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Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unsettled Weather

Unsettled Weather


After leaving the Bahamas for dead, Hurricane Dorian barely grazed the US mainland en route to the Canadian shoals of oblivion, perhaps saving America’s insurance industry. But the steamy west coast of Africa is hurling out a cavalcade of replacements as the high season for Atlantic storms commences, so better keep the plywood sheets at hand. Lots of things are looking stormy around the world just now: nations, markets, politics — everything really except all three divisions of the American League… yawn….

The world is in a nervous place these days The US is something like the world’s crazy old auntie, whom everyone else would like to lock in the attic. Except she happens to be cradling a bazooka, so they’ll go on trying to ignore her a while longer, hoping she doesn’t launch any rockets at the neighbors.

Britain courts chaos in its attempt to keep staving off the Brexit quandary, which itself seems to promise a hearty dose of chaos as thousands of unresolved trade issues threaten the country’s economic future walking out on Europe. The majority who voted Brexit feel that the EU is already crushing them under bureaucratic diktat and immigration quotas. New Prime Minister Bo-Jo has tried one ploy after another in his quest to reach the Halloween Brexit ramp. Everyone is ganging up on him, even his own brother, Jo Johnson, who has quit the cabinet and is ditching his seat in parliament. Bo-Jo wants to call an election because there is no one else to take his place, and many of those piling on him also detest the opposition Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Events are outrunning anybody’s ability to see what happens next. Street violence is not out of the question.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New World Order in Meltdown, But Russia Stronger Than Ever

New World Order in Meltdown, But Russia Stronger Than Ever

Last week was full of portentous events. Only somebody who has not been awake for the last few years will fail to realize how these at first sight unconnected events are part of the same matrix. There was the ever louder talk in mainstream media about an approaching global recession, inverted yield curves and the negative yields, which tell us that the Western financial system is basically in coma and kept alive only by generous IV injections of central bank liquidity. By now it has dawned on people that the central bankers acting as central planners in a command economy and printing money (aka quantitative easing) to fuel asset bubbles are about to wipe off the last vestiges of what used to be a market economy.

Then we saw Trump taking new twitter swipes at China in his on-and-off “great trade deal” and the stock markets moving like a roller coaster in reaction to each new twitter salvo. Also, we had both Trump and Macron sweet talking about getting Russia back and again renaming their club G8. Last Tuesday at a G7 presser in Biarritz, the Rothschild groomed Macron took it one step further opening up about the reasons why they all of a sudden longed for friendship with Russia: “We are living the end of Western hegemony.” In the same series, Britain’s new government under Boris Johnson was telling his colleagues in Biarritz that he is now decisively going for a no-deal Brexit, after which he went back to London and staged a coup d’état by suspending parliament to ensure no elected opposition interfered with it.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

What on Earth were the British politicians and officials thinking who gave the go-ahead for the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar on 4 July? Did they truly believe that the Iranians would not retaliate for what they see as a serious escalation in America’s economic war against them?

The British cover story that the sending of 30 Royal Marines by helicopter to take over the tanker was all to do with enforcing EU sanctions on Syria, and nothing to do with US sanctions on Iran, was always pretty thin.

The Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, has said categorically that Britain took over the tanker “following a request from the United States to the United Kingdom”.

One fact about Iranian foreign policy should have been hardwired into the brain of every politician and diplomat in Britain, as it already is in the Middle East, which is that what you do to the Iranians they will do to youat a time and place of their own choosing.

The US and UK backed Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in 1980, but this was not unconnected – though it was impossible to prove – with the suicide bombing that killed 241 US service personnel in the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Commentators seeking an explanation for the UK’s seizure of the Grace 1 suggest that it was suckered into the action by super hawks in the US administration, such as the national security adviser John Bolton.

But, given the inevitability of the Iranian reaction against British naval forces too weak to defend British-flagged tankers, the British move looks more like a strategic choice dictated by a lack of other options.

Confrontation with the EU over Brexit means that Britain has no alternative but to ally itself ever more closely to the US.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Politics and Algorithms

Politics and Algorithms

Edward Hopper Sailing  1911

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

“Here’s to all the filthy money and where it went..” 

Happy Birthday David! 

Apologies for the lack of commentary y’day.. long, dull boring story involving the Isle of Wight Festival, transport hassles and a whiff of pot on a strike slowed train… 

So much to think and worry about the morning – the market showing its love and appreciation for BoJo and the heightened chances of a no-deal Brexit by spanking sterling to a 6 month low, or Boeing deciding to rename its troubled B-737 MAX by dropping MAX as Airbus orders come flooding in at the Paris Airshow, but the main story is the Fed.. or should that be how much faith the market is putting in the Fed and the FOMC meeting today/tomorrow? I’m not persuaded… 

The market consensus is the Fed will eventually ease US rates, but not this time. It’s how it communicates/hints at timing tomorrow that will be most closely analysed aspect. Expect pages of dot-plot analysis and explanations of whatever he said and meant. Fed-Head Jerome Powell has already made clear the Fed is willing to act to offset slower growth and counter a trade war; “we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”. 

