Zero Hedge

Escobar: Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle

Escobar: Flying Dragon, Crashing Eagle Tyler Durden Wed, 11/25/2020 - 00:05

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

Four geoeconomic summits compressed in one week tell the story of where we stand in these supremely dystopian times...

The (virtual) signing of RCEP in Vietnam was followed by the equally virtual BRICS meeting hosted by Moscow, the APEC meeting hosted by Malaysia, and the G20 this past weekend hosted by Saudi Arabia.

Cynics have not failed to note the spectacular theater of the absurd of having the Top 20 – at least in theory – economies discussing what is arguably the turning point in the world-system linked to a beheading-friendly desert oil hacienda with a 7th century mentality.

The Riyadh declaration did its best to lift the somber planetary mood, vowing to deploy “all available policy tools” (no precise details) to contain Covid-19 and heroically “save” the global economy by “advancing” global pandemic preparedness, vaccine development and distribution – in tandem with debt relief – for the Global South.

Not a peep about The Great Reset – the Brave New World scheme concocted by Herr Schwab of Davos and fully supported by the IMF, Big Tech, transnational Big Capital interests and the oh so benign Prince Charles. Meanwhile, off the record, G20 sherpas moaned about the lack of real global governance and multiple attacks on multilateralism.

And not a peep as well about the real life vaccine war between the expensive Western candidates – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca – and the much cheaper Russia-China versions – Sputnik V and Sinovac.

What seems to be the case is that any agenda – sinister or otherwise – fits the one-size-fits-all vow by the G20 to provide “opportunities of the 21st century for all by empowering people, safeguarding the planet, and shaping new frontiers.”

The House of Xi

At the G20, President Xi Jinping did not waste the chance – after RCEP, BRICS and APEC – to once again emphasize China’s priorities: multilateralism, support for WTO reform, ample international cooperation on vaccine research and production.

But then, in tandem with reducing tariffs and facilitating the trade of crucial medical supplies, Xi proposed a global health QR code – a sound way to restore global travel and trade: “While containing the virus, we need to restore the secure and smooth operation of global industrial and supply chains.”

Predictably, there were howls about neo-Orwellian intrusion, comparing the QR code with the exceptionally misunderstood Chinese credit system. Herr Schwab’s Great Reset in fact proposes something similar, with even more neo-Orwellian overtones, disguised under an innocent “Covid Pass” app, or highly secure “health passport”.

What Xi has proposed amounts to just a mutual recognition of health certificates, issued by different nations, based on nucleic acid tests. No gene altering vaccines coupled with nanochips. These QR codes, incorporated to health apps, are already used for domestic travel in China.

Chinese officials have made it very clear that Beijing has been working as the representative of the Global South inside the G20. That’s multilateralism in action. And the multilateralist drive extends from RCEP – signed between 15 nations – to the brilliant Sun Tzu maneuver of China now accepting even the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the successor of the Obama-promoted and Trump-detonated TPP.

This revival – a case of Make TPP Chinese Again – can be envisaged because Beijing not only has mastered how to contain Covid-19 but is also recovering in lightning speed. China will be the only major economy growing in 2020 – de facto leading the world to a tentative post-Covid paradigm.

What the APEC meeting made crystal clear is that with East Asia graphically hitting the economic limelight, as seen with RCEP, much vaunted US “leadership” inevitably diminishes.

APEC promoted a so-called Putrajaya Vision 2040, condensing an “open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful” Asia-Pacific all the way to 2040. That neatly ties in with the three accumulated five-year Chinese plans all the way to 2035, approved last month at the CCP plenum in Beijing.

The emphasis, once again, is on multilateralism and an open global economy.

Few are more capable to capture the moment than Professor Wang Yiwei at the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University, who wrote the best Chinese book on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Wang stresses how China is in a period of “strategic opportunity” and is now “the most powerful leader of globalization”. China’s emphasis on multilateralism will “activate the connectivity and vitality of a trade platform like RCEP”.

Stranger than fiction

Now compare all of the above with Trump at the G20 tweeting about the election dystopia and privileging golfing instead of discussing Covid-19 containment.

And then there’s The Elements of the China Challenge, the new 74-page delusional epic concocted by the office of secretary Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo.

Diplomatic howls comparing it with the notorious George Kennan “long telegram” that codified the containment of the USSR in the Cold War are nonsense. Chinese Foreign Ministry reaction was more to the point: this was concocted by some “living fossils of the Cold War” and is doomed to end up “being consigned to the dustbin of history”.

President Xi Jinping, at RCEP, BRICS, APEC and the G20, concisely laid out the Chinese case: multilateralism, international cooperation on multiple fields, an open global economy, due representation of Global South’s interests.

As we wait for a set of imponderables all the way to January 20, 2021, perhaps an angular approach to what may lie ahead for the world economy is best offered by fiction.

Enter Billions, season 5, episode 2, dialogue written by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Axe: “You know they call us traders ‘gamblers’. The world’s economy is one big casino, fueled by a giant debt bubble and computer driven derivatives. And there’s only one thing better than being a gambler at a casino.”

Wags: “That’s being the house.”

Axe: “That’s right. There’s a systemized machine out there, sucking capital from localities and injecting it into the global markets, where it can be used to speculate and manipulate. And if something goes wrong there are bailouts and bail-ins, federal aid and easing. Where the government doesn’t hunt you down, but instead gives you a nice soft net to land in.”

Wags: “That’s your answer to the fireside chat: You want to become a bank.”

Axe: “I want to become a bank.”

Wags: “In order to rob it?”

Axe: “In order that I don’t have to.”

Mississippi Cops Can Now Use Your Ring Doorbell Camera To Live Stream Your Neighborhood

Mississippi Cops Can Now Use Your Ring Doorbell Camera To Live Stream Your Neighborhood Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 23:45

Today in "those who surrender their liberty for security" news...

The Jackson, Mississippi police department is piloting a 45 day program that allows them to live stream private security cameras, including Amazon Ring cameras, at the residences of its citizens. 

It's no surprise that Amazon's Ring cameras were the only brand named for the pilot program, as EFF pointed out, since they have over 1,000 partnerships with local police departments. 

The program allows Ring owners to patch their camera streams to a "Real Time Crime Center" - i.e. a dispatcher on desk duty whose new favorite way of passing the time is to watch you bring out your garbage twice a week in a bathrobe. 

While the pilot program is supposedly "opt-in" only, meaning residents have to volunteer to be a part of it, it is an obvious step in the wrong direction of mass privacy invasion without a warrant. 

The worst part is that even if you don't participate and a neighbor's cameras are pointed off center, perhaps towards a portion of your property, that footage can now be reviewed and combed through by law enforcement officials. 

Police have used Ring cameras to "build comprehensive CCTV camera networks blanketing whole neighborhoods", EFF notes, reducing the hardware burden on the department and slipping their presence into a neighborhood where it may otherwise not be welcomed. 

Amazon published a statement distancing themselves from the program: "[Amazon and Ring] are not involved in any way with any of the companies or the city in connection with the pilot program. The companies, the police and the city that were discussed in the article do not have access to Ring’s systems or the Neighbors App. Ring customers have control and ownership of their devices and videos ,and can choose to allow access as they wish."

 

Trump Plans To Pardon Michael Flynn: Report

Trump Plans To Pardon Michael Flynn: Report Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 22:15

President Trump plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts with the former Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential transition - only to have the Justice Department drop the case after Flynn's attorney, Sidney Powell, fought for the release of information suggesting that the FBI laid a 'perjury trap' to try and get him to lie.

