Zero Hedge

Late Stage Globalism: When Anything That Is Not Censored Is A Lie

Late Stage Globalism: When Anything That Is Not Censored Is A Lie

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via BombThrower.com,

Late Stage Globalism Is A Tale of Narratives vs Networks

Over the past few weeks in my weekly #AxisOfEasy newsletter I’ve been covering how Big Tech and the corporate media tried, unsuccessfully, to keep a lid on the Wuhan Lab origin narrative. At one point I half-joked “I’ll shut up about this when it’s safe to talk about Ivermectin”. This week, I did end up writing a piece about Ivermectin, namely how doctors can’t even mention it in their videos or podcast appearances without being penalized by social media platforms.

Bret Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist who has studied bats (from which COVID-19 purportedly originated) was recently on Triggernometry, the UK based podcast that my company, easyDNS, has been sponsoring since mid-2020. It turns out that neither Weinstein nor Triggernometry can say the word “Ivermectin” in their shows. If they do they’ll get an automatic takedown by YouTube and a strike on Facebook for violating community standards.

Matt Taibbi recently posed the question “Why has ‘Ivermectin’ become a dirty word?” He cites Dr. Pierre Kory in his testimony to a US Senate Committee hearing on medical responses to COVID-19 in December 2020. Kory was referring to an existing medicine that was already FDA approved that he was describing as a “wonder drug” in treating COVID-19, that drug was Ivermectin.

This Senate testimony was televised and viewed by approximately 8 million people. YouTube removed the video of this exchange. They later suspended the account of the United States senator who invited Dr. Kory to speak. (Kory also appeared on Brett Weinstein’s show and they took down that as well).

Associated Press for their part “fact checked” the senate testimony, and because, in their words “there is no evidence that Ivermectin is a ‘miracle drug’ against COVID”, they labeled it as false:

CLAIM: The antiparasitic drug ivermectin “has a miraculous effectiveness that obliterates” the transmission of COVID-19 and will prevent people from getting sick.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There’s no evidence ivermectin has been proven a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19.

First, I find it a little presumptuous for a wire service to be fact checking senate testimony. Isn’t the job of the committee holding the hearing largely that of fact-finding? Isn’t that the entire point? The ostensible role of the press should have been to simply report on what happened. What we got instead was an editorial wrapped in a logical fallacy (appeal to ignorance) that was passed off as some sort of objective truth.

The coronavirus has accelerated the timelines on a lot of tectonic shifts that were already in motion. It’s pulled forward effects that would otherwise would have taken years or possibly even decades to play out. One of those dynamics is that the mainstream corporate press has self-immolated their own credibility in the eyes of their rapidly dwindling audience.

Until now the masses seemed to be inculcated with the slow burn of endless propaganda and sermonizing from as far back as the days of Edward Bernays (who coined the word “propaganda”). Now with the pandemic and all this talk about a Great Reset and the New Normal because of a virus that was made more infectious in a Chinese lab funded by US technocrats, this is all beginning to look (in the immortal words of The New York Dolls) like “too much, too soon”.

It may turn out that there is a saturation level of manufactured narrative that the public can be led to believe or tolerate and beyond that point it all begins to look like hyperreality. Not only do fewer people believe it anymore, more of them are done with even pretending to believe it.

With too many things that were presented to us as truthful information over the last year turning out to be wrong, or a lie and almost everything that was dismissed as “already debunked conspiracy theory” turning out to have more substance, we may be crossing that point now.

Mainstream media audiences are in secular decline.

The biggest audiences to be found aren’t on CNN or MSNBC anymore, but most of the people still watching TV are watching FOX, mainly because Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are calling b/s on nearly every establishment talking point.

Via The Hill

But I’m looking beyond that, outside of network TV. The hottest news outlets are fast becoming independent journalists like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, self-publishing via their Substack. That’s mainly email.

Joe Rogan has a larger audience than Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon combined. So too does Steve Bannon, btw. The few times I’ve been on his Warroom I was astounded at the reach of his audience. According to company sources he’s doing between 2.5 and 3.5 million downloads per day. The last people I would ever expect to be tuning into Bannon are telling me “I saw you on Warroom”. (It’s mind-blowing).

Zerohedge has more traffic than Huffington Post, Vox, Vice, The Atlantic and pretty well any of the other bluecheck day camps for aspiring establishment shills.

It’s because of independent, renegade journalists and people writing outside of major outlets that these stories are starting go mainstream despite the best efforts of Big Tech, enforcing whatever canon the corporate press deems to be truth, or the establishment anointed “fact checkers” who try to step in whenever something looks to gain traction:

The Wuhan lab origin was suspected for over a year (and the Fauci emails prove it). Zerohedge was on it almost immediately and got deplatformed for their troubles. It was finally pushed over the line in a Medium post by Nicholas Wade over a year later.

Ivermectin may be next round and it looks like if it gets anywhere it will be thanks to people like Matt Taibbi and Bret Weinstein.

What is the common thread here? It’s the power of decentralized networks and open source protocols vs narrative control that is promulgated from global governments, amplified by the corporate media, and enforced by technocratic platforms.

This is why crypto currencies won’t die. This is why things like Signal, Telegram, Mastodon, Keybase are spreading like wildfire. This is why the best way to build an audience in this day and age is still email. Everything I wrote in my book on defending from cancel-culture and deplatform attacks is even more relevant today than when I released it last year (I made it available for free a few months later).

It may seem like the censorship is absolute and that the narrative and the spin is overwhelming. But take solace that it only appears that way because the facade is breaking.

As more people realize that the centralized technocratic system is failing, those who’s privilege and position are premised on it have to double down, triple down. They have to burn the boats.

They’re fully committed now and because they have no other choice they have to overstep and overreach. Too much, too soon. Too late.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 20:05

Here Are America's Top Ten Vacation Home Counties

Here Are America's Top Ten Vacation Home Counties

A new report from the National Association of Realtors said the housing market is "hot in vacation home counties than nonvacation home counties." 

NAR's 2021Vacation Home Counties Report examined more than 1,000 counties across the US using Multiple Listing Service data and found the top % vacation home counties in 2020. These counties are scattered across 16 states and met the criteria for being in the top 1%, including higher price, higher sales growth, and faster days on the market. 

"North Carolina had four vacation counties (Swain, Alleghany, Macon, Watauga); there were three each in New York (Greene, Sullivan, Hamilton), Vermont (Windham, Bennington, Windsor), Massachusetts (Dukes, Barnstable, Nantucket), and Michigan (Oscoda, Alcona, Clare); there were two each in Florida (Lee, Collier), Missouri (Hickory, Camden), Maryland (Garrett, Worcester). Oklahoma, Maine, Arizona, New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, Delaware, and Minnesota each had one vacation home county that landed in the top 1% list," NAR said. 

"Vacation homes are a hot commodity at the moment," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "With many businesses and employers still extending an option to work remotely to workers, vacation housing and second homes will remain a popular choice among buyers."

Much of the boom has been fueled by the pandemic, as city-dwellers panic left cities for rural areas with scenic views or natural wonders. Also, mortgage rates at record lows unleashed a flurry of buyers while these homes were in short supply. 

However, the monetary wizards at the Federal Reserve suggested last week that interest rate rises and tapering their massive balance sheet could occur sometime next year. This could derail not just the vacation home boom but the overall housing market.  

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Robert Kaplan played bad cop Monday morning as he suggested: "whether the housing market really needs the Fed's support of $40 billion a month." 

