US equity futures rose (ahead of a cash session that is closed for Thanksgiving holiday), European stocks were mixed and Asian snapped a three-day losing streak on Thursday, hurt by the U.S. dollar which continued to march higher as investors bet on interest rates rising more quickly in the United States than in other major economies such as Japan and the euro zone.
Overnight Goldman (which only a few weeks ago brought forward its liftoff forecast by one year to July 2002) said that it now expects the Fed "to announce at its December meeting that it is doubling the pace of tapering to $30bn per month starting in January." That forecast, however, has not spooked futures with S&P 500 and Nasdaq eminis rising by 7 points (0.14%) and 28 points (0.17%) respectively, in a listless session - trading volumes on the MSCI’s gauge of world equities slid 18% from its 30-day average. The dollar rose again, hitting a fresh 16-month high. Remy Cointreau SA jumped 11% in Europe on an earnings beat. Base metals rallied, with nickel near the highest level in seven years.
Unlike recent sharp drawdowns, on Wednesday U.S. stocks proved resilient to a slew of strong economic data and Fed minutes on Wednesday that hinted at stagflationary concerns and supported expectations for a quicker removal of stimulus by the Fed. And while inflation concerns deepened, and traders appeared in no mood to miss a year-end calendar meltup, rising bets not only for a quicker taper, but also an earlier liftoff of interest rates, suggest caution may return after Thanksgiving.
“The market mood is rather OK-ish after the minutes,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote, wrote in a note. “At this point, it makes sense to expect an earlier, and maybe a steeper rate normalization from the Fed.”
European stocks traded off opening highs with Euro Stoxx 50 up as much as 0.7% before stalling and trading up 0.25% last. Utilities, tech and financial services are the strongest performers; travel remains under pressure as Covid measures are still in focus. MSCI’s global equity benchmark headed for the biggest advance since Nov. 16 as European traders shrugged off a worsening Covid-19 situation in the continent. The Stoxx 600 gauge was boosted by utilities and real estate companies. Remy Cointreau soared to a record high after the French distiller reported first-half results that Citigroup Inc. called “truly exceptional.”
Earlier in the session, Asian equities were poised to snap a three-day losing streak, as traders continued to weigh the prospects of higher inflation and faster-than-expected tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose as much as 0.3% Thursday, with Japanese stocks among the leaders as the dollar held a three-day advance against the yen.
In Hong Kong, shares of Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd's (1638.HK) rose as much as 24% on their return to trading, after the embattled Chinese developer said it was offering bondholders an option to exchange existing bonds with new bonds having an extended maturity, to improve financial stability. In India, Reliance shares returned to a price level reached prior to the scrapping of the Indian conglomerate’s deal with Saudi Aramco.
Asian stocks are hovering near a six-week low as a strong dollar remains a headwind for emerging-market equities, while higher U.S. Treasury yields have dragged down technology and other growth stocks around the region. The latest Fed minutes suggested it will accelerate the pace of tapering and rate hikes if inflation persistently stays above the targeted rate and maintains its uptrend, said Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment. “Strong dollar concerns remain intact on earlier-than-expected rate hikes, intensifying the inflation of emerging markets.” South Korean stocks were among the biggest decliners after the nation’s central bank hiked its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 1%, as expected, citing faster inflation.
In broad terms, "when it comes to regional equities allocation, we're watching the U.S. dollar which is making new highs and that is a headwind for emerging market equities," said Fook-Hien Yap, senior investment strategist at Standard Chartered Bank wealth management. "The market is now pricing in more than two hikes next year, but we think that is overly aggressive. We are only looking for about one hike next year," said Yap.
These expectations have pushed U.S. treasury yields higher, albeit inconsistently, with benchmark 10 year notes last yielding 1.6427% having risen as high as 1.6930% on Wednesday. U.S. Treasuries will not trade on Thursday because of the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. stock markets will also be closed and will have a shortened session on Friday.
Sure enough, fixed income markets are quiet. Bund and gilt curves bull flatten a touch, cash Treasuries remain closed for Thanksgiving.
In other central bank news, the Bank of Korea raised its policy interest rate by 25 basis points on Thursday, as widely expected, as concern about rising household debt and inflation offset uncertainty around a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
In FX, the Bloomberg dollar index recovered Asia’s small weakness to trade flat. SEK is the best performer in G-10 with EUR/SEK down 0.4% after the Riksbank tweaked inflation forecasts slightly and signaled that they see a case for a higher benchmark rate in 2024. NZD and AUD lag with most majors trading a narrow range. The dollar is trading near its highest in almost five years versus the Japanese currency at 115.3 yen, and nearly 18 months to the euro which was at $1.1206.
In commodities, oil prices were mixed after a turbulent few days in which the United States said it would release millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in coordination with China, India, South Korea, Japan and Britain to try to cool oil prices after calls to OPEC+ to pump more went unheeded. However, investors laughed at the programme's effectiveness, leading to price gains. Brent crude was last at $82.14 a barrel, down 0.1%.