The 'deep state' judge in the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, refused to drop the case, and has instead asked a federal appeals court - twice - whether he can ignore the DOJ, after asking a government-paid private lawyer to argue against Flynn.

The rumored pardon, reported by Axios, will be "part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office," as is typical of outgoing presidents.

That said, according to Fox News' Greg Jarrett, Flynn doesn't want a pardon. "He wanted full exoneration and the case dismissed," adding that "it's clear" that presiding judge Emmett Sullivan is trying to 'run out the clock' until Biden takes office, and recommends Trump go through with a pardon.

As Axios notes, a Flynn pardon would come on the heels of Trump commuting the sentence of longtime associate Roger Stone, who Trump said was unfairly targeted as part of a political 'witch hunt.'

According to FBI documents released in Flynn's case, senior FBI officials discussed strategies for targeting and setting up Flynn, prior to interviewing him at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. It was that interview at the White House with former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka that led Flynn, now 61, to plead guilty after months of pressure by prosecutors, financial strain and threats to prosecute his son.

On Fumes Of Stimulus & Frustration: California Legal Cannabis Sales Explode

On Fumes Of Stimulus & Frustration: California Legal Cannabis Sales Explode Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 22:05

Authored by Wolf Richter via WolfStreet.com,

You just knew this would be coming. It was bound to show up in the data. And California is cashing in...

Cannabis tax revenues in Q3 collected by the State of California soared by a record 80% year-over-year, and by a record of $136 million year-over-year, to a $307 million, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration reported Monday afternoon. This does not include tax revenues collected by cities and counties. All three categories surged: Excise Tax (+89%), Cultivation Tax (+80%), and Sales Tax (+67%).

This brought California’s cannabis taxes during the first nine months of 2020 to $775 million, and on track to exceed $1 billion for the whole year, a sorely needed injection of moolah during these trying times:

Cannabis has always been a popular product and business in California in a huge black market that persists today, but what we’re looking at is the shift of black-market weed to regulated and taxed legal weed, much of it locally grown, and sold at retailers that are paying rent, unlike other retailers that have shut down or stopped paying rent.

California cannabis tax revenues had been surging by around $60 million every quarter compared to the same quarter a year earlier, since the beginning of legalization in January 2018. This rate of growth was fairly stable through the fourth quarter 2019.

Then in February 2020, Covid was beginning to run around in California, and people began to react. On February 26, San Francisco declared a state of emergency. By that time, traffic had already died down. On March 17, the five most populous counties of the Bay Area began the lockdown. And people, to soothe their pains and anxieties…

In Q1, cannabis tax revenues surged by $76 million year-over-year to $206 million. In Q2, the stimulus money and extra unemployment benefits of $600-a-week kicked in, and cannabis tax revenues surged by $103 million to $260 million. And in Q3, the stock market gains were ladled on top of it, and the state started sending out the additional $300-a-week in unemployment benefits in $900-lumpsum payments, and cannabis tax revenues exploded by $135 million to $307 million.

This chart shows the year-over-year increases in millions of dollars for each quarter. Note how through 2019, the year-over-year increases were roughly stable at around $60 million, and then they surged:

With the cannabis sales tax rate of 7.25% (state 6% and mandatory local 1.25%), and $106 million in sales taxes reported, we can figure that $1.46 billion in weed was retailed by regulated retailers in the quarter. For the year 2020, legal weed retail sales will likely exceed $5 billion, and at this rate, exceed $6 billion in 2021. This is starting to add up.

The regulations that followed California Proposition 64, approved by voters in November 2016, legalized the production, distribution, sale, and use of recreational cannabis by adults as of January 2018. The regulations are complex. Three regulatory offices are in charge: The California Bureau of Cannabis Control; the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and the California Department of Public Health. And things are not always clear-cut and have led to legal entanglements, one of which a judge just ruled on: Advertising cannabis products and businesses on highway billboards.

Proposition 64 included a ban on highway billboards that advertise cannabis products and businesses. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control had interpreted the language to mean that there could be no cannabis billboard within 15 miles of the California border, but were OK elsewhere. Soon, cannabis billboards started popping up everywhere, including on along 101 Freeway, near San Louis Obispo, where a construction contractor with two kids that frequently used the freeway decided enough was enough and sued.

On Friday, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge said in a ruling that the Bureau of Cannabis Control had improperly allowed these cannabis billboards along California highways and that the bureau and its director “exceeded their authority in promulgating the advertisement placement regulation.”

The ruling prohibits billboards along 4,315 miles of interstate highways and along state highways that cross state borders, according to one of the attorneys for the plaintiff, cited by the Los Angeles Times (state law allows cannabis ads on city streets, subject to local ordinances, but not within 1,000 feet of daycare centers, K-12 schools, or playgrounds). The bureau said it was “still reviewing the ruling” and hadn’t decided if would appeal. No one said it would be smooth sailing to bring the huge weed business out of the black market and integrated it into legal commerce. But it seems to have been worth the effort.

*  *  *

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? Using ad blockers – I totally get why – but want to support the site? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely.

China Slams NatSec Advisor O'Brien As Sowing "Chaos" & Cold War Tensions In Asia

China Slams NatSec Advisor O'Brien As Sowing "Chaos" & Cold War Tensions In Asia Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 21:45

Top Chinese diplomatic officials have hit back against US national security advisor Robert O'Brien over his "unreasonable remarks" in the Philippines while on an official visit there this week. 

The Chinese embassy in Manila on Tuesday slammed what diplomatic officials called his deliberate efforts at "stirring up trouble in the South China Sea" and "provoking a rift between China and the Philippines." 

Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien, Getty Images

The Manila embassy further harangued Washington for not promoteing regional peace and stability, instead creating "chaos in the region" for US self-interest.

"In recent years, to safeguard its regional and global hegemony, the US has regarded itself as 'patron' and 'judge' of regional countries and directly intervened in the South China Sea and other issues," the statement said.

His statements were said to have "fanned the flames everywhere" and "seriously" undermined regional security by seeking to create tensions between China and its regional allies. 

The statement said further, "The US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the South China Sea and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the South China Sea" - something which has been emphasized by Beijing many times in the recent past. 

O'Brien has been on a surprise tour of Vietnam and the Philippine's this week in a mission seen as attempting to counter the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries' (and key allies) recent signing of a historic trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), hailed as the biggest free trade deal ever among fifteen Asia Pacific Nations and widely reported as a huge win for China.  

O'Brien weighed in heavily on soaring tensions in the South China Sea and US efforts to maintain 'freedom of navigation' by its beefed up naval presence there:

During his speech at the building of the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday, O'Brien reiterated Washington’s support for Manila's fight for control over the West Philippine Sea.

"I just want to say that those resources belong to the children and grandchildren of the people here. They belong to the [Filipino] people," O'Brien said.

"They don’t belong to some other country that just because they may be bigger than the Philippines, they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people. That’s just wrong," he added.

The Chinese embassy called the whole speech "full of Cold War mentality" and which was intended to "wantonly incite confrontation."

O'Brien had vowed that "Any armed attack on Philippine forces aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger our mutual defense obligations."

He also provocatively confirmed that $18 million in missiles the Trump administration pledged to the Philippines last April would soon be delivered on, and that the deal is currently progressing.  

Majority Of Republicans Would Support Trump As A 2024 Candidate, New Poll Finds

Majority Of Republicans Would Support Trump As A 2024 Candidate, New Poll Finds Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 21:25

Authored by Annaliese Levy via SaraACarter.com,

According to a new national tracking poll by Morning Consult and Politico, Donald Trump will continue to have a powerful platform with the GOP base even after he leaves office.

