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For the week 10/17-10/21
[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]
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Washington and Wall Street
I voted the other day. Since I wanted to write someone in, I ordered an absentee ballot because I didn’t want to take up a lot of time in line at the voting booth trying to figure out how to do it, and thus take up the time of those behind me. Hey, I’m a courteous guy. I was raised right.
Needless to say, you can then tell I did not vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or Gary Johnson, which was my plan all along until he started to convince me he’s just not that bright, and, yes, you can say I wasted my vote. Maybe I’ll tell you later who I voted for, maybe not. But this is the third time now in my life I did not just vote for the Republican presidential candidate.
Most importantly, I wanted to make sure I cast my vote for my Republican congressman, Leonard Lance. I’m scared to death about the down-ballot situation and it’s looking bleak for Republicans in the Senate. The polling out of New Hampshire is downright distressing, with a WMUR poll having Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte down by 8 points, while Donald Trump trails 48-33 in the state. I’m less concerned about the House changing hands.
But Republicans have every right to be on pins and needles come Nov. 8. Democrats should be salivating. But then they have Hillary at the top of their ticket.
I comment extensively on Wednesday’s debate below, or rather document for the record how others viewed it, from all sides, as I’ve done with all major events since day one of StocksandNews; the most complete history of our times...period.
But I was watching the Al Smith Dinner in New York on Thursday and I was struck by the four politicos in the front row of the dais with Cardinal Dolan....Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Talk about pathetic. All four are hopelessly corrupt; either morally and/or criminally.
If you didn’t watch the dinner and the keynote speakers, Clinton and Trump, you’ve no doubt heard about it. It was a despicable display by both, particularly Trump. He was showered with boos as he ripped into Hillary Clinton as “corrupt” at a charity event where political speakers traditionally trade light-hearted jabs and make fun of themselves.
“Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate Commission...How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission? Pretty corrupt.” The black-tie audience was not happy with the tone.
But Trump kept at it, though he did have a good one about Melania giving the same speech as Michelle Obama.
For her part, Hillary dished it out as well, and she received a smattering of boos. From both sides it was painful to watch. The whole campaign they’ve been humorless bores.
But before I get into the debate, and then Hillary’s emails....
Gideon Rachman / Financial Times
“The assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul that began this week underlines the fact that the next three months will be a perilous period in international politics. Fighting is intensifying in the Middle East. Tensions are rising between Russia and the West. And relations between China and its Asian neighbors are getting edgier. All this is happening while the U.S. is diverted by the Trump-Clinton melodrama and the transition to a new president.
“For Russia and China – two countries that are openly unhappy with the U.S.-dominated world order – a distracted America will look like an opportunity. Both Moscow and Beijing regard Hillary Clinton with suspicion and believe that her probable arrival in the Oval Office would herald a more hawkish U.S. foreign policy. They may be tempted to act swiftly, before she has a chance to settle into the White House....
“As Mr. Obama prepares to pack his bags in the White House, he may look back wryly at the foreign-policy goals that he set eight years ago.
“There was to be a ‘reset’ that would lead to better relations with Russia. There would also be a new and closer working relationship with China. And there would be an end to war in the Middle East. None of those policies has come to fruition. Instead, Mr. Obama will be fortunate if he can negotiate his last three months in office without presiding over a major international crisis.”
The first half hour was full of substance, with Trump and Clinton spatting over the Supreme Court and guns and abortion rights. No name calling. The audience could see there were policy differences. They sparred over their charitable foundations, which helped neither, but they were sticking to policy.
But then Trump reverted to Alec Baldwin and started interjecting “wrong,” and later when Clinton was going after him on his income tax issue, Trump sneered “she’s such a nasty woman.”
Moderator Chris Wallace talked about the importance of the peaceful transition of power to American democracy, Trump had a chance to state clearly that he would accept the results of the election, regardless of who wins, as he did weeks ago, but Wednesday, Trump would not yield.
“I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense.” Hillary replied, “That’s horrifying.”
Trump had gotten off to a solid start, but with this move he guaranteed only one thing would dominate the headlines.
For her part, Clinton exposed Trump’s temperament and reinforced his issues with the treatment of women. I mean it has been downright laughable hearing Trump say, as he did again Wednesday, that “no one respects women more than I do.”
Chris Cillizza / Washington Post
“Hillary Clinton. This was the Democratic nominee’s best debate performance. She finally figured out the right calibration of ignoring and engaging Trump. Given her considerable edge in the electoral map, Clinton didn’t need a moment in this debate, she simply needed to survive.... Her performance wasn’t perfect; she struggled to defend the Clinton Foundation, for example, but Trump managed to throw her an opening to talk about his own foundation’s issues. All in all, Clinton won – a clean sweep of the three debates.
“Chris Wallace: Wallace was the best moderator of the four debates (including vice presidential)....Wallace’s questions were just top-notch.....
“Vladimir Putin: The Russian leader had to be thrilled about the amount of airtime he and his country received in the debate....
“Donald Trump: Top to bottom, this was Trump’s most consistent and best debate. But, it wasn’t a good debate for him. Not at all. His signature moment – and the defining moment of the entire debate – came when he refused to say he would concede if the election results showed he had lost. Trump’s I’ll-just-wait-and-see answer was a total disaster and will be the only thing people are talking about coming out of the debate.”
Separately, Republican leaders reacted to Trump’s refusing to promise that he would respect the results of the election if he loses.
Arizona Sen. John McCain said it was imperative politicians “respect the decision of the majority...especially when we disagree with it.”
“There have been irregularities in our elections, sometimes even fraud, but never to an extent that it affected the outcome. We should all be proud of that, and respect the decision of the majority even when we disagree with it. Especially when we disagree with it.”
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, whom Trump briefly considered to be his running mate, said on Twitter that it “is imperative that Donald Trump clearly state that he will accept the results of the election when complete.”
Look. If out of nowhere the election comes down to Ohio and it’s 46-45 Clinton, well of course, Trump should contest it. Demand a recount, which state elections officials and the attorney general would demand anyway themselves. That’s fine. [I have an explanation of 2000 and Florida down below.]
Kimberley A. Strassel / Wall Street Journal
“Donald Trump had two jobs at Wednesday night’s debate. Voters can thank him for getting at least one of them done.