Action continued to heat up in the base metals market. Nickel rose in London toward the highest level since May 2014 on a closing basis as shrinking inventories pointed to tight supply. Aluminum and copper extended their two-day increase to at least 2% each.
Looking at the day ahead, it's a fairly quiet calendar given the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. On the central bank side however, we’ll hear from ECB President Lagarde, and the ECB’s Villeroy, Elderson and Schnabel, along with BoE Governor Bailey and the BoE’s Haskel. On top of that, the ECB will release the account of their October meeting, and data releases include the German GfK consumer confidence reading for December.
A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk
Asian equities traded mixed following on from the tentative mood in US where the major indices headed into the Thanksgiving holiday with a slight positive bias although upside was capped as participants digested a deluge of mixed data releases and hawkish leaning FOMC Minutes which suggested an increased likelihood of a taper adjustment. ASX 200 (+0.1%) was choppy as outperformance in tech and miners was counterbalanced by losses in consumer stocks, energy and the top-weighted financials sector, while mixed capex data which showed a larger than expected contraction for Q3 further added to the headwinds. Nikkei 225 (+0.7%) outperformed and reclaimed the 29,500 level after the recent favourable currency flows and stimulus optimism with Japan considering offering a JPY 5k inbound travel subsidy and is planning a JPY 22.1tln government bond sale as part of economic stimulus and extra budget. KOSPI (-0.4%) softened amid a widely expected 25bps rate hike by the BoK and with BoK Governor Lee suggesting the potential for another hike in Q1 next year. Hang Seng (+0.1%) and Shanghai Comp. (-0.1%) lacked direction amid ongoing frictions including issues related to Taiwan and after the US Commerce Department placed 12 Chinese companies/entities on its entity list due to national security concerns, while EU ambassadors approved to renew sanctions on four Chinese officials and one Chinese entity for human rights abuses. However, the downside for Chinese bourses was limited after another tepid PBoC liquidity effort and with a local press report noting that China is to use more fiscal policy to support growth. There were also reports that Chengdu city launched measures to help developers with cash problems in obtaining funds, while Kaisa Group shares saw a double-digit percentage jump on reopen from a three-week trading halt after it offered to exchange bonds for new bonds with an extended maturity in an effort to improve financial stability and remain afloat. Finally, 10yr JGBs were rangebound after the sideways price action seen in global counterparts and cautious risk tone in Asia, while the results of the latest 40yr JGB auction were also inconclusive with a weaker b/c offset by an increase in the low price.
European cash equities (Euro Stoxx 50 +0.3%; Stoxx 600 +0.2%) trade on a modestly in the green but off best levels as bourses’ attempt to reclaim some of the lost ground seen throughout the week somewhat lost momentum, with the Stoxx 600 down 1.3% WTD. Macro drivers for the region remain a combination of this week’s (slightly stale) survey metrics, ECB speak and COVID angst with the latter providing a bulk of the direction for European assets this week. The handover from the APAC region was a somewhat mixed one as the Nikkei 225 (+0.6%) continued to benefit from favourable currency flows and ongoing stimulus hopes whilst Chinese stocks (Shanghai Comp -0.2%) digested a combination of US-China tensions over Taiwan, EU sanctions on China and expectations of domestic fiscal measures to support growth. Futures in the US (ahead of the early close) are currently on a mildly firmer footing (ES +0.3%) however, traders will likely not pay much credence to these moves given that the cash markets are closed today. The latest BofA flow show noted that stocks saw just their second week of outflows for the year, albeit equities have posted USD 839bln of inflows in 2021 which is more than the USD 785bln seen in the past 19 years combined. Elsewhere, SocGen is of the view that the bull market is not over for European equities and the cycle has further room to run into next year as inflation peaks and Fed-ECB policy diverges. SocGen’s end-2022 target of 520 implies a 9% upside from current levels. Sectors in Europe are mostly firmer with the Food & Beverage sector a top performer amid gains in Remy Cointreau (+11%) who sit at the top of the Stoxx 600 post-earnings which saw the Co. raise its profit outlook. In sympathy, Pernod Ricard (+2.0%), Campari (+1.1%) and Diageo (+0.8%) are all seen higher. To the downside, Travel & Leisure names lag amid ongoing losses in sector-heavyweight Evolution (-5.6%) with the latest update for the Co. noting it has contacted New Jersey regulators and launched an internal probe following accusations the company is conducting business in US blacklisted countries. Also of note for the sector, reports suggest that the EU is set to endorse a 9-month limit on COVID-19 vaccine validity in travel. Finally, Vivo Energy (+20%) is seen higher on the session after Vitol reached an agreement to purchase the Co. for USD 1.85/shr.