The Nov. 21-23 survey collected data among 669 Republicans and 1,990 registered voters overall and found that he will most likely continue to have immense influence over the Republican Party from outside the government.

Trump is also the favored Republican candidate for a 2024 run according to a hypothetical test of 14 potential candidates. Trump received 53% of support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Vice President Mike Pence came in second at 12% support. Donald Trump Jr. got the third-highest support at 8%, while other Republican figures, including Sen. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney and Rick Scott, and Nikki Haley each received less than 5% support.

With Trump losing the 2020 presidential election, he is still eligible to run for a second term. Trump has given permission to begin the transition process to the next administration, while he has still not conceded. Trump has delayed conceding the election to President-elect Joe Biden as his legal team is continuing its fight against alleged election fraud in key swing states.

If Trump were to run in 2024, he would be a dominant force in the Republican party.

Nearly 68% said they consider Trump to be more in touch with the party’s rank and file, compared with 20% who said the same of Republicans in Congress. Trump was also more likely to be considered effective and committed to the country’s best interests. 56% of Republican voters say Trump is predominantly looking out for the party’s best interests.

Trump has told White House officials he could announce his 2024 candidacy as soon as he leaves the White House in January.

Some Republicans think Trump should step away and allow other candidates to emerge.

But others say that’s unlikely. As he leaves the White House, Trump will continue to have a resilient and powerful hold on the GOP, with loyal followers who will support him throughout another candidacy.

Trump received at least 68 million votes in 2020, five million more than he did in 2016, and about 48% of the popular vote, meaning he retained the support of nearly half of the public. If he decides to run for a second term, he will be a difficult candidate to beat.

Bill Gross' Neighbor "Forced To Flee" Mansion During Coordinated Harassment Campaign

Bill Gross' Neighbor "Forced To Flee" Mansion During Coordinated Harassment Campaign Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 21:05

The civil court battle between Bill Gross (joined by his girlfriend, former tennis pro Amy Schwartz) and his neighbors, tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq (and his wife), continues, with more juicy details coming to light this week, portraying Gross's heavy-handed approach toward dealing with an annoying neighbor who chafed at the sight of one of Gross's lawn statues.

In previous testimony, we've heard that Gross retaliated against his neighbor by turning the house's sound-system up full-blast playing the theme song to "Gilligan's Island" on repeat at volumes that one Laguna Beach compliance officer described as being even louder than the Pacific Coast Highway and the Ocean.

But in the latest testimony, Towfiq shared how Gross threatened him, claiming he would take drastic measures to punish the Towfiq's if they proceeded to lodge a complaint with the town about Gross's lawn sculpture. Towfiq told the court that Gross's threat "filled me with dread", yet he persisted, according to Bloomberg.

So Gross made him face the music, so to speak.

When Towfiq texted Gross's girlfriend - whom Gross and his legal team have claimed is the object of a "prurient obsession" on the part of Mr. Towfiq - Gross apparently took his girlfriend's phone and texted back the following: "peace on all fronts or well just have nightly concerts big boy."

To dispel any confusion, Gross even signed one of his tweets.

Source: Bloomberg

Towfiq explained that he initially complained to Gross because the netting surrounding his lawn sculpture, which is adjacent to Towfiq's property, was "unsightly" and detracted from his "enjoyment" of the $25 million palace he constructed for himself and his wife. But after he filed a complaint about the sculpture, Gross dropped all pretense of neighborly respect and resorted to threats, Towfiq said.

"I had a sinking feeling in my stomach," Towfiq testified when asked by his lawyer what his reaction to the text was. "That is, a total dread that I’m going to be the target of his rage or something."

But once Gross turned up the music, Towfiq said he and his wife were "forced to flee" the property and call the police. At one point, Towfiq said he recorded Gross and Schwartz dancing on their balcony, while giving him the finger and “taunting” him. Towfiq said the music was so loud it penetrated the extra-thick double pane windows that Towfiq said he’d installed in his home.

Gross's antics didn't stop there: he repeatedly interrupted proceedings to complain that he "couldn't hear" Towfiq. At one point, Gross's attorney asked the judge if Gross could be seated right next to Towfiq so he could more adequately hear his testimony.

Towfiq complained that Gross wouldn't stop "staring" at him during the testimony, but Gross complained he was simply trying to understand Towfiq because "he mumbles."

Gross is suing Towfiq for installing cameras on his property to harass Gross and his girlfriend, while Towfiq is suing for psychological distress, arguing that Gross subjected him to a form of "torture" for refusing to simply drop his complaint to the town about Gross's lawn sculpture.

Gross has a history of high-profile feuds, including with his ex-wife, whom he terrorized with fart spray and old fish. And that was before he retired from his day job as a portfolio manager at Janus Henderson.

The Blizzard Of Bogus Journalism On COVID

The Blizzard Of Bogus Journalism On COVID Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 20:45

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The American Institute for Economic Research,

This game of hunt-and-kill Covid cases has reached peak absurdity, especially in media culture...

Take a look at Supermarkets are the most common place to catch Covid, new data reveals. It’s a story on a “study” assembled by Public Health England (PHE) from the NHS Test and Trace App. Here is the conclusion. In the six days of November studied, “of those who tested positive, it was found that 18.3 per cent had visited a supermarket.”

Now, if the alarm bells don’t go off with that one, you didn’t pay attention to 7th grade science. If the app had also included showering, eating, and breathing, it might have found a 100% correlation. Yes, the people who tested positive probably did shop, as do most people. That doesn’t mean that shopping gives you Covid and it certainly doesn’t mean that shopping kills you. 

Even if shopping is a way to get Covid, this is a very widespread and mostly mild virus for 99.8% percent of the population with an infection fatality rate as low as 0.05% for those under 70. Competent infectious disease experts have said multiple times that test, track, and isolate strategies are nearly useless for controlling viruses such as this. 

This story/study was so poor and so absurd that it was too much even for Isabel Oliver, Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England. She sent out the following note:

Thank you. One down, a thousand to go. 

The New York Times pulled a mighty fast one with this piece: “States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks.” This would be huge news if true because it would imply not only that lockdowns save lives (which no serious study has thus far been able to document) but also that granting people basic freedoms are the reason for bad health outcomes, an astonishing claim on its own. 

The piece, put together by two graphic artists and seemingly very science-like, speaks of “outbreaks,” which vaguely sounds terrible: packed with mortality. It’s odd because anyone can look at the data and see that New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut lead the way with deaths per million, mostly owing to the fatalities in long-term care facilities. These were the states that locked down the hardest and longest. Indeed they are locking down again! Deaths per million in states like South Dakota are still low on the list. 

How in the world can the NYT claim that states that did not lock down have the worst outbreaks? The claim hinges entirely on a trivial discovery. Some clever someone discovered that if you reflow data by cases per million instead of deaths per million, you get an opposite result. The reasons: 1) when the Northeast experienced the height of the pandemic, there was very little testing going on, so the “outbreak” was not documented even as deaths grew and grew, 2) by the time the virus reached the Midwest, tests were widely available, 3) the testing mania grew and grew to the point that the non-vulnerable are being tested like crazy, generating high positives in small-population areas. 

By focusing on the word “outbreak,” the Times can cleverly obscure the difference between a positive PCR result (including many false positive and perhaps half or more asymptomatic cases) and a severe outcome from catching the virus. In other words, the Times has documented an “outbreak” of mostly non-sick people in low-population areas. 

There are hundreds of ways to look at Covid-19 data. The Times picked the one metric – the least valuable one for actually discerning whether and to what extent people are sick – in order to generate the result that they wanted, namely that open states look as bad as possible. The result is a chart that massively misrepresents any existing reality. It makes the worst states look great and the best ones look terrible. The visual alone is constructed to make it looks as if open states are bleeding uncontrollably.

