by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 8:50 pm
Remember that one? It was about as weird as it gets. A meme generated out of the voluminous hacked John Podesta emails that some conspiracy connoisseurs cooked up into a tale of satanic child abuse revolving around a certain chi-chi Washington DC pizza joint. I never signed on with the story, but it was an interesting indication of how far the boundaries of mass psychology could be pushed in the mind wars of politics.
Sex, of course, is fraught. Sex and the feelings it conjures beat a path straight to the limbic system where the most primitive thoughts become the father of the most primitive deeds. In our American world, this realm of thought and deed has turned into a political football with the Left and the Right scrimmaging ferociously for field position — while the real political agenda of everything important other than sex lies outside the stadium.
The Comet Pizza story was understandably upsetting to Democrats who didn’t like being painted as child molesters. Unfortunately for them, it coincided with the bust of one Anthony Weiner — and his infamous laptop — disgraced former “sexting” congressman, husband of Hillary’s top aide and BFF, Huma Abedin. The laptop allegedly contained a lot of child porn.
That garbage barge of sexual allegation and innuendo couldn’t have helped the Hillary campaign, along with all the Clinton Foundation stuff, in the march to electoral loserdom. I suspect the chthonic darkness of it all generated the “Russia-did-it” hysteria that cluttered up the news-cloud during the first month of Trumptopia. The collective superego of America is reeling with shame and rage.
On the Right side spectrum stood the curious figure of Milo Yiannopoulos, the self-styled “Dangerous Faggot,” who has made a sensational career lately as an ideological provocateur, especially on the campus scene were he got so into the indignant faces of the Maoist snowflakes with his special brand of boundary-pushing that they resorted to disrupting his events, dis-inviting him at the last moment, or finally rioting, as in the case at UC Berkeley a few weeks ago.
Milo’s battles on campus were particularly ripe because his opponents on the far Left were themselves so adamant about their own brand of boundary-pushing along the frontier of the LGBTQ agenda. The last couple of years, you
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 8:23 pm
Ye Jianming isn’t a name that rings many bells… yet. But, according to SCMP, it will, considering what he’s achieved so far in a country where the state firms take all. As Fortune recently wrote, when it ranked Ye #2 in its “40 Under 40” list, he runs a $42-billion-a-year oil business in China, (No. 229 on the Fortune Global 500), yet few in China know anything about the mysterious tycoon or the firm he created, CEFC.
Ye bought a collection of oil assets in his twenties and secured loans from state-owned banks to expand abroad, a privilege for a private company. CEFC has oil agreements in Kazakhstan, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Chad and has gone into ventures with state-owned giants to transport oil to China, making him a rare powerful private player aligned with the Chinese government.
Little else is known about Ye: as of this moment, he is the sole private entrepreneur to win a stake in an Abu Dhabi onshore oil concession (whose lifespan is 40 years) with 4%. British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corp got 10% and 8% respectively.
Why would state giants like CNOOC and Sinopec Group tolerate that? Simple: Ye holds a “full” licence in China’s financial industry – covering insurance, brokerage, banking, trusts, commodities and asset management, alongside state-owned Citic Group and China Everbright Holdings. Yet what’s so different here from the hundreds of firms that are queuing up for an insurance license?
Well, the money helps: his empire, CEFC China Energy, has seen its revenue double to 263 billion yuan (US$38.3 billion) between 2012 and 2015, becoming the largest oil trader in China. That was before the company won a lucrative permit to import oil.
But most important and puzzling of all – according to SCMP – Ye is only 39 years old.
Ye is now venturing into Hong Kong. Last week, he announced the HK$600 million acquisition of listed Runway Global with the intention to make it a financial conglomerate. In October 2016, he paid HK$1.4 billion (US$180 million) for three floors at the Convention & Exhibition Centre in Wanchai. Before putting a price tag on Ye and Runway, one question needs to be satisfied. How did he manage all
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 8:00 pm
Goodbye, Socialist Paradise
Nestle USA has announced that it will move its headquarters from Glendale, California, to Rosslyn, Virginia, taking with it about 1200 jobs.
