advancing Turner deference, see 554 U.S. at 690–91, 704–05, the majority in Heller did not once mention Turner and its progeny. To apply Turner today would amount to an abdication of our judicial independence and we refuse to do so.”

While I agree that many of these laws appear based on the lower rational basis test, the opinion in my view sweeps too broadly. For example, I do not agree that there was a need to make exception for high crimes areas in limiting magazine capacity:

As discussed above, section 32310 provides few meaningful exceptions for the class of persons whose fundamental rights to self-defense are burdened. The scope of section 32310 likewise dooms its validity. Section 32310 applies statewide. It necessarily covers areas from the most affluent to the least. It prohibits possession by citizens who may be in the greatest need of self-defense like those in rural areas or places with high crime rates and limited police resources. It applies to nearly everyone. It is indiscriminating in its prohibition. Nor is the law limited to firearms that are not commonly used for self-defense. These are not features of a statute upheld by courts under the least restrictive means standard.

My problem with capacity limits is that they are effectively meaningless to anyone who spends a little time practicing with their weapon.previously noted that limiting magazine capacity would likely have a marginal impact at best on such mass shootings since most gun owners can swap out magazines within a few seconds. However, I do not see how the burden of limiting shots to ten rounds in a magazine changes significantly between neighborhoods. The vast majority of shootings involve only a couple rounds.

I am not convinced the majority on the Supreme Court would find that such LCM limits cannot be sustained under the higher standard of review.  Indeed, a property tailored and supported law could in my view still pass constitutional muster. I do not however see how it would have the substantial impact that politicians have suggested on gun fatalities, as discussed below.

The majority expressly limited the impact of this ruling and indicated that other gun control measures might still satisfy the constitutional test:

We also want to make clear that our decision today does not address issues not before us. We do not opine on bans on so-called “assault weapons,” nor do we speculate about the legitimacy of bans on magazines holding far larger quantities of ammunition. Instead, we only address California’s ban on LCMs as it appears before us. We understand the purpose in passing this law. But even the laudable goal of reducing gun violence must comply with the Constitution. California’s near-categorical ban of LCMs infringes on the fundamental right to self-defense. It criminalizes the possession of half of all magazines in America today. It makes unlawful magazines that are commonly used in handguns by lawabiding citizens for self-defense. And it substantially burdens the core right of self-defense guaranteed to the people under the Second Amendment. It cannot stand.

The panel also noted that the law might have satisfied its review with a few basic accommodations like a grandfather clause for those who already owned high-capacity magazines or carve-outs for certain areas.

The loser in these fights remains the voters who were sold a bill of goods by politicians who proclaimed that they were going to “stop the carnage” by passing a series of gun control measures that offered more political than practical benefits. As noted in the earlier columns, politicians were fast to ride the wave of anger and frustration but were not willing to admit that the range of permissible limits is quite limited after Heller. Instead, they oversold laws banning things like “bump stocks” as major new reforms.  The media played into this false narrative in unquestionably covering the campaign for gun control with little acknowledgement of the marginal impact of such measures even if they could pass the high standard of review.

Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of the opinion is found in a footnote. Footnote 8 states that the new law is based on a false factual narrative that these magazines are the cause or substantial contributor to gun deaths:

8 Dangerousness is a more difficult question because weapons are necessarily dangerous. The “very attributes that make handguns particularly useful for self-defense are also what make them particularly dangerous.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 711 (Breyer, J., dissenting). While we do not opine on the dangerousness of LCMs, we note that statistics in the record show that criminal use of LCMs is relatively low compared to their market saturation. Despite nearly 115 million LCMs in circulation in America today, between 1982 and 2012 LCMs were used 31 times in an incident where four or more people were killed. Let us be perfectly clear: We do not cite these statistics to downplay the gravity of these tragic and heartbreaking events. Rather, they are necessary to discern the “broad patterns of use and subjective motives of gun owners” when assessing whether “typical possession” is for lawful purposes. See New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Cuomo, 804 F.3d 242, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). Based on the statistics in the record, we conclude that LCMs are in fact both commonly owned and typically possessed for lawful purposes.

The point is that the vast majority of owners of LCMs are clearly using them for lawful purposes and it is not demonstrated that the magazines are a meaningful contributor to deaths from violent crime. This is an example of the unsatisfied burden for gun control advocates. They cannot pass these laws on soundbites and assumptions. They have to create a factual foundation for particular limits and why they are needed to achieve the reduction of criminality or fatalities. Instead, leading politicians just treated such reforms as self-evident and substantial limitations on gun violence. Now years later, as the outrage has subsided, the law has collapsed by its own weight.

For all of the passions expressed after the horrific shootings, little effort was made to properly craft or support this new law. Even if it were sustained it would not likely have made a material difference in the actual fatalities from these crimes. Yet, politicians effectively cashed out on the wave of public emotion by citing these marginal measures as bold and impactful forms of gun control.  That may be the real crime.

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[l] at 8/15/20 11:15am
Luongo: With Harris Pick, Democrats Cede Election To Trump Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 13:15

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog,

We haven’t even reached the DNC convention in Milwaukee next week and the election season is already over. Former Vice President and (presumptive) Democratic Party Nominee Joe Biden picked Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

She is the first non-white woman to be so ‘honored.’

But that’s not a pick designed to win an election, that’s a white flag of surrender.

Harris ran one of the worst primary campaigns in recent memory, trying desperately to be the ‘black’ Hillary Clinton. She crashed out in spectacular fashion. If there is a better example of being tone-deaf to what voters want in a woman candidate, I really can’t think of one.

What does Harris bring to the ticket? She’s a former prosecutor of black men from California. Were the Democrats so worried about that state that they felt it necessary to lock it down?

No, obviously, I’m being facetious.

Harris was simply the only choice they could make after Biden announced his running mate would be a ‘woman of color’ and there was little chance he’d choose party gadfly Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) since he’s as globalist, empire-defender as everyone else in charge at the DNC.

The other possibilities were not serious. And Susan Rice has two real strikes against her. One, she has no name recognition. And two, she may wind up being indicted by John Durham before the election.

In fact, if you read between the lines, Rice not being the choice is a signal that the DNC’s legal troubles are a lot more serious than anyone is willing to let on.

The far better choice for the DNC strategically would have been Elizabeth Warren. Now, while Warren is just as much an unlikeable harpy as Harris is, she’s also more of a true moderate who could campaign to bring the party back from the brink.

Moreover, since she is one, she would have shored up the so-called ‘Karen Vote’ which is a core Democratic constituency far better than Harris can.

In an election cycle where the straw man arguments about Republican Bogeymen taking away the right of women to murder their unborn children is strangely absent, that voting block is more precious to the DNC than ever before, especially after they openly backed the race riots and urban violence that has dominated the news cycle for the past three months.

The only way I think this pick works for them is that they try to claw back their support for BLM and Antifa by putting the strong authoritarian Harris at the top of the ticket. As Gabbard pointed out in the debates last year, no California Attorney General put more black men in prison than Harris.

Since Biden skillfully avoided backing the rioting, he and Harris will now pivot in the most disingenuous way to being the ‘law and order’ ticket accusing President Trump of allowing our cities to burn and mishandling everything from the economy, to COVID-19, to the CHAZ in Seattle.

You can see the script they’ve written in their strategy sessions at the DNC. It’s the classic Alinsky play of fomenting a problem, nurturing it and coddling it and then attacking your opponent for being weak on handling that which you’ve been doing.

They’ve done this completely with all of the main issues of 2020 to date. And now at the convention in Milwaukee, the Democrats will try to argue, in Straussian fashion that they are the synthesis between an incompetent President Trump (thesis) and a failing America which he alone created (antithesis).

The only problem is it won’t work.

At all.

Trump has weathered these three storms about as well as someone with his level of competence can. And over the weekend he took the fight directly to the Democrats over stimulus and relief, crafting four executive orders which strike at the heart of their usual talking points. I covered them in a recent blog post.

  1. Defer Payroll Tax Collection — Here Trump is doing at least two things. First, he’s a Republican lowering taxes on the poor and middle class. Second, he lowers the cost of U.S. labor, cuts away red tape and makes it easier for businesses in a cash flow crunch to stay open not having to worry about paying monthly/quarterly tax payments. This attacks a core Democrat talking point, “Republicans don’t care about the little guy, we do!”

  2. Extend Student Loan deferments – This is one step closer to debt jubilee on debt that, again, freezes people in place, dealing with debt servicing rather than creating demand in the real economy for goods and services. This also attacks the banks who made these predatory loans, which most student loan debt is, which undermines the “Occupy Wall. St.” talking point that all the money goes to the banks.

  3. Extend Renter and Mortgage Eviction Moratorium – Again Trump hits the banks where they live by stopping the eviction of people whose income the Federal and State governments destroyed with their COVID-19 lockdown orders. This is a direct attack on the DNC’s plan to see the banks throwing millions of people out of their homes during the height of the election campaign. Restates the argument that the GOP is only for the rich vulture capitalists.

  4. Lower and extend Unemployment Assistance — Trump’s no dummy. At this point the budget deficit is ludicrous. Lowering the assistance through the election season, again, says he’s helping and they are obstructing. It’s not perfect, but it extends the fiscal cliff people are facing until after the election allowing him to make more sweeping changes to the tax code while keeping people in their homes, fed and capable of maintaining some semblance of normality. Trump claims the ‘I care about you’ moral high ground.

At this point in time all Trump has to do to counter this pivot by Biden and Harris is to stand his ground on relief for the lower and middle classes, defend the police as “Blue Lives Matter” rallies spring up all around the country and reassure all those shiny new gun-owning soccer moms in the suburbs that Antifa isn’t coming to their neighborhoods on his watch.

The strategy to oust Trump has been to attack the three main pillars of the middle class, the safety of their health (COVID-19), their wealth (financial crisis) and their homes (rioting). Trump’s approval rating has held up during all of this because he hasn’t panicked.

He waited until his opposition overcommitted themselves to a strategy that turned a majority of the country against them. The polls today have been structured to bring to life the fiction of a Biden victory, but the state map has Biden in real trouble in the states he needs to win to even have a chance at victory.

In 2016 I never doubted that Trump would beat Hillary. The polls are not there to measure voter opinions but to shape them. And if this map is the best they can muster after systematically destroying the U.S. economy then, honestly, I expect Trump to win in an electoral college walk in November.

There’s a lot of time between now and the election and I suspect the pressure on Trump will only rise. But if we’re truly honest about the messaging of the Democrats and the way they are positioning themselves for this election they are expecting to lose and steal the election through ballot harvesting and contesting state results to sow further discord.

What we’ve seen so far in 2020 is the ultimate form of political blackmail from the elites through their mouthpieces in the media and the Democratic Party’s election strategy. They are telling voters to dump Trump and restore them to power or they will tear down the United States and burn down your homes.

I don’t think that’s a winning strategy, nor do I think Kamala Harris can make a dent in Trump’s rising approval ratings with black and Hispanic voters. Everything I’m seeing from them tells me they know they are going to lose but they have to put up a fight because the future of the party depends on it.

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[l] at 8/15/20 10:50am
"Ghost Town": Shocking Dystopian Video Of NYC Shows An Abandoned And Boarded Up 5th Avenue Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 12:50

De Blasio's New York has finally hit an all-time low: the once bustling city is now on the verge of looking like a demilitarized zone. Between the pandemic and the riots in the city, iconic 5th Avenue now looks more like a dystopian nightmare in a recently shot video posted to Twitter.

The video follows a car driving down a deserted 5th Avenue, with almost all of the area's high end stores boarded up and shut down. There are few people seen on what is usually a busy street. 

"Look at everything. Everything's boarded up. Even the hotel. Boarded up," the video's narrator, who is obviously fed up with how the city looks, says.

He continues: "This is all Manhattan, boarded up. Have you ever seen Manhattan look like this? The media will not report this."

"Everything boarded up. They don't want to show this to you people because they're afraid. Saks 5th Avenue - boarded up from end to end. They put up barbed wire. Everywhere you see boards, windows are gone. Look at New York City - what happened," he says. 

The video runs over 2 minutes and shows dozens of boarded up businesses. You can watch it here:

Don't know who recorded it but I downloaded this yesterday

He's single handedly wrecked Manhattan

Ghost town

"Beirut DeBlasio" without the explosion pic.twitter.com/5I48ZGcWTZ

— tadgermania (@tadgermania) August 7, 2020

The video was originally posted as a response to another Tweet that seems to tell the developing tale about DeBlasio's New York:

From an email chain I'm on this morning:

"DeBlasio has made the city worse than Dinkins days. I’m selling my place. Already have interest, I’m out!"

