Nel's New Day

October 17, 2022

What Happens to Liz Truss?

By her 41st day of being the British prime minister, Liz Truss had fired the cabinet, rehired a new one, fired the Treasury chancellor she hired, seen her agenda destroyed, reversed her financial positions, dropped the UK pound to a value below that of a dollar, forced the Bank of England to solve her problems, and apparently lost her leadership. She watched as Jeremy Hunt, a political rival now the new finance minister with no Treasury experience, announced that the government would allow taxes to increase instead of being slashed. Truss had said the former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, her former friend and ally, was doing “an excellent job’” as chancellor and the pair were “in lockstep”—until they weren’t. Newspapers have been uniformly critical.

UK low-income households would have lost about £400 with her system of increasing benefits with earnings, a lower rate than inflation. The raise would be 5.5 percent instead of the inflation rate of 10 percent. Disposable income would have shrunk by about 7.7 percent, hurting businesses that will make less money. In-work households lost by £458, and the loss for couples with children was £640. For conservatives, welfare is an easy place to cut spending, but even Truss’ own party, the Tories, was upset by the plan. She had also considered increasing the age for state pensions and cutting housing benefits.

Other “slash and burn tactics” including dumping free childcare hours, putting housing on green belt land, abolishing corporation tax, and eliminating teacher training qualifications. Her remote learning would have allowed parents to pick the best teachers, amending the Equalities Act to protect white working-class boys, and returning the link between tax and household income to make a married woman’s income become part of her husband’s. Her expected deregulations covered deregulation in eight areas including planning, business regulation, childcare, immigration, agricultural productivity, and financial services.

Kwarteng’s unfunded tax cuts and extra borrowing leaves a shortage of £60 billion by 2026 and results in serious public services reductions and an annual growth of 0.8 percent during the next five years from a slowing global economy, Brexit issues, and Kwarteng’s £45 billion cost of Kwarteng’s mini-budget. He abruptly left the International Monetary Fund to fly back to London and be fired. Because of Truss’ positions, the IMF had dropped projection of this year’s UK growth from 3.6% to 0.3% in 2023. Markets are happier with the decision, but the question is who’s in charge of the government.

Another Truss rival, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, was assigned to defend the PM’s fiscal U-turns in a parliament where both sides are calling for Truss to resign. She was forced to say that Truss had “urgent business” about Truss’ absence. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer summed it up: Truss is “in office but not in power.”

The joke from British tabloid Daily Star asks whether a head of iceberg lettuce or Truss will last longer; it’s livestreaming Truss’ photo with the unrefrigerated lettuce. (At least 96.8 percent voted thus far for the lettuce to last longer.) The conservative Sunday Times editorial called Hunt the “de factor prime minister.”

Elected by 160,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party, about 0.3 percent of the country’s population, Truss ran as an “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher look-alike. Her campaign promises have now been gutted. People struggling with 10-percent inflation didn’t approve of Truss’ tax cuts for the wealthy, and bond traders were alarmed by the amount of borrowing needed for the plans. Hunt announced “almost all the tax measures announced in the growth plan three weeks ago” would be scrapped. The shift stabilized the UK pound, increased the leading stock index, and dropped the cost of government borrowing although it remains higher than before Truss started her damage.

No general election has been set, but the Labour Party is 30 points ahead of the Conservatives. Jonathan Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, said Truss’ survival as PM comes only from the Conservative Party’s inability to “agree on a replacement.” One wing wants former finance minister Rishi Sunak, Truss’ runner-up, but Boris Johnson loyalists see him as the leader of the revolt bringing down their PM hero. A PM is in trouble when a replacement awaits in the wings such as Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Truss’ economic program lasted only ten days because interest skyrocketed with no budget score. A conservative view that tax cuts boost the economy didn’t meet reality because lower-income people were responsible for hardships. British journalist Archie Bland wrote that Kwarteng “wanted to fundamentally reshape the British economy in a matter of weeks” and did—“currency fluctuations, mortgage deals withdrawn, £65 billion of emergency first aid for the bond market, and the prospect of deep spending cuts.

Aditya Chakrabortty explains the problems came from the influence of conservative as young people who don’t represent the county generate policies for the government. They also announce ideas to see if the public will tolerate them before the government tackles them. Truss and Kwarteng are connected to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), formerly a fringe group and funded by dark money including tobacco, oil, alcohol, and gambling.  

The UK’s massive train strikes would add to the disaster, threatening the supply chain. During her campaign, Truss had promised to block trade unions. The UK also faces strikes across UK industries—transport, trash collection, lawyers, etc.—which all relate to pay and great concern about the British economy.

Financial problems were only part of Truss’ differences of opinion. She promised to suspend the U.K.’s “green levy,” in which 8 percent of energy bills fund green energy project that curb the cost of energy. She lifted a 2019 moratorium on fracking, a move supported by only 27 percent of Britain, and announced new North Sea oil and gas licenses. Two of her cabinet picks are outspoken climate change skeptics. Truss’ environment secretary opposes more solar farms in the countryside and told King Charles III, an advocate of delaying climate change, to cancel his plans for attending the COP27 conference about the economics of clean energy in Egypt this November.

To win her election, Truss curried favor with a very narrow and very conservative constituency. A survey had found that the Conservative Party overwhelmingly preferred the previous PM Boris Johnson to both Truss and her opponent. Her win may have come from a scandal regarding Sunak’s taxes. Only 14 percent of the party members said Truss would be better than Johnson, and one-fourth said she would be worse. Uncharismatic and lacking communication skills, she couldn’t even identify two Russia regions mentioned by her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

UK didn’t hold a general election because The Conservative Party had a majority in the House of Commons, the democratically-elected lower house of the UK’s parliament. The next general election will be no later than January 24, 2024. When she took over, she said she was looking forward to “victory” in 2024, but that was six weeks ago.

The Daily Mail reported that lawmakers will try to oust Truss this week despite the warning of a general election. Over 100 Conservative Party MPs are prepared to submit letters of no confidence in Truss to Graham Brady, the head of the Conservative Party’s committee which organizes the leadership contest. If she doesn’t resign, the MPs urge Brady to change the political party rules to allow an immediate vote of confidence in her leadership. Grady argued that Truss deserves the opportunity to set ou9t economic strategy in a budget on October 31.

Truss is the fourth PM since change-happy Brits voted for the ill-fated Brexit, the UK separation from the European Union. Stryker McGuire wrote that former PM Tony Blair called it a “post-empire malaise”—the urge to “take back control” and run an empire. Within 24 hours of the June 23, 2016 vote, the “Brexit pound” fell from $1.50 to $1.33 of its dollar value and his the lowest-ever recorded level of $1.03 on September 26, 2022—thanks to Liz Truss. Being “liberated” never came to fruition: Britain’s borders stayed porous while the post-Brexit trade deals failed to overcome the loss of its largest trading partner, and the former administration didn’t come through with its wonderful deal.

Labor no longer freely moving between the UK and the continent “hollowed out the workforce.” The number of job vacancies in all businesses dropped by one-third this past quarter from before Brexit. Long-term productivity will slump by four percent, both exports and imports will be around 15 percent, newly signed trade deals with non-EU countries “will not have a material impact”, and the government’s new post-Brexit migration regime reducing net inward migration will worsen critical labor shortages.

The Conservative Party and the UK right-wing press are no longer concealing troubles: a “calamitous loss of international standing” and six years of “damage,” “policy confusion” and “ineptitude,” according to the Telegraph newspaper. The columnist added claims of Project Fear, a derogatory term for pre-Brexit warnings about economic harm and disruption, “have turned out to be overwhelmingly correct.” This month, a UK minister apologized to the EU for the UK handling of post-Brexit negotiations over Northern Ireland and said the UK needed to show more humility. Truss has been openly pro-Brexit, but future PMs may not follow her lead.

December 30, 2020

UK Secedes from EU with ‘Brexit’

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:54 PM
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The holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day continued the U.S. angst. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is still looking for scams to stay in the Oval Office, he’s growing more and more angry spouting more and more lies, and his attempts to get the courts to rule in his favor still fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is still declaring people in the U.S. don’t need any money when more and more of them are dropping below the poverty line, and he’s still blocking Democratic bills.

Across the pond, however, the United Kingdom is settling its divorce with the European Union after 47 years. That separation is relevant to people in the U.S., however, because it affects world trade—and southern states occasionally threaten to secede from the Union.

The UK’s problem started a few months before the U.S. problems started with the 2016 election of DDT. The cause was the same—dissatisfied conservatives, largely white and many rural, who just wanted a change and wanted to make the nation white. Some people voted for “Brexit,” the British exit from the EU, as a joke. Others didn’t bother to vote because they figured it wouldn’t pass. While the U.S. has spent the past four years suffering agonies DDT inflicted on the nation, the UK lost world status, and political careers tanked, including two prime ministers.