In FX, the index sees a mild pullback in early European trade on Thanksgiving Day Holiday, after notching a fresh YTD peak yesterday at 96.938 with traders also weighing end-of-month flows. Yesterday's FOMC Minutes had little impact on the Buck, but the release stated the Fed should be prepared to adjust the pace of asset purchases and raise the target range for FFR sooner if inflation continued to run higher than levels consistent with the Fed objective. Some participants preferred a somewhat faster pace of reductions. DXY trades within a narrow 96.649-832 range. Ahead, the calendar is empty from a US standpoint.
- EUR, GBP - The single currency stands are the current G10 winner, albeit within narrow ranges in holiday-thinned trade. Desks suggest that light short-covering may warrant given the recent COVID-led downside. On the COVID front, reports suggested the EU is to endorse a 9-month limit on COVID-19 vaccine validity in travel. Sources earlier in the week suggested that updated EU travel guidance will likely be released today, whilst France is also today poised to provide more colour on COVID-related restrictions. EUR/USD has reclaimed a 1.1200 handle but trades within yesterday's 1.1184-1.1250 range. GBP/USD meanwhile is relatively flat within a 20-pip parameter, with not much to report aside from overnight commentary highlighting the 'substantial distance' between the UK and EU on the Northern Ireland protocol. Ahead, participants will be on the lookout for commentary from BoE governor Bailey and Haskel. Note, some participants also highlight chunky OpEx tomorrow in GBP/USD comprising of some GBP 1.3bln around 1.3400-10.
- AUD, NZD - Antipodeans are on the back foot, with the NZD continuing to lag post-RBNZ and following a narrower NZ trade deficit as the AUD/NZD cross inches closer towards 1.0500 after confirming support around the 1.0450 region. AUD/USD was unfazed by lower-than-expected Q3 Aussie Capex. Desks highlight support at 0.7170 (Sept 29th low) ahead of the YTD low at 0.7106. Technicians may also be cognizant of the 21 DMA (0.7346) set to cross through the 100 DMA (0.7346) and 50 DMA (0.7344).
- JPY - The JPY is relatively flat on the day within a 115.30-45 band, with desks suggesting bids are eye towards 115.00 and offers above 115.50. OpEx is interesting; USD/JPY sees USD 1.2bln between 115.10 and around USD 800mln at strike 115.50.
- SEK, HUF - The Riksbank maintained its Rate at 0.00% and asset holdings unchanged as expected and said the repo rate will be raised in the latter part of 2024 – with the Q4 2024 rate path seen averaging at 0.19%. Overall, the decision was in-line with expectations. The SEK saw some modest upside heading into the announcement, but on the largely as-expected release, EUR/SEK remained in proximity to the pre-announcement level of 10.20. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Central Bank announced a 40bps hike to its 1-week Repo Rate in an expected but unscheduled move. EUR/HUF moved from 367.25 to 365.40 on the hike.
In commodities, WTI and Brent futures are choppy following the earlier softness at the start of the session, which was seemingly a function of a mild deterioration across equity markets, also coinciding with Ifax reports that the US is trying to persuade Russia to lift oil output. Sticking with OPEC+, the morning also saw commentary out of Kuwait and the UAE, who both signalled open-mindedness heading into next week’s meeting, although WSJ sources yesterday suggested the UAE does not see the need to pause current plans. WTI Jan has dipped back under USD 78/bbl (vs high USD 76.65/bbl) while Brent Feb resides just north of USD 80.50/bbl (vs high 81.40/bbl). Ahead, participants will be balancing OPEC+ sources and commentary to get a more solid idea on which route the group will likely take next week. Elsewhere, spot gold remains caged within a cluster of DMAs including the 100 (1,793), 200 (1,791) and 50 (1,789). Base metals are once again firmer with traders citing bullish commentary on Chinese infrastructure. LME copper inches closer towards USD 10k/t whilst Dalian iron ore futures overnight stretched their rally to a fifth consecutive session, spot prices topped USD 100/t.
DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap
A reminder that this week we published our 2022 credit strategy outlook. See here for the full report. Craig has also put out a more detailed HY 2022 strategy document here and Karthik a more detailed IG equivalent here. Basically we think spreads will widen as much as 30-40bps in IG and 120-160bps in HY due to a response to a more dramatic appreciation of the Fed being well behind the curve. This sort of move is consistent with typical mid-cycle ranges through history. We do expect this to mostly retrace in H2 as markets recover from the shock and growth remains decent and liquidity still high.
Today will likely prove a quieter one in markets given the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. But ahead of that, risk assets eventually climbed a wall of worry yesterday as investors moved to dial up their hawkish bets on the Fed’s policy trajectory, just as the latest Covid wave in Europe further contributed to investor concerns. Nevertheless, after trading in the red most of the day, global equity markets just managed to finish the day in positive territory, with the S&P 500 gaining +0.23% and the STOXX 600 advancing +0.09%.