This is where it starts to look messy. Is it the Fed’s job to “sustain expansion”? 

It’s clearly a laudable objective, but let’s not confuse the stock market for the economy! It plays right into Trump’s agenda, his simplistic message to the electorate that stock strength proves his deal making success. An ease would provide a potent hit of short-term ecstasy to an addicted stock market, and give Trump something to crow about – a factor the Liberal press is all over like the proverbial cheap suit.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Europe Will Not Be Europe”

“Europe Will Not Be Europe”

  • In the United Kingdom, the Brexit Party victory at 31.6% of the vote was a remarkable achievement that showed the persistent willingness of millions of Britons to leave the European Union. The “populist” positions — the defense of national sovereignty and European civilization, refusal of uncontrolled immigration and diktats of Brussels technocrats — have gained ground.
  • The parties that have ruled Europe for decades obtained weak results, but, with rare exceptions, did not collapse — and will continue to dominate the European Union.
  • The Greens may gain more influence – along with its consequences. To anyone who read the Greens’ programs, it is evident that they are essentially leftists with an environmental green mask. They support unrestricted immigration and multiculturalism. They are…resolutely hostile to any defense of Western civilization, to free enterprise and free markets. They are often in favor of zero growth. Most of them support an apocalyptic vision of climate change and say that the survival of humanity will be at stake around the corner if Europe does not take drastic measures to “save the planet”. All of them are in favor of authoritarian decisions imposed from Brussels to all of Europe.
  • A European parliament placed under the influence of the Greens will almost certainly accelerate the slide towards more power given to the unelected members of the European Commission, and a phasing out of nuclear energy and fossil fuels. Policies favorable to still more immigration already are in preparation.

On the evening of May 26, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini commented on the results of the European elections, “A new Europe is born.” The party he leads, the League, had just won with 34.3% of the vote. Other parties defined in Europe as “populist” also won: in Hungary, the Fidesz-KDNP alliance (Hungarian Civic Alliance and the Christian Democratic People’s Party) received 52.3% of the vote.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Center Isn’t Holding in Europe

The Center Isn’t Holding in Europe 

If there is one big takeaway from the recent European Parliamentary elections it is that centrist parties which stand for nothing in particular represent a lot fewer people. From both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ the center lost ground across Europe.

The Euroskeptics got a lot of press in the run up to these elections and the final result was pretty much in line with expectations, with a couple of exceptions. The pro-EU left lost a lot more ground in Sweden than expected but the Dutch People’s Party were rejected thoroughly in the Netherlands.

Otherwise the polls were mostly in line with the results. And while the early spin tried to put a brave face on results in the U.K. and France Marine Le Pen outpolling sitting president Emmanuel Macron just two years after he beat her in the presidential election is notable.

The results in the U.K. were a microcosm of the trends we’re seeing across Europe. The major parties, both campaigning from the center, lost the confidence of the people on both sides of the divisive Brexit argument.

Those that want Brexit in no uncertain terms bolted to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party while those fed up with Labour’s indecision on not only Brexit but a host of other issues bolted for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

And a lot of those seats that would have went to the Social Democrats via Labour in the European Parliament now belong to Guy Verhofstadt and ALDE.

But the U.K. isn’t alone in this splitting along ideological lines. Germany has seen the collapse of the Social Democrats give spark to the Greens there as well. The Greens outpolled Angela Merkel’s Grand Coalition partners by more than five points, coming in 2nd behind the CDU/CSU with 20.5%.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Albert Edwards: “At This Point You Realize Something Has Gone Very Wrong”

Albert Edwards: “At This Point You Realize Something Has Gone Very Wrong”

In his latest note published last week, SocGen’s Albert Edwards – never at a loss subjects that inspire his outrage – rages on the topic of Brexit, and specifically the often repeated assertion (discussed here as well), that post-Brexit referendum UK has lost 2% of its GDP output, or about £800m a week.

We won’t dwell on that for a simple reason: as UBS’ chief economist Paul Donovan put is best last week, “A few things have happened in the EU-UK divorce. Does anyone care? No, they do not.” 

Another reason why Brexit is largely meaningless despite resulting in countless, pound-moving newswire headlines each hour: the final outcome is clear – with Theresa May a remainer, and with both sides seeking to perpetuate the status quo by delaying and delaying and delaying some more until it appears that it’s the public’s desire to reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum, it is just a matter of time before the entire idea of Brexit is scuttled.