In 1,317 days, the UK failed two exit deadlines through dozens of Parliament votes until a flat finish line forced by the EU at midnight, December 31, 2020, pushed the Brits into a negotiation to avoid a complete and disastrous “no-deal” break with the 27 EU country coalition. As with the minority U.S. support of DDT, only the UK minority supported Brexit In both countries, the more vocal minority disagrees that opening borders and greater global relationships strengthen countries and give a better path to peace and prosperity.

A 14-hour parliamentary process culminated in an approval vote by MPs of 521 to 73 for the agreement, and the House of Lords was unopposed. The Queen also signed an approval, putting the UK-EU agreement into British law. The deal has one more hurdle, passing the EU parliament, but the EU already removed all evidence—chairs, post office boxes, etc.—of any UK presence. 

Most people may not feel the impact of the agreement during the transition period for the next year. The EU wouldn’t negotiate new arrangements with the UK while it was still a member; the year-long transition allows for working out details. Problems still exist with lack of access to security databases, broken promises over fishing rights in UK water, and unanswered border questions for Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, both having no land access to the UK. Trade will be a problem for the UK because it has a goods deficit with EU despite a surplus in service industries such as finance.

The UK remains part of the EU’s economic institutions and security co-operation arrangements until the end of the transition period. The EU will treat the UK as a member of the single market and customs union and asked its trade partners to do the same. People from the UK can move freely among the 27 EU countries during the transition, and the UK will be subject to EU law and rulings of the European Court of Justice. Although the UK has access to EU databases such as Europol, some EU countries such as Germany cannot extradite citizens with the European Arrest Warrant to non-members.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his reputation by putting together an agreement. A summary of the deal. A few highlights of the 1,000+ page deal:

Fishing: The value of fish caught by the EU in UK waters will be cut by 25 percent, less than the UK wanted. At the end of five and a half years, the UK will control access to its waters and might make deeper cuts, possibly even excluding EU fishing boats. This area was the hardest to negotiate, and people in the industry aren’t satisfied

Trade: With no tariffs between the EU and UK, the UK has to meet EU standards, a positive result for labor rights activists because the EU is traditionally more worker-friendly than the UK. “Leavers” are the losers because they wanted to move EU companies to the UK with promises of fewer worker protections.

“Level playing field’: Measures commit both the UK and the EU to common standards on workers’ rights and many social and environmental regulations, an EU demand. UK doesn’t have to follow EU law but must protect fair competition.

Dispute resolution: If either UK or EU moves from current standards with a negative impact on the other side, a dispute mechanism could trigger tariffs. These can be targeted in one sector from a dispute in another. Binding arbitration involves both sides. Tariffs may be an ongoing threat.

European Court of Justice (ECJ): EU remains arbiter of European law, but the ECI doesn’t play a role in policing the agreement except in Northern Ireland which has a special status. Northern Ireland, part of the UK separated by land from both UK and EU, remains subject to EU single market and customs union rules, making ECI the highest legal authority there.

Travel: UK nationals will need a visa to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period. They can use their health cards (EHICs) until they expire when they will be replaced a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). EU pet passports will no longer be valid although people can travel with pets under a more complicated process. The International mobile roaming remains, but UK travelers could be charged for using phones in EU and vice versa. UK citizens can use their licenses to drive in EU but need a Green Card as proof for vehicle insurance.

Financial services: The UK hopes for “equivalence” decisions, but the EU needs “further clarifications.”

Data: A concern about protection rules for UK companies dealing with EU data wants easy communication as well as protection of personal data and privacy. EU agrees to four months, extendable by two more months, to exchange data, the same as current rules if the UK doesn’t change its data protection rules.

Product standards: The “mutual recognition of conformity assessment” means less intrusive checks than otherwise. Thus far, there is no agreement on conformity assessment that UK wanted. New barriers to trade, however, may require checking products twice to seek them in both UK and EU. Exporting food of animal origin may be very intrusive and costly going into EU.

Professional qualifications: UK citizens from doctors to chefs lose the ease of being licensed throughout the EU if licensed in the UK, creating greater difficulties for them to seek employment in the EU. They may need to apply in each of EU’s 27 countries.

Education: UK students can no longer participate in the Erasmus education-exchange program where they could study in any EU university.

Security: The UK loses automatic and immediate access to some EU databases used by police for criminal records, wanted persons, etc. Gone is “real time” access, and others, such as access of names of people taking flights, will be much more restrictive than currently. It keeps access to other databases such as the system which cross-checks fingerprints across the continent. The UK can sit in on Europol meetings but have no direct say in decisions. A new committee will settle disagreements over data instead of the European Court of Justice.

Current advantages of the agreement:

  • Zero tariffs and quotas on goods.
  • No hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • A shared commitment to protecting the environment, to fight against climate change and carbon pricing.
  • A shared commitment to protecting social and labor rights.
  • Keeping standards on tax transparency.
  • The UK’s continued participation in a number of EU programs until 2027 such as Horizon Europe, subject to a UK financial contribution.

Sasha Abramsky writes:

“Brits have, as a culmination of a nearly five-year fit of national orneriness, finally traded away the right to live and work and study in 27 other countries in exchange for a series of platitudes about ‘reclaiming sovereignty’ and ‘controlling our destiny’ and protecting from greedy continental fishermen a fishing catch that makes up a smaller percentage of the national economy than does the single department store of Harrods.”

In November, 51 percent of people thought Brexit is wrong compared with 38 percent who approve. Of the respondents to the poll, 59 percent of respondents believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government handled the exit badly with only 28 percent believing the process went well.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., daily COVID-19 statistics on December 30, 2020: 234,550 new cases and 3,880 deaths.

December 22, 2019

Week 152 – World, Domestic Affairs

World and domestic affairs beyond impeachment affect the United States through decisions that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes.

DDT stayed silent during violent protests from India’s attempt to eliminate secularization. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a conservative re-elected in May, the parliament permits citizenship for undocumented migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who moved to India before 2014 and belong to one of six religious minorities, excluding Islam. Modi claims that the law protects persecuted religious groups, much like DDT said about his executive order protecting only Jewish people. India is now trying to control protests by shutting down phone and internet access in parts of the country.

Shortly before DDT was elected, Russian interference helped an anti-immigrant movement in Britain pass Brexit, a separation from the European Union. After agonizing over the process for over three years, the Brits elected Boris Johnson as prime minister to finish the process, much to the possible detriment of almost everyone in the country. Like DDT, Johnson is connected to corruption and sexual misconduct. The UK will leave the EU by the last day of 2020 no matter how disastrous, and the UK may have to pay the EU up to £39 billion. Northern Ireland stayed with the EU and will have a customs and regulatory border with Great Britain; Scotland voted to stay with the EU and may separate from the UK.

DDT, close friends with the autocratic Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdogan, rejected the congressional votes to recognize that the Ottoman’s killing of Armenians in 1915-16 to support Germany in World War I was genocide. In retribution for the congressional resolution, Erdogan threatens to shut down Incirlik air base where the U.S. stores nuclear warheads. DDT called resolution criticizing the killing of 1.5 million Armenians “worthless” and the “biggest insult” to Turkish people. Erdogan also tried to prevent sanctions against Turkey after its military offensive in Syria by threatening to close the Kurecik radar base. Following DDT’s wishes, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to block the resolution. On December 12, the Senate unanimously passed the resolution after the House did so with only one no vote. Because resolutions do not have the weight of law, they do not require a president’s signature. 

Israel is headed for its third election in less than a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to put together a winning coalition but plans to stay prime minister. The national election to determine the Israeli prime minister is next March, but on December 26, 100,000 Likud party members, Netanyahu’s party, vote for their leaders. Gideon Sa’ar is challenging Netanyahu to represent Likud; the winner is in line to become prime minister.Christians in the Gaza Strip are banned from visiting holy cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth for Christmas. Last year, almost 700 Gazan Christians received permits to travel the holy cities.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is investigating Israeli war crimes allegedly committed in the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu claims that the ICC has jurisdiction only for sovereign states and denies any Palestinian state. He plans to illegally take over the Jordan Valley, composing one-fourth of the West Bank. In the ICC, Palestine is suing the U.S. for DDT’s moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Two courts, one in the EU and the other in Canada, have also decided that Israel “an occupying power” and “not … a sovereign entity” in determining labeling of products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.   