“Among the biggest tasks for any presidential candidate is painting a picture of what life will be like under his opponent. But Mr. Trump has been so overwhelmingly the focus of this race (what will he do next?) that Hillary Clinton’s policies seem at most a media afterthought. On Wednesday he finally changed that dynamic, with the help of Fox News moderator Chris Wallace, the only debate host to keep the focus on the issues and to pose challenging questions to both sides. On substance, Mrs. Clinton was exposed for what she is: a liberal in an ethical minefield.
“From the debate’s first question – about the Supreme Court – Mr. Trump highlighted that Mrs. Clinton is far to the left of the average voter. She feigned support for the Second Amendment, even while making clear that her Supreme Court nominees would abolish the individual right to bear arms. In her rush to play the woman card, she ended up defending even late-term abortions, which are opposed by a strong majority of Americans. She pledged that her Supreme Court would ditch equality under the law, and instead operate as a weapon for social justice.
“Mr. Trump presented a country that would ride economic growth to a better future. Mrs. Clinton presented a country that would continue the angry work of redistributing a shrinking pie....
“(Mr. Trump) did his most effective job yet of underlining the risks of electing another ethically and morally damaged Clinton. He painted her as a woman who recklessly disregarded national security with her secret server, and who then was let off the hook by friendly investigators. Particularly compelling was the comparison Mr. Trump made to retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who faces jail in an investigation of leaked classified information – and who received none of the allowances from the Justice Department that Mrs. Clinton did....
“If Mr. Trump nonetheless loses this election, it’s because he has failed to do the harder job: He hasn’t given millions of voters the comfort – or reason – that they need to vote for him....
“To win, he needs more than conservatives – that’s simply the math. Yet during the debate he continued to offend the very constituencies he needs. You don’t win over women by bragging that you didn’t even apologize to your wife after being caught, on tape, ogling other ladies and boasting about sexual exploits. You don’t win Hispanics by needlessly deploying the word ‘hombre’ in a discussion about crime. You don’t win independents by suggesting that you might refuse to accept the results of the election if you lose.”
Editorial / Washington Post
“Donald Trump showed a bit more self-control in the third and final presidential debate Wednesday night than he had in the previous two. His back and forth with Hillary Clinton was more substantive, thanks in part to firm guidance from moderator Chris Wallace. But all of that was overshadowed by Mr. Trump’s breathtaking refusal to say that he will accept the results of the election.
“ ‘I will look at it at the time,’ he said. ‘The media is so dishonest and so corrupt...they poison the minds of the voters...She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency.’
“Ms. Clinton rightly called his stance a ‘horrifying’ repudiation of U.S. democracy. Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world.
“Next to that, policy issues seem small. Yet the policy discussion was clarifying also, exposing as it did Mr. Trump’s ignorance of – or is it distaste for? – facts and policy. He again insisted that the North American Free Trade Agreement has sucked jobs from the country, when economists have found otherwise. He indicated the debt would take care of itself under his economic plan because ‘we will have created a tremendous economic machine,’ which is pure snake oil....
“In another striking moment, Mr. Trump denied that the Russian government has been meddling in this election, refusing to accept the judgment of the country’s intelligence community....
“Ms. Clinton managed to dodge some questions, including on communications that took place between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department under her leadership. She rightly said that she would not worsen the national debt as Mr. Trump would, but she could not refute Mr. Wallace’s point that she has no plan to reduce it. She had no clear answer on how she could impose a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace now controlled by Russia.
“These are gaps that would have been probed and tested in a normal campaign. They fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”
Gerald F. Seib / Wall Street Journal
“For a while Wednesday night, at this year’s final presidential debate, Donald Trump was a more sedate and persuasive candidate, the one who calmly explains his positions while avoiding verbal fisticuffs.
“Then his favorite topic – building a wall to stop illegal immigration across the southern border – came up, and Democrat Hillary Clinton said Mr. Trump met Mexico’s president and failed to repeat face-to-face his demand that Mexico pay for building that wall. ‘He choked,’ she said. At that point, the tenor of the evening changed. If Mrs. Clinton was baiting Mr. Trump, he took the bait. He considers himself a master counterpuncher, and he began punching back.
“She kept punching, on all sorts of topics. A familiar, nasty cloud descended over the conversation, and a kind of downward spiral began, until Mr. Trump said Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t even have been allowed to run Then, stunningly, he refused to say he would honor the results of the election. ‘What I’m saying, I will tell you at the time,’ he said. ‘I will keep you in suspense.’ That is unprecedented and will be the answer for which this debate will be remembered.
“It’s also an answer that will leave other Republicans scrambling. They already had been distancing themselves from his earlier comments that voting would be ‘rigged.’ Casting doubt on the validity of voting is an invitation to the party’s own supporters not to bother voting, other Republicans fear, and GOP candidates up and down the ballot hope to win in November in elections that are seen as fair and valid....
“For Mr. Trump, the question was whether to carry what amounts to his scorched-earth strategy – bash Mrs. Clinton as corrupt and dishonest and proclaim that the election and the political process is rigged – or pivot back to his populist economic message about lost jobs and bad trade deals. The latter approach might broaden out his appeal. But the former approach has ginned his base, and that along with dragging down Mrs. Clinton seem to be the primary goals of the Trump enterprise at this point....
“In the end, each tried a bit of both approaches available to them. It seems unlikely that the debate did little more than confirm the views of voters who already seem mostly locked in on their choices. Mr. Trump needed to shake up a race in which he is trailing, and Mrs. Clinton made clear she wasn’t going to sit back and allow him to find an opening to do that.”
Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“Donald Trump’s best chance to be President has always been to make the campaign about something larger than himself – reviving the economy, replacing Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, defeating Islamic State, something to make the case for change to a country unhappy with the status quo. In Wednesday’s debate Mr. Trump showed what might have been had he fought more on the issues, even as he also exposed his Achilles’ heel of a thin skin and petulant ego. Mr. Trump is never going to out-argue Hillary Clinton on details, but for much of the debate he was able to draw a contrast on philosophical direction that is his best chance to close his polling deficit. He was effective on the Supreme Court and the right to bear arms, as well as embracing the original meaning of the Constitution....
“The Republican also managed to convey the large differences between the two candidates on the economy. He’d cut taxes, she’d raise them. He’d replace ObamaCare, she’d expand it. He wants to grow incomes with a stronger economy, she wants to redistribute income. Her claim that her plan would ‘not add a penny to the debt’ was preposterous....