First, on the hawkish Fed policy trajectory, our US economics team updated their calls to expect just that. In a note yesterday (link here), they outlined expectations for the Fed to double the pace of tapering at the December FOMC meeting following better-than-expected inflation and employment data since the November FOMC. This would bring monthly reductions in Treasury purchases to $20bn and MBS purchases to $10bn, which would bring the end of taper forward to March. In line, they’re bringing their call for liftoff forward a month to June 2022.
Our econ team weren’t the only ones to adjust their outlook. San Francisco Fed President Daly, one of the biggest doves on the FOMC and a voter in December, said in an interview that, “if (strong inflation and jobs data continue) then those are the things that would say, looks like we need faster tapering”. Furthermore, she also said that “I am very open and, in fact, leaning towards that we’ll want to raise rates from the zero lower bound at the end of next year”. So if one of the Fed’s biggest doves is feeling this way, then that showcases the shift in thinking that could be taking place more broadly on the committee. Front-end US rates sold off following the comment and yesterday’s data releases, which did nothing to change the recent hawkish turn from Fed officials. In fact, by the close of trade investors were fully pricing in a hike by June, and pricing about two-thirds probability of a May hike. They are still projecting three full hikes in the next calendar year. You’ll know from the credit outlook that we continue to think the Fed is way behind the curve and that catch-up will likely cause some volatility in H1 with notably wider credit spreads. See the link at the top for more on our view.
Those moves were given some fresh impetus by stronger-than-expected US data, of which plenty arrived in advance of the holiday today. First, the weekly initial jobless claims for the week through November 20 fell to 199k (vs. 260k expected), which is their lowest level since 1969 and the first time we’ve seen a reading comfortably around or beneath their levels immediately before the pandemic. Claims are always a bit all over the place around Thanksgiving due to seasonal adjustments so we may need a couple of weeks before the trend can be confirmed. Secondly, we then had the second estimate of Q3 GDP in the US, which was revised up a tenth to show an annualised growth rate of +2.1%. Third, the personal income and spending data came in above expectations in October, with personal income up +0.5%, and personal spending up +1.3%, which in both cases was three-tenths higher than expected. And finally, although the University of Michigan’s final consumer sentiment index was still at a decade low, the final measure came in at 67.4, above the preliminary reading of 66.8. Long-term inflation expectations edged back up a tenth to 3.0%, where it was in September and May this year, the joint highest readings since 2013.
All that created additional momentum in front-end US rates, with the 2yr yield (+2.6bps) and the 5yr yield (+0.3bps) both rising to fresh post-pandemic highs as the prospect of faster tapering and earlier rate hikes came into view. That put further upward pressure on the dollar as well, with the index strengthening by +0.33% yesterday to hit a 16-month high, having now risen by over +6% since its low in late May just 6 months ago. Of course the flip side was that a number of currencies shifted lower vis-à-vis the dollar, and the euro dipped below the $1.12 mark at the end of the day for the first time since June 2020.
Amidst the moves higher in front-end Treasury yields, another round of curve flattening saw longer-dated ones fall back yesterday, with the 10yr yield down -3.1bps to 1.63%. That flattening took the 5s30s curve down -6.9bps to its lowest level since the initial market turmoil at the start of the pandemic back in March 2020, having fallen by over 100bps since its intraday high back in February. 2s10s twisted -5.7bps flatter as well, as investors priced in near-term Fed policy action that could engender a hard landing that hurts longer term growth. It was a different picture in Europe however, where curves steepened for the most part and the moves lower in long-end rates were much more subdued. By the close, yields on 10yr bunds (-0.8bps), OATs (+0.0bps) and BTPs (+1.3bps) had seen relatively little movement, as investors continue to expect that the ECB will take a much more cautious approach to raising rates relative to the Fed.
Overnight in Asia markets are again mixed but being led by the Nikkei (+0.68%) and the Hang Seng (+0.14%), while the Shanghai Composite (-0.10%), CSI (-0.31%) and KOSPI (-0.34%) are losing ground. In a widely expected move the Bank of Korea raised rates for a second time since August, taking the policy rate to 1.0%. The BOK revised its inflation outlook to 2.3% for 2021 and 2% for 2022 which was expected. Futures markets are higher with the S&P 500 (+0.28%) and DAX (+0.35%) trading in the green. Treasuries are closed.
Back to yesterday, and one of the main pieces of news came from Germany, where there was finally confirmation that the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP had agreed a full coalition deal. In terms of the economic measures, the notable ones include a restoration of the debt brake from 2023, which has been suspended during the pandemic, as well as an increase in the minimum wage to €12 per hour. We’ll wait to see if dealing with the climate emergency is carved out to some degree from the debt brake. I suspect it will be in some form. Assuming the deal is agreed by each of the parties, who will put the agreement to internal party approval processes, that could see the SPD’s Olaf Scholz become Chancellor in the week commencing December 6, bringing an end to Chancellor Merkel’s 16-year tenure.