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 19:45

Trump Organization Sues New York City for Cancelling Golf Course Contract

Trump Organization Sues New York City for Cancelling Golf Course Contract

Authored by Ivan Pentchoukov via The Epoch Times,

The Trump Organization filed a lawsuit against New York City on June 21, alleging that its contract to run a Bronx golf course was cancelled for political reasons.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, argues that the contract between the city and the organization did not give New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio grounds to terminate it due to the actions of some of the president’s supporters during the Jan. 6 riot earlier this year.

The lawsuit asks the court to let the Trump organization continue operating the course or pay millions to exit the deal.

“Mayor de Blasio’s actions are purely politically motivated, have no legal merit, and are yet another example of the mayor’s efforts to advance his own partisan agenda and interfere with free enterprise,” the Trump Organization said in a statement.

New York City said the company breached the terms of the contract and that it will “vigorously defend” its decision to terminate the deal.

De Blasio announced the contract’s termination in January in the wake of the Capitol riot. He accused Trump of the “criminal action” of inciting the rioters. The U.S. Senate exonerated Trump of a similar charge during its second impeachment trial for the president.

A number of banks and other businesses have refused to do future business with the Trump organization after the unrest on Jan. 6.

New York has also pointed to a decision by the PGA of America to cancel a tournament that had been scheduled to be held at a Trump golf course in New Jersey.

The city said that Trump could no longer argue that he can attract prestigious tournaments to Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx as is required in the contract.

The Trump Organization argued in the lawsuit that the contract doesn’t require it to attract tournaments, only obliging it maintain a course that is “first-class, tournament quality.”

It attached letters from course designers, golf organizations, and famous golfers, including top-ranked players Dustin Johnson and U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, saying that the course met that standard.

The city has previously argued that the Trump Organization was being “overly restrictive” in its interpretation of the phrase “first-class, tournament quality,” saying it need only show that Trump is incapable of attracting tournaments for whatever reason.

Under the contract terms, New York City can terminate its deal with the Trump Organization at any time without cause but would be obligated to compensate the company for the money it invested in building a clubhouse on the course.

Trump’s son Eric, who lashed out at the city decision as a part of “cancel culture” earlier this year, has said the city and rate payers would be obligated to pay more than $30 million if the city withdraws, a figure cited again in the lawsuit.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 19:25

US Losing 1.2 Million Workers To Early Retirement

US Losing 1.2 Million Workers To Early Retirement

According to a brand new analysis from Goldman's economists, the US is on pace to experience a permanent loss of about 1.2 million workers from early retirement and reduced immigration. That's the bad news; the good news - according to Goldman - is that younger workers who have been reluctant to return to the workforce are still likely to do so once temporary disincentives to work disappear (most later this year).  As a result, Goldman is looking for the labor force participation rate to rise by 100bps over the next year-plus to 62.6% (if still 0.8% below the 63.4% pre-pandemic rate).

Why does this matter? Because while the labor market currently is a total shitshow due to Democrat policies that pay potential workers more to do nothing than to work, leading to a record 9.3 million job openings...

... and as a result there is a historic labor shortage, this is expected to change in September when extended unemployment benefits run out. That's why, consensus generally expects that the recovery in labor force participation will accelerate in the coming months as generous unemployment insurance benefits expire and other pandemic-related labor supply disincentives like school closures and health risk exposure fade away.

But looking beyond the near term - 6 or so months from now - should we expect a full recovery in the labor supply? That's what Goldman tries to answer in its latest economic note.

The vampire squid starts off by reminding us that in December, it warned about a surge in early retirements that was likely to be a lingering drag on the labor force participation rate (LFPR). Since then, the number of excess retirees - defined as the difference between the actual number of retirees and the number of retirees implied by the age-specific retirement rates observed in 2019 - has soared to 1.2 million, a 0.5% hit to the labor force participation rate in addition to the roughly 0.2% structural drag from population aging since the pandemic began.

Because most early retirements reflect permanent labor force exits, the labor force drag from early retirements will persist until it unwinds through fewer new retirements.

Some more details:

First, of the 2.7 million non-retiring workers who have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic (reflecting a 1.0% drag on the LFPR), 1.4 million say they don’t want a job now. However, many of these workers are aged 55+ (600k; a 0.2% drag) and are likely not working due to health concerns. In contrast, the share of prime-age and younger people who say they don’t want a job (a 0.3% drag) has increased only modestly and currently stands at mid-2019 levels (bottom chart, left).

Second, among those workers who have left the labor force but still want a job (1.2 million; a 0.5% drag), most haven’t searched recently (over 900k; a 0.4pp drag), suggesting that they are postponing their job search until UI benefits expire and pandemic-related disincentives fall away (right chart, below). This, just in case there are still idiots who think that Biden's generous claims aren't behind the collapse in labor supply. The good news - for now - is that very few fall into the discouraged worker category that might indicate more persistent scarring and pose a threat to a full labor market recovery. This is of course intuitive: it is hard to imagine large numbers of workers dropping out in despair over a lack of job opportunities, as happened after the financial crisis, in an environment in which jobs are so abundant. Then again, this unstable equilibrium will flip soon enough once benefits run out and there is surge in labor supply and a sharp drop in wages.

Looking beyond pandemic-driven changes in the labor force, Goldman sees scope for two tax policy changes to affect the labor supply of parents.

  • First, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) increased the Child Tax Credit (CTC), made it fully refundable, and removed its earned income-requirements for 2021 (chart below, left), and the upcoming fiscal package is expected to extend these changes through 2025. Prior academic research finds that the earned-income requirements of the CTC have had a significant impact on maternal labor supply, so removing these incentives could put downward pressure on female labor force participation. Although this effect will partially be offset by increased work incentives from the increased Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), earned income incentives will likely be reduced on net.
  • Second, the ARP also made the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) much more generous by allowing households to claim 50% of child care expenses up to $8k for one child and $16k for two or more children as a refundable tax credit (chart below, right). These changes could have large positive effects on maternal labor supply if they are extended beyond 2021.

Here, Goldman says that its best guess is that the labor supply incentives from the CTC and CDCTC roughly offset each other, with some potential for a rotation in female labor supply from lower-income households (who should be most affected by the changes to the CTC) to middle-income households (who should benefit most from the changes to the CDCTC). However, there are some risks in both directions, depending on the details and permanence of each potential tax change.

Overall, Goldman economists expect the Labor force participation rate to eventually rise from 61.6% now to a peak of 62.6% by the end of 2022, which however will still be 0.8% below the 63.4% pre-pandemic trend, with the gap in participation primarily reflecting early retirements and demographic shifts and other negative consequences resulting from Biden's fiscal policies. It may also explain why there has been a concerted push to cut the work week from 5 to 4 days.

In an amusing twist, Goldman "goes there" and writes that although immigration has only a small effect on the labor force participation rate (since it affects both the labor force and population), the bank expects the collapse in visa issuance during the pandemic (Exhibit 4) will reduce the labor force for the next few years. Quantified, GS economists expect that the drop in temporary worker visas currently is creating an effective labor force drag of 450k workers, although this hit will unwind through fewer expiring visas going forward. They also estimate that the drop in immigration visas has reduced the labor force by 300k through May, and since the loss in immigration in 2020 won’t be offset by higher immigration going forward, most of this drag will persist

Finally, the next chart shows Goldman's labor force forecast relative to the US demographic trend: here, Goldman continues to expect that most of the pandemic-driven exits will reverse in the coming months as pandemic- and policy-related obstacles to participation fade but that drags from early retirements and slower migration will keep the labor force over 1.2 million workers below trend by the end of 2022.