“Mrs. Clinton also ducked moderator Chris Wallace’s question on the Clinton Foundation and its ‘pay to play’ acceptance of donations from foreigners while she was Secretary of State. Mr. Trump was right to hit her and her husband for claiming to do so much for Haiti when they have mainly helped their friends to favorable contracts.
“The question is whether any of this will matter given Mr. Trump’s manifest flaws in temperament. The Clinton campaign must have done some psychological profiling of Mr. Trump to figure out that his great flaw is his inability to ignore or deflect personal criticism. His GOP opponents made the mistake of trying to take him down on substance. But Mrs. Clinton has tried to disqualify him on character, and Wednesday she continued to set one bear trap after another. Mr. Trump usually walked in....
“Mr. Trump’s biggest mistake was his refusal to say he would accept the election results if he loses. ‘I will look at it at the time,’ Mr. Trump said in reply to Mr. Wallace. Asked again by Fox News’ Mr. Wallace – by far the best moderator of this election year with his focus on substance – Mr. Trump made it worse by saying ‘I will keep you in suspense, okay?’
“That again is Mr. Trump’s ego talking, a man who doesn’t like to lose refusing to take responsibility for his campaign. Voters on the right and left want to have faith in the electoral system. Mr. Trump’s statement makes us wonder if Mr. Trump and adviser Steve Bannon are planning to blame everyone else if he does lose. It’s true that Al Gore tried to steal the 2000 election from George W. Bush until the Supreme Court finally intervened, but that is not an example any Republican should want to follow.
“The hard reality of this campaign is that it was set up for a Republican victory. A divided and unhappy country wants to move in a new direction. Even Mr. Trump, after all his mistakes, had essentially tied the race before the first debate. Win or lose in three weeks, the result will be one that he has earned.”
John Podhoretz / New York Post
“An hour and 18 minutes into Wednesday night’s debate, Donald Trump effectively acknowledged his coming defeat.
“ ‘Lotsa luck, Hillary,’ he said, after a peroration on the humanitarian disaster in Syria and how it is going to consume much of the next president’s time over the next four years.
“What will she need luck for if she’s not going to be president?
“Ten minutes earlier, Trump told moderator Chris Wallace he will let us all know on election night whether he is going to accept the results of the Nov. 8 balloting. It was a shocking and cravenly irresponsible thing to say, the sort of thing that threatens to rend our national fabric, and for that alone, Trump has earned his place in the history of American ignominy.
“But who needs to wait? Consciously or not, the guy ceded the race. Live. On television. On Oct. 19. Lotsa luck indeed....
“Trump will make that phone call on November 8 or he won’t, and he will or won’t make that speech in which he tells his supporters, ‘I just congratulated Hillary on becoming the next president and we must all come together.’ There’s no telling.
“This is a test of character, but Trump has a different understanding of such tests of character – and he might believe he will only pass such a test by doing what he can to continue to be the expression of the American id’s rage and disappointment....
“Very few people are voting in this election on matters of conventional governmental policy. A great many will vote for the team they’ve long been signed up with, while everybody else will be voting against one of these two extremely unattractive and unpopular candidates.”
Edward Luce / Financial Times
“The minute Donald Trump refused to rule out calling this a rigged election, he ceded the final debate. In truth, he had already lost it. But his promise to keep America ‘in suspense’ until November 9 was a double self-inflicted blow. Mr. Trump’s threat was the electoral version of his sex tape pre-confessions....
“Rarely in the history of presidential debates has a contest been so one-sided. Having waded through the mud of the first two, Hillary Clinton saved by far her best performance for last. Ironically her advantage was cemented by the Fox News moderator, Chris Wallace, who ensured it was also the most issue-based exchange of the three. This played to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. Her detailed homework came through as fluently as Mr. Trump wilted from his evident lack of it.”
Maureen Dowd / New York Times
“When Melania Trump stood by her man-child the other night on CNN over the lewd comments to Billy Bush on a hot mic, she told Anderson Cooper that her husband ‘was led on – like, egged on – from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.’
“She was offering her best defense. But it was actually the best damnation.
“At the final debate tonight in Las Vegas, Donald Trump once more showed how easily egged on he is.
“Continuing to deploy lethal darts from her team of shrinks, Hillary Clinton baited Trump into a series of damaging nails-in-the-coffin statements. And it was so easy. The one-time litigator prosecuted the case against Trump, sparking another temperamental spiral, as effectively as Chris Christie once broke down Marco Rubio.
“In Trump’s warped fun-house mirror of a psyche, every rejection is a small death. That is why he harps on humiliation, that America is being humiliated on the world stage, that we are losing potency – a theme that resonates with angry voters who feel humiliated by their dwindling economic fortunes and angry about illegal immigrants and refugees swarming in who might be competition.
“She once more proved adept at getting her rival’s goat: She again contended that he’s not a self-made man but a spoiled rich kid who was underwritten by his father and she accused him of choking on bringing up the issue of who would pay for the wall when he met with the president of Mexico.
“Trump tried to stay calm, but he can never let go of a slight....
“(Trump) was all hat, no cattle. He gets so easily distracted by belittling statements – even though he dishes them out so easily – that he could not focus to make points in areas where Hillary is vulnerable.
“In order to stop losing, he would have to stop losing it.
“But he didn’t. He got egged on. Bigly.”
Editorial / Bloomberg
“Throughout this campaign, Donald Trump has fashioned himself as the ‘law and order’ candidate. In Las Vegas on Wednesday night, in his third and final presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, he showed himself to be an agent of lawlessness and disorder.
“Asked by moderator Chris Wall ace whether he would conceded the election in the event he loses, Trump confirmed the fears he has sown for weeks. ‘I will look at it at the time,’ he said. ‘I will keep you in suspense.’
“It is tempting to view this statement in the context of Trump’s long history of reckless utterances. But his refusal to abide by an election result is of a very specific, and disqualifying, character. It strikes at the heart of American democracy. Neither the nation’s government nor its politics can function if losing presidential candidates do not concede defeat and facilitate the peaceful transfer of power....
“At the previous presidential debate, in St. Louis, Trump vowed to try to jail his opponent if he wins. That statement, too, was profoundly anti-democratic and disqualifying.
“There are ample reasons to doubt Trump’s competence and temperament, chief among them his campaign itself. But Trump has now made it clear that even his commitment to democratic norms, process and standards cannot be assumed.
“He promises to impose law and order by subverting the rule of law and jettisoning any sense of order. The coming weeks could be a dangerous time for American democracy.”