That new coalition will be coming into office at a difficult time in light of the latest covid wave across Europe, and in his remarks yesterday, Scholz said that they would consider targeted vaccination mandates for those working with vulnerable groups. That came as the Bild newspaper reported that Chancellor Merkel asked the members of the new coalition to impose a 2-week nationwide lockdown, but this was rejected in a meeting on Tuesday evening. Overnight Germany reported 75,961 new cases, up from 66,884 on Tuesday.
Other countries are also moving to ramp up restrictions across the continent, with French health minister Veran expected to announce fresh measures at a news conference today, whilst Italy approved new curbs on the unvaccinated, including entry restrictions to enter restaurants and cinemas. Elsewhere, Slovakia announced a new lockdown that will see residents only permitted to leave home for work, education, or essential activities, with the closure of restaurants and non-essential shops for two weeks. A reminder that we are adding a daily G7 plus important country new cases chart every day in this email blast and a fatalities chart in the full pdf under “view report”.
The day ahead has a fairly quiet calendar given the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. On the central bank side however, we’ll hear from ECB President Lagarde, and the ECB’s Villeroy, Elderson and Schnabel, along with BoE Governor Bailey and the BoE’s Haskel. On top of that, the ECB will release the account of their October meeting, and data releases include the German GfK consumer confidence reading for December.
Americans Are Having A Lot Less Sex. Here’s Why?
Americans Are Having A Lot Less Sex. Here’s Why?
Authored by Ross Pomeroy via RealClearScience.com,
Americans had a lot less sex in 2018 compared to 2009, according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The finding…
Americans had a lot less sex in 2018 compared to 2009, according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The finding mirrors a downward trend also seen in many other parts of the developed world, including the UK, Australia, Germany, and Japan.
Researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University School of Public Health made the discovery by comparing data collected in 2009 and 2018 from participants of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). The NSSHB is an ongoing, representative survey of adolescents aged 14-17 and adults aged 18-49 focused on understanding sex in the United States. Participants are asked about their sexual exploits as well as various demographic factors.
For the current analysis, lead author Dr. Debby Herbenick and her colleagues examined the responses of 4,155 individuals from the 2009 NSSHB and 4,547 individuals from the 2018 NSSHB, specifically focusing on how often they reported having penile-vaginal intercourse. The researchers also probed the frequency of other sexual behaviors like masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex.
They found that while 24% of adults reported not having penile-vaginal intercourse over the prior year in 2009, 28% of adults reported not having intercourse over the prior year in 2018. Adolescents were also increasingly abstinent – 79% reported not having sex over the previous 12 months in 2009 while 89% reported not having sex over the previous 12 months in 2018.
The data also permitted the researchers to estimate how often the average American adult aged 18-49 has sex each year. In 2009, it was about 63 times. In 2018, it was about 47 times.
Both adolescents and adults also reported fewer instances of partnered masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex in 2018 compared to 2009, which surprised the researchers. They hypothesized that any decrease in penile-vaginal sex would be offset by an increase in other sexual activities. Not so. It simply seems that Americans are having less sex.
What could explain this drought of sexual activity? The researchers put forth a number of hypotheses. They note that, compared to 2009, adolescents and younger adults are drinking less alcohol, spending more time on social media, and playing more video games.
They also earn less money and are less likely to be in romantic relationships.
"Also, more contemporary young people identify with non-heterosexual identities— including asexual identities—and more young people identify in gender expansive ways," the researchers write.
There's also a simpler explanation. People may have been more prone to exaggerate their sexual habits in 2009 and are less likely to now.
Whatever the reasons, the researchers say there's no reason to fret about the decline. "The age-old question on how much sex is too much and how little sex is not enough comes to mind," they write. The data is merely interesting, and they will continue to monitor it, especially watching for changes resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
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Source: Herbenick, D., Rosenberg, M., Golzarri-Arroyo, L. et al. Changes in Penile-Vaginal Intercourse Frequency and Sexual Repertoire from 2009 to 2018: Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Arch Sex Behav (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-02125-2
Bovard Blasts The Biden Crackdown On Thought Crimes
Bovard Blasts The Biden Crackdown On Thought Crimes
Authored by Jim Bovard,
The Biden administration is seeking to radically narrow the boundaries of respectable American political thought. The administration has repeatedly issued statements
The Biden administration is seeking to radically narrow the boundaries of respectable American political thought. The administration has repeatedly issued statements and reports that could automatically castigate citizens who distrust the federal government. We may eventually learn that the new Biden guidelines spurred a vast increase in federal surveillance and other abuses against Americans who were guilty of nothing more than vigorous skepticism.
Biden is Nixon on steroids
The Biden team is expanding the federal Enemies List perhaps faster than any time since the Nixon administration. In June, the Biden administration asserted that guys who are unable to score with women may be terrorist threats due to “involuntary celibate–violent extremism.” That revelation was included in the administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, which identified legions of new potential “domestic terrorists” that the feds can castigate and investigate.