How and when that transitions to a full-blown socialist state - which is the aim of most progressive democrats - where the government pays tens of millions not to work with the funding coming courtesy of the intellectual fraud that is MMT (Magic Money Tree), remains unclear although it will likely require an even bigger shock than the covid pandemic. War with China may just suffice.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 19:05

The Higher Education Bubble Has Popped

The Higher Education Bubble Has Popped

Authored by Rikki Schlott via The Epoch Times,

The higher education bubble has been rapidly inflating, threatening to pop at any moment. Over the past several decades, our culture has tipped the scales from praising and valuing education to downright socially mandating it. As a result, enrollment has skyrocketed to levels never before seen.

While broadening access to higher education is, of course, an ideal to strive for, we’re doing a cultural disservice to young generations by stigmatizing alternative options such as trade school. Increasingly, students feel as though they must get a degree to get a halfway decent job—or even just for the sake of social acceptance.

As a result, more and more students are phoning it in with degrees in increasingly bizarre and niche fields. These curricula equip them with a handle on abstract theory rather than tangible professional skills. After all, how many scholars of gender studies are actually sustaining themselves outside of the higher-ed bubble?

The status quo, which posits that a college degree is a de facto necessity, has enabled the higher education bubble to inflate … and inflate … and inflate even more.

In the past 20 years, tuition at private universities has jumped by 144 percent, out-of-state public tuition by 165 percent, and in-state public costs by 212 percent.

That is until the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise—and especially blindsided the higher education establishment.

Suddenly, students were forced to attend Zoom University from home, and many schools were so out of touch that they charged their pupils full tuition for remote learning.

Simultaneously, discourse on campuses became more politically extreme, and dissenting students felt increasingly alienated by a heightening illiberalism. A 2020 survey (pdf), for instance, found that 62 percent of students agreed the climate on their campus prevents students from saying things they believe, a marked increase from 55 percent just the year before.

This was further compounded by the economic strain posed by the pandemic. Suddenly, students were forced to take a critical look at their educational paths and the inordinate investments and/or debts required to achieve their goals.

The conclusion was clear: Colleges are not and have not been serving their students. The higher education bubble has popped. College enrollment plummeted by a shocking 25 percent during the pandemic as students around the country delayed or halted their degree progress entirely.

COVID-19 was a catalyst for revealing a truth the higher education world was not ready to confront— and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s an important moment for society to take a stand to reframe and redefine what higher education should be.

Our culture must begin to renormalize and celebrate alternative routes, making college an option rather than a social and economic necessity. As such, colleges and universities will have no choice but to once again view students as the consumers that they actually are.

The pandemic has proven to be a refreshing application of market pressure to higher education, which could have the effect of restoring academia to its ideals of open inquiry, free speech, and colorful debate. A college degree should be attained in the pursuit of truth, not status.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 18:45

China To Keep COVID Border Restrictions For At Least Another Year

China To Keep COVID Border Restrictions For At Least Another Year

As Beijing contends with a COVID outbreak in Guangdong that has spread to an important manufacturing hub while exacerbating issues at a port in Shenzen, WSJ reports that Chinese officials are preparing to keep their pandemic border restrictions in place for at least another year as officials scramble to suppress mutant strains like the "Delta" variant.

A provisional timeline that would see restrictions lifted during the second half of next year was reportedly set during a mid-May meeting of the State Council, Beijing's equivalent of the president's cabinet. The meeting was also attended by officials from the Foreign Ministry as well as China's National Health Commission, among other departments.

As WSJ explains, the new cautious attitude is being drive by a pair of extremely sensitive upcoming events: China will host the winter Olympics in February. Later, a once-in-a-decade transition of power within the CCP is set for November. The Party Congress is expected to culminate with President Xi Jinping securing a third term in office as he prepares to extend his rule over the world's largest country beyond the customary two terms.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak first erupted in Wuhan in late 2019, China has taken heavy handed measures to stamp out the virus that are still on display today in the areas where COVID lockdowns are in effect. By restricting visas to those who have already been vaccinated and maintaining quarantine requirements of 14 days for all visitors upon arrival, China's health officials have successfully combated imported cases.

As the pandemic worsened, Beijing - which once criticized President Trump's travel restrictions - became one of the most fastidious countries pertaining to its border controls. Beijing has been accelerating its vaccine rollout, and economists at Goldman Sachs expect 80% of Chinese adults to be fully vaccinated by the fall.

At this point, Beijing would likely relax travel restrictions for countries with high vaccination rates, with countries that recognize Chinese vaccines likely seeing first priority.

It's expected that once China does ease restrictions, travel between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau would be the first to see restrictions lifted. Both Hong Kong and Macau haven't reported any new infections in weeks. China's biggest flareup is currently centered in the southern province of Guangdong, which isn't far from the two special administrative regions.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 18:25

Greenwald: A Court Ruled Rachel Maddow's Viewers Know She Offers Exaggeration And Opinion, Not Facts

Greenwald: A Court Ruled Rachel Maddow's Viewers Know She Offers Exaggeration And Opinion, Not Facts

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com,

MSNBC's top-rated host Rachel Maddow devoted a segment in 2019 to accusing the right-wing cable outlet One America News (OAN) of being a paid propaganda outlet for the Kremlin. Discussing a Daily Beast article which noted that one OAN reporter was a "Russian national” who was simultaneously writing copy for the Russian-owned outlet Sputnik on a freelance contract, Maddow escalated the allegation greatly into a broad claim about OAN's real identity and purpose: “in this case,” she announced, “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on her program that a court ruled is understood even by her own viewers to offer exaggeration and opinion, not facts

In response, OAN sued Maddow, MSNBC, and its parent corporation Comcast, Inc. for defamation, alleging that it was demonstrably false that the network, in Maddow's words, “literally is paid Russian propaganda." In an oddly overlooked ruling, an Obama-appointed federal judge, Cynthia Bashant, dismissed the lawsuit on the ground that even Maddow's own audience understands that her show consists of exaggeration, hyperbole, and pure opinion, and therefore would not assume that such outlandish accusations are factually true even when she uses the language of certainty and truth when presenting them (“literally is paid Russian propaganda").

In concluding that Maddow's statement would be understood even by her own viewers as non-factual, the judge emphasized that what Maddow does in general is not present news but rather hyperbole and exploitation of actual news to serve her liberal activism:

On one hand, a viewer who watches news channels tunes in for facts and the goings-on of the world. MSNBC indeed produces news, but this point must be juxtaposed with the fact that Maddow made the allegedly defamatory statement on her own talk show news segment where she is invited and encouraged to share her opinions with her viewers. Maddow does not keep her political views a secret, and therefore, audiences could expect her to use subjective language that comports with her political opinions.

Thus, Maddow’s show is different than a typical news segment where anchors inform viewers about the daily news. The point of Maddow’s show is for her to provide the news but also to offer her opinions as to that news. Therefore, the Court finds that the medium of the alleged defamatory statement makes it more likely that a reasonable viewer would not conclude that the contested statement implies an assertion of objective fact.