Michael Goodwin / New York Post
“At the end of last night’s debate, Donald Trump’s face was drained of color and his shoulders slumped. He looked relieved and exhausted but didn’t smile as his family joined him on stage.
“His body language suggested he realized that his last, best chance was slipping away.
“Trump had done well, delivering his best prepared and most substantive performance, but it wasn’t nearly good enough to reshape the race. He came into Las Vegas trialing big time, and surely leaves the same way.
“He didn’t hurt himself with loyal core supporters, but that won’t bring him victory. Having trouble topping 40 percent, he needed to win over undecided voters and those not firmly committed to others.
“But he missed an opportunity to offer them anything significantly new or different that would win their trust. If you weren’t for him before last night, you probably still aren’t.
“Absent an unforeseeable black swan event that tips the table in his favor, Hillary Clinton is headed to the White House.
“She was everything she needed to be, and then some. Skillful at parrying Trump’s brutal attacks and slick at dodging tough questions, including one on the family foundation.
“She even was confident enough to begin to appeal to Republicans. Election Day is nearly three weeks off, but she’s already working on her closing argument...
“The final stage of the long, nasty race now begins, and if last night is any guide, Democrats will seek to expand the battlefield not just to secure Clinton’s victory, but also for a victory in congress....
“One assumption in Republican circles is that a narrow victory for her, say by only two or three points, would make it likely the GOP could continue to hold both houses of congress.
“On the other hand, a landslide and a wave election could give Dems all the power. Given what happened last night, that possibility now must be taken more seriously.”
[If you aren’t familiar with Michael Goodwin, or his compadre at the New York Post, John Podhoretz, they are as conservative as they come. Their op-eds are both telling and indicting.]
Karl Rove / Wall Street Journal
“While he was wandering off message, Mr. Trump paid scant attention to breaking news. Instead of seizing on events that would strengthen his narrative of change, he poured themes that excite only his most ardent supporters.
“Take two days last week. On Tuesday, Oct. 11, news broke that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign had communicated with Justice Department officials about a court hearing on her email server – while the FBI was still investigating. But Mr. Trump’s focus that day was attacking Speaker Paul Ryan as ‘very weak and ineffective’ and then tweeting. ‘It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.’
“On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, told the truth about ObamaCare. Premiums for 250,000 Minnesotans covered under the plan will rise by 50% next year. ‘The Affordable Care Act,’ Gov. Dayton said, ‘is no longer affordable.’ This was political manna. Mr. Trump could have bundled it with President Bill Clinton’s statement a week earlier that ObamaCare is ‘the craziest thing in the world.’ Instead he dominated coverage by telling a rally that Republican leaders were conspiring against him: ‘There’s a whole sinister deal going on.’
“Obsessing about media bias and alleging that the system is rigged might appeal to Mr. Trump’s base, but it does nothing to win support from undecided voters, and he’s behind....
“Then there’s the air war. Despite pledges in September to pump $140 million into television and digital advertising, Mr. Trump has been outspent on TV by 3 to 1. Total spending on presidential campaign ads so far is $342 million, according to a CNN analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, a nonpartisan ad-monitoring firm. Three-quarters of that has been spent by the Clinton campaign and its outside allies....
“In 1996, Bill Clinton won re-election by 8.5% of the popular vote, but the GOP picked up a net of two Senate seats, as Republican Senate candidates ran an average of 7.6 points ahead of their standard-bearer, Sen. Bob Dole.
“That year, Americans did not want to give a Clinton a blank check. This year, the GOP could tap into the same sentiment, with a Clinton far less popular than her husband was. That may be the best Republicans can hope for, but for this to end happy, Mr. Trump must run stronger.”
A CNN poll of registered voters who watched Wednesday’s debate found that Clinton won by a margin of 52-39.
There has been some revisionist history on Bush/Gore.
On election night in 2000, Al Gore never questioned the election results before the voting concluded, but the television networks called Florida for Bush, giving him the electoral votes to win. Gore called Bush to concede, but when the networks realized Florida was too close to call they rescinded Bush’s win there. With Gore appearing to lose the state by only 1,800 votes out of nearly six million cast in the preliminary election-night results, the extremely narrow margin triggered an automatic recount under Florida law, which meant no winner could be declared as neither had reached 270 Electoral College votes.
Gore took back his concession, and the Florida recount commenced, dangling chads and all.
Bush then took it to the Supreme Court, which stopped the recount. Gore said he disagreed with the decision but conceded the race.
But Gore had never challenged the integrity of the voting system before Election Day as Trump has been doing....and that’s a huge difference.
Hillary and the Emails
One of the bigger stories of the week was the decision by the Ecuadorian government to cut off WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s internet connection because of his anti-secrecy platform’s publication of emails allegedly stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
In a statement, Ecuador said: “The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate.
“Accordingly, Ecuador has exercised its sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom.”
While the emails are believed to have been stolen by the Russian government, the Ecuadorian government said, “This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities.” [I have more to say about Assange down below. He went after me once.]
Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“If the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server has shown anything, it’s that the Clintons have many helpers in Washington. This includes the State Department, where even the civil servants have tried to protect their former boss.
“The latest FBI document release on Monday contains interviews with officials revealing that in spring 2015, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy contacted an FBI official to coax the FBI to downgrade from classified to unclassified a Benghazi-related email that had sat on Mrs. Clinton’s server. At the time Mrs. Clinton was still insisting she’d never transmitted classified information.
“The headlines have focused on whether the Kennedy request to FBI official Brian McCauley was a quid pro quo: an offer that State would allow the FBI to place more agents in foreign countries, in exchange for downgrading the document. There is a dispute in the FBI interview notes over whether this was proposed by Mr. Kennedy or by Mr. McCauley, and both State and FBI deny an explicit tit for tat, as do Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McCauley. Yet even the FBI concedes it referred the ‘allegations’ to ‘appropriate officials for review,’ which makes the episode ripe for Congressional investigation....
“Mr. Kennedy waged a sustained campaign to get Mrs. Clinton off the classification hook....He also, according to the notes, went directly to Michael Steinbach, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, to press his case.
“Meanwhile, an unnamed State Department employee who worked in the group tasked with handling FOIA requests and reviewing nearly 300 Benghazi-related emails, reported that senior State officials, including Mr. Kennedy, put the team under ‘immense pressure to complete the review quickly and to not label anything as classified.’....