How many readers will even know this? Very few, I suspect. What’s more amazing is that the Times itself already debunked the entire “casedemic” back in September:

Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus.

Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time….

In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.

All of which makes one wonder what precisely is going on in this relationship between cases and severe outcomes. The Covid Tracking Project generates the following chart. Cases are in blue while deaths are in red. 

Despite this story and these data, the graphic artists at the Times got to work generating a highly misleading presentation that leads to one conclusion: more lockdowns.

(My colleague Phil Magness has noted further methodological problems even within the framework that the Times uses but I will let him write about that later.) 

Let’s finally deal with Salon’s attack on Great Barrington Declaration co-creator Jayanta Bhattacharya. Here is a piece that made the following claim of the infection fatality rate: “the accepted figure of 2-3 percent or higher.” That’s an astonishing number, and basically nuts: 10 million people will die in the US alone. 

Here is what the CDC says concerning the wildly disparate risk factors based on age: 

These data are not inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s suggestion that the infection fatality rate for people under 70 years of age is closer to 0.05%

The article further claims that “herd immunity may not even be possible for COVID-19 given that infection appears to only confer transient immunity.” And yet, the New York Times just wrote that:

How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study — the most hopeful answer yet to a question that has shadowed plans for widespread vaccination.

Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.

How is it possible for people to make rational decisions with this kind of journalism going on? Truly, sometimes it seems like the world has been driven insane by an astonishing blizzard of false information. Just last week, an entire state in Australia shut down completely – putting all its citizens under house arrest – due to a false report of a case in a pizza restaurant. One person lied and the whole world fell apart. 

Meanwhile, serious science is appearing daily showing that there is no relationship at all, and never has been, between lockdowns and lives saved. This study looks at all factors related to Covid death and finds plenty of relationship between age and health but absolutely none with lockdown stringency. “Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate,” says the study, echoing a conclusion of dozens of other studies since as early as March. 

It’s all become too much. The world is being seriously misled by major media organs. The politicians are continuing to panic and impose draconian controls, fully nine months into this, despite mountains of evidence of the real harm the lockdowns are causing everyone. If you haven’t lost faith in politicians and major media at this point, you have paid no attention to what they have been doing for the better part of this catastrophic year. 

Cops Swarm Toronto BBQ For Defying COVID Lockdown, Shut It Down

Cops Swarm Toronto BBQ For Defying COVID Lockdown, Shut It Down Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 20:25

A popular Toronto restaurant, Adamson Barbecue, had a swarm of cops show up after owner Adam Skelly fought back against COVID lockdown restrictions and reopened both indoor and outdoor dining in defiance of Ontario's new 'Gray zone' restrictions.

People could be seen dining as Skelly showed cops and inspectors around.

Skelly lashed out against the restrictions in a Monday night video, where he announced that he would reopen.

        View this post on Instagram                      

A post shared by Adamson Barbecue (@adamsonbarbecue)

"The data from Toronto Public Health that came out two weeks ago shows that two of the over 10,000 Ontario COVID deaths were linked to bars, restaurants and retail. So why are we getting we getting singled out? And the big multinational corporations are all essential while they're packed?" Skelly said.

And to nobody's surprise, Adamson BBQ was shut down by the authorities.

Restaurant owner Jason Lake drove three hours to support Skully.

Skully came under fire in April after questioning the severity of COVID-19 and calling social media naysayers retards.

Gingrich: The Thieves Who Stole Our Election Got Sloppy

Gingrich: The Thieves Who Stole Our Election Got Sloppy Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 20:05

Authored by Newt Gingrich, op-ed via The Epoch Times,

Laziness leads to sloppiness, and sloppiness is how the most brazen heist in American history is being exposed...

Stealing the 2020 election was a mammoth undertaking, involving widespread lawlessness and illicit partnerships between private actors and public officials. They’ve been working to cover their tracks since Election Day, but they didn’t work fast enough. Now, the courts need to stop them from destroying any more evidence so that the people of Pennsylvania—and the rest of the country—can accurately assess the ramifications of their wrongdoing.

Explosive new litigation filed in federal district court on Nov. 21 details and documents a wide variety of illegal practices that were used to inflate the number of votes received by Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, including disparate treatment of voters based on where they live and outright manipulation of Pennsylvania’s voter registration system by partisan activists.

An unprecedented number of mail-in and absentee ballots were cast this year, and practically everyone expected that this would result in a higher-than-usual rate of ballots being rejected for various flaws, such as lacking a secrecy envelope or missing information. In Pennsylvania, tens or hundreds of thousands of ballots were likely to be rejected, based on historical patterns. Instead, a mere 0.03 percent of mail-in ballots were ultimately rejected—somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1,000 votes.

Considering that a significant majority of mail-in votes were cast for Biden, the Democrat candidate benefited handsomely from this discrepancy. But how did this anomaly happen?

It turns out that election officials in Democrat strongholds such as Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Philadelphia County, and Philadelphia’s collar counties—particularly Delaware County—exceeded their authority in order to give voters preferential treatment that wasn’t afforded to voters in Republican-leaning areas of the state.

Specifically, election workers illegally “pre-canvassed” mail-in ballots to determine whether they were missing a secrecy envelope or failed to include necessary information. When ballots were found to be flawed, voters were given an opportunity to correct, or “cure,” their ballots to make sure they counted. In at least some cases, Democrat Party officials were even given lists of voters to contact about curing their ballots.

Election officials in Republican-leaning counties rightly interpreted this as a violation of Pennsylvania’s election code, but Democrat Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar issued guidance authorizing the illegal practices despite lacking the statutory authority to do so.

That’s not the only way Democrats broke the law to give their candidate an unfair advantage, though. Extensive on-the-ground investigations conducted over the past year and a half by attorneys and investigators with the Amistad Project of the nonpartisan Thomas More Society have uncovered another element of the plot that involved even more egregious behavior.

Boockvar also exceeded her authority by granting private, partisan organizations—including the notoriously pro-Democrat group “Rock the Vote”—access to the Commonwealth’s Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE).

“Rock the Vote’s web tool was connected to our system, making the process of registering voters through their online programs, and those of their partners, seamless for voters across Pennsylvania,” the lawsuit quotes Boockvar as saying.

That’s not supposed to happen. It’s one thing for outside groups to submit registration applications to the state on behalf of would-be voters, but election clerks are the only ones who are supposed to enter this sort of information directly into the records.

It’s easy to see why by inspecting post-election voter lists, which contain names such as “Mary April Smith,” followed by “Mary May Smith,” “Mary June Smith,” “Mary July Smith,” and so forth through the rest of the calendar. When the same voter lists were purchased just a week later, however, those suspicious names had mysteriously disappeared from the rolls.

Under the circumstances, that’s direct evidence of a systematic effort to conceal wrongdoing. All further alterations to the SURE system should be immediately halted to allow a thorough investigation of the records before any more evidence can be destroyed.

The thieves who attempted to hijack the 2020 presidential election were bound to slip up somewhere, and now they’re trying to clean up the glaring evidence of their wrongdoing before the full extent of their crimes can be exposed to the American public. We can’t allow that to happen, or we may never be able to trust the integrity of our elections again.

$500 Million In Coal Stranded Off China's Coast As Australian Trade Spat Intensifies

$500 Million In Coal Stranded Off China's Coast As Australian Trade Spat Intensifies Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 19:45

At least 50 giant bulk carriers loaded with Australian coal, worth $500 million, are anchored off several Chinese ports, as the latest diplomatic spat between Canberra and Beijing intensifies. 