The end of the year means tax preparation. Last year the 2017 tax cuts hurt a large percentage of people in the U.S., but large corporations are making out like bandits from their 40-percent tax rate cut. Approximately 400 of the largest corporations in the U.S. paid an average federal tax rate of about 11 percent on their profits last year, roughly half the official rate set by the tax law and half the rate that they averaged between 2008 and 2015. In 2018, corporations averaged 11.3 percent in taxes, the lowest level in over 30 years, while the deficit hit $984 billion, unusual in a supposedly strong economy. There is no evidence of the GOP claim of lower taxes’ cut causing economic growth and boosting business investment. The unemployment rate has stayed low in some areas, but higher wages are largely caused by blue states increasing the minimum wage rate.

In the Fortune 500, 91 corporations earning $101 billion paid no federal taxes last year. Amazon paid no taxes on $10.8 billion in profits and got a $129 million rebate. Firing 800 people, Activision Blizzard made $447 million and received a tax rebate of $243 million, giving them a -54.4 percent.

Overturning the Affordable Care Act would give the wealthy and pharmaceutical companies a huge tax break. The top 1,400 highest-earning taxpayers would receive $3.8 billion, and pharmaceutical companies would pay $2.8 billion less in taxes. People on Medicare would pay more for prescription drugs, and U.S. drug costs are already the highest in the developed world. Twenty million people would lose health insurance, and the poverty rate would increase. Causing a crack in the ACA, a state judge overturned the individual mandate in the ACA despite a Supreme Court ruling that accepted it.

DDT plans to reduce aid to the 39.7 million people in the United States living in poverty by allowing sports stadiums and arenas to use opportunities designed to meet the needs of middle- and low-income people. The 1977 Community Reinvestment Act requires financial institutions to meet the credit needs of all communities where they do business so that they can’t refuse to serve people based on income level and demographics rather than credit worthiness. Under DDT’s plan, investors can delay taxes or reduce tax payments on their capital gains while building stadiums that displace people of color. 

Eating pork may be dangerous under DDT’s new rules, according to Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors Jill Mauer and Anthony Vallone, who filed whistleblower disclosure forms. A pilot program for over 92 percent of U.S. pork plants will provide fewer inspectors who must stand at a distance while untrained plants’ employees check carcasses and still try to maintain line speeds. Defects can include feces, sex organs, toenails, bladders, and unwanted hair—think Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Beef processing may suffer from the same MO.  

The U.S. Forest Service is permitting Canada’s Midas Gold to write the environmental report necessary to obtain approval for mining in Idaho after a “collaborative” meeting that included Midas. In that way, Midas can avoid habitat restoration work to protect the surrounding area.

In a software failure, Boeing’s Starliner, intended to fly NASA astronauts to space, didn’t get to the right orbit. A few days earlier, Boeing announced it was stopping the production of the 737 Max that killed 346 people in two crashes and demonstrated multiple other problems. The planes have been grounded since March 11, pending approval for planes being built. Almost 400 737 Max jets at the Renton (WA) facility are costing the company about $4.4 billion every three months for production, storage, and maintenance. Although Boeing may not have any work stoppage, hundreds of other U.S. manufacturers in its supply chain may be forced to lay off workers. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Boeing’s problems had taken 0.4 percent off the GDP for the year.

For years, the FAA allowed Boeing to perform its own inspections. High level Boeing officials knew about the planes’ problems and lied to the FAA. Earlier this month, the FAA fined Boeing $3.9 million for “knowingly submitted aircraft” to the agency for safety certification even after learning that crucial wing components “could not be used due to a failed strength test.”

State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo not only fired Bill Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, but also told him to get out of the country early because he didn’t want to be photographed with the highly respected career diplomat. Pompeo urged Taylor to take the job, and Taylor then testified to the House Intelligence Committee about DDT’s attempts to extort Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Taylor believes his obligation is to the country, not DDT, and Pompeo wants to be the senator from Kansas.

Another of DDT’s circle of associates is now heading for prison, but Rick Gates, associate of DDT’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, gets only 45 days after evading taxes and concealing millions of dollars representing pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine after Gates’ cooperation. Manafort, DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and DDT’s first national security adviser are in the slammer. George Papadopoulos, DDT’s former campaign adviser on foreign policy, and Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort and Gates, have finished their prison sentences. Roger Stone, longtime DDT adviser and confidant, awaits sentencing. DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani faces a criminal investigation. Others connected to DDT include Richard Pinedo, who has a prison sentence for fraudulently trying to hurt Clinton’s campaign; Sam Patten and Maria Butina, who were charged with being unregistered foreign agents; and those on this long list of indicted Russian individuals and entities. 

New Jersey’s Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched from Republican to Democrat and swore “undying support” to DDT—until someone asked him about it. He said he didn’t say “undying.” Republicans don’t want him.

September 11, 2019

U.S., U.K.—Two World Leaders Focus on Themselves

Eighteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured when 19 men—15 of them from Saudi Arabia—hijacked and crashed four planes on U.S. soil. Since that time, over 1,400 rescuers have died, and toxins at the crash site in New York caused cancer in 1,140 people. Since that time, 24 percent of U.S. population was born, and Republicans started wars costing trillions of dollars and creating chaos that continues to kill people throughout the world.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), inaugurated 964 days ago, multiplied the chaos in the U.S. many hundredsfold as he makes every situation—including a speech on 9/11—about himself. To “honor” the solemn occasion, he tweeted a photograph of himself and Melania Trump. Having done his duty for 9/11, he switched to his common theme of “fake news” after new polling shows him abysmally behind the top five Democratic contenders selected for the survey, and only 36 percent think he deserves re-election. In other rants, he tweeted about his trade war with China and praised himself for rejecting the peace talk with the Taliban after he offered to bring them to Camp David this week. Yesterday, he fired John Bolton because the national security adviser opposed DDT’s almost finishing an agreement with the Taliban.

DDT dishonors the memory of 9/11 with the many lies that he’s told about it, all for his own benefit:

  • He lied about seeing “thousands and thousands of people” on rooftops in New Jersey “cheering as that building was coming down” to reinforce his Muslim ban.
  • He lied about seeing bodies falling from his Midtown apartment four miles away.
  • He falsely blamed Bill Clinton during DDT’s campaign for the crash into the World Trade Center because he “didn’t kill Osama bin Laden.”  
  • He blamed George W. Bush for the disaster because “he didn’t listen to the advice of his CIA” and answered the audience’s boos with false claims that he “lost hundreds of friends” in the attacks. After Lawrence O’Donnell ridiculed the statement, he changed his lie to “many, many people.”
  • He lied about giving money to 9/11 charities.
  • He lied about helping to clear rubble and pay for several hundred workers to help clean up in the 9/11 aftermath.
  • He lied about his own building becoming the tallest building in New York City on the morning that the Twin Towers fell.
  • He lied about needing federal recovery money for small businesses and then admitted that his building had no physical damage. He falsely claimed he got the grant because he allowed people to use his building although the application didn’t specify that provision and he didn’t allow people to stay in his building.

Across the pond, DDT’s lookalike, Boris Johnson, whose sole goal is a no-deal Brexit to separate the UK from the EU, has miserably failed during his fewer than seven weeks term as prime minister. His only temporary success was a suspension of Parliament until October 14 to keep lawmakers from working on a Brexit deal, one of the longest suspensions in decades. Lawmakers did not go peacefully, protesting with signs, chants and attempts to physically restrain the speaker from leaving his chair. They finished with putting a sign reading “Silenced” on the speaker’s empty chairs. 

The validity of the suspension is in question. A Scottish court ruled the suspension illegal because Johnson falsified the reasons for the five-week suspension, perhaps even lying to the queen who had to approve it. Johnson plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Courts in England and Wales ruled that Johnson’s move was legal, and another Scottish judge, meanwhile, determined that courts lack the authority to interfere in the suspension.

Since talking office, Johnson lost six key votes in the House of Commons—two of them to force a snap national election that might have given him control over the Brexit decision. Parliament also voted to force the government to publish details of secret preparations for a no-deal departure and prevent a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to ask the EU for a deadline extension. When 21 members of his party voted against him, Johnson banned them from Parliament and running again. Johnson’s brother was so disgusted by the prime minister’s actions that he quit Parliament

The first winning vote, 328-301, against Johnson by a coalition of the Labour Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party, and other Brexit opponents was to take control of the agenda. Johnson expelled the 21 conservatives, including eight former Cabinet ministers,  who voted with the coalition, including Winston Churchill’s grandson. They will not be able to run for office again. 

The next failures for Johnson were two readings to block his no-deal Brexit and 288 abstentions on a failed vote for a snap general election. The bill, which became law after acceptance of the House of Lords, doesn’t stop a no-deal Brexit, but it legally binds the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension without a Parliament agreement for a deal by October 19. A furious Johnson said he’s rather “be dead in a ditch” than follow that law. 