Now multiply this by the whole city. NYC is toast

— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) August 7, 2020
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[l] at 8/15/20 10:25am
52% Of Democrats Wish Someone Else Were Their Nominee Vs Only 25% Of Republicans Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 12:25

By Megan Brenan of Gallup,

Highlights:
  • 36% say Biden would be a good president; 33% say Trump would

  • 52% of Democrats/leaners wish someone else were their nominee

  • 42% of Americans view Trump favorably; 47% view Biden favorably

As both political parties prepare for their conventions, one in four Americans do not think either of the major-party presidential candidates would be a good president. At the same time, roughly equal percentages say only Joe Biden (36%) or only Donald Trump (33%) would make a good president, while 5% say both candidates would.

Similar percentages of Democrats (75%) and Republicans (79%) think only their candidate is suitable, while a 37% plurality of independents do not think either would be a good candidate and nearly equal percentages say only Biden or only Trump would be.

These readings, from a July 30-Aug. 12 poll, mark the fourth U.S. presidential election of the five that have occurred since 2004 for which Gallup has asked this question. The current percentage saying neither candidate would make a good president is the highest on record.

In 2004 and 2012, when incumbents were also running, 11% and 17%, respectively, lacked faith in both candidates' ability to be a good president. In 2008, an open-race year, 19% said the same -- however, Gallup did not track this measure in 2016 when both non-incumbent candidates, Trump and Hillary Clinton, were historically unpopular.

Republicans More Pleased Than Democrats With Their Party's Candidate

The new poll also asked people who identify with either of the two major parties if they are generally pleased with the selection of their party's nominee. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to say they are generally pleased with their party's candidate.

About three-quarters of Republicans/leaners are generally pleased with Trump, while 25% wish someone else were the nominee. In contrast, 48% of Democrats/leaners are pleased with Biden and 52% would prefer another candidate.

However, Democrats are much more pleased with Biden as the nominee than are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (56% vs. 34%, respectively). Likewise, Republicans (81%) are more satisfied with Trump as the nominee than are Republican-leaning independents (63%).

While Gallup has not asked this question in all recent presidential election years, this imbalance in the views of partisans follows a pattern from past elections when an incumbent was running. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that those whose party had a nominating contest may have supported a candidate other than the eventual party nominee and are not yet fully on board with the nominee. In the past, this has often changed after the winner accepts the nomination at the party's convention, as Biden will -- virtually -- next week.

In May 2012, 80% of Democrats/leaners were satisfied with then-President Barack Obama as their party's nominee, while fewer Republicans/leaners were satisfied with Mitt Romney (59%). Likewise, in June 1992, 80% of Republicans/leaners were pleased with then-President George H.W. Bush, while 46% of Democrats/leaners were satisfied with Bill Clinton.

Satisfaction with an incumbent has not always translated to victory, as seen in 1992; Democrats were about as pleased with Clinton as they are with Biden today, and Clinton went on to defeat Bush that November. The Clinton reading was taken before the Democratic convention -- which, along with Ross Perot's departure from the campaign, led to a Clinton surge in the polls after which he never trailed in pre-election polls.

Further evidence of an incumbent advantage on the measure comes in comparing Trump's current standing to what it was in 2016. In August of that year, after he had accepted his party's nomination, less than half of Republicans/leaners said they were pleased he was the nominee.

Biden's current standing is slightly worse than it was for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after the Democratic convention (56%).

This year, Democrats/leaners who say they would have preferred another nominee are slightly more likely to be men (56%) than women (49%). Those younger than 35 are the least satisfied with Biden as their nominee -- 82% would rather have someone else.

Trump and Biden Favorable Ratings Remain Below 50%

Although Republicans are more pleased with Trump's nomination than Democrats are with Biden's, Biden holds an edge in candidate favorable ratings among all Americans. Currently, 47% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Biden, compared with 42% for Trump. Trump's rating is down from 49% the last time Gallup asked this question in April, while Biden's is essentially unchanged from 45%.

While Trump's favorable rating has not reached 50% since 2005 -- long before he became a Republican politician -- Biden has been viewed favorably by a majority of U.S. adults as recently as April 2019.

Trump's unfavorable rating is 57% among all Americans, resulting in a net favorability of -15. Biden's net favorability is closer to positive territory, at -1.

Republicans and Democrats view their party's presidential candidate nearly as favorably -- 91% of Republicans hold a favorable view of Trump, while Biden's favorable rating is 87% among Democrats. However, among independents, favorability is far lower and about equal for both Trump (39%) and Biden (41%).

Bottom Line

Although a quarter of Americans overall do not think either Trump or Biden would be a good president, about seven in 10 Democrats and Republicans alike think their party's candidate would be. Yet, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are pleased with their party's nominee.

Neither of these measures has been predictive of election outcomes in the past -- likely in part because partisans' attitudes tend to change closer to Election Day, with each group falling in line behind their candidate. These pre-convention ratings may simply provide some perspective on the importance of conventions for rallying the partisan base.

Historically, the more important measure is what Americans as a whole think of the candidates, as reflected in their favorable ratings. In general, since 1992, the candidate who is rated more favorably by Americans has won the election. The 2016 election was a notable exception, when Hillary Clinton was viewed more favorably than Trump but still lost the election. In addition to favorability, in incumbent election years, presidential job approval ratings are also strong predictors of reelection.

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[l] at 8/15/20 10:11am
California Forced Into Rolling Blackouts As Heatwave Sparks First "Stage 3" Energy Crisis In 20 Years Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 12:11

While the rest of the country was distracted by the stimulus talks and the ongoing coronavirus situation, another deadly wildfire season has begun in California. And with the state's prison population in the grips of an uncontrolled outbreak that has left thousands sickened and under quarantine orders - making them ineligible to fight fires - a dangerous heat wave is gripping the state, accelerating the spread of wildfires that broke out earlier this week, while also creating the state's first "Stage 3" energy crisis in 20 years.

The relentless heat wave is expected to endure until mid-week, and is sending temperatures soaring to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, exacerbating the fire situation and forcing millions of Californians to endure rolling blackouts.

The situation is compounding Californians' problems as a particularly dangerous time as hundreds of COVID patients depend on ventilators to breath. As officials issue warnings about energy use, strain on the grid due to air conditions and fans are threatening to cause a repeat of Friday's rolling blackout over the weekend.

Friday's blackout started at around 1830PT when California’s grid operator determined that the state’s power reserves had fallen below a critical threshold. The operator then called a "Stage 3 Grid Emergency", which triggered the "load interruption" - aka the blackouts.

According to ABC News, this is the first round of "Stage 3" blackouts facing the state since the 2000-2001 energy crisis that forced the state's largest utility - PG&E - into bankruptcy, and led to the ouster of former Gov Gray Davis. One key difference this time around is that PG&E is already in bankruptcy and pleading guilty to manslaughter.

With the Stage 3 engaged, the state's regulator called on its utilities to cut demand by about 1,000 megawatts, or enough to power about 750,000 homes, by California ISO’s estimates. Based on average household size, these affected well over 2 million people based on the average household size.

"We had an energy shortfall,” Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for grid manager California Independent System Operator, said in a phone interview late Friday.

Meanwhile, wildfires raged across Southern California.

On Friday night and Saturday morning, crews scrambled to protect homes from a huge wildfire dubbed "the Lake Fire", which has sprouted up north of Los Angeles, prompting some limited evacuations. Some homeowners, anxious about losing their entire dwelling to a fire, doused their homes in a product called Phos-Chek, a retardant chemical that makes anything flame-retardant. Though the awkward pink sludge can do a number on a home's paintjob.

Thousands of homes are still being threatened by the 11,000 acre "Lake Fire".

On Wednesday, the fire exploded in size within hours after it broke out in the dense Angeles National Forest between Santa Clarita and Palmdale.

Towering plumes of smoke could be seen for hundreds of miles around.

As the end of the day on Friday, the fire was threatening more than 5,400 homes and was covering more than 11,600 acres, with containment at just 12% containment.

Nearby, the "Ranch Fire", currently burning in Azusa, is 2500 acres and only 3% contained. And with the "near critical" fire conditions set to continue, it's unlikely the state will be able to wrestle the blazes back to 0% containment, especially while also juggling the COVID and energy crises unfurling at the same time.

"This will be a major fire for several days," said Chief Robert Garcia with the U.S. Forest Service.

With COVID-19 raging, and wildfires threatening people's safety, the surge in temperatures is causing a commensurate surge in energy demand, which has suddenly overwhelmed California's famously flimsy energy grid. In a blackout that could directly threaten lives of the most vulnerable, as many as two million Californians were plunged into darkness over the course of four hours late Friday in the first round of rolling blackouts that are dredging up traumatic memories of the blackouts that rocked the state during the Gray Davis era.

Heat alerts have been issued across the west, with states from Louisiana to Washington implementing them as of Saturday morning. In the afternoon, high temperatures are expected to break into the triple digits from Texas up through Southern California, with the high temps expected to endure until Wednesday.

 

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[l] at 8/15/20 10:00am
Chicago Shuts Down Its Business District Overnight This Weekend Due To Continued Riots And Looting Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 12:00

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot desperately wants the world to believe that she has the situation in her city under control and that she doesn't need help from the federal government - nor would she ever need it from President Trump.

But while she puts that facade on during interviews and press conferences with national media, the reality of constant looting, rioting and crime in Chicago continues to unfold; as do its consequences. 

For example, this weekend, the city will shut down its Central Business District overnight, effective at 9PM each night. The decision comes "in the wake of looting and unrest downtown, on the Magnificent Mile, and in Streeterville, River North, and the area near North and Sheffield avenues," according to CBS Chicago

The details of the shutdown, according to CBS, include:

  • Lake Shore Drive will be closed between Fullerton Drive and the Stevenson Expressway, and the inbound ramp at Belmont Avenue will also be closed;

  • All Chicago River bridges will be up by 9 p.m., except LaSalle Street, Harrison Street, Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Kinzie Street, Grand Avenue, and the Ida B. Wells/Congress Bridge, which will be open going west toward the Eisenhower Expressway only;

  • Residents and employees of area businesses may access the Central Business District at Harrison Street, Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, Roosevelt Road and Canal Street, Kinzie Street and Halsted Street, and LaSalle Street.

  • On the Dan Ryan and Kennedy expressways, all ramps from Roosevelt Road to Division Street will be closed in both directions;

  • Chicago Transit Authority rail service will be shut down between Fullerton Avenue and 47th Street and east of Halsted Street. But service will remain operational, but some buses will be rerouted by bridge and street closures.

  • Divvy bikes will not be available in the area bounded by North Avenue, Ashland Avenue, Cermak Road, and Lake Michigan.

Chicago Police will be stationed at entrances to the perimeter of the area, the report says. Residents and workers will need to show identification to prove they live or work in the area. 

The city has also implemented a "Neighborhood Protection Plan" throughout communities to supplement Chicago Police.

Recall, it was less than a week ago we reported that Chicago's mayor had flipped out on a journalist for simply repeating what Police Chief David Brown had said moments prior: that looters are emboldened by the city's lax response.

Chief Brown had said: "These looters, these thieves, these criminals are emboldened by no consequences in the criminal system. They get released. Many charges get dropped. And so they feel emboldened to do it more, do it more. That is not a consequence of the officers' not making the arrests. The officers are making the arrests. The consequences are once prosecution and sentencing comes up, there's no consequences. So we would argue that let's have the criminal justice system here deliver a strong message to these criminals that there will be consequences for your behavior."

The reporter then asked: "It almost sounds as though you're saying this is... the reason this happens is that the courts and the prosecutors were not doing their job. That they were going too easy on the looters from the last time around."

Chief Brown responded: "Don't take it from me, just go by what's been done. There were no consequences for the people arrested."

Mayor Lightfoot, then clearly triggered, follow up by saying: "Don't bait us. Do not bait us. Do not bait us. This is a serious situation. People are concerned about their safety. Officers are concerned about their safety. So don't bait us. What we're saying is, as a result of what happened last night there have to be consequences."

"We've got teams of people that are aggressively out there, identifying the people responsible, looking at the plates, and we're going to bring them to justice. But when we do, and we do make those arrests, our expectation is that this is going to be treated with the level of seriousness that it should be. Period. Don't try to bait us, mischaracterize, pittin' one against the other, we're not playin' that. We are in a serious situation here, and we need a serious response. That's what we're sayin' period."

You can watch the exchange here:

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[l] at 8/15/20 9:30am
FBI Lied To FISA Court After Concealing Carter Page's CIA Work: Clinesmith Charging Docs Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 11:30

The FBI was aware that Carter Page was a CIA asset months before the agency concealed that fact from the FISA court, which granted permission to spy on the former Trump campaign aide.

After withholding this information during the application and two subsequent renewals, top FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith altered documents to specifically say Page wasn't a CIA source during a third warrant renewal, according to a 5-age federal charging document reviewed by The Federalist.

Clinesmith agreed to plead guilty to altering an email which helped justify surveillance of Page to specifically deny that Page was an "operational contact" for the CIA - helping the agency investigate suspected Russian intelligence figures for five years.

The world learned of Clinesmith's crime after Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a criminal referral following his 434-page report on FBI malfeasance during and after the 2016 US election.