The judge's observations about the specific segment at issue — in which Maddow accused a competitor of being “literally paid Russian propaganda" — was even more damning. Maddow's own viewers, ruled the court, not only expect but desire that she will not provide the news in factual form but will exaggerate and even distort reality in order to shape her opinion-driven analysis (emphasis added):

Viewers expect her to do so, as it is indeed her show, and viewers watch the segment with the understanding that it will contain Maddow’s “personal and subjective views” about the news. See id. Thus, the Court finds that as a part of the totality of the circumstances, the broad context weighs in favor of a finding that the alleged defamatory statement is Maddow’s opinion and exaggeration of the Daily Beast article, and that reasonable viewers would not take the statement as factual. . . .

Here, Maddow had inserted her own colorful commentary into and throughout the segment, laughing, expressing her dismay (i.e., saying “I mean, what?”) and calling the segment a “sparkly story” and one we must “take in stride.” For her to exaggerate the facts and call OAN Russian propaganda was consistent with her tone up to that point, and the Court finds a reasonable viewer would not take the statement as factual given this context. The context of Maddow’s statement shows reasonable viewers would consider the contested statement to be her opinion. A reasonable viewer would not actually think OAN is paid Russian propaganda, instead, he or she would follow the facts of the Daily Beast article; that OAN and Sputnik share a reporter and both pay this reporter to write articles. Anything beyond this is Maddow’s opinion or her exaggeration of the facts.

In sum, ruled the court, Rachel Maddow is among those “speakers whose statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of fact.” Despite Maddow's use of the word "literally” to accuse OAN of being a "paid Russian propaganda” outlet, the court dismissed the lawsuit on the ground that, given Maddow's conduct and her audience's awareness of who she is and what she does, “the Court finds that the contested statement is an opinion that cannot serve as the basis for a defamation claim."

What makes this particularly notable and ironic is that a similar argument was made a year later by lawyers for Fox News when defending a segment that appeared on the program of its highest-rated program, Tucker Carlson Tonight. That was part of a lawsuit brought by the former model Karen McDougal, who claimed Carlson slandered her by saying she “extorted” former President Trump by demanding payments in exchange for her silence about an extramarital affair she claimed to have with him.

McDougal's lawsuit was dismissed in September, 2020, by Trump-appointed judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, based on arguments made by Fox's lawyers that were virtually identical to those made by MSNBC's lawyers when defending Maddow. In particular, the court accepted Fox's arguments that when Carlson used the word “extortion,” he meant it in a colloquial and dramatic sense, and that his viewers would have understood that he was not literally accusing her of a crime but rather offering his own subjective characterizations and opinions, particularly since viewers understand that Carlson offers political commentary:

Fox News first argues that, viewed in context, Mr. Carlson cannot be understood to have been stating facts, but instead that he was delivering an opinion using hyperbole for effect. See Def. Br. at 12-15. Fox News cites to a litany of cases which hold that accusing a person of “extortion” or “blackmail” simply is “rhetorical hyperbole,” incapable of being defamatory. . . .

In particular, accusations of “extortion,” “blackmail,” and related crimes, such as the statements Mr. Carlson made here, are often construed as merely rhetorical hyperbole when they are not accompanied by additional specifics of the actions purportedly constituting the crime. . . . Such accusations of crimes also are unlikely to be defamatory when, as here, they are made in connection with debates on a matter of public or political importance. . . . The context in which the offending statements were made here make it abundantly clear that Mr. Carlson was not accusing Ms. McDougal of actually committing a crime. As a result, his statements are not actionable.

When discussing Carlson's show generally and how viewers understand it, the court used language extremely similar to that invoked to protect Maddow from defamation lawsuits: namely, that Fox viewers understand that Carlson is, in addition to presenting news, offering his own subjective analysis of it:

In light of this precedent and the context of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the Court finds that Mr. Carlson’s invocation of “extortion” against Ms. McDougal is nonactionable hyperbole, intended to frame the debate in the guest commentator segment that followed Mr. Carlson’s soliloquy. As Defendant notes, Mr. Carlson himself aims to “challenge[] political correctness and media bias.” Def. Br. at 14. This “general tenor” of the show should then inform a viewer that he is not “stating actual facts” about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary.”

Fox News has convincingly argued that Mr. Carlson was motivated to speak about a timely political cause and that, in this context, it is clear that his charge of “extortion” should not be interpreted as an accusation of an actual crime. Plaintiff’s interpretation of Mr. Carlson’s accusations is strained and, the Court finds, not reasonable when the entire segment is viewed in context. It is true that Mr. Carlson added color to his unsubstantiated rhetorical claim of extortion when he narrated that Ms. McDougal “approached” Mr. Trump and threatened his career and family. See Am. Compl. ¶ 10. But this overheated rhetoric is precisely the kind of pitched commentary that one expects when tuning in to talk shows like Tucker Carlson Tonight, with pundits debating the latest political controversies.

This is worth noting because of how often, and how dishonestly, this court case regarding Carlson is cited to claim that even Fox itself admits that its host is a liar who cannot be trusted. This court ruling has become a very common argument used by liberals to claim that even Fox acknowledges that Carlson lies. Indeed, Maddow's own colleague Chris Hayes — whose MSNBC program is broadcast at the same time as Carlson's and routinely attracts less than 1/3 of the Fox host's audience — has repeatedly cited this court case to argue that even Fox admits Carlson is a liar, without bothering to note that his companies’ lawyers made exactly the same claims about his mentor, Rachel Maddow, to defend her from a defamation lawsuit:

This claim — even Fox admits that Carlson is a liar who cannot be believed! — has become such a common trope among liberals that it is impossible to count how many times I have heard it. And that is because the liberal sector of the corporate media blared this claim in headlines over and over after the lawsuit against Fox was dismissed.

It is virtually impossible to find similar headlines about Maddow even though the judicial rationale justifying dismissal of the lawsuit against her was virtually identical to the one used in Carlson's case. Indeed, lawyers for MSNBC and Fox cited most of the same legal precedent to defend their stars and to insist that their statements could not be actionable as defamation because viewers understood it as opinion rather than fact.

I personally agree with the rationale cited in both cases: it becomes dangerous when defamation claims are used to punish or otherwise forbid the expression of political opinion. And of course it is the job of lawyers to mount every possible argument when defending a client, which is why both MSNBC and Fox's lawyers essentially insisted that viewers of these programs understand that they are not being presented with objective truth and neutral news but political and subjective commentary. That is what made these widespread attempts to weaponize the ruling in Carlson's case so preposterous.

Indeed, it was Maddow's statement — that OAN is "literally paid Russian propaganda”— that seems far more actionable than Carlson's obviously figurative assertion that McDougal was "extorting” Trump. Falsely accusing people of being paid Kremlin agents has a long and ugly history in the U.S., having destroyed reputations and careers, yet this smear has once again become utterly commonplace in Democratic Party politics (a protracted and ugly feud among liberal commentators was initiated earlier this month when The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur baselessly and falsely claimed that journalist Aaron Maté was "paid by the Russians”).

But whatever else is true, those who want to claim that this court ruling proves Carlson is a lying propagandist who cannot be trusted have no way out of applying the same claim to Maddow. In both cases, it would be unfair and irrational to use these court rulings to suggest that, given that the arguments made were standard ones lawyers advance to defend a defamation defendant. Ironically, those most guilty of being unreliable liars and propagandists are those in the media and even Maddow's own MSNBC colleagues who repeatedly cite this court ruling to delegitimize Carlson without ever mentioning that Maddow’s lawyers successfully used the same arguments in her defense.