Johnson may also face condemnation for his sexist description of former Prime Minister David Cameron as a “girly swot.” This week, Johnson called Jeremy Corbyn, leader of his opposition, a “great big girl’s blouse” for refusing to back an immediate general election.   He also secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the government’s public internet service into a platform for “targeted and personalized information” for his no-deal Brexit and a digital revolution in public services, raising legal and ethical questions. The PM would have profiles on everyone’s online interactions with government with no protection for the data.

Johnson became prime minister only five weeks ago with 92,153 votes from Conservative Party members (only 0.002 percent of the UK voters), in the third election in five years, after the resignation of Theresa May as prime minister. Voters were primarily white, male, and over 50 years of age. It was the first time that only party membership elected Britain’s prime minister. Almost 109,000 people registered to vote at the start of the week in two days with 58 percent of them under 34 years old. The deadline for registration would be September 27 for a snap election on October 15. A Johnson aide admitted that Johnson wanted an early date for a general election to keep young people from voting.  

Suspension has left Johnson with only bleak choices:

  • Renegotiate a deal with the EU.
  • Ask for a Brexit delay.
  • Resign and run again.
  • Go to jail for not following the law to negotiate with the EU.

DDT has constantly supported Brexit, even telling Johnson to default on the $47 billion that the UK owes the EU. Pence told Ireland how he supports Brexit that would be “deeply disruptive” to peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Fed chair Jerome Powell has warned that a no-deal Brexit and “rising tensions in Hong Kong” could unravel U.S. expansion. Brexit could cause the dollar to go even higher and thus make U.S. goods more expensive for foreign buyers and depress U.S. exports. DDT wants open trade with the UK but can’t have it until the end of Brexit. The UK objects to DDT’s demands to open the National Health Service to U.S. drugmakers, allow genetically modified seeds on UK farms, and accept “chlorinated chicken,” as Johnson calls imports from the U.S. EU trade with the UK is over $800 billion compared to the $262 billion commerce with the U.S.

Brits have long been highly concerned about the departure with no agreement to regulate trade, border security, and other critical issues. They could face food and medicine shortages, and farms will fail. After three years of threatened Brexiting, Europeans are getting fed up with the UK’s decisions—or non-decisions. EU leaders might accept a delay beyond the Halloween deadline because a no-deal Brexit would be economically destabilizing, but negotiators worry about consequences of continued uncertainty and the destructive poison of the UK being inside the union. A major advantage of Brexit is that the other 27 countries in the EU, having watched the insanity in UK, have no interest in repeating it.

Like DDT, Johnson wants to break the system for his own purposes. After Parliament consistently voted against him, he’ll tell people that politics are rigged against them. He will question the legitimacy of the judicial system, already insinuating that the Scottish ruling against him is illegitimate. And he plans to break the law for his own means. The country will move farther toward cynicism and gridlock—like in the United States. If Johnson wins with only the Conservative vote, 30 percent of the country, he’ll be backed by under one-third of the country, a catastrophic situation like DDT. The four nations in the United Kingdom may decide to separate, especially with Northern Ireland already isolated and no way to leave except by air or sea. A no-deal Brexit would keep them from freely crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland.

MP Ian Murray wrote:

“Boris Johnson lied about Brexit, lied to the Queen about suspending parliament, politicised the police, derided judges and disregarded the law. Everyone must be concerned that his Government is moving dangerously close to a dictatorship.”

Boris Johnson is blustering, ruthless, racist, homophobic, sexist, boastful, divisive, Islamophobic—consumed with white male privilege. Does that sound familiar?

 

June 6, 2019

DDT’s Five-Day Invasion on Foreign Soil

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his entourage—including the whole family whether they’re in government or not—have left Britain, probably with many signs of relief from his hosts. It was preceded by an odd occurrence, even odd for DDT, when he wandered into a Virginia megachurch from the golf course. After praying for DDT, Pastor David Platt wrote a quasi-apology for his actions to church members who were “hurt” by Platt’s decision. He stated that he was not endorsing DDT, his policies, or his party. DDT stood on the stage during the prayer and then walked off without any comment. The day before the service, Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, had called for Sunday to be a “Special Day of Prayer for the President.” The White House issued a statement that DDT had gone to pray for the Virginia Beach shooting victims, but no mention was made of them, and the pastor was asked to pray for DDT. A Christian and former DDT supporter called the appearance a “staged photo-op.”[DDT in full golf regalia including cleats.] 

But back to DDT’s invasion of Britain. A few highlights:

Before Air Force One landed, DDT called London Mayor Sadiq Khan a “stone cold loser.” (The term “loser” could refer to DDT’s 21 percent popularity with Britons.)

Prince Harry didn’t seem very chummy with DDT, perhaps because DDT called his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, “nasty”—and then denied what was obviously on video.

A huge disappointment for DDT in London was the lack of Fox network; the Brits watch CNN. His tweets called for a boycott:

”I believe that if people stoped [sic] using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway. It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn’t they act. When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!”

Historian Jon Meacham described DDT’s “behavior more commonly associated with authoritarian regimes, not democratic ones.”

Buckingham Palace is undergoing renovations so DDT had to stay with the U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson at Winfield House. (The lavish Belgian Suite at the palace, where Barack and Michelle Obama stayed, wasn’t affected by the renovations.

Prince Charles’ lifelong passion is environmentalism, making on wonder about his conversation with DDT who calls climate change a “hoax.”

DDT commented that Boris Johnson would be an “excellent” replacement for outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, but Johnson had no time to meet with DDT.

At Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, revered final resting place and/or memorials for England’s literary legends, DDT looked at a white marble slab and asked what it was made from. He lost interest in the stones after five minutes and left.

“We are your largest partner. You’re our largest partner. A Lot of people don’t know that. A lot of people don’t know that,” DDT told May about trade. “A lot of people don’t know that” because China is the U.S.’ largest trading partner and Germany is the UK’s largest trading partner.

DDT promised that NHS would be on the table in U.S.-UK trade talks but changed his mind when he found out that NHS stands for National Health Services. Many in the UK oppose U.S. health firms coming into the UK with cost-cutting health services and sales of lower standard food such as chlorine-washed chicken. DDT called Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a “negative force.”

Although DDT met with Nigel Farage, Fox guest and radical right leader of Brexit, he refused to meet with Corbyn before he accused Corbyn of not meeting with him.

Despite a crowd of 75,000 protesters against DDT in just London on a rainy Tuesday, DDT cried “fake news” about protests because he didn’t see any. He called the crowds “those that gathered in support of the USA and me.” He missed most protesters because he opted for a helicopter to travel the three miles from the palace to Winfield House. The streets where he traveled were mostly deserted.

DDT said that Britain should not pay the Brexit $50 billion bill and walk away from the agreement. (He hopes to get more trade from Britain if their ties to EU fail.)

Why did DDT dodge the draft during the Vietnam War? In an interview with Piers Morgan, he “was never a fan of that war” and because it was a country “nobody heard of” and so far away. He continued by saying that he’s making up for the draft-dodge because he’s making sure that the military has lots of money now. (DDT’s pre-nup agreement with Wife #2 maintained that child support would end before daughter Tiffany turned 21 if she enlisted in the military or the Peace Corps.)  

Asked about why people need AR-15s, he said, “Entertainment.” He followed that up by calling the man who killed 58 people and wounded 489 others in the Las Vegas mass shooting as a “smart guy” and “incredible.” 

In another part of the interview, DDT said that transgender people are banned from the military because they “take massive amounts of drugs” (not true) and falsely claimed that people in the military cannot take prescription drugs. When Morgan pointed out that the U.S. military spends more on Viagra for servicemen than transgender medical bills, DDT said, “Well, it is what it is” and repeated his lies.

Staunch Republican Kathleen Parker summed up DDT’s visit in her column, “Money Can’t Buy You Class.”

“What would one expect when New York’s most famous hillbilly drags his entire entourage to sup at the sumptuous table of the queen of England as though word had leaked of an all-you-can-eat buffet and free booze over at Lizzie’s Eatery? …

“As a descendant of generations of royals, [Elizabeth II] epitomizes the definition of proper behavior, rarely displaying emotion or affection, always stoic in the face of adversity. A far cry is she from the effluvious Donald and his bloviating histrionics. But there she was playing sober hostess to a reality-show president and his carnivalesque courtiers….

“The whole affair felt tawdry and cheap, joyless and stilted beyond the usual norms of pomp and circumstance….

“Money can’t buy you class, but it can sure buy loyalty. Trump’s court at the palace was essentially his family and the few remaining White House staffers still willing to tell the president that, indeed, his exposed derriere is absolutely rocking raiment of finest silk and gold.”

DDT’s three days with the Brits in a fast three minutes, thanks to The Guardian.