The White House claims its new war on terrorism and extremism is “carefully tailored to address violence and reduce the factors that …infringe on the free expression of ideas.” But the prerogative to define extremism includes the power to revile disapproved beliefs. The report warns that “narratives of fraud in the recent general election … will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] to try to engage in violence this year.” If accusations of 2020 electoral shenanigans are formally labeled as extremist threats, that could result in far more repression (aided by Facebook and Twitter) of dissenting voices. How will this work out any better than the concerted campaign by the media and Big Tech last fall to suppress all information about Hunter Biden’s laptop before the election? And how can Biden be trusted to be the judge after he effectively accused Facebook of mass murder for refusing to totally censor anyone who raised doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Biden administration is revving up for a war against an enemy which the feds have chosen to never explicitly define. According to a March report by Biden’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” But that was the same belief that many Biden voters had regarding the Trump administration. Does the definition of extremism depend solely on which party captured the White House?
The Biden report writers were spooked by the existence of militia groups and flirt with the fantasy of outlawing them across the land. The report promises to explore “how to make better use of laws that already exist in all fifty states prohibiting certain private ‘militia’ activity, including … state statutes prohibiting groups of people from organizing as private military units without the authorization of the state government, and state statutes that criminalize certain paramilitary activity.” Most of the private militia groups are guilty of nothing more than bluster and braggadocio. Besides, many of them are already overstocked with government informants who are counting on Uncle Sam for regular paychecks. Some politicians and pundits might like to see a new federal crime that labels any meeting of more than two gun owners as an illegal conspiracy.
The Biden report promises that the FBI and DHS will soon be releasing “a new edition of the Federal Government’s Mobilization Indicators booklet that will include for the first time potential indicators of domestic terrorism–related mobilization.” Will this latest publication be as boneheaded as the similar 2014 report by the National Counterterrorism Center entitled “Countering Violent Extremism: A Guide for Practitioners and Analysts”?
The new Red Guard
As the Intercept summarized, that report “suggests that police, social workers and educators rate individuals on a scale of one to five in categories such as ‘Expressions of Hopelessness, Futility,’ … and ‘Connection to Group Identity (Race, Nationality, Religion, Ethnicity)’ … to alert government officials to individuals at risk of turning to radical violence, and to families or communities at risk of incubating extremist ideologies.” The report recommended judging families by their level of “Parent-Child Bonding” and rating localities on the basis in part of the “presence of ideologues or recruiters.” Former FBI agent Mike German commented, “The idea that the federal government would encourage local police, teachers, medical, and social-service employees to rate the communities, individuals, and families they serve for their potential to become terrorists is abhorrent on its face.”
Biden’s “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” report also declared that “enhancing faith in American democracy” requires “finding ways to counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories.” In recent decades, conspiracy theories have multiplied almost as fast as government lies and cover-ups. While many allegations have been ludicrously far-fetched, the political establishment and media routinely attach the “conspiracy theory” label to any challenge to their dominance.
According to Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law professor and Oba- ma’s regulatory czar, a conspiracy theory is “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.” Reasonable citizens are supposed to presume that government creates trillions of pages of new secrets each year for their own good, not to hide anything from the public.
“Conspiracy theory” is a magic phrase that expunges all previous federal abuses. Many liberals who invoke the phrase also ritually quote a 1965 book by former communist Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Hofstadter portrayed distrust of government as a proxy for mental illness, a paradigm that makes the character of critics more important than the conduct of government agencies. For Hofstadter, it was a self-evident truth that government was trustworthy because American politics had “a kind of professional code … embodying the practical wisdom of generations of politicians.”
The rise of conspiracy theories
In the early 1960s, conspiracy theories were practically a non-issue because 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government. Such credulity did not survive the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Seven days after Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson created a commission (later known as the Warren Commission) to suppress controversy about the killing.
Johnson browbeat the commission members into speedily issuing a report rubber-stamping the “crazed lone gunman” version of the assassination. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford, a member of the commission, revised the final staff report to change the location of where the bullet entered Kennedy’s body, thereby salvaging the so-called “magic bullet” theory.
After the Warren Commission findings were ridiculed as a whitewash, Johnson ordered the FBI to conduct wiretaps on the report’s critics. To protect the official story, the commission sealed key records for 75 years. Truth would out only after all the people involved in any coverup had gotten their pensions and died.
The controversy surrounding the Warren Commission spurred the CIA to formally attack the notion of conspiracy theories. In a 1967 alert to its overseas stations and bases, the CIA declared that the fact that almost half of Americans did not believe Oswald acted alone “is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization” and endangers “the whole reputation of the American government.”
The memo instructed recipients to “employ propaganda assets” and exploit “friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out … parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists.” The ultimate proof of the government’s innocence: “Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States.”