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Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 18:05

"I'll Inject It Into Your Butt" - Philippines President Duterte Threatens Jail For Vaccine Deniers

"I'll Inject It Into Your Butt" - Philippines President Duterte Threatens Jail For Vaccine Deniers

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has been angered lately for his country's low vaccination rate and threatened jail for people who refused to get vaxxed up against COVID-19, according to PNA news agency

“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested [and] then I’ll inject a vaccine into your buttocks, "Duterte told the nation on a Monday television address after reports of low turnouts at several vaccination sites in the capital Manila.

He continued: "If you don't want to get vaccinated, leave the Philippines... Go to India if you want, or somewhere to America. But for as long as you are here and you are a human being and can carry the virus, you should get vaccinated."

Duterte demanded the government identify those who refuse to get vaccinated. "I will order their arrest, to be honest," he said.

Duterte's straightforward comments come as low turnout at several vaccination locations across Manila was observed on Monday. 

As of Sunday, the Philippines had 2.1 million people fully vaccinated - with ambitious goals of immunizing 70 million people by the end of the year, in a country of about 110 million. 

Besides jail, Duterte could take a softer approach and follow the route the US government took to increase vaccinations by offering lottery tickets, monetary prizes, trucks, guns, food, and all sorts of other goodies to entice people to get vaccinated. 

However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra countered Duterte's remarks and said in a statement there's no law forcing citizens to get vaccinated. 

Later this month, the Philippines is expecting donated shots from the US to arrive. 

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 17:45

White Illinois Farmers Sue Over Race-Based Farm Loan Relief Program

White Illinois Farmers Sue Over Race-Based Farm Loan Relief Program

Authored by Matthew Vadum via The Epoch Times,

White Illinois farmers are challenging part of the recent COVID-19 stimulus law in court because it allocates federal benefits based on skin color.

The civil rights suit, Kent v. Vilsack, was filed in federal court June 7 by Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a national public-interest law firm. Tom Vilsack is being sued in his official capacity as U.S. secretary of agriculture. The firm has filed two other such lawsuits against Vilsack and expects to file more.

One of the plaintiffs, Ryan Kent of Centralia, Illinois, is a white man who grows soybeans, wheat, and corn on a 5,000-acre farm started by his father. The other plaintiffs are brothers—Matthew and Joshua Morton—of Kell, Illinois, who are also white. They also grow soybeans, wheat, and corn on their farm. Like many farmers, all three have been hurt by the pandemic and have a federal farm loan with an outstanding balance.

In Kent’s situation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved his $90,000 loan in 2010 so he could buy an additional 77 acres for his farming operations. Today, he still owes $43,000—a debt that siphons away a significant portion of his monthly income and, in an industry with low profit margins in normal times, has led to economic hardship for his family during the ongoing pandemic.

But then Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law on March 11.

The statute authorizes the federal government to distribute $1.9 trillion in federal funds. Section 1005 of the act directs the secretary to pay up to 120 percent of the outstanding indebtedness of each socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher as of Jan. 1 of this year. Plaintiffs say the program violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, which requires the U.S. government to practice equal protection.

Section 1005 “assumes farmers and ranchers are socially disadvantaged for no other reason than their membership in a racial group,” and “categorically excludes other farmers and ranchers from loan assistance because they do not belong in a ‘socially disadvantaged racial group,’” according to the legal complaint.

Farmers and ranchers who are Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander are eligible for loan assistance, regardless of whether they have suffered any racial discrimination in obtaining farm loans, farming, or elsewhere and regardless of their present economic circumstances. Farmers and ranchers who are white are ineligible for loan assistance, regardless of their individual circumstances.”

USDA officials estimate 17,000 farmers of color qualify for the loan forgiveness.

PLF attorney Glenn Roper told The Epoch Times in an interview that the program, which he described as “racially discriminatory,” is unconstitutional.

On the customer data worksheet that you fill out with the USDA, it lists five different races and ethnicities. I think all of them are considered socially disadvantaged under this law, except for if you check the ‘white’ box.

Filing the lawsuit was the right thing to do, Roper said.

“I think it’s important to help establish this principle that the government should not be involved in drawing distinctions on the basis of race. If they want to give all farmers the aid, they can do that, but they can’t say people of a certain ethnic background aren’t allowed to qualify,” he said.

“Whether or not it’s good policy to give taxpayer funds to all the farmers, that’s one thing. But we would not have the same constitutional objection to that kind of a law.”

Kent is “not looking for a handout,” Roper said. “He took these loans with the intent to pay them back. It’s just the inequality and unfairness of forgiving them for one group of his competitors, just because of their race.”

In a similar lawsuit, Faust v. Vilsack, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach of Green Bay, Wisconsin, issued a temporary restraining order against the USDA program on June 10.

“Plaintiffs are excluded from the program based on their race and are thus experiencing discrimination at the hands of their government,” Griesbach wrote.

“Congress can implement race-neutral programs to help farmers and ranchers in need of financial assistance, such as requiring individual determinations of disadvantaged status or giving priority to loans of farmers and ranchers that were left out of the previous pandemic relief funding.

“It can also provide better outreach, education, and other resources. But it cannot discriminate on the basis of race.”

Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which represents the plaintiffs, said the court “recognized that the federal government’s plan to condition and allocate benefits on the basis of race raises grave constitutional concerns and threatens our clients with irreparable harm.”

“The Biden administration is radically undermining bedrock principles of equality under the law. We look forward to continuing this litigation but urge the administration to change course now.”

Roper described the ruling in Faust v. Vilsack as a “great decision.”

“We actually attached it as supplemental authority in one of our farm cases,” he said.

The USDA press office didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 17:25

With Its Power Grid On The Verge Of Failure, California Begs Residents To Change Their EV Charging Routines

With Its Power Grid On The Verge Of Failure, California Begs Residents To Change Their EV Charging Routines

It appears as though California's plans to become an environmental and socialist utopia are running face first into reality.

The latest dose of reality came this week when the state, facing triple digit temperatures, began to "fret" about pressure on the state's power grid as a result of everybody charging their electric vehicles all at once.

The state's power grid operators have been telling residents to "relieve pressure" from the grid by charging their EVs at off-peak hours, Newsweek wrote

Twice last week the California Independent System Operator (ISO) told residents to conserve energy voluntarily, including asking to charge their EVs at certain off-peak times. The ISO also suggested "avoiding use of large appliances and turning off extra lights," the report says. 

The state's Flex Alert Twitter account posted on June 18: "Now is the perfect time to do a load of laundry. Remember to use major appliances, charge cars and devices before #FlexAlert begins at 6 p.m. today."

Despite the fact that the state seems hell bent on converting all of its residents to EVs, Patty Monahan, the lead commissioner on transportation at the California Energy Commission, said that when residents choose to charge their vehicles will be important "in keeping the power grid balanced".

"Charging behaviors matter when it comes to California grid goals," she said. "By incentivizing, primarily through rates, charging behaviors that capitalize on when renewable energy is being generated—we basically have a win for the grid, and we have a win for the drivers in terms of reduced rates. Rates are a climate strategy, and California plans on using rates to help drive the charging behaviors that are going to help the state electrify transportation while cutting carbon from the grid and saving ratepayers and drivers money."

Matthew Moniot, a researcher with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said that most drivers who charge at night "will have to change" their routines: "If you look at aggregate load across the grid, it tends to spike in the evening hours whenever people come home." He called it a "tricky problem" that relies on "how much can we move what's currently overnight charging to be during the daytime hours, when generation may be more excessive."

 

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 17:05

On The Mean Streets Of America, The Gun Battles Never Seem To End...

On The Mean Streets Of America, The Gun Battles Never Seem To End...