As The Federalist notes, the MSM was hard at work spinning Clinesmith's guilty plea to suggest that there was "no evidence of a broad anti-Trump conspiracy among law enforcement officials."

Au contraire...

In fact, contrary to the unsubstantiated assertion from the Times, the charging documents highlight that all four of the applications to spy on Carter Page painted a false picture of the Trump affiliate. While the fourth application included outright falsified evidence regarding Page helping the CIA during the relevant time period, the other three withheld that information even though it was known to the Crossfire Hurricane team within days of opening an investigation on the Trump campaign and months before the first application to spy on Carter Page was granted. -The Federalist

And so, while the Times tries to suggest that Clinesmith was some sort of rogue employee who took it upon himself to ensure the FBI got their spy warrants, IG Horowitz's report reveals that this framing is absurd.

"We found that, although this information [of Page’s cooperation with the CIA] was highly relevant to the FISA application, the Crossfire Hurricane team did not engage with the other agency regarding this information," wrote Horowitz, adding that the "factual basis supporting probable cause" to spy on Page relied upon Page's contacts with known Russian intelligence officers - which he conducted from under the umbrella of the CIA.

The other key evidence the FBI used to support their warrant applications is the debunked Steele dossier, which the Federalist describes as "a collection of drunken brainstorming and unsubstantiated gossip that was used as part of an anti-Trump operation of the Hillary Clinton campaign."

In other words, the FBI had nothing on Page so they simply lied.

Page, a Naval Academy graduate who was accused in the media of sedition against his country, had candidly discussed those contacts with an FBI asset and the CIA had told the Crossfire Hurricane team that on August 17, 2016. Horowitz listed this failure to inform the spy court of these facts that undermined their probable cause claim as the first of 17 major omissions and errors that corrupted the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign.

The Justice Department already admitted that two of the application renewals were illicit. Informed observers speculate the first application and first renewal to spy on the Trump ally may suffer the same fate. Durham’s charging document, along with the exhaustive IG report, show that Clinesmith’s deception was part of a broader conspiracy against Page. -The Federalist

Beyond Clinesmith

Also noted by The Federalist is the fact that Horowitz highlighted the errors of many other agents - including "Case Agent 1," which is believed to be agent Steven Somma.

"When Case Agent 1 was explicitly asked in late September 2016 by the Attorney assisting on the FISA application about Page’s prior relationship with this other agency, Case Agent 1 did not accurately describe the nature and extent of the information the FBI received from the other agency," wrote Horowitz.

"Case Agent 1 was primarily responsible for some of the most significant errors and omissions in the FISA applications," the IG report continues - noting Somma's mischaracterization of Steele's prior reporting as credible - as well as omitting the fact that Steele's claim of a "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Trump and Russia" were contradicted by statements made by another former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. Somma also excluded the fact that Steele's claim that Page met with Russian businessman Igor Sechin and Russian official Igor Divyekin were disputed.

Read the rest of the report here.

 

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[l] at 8/15/20 9:00am
Here's Why The "Impossible" Economic Collapse Is Unavoidable Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 11:00

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

This is why denormalization is an extinction event for much of our high-cost, high-complexity, heavily regulated economy.

A collapse of major chunks of the economy is widely viewed as "impossible" because the federal government can borrow and spend unlimited amounts of money because the Federal Reserve can create unlimited amounts of money: the government borrows $1 trillion by selling $1 trillion in Treasury bonds, the Fed prints $1 trillion dollars to buy the bonds. Rinse and repeat to near-infinity.

With this cheery wind at their backs, conventional pundits are predicting super-rebounds in auto sales and other consumption as consumers weary of Covid-19 and anxious to blow their recent savings borrow and spend like no tomorrow.

As for the 30+ million unemployed--they don't matter. Conventional analysts write them off because they weren't big drivers of "growth" anyways--they didn't have big, secure salaries and ample wealth/credit lines.

What this happy confidence in near-infinite money-printing and V-shaped spending orgies overlooks is what I've termed denormalization, an implosion of the Old Normal so complete that the expected minor adjustment to a New Normal is no longer possible.
The "New Normal" Is De-Normalization

We're already in a post-normal world because the expansion of globalization and financialization needed to fuel the Old Normal has reversed into contraction. This reversal is an extinction event for all sectors and institutions with high fixed costs: air travel, resort tourism, healthcare, higher education, local government services, etc. because their fixed cost structures are so high they are no longer financially viable if they're operating at less than full capacity. 

Only getting back to 70% of previous capacity, revenues, tax receipts, etc. dooms them to collapse.

And there's no way to cut their fixed costs without fatally disrupting all the sectors that are dependent on them.

Most operational costs are mandated and cannot be reduced: union contracts, property taxes, regulatory burdens, tax accounting, debt service, employee healthcare costs, minimum wages, etc.  Other essential expenses such as commercial rent are difficult to renegotiate lower, as the landlord also has the same high fixed costs and any reduction comes directly out of his pocket.

A good example of this collapse dynamic is a restaurant with high fixed costs.  It can't survive financially at 50% of capacity because it can't reduce its expenses by 50%. The owners can reduce staff but there are operational limits on this: even if there are only 10 customers rather than 100, you still need a kitchen and wait staff. Stripped to the bone, the owners might be able to reduce costs by 15% to 20%. In other words, if business rebounds to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the restaurant can survive but not generate any profit.

It might survive at 70% if the owners do double shifts, but that isn't sustainable. Eventually the overworked owners burn out and collapse.

Reducing costs is even more difficult for institutions such as hospitals, colleges and government agencies. Most of these institutions are unable to cut more than a few percent of expenses; a 10% reduction in expenses would require the closure of entire departments and eliminating core services.

Denormalization is an interlocking series of self-reinforcing feedbacks. People have less money and more insecurity, so they spend less. Those living off the fixed costs paid by the private sector (landlords, local government, insurers, etc.) can't survive on less than their full measure, and this inability to absorb massive cuts causes everyone in the food chain above them to collapse, which eventually triggers their own collapse.

The restaurant can't cut any of the big-ticket expenses: rent, taxes, wages, benefits, healthcare, tax accounting, insurance, etc. It can only lay off some staff and reduce its purchase of ingredients. Those variable costs are too small a percentage of total expenses to be consequential.

The restaurants collapse first, and since there's no way anyone can afford to pay current rents and survive on a shrinking customer base, the landlord goes bust next. These collapses cut local government tax revenues. Each of these reductions means everyone down the food chain-- enterprises that depended on restaurants, landlords and local government contracts--lose a critical chunk of their own revenues. Since there are no replacement sources of revenues, these collapse as the line of dominoes topple.

Few sectors or institutions have any buffers. They've been running at full capacity or higher and burning every dollar to keep from imploding. As a result, any deep cuts are extinction events: no income from college football means eliminating entire sports down the food chain. There is no stair-step down, there's only binary triage: save this program as is or eliminate it entirely.

Federal/Fed subsidies don't fully replace what's been lost. Giving the restaurant owner a subsidy to pay rent and stay open doesn't mean the restaurant has enough customers to keep staffing and purchases at pre-crisis levels, and giving consumers subsidies such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) doesn't mean these households won't decide to save some of that subsidy rather than spend every dime, as the zeitgeist has shifted from complacent confidence to uncertainty: any subsidy is subject to change, as it is ultimately a political decision that can be amended or cancelled.

The production of goods and services stagnates as demand declines. When money-printing expands while goods and services contract, the result is inflation--the purchasing power of the newly issued money declines as too much money starts chasing a pool of goods and services that's shrinking as small businesses dry up and blow away and the dominoes fall down the supply chain of dependent industries.

As the newly issued subsidy-money buys fewer goods and services, demands for increased subsidies rise. The Universal Basic Income (UBI) payment doubles from $1,000 to $2,000 a month, but it still only buys $750 of goods and services as the declining purchasing power of the newly printed money accelerates.

This expansion of money as the pool of goods and services contracts further accelerates the loss of purchasing power in a self-reinforcing feedback.

I have long admired John Michael Greer's concept of catabolic collapse, a dynamic in which the institution is forced to downsize some of its costly complexity but it restabilizes at a lower energy state. I now think this might be overly optimistic.

How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse (John Michael Greer)

A stair-step down to consequentially lower complexity and cost structures is simply not practical in much of the real world as fixed costs are mandated by regulations or impossible to cut for operational reasons. (For example, reducing a fleet of airliners by half doesn't necessarily translate into an ability to reduce aircraft maintenance facilities and staff by the same percentage.)

Airports, airlines, cruise ships, sport franchises, resorts, malls, local government services, venues, theaters, hospitals, universities and so on can't reconfigure at 50% of previous complexity and capacity. Their fixed costs and mandates simply don't allow for a 50% reduction in complexity and revenues.

This is why denormalization is an extinction event for much of our high-cost, high-complexity, heavily regulated economy. Subsidizing high costs doesn't stop the dominoes from falling, as subsidies are not a substitute for the virtuous cycle of re-investment.

The Fed's project of lowering the cost of capital to zero doesn't generate this virtuous cycle; all it does is encourage socially useless speculative predation as Tim Cook et al. sell Apple bonds in order to buy back more shares of Apple, further enriching Tim Cook et al. This is not a virtuous cycle, it is the denormalization of what remains of free markets, which require capital be priced by markets, not central banks.

Collapse isn't "impossible," it's unavoidable.

There was no New Normal for the dinosaurs. A few winged species survived and evolved into the birds of today, but that is by no stretch of the imagination a New Normal that included all the other dinosaur species. For them, denormalization meant extinction.

De-Normalizationeverything that was normal is gone and will not be replaced with some new normal.

*  *  *

My recent books:

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World ($13)

(Kindle $6.95, print $11.95) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 (Kindle), $12 (print), $13.08 ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

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[l] at 8/15/20 8:44am
Did Buffett Just Bet Against The US? Berkshire Buys Barrick Gold, Dumps Goldman Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 10:44

This is going to get awkward.

Berkshire Hathaway's latest 13F just dropped and contained inside is a signal that none other than the Oracle Of Omaha appears to now be quietly betting against The United States.

Why? Because for years - in fact for as long we can remember - Warren Buffet has denigrated gold:

In a speech delivered at Harvard in 1998, Buffett said:

“(Gold) gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.

He once famously said:

Gold is a way of going long on fear, and it has been a pretty good way of going long on fear from time to time. But you really have to hope people become more afraid in a year or two years than they are now. And if they become more afraid you make money, if they become less afraid you lose money, but the gold itself doesn’t produce anything.”

In his 2011 letter, Buffett noted that for $9.6 trillion you could buy "pile a" — all of the gold in the world, or "pile b" — the entire US cropland (400 million acres) plus 16 ExxonMobils and still have another $1 trillion left over.

"Admittedly, when people a century from now are fearful, it's likely many will still rush to gold," he wrote. "I'm confident, however, that the $9.6 trillion current valuation of pile A will compound over the century at a rate far inferior to that achieved by pile B." 

In 2013, Buffett even went so far as to mock investors betting on gold, saying that there were better places to put your money.

“What motivates most gold purchasers is their belief that the ranks of the fearful will grow,” Buffett wrote in 2012. “During the past decade that belief has proved correct. Beyond that, the rising price has on its own generated additional buying enthusiasm, attracting purchasers who see the rise as validating an investment thesis. As ‘bandwagon’ investors join any party, they create their own truth -- for a while.”

At Berkshire's 2018 annual meeting, Buffett compared $10,000 invested in stocks and gold in 1942 (the first year he invested in stocks):

"... for every dollar you could have made in American business, you'd have less than a penny of gain by buying into a store of value which people tell you to run to every time you get scared by the headlines."

And in  his 2019 letter he reiterated:

"The magical metal was no match for the American mettle."

All of which makes the following even more stunning...

According to the latest 13F, Howard Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway not only dumped all his airlines - as we learned previously 0 but has also liquidated huge amounts of its exposure to US banks (exiting Goldman Sachs entirely).

  • Berkshire's JPMorgan Stake Down 62% to 22.2M Shrs
  • Berkshire's Wells Fargo Stake Down 26% to 238M Shrs
  • Berkshire trimmed its bet on PNC Financial and M&T Bank as well as Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Mastercard, and Visa.
  • Berkshire Exits Goldman stake entirely

And while he modestly added to his positions in Kroger, Store Cap and Suncor Energy, the only new stock he bought in Q2 was... the world's (formerly biggest) gold miner:

  • Berkshire took a new stake (20.9 million shares) in Barrick Gold, a holding that was valued at about $564 million at the end of that period.

Barrick Gold is up around 6% after hours...

Of course, we do note that this 13F filing reflects the stock picks of Buffett as well as his long-time deputies, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler. So it’s unclear who exactly put money to work in Barrick.

So, the famously anti-gold investor has abandoned banks - 'the backbone of America's credit-driven economy - in favor of a gold miner (which was the largest in the world until last year when Newmont bought Goldcorp).

Is Buffett betting against America with a levered position on precious metals?