The once Golden State has lost some 1690 businesses since 2008 and a net outflow of a million of mostly middle-class people from the state from 2004 to 2013 due to its onerous tax rates, the oppressive regulatory burden, and the genuine kookiness which pervades among its ruling elites.
There has been a remarkable reversal of flow of people and businesses – but California’s ruling elite seemingly remains utterly clueless as to why this is happening and/or doesn’t seem to care. When people and businesses flee from such a well-developed region with such a favorable climate, one should realize that something is probably very wrong. Here is a link to a comprehensive study of the flight of businesses and a million middle class people (net) since 2008 (PDF).
A clueless Glendale official is apparently unconcerned about the financial repercussions of Nestle’s departure saying that it was “no big deal” and saw it as an “opportunity,” whatever that means!
The stampede of businesses out of what was once the most productive and attractive region in all of North America demonstrates again that prosperity and individual freedom are best served in a political environment of decentralization.
That the individual states of America have retained some sovereignty, despite the highly centralized “federal” system of government of which they are a part, has enabled individuals and entrepreneurs living in jurisdictions that have become too tyrannical to “escape” to political environments which are less oppressive.
The routes people aspiring to become small businessmen in California can take….
This, among other reasons (mainly air conditioning), led to the rise of the Sun Belt as people sought to escape the high taxes and regulations of the Northeast to less burdensome (and warmer!) southern destinations.
This can also be seen on a worldwide scale. The US, for a long time, had been a haven of laissez-faire economic philosophy, which, not surprisingly, became a magnet for those seeking opportunity and a higher standard of living.
No longer is this the case as increasing numbers of companies
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 7:35 pm
The Washington Post, still supremely perplexed by how President Trump managed to win the White House, is apparently even more confused now as to why his approval ratings stubbornly refuse to drop into the teens. Nevertheless, the disaffected mainstreamers at WaPo seem to derive some comfort from a handful of recent polls which all peg Trump’s “approval rating” at under 50%, a statistic they victoriously used to declare the following:
“Most Americans don’t think that President Trump is doing a good job.”
Of course, as Gallup pointed out last month, half of the Presidents that have held the White House since World War II failed to win the approval of a majority of Americans over the course of their terms, including WaPo’s beloved President Obama who averaged just 47.9%…but we digress.
Still, dissatisfied with an approval rating anywhere north of 0%, the ever-skeptical WaPo figured there must be some nefarious explanation for why such a vile person like Trump could possibly avoid impeachment after a full month in the White House, nonetheless enjoy the ‘approval’ of 48% of the electorate (at least according to the Fox News poll).
So they set out on a mission to scour polling methodologies and demographics of respondents for a clue to the Trump approval enigma. Fortunately they were able to quickly focus in on a pleasant “narrative” that Trump’s sole support emanated from a consolidated group of white (a.k.a. “racist”), male (a.k.a. “sexist”) voters without a college degree (a.k.a. “dumb”).
Meanwhile, knowing that their efforts to diminish the President’s approval rating would be harshly received by roughly half of the population, they decided to preemptively mock all you dumb, racist, sexist people out there.
I know, I know: You and your friends think he’s doing a great job, and this is more fake news. Or maybe: No one you know likes Trump at all. Or the classic: LOL all the polls were wrong last year, who cares what polls say. To which I’d quickly reply, in order: (1) That’s your bubble, (2) that’s your bubble and (3) actually, national polls were pretty accurate.
And, of course, these same dumb, racist, sexist people who are propping Trump’s approval ratings today
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 7:10 pm
Foreign and national defense ministries around the world, as well as embassies in Washington, DC, are struggling to ascertain who is actually in charge of the U.S. government one month after Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States. It is a fair question, considering the conflicting statements issuing forth from the White House, State Department, and the Pentagon.
Suffice to say, there are, essentially, three Trump administrations, all with varying degrees of power.