The New York Times, which exposed the CIA memo in 1977, noted that the CIA “mustered its propaganda machinery to support an issue of far more concern to Americans, and to the C.I.A. itself, than to citizens of other countries.” According to historian Lance deHaven-Smith, author of Conspiracy Theory in America, “The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited … with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.” In 2014, the CIA released a heavily-redacted report admitting that it had been “complicit” in a JFK “cover-up” by withholding “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission. The CIA successfully concealed a wide range of assassinations and foreign coups it conducted until congressional investigations in the mid-1970s blew the whistle.
“Conspiracy theory” allegations sometimes merely expose the naivete of official scorekeepers. In April 2016, Chapman University surveyed Americans and announced that “the most prevalent conspiracy theory in the United States is that the government is concealing information about the 9/11 attacks with slightly over half of Americans holding that belief.”
That survey did not ask whether people believed the World Trade Centers were blown up by an inside job or whether President George W. Bush secretly masterminded the attacks. Instead, folks were simply asked whether “government is concealing information” about the attacks. Only a village idiot, college professor, or editorial writer would presume the government had come clean.
Three months after the Chapman University survey was conducted, the Obama administration finally released 28 pages of a 2003 congressional report that revealed that Saudi government officials had directly financed some of the 9/11 hijackers in America. That disclosure shattered the storyline carefully constructed by the Bush administration, the 9/11 Commission, and legions of media accomplices. (Lawsuits continue in federal court seeking to force the U.S. government to disclose more information regarding the Saudi government role in the attacks.)
Conspiracy theories a tool for control
“Conspiracy theory” is often a flag of convenience for the political-media elite. In 2018, the New York Times asserted that Trump’s use of the term “Deep State” and similar rhetoric “fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media.” However, after allegations by anonymous government officials spurred Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, New York Times columnist James Stewart cheered, “There is a Deep State, there is a bureaucracy in our country who has pledged to respect the Constitution, respect the rule of law…. They work for the American people.” New York Times editorial writer Michelle Cottle proclaimed, “The deep state is alive and well” and hailed it as “a collection of patriotic public servants.” Almost immediately after its existence was no longer denied, the Deep State became the incarnation of virtue in Washington. After Biden was elected, references to the “Deep State” were once again labeled paranoid ravings.
Much of the establishment rage at “conspiracy theories” has been driven by the notion that rulers are entitled to intellectual passive obedience. The same lèse-majesté mindset has been widely adopted to make a muddle of American history. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the court historian for President John F. Kennedy and a revered liberal intellectual, declared in 2004, “Historians today conclude that the colonists were driven to revolt in 1776 because of a false conviction that they faced a British conspiracy to destroy their freedom.” What the hell is wrong with “historians today”?! Was the British imposition of martial law, confiscation of firearms, military blockades, suspension of habeas corpus, and censorship simply a deranged fantasy of Thomas Jefferson? The notion that the British would never conspire to destroy freedom would play poorly in Dublin, where the Irish suffered centuries of brutal British oppression. Why should anyone trust academics who were blind to British threats in the 1770s to accurately judge the danger that today’s politicians pose to Americans’ liberty?
How does the Biden administration intend to fight “conspiracy theories?” The Biden terrorism report called for “enhancing faith in government” by “accelerating work to contend with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse.” Will Biden’s team rely on the “solution” suggested by Cass Sunstein: “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups” by government agents and informants to “undermine” them from within?
Does the Biden administration also propose banning Americans from learning anything from the history of prior federal debacles? Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.” A 1976 Senate report on COINTELPRO demanded assurances that a federal agency would never again “be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers threats, to the established order.” Actually, the FBI and other agencies have continued secretly warring against “threats,” and legions of informants are likely busy “cognitively infiltrating” at this moment.
Permitting politicians to blacklist any ideas they disapprove won’t “restore faith in democracy.” Extremism has always been a flag of political convenience, and the Biden team, the FBI, and their media allies will fan fears to sanctify new government crackdowns. But what if government is the most dangerous extremist of them all?
“The Omicron Variant” – Magic Pills, Or Solving The Africa Problem?
"The Omicron Variant" – Magic Pills, Or Solving The Africa Problem?
Authored by Kit Knightly via Off-Guardian.org,
Yesterday the WHO labelled the sars-cov-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and officially named it “Omicron”.
Yesterday the WHO labelled the sars-cov-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and officially named it “Omicron”.
This was as entirely predictable as it is completely meaningless. The “variants” are just tools to stretch the story out and keep people on their toes.