Departure from Britain inflicted pain on Ireland as DDT met with its taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, at the Shannon airport because Varadkar refused to act as a shill by meeting DDT at his golf course. DDT displayed great insensitivity about Irish politics when he proposed that Ireland build a Brexit wall with Northern Ireland, just as DDT wants on the U.S. southern border. The Republic of Ireland remains part of the EU no matter what happens with Brexit. Varadkar told the media that he had explained the border’s history and Troubles in his private meeting with DDT. Irish president, Michael D Higgins, also called DDT policy on the climate emergency “regressive and pernicious.”

DDT and his family can hide out at the golf resort before traveling to France for D-Day commemorations—and another round of embarrassments for the people of the United States. Fox’s Laura Ingraham made up for the missing DDT as she and contributor Raymond Arroyo laughed hysterically about Democrats using children as “pathetic political props.” In the seven-minute segment, they sat in front of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, a place where over 9,300 soldiers are used and usually reserved for solemn ceremonies. DDT matched Ingraham’s tone-deaf response to the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy (France) during an interview with Ingraham at the cemetery when he called Robert Mueller a “fool” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “disaster” immediately before the ceremony honoring military veterans and commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France. Mueller is a decorated Marine veteran of the Vietnam War which DDT avoided with “bone spurs.”

Also in Normandy, Pelosi refused to respond to questions. She told CNN’s Jim Acosta that “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country.” she told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “That’s my principle.”

Our former European allies will long remember DDT’s five days of indecency on their soil. 

February 9, 2019

Brexit, ‘Executive Time,’ More

The media has not released any jaw-dropping news about Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) today, so it’s time for catch-up with outrageous happenings during the past few weeks.

With the ongoing disasters in the United States, including a 35-day government shutdown, many people ignore events “across the pond.” In 47 days, the United Kingdom is scheduled to separate from the European Union, and, like in many U.S. debacles, the UK has no plan for the separation. In a world-wide promotion of chaos, Russia “encouraged” people to vote in favor of Brexit, a British exit from the EU, a few months before the U.S. chaos resulting from DDT’s election. The deadline for departure, with or without a plan, was scheduled for March 29, 2019—which seemed a long time away in summer of 2016. As the deadline arrives in less than seven weeks, UK has no agreed-upon plan.

The UK has been bleeding industries and jobs since the vote, and the momentum is building. Companies are making up backup plans as well as stockpiling products and looking for new shipping routes, and international banks have shifted thousands of jobs from Britain to the EU. Of 1,200 surveyed business leaders, 16 percent already have relocation plans, and another 13 percent are considering moves. That’s in addition to the ones which have already gone. The Netherlands reported that its government is talking to over 250 companies about moving their operations from the UK before Brexit. Forty-two companies or branch offices moved 1,923 jobs from the UK last year. Britain’s economy is 2.3 percent smaller than if voters had agreed to stay in the EU, and investment in the automobile sector plunged by almost 50 percent in 2018.

The World Travel and Tourism Council warned Britain that leaving the European Union without an agreement could cost 308,000 UK-based jobs and another 399,000 jobs in the EU from loss of tourism. An analysis from the International Monetary Fund also projects a 7.7 percent decline in economic activity with a total cost to Europe of over £40 billion.

Recently, the HM Revenue and Customs told 145,000 businesses that without a deal between UK and EU, it won’t check goods from the European Union. The average trailer has 400 consignments, each requiring ten minutes for the 40-answer declaration, requiring nine people eight hours to process just one trailer. Ferry operators and Eurotunnel were ordered be accept the word of “reasonable belief” customers. To avoid traffic jams at 20 of the busiest ports, haulers can declare the loads later, and companies can postpone paying import duties for up to a year.

Some people envision security problems from this decision. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid refused to disagree with claims that a no-deal Brexit would make the country less safe. The head of criminals records office, Rob Price said that dangerous criminals might be free in Britain if law enforcement cannot access European conviction records.

An indication of how frightening the Brexit may be for the UK comes from the report about plans for the emergency evacuation of Queen Elizabeth if rioting ensues. People in UK are already stockpiling groceries, medicines, and other supplies, and a possible lack of cash and imports could result in civil unrest. Compounding the problem is that Brexit disagreement is based on “identity politics” from white nationalism instead of economics.

Back in the U.S., DDT is in a rage about a recent White House leak. He raved about how much he liked “doing it” when asked if he would run for a second term, but  a White House leak shows that about 60 percent of DDT’s schedule since the midterm elections was “Executive Time,” even the month when he claimed he was working hard to reopen the government and facing crises in his cabinet and Syria. DDT’s first five hours in the day are “Executive Time” (aka down time) almost always in his residence “watching TV, reading newspapers and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote, “Fox has become Trump’s de facto kitchen cabinet and unofficial communications office, creating a tight feedback loop between the far right and the White House.” Compared to this executive time, 77 hours of DDT’s time has been in meetings for policy planning, legislative strategy, and video showings.

Madeleine Westerhout, DDT’s personal secretary, tweeted about “the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday [sic].” If she is right, why were all these omitted from an official schedule?

The DDT’s defense from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“[DDT] has a different leadership style than his predecessors, and the results speak for themselves.”

According to Sanders, DDT’s over 300 hours of unstructured time is “to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive president in modern history.” Newt Gingrich went farther to defend DDT by comparing him to Winston Churchill.

Beyond the fact that DDT doesn’t work much—not a new revelation—is that a White House staffer is willing to release this information. DDT is frantically searching for the leaker. DDT’s schedules since the 2018 midterm elections have been published here.

DDT’s aides are also unhappy with their boss. A revolt against DDT’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Pascale, is imminent, especially after he misrepresented the DDT’s polling regarding the shutdown, representing them as a political winner for DDT. Corey Lewandowski, DDT’s first campaign manager in 2016, blames Pascale for the Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms.

Having destroyed two federal agencies and failing at his job as “acting” White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, unhappy with his current gig, wants to move on to ruin something else—either the Commerce Department, which already has a Secretary, or president of the University of South Carolina. Still the Office of Management and Budget director, Mulvaney briefly headed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which may need to change its name to Corrupt Business Protection Bureau after a few months with Mulvaney. In a complete 180-turn from two years ago, Mulvaney said “nobody cares” about the deficit. Congress will be required to address raising the debt limit in March after over a $1 trillion deficit last year—at the latest in Summer 2019. Perhaps Mulvaney wants to be gone by then.

Deutsche Bank refused to loan money to DDT in 2016 when he was funding his presidential campaign and expanding his business at the same time, specifically asking for a loan against a Miami property to pay for work on the Turnberry golf course in Scotland. DDT still owes at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, and bank officials are concerned about DDT defaulting on the loan if he is elected as president. The choice would be losing the money or seizing assets of the President of the United States.

The EU is investigating Deutsch Bank for possible money laundering by Danske Bank’s moving cash abroad. Democrats in the U.S. are carefully watching this investigation as they follow the “Trump money trail.” Deutsche Bank has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for allowing Russian money laundering of massive sums. The bank also sold financial products to the Mercer family who bankrolled DDT’s campaign. The Mercers are now negotiating with the IRS because they used Deutsche Bank to dodge more than $6 billion in taxes to the United States.

Maryland prosecutors have subpoenaed financial documents about DDT’s golf courses in Scotland in their investigation a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution as DDT profits from his businesses. An investigation into expenditures by DDT’s inaugural committee may do the same with the revelation that it paid $700,000 to DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel for events over four days when other venues donated their premises for the inauguration.

A Russian-born lobbyist at the investigated Trump Tower meeting with Don Trump Jr. and others in June 2016 received half a million dollars in payments before and after the meeting. The large cash deposits to Rinat Akhmetshin were deemed suspicious transactions by bank investigators.

In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Commander Jonathan White, in charge of overseeing migrant children shelters, said he was unaware of the “zero tolerance” policy causing separation of children and parents until he saw the news on television after being told that the policy didn’t exist. Government officials say that children are still being separated, with situations such as lying to an eight-year-old boy who was told he would see his father at a shelter over 2,000 miles away. ICE gave the wrong baby to a mother who had lost all four of her children.

DDT may think that the border needs another 3,700 soldiers to confine a caravan of about 2,000 at the southern border, but New Mexico’s governor Michelle Lujan ordered the withdrawal of most of the National Guard troops deployed on the border. She declared the “crisis” to be bogus because the state’s border towns are some of the safest in the country. Texas has also sent 500 state troopers to the border. New law enforcement outnumbers the immigrants 2 to 1.

October 22, 2016

The Effects of Brexit

Volcanoes go quiet before the eruptions: the greater the calm, the more powerful the explosion. That’s the conclusion of volcanologist Diana Roman who reported that the length of the quiet time can be correlated to the volcanoes’ risks. Although not always, bad storms are also identified by preceding periods of calm. Tropical cyclones have an “eye,” a time of calm weather in the circular area before the other side hits.