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Did you know that 296 mass shootings have happened in the United States this year?  Needless to say, the vast majority of the mass shootings are taking place in our core urban areas, and at this point many of our largest cities are becoming open war zones.  We desperately need more law enforcement officers on the streets, and as I wrote about yesterday, even some of our most liberal cities are now racing to “re-fund” the police.  Crime rates spiked dramatically all over the nation in 2020, and they are skyrocketing even higher in 2021. 

But if you think that things have been bad so far, just wait, because we are being warned that “a bloody summer” is on the way…

“The spike in homicides and nonfatal shootings is extremely alarming,” said Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, who recently left the Houston Police Department and leads the Major Cities Chiefs Association, an organization of law enforcement executives. “One of the reasons we talk about a bloody summer ahead for our country is because it’s already been a very bloody year, a very deadly year for Americans.”

There is usually more violent crime when the weather is warmer, and we have definitely seen that so far here in the month of June.

Mass shootings are considered to be incidents in which at least four people are wounded, and during this past weekend we witnessed mass shootings in New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas and California.

They are happening with such frequency now that each one barely makes a blip in the news before the next one happens.

To me, the most disturbing incident during the weekend took place in Chicago

And in another deadly shooting in the city on Saturday night, two individuals were attacked by a group of men after a crash took place at Humboldt Park, prompting a large crowd to surround Gyovanny Arzuaga’s vehicle.

He and his girlfriend, Yasmin Perez, were attending a Puerto Rican People’s Day parade in the park, Newsweek reported, when a group of two or three gunmen ambushed them and opened fire.

A video of the incident, posted to Twitter, purportedly shows Arzuaga surrounded by a group of men, who leave him lying unresponsive on the ground.

Words cannot really convey the true horror of that attack.  If you have not seen the video footage yet, you can watch it right here.

When I first watched it, I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

There has always been violence in our streets, but nothing like this.

What in the world is happening to our country?

Overall, the number of shootings in the city of Chicago is up 18 percent so far this year.

I know that sounds bad, but other major cities are seeing much larger spikes.

In Philadelphia, the number of shootings is up 27 percent so far this year.

It is supposed to be “the city of brotherly love”, but it is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous places in America.

In Atlanta, the number of shootings is up 40 percent so far this year.

But at least the Hawks are doing well, right?

In Los Angeles, the number of shootings is up 51 percent so far this year.

Crime is now the number one political issue in the L.A. area, and even tourist areas such as Venice Beach are being totally trashed.

In New York City, the number of shootings is up 64 percent so far this year.

As I discussed yesterday, in the Big Apple running gun battles even happen during broad daylight these days.

In Minneapolis, the number of shootings is up 90 percent so far this year.

I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis growing up, because I have a lot of relatives in the area.  I can’t believe how far that once beautiful city has now fallen.

But there is one major city that even has Minneapolis beat.

In Portland, the number of shootings is up 126 percent so far this year.

Everywhere you look, there is chaos and violence, and what we have been through so far is just the beginning.

It is almost as if a significant percentage of the population has gone completely and totally nuts over the past couple of years.  In this sort of an environment, you never know what some crazy person might do.  Here is just one example

A Bel Air homeowner is in shock after coming face to face with a violent naked man who broke into his house and killed the family pets.

Mat Sabz was home alone Thursday afternoon when his wife called to tell him that security cameras showed a naked man breaking into their home.

You have got to be really sick to want to kill somebody’s pets.

Sadly, right now there are vast numbers of really sick people running around out there, and many of them would kill you and your family without even thinking twice about it.

Up to this point in 2021, a total of 20,729 Americans have died as a result of gun violence, and by the time most of you read this article that number will inevitably be even higher.

Ironically, many of the cities that have the strictest gun laws also have some of the highest murder rates.

In Chicago, the number of gang members is more than ten times greater than the number of law enforcement officers, and that is causing enormous problems.  The politicians can pass as many laws as they want, but violent criminals are going to remain heavily armed and they are going to retain the upper hand for the foreseeable future.

Of course Chicago is far from alone.  Violent criminals are gaining the upper hand in communities all over the country, and meanwhile police officers are resigning in record numbers from coast to coast after being relentlessly demonized by the mainstream media for months on end.

Our society really is coming apart at the seams all around us.

Unfortunately, most Americans still do not understand what is happening.  Most Americans still assume that things will eventually “return to normal”, but a “return to normal” is simply not in the cards.

*  *  *

Michael’s new book entitled “Lost Prophecies Of The Future Of America” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 16:45

WTI Rebounds Back Above $73 After Bigger Than Expected Crude Draw

WTI Rebounds Back Above $73 After Bigger Than Expected Crude Draw

Oil retreated on the day after Brent topped $75/bbl in London for the first time in over two years, as Russia and other OPEC+ nations were said to consider increasing production.

"Just the rumors that OPEC+ will consider adding additional production is enough to pull us back from the $75 mark," said Gary Cunningham, director of market research at Tradition Energy.

On the positive side - for crude - negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal remain on pause after hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi won the country's presidential election.

Crude stocks were expected to fall for the 5th week in a row (and gasoline stocks to rise for the 4th straight week).

API

  • Crude -7.199mm (-6.3mm exp)

  • Cushing -2.55mm

  • Gasoline +959k (+1.3mm exp)

  • Distillates +992k (+1mm exp)

Crude stocks fell more than expected (down 7.199mm barrels) for the 5th straight week...

Source: Bloomberg

"There's a lot of people talking about $100 crude and that's driving the market," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho, as WTI hovered around $72.80 ahead of the API print, jumping back above $73 after...

"(Because) of tight physical markets and healthy demand perceptions, the risk remains skewed to the upside," oil brokerage PVM said.

Finally, we note that gas prices (at the pump) are higher now that at any time during the Trump administration, directly benefiting Russia. And seasonally, this is the highest price (over $3 a gallon) for gas for this time of year since 2014...

Source: Bloomberg

The global supply deficit and further spikes in oil prices could loosen the lid that the U.S. shale industry has kept on their production and Saudi Arabia will want to avoid giving producers a reason to bring wells online, according to Tariq Zahir, managing member of the global macro program at Tyche Capital Advisors LLC. “They don’t want to see shale come back quickly.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 16:37

MAGA Branded 'White Supremacy' In Leaked CRT Training For Iowa Teachers

MAGA Branded 'White Supremacy' In Leaked CRT Training For Iowa Teachers

Mandatory Critical Race Theory (CRT) training materials for one of Iowa's largest school districts classifies "Make America Great Again" as a form of 'white supremacy,' according to leaked documents obtained by Turning Point USA's Benny Johnson.

Also listed as examples of white supremacy (both 'overt' and 'covert') are; Columbus Day, American immigration law, the belief that America is "post racial," and mass incarceration. Johnson reports that hundreds of educators have been forced to to participate in the training, which will be taught to children across the district next semester.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 16:20

Stocks & Bonds Jump As Powell Pontificates, Cryptos Dump'n'Pump

Stocks & Bonds Jump As Powell Pontificates, Cryptos Dump'n'Pump

US equity markets extended yesterday's rational exuberance, accelerating higher as Powell faced Congressional hearings and promised 'to the moon' for everything (actually he pretty much said nothing...which is exactly what the market was hoping for). Interestingly, the moment Powell's hearing ended, some selling arrived. Nasdaq outperformed on the day and the Dow lagged...

For context, here is the market's performance since the FOMC statement hit last week. The Nasdaq is the leader with Dow and Small Caps underwater and S&P holding modest gains...