If you want to know exactly how the Omicron variant is going to affect the narrative, well The Guardian has done a handy “here’s all the bullshit we’re gonna sell you over the next couple of weeks” guide:
The Omicron variant is more transmissable, but they don’t know if it’s more dangerous yet (keeping their options open)
It originated in Africa, possible mutating in an “untreated AIDS patient” (sick people are breeding grounds for dangerous “mutations”)
“it has more than double the mutations of Delta…scientists anticipate that the virus will be more likely to infect – or reinfect – people who have immunity to earlier variants. (undermining natural immunity, selling more boosters, keeping the scarefest going)
“Scientists are concerned” that current vaccines may not be as effective against the new strain, they may need to be “tweaked” (get your boosters, and the new booster we haven’t invented yet)
“Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, will work as effectively against the new variant” (more on this later)
It’s already spreading around the world, and travel bans may be needed to prevent the need for another lockdown
We’re already seeing preparations for more “public health measures”, with the press breathlessly quoting “concerned” public health officials. We’re being told that a new lockdown won’t be necessary…as long as we remember to get boosted and wear masks and blah blah blah.
Generally speaking, it’s all fairly boilerplate scary nonsense. Although it is quite funny that the Biden administration has already put a bunch of African nations on a travel ban list, when Biden called Trump a racist for doing the same thing in 2020.
It’s interesting that the new variant has allegedly come from Africa, perhaps “mutating in the body of an AIDS patient”, since Africa has been the biggest hole in the Covid narrative for well over a year.
Africa is by far the poorest continent, it is densely populated, malnourishment and extreme poverty are endemic across many African nations, and it is home to more AIDS patients than the entire rest of the world combined. And yet, no Covid crisis.
This is a weak point in the story, and always has been.
Last Summer, the UK’s virus modeller-in-chief Neil Ferguson attempted to explain it by arguing that African nations have, on average, younger populations than the rest of the world, and Covid is only a threat to the elderly. But five minutes of common sense debunks that idea.
The reason Africa has a younger population, on average, is that – on average – they are much sicker.
There are diseases endemic to large parts of Africa that are all but wiped out in most of the Western world. Cholera, typhus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria. Access to clean water, and healthcare are also much more limited.
And while it has been nailed into the public mind that being elderly is the biggest risk factor for Covid, that is inaccurate. In fact, the biggest risk factor for dying “of Covid” is, and always has been, already dying of something else.
The truth is that any REAL dangerous respiratory virus would have cut a bloody swath across the entire continent.
Instead, as recently as last week, we were getting articles about how Africa “escaped Covid”, and the continent’s low covid deaths with only 6% of people vaccinated is “mystifying” and “baffling” scientists.
Politically, African nations have shown themselves far less likely to buy into the “pandemic” narrative than their European, Asian or American counterparts. At least two “Covid denying” African presidents – Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and John Magufuli of Tanzania – have died suddenly in the last year, and seen their successors immediately reverse their covid policies.
So maybe the Omicron Variant is a way of trying to fold Africa into the covid narrative that the other continents have already fully embraced. That will become clear as the story develops.
Of course, it’s also true that being “African” is media shorthand for being scary, relying on the deeply-seated xenophobia of Western audiences. See: “Africanized killer bees”.
But, either way, Africa is the long game. There’s a more obvious, and more cynical, short term agenda here.
THE MAGIC PILLS
Let’s go back to the Guardian’s “Omicron” bullet points, above:
Scientists are concerned by the number of mutations and the fact some of them have already been linked to an ability to evade existing [vaccine-created] immune protection.
Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, [will work effectively] against the new variant
The “new variant” is already being described as potentially resistant to the vaccines, but NOT the new anti-viral medications.
Pharmaceutical giants Merck and Pfizer are both working on “Covid pills”, which as recently as three days ago, were being hyped up in the press:
US may have a ‘game changer’ new Covid pill soon, but its success will hinge on rapid testing
In the US, an emergency use authorisation can only be issued if there is no effective medication or treatment already available, so the vaccines not being proof against Omicron would be vital to rushing the pills onto the US market, at least.
If Omicron is found to be “resistant to the vaccines”, but NOT the pills, that will give governments an excuse to rush through approving the pills on an EUA, just as they did with the vaccines.
So, you bet your ass that testing is gonna be “rapid”. Super rapid. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid. Rapid to the point you’re not even sure it definitely happened. And now they have an excuse.
Really, it’s all just more of the same.
A scare before the new year. An excuse to make people believe their Christmas could be in peril. An exercise in flexing their control muscles a bit, milking even more money out of the double-jabbed and boosted crowd, now newly terrified of the Omicron variant, and a nice holiday bump to Pfizer’s ever-inflating stock price.
At this point either you can see the pattern, or you can’t. You’re free of the fear machinery, or you’re not.
There is one potential silver lining here: It feels rushed and frantic. Discovered on Tuesday, named on Friday, travel bans on Saturday. It is hurried, and maybe that’s a reaction to feeling like the “pandemic” is losing its grip on the public mind.
Hopefully, as the narrative becomes more and more absurd, more and more people will wake up to reality.
It has been pointed out that “Omicron” is an anagram of “moronic”.
One wonders if that’s deliberate and they’re making fun of us.
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