Bloomberg, citing shipping data from Kpler, said 66 vessels are loaded with Australian coal had been moored off China's coast for more than a month. The ships collectively have 5.7 million tons of coal and about 1,000 seafarers onboard. Vessel sizes range from Capesize to Panamax. 

The ban on Australian coal is occurring as both countries are locked in a one-sided trade war, with Beijing slapping tariffs and blacklisting commodities from the country this year

According to Braemar ACM Shipbroking, Beijing has halted Australian coal imports, with vessels unable to clear customs. 

"Some ships have been waiting for months," said Nick Ristic, a dry bulk analyst with Braemar. 

A recent report from the shipbroker said some of the vessels were being diverted from China's coast to other countries, such as India or Vietnam. 

Bulk Carriers Hauling Coal Around China

The ban comes as Beijing rushes to support domestic coal prices and prop up ailing coal mining companies.

Research firm Wood Mackenzie said China's monthly coal imports had fallen to a decade low. Readers may recall Beijing has already told local firms to ditch Australian iron ore and cotton. 

For more color on the diplomatic spat that has morphed into a trade war between both countries, China Daily, a China-run state publication and mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, accused Australian politicians and media of "constantly concocting lies about China and stoking Sinophobia."

Australia was "shirking" its responsibility for "worsening bilateral relations" between the two countries and "misleading the public."

"Some ill-intentioned Australians have pinned the blame on the Chinese side by claiming that China's control measures on some Australian exports are "economic coercion" and even accusing China of weaponizing economic ties."

"It is both ridiculous and in vain for those in Australia to dress up their country as a victim. Facts speak louder than words."

"Any objective observer can see that it is Canberra that has single-handedly undermined the political and economic premises for cooperation with Beijing." - China Daily 

Meanwhile, in a wake-up call to the US, despite the trade spat, 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and Australia, recently signed a huge trade deal. Also, with a Biden presidency, global trade disputes may soften. 

World's Largest Model Agency Attempt To Go Public Via SPAC Collapses

World's Largest Model Agency Attempt To Go Public Via SPAC Collapses Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 19:25

Just how ridiculous is the blank check IPO fever that has gripped markets in 2020? Consider this: SPACs, or blank-check companies which go public for the express purpose of buying an existing firm and which also exploded in 2007 just before the housing/credit bubble burst, now make up a record share of U.S. initial public offerings this year. According to Bloomberg, SPACs have collectively raised $66.4 billion year-to-date, accounting for nearly half of all the $138.9 billion raised in U.S. IPOs (SPACs only accounted for 19% of the $71.4 billion IPO pie last year).

And while there is no stopping the blank check juggernaut absent a full-blown market crash - so far in November, the SPAC pipeline has continued to grow with 18 more filings on deck to list on U.S. exchanges - one company that won't be going public via a SPAC merger is the world's largest model agency, Elite Model World, whose merger discussions with blank-check firm Galileo Acquisition have fallen apart without a deal being reached according to Bloomberg, which reported that Elite informed investors this month that the talks had collapsed.

Maybe the models demanded that the SPAC be denominated in Euros?

In any case, with the deal dead, Galileo is searching for a new merger target. The $138 million SPAC is focused on “the consumer, retail, food & beverage, specialty industrial, technology or medtech sectors which are headquartered in Western Europe, with an emphasis on Italian family-owned businesses, portfolio companies of private equity funds, or corporate spin-offs, and that have significant North American exports and a clearly defined North American high growth strategy.”  That’s a real kitchen sink, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say “Western Europe/Italy”.

Elite Model has in recent years diversified into representing social media influencers, as well as its traditional fashion model clientele. Unfortunately, judging by the sudden collapse of the SPAC, it does not appear to have diversified into actually being profitable.

Galileo and Elite Model held talks last month with potential investors about raising new equity for a merger that would have taken the agency public, Bloomberg reported at the time.

"We Feel Like We Are Drowning" - Rural Hospitals Overwhelmed By Shortages Of Bed, Staff

"We Feel Like We Are Drowning" - Rural Hospitals Overwhelmed By Shortages Of Bed, Staff Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 19:05

As the coronavirus ravages rural parts of the US, areas it largely ignored during the spring and summer, hospitals are being overwhelmed.

We pointed out earlier that only four US states have hospitalization rates below 100 per million, with the Midwest being the worst hit region, though down in Texas, El Paso has stood out for the severity of its outbreak, and the degree to which deaths have overwhelmed the city's morgues, forcing Gov. Greg Abbott to send in the national guard.

 

On Tuesday, Reuters published a story recounting stories from some of the most overburdened hospitals in the country right now. They can be found in places like rural Lakin, Kansas, or other "critical access" hospitals spread out across a dozen states in the midwest and the mountain west. Sparsely populated states like North and South Dakota are being hit particularly hard.

Since mid-June, daily new COVID-19 cases reported in the midwest have increased by 20x. For the week ending Nov. 19, North Dakota reported an average of 1,769 daily new cases per 1 million residents, while South Dakota recorded nearly 1,500 per million residents, Wisconsin and Nebraska around 1,200, and Kansas nearly 1,000. Even during New York’s worst week from April, the state never averaged more than 500 new cases per million people. California hasn't topped 253.

Across the Midwest, hospital directors told Reuters that they're at capacity, or dangerously close. Most have tried to increase availability by repurposing wings or cramming multiple patients in a single room, and by asking staffers to work longer hours and more frequent shifts.

Kearny County Hospital in rural Lakin, Kansas is one such example. The hospital is classified as a "critical access hospital" by federal authorities since it's the only hospital servicing a patch of southwestern Kansas, not far from the border with economically desolate Oklahoma.

Some medical workers complained to Reuters that they see a "disconnect" between the grim scene inside the ICU, and families who are out planning Thanksgiving dinner parties, while some young people continue frequenting bars.

"There’s a disconnect in the community, where we’re seeing people at bars and restaurants, or planning Thanksgiving dinners," said Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. As health workers, she said, "we feel kind of dejected."

Dr. Drew Miller, the chief medical officer at Kearny, told Reuters about how he almost lost a 30-year-old patient who needed to be moved to the ICU, but there were no beds. The man survived after he briefly stopped breathing. Dr. Miller said he was astonished when the patient's pulse returned.

Still, while some forecasters see even more dire numbers ahead, Dr. Miller warned "I don’t think the worst is here yet."

But for remote hospitals, an even bigger than space is staff. COVID-19 patients must be monitored more closely than others, requiring more nurses to be on duty per shift. When infection rates rise, rural hospitals typically hire from a pool of traveling nurses. However, thanks to the pandemic, that pool is now empty.

Melisa Hazell, a critical care nurse at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in Hutchinson, Kansas, told Reuters she recently recovered from COVID-19 herself, but she returned to work as soon as she was certain she wouldn’t spread the virus. After being off for 12 days, she said she wasn't "mentally and physically ready" to go back to work. However "my teammates needed me," she said.

Thousands of miles away, Mary Helland, a chief nursing officer with CommonSpirit Health in North Dakota, said she has put in requests for traveling nurses for all 11 "critical access hospitals" she oversees, spread across a region covering North Dakota and Minnesota.

But "bigger hospitals are using them all up," she said. At 190-bed Hutchinson Regional, Chief Nursing Officer Amanda Hullet said she has started taking floor shifts for the first time in years after moving to a managerial position that requires much more desk work. Another nurse said that the refusal of some governors to mandate mask-wearing in public is frustrating. But even people who wear masks are still frequently infected with the virus.