Another day, another well-engineered short-squeeze rescues the world...

Source: Bloomberg

Value stocks have recovered all of Bullard's bearish battering...

Source: Bloomberg

Microsoft broke above the $2 trillion market cap...

Source: Bloomberg

But the big headlines were in crypto markets where the world and their pet rabbit proclaimed the death of bitcoin for the 1 millionth time after more "China crackdown" headlines sent cryptos crashing... but by the close it was back in the green for the day having bounced off 'unch' for 2021...

Source: Bloomberg

Ethereum followed a similar dump'n'pump path...

Source: Bloomberg

Most of the 'bitcoin proxy' stocks saw a very similar pattern, but MSTR remained notably lower on the day...

Source: Bloomberg

Bonds were bid across the curve with the belly outperforming (5Y -3bps, 2Y -2bps, 30Y -1bps). From the FOMC, 30Y is still -8bps and 5Y +8bps...

Source: Bloomberg

Despite equity gains, 10Y Yields tested up to 1.50% (the pre-FOMC line in the sand) but were unable to hold it...

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar gave back some more of its FOMC/Bullard-Bomb gains...

Source: Bloomberg

Copper made a comeback today after some recent pain as crude and PMs faded modestly despite a weaker dollar...

Source: Bloomberg

But some context is required for Dr.Copper's "rebound"...

Finally, despite all the dovishness, the market's expectation for the first Fed rate-hike remains solidly priced in for 2022...

Source: Bloomberg

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 16:00

"Out Of Order!" Colorado Mayor Bans Pledge Of Allegiance, Then Snaps At Meeting Attendees Who Recite It Anyway

"Out Of Order!" Colorado Mayor Bans Pledge Of Allegiance, Then Snaps At Meeting Attendees Who Recite It Anyway

The Mayor of Silverton, Colorado snapped at attendees of a trustee meeting recited the Pledge of Allegiance in defiance of his announcement last week that it would no longer be allowed at the start of meetings due to "direct and indirect threats, inappropriate comments in and out of public meetings, and the general divisiveness this is creating in our community."

"We already discussed this as a board, and any other unilateral decisions we need to know about?" asked Silverton Trustee Molly Barela, to which Fuhrman replied: "If you’d like to find somewhere in the code, something that doesn’t permit me to do this, then I welcome that discussion at our next meetings."

"Out of order!" exclaimed Mayor Shane Fuhrman (who just took his website offline) after one of the trustees challenged his "unilateral" decision, according to a video posted by CBS Denver (which cuts out before the actual Pledge of Allegiance, for reasons we can only imagine).

Watch the pledge and Fuhrman's reaction below:

Fox31 reached out to Barela regarding the incident, who responded with the following statement:

“Back in April 2020 when the newest board members were seated the mayor brought it up that he didn’t want to do the Pledge of Allegiance anymore because it’s not really a thing, it was a 4/3 vote that we continue to do it. By going back to in person meetings it changes the dynamic compared to what was happening on zoom. While on zoom the three individuals who chose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance would just turn off their cameras now that we’ve gone back to in person meetings members of the general population especially those who are veterans have been questioning why would you run for office and take an oath to uphold the laws of the United States of America the state of Colorado and the town of Silverton if you won’t stand for the pledge. Members of the public have told them that they should be ashamed of themselves. I personally didn’t like his unilateral decision, when we as a collective group had already decided over a year ago to continue to do the pledge, I don’t know if it was premeditated to have it done on Flag Day, which we all know that was declared June 14, 1777 by the second continental Congress, now mayor Shane Fuhrman has made this first amendment right issue. To tell members of the public they are not allowed to say the Pledge of Allegiance during public comment and threaten to have them removed that it was a one strike in you’re out policy violates every single one of their first amendment rights.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 15:40

Department Of Labor Proposes Change To Tipping Rules

Department Of Labor Proposes Change To Tipping Rules

By Heather Lalley of Restaurant Business,

The U.S. Department of Labor on Monday announced a proposed change to the tip credit which would limit the amount of non-tip producing work an employee can perform.

Under the proposed rule change, an employer can only claim the tip credit when workers do tasks that are part of their tipped job.

But if a worker is doing tasks that support “tip-producing work for a substantial amount of time,” defined as more than 20% of all hours worked or 30 straight minutes, that employee is no longer doing a job that’s part of a tipped occupation, the DOL said.

“Having considered the dual jobs portion, the Department now believes that the 2020 Tip final rule may fall short of providing the intended clarity and certainty for employers could harm tipped employees and non-tipped employees in industries that employ significant numbers of tipped workers.”

Work that directly supports the job of a restaurant server would include folding napkins, preparing silverware and garnishing plates, the DOL said. Sweeping under tables, for example, would only support tipped work if it was done in the dining room, the agency noted.

The public can comment on the proposed rule change until August 23.

The 80/20 guidance has had a bumpy history. The DOL rescinded it in 2018, issuing new subregulatory guidance that allowed employers to take the tip credit in many instances in which a tipped worker performed non-tipped duties.

At the end of 2020, the DOL published the 2020 Tip final rule. A couple of months later, the agency came out with a ruling that extended the effective date of the 2020 rule from March 1 until April 30, to allow further review. That delay gave the DOL time to reconsider the 80/20 ruling, it said in its filing.

Under the current rules, tipped employees can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour while the employer claims a credit against the tips earned by the employee to make up the rest of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

All but seven states permit employers to take a tip credit.

Labor advocates have argued for the abolition of the tip credit, noting that it is an antiquated practice that dates to the 19th century when it was created to make jobs for Civil War soldiers and former slaves.

“Tipped workers are among those who continue to be hardest hit as we emerge from the pandemic, and the Wage and Hour Division continues to prioritize protecting these essential front-line workers,” Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator for that division, said in a statement. “This proposed rule provides more clarity and certainty for employers while better protecting workers. It helps ensure that tipped workers are treated with dignity and respect, and that they receive wages appropriate for the work they perform.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 15:28

America's Largest Landlord Just Got Bigger: Blackstone Buys 17,000 Houses For $6 Billion

America's Largest Landlord Just Got Bigger: Blackstone Buys 17,000 Houses For $6 Billion

Wall Street won't rest until it become the biggest - and perhaps only - landlord in the US.

At least that's the impression one gets by observing the behavior of the two Wall Street "black" giants, Blackrock and Blackstone. As a reminder, the WSJ sparked widespread outrage recently when it exposed what most industry insiders had known for a long time, namely that Blackrock (and other institutional investors) have been ravenously gobbling up US real estate. Now it's Blackstone's turn.

On Tuesday, the WSJ reported that Blackstone - which already is not only America's largest landlord but also the world's largest real estate company with a $325 billion portfolio - has agreed to buy single-family rental company Home Partners of America for $6 billion, betting the demand for suburban housing will stay hot even as the pandemic eases. Home Partners owns more than 17,000 houses in the United States; the company buys, rents out and eventually offers its tenants a chance to buy them. Now all those functions will be done by the largest US private equity firm.

Single-family rentals have been a favorite institutional bet over the past year, as real estate investors have sought new places to invest during a pandemic that kept Americans away from offices, hotels and malls. The result, as the WSJ reported, has been a frenzy among 200 companies and investment firms who have entered the house hunt: computer-assisted flipper Opendoor Technologies, money managers including J.P. Morgan and BlackRock, platforms such as Fundrise and Roofstock that buy and arrange for the management of rentals on behalf of individuals and builder LGI Homes Inc., which now reports wholesale home sales to bulk buyers in its quarterly results.