This weekend feels like one of those periods of eerie calm as the nation comes off two tumultuous days last week—the presidential debate and the humorless “roast” at the Al Smith’s charity dinner when Donald Trump’s only “self-deprecating” statement was directed at his wife’s copying Michele Obama’s speech earlier this year. Hillary Clinton was funnier—she wasn’t frequently booed as Trump was—but several of her jokes had serious barbs.

Since those events, a subdued Trump lacks energy in his rallies. For the first time, he said that he might lose the election, and GOP politicians appear to be in a political malaise with no way out. The tension of an upcoming storm gives a feeling of danger, but even a short calm leaves us a chance to contemplate the issues that have been overlooked by the bombastic control of the GOP presidential candidate showman.

Brexit, for example, is making its presence known. For those who have forgotten, the Trumpian hatred toward minorities, government, and regulation across the pond led a frenzy of voting in the United Kingdom to separate the country from the European Union. The voters then elected conservative Theresa May as its prime minister. Her announcement to invoke Article 50 within a few months forces the UK to finalize its separation two years from then.

The divorce settlement between the UK and the EU is a bit fuzzy with no scheduled deadline. No one knows what UK’s constitution requires although May promised a bill to put EU laws into UK domestic law. A serious problem is negotiating new trade agreements until the divorce may be finalized in 2019.

Meanwhile, May is behaving like a woman forced to leave her husband with the intent to divorce but trying to keep all the rights of her marriage. This week she ordered the EU to not hold any more summits without the UK. May said, “I want the U.K. to play an active part…. I expect to be fully involved in all discussions related to the EU 28.”

EU leaders weren’t impressed. The remaining 27 had two informal meetings since last June when UK citizens voted in favoring of dumping the EU and plan another information meeting—without the UK—in January. May was allowed to give a speech about Brexit at the summit but given only five minutes at 1:00 am. EU leaders are also considering changing the official negotiation language from English to French, another bone of contention for May.

Gibraltar, where 96 percent of its residents voted to stay with EU, is just one problem that May faces. Their flourishing economy is dependent on easy commutes across its border, and Madrid would be delighted for Spain to regain sovereignty after three centuries. If Spain plays hardball with Gibraltar, residents would be dependent on boats or planes to leave the country, and intensified border checks would complicate their life as it did three years ago until the EU settled the problems. After Brexit, Spain can veto any trade deals with the UK—which also means Gibraltar.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that it is “democratically unacceptable” to force Scotland out of the EU because its citizens voted to remain. A second independence referendum for Scotland is now “highly likely,” according to Sturgeon. The impact in Northern Ireland would be “very profound,” according to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and the island of Ireland should be able to vote on reunification. Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers ruled out the call from Sinn Féin for a border poll. UK’s prime minister, Theresa May, will meet this coming week with leaders of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland this week to essentially tell them  that she’s in charge and they will work for the entire UK—not just their part of it.

Another problem comes from reports banks are leaving the UK, the smaller ones by the end of the year followed by the biggest ones early next year. The flight comes from the threat that Britain will “pay the price” of leaving, as French president François Hollande and other EU leaders have promised in a “hard Brexit.” EU leaders could reintroduce tariff and non-tariff restrictions on British imports and exports, and banking is Britain’s largest export industry, according to Anthony Browne, head of the British Bankers’ Association. Up to 70,000 financial jobs could be lost if the banks flee the sinking island.

Despite these dangers, the UK Conservative party is more concerned about immigration than the country’s economy and has no plan regarding the UK and the EU. Businesses are at a loss because the government has provided no direction. The pound’s value has dropped to an almost 30-year low, meaning that it buys fewer euros or dollars, and experts predict the pound value to remain at least ten percent below what it was on the day before the June Brexit vote. All imported products—clothing, food, etc.—will stay more expensive than before the vote.

The Bank of England’s drop in interest rates from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent—a record low and the first cut since 2009—is the same strategy that the U.S. used to fight its way out of George W. Bush’s recession, and lowering the interest rate may reduce the value of pensions.  Cost of government borrowing has gone up because Britain lost its top AAA credit rating.

Divorce from the EU covering thousands of subjects during 43 years of agreements and treaties must have the unanimous approval of over 30 national and regional parliaments across Europe, some of whom may want to hold referendums. At this time, the EU will permit the UK to be part of the single-market—including tariff-free trade—if EU nationals have the unchecked right to live and work in the UK. The UK doesn’t want to give up that control and declines to give a guarantee about EU nationals now living in the UK, but it wants the single market.

Travelers from EU and other non-EU countries in a group called the European Economic Area (EEA) may no longer receive state-provided medical help for conditions or injuries requiring urgent treatment if the UK severs ties with EEA.

Overwhelming popularity of Brexit is vanishing in the UK. In the Witney vote this week to replace former Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservative Party percentage went from 60.2  last year for Cameron percent to 45 percent, Liberal Democrat vote increased from 6.8 percent to 30.2 percent, and the UKIP (Brexit supporters) went down almost two-thirds, 9.2 percent to 3.5 percent, now fourth place behind the Green Party candidate, Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry Sanders.

Brexit campaign manager and Vladimir Putin-supporter Nigel Farage has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump, coaching him for the town hall session with Hillary Clinton on October 9 and speaking at his rallies. Farage was heard praising Trump about his town hall performance on Fox. Although Farage took a small step backwards after hearing about Trump’s groping women, he still wants the racist, nationalist presidential candidate to win because of their similarities. Farage tells his U.S. audiences that Trump, despite his shrinking poll numbers, can still win because many people didn’t expect Brexit to win.

If people don’t vote for Clinton, Farage could be right, and the United States could be in worse shape than the UK if that happens. Even if Trump loses, the negative effects of Brexit will penetrate the United States, requiring a competent president.

Today I dropped off my ballot in Oregon. I wanted to make sure that no matter what happens to me in the next 17 days, I have voted to keep Donald Trump from become the Russian-supporting dictator of the country where I live.

Nels New Day is taking a hiatus and will return after Halloween. In the meantime, please vote early and vote sane!

June 27, 2016

Brexit Fails; So Will Trump

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The “Leave the EU” campaign has won, and it doesn’t seem to be working for them. Leading “Leave” politicians made failed promises:

“Leave” promise: EU cash will go to the National Health Service. The campaign even put the promise on its big red bus: The EU costs £350 million a week, “enough to build a brand new, fully staffed … hospital every week.” Politicians repeated the promise, but after the vote, Leave leader Iain Duncan Smith said that the campaign didn’t say “all” of the money, just “a significant amount of it.” After the vote Nigel Farage, another Leave leader, said, “No I can’t [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim.” The UK gets about half that money back for farmers’ subsidies, research grants, and infrastructure funding.

“Leave” promise: We’ll take control of the UK’s borders. The claim was that the expected immigration to fall. “Leave” leader Nigel Evans said there had been “some misunderstanding” over the Leave campaign’s position on reducing immigration and that he didn’t say it would fall. The UK won’t separate from the EU for at least two years, and the UK may have to keep borders open to EU workers to freely trade with Europe. Boris Johnson, a leading Leave campaigner and wannabe prime minister, wrote, “British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes; and to settle down.” If that’s right, Europeans—including immigrants—will enjoy the same freedom of movement.

“Leave” promise #3: The economy will be fine. Anti-Remain campaigners laughed at the “Project Fear” that maintained the UK would suffer financial and economic turmoil. Yet, the pound is at the lowest level in decades, UK bank stocks collapsed, and GDP growth forecasts have been slashed. Companies are calling off investments, and markets throughout the world have gone down drastically, including the Dow Jones in the United States which lost almost 900 points in two days of trading.

“Leave” leaders have absolutely no exit plan.

Comments about Brexit:

Philippe LeGrain at The New York Times:

“Brexit’s supporters are deluded when they argue that Britain could cherry pick what it likes about the European Union and discard the rest. Since exports to the European Union (13 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) matter much more to Britain than exports to Britain (3 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) do to the European Union, the European Union will call the shots. Other governments have every incentive to be tough, both to steal a competitive advantage and to deter others from following Britain out the door.”

Damian Carrington at The New Republic:

“The crashing financial markets will damage the huge investments needed to create a cleaner and safer environment and will dent the nation’s fast-growing green economy, one economic sector where the UK could lead.”

From a financial authority:

The aftershocks from the UK’s EU referendum results continue to persist. Last Friday saw exceptionally sharp declines in the major global equity markets, though the sharpest drops were recorded in the Italian and German equity markets, down 12.5% and 6.8% respectively, compared with 3.1% for the FTSE100 index, although UK bank stocks were ‘hammered’ on speculation as to how ‘pass porting rights’ to the EU might be affected, as well as a cut in the UK’s credit rating. The S&P500 index fell 3.6% and the US 10-year Treasury yield made a new low for the year at 1.40%.