Doctors say trying to change such behavior can feel like a hopeless task. One infectious disease doctor in Wisconsin told Reuters that "Everyone [is] continuing to go about their lives"...but "we sort of feel like we’re drowning."

There Were Two Americas Today As Dow Struck 30,000 

There Were Two Americas Today As Dow Struck 30,000  Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 18:50

The K-shaped economic recovery, one where the rich grow richer and the working-poor are crushed with job loss and insurmountable debts, was on full display Tuesday afternoon as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 30,000 for the first time. 

By mid-afternoon, hours after the DJIA soared to new highs, Bloomberg tweeted a disturbing video of yet, another massive food bank line, something we've been highlighting this fall as an increasing occurrence as covid winter continues to crush the working-poor.   

Today's food bank lines were situated in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where hundreds of vehicles were lined up "at a local stadium parking lot," Bloomberg said. The lines snaked around a parking lot, with an overflow of vehicles pouring out onto the city street. 

On Monday, we noted that on Dec. 31, many of the key provisions in the CARES Act are set to expire if there is no action from Congress. This could be catastrophic for 12 million America who will lose access to their Emergency unemployment benefits activated in the aftermath of the covid pandemic, which alone could be a drag of up to 1.5% to growth in 1Q, according to a recent Bank of America report. 

Additionally, the expiration of eviction moratorium, mortgage forbearance programs, and suspension of student loan payments could compound the working poor's financial stresses, many of whom, about 21 million of them, are unemployed and receiving benefits from the government. 

In today's America, massive food bank lines are becoming a common occurrence once more - similar to what was seen in the early days of the pandemic. 

Earlier this month, the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) handed out more than 600,000 pounds of food to 25,000 hungry people - one of the largest-ever food giveaways, explained NTFB officials. 

While other stimulus packages could be introduced under the Biden administration, America's working poor has been permanently scarred for years and financially set back a decade. 

The K-shaped recovery is getting worse - dropping helicopter money has yet to fix the economy as promised earlier in the year as millions of families are set to go without food this holiday season. 

Just a reminder, a rising stock market tide doesn't lift all boats. 

AOC & 'The Squad' Confront Biden About Lack Of 'Progressive' Cabinet Picks

AOC & 'The Squad' Confront Biden About Lack Of 'Progressive' Cabinet Picks Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 18:30

Now that Joe Biden has announced all of his nominations for key positions shaping the administration's foreign policy and domestic economic policy, it's pretty clear that "the Squad" (which some have quietly blamed for the Democrats' surprisingly poor performance in House races across the country) and their progressive allies got shafted. Biden took none of their recommendations for top positions (neither Elizabeth Warren nor Bernie Sanders will play prominent roles).

AOC and her allies are badly in need of a win to try and show their backers that they didn't completely fold on their principles by backing Biden. And with a few more progressive members joining their ranks in the upcoming Congress, AOC needs to step up and be a leader if she has any hope of running for president in 2028 (she won't quite meet the minimum age in 2024).

'The Squad' is looking for a scalp, and they're going after a key player in the incipient Biden Administration: Bruce Reed, Biden's former chief of staff during his years as VP. Biden and his team have picked Reed to lead the OMB, a relatively sleepy office that makes recommendations about the federal budget.

According to a report in Axios, AOC and Ilhan Omar are circulating a petition calling on Biden to drop Reed, criticizing him as a deficit hawk.

It's an interesting choice considering that Biden's National Security team is filled with deep state stalwarts who have never said no to a foreign entanglement.

But, apparently, AOC & Co. are okay with that. But the fact that Reed once recommended cuts to Social Security and Medicare makes him unpalatable to leftists. Reed led the Bowles-Simpson Commission under Barack Obama, which progressives opposed because of the cuts. "Biden must not repeat Obama’s mistake," the petition warns.

The petition which has been signed by AOC, Omar and fellow Squad member Rashida Tlaib, objects to Reed, characterizing him as a "major test for the soul of the Biden presidency," and demanding that OMB "be staffed with people who will prioritize working people, not Wall Street deficit scaremongers."

Two other new progressive lawmakers - Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush — are also backing the petition. They recently joined a protest movement urging Biden to keep his promise to pass a $2 trillion version of the "Green New Deal"./p>

In a separate incident, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee hired the actor Mark Ruffalo to record and then blast out an e-mail to their nearly 1 million members urging Biden to pick Rep. Deb Haaland for secretary of the Interior, one of the few remaining cabinet-level positions that's still up for grabs.

The climate justice democrats are urging Biden to consider creating a climate mobilization office within the White House, to ensure that climate hysteria will continue to inform policy even after Biden's time in office is up.

Right now, leftists are terrified that a Biden presidency will simply morph into 'Obama Part 3' and everyone will forget about them and all the protest movements they helped organize as the fever of 'Democratic socialism' finally breaks.

"No Easy Fix": Australian Special Forces' Blood Lust & "Competition Killings" In Afghanistan

"No Easy Fix": Australian Special Forces' Blood Lust & "Competition Killings" In Afghanistan Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 18:10

Authored by Kym Robinson via The Libertarian Institute,

Australia has a culture for war, and that culture breeds atrocities. The Australian government’s own inquiry has confirmed many of the allegations leaked by journalists regarding war crimes in Afghanistan, stemming from the execution by Australian special forces of prisoners and civilians. Those same journalists had previously been threatened with prosecution for exposing those war crimes. But faced with a mountain of evidence and already public revelations, the government had no choice but to find that its armed forces had been involved in such atrocities. And those crimes were a consequence of the culture promoted in Australia’s elite special forces, the SASR.

The public reaction to the admission of guilt has varied. While Australians may hate the political administrations that wield them in war due to partisan politics, they tend to love their military. War itself is often bipartisan. Many now blame the politicians for the atrocities, as though the political masters themselves were on ground, in the kicking boots and pulling the triggers on frightened civilians. It is the tall poppy syndrome that simplifies warfare, with only trying leaders with crimes, as if 'simply following orders' is defense enough. But in this case, there were no orders to follow.

Australian soldiers, file image

That however does make the Australian government "innocent" of waging war and reaping the inevitable misery it brings.

Whether or not these soldiers are being made out as scapegoats does not change the fact that they themselves executed prisoners and civilians. The exact number of victims will never be known, just as the true depth of atrocities committed by all sides in the ongoing Afghanistan war will be unknown (and most other wars for that matter). Australia’s head of government wrote a letter of apology to the head of the Afghani goverment as an act of apology. Such out of touch gestures reveal the widespread arrogance of national governments. They are not representative of the suffering people, but the ones distributing the suffering. The victims are often vastly disconnected from the regime in Kabul. And Australian soldiers would have been operating inside of Afghanistan regardless of who the prime minister was at the time.

What of the justice for the victims and their families? A payment will likely be made and an admission of guilt. That is something more than many others have received but ultimately it is token. It does not remove the pain, anguish and terror experienced. Or the fact that the people of Afghanistan have suffered an endless brutal war as numerous foreign actors intervene and kill and while domestic warlords and terrorists exploit this invasion for their own devious ends. Insurgencies are manured in the blood and bones of dead loved ones. Especially when the foreigners kill indiscriminately and brutally.

For the people in Afghanistan they know the true nature of the war. They know the devastation from the air as helicopters, jets, drones and gunships devastate from above with reckless murder. The Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz mass murder from the US military in 2015 showed just how callous the allies could be, as a gunship blasted from above killing at least 42 doctors, staff, women and children patients. The rules of war never matter to those waging it, especially when they are often the rule writers.