“Speaking of the White House, the latest WikiLeaks release contains an email from Clinton aide Phillipe Reines to campaign staffers in March 2015. Mr. Reines is responding to a New York Times headline, ‘Obama Says He Didn’t Know Hillary Clinton Was Using Private Email Address.’ ‘One of us should connect with the WH just so they know that the email will show his statement to not make sense,’ he wrote.
“This is the latest evidence that Mr. Obama was aware of, and corresponded with, Mrs. Clinton on her private email server. Notes of an FBI interview with Huma Abedin describes how the Clinton aide was shown an email that the FBI suggests came to Mrs. Clinton under a pseudonym used by Mr. Obama, and she exclaims, ‘How is this not classified?’ She then asked for a copy of the email.
“The American public still doesn’t know who knew about Mrs. Clinton’s server, who misused it and how much that put the nation’s secrets at risk. We do know that many Obama officials and bureaucrats have been dedicated to making sure the public never gets those answers.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the Patrick Kennedy revelation that the disclosure “bears all the signs of a cover-up.”
Charles Krauthammer / Washington Post
“The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.
“The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase ‘quid pro quo,’ which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.
“This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.
“Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment – a Rolex in return for your soul – which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.
“And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.
“In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase ‘quid pro quo’ hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention.
“Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate....
“Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.
“I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness. But for those heretofore unpersuaded, the recent disclosures should close the case.
“A case so strong that, against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.
“The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer double unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.”
But the hits just keep on coming...WikiLeaks released more dirt on Friday.
Bob Fredericks / New York Post
“Hillary Clinton solicited a $12 million donation from a government that her State Department considered corrupt, then realized the ‘mess’ it would cause in her presidential run, a newly leaked email reveals.
“King Mohammed VI of Morocco agreed to give the money to the Clinton Foundation, provided that it held a convention in his country in May 2015 with Clinton as the keynote speaker.
“But Clinton realized that the conference, slated for a month after she announced her run for president, would hurt her candidacy.
“ ‘No matter what happens, she will be in Morocco hosting CGI [Clinton Global Initiative] on May 5-7, 2015. Her presence was a condition for the Moroccans to proceed so there is no going back on this,’ top Clinton aide Huma Abedin wrote to campaign manager Robby Mook in a November 2014 email....
“In another email, Abedin warned that if Clinton didn’t attend, the $12 million would be off the table.”
Abedin goes on and on. Later, in 2015, she writes Mook and John Podesta:
“It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months. She created this mess and she knows it.”
Fredericks: “The king gave the money to the Clinton Foundation and underwrote the CGI summit with the quid-pro-quo understanding that Hillary would attend, and other dignitaries attending were led to believe that she would be there.
“But Hillary sent Bill and Chelsea Clinton while she campaigned in Nevada and California....
“It was unclear exactly how much went directly for the summit and how much went to the Clinton Foundation – but the total added up to $12 million, according to the emails.”
The meeting was officially paid for by a Moroccan mining company.
Turning to Wall Street....
The week’s action was dominated by news on the earnings front, covered below, while there were a few economic items of note.
September industrial production rose 0.1%, in line with expectations, while housing starts came in far below forecasts for the month, 1.04 million, though the disappointment was tied to a big 38% drop in multi-family construction. Existing home sales for September, however, came in better than expected at 5.47m on an annualized rate, with the median home price at $234,200, up 5.6% year on year.
On the inflation front, the consumer price index for September was 0.3%, 0.1% ex-food and energy. For the 12 months, the CPI rose 1.5%, but 2.2% on core. So once again, core CPI and wages are running above the Fed’s 2% target, but its preferred PCE barometer remains below this at 1.7%.
The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow indicator for the third quarter is 2.0%, up a tick on the week, though still putrid. We get our first official look at Q3 next week and the consensus is around 2.5%.
The Federal Reserve meets Nov. 1-2, when it will do nothing, and then we’ll see what happens Dec. 13-14 at its year-end confab. If the election result is taken in stride and there aren’t any surprises on the geopolitical front, the Fed will hike at that time.
Robert J. Samuelson / Washington Post
“While everyone fixates on the U.S. election, developments in the world economy threaten to create problems for the next president and, possibly, trigger a major financial crisis. A little-noticed study by the International Monetary Fund delivers the bad news. It finds that global debt – including the debts of governments, households and nonfinancial businesses – reached a record $152 trillion in 2015, an amount much higher than before the 2008-09 financial crisis. What’s worrisome about this is that the global economic recovery has assumed widespread ‘deleveraging’ – the repayment of debt by businesses and households. Initially, the theory went, these repayments would slow the economy. To reduce their debts, households would cut consumption and companies would cut investment. But once debts had receded to manageable levels, consumer and business spending would bounce back. The economy would accelerate.
“It hasn’t happened. With a few exceptions, little deleveraging has taken place, the IMF shows....
“Recall that the pre-crisis economy relied on debt-driven growth. People and firms could spend more, because they’d borrowed more....Government debt has played a bigger role since the crisis, but private debts – borrowings by firms and people – represent two-thirds of all debt.
“Still, debt-driven growth has limits. The more that is borrowed, the more likely that borrowers, lenders – or both – will pull back, further undermining economic growth.”
Europe and Asia
Brexit continues to heat up as an issue as members of the British Cabinet and Prime Minister Theresa May begin to stake out positions prior to the start of negotiations next year.
May’s government is attempting to quell fears in Britain’s banking community that it won’t fight for them as it prepares to pull out of the EU.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said Thursday that he is “determined to get the best possible deal” for London-based banks, but the issue is balancing the conflicting goals of curbing migration and accessing the single market. The perception of May’s first 100 days was that she was willing to sacrifice Britain’s role as a global financial hub in order to cut back on immigration. Bankers took that to mean the U.K. could be shut out of the single market, forcing them to consider moving workers and operations overseas. 70,000 jobs would be at risk under such a scenario.
May’s government did say it would allow high-skilled migrants, including those who work in financial services, to move freely into the U.K. economy.
Across the pond, French President Francois Hollande is pressing Theresa May to speed up Britain’s exit by triggering Article 50 divorce talks sooner than her end of March timeframe because of France’s presidential election next spring. Those negotiating for France at the time will be rather busy on other matters, though in Hollande’s case, he doesn’t stand a chance of being re-elected (more below).
May attended her first summit of EU leaders this week in Brussels, where she was pressing for “a smooth, constructive, orderly process minimizing uncertainty,” according to an aide, and to reassure fellow leaders that Britain was not seeking to undermine the remaining members of the EU.