In the currency market, the US Dollar to Japanese yen briefly dipped below the 100.00, and the Japanese authorities might be ready to intervene in order to stabilise the currency. The Chinese currency went in the other direction and made a new low for the year, with investors sensing that the Chinese authorities are set to countenance some slippage in the exchange rate to act as a shock-absorber for the economy.

Cable dropped sharply from $1.5000 to $1.3200 and continues its slide today, touching $1.3122. UK 10-year Gilt yields fell below 1.00% this morning for the first time ever. (The Bank of England was founded in 1694.)

From a political perspective, the referendum decision has divided the UK. “Remain” members of the Conservative Party want to stop Boris Johnston from being the next Prime Minister. In the opposition Labour Party, a series of resignations in protested Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style. In Scotland, the SNP is looking to block the “Brexit” vote and call for a second independence referendum. The scope for a constitutional crisis is quite high, and the Brexit vote has exposed the fault-lines in British politics.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said this morning that Article 50 of the European Union Treaty would not be triggered until October. Article 50 lays down the terms and conditions of the negotiation process between the UK and EU and the framework for the exiting country’s future relationship with the EU. Article 50 sets a 2-year deadline on talks that can only be extended by a unanimous decision of the other 27 EU countries. Once activated, Article 50 eliminates the UK from EU decision-making at the highest level. Article 50 is concluded by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining consent of the European Parliament.

The EU Summit this week looks to push for very early negotiations, but it is the UK Government that has to decide when to invoke Article 50. At the moment, UK PM David Cameron remains in place until October when a new Conservative Party leader and PM are to be announced. This might be too distant a time and the pressure for an early settlement to the leadership question is likely to intensify. There is no guaranteed timetable as to how it all works out.

From the EU’s perspective, the risk is that “Brexit” contagion’ spreads to other countries and encourages voters to think of breaking away from the EU. The results of the Spanish elections (the centre-right People’s Party won with 137 seats) yesterday mitigated some of that risk, though there is a question whether the appetite for ever-increasing integration is still there.

Italy holds a constitutional referendum in October, but Italian voters might view “Brexit” as a way of expressing their view on the EU. The Italian economy has suffered a very low economic growth rate for some time, but it is the Italian banks that remain under-capitalised and have the potential to trigger another banking crisis.

Some forecasters are talking about a UK recession next year and perhaps an early cut in UK interest rates. In the Eurozone, the sharper declines in equity markets and concerns over the health of the banking system are likely to keep the European Central Bank’s accommodative monetary stance in place. However, German criticism of negative interest rates in terms of the cost to German banks and German savers is something that the ECB cannot afford to ignore.

Wider afield, the “Brexit” uncertainty gives the U.S. Fed every excuse to defer an increase in US interest rates. The key upcoming dates are the US non-farm payroll report on July 8. The Fed meetings after that are July 26-27 and September 20-21, which seems to be the last opportunity to raise rates prior to the US Presidential Election on November 8. A faltering US economy might require quantitative easing.

Why did UK voters favor “Leave”? Many of them probably didn’t even know the consequences. The two most Googled questions in the UK on the day after the vote was announced was “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”  John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, had another funny, factual, hard-hitting piece about the vote. To the people who asked if they could change his vote, he emphatically said, “That was the f*cking vote! That was it!”

Although unlikely, Oliver might be wrong. The Brexit vote was not binding, and Members of Parliament could vote against it. Over 3.5 million UK residents have signed a petition demanding a second vote if support for either side was under 60 percent with a voter turnout under 75 percent. The turnout was about 72 percent, and the winning side had 52 percent of the vote. Scotland voted heavily to remain, and the Scotland Act 1998 requires the Scottish Parliament to approve measures that remove EU law from Scotland. The same might be true for Northern Ireland. The least likely scenario is that the EU could offer major concessions.

Yet the longer the uncertainty in a wait for the outcome, the greater the political and economic costs. The U.S. suffers from the same uncertainty as everyone waits for the outcome of the presidential election in a little more than four months with Donald Trump representing everything that the Leave campaign did—promises he cannot keep, an irrational xenophobia to turn the country white, and an untenable austerity approach toward the economy. The UK today could be the US this January.

June 25, 2016

Brexit Brings Buyers’ Remorse

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 1:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

brexit

Many people in the United Kingdom went to bed Thursday night feeling safe and woke up yesterday feeling they were in serious danger after the 52-percent vote for the UK to leave the European Union. EU leaders want Britain to move forward immediately to avoid further financial instability throughout the world, but leaders of the Leave campaign seem nervous about their win, perhaps because of the advantageous trade relationships between UK and EU.

Boris Johnson said that they’d rather not take any immediate steps, perhaps because he hopes to use the vote as leverage for becoming prime minister. He could even allow the UK to stay in the EU. People who voted for leaving the EU are now wishing they could change their vote, agreeing with one British voter who said she voted to leave but “I never thought it would actually happen.”

People who voted in favor of leaving the EU should feel remorseful. Predictions show a one percent drop in GDP, a fall of £19 billion equivalent to £720 (over $1,000 in US dollars) for each UK household. Each households could annually be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030. Prolonged uncertainty, reduced access to the single market, and decreased investment from overseas are joined by the banks’ loss of “passporting” rights to conduct business throughout the EU. In the hours after the vote was announced, the British pound’s 11-percent decrease hit a 31-year low against the dollar. A British recession seems likely because businesses usually defer spending during uncertain times. A bleak economy causes consumers to stop spending on big-ticket items. The collapsing pound will drive up inflation, cutting into incomes. Some jobs will disappear, and wage growth will fall.

The Cornwall area that soundly voted against staying with the EU is now worried about the annual loss of at last £60 million that it received in the past decade. European money provided infrastructure, universities, and broadband internet for them, and farmers and fishers had benefited from the EU policies. New trade deals between the EU and the UK mandate approval and unanimity by over 30 European, national, and regional parliaments that may be able to act only after national referendums. Goods leaving the UK will face tariffs, and everyone leaving the island will be forced to go through customs just to travel to Europe.

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland want to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU, and Spain wants to take back Gibraltar from the UK. After 95.9% of people in Gibraltar voted to stay with the EU, Spain renewed its claim that Gibraltar is its territory, something that Spain has declared for three centuries since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. People living in Gibraltar are British citizens with British passports, but they also want to be part of the EU.

The economy of countries around the world started to take big hits. The world’s 400 richest people lost $127.4 billion yesterday, 3.2 percent of their total net worth.  In Canada, the loonie had its biggest drop in 18 months to around 76.8 cents. U.S. Oil fell by 3 percent. Asia’s stock market started the fall after the vote, followed by other main indices which fell by about 10 percent. In the U.S., Friday’s Dow Jones industrial average fell 611 points, causing a loss of $160 million in market value. Big corporations on the S&P index lost $627 billion–just yesterday. It could have been much worse, but this is only the beginning. The drops also hurt retirement funds. Tighter financial conditions makes it harder and more expensive for people and businesses to get money—less borrowing, less investing, and less economic activity.

Touting his new golf course in Scotland, Donald Trump saw the results through the prism of Donald Trump’s business ventures. The New York Times reported that his business interests “still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.” The Republican’s itinerary “reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation,” complete with “a ceremonial ribbon cutting.”

Trump didn’t even know that Scotland had overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU: he said they were celebrating because “they took their country back.” NBC’s Katy Tur asked him whether he was traveling with any of his foreign policy advisors who talked to him about the vote. He said that he’d been in touch but that “there’s nothing to talk about.” Instead of talking about the vote, he talked about the golf course and its refurbished holes, plumbing, putting greens, and zoning. Asked about Brexit’s undermining the British pound value, he said that the decline is good news for him.

“If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.”

People traveling from the U.S. may get a better deal for their dollars, but the U.S. economy can suffer depressed exports because of the weak English pound and the possible ramifications in the EU. U.S. banks said Brexit could force an overhaul of their business in the U.K. It doesn’t happen all at once, but the dominos are falling.

Trump’s business ventures in Scotland bulldozed through its elected officials and land owners, and Trump sued the Scottish government to break environmental laws and obtain property through eminent domain. Scottish officials allowed Trump to flatten a third of the Foveran dunes complex, a legally protected site of special scientific interest. Whenever he couldn’t get permits, he built anyway.

The neighbors of his golf courses roundly despise Trump because he tried to tear down what he called their “ugly” houses. He called their houses “ugly” and wanted to tear them down. When they refused to leave, he built a tall earthen wall that blocked their view of the dunes and beach and put up a locked gate that blocked the public road to reach the beach. Security staff sit in 4×4 vehicles watching all their movements.