On the ground where the terror is more personal, soldiers from other nations have been involved in torture, rape, executions and murder of civilians. The recent inquiry just reveals that the Australian soldier is no different. The nature of the intimate murder on the ground is viewed differently by the public and law makers. It is why bayoneting a baby is considered atrocious while napalming a school of children from afar is deemed collateral. The war from the air has netted numerous civilian deaths, including those by the RAAF as was admitted in Syria when civilians were killed by an Australian strike. In some minds this is not a war crime. To the victims and those fermenting terror and the insurgency it most certainly is. Perspectives change when you are related to the people who were murdered.

For Australia and its allies, the rules are often bent. Australia, an island continent far removed from Afghanistan geographically and culturally, acts with impulsive urgency in any crisis. Its government is able to impose laws that involve both war and domestic policy as it pleases. The lawless law-making is a characteristic of many nations that wage endless wars, in the name of their own passing self interests. Australia is no different. The Australian soldiers conducting operations in Afghanistan likely found themselves in a perpetual state of confused objectives. After all, what now is the end game in Afghanistan? It likely will change with the incoming new US political administration. And what was it a decade ago? It does not matter, Australians are there to fight, who? Mostly the people of Afghanistan.

The admission that Australian soldiers had committed war crimes by its own government does show the depth of seriousness of the culture that exists within a war weary few. The Australian special forces community has been deployed and wielded by the government for decades with reckless disregard to war fatigue. From interdicting refugees to numerous deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and perhaps Syria the SASR is thrown about by the government with the assumption that the men are superhuman beings there to serve policy. On top of the wars the special forces community have no doubt been involved in the training of local allies, exercises to integrate them in a wider multi-national coalition and any other covert operations. And now as the sabres are rattled in the direction of China another pivot has been given to the ADF. The elite few are now trapped in a state of service for the Australian government and its ill defined wars, that always has terrible outcomes. The soldiers may not be able to decide where they are sent, they however can decide how they conduct themselves.

Despite the dirty fingers that this revelation gives Australian government officials, the institution of aggressive Australian foreign policy will remain. The next season of cricket will start and the Australian appetite for war, limited and discreet, will return. For many of the Australian public the role and function of the military is without doubt. They are keeping Australia safe and free. In Afghanistan perhaps from terrorists, and maybe illicit drugs. Or to stop bad regimes from terrorizing their populace. Only foreigners may do that. And in the case of limiting freedoms in Australia, only a domestic government may do that too. In any case, the wars will go on for Australia. The Aussies will always be there.

A great many Australians in public and on social media are less than impressed with the government’s criticism of their soldier’s conduct. Civilians are siding with the SASR; the love for the military and the men who do the bloody deeds runs for the nation run deep in Australia. The ANZAC is celebrated, like a national knight above criticism. When they do come under fire, it is redirected at the officer class or the politicians themselves. It should be the Prime Minister from Howard, or the many coup-appointed leaders of the Australian government that should face trial, the claim goes. But those leaders likely never killed anyone. As difficult as it was for the soldiers, they made those decisions themselves without orders. And given the whistleblowing, clearly not all of their fellow soldiers agreed with the decision to commit murder.

In his May 22, 2020 interview with Scott Horton, former SAS member Braden Chapman explains his experiences in Afghanistan:

OK. I just witnessed an execution. And you kinda just move on, like we were pretty busy. You just kind of move on. I am sure that it was discussed behind closed doors.

It’s one of those units where it is very hard to come forward to say stuff, these things are investigated and they get away with it at the time so you kinda don’t want to really ruin your career I guess.

The fact that you know that they are getting away with this stuff, even when it is officially investigated by the military, you know it is not going to change anything.

Some have argued that this is no where near as devastating as the My Lai Massacre or the Japanese military’s rape of Nangking. No one claimed it was. But for the victims, those moments of terror were still very real. Even one murder is still wrong. It is with abstract morality and the majesty of nationalist obedience that one can swish numbers around to calculate just how much suffering and death is tolerable. Or the fact that the Australian military—again—is fighting overseas, involved in another war that has no virtuous outcome. It is a war against a population that had done nothing to Australia, or had any intention in attacking Australia. But neither did the Boers, Turks, Vietnamese or Iraqis.

It is not merely a culture within the SASR itself or even the military at large. It is Australian culture; an entitled one that feels it has a right to go abroad and wage war. No matter what the law or policy is, Australians have a duty to see it through, to follow the rules. This bushranger convict mentality may be one that is celebrated by a shrinking percentage of the population, but the majority continues to love their government or are at least impotently accepting its many intrusions. And far too many now depend on it. No matter how many examples to the contrary, people believe these actions are done in the name of the abstract greater good or a meandering ideal of freedom.

"There's no easy fix..."

The practice of "blooding", where unit commanders encouraged junior soldiers to execute unarmed prisoners as their first "kill":

Typically, the patrol commander would take a person under control and the junior member would then be directed to kill the person under control. "Throwdowns" would be placed with the body, and a "cover story" was created for the purposes of operational reporting and to deflect scrutiny. This was reinforced with a code of silence. — Defense One

As the new decade rolls in, it is safe to say that we shall see more revelations as whistleblowers feel safer in coming out. They may reveal not just the conduct that occurred in Afghanistan but other Australian military deployments. And as Australian citizen Julian Assange is held as a political prisoner, our government and wider public are silent on his status as a human being and journalist. Instead, because of his part in the revelations of murder in Iraq by an allied military, he is forsaken. His condition is deteriorating and his future is unknown, but for Australia more wars await. The government and populace will add to the growing list of misery it calls a foreign policy. And most Australians seem alright with that, or at the very least indifferent.  That is the culture. It is Australian.

To quote Major Thomas from the Australian film Breaker Morant: The fact of the matter is that war changes men’s natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations. Situations in which the ebb and flow of everyday life have departed and have been replaced by a constant round of fear and anger, blood and death.

Biden's National Security Pick Said US Should "Encourage" China's Rise & Not Contain It

Biden's National Security Pick Said US Should "Encourage" China's Rise & Not Contain It Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 17:50

Joe Biden's announced nomination for National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, had some interesting and eyebrow-raising words on China a few years back. The comments are even more relevant now as he's expected to assume this top cabinet position on the heels of Trump's ongoing pressure campaign and months-long trade war with China. 

The former staff member under Hillary Clinton when she was Obama's Secretary of State gave a 2017 speech - the contents of which are once again making the rounds wherein he said Washington should support China's "rise" as opposed to containing it.

"We need to strike a middle course – one that encourages China’s rise in a manner consistent with an open, fair, rules-based, regional order," Sullivan said in the context of a thinking tank foreign policy event.

Jake Sullivan (left) with then President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2012. Image source: White House

"This will require care and prudence and strategic foresight, and maybe even more basically it will require sustained attention. It may not have escaped your notice that these are not in ample supply in Washington right now.”

He further said "it needs to be about our ties to the region that create an environment more conducive to a peaceful and positive sum Chinese rise" at the Lowly Institute event.

He underscored during the 2017 lecture that a "thriving China" was in the end good for the global economy

It's unclear the degree to which his views have changed or shifted, also given Biden has campaigned this year on getting "tough" on China, including maintaining pressure and crucial alliances capable of bringing leverage to "shape the rules of the road" and soften the PRC to "reflect democratic interests and values."

Biden wrote it in a Foreign Affairs op-ed last spring that his administration will stand up to China and framed it in terms akin to a new Cold War: "As president, I will take immediate steps to renew U.S. democracy and alliances, protect the United States’ economic future, and once more have America lead the world. This is not a moment for fear. This is the time to tap the strength and audacity that took us to victory in two world wars and brought down the Iron Curtain," he wrote.