What is most ironic about all of this is that Warren's father, Howard Buffett, is among the great gold bugs of all time.

As we noted in 2010, a must read essay by Howard Buffett, father of the "legendary" investor who initially was so very much against derivatives then promptly changed his tune, discusses fiat money and gold, and concludes that "human freedom rests on gold redeemable money."

In this stunningly simple, straightforward, and flawless analysis, Buffett's father stresses the relation between money and freedom and contends that without a redeemable currency, an individual's freedom and one's access to property is dependent on goodwill of politicians. 

Buffett also says that paper money systems generally collapse and result in economic chaos. He goes on to observe that a gold standard would restrict government spending and give people greater power over the public purse. Lastly, back in 1948, Howard Buffett, said this the "present" is the right time to restore the gold standard. Alas, 60 years later, his advice has still been largely ignored, and as a result we have a global economy that stands on the precipice of global default with runaway budget deficits across the entire developed world. Key quotes:

"Is there a connection between Human Freedom and A Gold Redeemable Money? At first glance it would seem that money belongs to the world of economics and human freedom to the political sphere. 

But when you recall that one of the first moves by Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler was to outlaw individual ownership of gold, you begin to sense that there may be some connection between money, redeemable in gold, and the rare prize known as human liberty. Also, when you find that Lenin declared and demonstrated that a sure way to overturn the existing social order and bring about communism was by printing press paper money, then again you are impressed with the possibility of a relationship between a gold-backed money and human freedom."

His conclusion is eerily prophetic with what is happening with US society currently:

"I warn you that politicians of both parties will oppose the restoration of gold, although they may outwardly seemingly favor it. Unless you are willing to surrender your children and your country to galloping inflation, war and slavery, then this cause demands your support. For if human liberty is to survive in America, we must win the battle to restore honest money."

And of course, he notes that the Federal Reserve is at the forefront of those who will do everything in their power to prevent a return of the gold standard:

Most opponents of free coinage of gold admit that that restoration is essential, but claim the time is not propitious. Some argue that there would be a scramble for gold and our enormous gold reserves would soon be exhausted.

Actually this argument simply points up the case. If there is so little confidence in our currency that restoration of gold coin would cause our gold stocks to disappear, then we must act promptly.

The danger was recently highlighted by Mr. Allan Sproul, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who said:

"Without our support (the Federal Reserve System), under present conditions, almost any sale of government bonds, undertaken for whatever purpose, laudable or otherwise, would be likely to find an almost bottomless market on the first day support was withdrawn."

Our finances will never be brought into order until Congress is compelled to do so. Making our money redeemable in gold will create this compulsion.

The full essay is below, which we are confident was never read by Howard's "oracular" son... until perhaps very recently...

Did it really take him until he was 90-years-old to realize that his dad was right after all?

So what happens next? Do Munger and Buffett buy bitcoin?

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[l] at 8/15/20 8:35am
Trump To Pardon Edward Snowden?  Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 10:35

In surprising comments during an interview with the New York Post this week, President Trump mused: “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that.”

He added: “Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.”

The comments, published in the Post Thursday, have unleashed widespread speculation that Trump could actually pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden at a moment political momentum is gaining from Republican-Libertarian voices in Congress.

Edward Snowden speaking at a surveillance and tech conference, via The Week.

Suggesting something is already in the waters, Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie (R) called out Trump on Friday, tweeting simply, "Donald Trump should pardon Edward Snowden," while tagging both. 

And Libertarian/Independent Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan tweeted in support for such a bold move from the president as well:

Edward @Snowden is a whistleblower who exposed unconstitutional surveillance practices that violated the rights of millions. He deserves the opportunity to return to the United States and receive a pardon as part of a fair process that examines his actions. https://t.co/JqVccAYd41

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) August 14, 2020

In the NY Post interview Trump was discussing his former advisor Carter Page in connection with allegations of abuse and illegal surveillance under the aegis of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the secret FISA court.

“Snowden is one of the people they talk about. They talk about numerous people, but he is certainly one of the people that they do talk about,” Trump said.

He then reportedly questioned of his aides nearby:

“I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now? … It’s certainly something I could look at. Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.”

.@realDonaldTrump should pardon Edward @Snowden. https://t.co/TOuw46Cb9s

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) August 14, 2020

The 37-year old Snowden has been living in Russia since leaking a huge trove of NSA documents in 2013. He first went to Hong Kong but then stopped in Russia while being pursued by US authorities, which he's previously said was not his intended destination. He's since been enjoying temporary asylum under Putin.

Trump's comments immediately raised eyebrows especially given he's previously been on record as calling Snowden a "traitor". 

Should a pardon actually materialize, it could certainly energize Trump's conservative anti-establishment base ahead of November, and on the other hand alienate further that very establishment in Washington.

The pressure would also then be on to pardon Julian Assange, though that would most certainly be met with even fiercer pushback from the US intelligence community.

And now conservatives see how easily NSA’s mass surveillance system, and the entire intelligence community apparatus, can be weaponized & abused for improper ends.

What Snowden showed the world was crucial for it to know. He’s spent 7 years in exile. He should be pardoned.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 14, 2020

Republican hawks, but most certainly Democrats eager to revive the Russiagate narrative going into the November election, would offer it as "proof" that Trump is somehow in cahoots the Russians (given longstanding accusations - though without evidence - that Snowden intentionally ended up in Russia where he's cooperating with foreign intelligence).

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[l] at 8/15/20 8:10am
Buyer Beware: Gold ETFs Own No Gold Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 10:10

Authored by Egon von Greyerz via GoldSwitzerland.com,

Two major asset classes are major beneficiaries of the unlimited money printing and credit creation that is now taking place globally. One of them will end in tears and the other one has just started a major secular bull market.

As the world economy and financial system is disintegrating, investors are under the illusion that all is well with many stock markets still not far from their all time bubble highs.

THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN STOCK AND THE REAL ECONOMY CONTINUES

Many companies and services are haemorrhaging cash and are not going to recover for years and some never. As very few people are travelling, many airlines, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants for example will not survive. This is a global industry that employs 330 million people and represents 10% of global GDP. International tourism could fall as much as 60-80% in 2020 according to some estimates. The car industry is 3% of global GDP and is expected to drop 25% in 2020.

Real and hidden unemployment is a major problem and if furlough or social benefits are stopped many people will not survive. As many can’t pay their rents they will also become homeless.

Currently 31 million Americans are on some kind of unemployment benefits. That is 20% of all workers.

But if we include workers who are not receiving any benefits the total unemployment is 30% according to Shadow Government Statistics. This is worse than in the 1930s depression.

DREAMLAND STOCK INVESTORS IGNORE DEFICITS

Stocks market investors still live in dreamland and translate all the bad news to good news as the continuous flood of printed money and credit inject liquidity. This has always worked before so why won’t it this time? No one knows what the US deficit will be at the end of calendar 2020 but it could easily be $10 trillion as the debt grows to over $30t and on to $40 trillion within a year or two.

How wonderful for stock investors. More liquidity means higher share prices. Very few understand that all this money has zero value as it has been created out of thin air. Also, none of the money goes to productive investments but instead just to give a dying economy some temporary artificial respiration. So the worthless money will go to individuals and businesses just to survive. It will also in ever bigger quantities go to an extremely fragile financial system. In the end $100s of trillions and later quadrillions of worthless money will have been spent on non productive survival aid.

It is possible that the stock mania continues based on the fake trillions created. But at some point soon, stock markets will wake up to the nightmare the world is experiencing.

GOLD REVEALS THE DESTRUCTION OF PAPER MONEY

There is at least one asset class which reacts sensibly to the problems in the world and the continued destruction of paper money. Gold is up $200 in the last two weeks and $500 or 33% in 2020. Since the Maginot line at $1,350 was broken in June 2019, gold has gone up by more than 50% as I discussed already back in February 2019.

But the spectacular market has been silver which has virtually exploded as I have been predicting in the last few weeks.

Here is a Tweet from May 14th when the silver price was $15.50.

The Tweet was timely as silver started to move up the following day and surged $10 in the last three weeks to just under $30. Silver bottomed at $11.60 on March 18th and has gone up 2.5x since then.

The gold silver ratio duly crashed from 109 on May 14th to 72 today, a 35% fall. Since the peak in March at 128, the gold silver ratio has come down 45%.

SILVER IS EXPLODING

Silver is now in an explosive phase on the way to much, much higher levels. But the corrections will also be vicious like the one we have just seen. With such high volatility we have always advised investors not to hold more than 25% in silver and 75% in gold. Sleeping well at night is an important part of your investment strategy.

The moves we have seen in the last few weeks in gold and silver is just the beginning. The long term bull market is well established and will go to heights that no one can imagine today. And we will see much bigger daily and weekly moves than we have just experienced as the market panics due to dire financial news combined with major shortages in physical gold and silver. I would not be surprised to see gold move by $100s and silver by $10s in a single day.

GOLD ETFS ARE JUST PAPER GOLD AND MUST BE AVOIDED

The gold market has this year not just been booming in price but also in volume. For lazy investors, gold ETFs are the most convenient instrument. But buying a gold ETF is in most cases just an investment in paper gold. The holder of the paper has no security in the physical gold.

The total investment into gold ETFs and gold funds is today $316 billion or 4,878 tonnes, which is a record. The increase in 2020 in the total value has been considerable and amounts to $160 billion which is a 100% increase since the end of 2019.

So all gold ETFs and Funds are today valued at $319 billion. If we compare that to the S&P 500 total market cap of $27 trillion, it is totally insignificant. The top 5 companies in the S&P index are worth $6 trillion. Just take Apple that with their $200 billion cash pile and some stock could easily acquire all the gold funds and ETFs. This tells us how small the gold market is. In the next few years as stock markets crash and gold surges, the relative sizes of stocks versus gold will look very different.

GLD STATE STREET GOLD ETF – AN INVESTMENT IN PAPER GOLD

The biggest gold ETF is GLD or State Street. GLD holds a total 1,258 tonnes with a value of $82 billion. This makes GLD the 7th biggest holder of gold in the world.

GLD’s value has gone from $42 billion at the beginning of 2020 to $82b today as both inflow and the gold price have increased. This ETF is the primary investment vehicle that investors use when they want exposure to gold.

What most investors don’t understand is that to own a gold ETF like GLD is no better than to have a futures contract in gold.

An ETF is a tracking vehicle and doesn’t own the gold. The gold is not bought outright by GLD but is instead borrowed. The holder of an GLD share has no claim on the borrowed gold and therefore does not own anything tangible. Thus all he holds is a piece of paper with no underlying security in the form of gold in case of insolvency. The gold is borrowed or leased from a central bank and not bought with clear title. So a shareholder in GLD is just a holder of a piece of paper that doesn’t entitle him to physical gold. A paper claim on gold is very different from owning real physical gold. The gold price could surge but the ETF could still go bankrupt

As I have often pointed out, when an ETF like GLD buys gold, it doesn’t come from the Swiss refiners. Instead it comes from the bullion banks who borrows the gold from a central bank. The GLD ETF has an official audit with bar lists and numbers. But since central banks never publish a full physical audit, there is no way of knowing if the same gold has been rehypothecated several times by the central bank.

So firstly the GLD doesn’t own the gold and secondly the gold that it doesn’t own might have been lent multiple times by central banks.

GLD IS SUBJECT TO MULTIPLE COUNTERPARTY RISK

One of the major advantages with owning physical gold is that it is the only asset which is not someone else’s liability. But buying a gold ETF like GLD involves multiple counterparty risk with no ownership of the underlying metal.

Investors in GLD buy shares in the fund’s trustee, SPDR Gold Trust. The custodian, HSBC sources and stores the gold for the Trust. This obviously makes HSBC a major counterparty risk.

But HSBC also uses sub-custodians, other bullion banks and even the Bank of England to source and store the gold. This means that investors have multiple sub-custodian risk.

There are no contractual agreements between the Trustee and the sub-custodians or the custodian. This means that the ability of the trustees or the custodian to take legal action against the sub-custodians is limited. The Trustee is not insured. That is left to the custodians. Gold held in the Trust’s unallocated gold account is not segregated from the custodian’s assets. If a custodian becomes insolvent, its assets may not be adequate to satisfy the claim of the trust.

GLD INVESTORS DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE ACTUALLY HOLDING

The above relatively detailed explanation how a gold ETF like GLD functions is intended to enlighten the investors of $82 billion in GLD what they are actually holding.

For wealth preservation investors, GLD doesn’t satisfy any of the criteria of holding a reserve asset like gold totally risk free.

The main problems with buying gold through GLD, as outlined above, are the following:

  • It is a paper security held within the financial system
  • It has multiple counterparty risk
  • The gold holdings are not segregated from custodians’ assets
  • It owns no gold directly
  • The gold is stored within the banking system
  • The gold held is probably rehypothecated
  • The gold is not fully insured
  • Investors have no access to their gold

Thus holding gold through GLD is no better than holding gold futures. For wealth preservation purposes, gold must be held outside the banking system in the safest private vaults in the world. The gold must be controlled directly by the investor with direct access to his gold in the vault. No other party must be allowed to touch his gold without his authorisation.