The first administration and the most visibly powerful is Trump’s inner circle. At the present time, this consists of Trump, chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Trump daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, special assistant to the president Stephen Miller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Although Bannon came to Trump from the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz, the former Breitbart News publisher has become a virtual «Svengali», influencing Trump on foreign and domestic policies.
The second administration represents the establishment Republicans who endorsed Trump after he secured the Republican presidential nomination. This circle includes White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, and Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary who had the same job at the Republican National Committee under Priebus. Trump’s counselor and former presidential campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who, like Bannon, came from the Cruz campaign, funds herself often on the outside of the Trump inner circle and more in the company of establishment Republicans Priebus and Spicer. Priebus and Conway, and, to a lesser extent, Spicer, are the eyes and ears of congressional Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan in the White House.
The third administration represents the longtime «deep state» interests and is a combination of George W. Bush/Ronald Reagan administration neoconservative activists and powerful Wall Street and Houston/Dallas oil business moguls traditionally linked to Republican politics. While the neocons and business interests do not agree on much, they are taking advantage of the disorganization of the Trump administration to secure their own power centers. Recently, officials of this «third» administration were seen vying for influence and stature at the 2017 Munich Security Conference.
It is clear that the third Trump administration is the
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 6:20 pm
As the culture war is about irreconcilable beliefs about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, and is at root a religious war, it will be with us so long as men are free to act on their beliefs.
Yet, given the divisions among us, deeper and wider than ever, it is an open question as to how, and how long, we will endure as one people.
After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the “Christian nation” that Harry Truman said we were.
In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, “We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation.” Secularism had been enthroned as our established religion, with only the most feeble of protests.
One can only imagine how Iranians or Afghans would deal with unelected judges moving to de-Islamicize their nations. Heads would roll, literally.
Which bring us to the first culture war skirmish of the Trump era.
Taking sides with Attorney General Jeff Sessions against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the president rescinded the Obama directive that gave transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. President Donald Trump sent the issue back to the states and locales to decide.
While treated by the media and left as the civil rights cause of our era, the “bathroom debate” calls to mind Marx’s observation, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
Can anyone seriously contend that whether a 14-year-old boy, who thinks he is a girl, gets to use the girls’ bathroom is a civil rights issue comparable to whether African-Americans get the right to vote?
Remarkably, there was vigorous dissent, from DeVos, to returning this issue to where it belongs, with state and local officials.
After yielding on the bathroom question, she put out a statement declaring that every school in America has a “moral obligation” to protect children from bullying, and directed her Office of Civil Rights to investigate all claims of bullying or harassment “against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
Now, bullying is bad behavior, and it may be horrible behavior.
But when did a Republican Party that believes in states rights decide this was a responsibility of a bureaucracy Ronald Reagan promised but failed to shut down? When
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 5:55 pm
Having regretted her remarks in July 2016 that now-President Donald Trump was “a faker,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the US is “not experiencing the best of times” – but the “pendulum” will swing back.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, in a rare interview, the oldest serving member of the Supreme Court (83 years old) says she is “optimistic in the long run”…
Justice Ginsburg reiterated the importance of the free press.
“I read the Washington Post and the New York Times every day, and I think that the reporters are trying to tell the public the way things are,” she said.
“Think of what the press has done in the United States,” she said citing the Watergate scandal. “That story might never have come out if we didn’t have the free press that we do.”
Asked what most concerns her about the current climate she said, in an apparent reference to longstanding congressional gridlock:
“Our legislature – which is the first branch of government – is right now not working.”
Justice Ginsburg was careful to avoid commenting directly on Donald Trump’s presidency.
Asked about the rise of the so-called “post truth world”, Justice Ginsburg said:
“I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum.
“And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back.
“Some terrible things have happened in the United States but one can only hope that we learn from those bad things.”
She cited the example of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, when more than 110,000 people were put into camps, in the largest official forced relocation in US history.
“That was a dreadful mistake. It took a long time for the United States to realise how dreadful it was. But ultimately the president acknowledged that there was no reason to intern people of Japanese ancestry and Congress passed a bill providing compensation for the people who were interned or their survivors.”