But EU leaders have been warned not to begin informal negotiations with May.
There were a few economic tidbits for the eurozone this week. Inflation in September came in at an annualized rate of 0.4%, up from 0.2% in August, according to Eurostat. Germany was at 0.5% (ann.), France 0.5%, Italy 0.1%, and Spain 0.0% (after being at -0.7% as recently as July).
The ECB’s Survey of Professional Forecasters’ latest projections have long-term eurozone inflation remaining well anchored near the ECB’s target, 2%, but GDP growth will be weaker than earlier thought.
Inflation is expected to reach 1.8% by 2021. But GDP is forecast at just 1.5% in 2018. For this full year, projections for GDP growth have improved a tick to 1.6%.
In the U.K., the Office for National Statistics reported inflation in September was 1.0% vs. 0.6% in August, with core inflation, ex-food and energy, at 1.5% last month and heading higher. The Bank of England is unlikely to cut interest rates when it meets in November. Separately, British retail sales recorded their strongest quarter of growth since late 2014 in the three months to September, up 1.8% on the quarter, and 5.4% higher than a year earlier.
--Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday warned that failure to agree on a debt restructuring for the country would push it into a perpetual spiral of borrowing from Europe, Tsipras tellling reporters at the EU summit that Greece should be included in the ECB’s quantitative easing program “as soon as possible.”
“If these decisions (on debt relief) are not taken on time...then the bailout program will be at risk,” he said. “If Greece has no market access, then Europe will need to continue to lend it money.” [Reuters]
Earlier this week, thousands protested in Athens, demanding their government protect wages, pensions and restore collective bargaining as Greece starts fresh negotiations with lenders.
--Back to the U.K.., the Conservative party now enjoys the largest lead over Labour since before the 2010 election, according to pollster Ipsos Mori, despite a slump in economic optimism in the wake of the Brexit vote. The Tory voting intentions now stand at 47%, with Labour at 29%, the LibDems 7% and Ukip 6%.
--On the migration front, the Le Touquet agreement, which allows Britain to check passports in France and vice versa, is working, according to British officials who were forced to comment amid reports that France’s Alain Juppe*, who is on course to win the center-right’s presidential ticket, said he would seek to overturn the treaty, which effectively pushed the British frontier to Calais in northern France, where there are all kinds of migration issues and refugee camps.
*Remember when I mentioned a few weeks ago that French President Hollande had given a series of 60 interviews to two Le Monde reporters, which is now the book “A President Should Not Say That”? It seems Hollande is committing “political suicide” as he has criticized everyone imaginable, while saying he personally ordered the assassination of four enemies of the state, presumably militants in the Middle East, the announcement of which has the secret services fuming.
78% of those surveyed said it was a mistake for Hollande to give the interviews, while 86% said they did not want him to run for a second term.
Related to the migration issue, this week hundreds of French police officers staged an unauthorized protest in Paris against anti-police violence. Police say they face staff and equipment shortages, and the increasing risk from being sent into gang-ridden “no-go zones” after two officers were injured in a petrol bomb attack on their patrol car in a notorious crime-ridden zone south of Paris. Of course most of the no-go zones are where Islamists hang out, who also refuse to assimilate into French society.
Finally, the terror threat to Europe will only rise with the action in Iraq and Syria, with thousands of jihadists potentially making their way to the continent. EU Security Commissioner Julian King said on Friday that even a small number of militants would pose “a serious threat that we must prepare for.” There were currently about 2,500 fighters from EU countries in the combat zones.
But weeks ago I heard CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank talk about the threat from those already radicalized in Europe and we’re talking tens of thousands, beyond the scope of any national security force to keep track of. The outlook is beyond bleak.
Turning to Asia, this was the week China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported third-quarter GDP and whaddya know it came in at the same 6.7% pace as the first two quarters, smack dab in the middle of the government’s 6.5% to 7.0% goal for 2016. How conveeenient. [The IMF pegs China growth at 6.6% for this year, 6.2% next.]
Industrial output in September was up 6.1% year over year. Retail sales were in line with expectations, 10.7% last month vs. 10.6% in August. Fixed asset investment rose 8.2% January through September, though it was up 21.1% for state firms, only 2.5% for private ones.
The NBS sounded a cautionary note: “We must be aware that economic development is still in a critical period of transformation, with old growth drivers to be replaced by new ones. With unstable and uncertain domestic and external factors, the foundation for continued economic growth is not solid enough.”
Separately, new residential property prices in China, a major concern, accelerated further in September as prices fell in fewer cities, just six of 70, and the cost of top-tier housing continued to soar.
Overall prices for new residential buildings rose 11.2% in September year on year, according to the NBS, accelerating from 9.2% in August.
The rise in prices continues even as numerous major cities have placed restrictions on the purchase of residential property to cool down white-hot housing markets.
In month-on-month terms, the price of new homes in the city of Wuxi, in coastal Jiangsu province, rose an average of 8.2%. The cities of Hefei and Xiamen tied for first in annualized price growth, recording 47% rises. Prices in Beijing were up 30.4% year on year, 39.5% in Shanghai. [Financial Times]
One other economic note on the region...Taiwan’s export orders grew for a second straight month in September, 3.9% year on year, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, above expectations. An annualized fall of 14.9% for orders from Japan was offset by a marked rise in those from the U.S., up 12.9%, as well as from 3.7% growth from China and Hong Kong, and Europe, up 1.8%.
--October is supposed to be a volatile month, and it was assumed with the election it might be even more so. “Wrong,” said Trump. The Dow Jones was up 7 points, 0.04%, to 18145, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and Nasdaq 0.8%. Earnings were OK, not great.
Next week’s crush is highlighted by Apple, Google and Amazon.
--U.S. Treasury Yields
6-mo. 0.46% 2-yr. 0.82% 10-yr. 1.73% 30-yr. 2.48%
The long end of the curve rallied a bit this week, for what reason I frankly don’t remember! We’re basically in a holding pattern until Nov. 8.
--Crude oil hit its highest level in 15 months, closing at $51.00 on WTI, as U.S. inventories of the product unexpectedly fell last week in another sign the glut in supply may be nearing an end.
At the same time oil has been rising on the expectation that OPEC and other major producers like Russia will be reducing production.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful energy minister called for an end to the “considerable downturn” in the oil market, but said a deal to cut production is still needed. Khalid al-Falih said it was time for OPEC to retake control of the market, arguing that letting prices slide for two years was now causing “unhealthy” damage to future production, as reported by the Financial Times.