"The triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy created the free world. But this contest does not just define our past. It will define our future, as well," Biden continued at the time. 

Sullivan is certainly expected to reflect the above muscular foreign policy posture as Biden NatSec advisor, especially given his role in the so-called 'Arab Spring', where's he said to have favored robust US covert action in what were essentially regime change wars sold as 'humanitarian intervention'

Bitcoin, Weed, and the Value Rotation Trade

Bitcoin, Weed, and the Value Rotation Trade Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 17:44

Senior editor Ash Bennington welcomes back Tony Greer of TG Macro to make sense of today’s price action as the equity markets roar to all-time highs. After the pair briefly discusses the significance of the news that Janet Yellen will likely be named Treasury Secretary, Tony shares his analysis on the value rotation away from the tech giants into cyclical reflation plays like banks, casinos, hotels, and energy. As Tony says, “the world is getting back in business”. Ash and Tony then look the performance of Bitcoin as it approaches its 2017 highs, and explore the future of gold as an inflation hedge. Lastly, Tony gives an update on his trades in the cannabis sector. In the intro, Real Vision's Haley Draznin analyzes the market rally to record highs as the Dow surpasses 30,000 for the first time ever and looks into the anticipated rebound in the economy for the second half of 2021.

Grantham's Short Call Cost His Hedge Fund Over $2 Billion

Grantham's Short Call Cost His Hedge Fund Over $2 Billion Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 17:30

Back in June, value investing legend Jeremy Grantham decided he had had enough, and in a historic reversal for his traditionally bullish GMO Benchmark-Free Allocation Fund, took down exposure to US equities from a net 3-4% to a net short position worth about 5% of the $7.5bn portfolio, "perhaps the first time the fund has turned net short US stocks since the crisis."

Grantham laid out the reasons for his bearish flip in a lengthy letter to GMO investors, writing that "we have never lived in a period where the future was so uncertain" and yet "the market is 10% below its previous high in January when, superficially at least, everything seemed fine in economics and finance. And if not “fine,” well, good enough. The future paths include many that could change corporate profitability, growth, and many aspects of capitalism, society, and the global political scene."

In short, the veteran value investor known for calling several of the biggest market turns of recent decades admitted he had lost his faith in an upside case and his sense of direction in a world of record uncertainty "which in some ways seems the highest in my experience" and as a result "in terms of risk and return – particularly of the worst possible outcomes compared to the best – the current market seems lost in one-sided optimism when prudence and patience seem much more appropriate."

Grantham also highlighted the obvious: that the market and the economy have never been more disconnected - a phenomenon which is now known as the K-shaped recovery, and pointed out that while "the current P/E on the U.S. market is in the top 10% of its history... the U.S. economy in contrast is in its worst 10%, perhaps even the worst 1%.... This is apparently one of the most impressive mismatches in history."

However, the value investing legend's most dire prediction was that "if you look back in two to three years and this market turns around and drops 50%, the history books will say ‘That looked like one of the great warnings of all time. It was pretty obvious it was destined to end badly," Grantham said, adding: "If it does end badly the history books are going to be very unkind to the bulls." (his full letter can be found here).

* * *

Perhaps Grantham will be proven correct and in the summer of 2022 the S&P will be a smouldering post-crash rubble of its former bull market glory, but a little over five months after Grantham made his fateful bearish call, his multi-billion fund is suffering unlike any time since the financial crisis.

According to Bloomberg, GMO’s flagship Benchmark-Free Allocation Fund, which as noted above turned net short in the early summer and which seeks returns of five percentage points above the rate of inflation, has badly underperformed risk assets so far this year. It trails the S&P 500 by 14%, and while its primary equity holdings are in emerging markets, it also lags behind MSCI’s main developing-market gauge.

And in a world where hedge fund clients demand returns here and now - especially with 13-year-old Robinhood daytraders generating triple digit returns - Grantham's dramatic underperformance has meant just one thing: a flood of redemption requests.
In just the past 10 months, clients have pulled $2.2 billion from the fund with assets dropping by more than half since 2015 to $6.6 billion as of the end of October.

Ironically, just as there has been a rare resurgence in cyclical, value stocks since the Pfizer vaccine news which has crushed the opposing, momentum trade which made so many call-trading teenagers millionaires, GMO's Inker said in an email Monday that he understands why enthusiasm for value investing has dimmed. "The cruel logic of being a value manager is that at the very time when your opportunities are at their best, your credibility with clients is at its lowest ebb," he said in an email and he was spot on. And while he added that over the next five to 10 years, most value stocks seem priced to have a "decent real return," that will hardly impress clients who demand returns now and certainly have no patience to wait another 10 years.

"GMO has experienced periods like the present before," he said adding that the firm is confident in its current positioning. And while we don't doubt that Inker is confident, a few more quarters of multi-billion redemptions and the fund will no longer have capital to allocate to its convictions, a potentially terminal state which has befallen so many other experienced investors in a time when just buying call options on the dumbest momo names has been the winning strategy courtesy of the Fed.

Yet maybe GMO will have the last laugh.

As noted above, the 82-year-old Grantham is famous for being ahead of his peers. He exited Japan in 1987, called the tech bubble and saw signs of the housing crisis in 2006. Even as clients have left the firm - total assets have declined to $60 billion - GMO has expanded its fixed-income lineup, attracted investors with its factor-based strategy and started a climate change fund.

Alas for Grantham, more investors are leaving then joining. Last week, the Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association affirmed a decision to pull $140 million from one of the firm’s global asset allocation strategies, ending a 15-year relationship with GMO according to Bloomberg. The strategy hadn’t beaten its benchmark for more than six years.

The Benchmark-Free fund and some of the firm’s other asset allocation strategies have “underperformed for a long time,” said Bobby Blue, a Morningstar Inc. analyst. "It’s tough to stomach."

Sadly with Treasury Secretary Yellen set to unleash a monetary Kraken and buy stocks outright the next time there is a 20% drop in stocks, the underperformance by value funds such as GMO - which bet on logical, rational and reasonable fundamental investment theses which is impossible in a world where central banks have taken over capital markets - will continue for a long, long time.

Maryland Governor Expands COVID-19 Snitch Line, Says 'No Constitutional Right' To Go Maskless

Maryland Governor Expands COVID-19 Snitch Line, Says 'No Constitutional Right' To Go Maskless Tyler Durden Tue, 11/24/2020 - 17:10

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) says Americans have 'no constitutional right' to refuse wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, likening it to refusing to wear a seat belt or follow the speed limit.

"It’s sort of like saying I have a constitutional right to drive drunk, I have a constitutional right to not wear a seat belt, or to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater, or to not follow the speed limit," said Hogan during a coronavirus press briefing reported by the Washington Times.

"We’re talking about a quarter of a million people dying already — more than the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Vietnam War added together," he continued, adding "Which part don’t you understand? You wear the mask. There’s no constitutional right to walk around without a mask. We did it in 1918, I don’t know why we can’t do it now."

(There was actually an anti-Mask league of San Francisco during the 1918 pandemic to protest mandatory masks - a law which lasted one month before being repealed.)

Barbers in California wear masks during 1918 pandemic (UC Berkeley archive)

According to Hogan, Maryland State Police will deploy "High Visibility Compliance Units," which will have a special focus on bars, restaurants and other venues in order to ensure they remain compliant with state regulations surrounding the holidays.

MD Police will also expand their 24/7 COVID-19 Prevention Hotline, which will allow people to snitch on each other for 'unsafe activities' and public health order violations, according to the Times.

Residents are set to receive a state-wide emergency alert text message at 5 p.m. on Wednesday reminding of them of the restrictions.

Pages