The gold must be held in the safest jurisdictions like Switzerland and possibly Singapore.

For major investors above $ 5 million we offer the largest private gold vault in the world in the Swiss Alps. It is also the safest gold vault in the world with a security level which doesn’t exist anywhere else. The vault is nuclear bomb proof, earthquake proof and gas attack proof. We also have vaults for investors below $5 million.

This video clip gives an idea of the mountain vault but obviously doesn’t reveal any of the major security aspects.

What it does show is how major investors must store their gold rather than holding it in extremely unsafe form like GLD. Holding physical gold in this mountain vault costs about the same as GLD and is fully insured. Buying and selling is instantaneous. Investors have full access.

Holding physical gold as described above is far superior to any gold ETF with none of the negatives. It is really surprising that major gold investors can even consider an inferior method like a gold ETF.

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[l] at 8/15/20 8:03am
Production Of Russian COVID-19 Vaccine Begins As Asian Demand Soars; Germany Sees Most Cases Since April 30: Live Updates Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 10:03

Summary:

  • Germany sees most new cases since April 30
  • Demand for Russian vaccine surges in Asia
  • India passes 2.5 million cases
  • Hong Kong reported 46 new cases
  • Tokyo reports another 300+ cases
  • Cali first state to pass 600k cases
  • Gov Newsom says state will start with remote learning
  • Brazil sees daily cases decline

* * *

Europe and India are the focus of coronavirus news on Saturday as Germany continued to report alarming numbers of new cases while India saw its case total top 2.5 million.

As India's confirmed COVID-19 case total passed 2.5 million on Saturday, health officials reported. Meanwhile, speaking during the traditional Independence Day speech, a major event on the Indian political calendar, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country is ready to mass produce vaccines as soon as scientists give them the green light, while also unveiling an ambitious project to catalogue the "health identities" of each Indian citizen - quite an undertaking considering India's 1.35 billion pop. That comes after ambitious projects.

In a sign of the desperate situation facing Modi’s administration, the soldiers who welcomed Modi to the stage ahead of Saturday's speech had been quarantined for 14 days, and the crowd at the normally packed crowd was reduced to just 4,000 or so guests made to sit six feet apart, according to Al Jazeera.

India confirmed another record single-day jump on Saturday, reporting 65,002 new cases, and snapping a streak of declining confirmations, as the country's total tally hit its latest milestone. Public health officials also reported 996 new deaths, bringing the total to 49,036. India now has the world's third-highest confirmed body count, behind only the US and Brazil.

While the west continues to view Russia's vaccine with skepticism, across East and Southeast Asia, the response has been much more positive. For example, demand for Russia's COVID-19 vaccine from the region is growing faster than anywhere else, as the Philippines leads a growing number of Asian and South American countries in signing up to run clinical trials, or buy supplies of the vaccine from Russia, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Russia reported another 5,061 cases, bringing its nationwide tally to 917,884, the 4th-highest in the world behind the US, Brazil and India.

119 new deaths were also reported, bringing Russia's death toll to 15,617, a number that some COVID experts have disputed.

Russia also officially announced Saturday that production of its vaccine, which would be limited to health-care workers at first, had finally begun, although the vaccine can't be distributed for general use until January.

As fears about a second wave in Europe intensify while the UK, Germany and others hastily reinstate some travel restrictions in response to isolated outbreaks in Spain, France, the UK and even in its own backyard.

On Saturday, Germany reported 1,510 new coronavirus cases, its biggest single-day number since April 30, according to the Robert Koch Institute data (Germany's "official" numbers. Total cases rose to 223,791, while 13 new deaths were reported, a number roughly in line with figures seen through August and July.

Germany's 4-day viral-reproduction figures - represented as "R" - hit 1.08 for the prior day, north of Germany's "1" red line (1 is the threshold above which the virus is considered to be expanding). The 7-day figure, seen as more stable, was even higher, at 1.14 on Friday.

Hong Kong reported 46 new coronavirus cases Saturday, including seven that had a travel history and 12 of an unknown origin, according to Department of Health official Chuang Shuk-kwan. The city’s worst outbreak has been showing signs of abating as local infections have remained below the 100 level daily since earlier this month, per Bloomberg.

Tokyo, meanwhile, topped 300 for the second straight day on Saturday, with the capital megacity's new infections totaling 385 for the day, down slightly from 389 from the day prior.

In Australia's troubled Victoria State, the epicenter of what's currently the biggest outbreak in the antipodes, reported 303 new cases and four deaths over the past 24 hours on Saturday. Fortunately, the number of new cases has been trending lower since the state recorded 725 new infections on Aug. 5. On Friday, the state saw 372 new cases and 14 deaths in 24 hours. Meanwhile, nine new cases were diagnosed in New South Wales, its health department said on Saturday, one day after the release of a special commission report on the disastrous "Ruby Princess" incident. The latest numbers brought NSW's total cases to 3,756.

Circling back to the numbers out of the US last night, Texas's daily virus deaths topped 300 (exact total: 313) for the second day in 3 on Friday, while hospitalizations continued to decline for a third straight week. Texas now has 9,602 deaths, leaving it right on the cusp of 10,000.

The state reported 313 virus fatalities Friday, bringing the total to 9,602. Hospitalizations fell to 6,632, down from more than 10,000 in late July.

California became the first US state to top 600,000 confirmed infections late Friday after reporting another 7,934 new cases bringing its total to 601,075.

Yesterday, Cali Gov. Gavin Newsom said that roughly 90% of the state's K-12 students will begin the year with 'distance learning,' but classes in person could begin "soon" if daily COVID cases continue to trend lower.

The new cases included 4,429 from a lab-reporting backlog of prior days and 3,505 new daily infections, Governor Gavin Newsom said in a briefing Friday. That’s well below the 14-day average of 7,678.

Finally, health authorities in Brazil reported a silver lining on Friday evening, with Brazil reporting just 50,644, down from 60,091 the prior day, for a total of 3,275,520.

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[l] at 8/15/20 7:45am
US Fails Utterly In Friday Night UN Security Council Vote On Extending Iran Arms Embargo Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 09:45

The US bid to extend a UN Security Council total arms embargo on Iran which had been in effect for 13 years, but which is set to drop this fall as part of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA), has ended in utter failure late this week.

As The Hill reported of the vote Friday night, the resolution didn't even come close to gaining the requisite nine “yes” votes which would have forced Russia or China to use their vetoes.

Illustrative file image: UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York. AFP

Officially, the final tally was 11 abstentions, two yes and two no votes. After all of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's lobbying through the summer to essentially make permanent an international arms blockade on the Islamic Republic the US had only two votes in favor: its own and that of the Dominican Republic.

All European members of the P5+1 nuclear deal as expected were abstentions. The vote began via remote means Thursday due to the pandemic with the results tallied and announced by late Friday.

Just before the Friday evening Security Council announcement of the resolution's results, Pompeo voiced frustration, saying the council "failed today" in its mission. He previously said it was "nuts" to allow Iran to purchase and import weapons.

“The United Nations Security Council is charged with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. It failed today to uphold its fundamental mission set,” Pompeo said

Iran missiles on display, via Iran state media.

“It rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific UN restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade,” he continued. “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.”

The Trump administration is still vowing that Iran will never be able to buy weapons again, but it will be fighting an uphill battle, relying on its own diplomatic pressures on other nations, including allies, to ensure that's the case, also with threat of sanctions against international violators. 

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[l] at 8/15/20 7:20am
Political Correctness & The Cancel Culture Is "Bad Religion Run Amuck" Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 09:20

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

Singer Nick Cave has denounced cancel culture and political correctness as “bad religion run amuck” in a thoughtful and insightful post in which he opines how society is being eroded by a lack of mercy.

The foreboding composer penned his thoughts on his website The Red Hand Files, urging that mercy is key to a society remaining “functioning and tolerant.”

“Mercy ultimately acknowledges that we are all imperfect and in doing so allows us the oxygen to breathe — to feel protected within a society, through our mutual fallibility.” 

Cave wrote, adding that “Without mercy, a society loses its soul, and devours itself.”

“Mercy allows us the ability to engage openly in free-ranging conversation — an expansion of collective discovery toward a common good. If mercy is our guide we have a safety net of mutual consideration, and we can, to quote Oscar Wilde, ‘play gracefully with ideas.’” the somber songwriter continued.

“Yet mercy is not a given,” Cave proclaimed, noting that “It is a value we must nurture and aspire to. Tolerance allows the spirit of enquiry the confidence to roam freely, to make mistakes, to self-correct, to be bold, to dare to doubt and in the process to chance upon new and more advanced ideas. Without mercy society grows inflexible, fearful, vindictive and humourless.”

“As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis,” Cave urged.

“Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.” Cave declared.

The singer, known for an eclectic musical catalogue ranging from punk rock to lovesick murder ballads, expanded on his opinion, noting that “Cancel culture’s refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society.”

“Compassion is the primary experience — the heart event — out of which emerges the genius and generosity of the imagination,” Cave wrote.

“Creativity is an act of love that can knock up against our most foundational beliefs, and in doing so brings forth fresh ways of seeing the world. This is both the function and glory of art and ideas. A force that finds its meaning in the cancellation of these difficult ideas hampers the creative spirit of a society and strikes at the complex and diverse nature of its culture,” Cave further gracefully explained.

It may be difficult to dismiss such elegantly expressed opinion, however hardcore leftists will no doubt found a way, likely by dredging up something from Cave’s distant past and immediately calling  for his cancellation!

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[l] at 8/15/20 6:45am
EMTs Are Leaving Their Jobs In Alarming Numbers Due To The Pandemic Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 08:45

For many emergency medical technicians, working through the Covid-19 pandemic simply isn't worth it.

An alarming number of these frontline workers are "exiting the field for good" amidst the pandemic, according to a new report from CBS. The reason is obvious: Covid-19 simply makes the job too dangerous. 

Robert Baer, an EMT in New York City who was formerly one of the first responders on September 11, told CBS: "I knew it would probably kill me if I went out there and had multiple exposures — and I'm not a chicken. I love the job, but my doctors were telling me I shouldn't be going in the field, that it was very dangerous."

He was supposed to be deployed to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens back in March, but decided his risks were too high and, instead, quit his job. As a result of the September 11 response, he suffers with asthma, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnea that put him at a higher risk for Covid. 

Baer (Source: CBS)

He gave up between $2,000 and $4,000 per year in retirement benefits to retire early. "I looked at it as life over limb. It wasn't about the money — it was about my health and surviving," he commented. 

Steven Kleinberg, a 56 year old paramedic in Brooklyn, has also retired. He said: "COVID took a lot out of me, and at first I wasn't sure about retiring, but the pandemic made up my mind for me. If I worked longer, I would be entitled to more money, but I am at the point where I will take what I have earned."

And it's not just Baer and Kleinberg. Oren Barzilay, president of the FDNY-EMS Local 2507, representing New York City medics has noted that about 60 EMTs have left the department over the last 4 months. Many of those retiring are over the age of 50. 

Barzilay said: "Some people like to complete 30 years on the job so they can maximize their pension, but I noticed a trend in recent weeks that they aren't really concerned about that anymore. As soon as they reach their eligibility, which is 25 years, they are leaving."

"They see the risks associated with the job and the low pay, and it's just not worth it,"  Barzilay continued. EMTs start at just $30,000 per year in New York and pay tops out at about $50,000. Nationally, the job pays just $38,830 per year on average. 

Alarmingly, Michael MacNeil, president of Boston's EMS association says it's not just older EMTs that are quitting. Rather, those with only a couple of years in the field are also leaving - and new positions are getting difficult to fill. He said: "We aren't getting people interested and don't have enough qualified applicants to fill available seats. We can't fill the jobs." 

Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS Association, representing medics in Austin, Texas says that 25 EMTs have left already this year, on pace to double the annual average of 30. Xie said: "We know for sure the virus is helping people make the decision that this is not an ideal job right now and that their own health and their family's health is at risk."

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[l] at 8/15/20 6:10am
Britain's 'A-Level' Results Crisis & The COVID-Education Train-Wreck Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 08:10

Via Yves Smith's NakedCapitalism.com,

Many of you in the US likely missed the A level testing algo fiasco. Here is the short version, from the Financial Times yesterday:

The government is under mounting pressure to come to the aid of secondary school pupils in England after almost 40 per cent of A-level grades were downgraded from teachers’ predictions.

Amid an angry backlash from pupils and teachers, opposition parties and trade unions led calls for ministers to review how A-level results were modified by examination regulators using a computer algorithm.

But Boris Johnson, prime minister, defended the contentious arrangements aimed at preventing unwarranted grade inflation, saying there had been a “robust” marking system.

With exams cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, A-level results released on Thursday were calculated through a two-part process: teachers estimated pupils’ grades, and then Ofqual, the watchdog, moderated the qualifications through statistical modelling that factored in schools’ past performance, among other considerations.