At the same time, remote work and school created strong demand for suburban homes by buyers and renters alike, pushing prices up and inventory down.

“Clearly the tenant demand is still robust, and that’s driving significant cash flow increases at the property level,” said Jeff Langbaum, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Smart people with smart money want to get a piece of that.”

Not so smart people with dumb money also want a piece of that.

Unlike BlackRock which is a relatively recent entrant into the US housing market, Blackstone - which built Invitation Homes - into the largest single-family landlord following the U.S. foreclosure crisis, has rekindled its interest. Last August, it led a group of investors that acquired a minority stake in Toronto-based Tricon Residential Inc., which owns and operates more than 31,000 homes and apartments.

As Bloomberg notes, there may also be a case of sellers regret. The company exited its stake in Invitation Homes in 2019, selling the last of its position at $30.10 per share. Blackstone made about $7 billion on its stake in Invitation, more than doubling its money, Bloomberg reported at the time. But shares in the company have increased by 25% since then.

So now it's time for Blackstone to easily double its money again, once again courtesy of the Fed's ultra easy money which grants the likes of Blackstone virtually unlimited funds, even as most Americans struggle to pay off their 20% APR credit cards.

The flood of investor capital comes as low inventory pushes prices higher at the fastest pace ever, and tenants opt for rental houses over apartments. Moments ago, the NAR reported that the median existing home sale price hit a record $350,000, up 24% in the past year.

.... while sales of houses in the $1 million price range are up 245%.

Invitation Homes posted an occupancy rate of more than 98% in the first quarter, allowing the industry giant to increase rents on new leases at a record rate.

Rising rents and low inventory have also made single-family landlords a target across the political spectrum.

Recently, book author J.D. Vance started a firestorm on Twitter by arguing that Wall Street investors were making it hard for regular Americans to buy homes... and spoiler alert: he's right - although it's hardly new, and is something we have been saying since 2013 when we first profiled Wall Street as America's New Landlord: 

In 2019, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren blasted Blackstone for “shamelessly” profiting from the U.S. foreclosure crisis, arguing that Wall Street’s investment in single-family homes was a “huge loss for America’s renters.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 15:10

Manchin Flips To Unify Dems But Election Reform Bill Debate Vote Will Fall Short Amid GOP Block

Manchin Flips To Unify Dems But Election Reform Bill Debate Vote Will Fall Short Amid GOP Block

In a move that is nothing but symbolic, moderate Democrat Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has agreed to vote with all his fellow Senate Democrats to move ahead and debate the controversial Democrat-sponsored elections reform bill.

The Hill reports that Manchin said Tuesday that he will vote in favor of advancing a sweeping election bill, after striking a deal with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on a compromise proposal.

"We worked it out," Schumer told reporters.

In exchange for voting "yes" on Tuesday, Schumer said that if Democrats are able to advance to floor debate on the bill -- something they won't be able to do because of across-the-board Republican opposition -- he will give Manchin a vote on his proposal as an amendment.

“Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support. I’ve found common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure," Manchin said in a statement.

"Today I will vote ‘YES’ to move to debate this updated voting legislation as a substitute amendment to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and participate in our great democracy," he added.

Under the deal, Manchin will provide the 50th Democratic vote on advancing the For the People Act later Tuesday.

However, the vote - expected later Tuesday evening - is still expected to fall well short of the 60 votes required to move ahead as the GOP seems just as united to vote against the "reforms".

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Democrats had long been pushing the measure in a bid to take over the administration of elections from states and potentially tilt outcomes in their favor.

“It’s always been a plan to rewrite the ground rules of American politics,” he said.

As a reminder, here is what Manchin wrote earlier in the month in an oped:

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For The People Act," adding that, “The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,” he wrote.

It seem Schumer had enough 'muck' on Manchin to get him to break from these principles after all...

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 14:56

US Govt Seizes News Websites Across MidEast, Including Iran's PressTV

US Govt Seizes News Websites Across MidEast, Including Iran's PressTV

As nuclear-deal talks appear to be breaking down, SouthFront reports that the US Department of Justice has just seized a number of websites of Iranian, Palestinian, Yemeni, Iraqi news channels.

According to the reports, at the moment, the list of victims of U.S. ‘democratic move’ includes:

  • PressTV (Iran)

  • PalToday (Palestine)

  • Al-Masirah TV (Yemen)

  • Al-Alam TV (Iran)

  • Nabaa TV

  • KafMedia (Iraq)

  • LuaLua TV

Today, we are once again facing the new round of application of the Overton window approach regarding freedom of speech.

Washington has consistently been moving towards this unprecedented step.

At first, disinformation campaigns, discrediting and blackmailing of independent media became the norm. Further, the persecution of journalists and editors became the common practice. Further, the Americans used to introduce personal and group sanctions, freezing ( in other words ‘stealing’) individual funds of undesirable persons. Further,  there were arrests and even kidnappings of those who went beyond the American agenda. Realizing their impunity, the White House started to block the independent media and objectionable news agencies. The Big Techs, controlled by the White House, began to scour the information space from content that, according to Washington, could pose a threat to the promotion of the interests of the American elites.

Since the above measures did not bring the desirable results, the Americans decided to take the next step and completely block domains of its ‘ foes ‘.

This, as SouthFront concludes, is a signal to the whole world and an open declaration of US imperial dominance.

More practically, it's also a signal that the US-Iran deal talks are about to be a dismal failure and that this may be a great time to buy oil.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 14:46

Iran's New President Rules Out Ever Meeting With Biden, Calls Ballistic Missiles "Nonnegotiable"

Iran's New President Rules Out Ever Meeting With Biden, Calls Ballistic Missiles "Nonnegotiable"

In his first press conference since his landslide victory in Friday's national election, Iran's president-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Monday said he's not willing to meet with President Biden at any point nor is he willing to negotiate on the Islamic Republic's ballistic missile program. 

But crucially he did endorse ongoing efforts in Vienna for a restored JCPOA nuclear deal, stressing that Washington must immediately ease and drop sanctions in fulfillment of its own original obligations under the deal. "The U.S. is obliged to lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran," he stressed

Raisi gave a quick and simple "No" when asked about a potential future meeting with Biden in connection to nuclear deal negotiations. The Associated Press described that "He frowned and stared ahead, without elaborating. His moderate competitor in the election, Abdolnasser Hemmati, had suggested during campaigning that he might be willing to meet Biden."

Relatedly White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that the US currently has no diplomatic relations with Iran, nor or there "any plans to meet at the leader level, so it’s unclear that anything has actually changed on that front.”

Interestingly, she added the caveat that the White House regardless understands the person to meet with would not be the Iranian president in such an instance, but that the "decision leader is the supreme leader. That was the case before the election; it’s the case today; it will be the case probably moving forward."

After Raisi's victory, and with the more "moderate" Rouhani now on his way out (with his term ending August 3rd), the Biden administration has made clear it hopes to finalize a restored nuclear deal in Vienna prior to Raisi taking office. 

An administration official told Axios, "If we don't have a deal before a new government is formed, I think that would raise serious questions about how achievable it's going to be."

One surprising statement made by the new Iranian President-Elect on Monday is that he expressed a desire to improve relations with the Sunni Gulf states. But this is likely to remain a huge hurdle given the increasingly warmer relations between Gulf allies and Israel, as well as the ongoing war in Yemen.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/22/2021 - 14:35

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