“We are seeing supply and demand fundamentals continue to improve on their own accord,” Mr. Falih said.
But as for the agreement to be finalized end of November, assuming the parties agree on production cuts or freezes, compliance is forever a problem.
--New Jersey has always had among the lowest prices at the pump, because our gas tax has been near the bottom (second-lowest in the nation currently).
But after Gov. Christie signed a bill last week raising the tax 23 cents, the first tax hike, actually, in his two terms and the state’s first increase in the tax on gasoline since 1988, we’ll supposedly be smack in the middle nationally. Reminder to my fellow New Jerseyans...it takes effect Nov. 1, so plan accordingly.
--AT&T is in advanced talks to acquire Time Warner in a deal that would combine AT&T’s telecom group with a content powerhouse that owns HBO, CNN and the Warner Brothers studio.
But the Wall Street Journal is reporting Friday night that Apple had looked at Time Warner earlier and is anxious to see how any negotiations between AT&T and TW go.
--Microsoft shares rallied sharply to a high not seen in nearly 17 years, at the peak of the tech bubble, after reporting earnings that beat expectations.
Adjusted revenues rose 3 percent to $22.3 billion, while earnings climbed to 76 cents, well above the Street’s forecast of 68 cents.
The results showed the company’s move to the cloud was continuing at a rapid pace. Azure – the cloud platform business that CEO Satya Nadella built up – registered revenue growth of 116 percent in the latest period, an acceleration from the 102 percent of the previous quarter.
--IBM reported its smallest drop in quarterly revenue in more than four years, helped by continued growth in the company’s cloud and analytics initiatives. Revenue fell marginally to $19.23 billion in the third quarter from $19.28bn a year earlier.
Revenue from cloud service, analytics, and security, rose 16 percent to $8bn. IBM has also been focusing on ‘strategic imperatives,’ including its artificial intelligence software known as Watson, which is helping hospitals manage cancer patients, among other things in the medical area.
--Intel reported revenues rose 9 percent in the third quarter to $15.8 billion, beating estimates, but the shares fell as the chipmaker guided lower for the current quarter.
The cloud computing division had a 10 percent gain in sales, while the Internet of Things group’s revenues rose 19 percent.
Earlier this year, Intel reported it would reduce its workforce by 12,000 people by mid-2017.
--McDonald’s reported global same-store sales rose a solid 3.5% in the third quarter, above analysts’ expectations of 1.5% growth. Profits fell slightly to $1.28bn from $1.31bn, but earnings topped the Street’s forecasts. The shares rose on the news, which also proved all-day breakfast has some legs.
--General Electric, the largest U.S. manufacturer, reported so-so earnings for the third quarter. Yes, GE beat the Street on the bottom line, but revenues were slightly below expectations and the company continues to suffer from its investments in the oil and gas industry, which reported a 43% drop in operating profits to $353 million.
Operating profits for GE’s industrial businesses were down 6%, hit by the strength of the dollar reducing foreign earnings.
--California’s attorney general is conducting a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo and whether it committed identity theft as part of the sales practices scandal. The attorney general is Kamala Harris, Barack Obama’s girlfriend, who is running for the Senate.
This issue is about the creation of the 2 million bank and credit card accounts that would have, perhaps, required the unlawful access of the bank’s computer system to obtain the personal identifying information of the customers.
--Goldman Sachs reported better than expected earnings, $2.1bn, and revenues (just like the old days...smashing the targets), though the net income rise of 58% was off a weak base a year earlier, as there was then a pickup in bond trading, along with rising equity markets. But Goldman said “there are no tailwinds yet.” The stock did, however, rise some on the week.
--Morgan Stanley posted a better than expected increase in net income thanks to its trading arm, up 62% to $1.5bn, which was the same figure for net revenues from the bank’s fixed-income and commodities unit.
CEO James Gorman has been trying to achieve a balance between volatile trading units and stickier, annuity-like revenue streams from wealth and asset management and the latter division reported record net revenues of $3.9bn.
--Bank of America produced its highest quarterly pre-tax profits since the financial crisis, owing mostly to a surge in bond trading. Brexit, the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union, helped spur volatility, while investors repositioned their portfolios.
But BofA’s Main Street consumer business saw only a modest increase in net income with flat revenues.
--Assets at BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest money manager, now exceed $5 trillion for the first time as of the end of the third quarter, with investors continuing to pump money into index funds. “Roughly 93% of BlackRock’s $55 billion in long-term net inflows during the third quarter came from its iShares exchange-traded-fund unit.” [Wall Street Journal]
At the same time, investors pulled $7.8bn from BlackRock’s actively managed equity funds. [Bond offerings attracted $10.2 billion in the quarter.]
But due to a fall in performance fees, revenue fell 2.5% to $2.84 billion in Q3.
--Millions of Social Security recipients and federal retirees will get a whopping 0.3% increase in monthly benefits next year, less than $4 a month for an average recipient. The average monthly Social Security payment is now $1,238.
But any increase will more than be wiped out by an expected increase in Medicare Part B premiums, which are usually deducted from Social Security payments.
By law, rising premiums for most Medicare recipients cannot exceed their cost-of-living increase, but new enrollees and higher-income retirees are not covered by that provision, so they face higher premiums.
--American Airlines Group Inc.’s profit and revenue fell amid overcapacity, as it also struggles to integrate US Airways Group into the company, like with United and Continental, which took years...and years.
The American/US Air merger went through late 2013, and earlier this month American finally brought US Airways pilots onto the American IT platform.
American’s unit revenue – revenue for each passenger flown a mile – fell 3.3% for the quarter ending September, and the company’s guidance was poor. But it still posted a profit of $737 million, though this was down from $1.69 billion a year ago.
--United Airlines beat the Street on both earnings and revenues and the stock rallied some.
--Lufthansa shares took off after the German airline raised its full-year profit guidance, saying business class bookings were better than expected, but it’s still all about political and economic uncertainties in Europe.
--EBay Inc. said revenue grew 5.6% in the third quarter to $2.22 billion. Net income was $413 million, lower than last year’s $539 million. But the shares fell as its fourth-quarter forecast was below the Street’s expectations.
The StubHub unit reported a 31% increase in sales to $261 million.
--British American Tobacco PLC is making a $47 billion takeover offer for the 58% of Reynolds American it doesn’t already own, creating what would be the world’s largest listed tobacco company by revenue. But while Reynolds is saying it’s interested, it wants a higher price.