And a related Financial Times story alludes to the fact, as has no doubt occurred to many US parents, how Covid-19 is further reducing already low class mobility. Only a small subset of kids are motivated enough to take online study to heart; the most affluent can hire tutors; some but not very many parents have the breadth of knowledge, time, and temperament to home school.

Sarah Akintunde admits to being “scared”. The 18-year-old from Romford in Essex hopes to study law at Oxford university from September but needs Thursday’s A-level results to deliver top grades to do so.

If that prospect was already daunting, the disruption of coronavirus and the scrapping of exams this year, in favour of a series of statistical assessments, means that the future for the 700,000 A-level students due to get their results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this week is even more uncertain than normal….

The stakes are particularly high for students from ethnic minorities, like Ms Akintunde, those from low-income backgrounds and from other groups traditionally under-represented in higher education — including white working class boys, Roma and mature students.

The barriers that students from these backgrounds face remain formidable. Data from the Office for Students, the university regulator, show that those admitted to Oxford and Cambridge are around 15 times less likely to come from the UK’s poorest districts than its richest ones. Across more than 25 of the more prestigious universities from Birmingham to York, young people from the richest areas of the country are on average four times more likely to attend than those from the poorest…

Even before coronavirus — and despite more than £550m being spent annually on boosting access — progress had been slow. The share of students from the least wealthy fifth of British districts attending higher education has risen from 11.6 per cent to 12 per cent in the past five years; and for black students from 5.8 per cent to 6.6 per cent. Universities such as Oxford had announced bold plans this year to expand their intake of students from low-income backgrounds.

Now, there is concern that coronavirus threatens to reverse even the small progress that has been made. The fear, among teachers and specialists is that less privileged school leavers will receive lower grades given that the marking algorithms deployed to substitute for written exams are based partly on a school’s past record rather than the individual’s potential.

Richard Murphy worries that Covid-19 interrupted public education won’t go away any time soon, and authorities and gatekeepers aren’t prepared.

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

I make no apology for returning to the A level theme that I have noted for a couple of days. This blog is a stream of consciousness, as much as anything. It represents my reaction to world events, and in my world this has been a big deal for the last few days. My son and I are, we now know, amongst the lucky ones. We could celebrate last night, and not all could.

This year’s results are not, however, my main concern this morning. Next year’s are. And they are just as important to those who will be taking them as this years have been to people like my son. The prospect that those results will be severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis is very real. And that is an issue I have not seen anyone mention in the mainstream media as yet.

There is an assumption that this year’s results will be aberrational: a disruption in an otherwise smooth flow of results that would otherwise exist from 2019 to 2021, but that is not true. In fact, it is likely to be very far from it. I can, in fact, make a fairly confident set of predictions right now, presuming that there are A level exams in 2021, and nothing should be taken for granted at present.

  • The first is that students from private schools will perform at way above average level. Their schooling has been relatively uninterrupted during the summer term of 2020, largely because it was reasonable for those schools to presume that every pupil could partake in online learning.

  • Second, and inversely, state school performance will be worse. They could not deliver a continuing curriculum during a crucial term, or provide the exam training that is, rightly or wrongly, a key part of that team’s work for their pupils. Those pupils will not be as well prepared as is desirable as a result. That is the consequence of their inability to assume all pupils could access online learning.

  • And third, the impact noted in my second point will be exaggerated by income factors. The lower a pupil’s parental income is likely to be the harder access to education during the last term was also likely to be, through lack of IT resource, uninterrupted space to study, and so on.

As a result it is entirely possible to say now, and with absolute certainty, that next year’s A level results will not see a return to normal.

It is equally certain that those results will be heavily biased in favour of those pupils with the best off parents, and most especially those who have attended private schools.

It follows that without allowing for this fact the 2021 A level results will fail next year’s sixth formers, and most especially those from lower income households attending state schools. That means planning to correct for this has to start now, unless the government is indifferent to the injustice this will give rise to.

And nor will the problem end there. Those aged 15 who will be taking GCSEs next year are also impacted by this. The consequences will flow through to their post 16 choices and A levels. There is very likely impact in that case until the 2023 A level results, at least.

My question in that case is a simple one, and is what is to be done about this, unless we are to be indifferent to the resulting prejudice? This year’s mess can be dismissed as a fiasco, even if an utterly arbitrarily unfair one. But next year’s issue is wholly anticipatable, because I am doing that now. It cannot be avoided in that case. And I suggest that the injustice cannot be avoided either.

So what is to be done? I have no answers, at least as yet. I do not claim that I can formulate answers to every problem I can foresee arising. But unless this issue is addressed now the scale of the anger at the injustices that will result will be even greater than this year, where some degree of forgiveness for the mess is at least possible on the part of some. Next year there will be no such tolerance.

The key issue is that we are not going back to normal.

And that means that ministers need to prepare for that reality.

And so, too, does everyone else.

The post-Covid world is not going to be the same as the pre-Covid one. We need to embrace that reality. Few have. And ministers do not appear to be amongst those few. It’s time they rose to the challenge, and prepared the ground. How society develops from here depends upon them doing so.

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[l] at 8/15/20 5:35am
Latin American Economies Will See "Record-Breaking Contraction" This Year  Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 07:35

With coronavirus cases surging in Latin America, there's another issue emerging: A sharp economic downturn that may not result in recovery until late next year.

Alberto Ramos, head of Latin America economic research at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC Wednesday that the outlook for Latin American countries is "pretty uninspiring." 

"We expect to climb (out) of a very deep hole during the second half of the year and throughout 2021," Ramos said, adding that countries such as Argentina, Peru, and Mexico are expected to record double-digit contractions in growth. He said other countries may experience slightly less severe declines but are "still a record-breaking contraction — at least the worst we've seen since the Second World War."

Ramos explained inflation remains low on the continent, which would allow central banks to ease for a much longer timeframe to support faltering economies. 

"The continuation of the low growth environment can be socially and politically destabilizing and also undermine the credibility of the institutions," he warned. 

When Latin America emerges out of the pandemic if that is late next year or after, there will be wider wealth inequality, fiscal crises among governments, and more social and political polarization.  

Already, Argentina has had to strike a deal with creditors after the third default in two decades. 

The culprit to this depressing economic outlook, as readers may know, is the COVID-19 pandemic, has transformed several countries in the region into virus hotspots, like Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile. 

Even before the virus, many countries in Latin America had ailing economies, massive debt loads, and were battered by sluggish commodity prices: 

"Latin America has not been doing well over the last half-decade," said Jerry Haar, an international business professor at Florida International University. "This is like a kick to the groin to someone who already has a double hernia."

MSCI Emerging Markets Latin America Index remains in a bear market, down 38% from its peak in 4Q17. The index started to plunge in late January, sank 53% during the pandemic, has since had an underwhelming recovery. 

MSCI Latin America lags behind the MSCI World Index.

Calls for a "debt jubilee" in emerging market economies continue to soar this year. 

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[l] at 8/15/20 5:00am
Inside The Center For Cancel Culture And Digital Hypocrisy, Part 1 Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 07:00

Authored by Iain Davis via Off-Guardian.org,

The Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) are a UK based organisation who have misspelled “centre” in their name. Perhaps they have opted for the U.S spelling in the hope of selling their peculiar brand of morally bankrupt censorship to the American propaganda market.

The Anti-Vaxx Industry, is a propaganda leaflet with two main objectives. The first is to create a false dichotomy in the public imagination and the second is to build a public-private censorship grid in anticipation of forthcoming government legislation. This is proposed to censor legitimate scientific opinion and evidence based debate on a wide range of issues the government and its corporate partners would rather silence. Including any questioning of vaccines.

CCDH Propaganda Leaflet

They insist that anyone who has any doubts about any vaccine rejects all vaccines outright. This isn’t true but the CCDH are censors and propagandists, not rationalists.

Comically, they claim they are a non-governmental organisation (NGO). While technically plausible, their network of links to government, globalist think tanks and private corporations is extensive.

The CCDH espouse the social reform and political philosophy of progressivism. This advocates alleged progress through the advancement of science, technology and economic development. In the UK this is commonly associated with the political movement found on the right wing of the Labour Party and is the dominant ideology of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

While still maintaining a putative commitment to representative democracy, it has much in common with the concept of Technocracy and, with the addition of a commitment to maintaining the global dominance of the transatlantic alliance, it is the basis of Blairism. It’s acolytes, such as the CCDH, consider themselves enlightened progressives. However, this sense of elitism produces an intolerance of all opposing views.

There is a strong tendency among progressives to label anything they disagree with as right wing and quite frequently far right or antisemitic. They call themselves radicals and whatever they deem not to be progressive they label as hate. Their language is merely a device used to promote division and create hatred among their followers for anyone or anything the doesn’t toe their progressive doctrine, including their own fellow party members.

Though they see themselves as left wing, there is very little within the progressive movement that could be described as being on the political left. Progressivism has far more in common with the modern centre and centre left of the Conservative Party and there is considerable agreement and ideological overlap between the two.

While falsely claiming a position on the left of the political spectrum, their neoliberalism is far from the traditional socialist values of the social democrats who form the rank and file of the Labour Party membership.

Progress – Self claimed radicals who create the mythology of “hate.”

In the modern cancel culture we passively allow to flourish, with it’s deplatforming, demonetisation, censorship and refusal to engage in either critical thought or debate, the word “Fascist” is overused and frequently misused. Its linguistic power, as a stark historical warning to us all, is being lost in the mire of progressive banality.  So it is worth considering what we really mean when we say “fascist”.

In 1935 in The Doctrine of Fascism the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wrote:

The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian.”

And:

The Fascist State ……makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State.”

And in Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions he said:

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.”

Mussollini – A preposterous posturing Fascist

A Fascist State is a totalitarian public-private partnership where all policy, speech and expression, economic activity and production is controlled via a beneficial arrangement between government and a network of non governmental organisations such as Unions, think tanks, private corporations and “official” charities.

The individual is removed from all decision making because elections are either banned or meaningless, and those who make policy decisions aren’t elected anyway. They form a technocratic elite. There is no diversity of opinion and all information is controlled by the Fascist State.

Any dissent or questioning of the doctrines of the State is considered to be disinformation and is censored. The Fascist State attempts to control opinion through propaganda, censorship and punishment. With the assistance of censor organisations and propagandists, like the CCDH, such a State is currently under construction in the UK.

Anyone who promotes this form of corporate state, who advocates the corporate censorship of information and decrees that the only source of truth is the public-private State and its representatives; those who propose that the free exchange of ideas, freedom of speech and expression be limited by this corporate State; people who call for those who question the “official” truth to be punished, ostracised or identified as “other” can accurately be described as Fascists.

In modern terms, with the degree of control made possible by the rapid evolution of communication technology, we could refer to them as Technofascists. Thus understood, the Technofascist seeks to seize control of the information highway (the Internet) in order to advance their own scientific, technological, economic and historical truths while excluding all others. They will not tolerate any challenge to their progressive ideology.

CCDH PROPAGANDA

CCDH vaccine propaganda is focused upon polarising opinion. This fake division is created through CCDH disinformation. Like many propagandists before them, they deal in inaccurate, empty generalisations. They hope to convince their consumers that anyone who ever questions a vaccine must be a nutter. The same dross was recently promulgated the UK Conservative Prime Minister.

By misleading people that there is no scientific basis for some vaccine scepticism, nor any legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy, the CCDH are creating fake social divisions in the hope of building real ones. In order to achieve this aim, the CCDH assert that anyone who asks any questions about vaccines is driven by hate and is therefore an extremist who threatens public health, ultimately posing a threat to national security.

They are creating the ludicrous, fake bogeyman of the public health terrorist. The alleged anti-vaxxer as subhuman, a vile, hateful extremist. They are “other.”

Johnson thinks anyone who questions vaccines is a nutter, unlike him

The CCDH propaganda narrative on vaccines is part of a wider slew of nonsense which underpins government efforts to censor the internet and freedom of speech. In the UK we were due to get our first clear sight of the legislative censorship grid with the arrival of the Online Harms Bill.

However, it appears there is a delay in the legislation.

In Part 2 we will discuss the CCHD’s links to government, think tanks and parliamentarians, but it is notable that it is the Labour front benches who are among the most eager to censor freedom of speech. Although petty political point scoring is also a likely factor contributing to their outcry.

The Online Harms Reduction Regulator (Report) Bill sets forth the envisaged role of the regulator who will be empowered to police the Internet, if and when the Online Harms Act comes into force. OFCOM have been selected as the regulator of online service operators which the proposed legislation defines as any Internet service or platform enabling human beings to communicate or exchange ideas. This includes web hosts, because they host websites which have comment sections and forums.

The scope of the proposed censorship grid is limitless. OFCOM will have a the power to regulate, “any other harms that OFCOM deem appropriate.” 