Instead we will focus on an anecdote that Edwards brings up in relation to his now 30-year-old son, Newcome, who was 10 back in 1999, and was reportedly stealing Albert’s Financial Times “to look at Nasdaq share prices:”

It was at that point that I realised the tech bubble was really getting out of hand (I have reproduced part of this weekly explaining what happened, at the end of this note).

As Edwards further explains, “discovering my 10 year old son looking at Nasdaq share prices alerted me to the extent of the madness that had gripped the markets by end 1999. Similarly there are moments in this job when something you hadn’’t been following particularly closely is highlighted to you and you stagger back in shock. At that point you realise that something has gone very wrong.” 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Assange Arrested, Brexit Squashed — Just Another Day in the Empire

Assange Arrested, Brexit Squashed — Just Another Day in the Empire

And down goes Julian Assange, right beside Brexit. If there was ever any doubt that The Powers That Be are unrelenting in their cruelty just look at the 24 hours starting on Wednesday. 

First Theresa “The Snake Oil Lady” May kicks 17.4 million voters into the weeds.

And then she oversees the arrest and judging of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The timing of this is important beyond dovetailing it with her Brexit betrayal. They had to go after Assange now, because Theresa May’s time in office is ending. 

A Jeremy Corbyn-led government would not grant the U.S. it’s prize. 

Corbyn, for all of his faults, would be a breath of fresh air in the unraveling of the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S. and U.K. in foreign policy for as long as he lasted in office.

Still think Theresa works for anyone other than her owners?

Still think the opposition to Corbyn predicated on his “Socialism” isn’t anything other than a coordinated psy-op? It’s no different than the narratives spinning around Trump being a Nazi or a Russian stooge, except that Corbyn actually is a socialist. 

But, he is also far more independent than anyone in the British political class wants running the country, that much is certain.

Trump is running for re-election opposing “Socialism” in the U.S., Venezuela and soon, Cuba.

The Leave campaign, thanks to May, was focused for the week leading to Assange’s arrest on her sitting down, “with an avowed Socialist.” 

May and Trump are captured figures, dutifully doing their owners’ bidding. 

This 12 hour period may be the most brazen abuse of a Western nation by its government that I’ve seen. 

But nothing surprises me about the evil of Theresa May anymore. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beneath the Surface of Brexit

Beneath the Surface of Brexit

Geography matters, the balance of power matters, and democracy–it’s not yet clear if democracy matters or not.

I’ve been asked to comment on Brexit. I’m happy to do so, but not by promoting a position yes or no, or by attempting to unravel the political machinations, as I have neither the knowledge nor the interest to do so.

What I can do is propose two beneath the surface contexts which might be useful in understanding what’s really going on. These are the impressions and opinions of a distant observer, someone who is neither an expert nor a resident of the United Kingdom / Great Britain.

It seems to me that geography is still salient. As an island sea power, England is close enough to the continental land-based powers of Europe to fear invasion or continental hegemony but independent enough to not rely too completely on continental European powers.

This is not just a consequence of its temperate weather (thanks to the Gulf Stream) or being an island; the historical reliance on sea power places it in the same general category as the other historic blue-water sea-power-based European nations: The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden.

These sea-power nations projected power and secured trading rights and colonies by controlling the seas and access points to interior lands, the so-called Rimlands

Continental powers such as Russia, France and Germany have at various times made formidable attempts to create rival blue-water navies, but in each case the British or American fleets eventually limited these claims to dual power bases (both land and sea-based power).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave

Kondratiev – Riding the Economic Wave

LET’S escape Brexit and see what’s happening in the wider world. Most forecasters are gloomy about global economic prospects. According to Schroders, doyen of UK assets managers: “We forecast a more stagflationary environment in 2019 with global growth set to slow and inflation to rise”. The Davos World Economic Forum predicts a “sharp drop-off in world trade growth, which fell from over 5 per cent at the beginning of 2018 to nearly zero at the end”. Forbes business magazine warns: “The biggest problem for the global economy in 2019 will be massive business failures that could also lead to bank failures in emerging markets”.

Of course, the forecasters have been wrong before but it is clear that the main analysts of the global capitalist economy are pessimistic about current trends. They are right to be worried.

The international economy operates in pulses christened Kondratiev waves after Nicolai Kondratiev (1892-1938), the Russian economist and statistician who first identified them. These K-waves consist of an expansionary upswing lasting normally 15-20 years, followed by a downswing of similar length. We are now in such a downswing that could last till the 2030s.

What causes Kondratiev pulses? There is a rich literature trying to identify the cause, in particular the work of the Belgian economist, the late, great Ernest Mandel. Crudely, it works like this. Social and economic conditions mature to spark a runaway investment boom in the latest cluster of new technologies. After a period, excess investment and increased competition lower rates of profitability, curbing the boom.