Trump claims that the Scottish people “love” him, but 200-300 protesters appeared with a mariachi band during his press conference at the golf course and threw red golf balls with swastika symbols on the ground. In the background, neighbors of both his golf courses flew the Mexican flag in solidarity with other peoples who he has denigrated.

Many people in the UK had no idea what the EU was before the vote or what the connection between the UK and the EU meant to everyday people. Like Donald Trump, the Leave campaign scapegoated immigrants and created a culture of hatred because of economic inequality. They also accused the country’s leaders of being the elite and maintained that “experts” know nothing. The Leave slogan was “Take Back Control.” Since 2010, the austerity measures of the Conservative Party slashed the social safety net and left deprivation in its place.

As in the United States, British leaders are increasingly purchased by corporate and financial interests. Democratic rights, promised by the Leave campaign, were taken by the wealthy and corporations that control the country’s politics and economy. The loss of the EU will worsen the situation for workers who no longer guaranteed the EU rights, and Conservative Party control will only exacerbate their problems. Less regulated British corporations will cause more environmental damage and more mistreatment of employees and customers. Like the U.S., the media fed the paranoia and the fear.

Is “Texit” next? Daniel Miller, head of the Texas Nationalist Movement, hopes so. In his revisionist history that overlooks the area’s original Hispanic (and of course Native American) residents, Miller said, “We come from a heritage of people that carved an empire out of a wilderness.” The TNN calls for a referendum, as one in the UK, to vote on secession from the U.S. The “Republic of Texas” goes farther, maintaining that Texas never ceded sovereignty to the U.S. when it joined the union in 1845.

Steve Willliams wrote on care2.com:

“If there is anything that can be learned from the UK’s political fight over the past months, it’s that alienation, fear-mongering and a deep distrust of other nations can create a perfect storm of political action that can lead even usually reasonable people to go against compassion, unity and progressive causes….

“Americans who reject all that Donald Trump stands for will want to make sure that doesn’t happen in the United States come November and will hope that the UK can serve as a wake up call for Americans who felt disengaged from the political process.”

Brexit lessons for people in the U.S.:

  • One should never underestimate the forces of right-wing nationalism and nativism.
  • Successful far-right nationalist parties, leaders, and campaigns leave immediate consequences.
  • Centrist political parties will reap what they sow if they slyly invoke nationalist and racist sentiments for their own purposes.

Williams calls for another vote—perfectly legal—for those people who suffer buyers’ remorse. The vote to leave the EU is not legally binding, and the deal is not set in motion until Article 50 is invoked. Over 2 million people have already signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website for another vote, a number well over the mandatory 100,000-signature level to force a debate in Parliament. The high volume of traffic caused the website to temporarily crash. Ironically, the petition had been placed earlier by a Leave supporter who was afraid that the referendum would support staying with the EU.

If Trump is elected this fall, however, the U.S. has no way back. An ignorant, megalomaniacal dictator will be in charge. Those who think that one person cannot make a difference should ask people in Scotland.

More details about Brexit background and impact.

June 22, 2016

BRexit Vote Scheduled Tomorrow

BRexit—the vote is tomorrow. Most people in the United States aren’t aware of it, and even more may not care about it. Yet it may be the reason that the stock market is going nowhere and could guide financial markets for the world—including those in the U.S.–as they head down. I pretty much ignored the whole situation until I watched The John Oliver Show last Sunday. Because comedians such as Oliver and Samantha Bee on Full Frontal probably give more information than anyone other than Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, I started searching for more information.

BRexit is short for “Britain Exit,” the question of whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. All British eligible voters can help make this decision, and voting will be done by 2:00 PST tomorrow. Up to 80 percent of the people may vote, and the polls are too close to guess the outcome. As a Britisher, Oliver urged the people of the UK to maintain its EU relationship, but his program won’t be televised in the UK until after the vote. He’s in accord with most experts in saying that the EU can be awful but the ensuing instability would be disastrous if the UK tried to go it on its own.

Many British citizens are suffering from the same opinions as Donald Trump followers—dissatisfaction and distrust of all establishment including the political parties and the media. The “leave” people are also highly conservative, opposed to immigrants, labor, and environmental protection. They think that austerity will save them although it never has in the past. Like Trump, the pro-BRexit people reject any positions of experts—economists, scientists, military commanders, business leaders, etc. It’s the portion of the population who might think that an auto mechanic is a good choice to take out their appendix.

No other country has ever left the EU although Greece considered doing that. If this first-of-its-kind vote succeeds, Britain would spend at least two years to negotiate its departure from the remaining 27 countries which will not give Britain its current privileged access to member countries’ customers or financial markets. More years will be consumed while the UK works to find and negotiate trade deals for other export markets at a time of spreading deflation and rising protectionism throughout the globe. Adding the politics of disengaging British business regulations from those of the EU, and the process might last at least a decade.

Another problem with leaving the EU is the common fisheries policy and agriculture. “Leave” people complain about the fishing quotas set by EU to manage fish stocks and protect marine environments. Voting to leave, however, does not mean that the UK won’t have to deal with the EU. With the separation, the UK couldn’t change EU policy but would still be subject to its restrictions. The UK also receives a larger fishing area than it controls; renegotiating fishing territories gives no guarantee of a better deal for the UK.

EU membership provides some protection against unregulated global markets, and losing that will sacrifice the UK social safety nets in desperate searches for new trade and investment deals to compensate for the loss of markets on the continent. The UK is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Scotland is pro-EU and may decide to issue a new vote on separating from the UK in order to join the EU. Welsh ministers have also indicated their desire to remain in the EU.

A decision to separate from the EU could be disastrous for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, an area of bitter bloodshed since the 1920s. Ireland would still be a part of the EU, and Northern Ireland would be forced out. The resulting dividing line between the two countries could eradicate the uneasy 18-year-long peace that belonging to the EU has assisted since 1998. Customs checks that disappeared in 1993 when EU membership caused free movement of goods and services could return. Cross-border trade in manufactured products on the island was worth an estimated 3 billion euros in 2014.

At this time, Protestants in Northern Ireland want to stay with the UK, and the Catholic minority wants to join Ireland. The UK leaving the EU could end up in an armed conflict between these two factions regarding whether Ireland subsumes Northern Ireland. If both Irelands, Scotland, and Wales stay with the EU, the United Kingdom would revert to being just England–and the only part of the island that isn’t part of the European Union.

Those who want to leave the EU also support the new Deregulation Act, slipped through Parliament last year with little debate and less information to the public. According to the new law, all regulators must now “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.” Any laws dealing with endangered species, speed limits, children’s health, wheelchair ramps, etc. must successfully show how they contribute to the GDP before being passed. As a result, Britain is becoming a place that launders money for drug cartels and terrorists who can keep their money there beyond police and tax inspectors. The “get-rich-quick” philosophy leads to problems that are then blamed on immigrants. Without votes, the prime minister made deals with the EU commission.

The current government has rejected science regarding insecticides, slashed renewable energy, and fights wildlife protection, but it can be worse. The EU has restricted UK policies to some extent. Without the EU, the UK would have carte blanche to destroy the environment. Leaving the EU would dismantle human rights protections, lead to a smaller labor and talent pool with tightening of borders for migrants, and lead to environmentally hazardous activities. The “Leave” backers also want to privatize and dismantle the National Health Service, leaving the country with uninsured people.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, right, listens as current Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks at a mayoral election campaign rally for Britain's Conservative party candidate for Mayor of London Zac Goldsmith at a school in Ham, a suburb in south west London, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.   The Mayor of London election takes place on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

boris johnson 2The face of the “Leave” campaign is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (above left) who both behaves and looks like Donald Trump. If the UK leaves the EU, Johnson could become a leader in the right-of-center Conservative Party and perhaps even prime minister. Johnson even sounds like Trump, for example saying that this “part-Kenyan” had an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.” Although he’s fairly sure that leaving the EU would not cause problems, he said he would apologize publicly if Brexit caused a recession. [Above: Boris Johnson was invited to take part in a tug of war with the armed forces to launch Poppy Day.]

Clashes between the two sides in BRexit were largely verbal, but pro-EU Jo Cox of the Labor Party was shot and stabbed last Thursday. In the United States, killings with guns are an everyday matter, but this event shocked people on both sides of British politics. The tragedy was the first killing of a sitting British MP since the death of Ian Gow in 1990. The man charged with her murder said, “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” He had bought a manual on how to build homemade guns and explosives from the National Alliance, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.

Brogan Morris wrote a comparison between the upcoming elections in the US and the UK, between Johnson and Trump. He holds the media largely responsible for allowing these no-nothing hate-mongers to build their popularity. Imagine a world in which Trump is president of the most affluent country in the world and Trump 2—Boris Johnson—is prime minister of one of this nation’s closest allies.

Once again, I highly recommend watching the segment from The John Oliver Show about the negative affect of UK leaving the EU.

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