In the meantime, the CCDH are part of the network of so called fact checkers and censors who are using their incredible and seemingly disproportionate influence, suddenly garnered from nowhere, to police opinion on the social media platforms. We will explore how this occurred in more detail in Part 2.

The White Paper, which the Act will be based upon, clearly identifies any and all criticism of vaccines as a target for the censorship network:

Inaccurate information, regardless of intent, can be harmful – for example the spread of inaccurate anti-vaccination messaging online poses a risk to public health. The government is particularly worried about disinformation……Disinformation threatens these values and principles, and can threaten public safety, undermine national security, fracture community cohesion and reduce trust”

Like the government, the CCDH are careful not to mention any of the scientific or historical evidence which questions vaccine efficacy and safety. Instead, they label all who do cite this evidence as radical extremists.

The opening statement in the CCDH’s vaccine propaganda claims:

Vaccines are one of the most consequential, safe, efficient and effective medical discoveries in history. Few other inventions have saved so many lives.”

While it is true that some vaccines have been beneficial in the eradication of disease, there is little evidence that vaccines alone have achieved this. The vast majority of the reduction in mortality rates occurred as a result of broader public health improvements, prior to the widespread use of vaccines.

While the CCDH blithely claim all vaccines are “safe,” they are the only medical discovery where the manufacturers have blanket indemnification against any loss from injury claims. It is not an act of “hate” to ask why this needs to be the case if they are so safe.

The CCDH state that anyone who asks such questions has fringe and extremist views. They claim consideration of vaccine safety and efficacy should not be permitted and sharing any information or evidence which questions vaccines should be banned. For example, they deny people’s right to know any of the information we are about to discuss. They claim it is all hate driven disinformation which presents a threat to national security.

When trialling a vaccine, inoculated animal test subjects can be deliberately exposed to the targeted virus in a challenge trial. The results from challenge trials have blighted all previous attempts to develop a SARS-CoV vaccine.

While the test subjects developed the hoped for antibodies and proteins, when they were challenged with the virus their immune systems were found to be hypersensitive. This induced life threatening illness and caused a range of serious health conditions.

The interferon gamma (IFN-y) induced protein IP10, encoded in humans by the CXCL10 gene, is thought to be a possible cause of the cytokine storm which leads to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Persistent high levels of IP10 send the immune system into overdrive. Much of the immunopathological damage sustained by a small minority of SARS infected patients is thought to arise as a consequence of interferon gamma (IFN-y) related cytokine storms. Italian researchers noted:

Accumulating studies indicated that the cytokine storm caused by SARS is mainly related to IL-1β, IL-6, IL12A, IFN-γ, IP10 and MCP1, and the cytokine storm caused by MERS is mainly related to IFNγ, TNFα, IL15 and IL17A.”

It is therefore somewhat concerning that during the challenge trials for the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222 SARS-CoV-2) vaccine, currently being developed in by Atrazeneca and Oxford University, the following was noted:

Cytokines in serum were analysed after challenge to monitor immune responses. We observed an upregulation [increased cellular response] in IFN-γ at 1 DPI in ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccinated animals, but not in control animals.”

While an upregulation in IFN-y potentially has both beneficial and harmful inflammatory effects, we don’t know what the long term IP10 (CXCL10) levels for inoculated test subjects were because it wasn’t investigated in the vaccine trials. However, an upregulation in IFN-y suggests the possibility of the overexpression of the potentially lethal cytokine storm inducing CXCL10.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 study only checked IFN-y upregulation for one day post inoculation (1 DPI). Then again, this really isn’t of any concern for the multinational corporations, like Astrazeneca, who make vaccines. As usual, they have been given immunity from prosecution. They have no liability for vaccine injury, and therefore have everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.

Having found these results in all of the 6 macaque monkeys they inoculated, the Astrazeneca Oxford team felt this was nothing to worry about and went ahead with large scale human trials. The results of these trials raised further reason for concern.

Contrary to the claims made by the mainstream media (MSM), this was not a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial (RCT). Instead of an inert placebo, the human test subjects were either given the Astrazeneca / Oxford vaccine or the MenACWY vaccine.

The possible side effects of the MenACWY vaccine include headaches, nausea, fever, elevated heart rate, loss of consciousness, paralysis and seizures. Using the MenACWY vaccine as your control, to measure relative safety, will probably provide a favourable safety profile providing the recipient of your new vaccine doesn’t immediately drop dead the moment you inoculate them.

The people who were selected for the Astrazeneca / Oxford Phase 1 and initial Phase 2 trial were all in good health and aged between 18 – 55 years. The median age of the participants was 35 yrs. The average age for those requiring COVID 19 hospital treatment is at least 60 years.

COVID 19 risks increase appreciably with age. In the UK, more than 89% of those who have died “with” COVID 19 were over 65 years old

The UK government have announced their intention to initially vaccinate those in the at risk group and front line key workers. These are primarily older people with serious comorbidity.

With the exception of younger key workers, the initial phases of the trials didn’t test the vaccine with the demographic who will be the first to receive it. While the trials have now been expanded to include some older people and children, early results indicate the need for considerable caution.

Of the vaccinated group 70% reported fatigue, 68% headaches, 60% had muscle pain and more than 50% ran a fever. In addition, 9% reported temperatures of at least 38°C and an alarming 1% reported a high fever of more than 39°C.

While researchers stated that these adverse reaction were “well tolerated,” by the relatively young and healthy test subjects, the same cannot simply be assumed for older at risk groups.

These adverse reactions present a far greater health risk to the most vulnerable in society. The demographic which the vaccine is supposed to protect.

These early trial outcomes have been met with universal, uncritical praise by the UK MSM because the Astrazeneca / Oxford vaccine did stimulate an immune response. However, evidence is now emerging that up to 60% of the population may already have general immunity. If this is the case, the relative benefit to vulnerable people, in light of the adverse reactions, would appear questionable.

According to the CCDH none of these concerns have any basis in either fact or science. By urging the precautionary principle, I am one among millions labelled as a radical extremists by the CCDH.

CCDH FACT LITE CLAPTRAP

The CCDH state that SARS-CoV-2 is:

…a pandemic that will only be overcome by the most ambitious vaccination programme in human history.”

This is not a fact. It is merely the CCDH’s opinion. One that ignores the scientific evidence which shows that people who have already been exposed to other coronavirus strains, which is pretty much the entire population, have developed some level of T-Cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2.

However, unlike the CCDH, I think they have every right to express their opinion. Just as I and millions of others have every right to express ours.

In a free and open democratic society, that values freedom of speech and expression, the dialectic can be used to exchange logical arguments to arrive at new knowledge and understanding. This is not possible in Technofascist State. Opinions are censored to protect the interests of the public-private partnership.

Like most good propaganda there are elements of truth within the CCDH’s report. They quite rightly highlight that some leading so called anti-vaxxers are trying to make money from the growing number of people who question vaccines. While paywall protected content and internet marketing on social media are perfectly legitimate business models, we should be more sceptical of claims made by those who have a vested commercial interest. Like pharmaceutical corporations for example.

Central to the CCDH’s vaccine propaganda is their questionable estimate of the profits made by some who doubt vaccines. They claim this is evidence that all who have concerns about vaccines are quacks and charlatans.

The CCDH allege that the worst offenders leverage economic influence with social media giants to “radicalise” gullible fools into becoming hate filled “extremists.” This premise is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

Not a shred of evidence that this is how radicalisation works

Firstly, if we agree with the CCDH that possible financial incentives render all associated opinion on a subject null and void, we can reject the majority of pro vaccine arguments outright. The pharmaceutical industry’s U.S. social media ad-spend is projected to exceed $4 Bn in 2020.

In the U.S. alone, they invest more than $30 Bn annually on MSM advertising and devote more resources to political lobbying than any other industry.

However, while the CCDH insist that the paltry sums generated by the alleged anti-vaxxer fraudsters exposes their racket, it makes no mention at all of the staggering economic power of vaccine manufacturers. The profits to be made from the estimated $46.9 Bn global vaccine market, conservatively projected to eclipse £107 Bn by 2027, are completely irrelevant. Or so the CCDH would have you believe.

While good propaganda contains elements of truth, it is mainly disinformation. The CCDH make the following claim:

The format of groups makes their members ripe for the process of radicalisation…These secret spaces allow for deeper radicalisation.”

This is unadulterated pseudo-scientific claptrap. According to the Cambridge English dictionary “radicalisation” is defined as follows:

The action or process of making someone become more radical in their political or religious beliefs”

Questioning the efficacy and safety of vaccines is a public health issue, neither a political nor a religious belief. The CCDH use of the word “radicalisation” is nothing other than a cynical attempt to associate people who have some concerns about pharmaceuticals with extremism and ultimately terrorism.

This is deliberately deceptive language from the CCDH. Even if we accept their preposterous notion that asking questions about a drug can ever be “extremist”, there is absolutely no evidence at all that individuals can be radicalised simply by talking to people online.

The most complete scientific review of the research literature into supposed online radicalisation was carried out by a team at Deakin University. They found no evidence that using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram turned people into extremists.

The former U.N. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson issued a report to the U.N. in which he said:

There is no authoritative statistical data on the pathways towards individual radicalisation.”

CCDH TAKE HYPOCRISY TO A NEW LEVEL

In the space of a few months the CCDH have been instrumental in censoring a number of leading websites, writers and broadcasters they don’t agree with. The technofascist book burning presents a far greater threat to our “way of life” than any of the information they have been instrumental in censoring.

Cited as “experts” by the mainstream media and policy makers, their CEO Imran Ahmed has recently been appointed to the Steering Committee of the UK government’s Commission on Countering Extremism Task Force (CCETF).

The assumed role, backed by the public-private corporate State, of the CCETF, and the CCDH, is that they will gather the evidence of “hateful” opinion. Their subjective judgement will then be used to form policy and censor information.

The UK government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE) 2019 Document called Challenging Hateful Extremism defined, what they call, hateful extremism as follows:

  • Behaviours that can incite and amplify hate, or engage in persistent hatred, or equivocate about and make the moral case for violence;

  • And that draw on hateful, hostile or supremacist beliefs directed at an out-group who are perceived as a threat to the wellbeing, survival or success of an in-group;

  • And that cause, or are likely to cause, harm to individuals, communities or wider society.

In her forward to the report, the CCE lead commissioner Sara Khan noted:

There is a fear that countering extremism can undermine civil liberties and in particular, freedom of expression……. Authoritarian regimes have used ‘counter terrorism’ and ‘counter extremism’ to silence dissent and criticism. Hateful extremists seek to restrict individual liberties and curtail the fundamental freedoms that define our country.”

Our inalienable rights and freedom are protected by our written codified constitution of 1215

In Britain our national identity is, in great part, founded upon our shared belief in fundamental freedoms. These were recorded as the custom of the people in our written, codified constitution the Magna Carta.

Parliamentarians have done everything they possibly can to deny the existence of this codified written constitution for 800 years. They falsely claim the supremacy of Parliament and have unnecessarily re-written their version of our constitutionally guaranteed unalienable rights and freedoms in, among other declarations and Acts, the 1998 Human Rights Act.

These rights and freedoms include freedom of expression (eg. freedom of speech and publication both online and off), the right to a fair trial, freedom of thought and belief, freedom of assembly and association, respect for privacy (including of information) and protection from discrimination in respect to these rights.

Unlike an inviolable constitution, like the Magna Carta, legislation is simply a set of rules written by governments. It means nothing. Legislation can be rewritten, overturned or ignored as any government of the day sees fit.

For example, the recent 2020 Coronavirus Act not only suspends all alleged democracy, it removes the freedom of association, the right of physical and data privacy and reinforces existing powers of detention without trial.

Clauses about national security and public health in the 1998 Human Right’s Act, enable government to claim the authority to ignore all our rights. Any government’s legislative protections of our freedoms and rights aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

If we truly valued our constitutional customs, freedoms and rights this wouldn’t be possible. However, we don’t and so government can do anything they like to us anytime they wish. Nonetheless, these so called freedoms and rights are supposedly important to the self appointed truth tellers at the CCE, its Task Force and the CCDH.

These pretensions to care about rights and freedom take hypocrisy to a new level. CCDH state:

CCDH have also forced social media companies to…..remove hateful or dangerous speech…….solutions have proven effective against a number of different types of hate and misinformation, like identity-based hate, climate change denial and health misinformation. The aim is to produce practicable, efficient and scalable strategies and tactics to counter hate and misinformation globally.”

The CCDH and their global partners determine what constitutes misinformation and disinformation; they identify who is and who isn’t a fringe movement; they say what constitutes hate and what doesn’t; they decide what the scientific consensus is and they are the arbiters of all truth, the sole custodians of reality and they determine what you can or cannot say. Rights and freedoms be damned.

Never a good sign and typical of Fascism.