At the same time – because this is as much a sociological as an economic process – growth expands the global workforce, both in numbers and geographically. The new, militant workforce launches social struggles to capture some of the wealth created in the boom. This, in turn, adds to the squeeze on profits. The peak and early down wave are characterised by violent social conflicts, whose outcome determines the length of the contraction.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

View From The Brextanic

View From The Brextanic

Marcel Duchamp Sad young man on a train – Nude study 1911-12

Longtime Automatic Earth friend Alexander Aston talks about finding himself at Oxford at a point in time when the British themselves appear overcome by a combo of utter confusion and deadly lethargy, and one can only imagine what it must be like for ‘foreigners’ residing in Albion, who face large potential changes to their lives and know there’s not a thing they can do about it, not even vote. 

I like the observation that the entire British political system, the place where decisions are made, is the size of a small village. That’s a visual we can all relate to. It’s a physical limit as well as a mental one. I’m all for sovereignty and self-determination, but how’s that going to work if you can’t even see the boundaries of your own territory? 

Guys, it’s 4 weeks to D-Day today. How about we call off the landing, get a few pints instead, and talk? First round’s on me. 

Here’s Alexander: 

Alexander Aston: I arrived in the UK in 2015 to undertake interdisciplinary research at the University of Oxford. I am a child of the Empire, a cultural product of Britannia’s oldest colonies in the British Isles, her most important colony now turned empire as well as one of her youngest, Zimbabwe. The UK is both an intimately familiar society and yet one that is also strangely alien for me, like a wealthy, often charming and deeply abusive parent that sparks both self-recognition and rejection. 

The ‘leave’ referendum occurred close to a year after I arrived in the UK and is one of the few political events over the past few years that surprised me.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain: European Banks Are The Most Successful Ponzi Scheme Of All Time

Blain: European Banks Are The Most Successful Ponzi Scheme Of All Time

“Lenin was right. There is subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.”

I must post this line from one of my favourite Financial sector commentaries – Duncan Farr of Jeffries who covers banks: “Here we are 5 weeks ahead of Brexit, and the top 2 performing banks in Europe are Lloyds followed by RBoS.” If you ever wanted a clearer hint the supposed Brexit crisis and imminent collapse of UK plc might just be a fictitious political construct, then there you are.  Its fascinating just how sanguine the markets have become about the divorce. Sterling is up and who cares?

I have often been told I worry about all the wrong things. According to BAML, (reported on BBerg), the biggest fear of European investors currently is a Worldwide Economic Slump, with 30% of respondents citing it as their primary worry. Yep. I can see why that would be an issue. Only 2% of European investors surveyed by BAML rank Brexit as their primary fear. It’s not even in the top 5! (For the record, my primary fear is a Global Liquidity Storm – the sudden and catastrophic drying up of liquidity following a shock..)

Politics and markets are intertwined, but… maybe no longer in the case of Brexit? It’s just become background noise – meaning it; doesn’t matter, or we’re overly complacent. UK politics has never looked so dire. Markets appear increasingly disinterested. A new UK political party, and unstated threats a whole slew of ministers are set to resign if we get/don’t get a Brexit deal. Rumours are a deal is already inked with Brussels. Rumours are the Tory Brexiteers will reject it – whatever it says. It Theresa May is capable of getting together a deal in parliament – then this would probably be a good time..

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Great Discontent

The Great Discontent

Johannes Vermeer Woman holding a balance  1662-63

The problem is, of course, that not only is economics bankrupt but it has always been nothing more than politics in disguise.
-Hazel Henderson

It’s often hard to understand how people can be aware of something but then fail to link it to a perfectly logical next step, or even multiple steps, and see where it fits in a larger scheme. There really are people out there, believe it or not, who look at economic and political developments over the past decade in any particular western country and believe they are unique to that country.

In reality, while things may play out slightly differently from one place to the other, the core causes of what’s been unfolding are the exact same ones in every single location. The reactions of incumbent politicians and economics has been the same as well: massage the numbers and the media, keep the rich and powerful happy, and make sure you and yours are on the ‘right side’ of the line.

In France, the main complaint that the Yellow Vests movement has now taken into its 13th consecutive weekend is crystal clear: people can’t pay their bills anymore. In the UK, austerity has demolished wages, social care, the NHS and much else. In the US, many millions of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency payment, have ever scarcer access to healthcare and live from paycheck to paycheck. 

Rinse and repeat for every western nation. The storylines vary somewhat, but they all tell the same tale, they could be, they are, chapters in the same book. And it makes one think if people are not connecting them.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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