Justice Ginsburg said she was encouraged by the Women’s March,
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 5:30 pm
This measure of relative “progressivity” focused on personal income taxes. And that’s important because that levy often is the most onerous for highly productive residents of a nation.
But there are other taxes that also create a gap between what such taxpayers earn and produce and what they ultimately are able to consume and enjoy. What about the effects of payroll taxes? Of consumption taxes and other levies?
Looking at the Evidence
To answer that question, we have a very useful study from the European Policy Information Center on this topic. Authored by Alexander Fritz Englund and Jacob Lundberg, it looks at the total marginal tax rate on each nation’s most productive taxpayers.
They start with some sensible observations about why marginal tax rates matter, basically echoing what I wrote after last year’s Super Bowl.
Here’s what Englund and Lundberg wrote.
The marginal tax rate is the proportion of tax paid on the last euro earned. It is the relevant tax rate when deciding whether to work a few extra hours or accept a promotion, for example. As most income tax systems are progressive, the marginal tax rate on top incomes is usually also the highest marginal tax rate. It is an indicator of how progressive and distortionary the income tax is.”
They then explain why they include payroll taxes in their calculations.
The income tax alone does not provide a complete picture of how the tax system affects incentives to work and earn income. Many countries require employers and/or employees to pay social contributions. It is not uncommon for the associated benefits to be capped while the contribution itself is uncapped, meaning it is a de facto tax for high-income earners. Even those social contributions that are legally paid by the employer will in the end be paid by the employee as the employer should be expected to shift the burden of the tax through lower gross wages.”
Englund and Lundberg are correct. A payroll tax (sometimes called a “social insurance”
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 5:05 pm
About a month ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided to ‘take a stand’ in defiance of Trump’s immigration executive order and penned a message to the world vowing, among other things, to hire 10,000 refugees over the next 5 years and “build bridges, not walls, with Mexico”. Here are some excerpts from the politically charged message drafted by Schultz with “deep concern and a heavy heart”:
I write to you today with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise. Let me begin with the news that is immediately in front of us: we have all been witness to the confusion, surprise and opposition to the Executive Order that President Trump issued on Friday, effectively banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, including refugees fleeing wars. I can assure you that our Partner Resources team has been in direct contact with the partners who are impacted by this immigration ban, and we are doing everything possible to support and help them to navigate through this confusing period.
Hiring Refugees: We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world. This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination. There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business.
Building Bridges, Not Walls, With Mexico: We have been open for business in Mexico since 2002, and have since opened almost 600 stores in 60 cities across the country, which together employ over 7,000 Mexican partners who proudly wear the green apron. Coffee is what unites our common heritage, and as I told Alberto Torrado, the leader of our partnership with Alsea in Mexico, we stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust
by Zero Hedge - February 24th, 2017 4:38 pm
Predictably, those members of the media who were locked out of a Q&A session with White House spokesman Sean Spicer, have reacted furiously, led by CNN who on Friday sharply condemned the White House’s decision to block it and several other outlets.
“This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House. Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like. We’ll keep reporting regardless,” CNN said in a statement.
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) February 24, 2017
As discussed previously, on Friday afternoon Spicer held an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters in his West Wing office, as opposed to the regular briefing in the White House briefing room. CNN, together with the New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed and the Los Angeles Times, was barred from the briefing, while outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Reuters, Bloomberg, McClatchy and Breitbart, The Washington Times and One America News Network were all allowed in.
The hand-picked gaggle came hours after President Trump lashed out at the press during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, telling the audience, “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news,” a term he has used toward both CNN and The New York Times.
“I called the fake news the enemy of the people,” Trump told CPAC. “They are the enemy of the people, because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”
Since neither Trump, nor CNN or any other media outlets are likely to de-escalate, we look forward to finding what mushroom clouds this particular nuclear war between the Trump administration and the “enemy of the people” press will bring. We certainly anticipate an angry Trump tweet in the most immediate future.