The CCDH are among those who seek to restrict individual liberties and curtail the fundamental freedoms that define our country; they espouse supremacist beliefs, as only they, and the burgeoning technofascist State they represent, can ever possibly be right; they direct their hate at an out-group, in this instance anyone who questions vaccines; they perceive the groups they hate as a threat to the wellbeing, survival or success of an in-group, that in-group is the government and its globalist corporate sponsors; their dangerous demonisation of people, their intolerance, deceptions, persecution and censorship already has and will cause harm to individuals, communities or wider society and in their leader, Imran Ahmed , they advocate imprisonment for those he labels anti-vaxxers, which is an act of violence.

If we accept the Commission on Countering Extremism definition then the CCDH, and associated State committees, are “hateful extremists.” But what purpose do such counterproductive and irrational labels have?

Everyone, including the CCE and the CCDH, have the right to express their views and partake in robust and open debate. However, the CCDH supremacist beliefs render them incapable of doing so, as they cannot tolerate anything which contradicts or challenges their ideology and objectives.

By looking at the sprawling web of policy makers, thinks tanks and corporate interests, which form the in-group the CCDH represent, we can reveal exactly who these supremacists are. With the willing complicity of this dangerous body we call government, absent any democratic mandate, the CCDH have already assumed authority and are systematically removing our freedoms while ignoring our rights.

We need to familiarise ourselves with these people who claim exclusive possession of all truth. We are heading towards a real Fascist State and, in Part 2, we’ll take a look at some of those who are taking us there.

You can read more of Iain’s work at his blog In This Together
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[l] at 8/15/20 4:59am
Ex-FBI Resistance Lawyer To Plead Guilty In Durham's Trump-Russia Probe Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 06:59

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will plead guilty to one count of making a false statement regarding his involvement in the agency's actions against the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election, according to the Associated Press.

In November, the New York Times revealed that Clinesmith was under criminal investigation for allegedly doctoring materials used to obtain renewals of the Carter Page surveillance warrant. Clinesmith -who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia probe, was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, and interviewed Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Clinesmith, a 37-year-old graduate of Georgetown Law, "took an email from an official at another federal agency that contained several factual assertions, then added material to the bottom that looked like another assertion from the email’s author, when it was instead his own understanding," according to the report.

Mr. Clinesmith included this altered email in a package that he compiled for another F.B.I. official to read in preparation for signing an affidavit that would be submitted to the court attesting to the facts and analysis in the wiretap application.

The details of the email are apparently classified and may not be made public even when the report is unveiled. -New York Times

Viva la resistance

Clinesmith was identified by Inspector General Michael Horowitz as one of several FBI officials who harbored animus towards President Trump, after which he was kicked off the Mueller Russia investigation in February 2018. Two other FBI officials removed for similar reasons were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom also worked on the Clinton and Trump investigations, and both of whom have similarly left the bureau.

On November 9, 2016 - the day after Trump won the election, Clinesmith texted another FBI employee "My god damned name is all over the legal documents investigating his staff," adding "So, who knows if that breaks to him what he is going to do."

I just realized something. Kevin Clinesmith was likely an FBI Lawyer involved in coordinating/organizing the $10,000 Papadopoulos operation. He interviewed Papadop upon return...

So setting up Page (falsifying FISA), would go hand-in-hand w/ motive setting up papadop. pic.twitter.com/hkYurp5tnw

— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) December 21, 2019

A former attorney with the FBI's National Security and Cyber Law Branch while working under FBI's top lawyer, James Baker, Clinesmith resigned in September 2019 after he was interviewed by Horrowitz's office. Horrowitz in turn sent a criminal referral to US Attorney John Durham, who was tasked with investigating the Obama DOJ's conduct surrounding the 2016 US election.

Durham was appointed by Barr last May to examine the FBI's actions against the Trump campaign during and after the 2016 US election, code named "Crossfire Hurricane."

Specifically, Durham has been probing whether Obama administration officials illegally collected intelligence on the Trump campaign, and whether the agency's surveillance of campaign aides was free of improper motive.

On Thursday night, Attorney General William Barr told Fox News host Sean Hannity that there would be "significant developments" before the election - but that today's wasn't going to be "earth-shattering," and would instead provide "an indication things are going along at a proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation."

"We’re not doing this on the election schedule," he said, adding "We’re aware of the election. We’re not going to do anything inappropriate before the election. But we’re not being dictated to by this schedule."

Durham's efforts were deemed worthy of a former criminal investigation last October, which undoubtedly spooked many of the spooks involved in the operation against the Trump campaign.

Check out Clapper stutter his way through an interview 20 mins after he finds out he’s under criminal investigation pic.twitter.com/C82G3CvH8V

— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) October 25, 2019

By designating it a criminal investigation, Durham was granted the power to subpoena documents and witnesses, to impanel a grand jury, and to file criminal charges.

Last April, Barr said that he believed "spying" had taken place against the Trump campaign, and that he doesn't buy former FBI officials' version of how the collusion investigation began.

The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign was launched in July 2016 to investigate allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, including possible links between Russia and any political campaigns.

The investigation was taken over in May 2017 by then-special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. By April 2019, he concluded that the investigation found no evidence to establish that Trump or his campaign had knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to sway the outcome of the election, although the Russian government was found to have interfered in the 2016 election. -Epoch Times

On Thursday, Barr told Hannity that "if people crossed the line, if people involved in that activity violated criminal law, they will be charged."

And in July, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that he was expecting criminal charges to result from Durham's investigation.

"They spied on my campaign, which is treason. They spied both before and after I won. Think of that. Using the intelligence apparatus of the United States to take down a president," Trump said recently during a live phone interview with Fox Business, adding "It’s the single biggest political crime in the history of our country."

Of course...

Durham never interviewed Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Brennan, Clapper

So much for that then

— Jack Posobiec
[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/14/20 10:00pm
Escobar On Battleground Beirut: Western Colony Or Back To The East? Tyler Durden Sat, 08/15/2020 - 00:00

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Post-blast Lebanon has everything to gain from rejecting the West's neoliberal demands and embracing China's Belt and Road...

As much as Covid-19 has been instrumentalized by the 0.001% to social engineer a Great Reset, the Beirut tragedy is already being instrumentalized by the usual suspects to keep Lebanon enslaved.

Facing oh so timely color revolution-style “protests”, the current Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Diab has already resigned. Even before the port tragedy, Beirut had requested a $10 billion line of credit from the IMF – denied as long as trademark, neoliberal Washington consensus “reforms” were not implemented: radical slashing of public expenses, mass layoffs, across the board privatization.

Post-tragedy, President Emmanuel Macron – who’s not even capable of establishing a dialogue with the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in France – has opportunistically jumped in full neocolonial mode to pose as “savior” of Lebanon, as long as the same “reforms”, of course, are implemented.

On Sunday, France and the UN organized a videoconference to coordinate donor response – in conjunction with the European Commission (EC), the IMF and the World Bank. The result was not exactly brilliant: a paltry 252 million euros were pledged – once again conditioned by “institutional reforms”.

France came up with 30 million euros, Kuwait with 40 million, Qatar with 50 million and the EC with 68 million. Crucially, neither Russia nor Iran were among the donors. The US – which is harshly sanctioning Lebanon – and GCC allies Saudi Arabia and UAE pledged nothing. China had just a pro forma presence.

In parallel, Maronite Christians in Brazil – a very powerful community – are sending funds for the color revolution protests. Former President Michel Temer and industrialist tycoon Paulo Skaf even flew to Beirut. Former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel (1982-1988) maintained a lot of businesses in Brazil with funds he skimmed when in power.

All of the above points to neoliberalism taking no prisoners when it comes to keeping its deadly grip on Lebanon.

The Hariri model

Lebanon’s profound economic crisis, now aggravated by the Beirut port blast, has nothing to do with Covid-19 or the US proxy war on Syria – which brought a million refugees to the nation. It’s all about proverbial neoliberal shock and awe, conducted non-stop by the Hariri clan: former Prime Ministers Rafiq, assassinated in 2011, and Saad, chased out of power last January.

The Hariri model was focused on real estate speculation and financialization. The Solidere group, controlled by Arab investors and a few Lebanese, Hariri included, destroyed Beirut’s historical downtown and rebuilt it with luxury real estate. That’s the classical rentier neoliberalism model that always profits a tiny elite.

In parallel, the Bank of Lebanon was attracting funds from the tony Lebanese diaspora and assorted Arab investors by practicing very generous interest rates. Lebanon suddenly had an artificially strong currency.

A small middle class sort of flourished throughout the 2000s, comprising import-export traders, the tourism sector and financial market operators. Yet, overall, inequality was the name of the game. According to the World Inequality Database, half of Lebanon’s population now holds less wealth that the top 0.1%.

The bubble finally burst in September last year, when I happened to be in Beirut. With no US dollars in circulation, the Lebanese pound started to collapse in the black market. The Bank of Lebanon went berserk. When the Hariri racket imposed a “Whatsapp tax” over calls, that led to massive protests in October. Capital embarked on free flight and the currency collapsed for good.

There’s absolutely no evidence the IMF, the World Bank and assorted Western/Arab “donors” will extricate a now devastated Lebanon from the neoliberal logic that plunged it into a systemic crisis in the first place.

The way out would be to focus in productive investments, away from finance and geared towards the practical necessities of an austerity-battered and completely impoverished population.

Yet Macron, the IMF and their “partners” are only interested in keeping monetary “stability”; seduce speculative foreign capital; make sure that the rapacious, Western-connected Lebanese oligarchy will get away with murder; and on top of it buy scores of Lebanese assets for peanuts.

BRI or bust

In stark contrast with the exploitative perpetuation of the Western neoliberal model, China is offering Lebanon the chance to Go East, and be part of the New Silk Roads.

In 2017, Lebanon signed to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2018, Lebanon became the 87th member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Over the past few years, Lebanon was already taking part in the internationalization of the yuan, offering bank accounts in yuan and increasing bilateral trade in yuan.

Beijing was already engaged in discussions revolving around the upgrading of Lebanese infrastructure – including the expansion of Beirut harbor.

This means that now Beijing may be in the position of offering a renewed, joint rebuilding/security deal for Beirut port – just as it was about to clinch a smaller agreement with Diab’s government, focused only on expansion and renovation.

The bottom line is that China has an actual Plan A to extricate Lebanon from its current financial dead end.

And that’s exactly what was, and remains, total anathema to US, NATO and Israel’s interests.

The Trump administration recently went no holds barred to prevent Israel from having China develop the port of Haifa.

The same “offer you can’t refuse” tactics will be applied with full force on whoever leads the new Lebanese government.

Beirut is an absolutely key node in BRI’s geopolitical/geoeconomic connectivity of the Eastern Mediterranean. With Haifa temporarily out of the picture, Beirut grows in importance as a gateway to the EU, complementing the role of Pireus and Italian ports in the Adriatic.

It’s crucial to note that the port itself was not destroyed. The enormous crater on site replaces only a section quayside – and the rest is on water. The buildings destroyed can be rebuilt in record time. Reconstruction of the port is estimated at $15 billion – pocket money for an experienced company such as China Harbor.

Meanwhile, naval traffic is being redirected to Tripoli port, 80 km north of Beirut and only 30 km away from the Lebanon-Syria border. Its director, Ahmed Tamer, confirms “the port has witnessed during the past years the expansion work by Chinese companies, and it has received the largest ships from China, carrying a big number of containers”.

Add to it the fact that Tripoli port will also be essential in the process of Syria reconstruction – to which China is totally committed.

BRI’s Southwest Asia connectivity network is a maze including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

China is already planning to invest in highway and railroads, further to be developed into high-speed rail. That will connect BRI’s central China-Iran corridor – fresh from the $400 billion, 25-year strategic partnership deal soon to be signed – with the Eastern Mediterranean.

Add to it the role of the port of Tartus in Syria – bearing a strong Russian naval presence. Beijing will inevitably invest in the expansion of Tartus – which is crucially linked by highway to Lebanon. The Russia-China strategic partnership will be involved in the protection of Tartus with S-300 and S-400 missile systems.

Historically, in a larger axis that went from Samarkand to Cordoba, with strong nodes such as Baghdad and Damascus, what slowly evolved in this part of Eurasia was a syncretic civilization superimposed over an ancestral regional, rural and nomad background. The internal cohesion of the Muslim world was forged from the 7th century to the 11th century: that was the key factor that shaped the lineaments of a coherent Eurasia.

Apart from Islam, Arabic – the language of religion, administration, trade and culture – was an essential unifying factor. This evolving Muslim world was configured as a vast economic and cultural domain whose roots connected to Greek, Semitic, Persian, Indian and Arab thought. It was a marvelous synthesis that formed a unique civilization out of elements of different origin – Persian, Mesopotamian, Byzantine.

The Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean were of course part of it, totally open towards the Indian Ocean, the Caspian routes, Central Asia and China.

Now, centuries later, Lebanon should have everything to gain by ditching the “Paris of the Orient” mythology and looking East – again, thus positioning itself on the right side of History.

As of 8/15/20 1:00pm. Last new 8/15/20 1:00pm.

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