BAT, the world’s No. 2 publicly traded tobacco company by volume, owns cigarette brands such as Lucky Strike and Dunhill, while Reynolds, No. 6 by volume, owns Camel and Newport.
--Verizon Communications reported total operating revenue in the third quarter fell 6.7 percent to $30.94 billion, below Wall Street’s estimates.
Verizon added a net 442,000 retail postpaid subscribers, who pay their bills on a monthly basis, significantly below the Street’s forecast.
Subscriber growth was hurt in part by the issues surrounding the Samsung Note 7, while smaller rivals such as T-Mobile and Sprint are aggressively going after Verizon’s subscriber base.
--Meanwhile, Yahoo beat earnings expectations in the third quarter, but investors are watching to see whether Verizon asks for a discount from its $4.8bn offer for Yahoo after the massive data breach Verizon hadn’t been made aware of when the offer was first extended.
Yahoo did report net income of $163 million, up 114 percent over Q3 2015, with sales in line with the Street, at $1.3bn for the quarter.
CEO Marissa Mayer said Yahoo is working hard to regain the trust of users after the cyberattack, saying she was “heartened” by user engagement trends that seemed to show people are remaining loyal to the brand. Others say the numbers on usage only look good because everyone went back on Yahoo to change their passwords.
--Shares in Netflix soared 28% on the week as the company added far more subscribers than the Street expected, 3.2 million internationally in the third quarter, beating estimates of 2.0 million. In the United States, Netflix added 370,000 subscriptions, compared with a forecast of 309,000, according to FactSet.
Netflix has been focusing overseas, expanding into 130 new markets, as its U.S. business is slowing due to its decision to increase prices amid growing competition.
Third-quarter revenue rose 31.7 percent to $2.29 billion.
But content spending will rise to $6 billion next year, a $1bn increase from 2016, the company said.
--Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman will retire earlier than expected, following an ongoing sales slump after some ill-timed bets on China and mining.
--Canadian plane and train maker Bombardier announced a second round of job cuts, another 7,500, after saying it was cutting 7,000 back in February, with nearly half in the rail division, which has a large workforce in Europe, including 6,000 in Northern Ireland. [The latest round will impact 2,000 jobs in Canada.]
--I can’t remember the last time I had a Domino’s pizza, but let’s just say it was before their transformation from cardboard to real ingredients. The company, though, has been growing like gangbusters the past few years and the shares this week hit an all-time high after reporting scorching earnings, with same-store sales in the U.S. up 13 percent for the three months ending Sept. 11. Millennials apparently love the place, and Domino’s has been focusing on new menu offerings. The international division also reported a 6.6 percent increase in same-store sales, which are big gains for such an established brand. [Pizza Hut’s same-store sales, by comparison, were up 2% in the U.S. this quarter.]
--Google is going to be launching its web TV service soon and CBS Corp. became the first major network to sign on. Google will house it on its YouTube platform and it will premiere in early 2017. CBS it seems would be asking $3-$4 a month for the online service.
--Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal is investing another $200 million in BuzzFeed, doubling its investment, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and Recode.
NBCUniversal also invested $200 million in Vox Media last year.
MetLife has booted Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang for good, after 31 years, as the company launches a major overhaul of its marketing effort, partly because it is spinning off more businesses to escape tougher government regulation.
The move has been long rumored, but it’s a blow to United Media, which owns the rights to Charles Schulz’s strip, and the $12 million annual licensing agreement runs through 2020.
It’s also obviously a big blow to Snoopy, personally, who is said to be dealing with depression.
--According to a working paper by some international economists, Americans work longer hours than workers anywhere else. They’re also retiring later and taking fewer vacation days. The average person in Europe works 19 percent less than the average worker in the U.S., as noted in the study. [Researchers at Arizona State, McMaster University in Ontario, and Goethe University Frankfurt were responsible.]
--The New York Post reported that NBC News has an expensive habit: firing its top talent.
Aside from shelling out $10 million to buy out Billy Bush’s contract, NBC paid out $12 million to former “Today” host Ann Curry, $4 million to former “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, and several million to host Josh Elliott, all to end their contracts.
As the Post noted, an insider ‘sniffed’: “The newsroom is asked to tighten its belt while management spends millions on people who no longer work for NBC.”
--According to the Post and an analysis from Foursquare, traffic at Trump-branded resorts plunged more steeply in September than it did in August.
Hotels, casinos and golf clubs under the Trump name saw a 16 percent year-over-year drop, vs. the 8 percent decline registered in August.
Iraq/Syria/ISIS/Russia/Turkey: There was never a clearer case of using my adage ‘wait 24 hours’ than in describing the effort on the part of the Iraqi coalition, including the U.S., to retake the Islamic State capital of Mosul. Details are sketchy and while the attack is seemingly progressing faster than expected, we don’t know how many ISIS fighters, and leaders, have already fled (there was a report Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi* was still in Mosul), we don’t know the numbers of people left in the city who will become refugees, we don’t know the extent to which Mosul may be booby-trapped, and we don’t know what the reaction will be of Iraqi Shia militias when they enter the Sunni-majority city.
*There have been reports that Baghdadi was recovering from an attempt to poison him a few weeks ago.
Friday, ISIS launched a surprise attack on the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, its first major incursion into an Iraqi city outside its control in months, with suicide bombers and snipers striking, casualties unknown, though there was a report at least 20 Kurdish security forces inside a power plant were killed by ISIS fighters. ISIS said it had seized “half the city,” which isn’t credible.
The governor of the region told the Kurdish news agency that he suspected some ISIS militants may have slipped into Kirkuk with hundreds of displaced families who fled fighting to recapture a nearby ISIS-held city of Hawija.
If this is true, it will impact how Iraq and the Kurds handle the hundreds of thousands that will be flooding out of Mosul.
Earlier, U.S. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told the BBC that ISIS was “adaptable, creative and cunning.” Townsend said, “They’re using human shields in there,” with a separate report having ISIS holding 550 families in locations around the city.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi told a gathering in Paris on Thursday that the offensive was “advancing faster than planned,” Abadi hailing cooperation between army and Kurdish troops.
Iraqi forces are moving on Mosul from the south, Kurds from the east and north.
Separately, an ISIS suicide bombing in Baghdad last Saturday killed 32.
And an American soldier was killed on Thursday in a roadside bomb attack in northern Iraq, the fourth U.S. combat fatality here since operations against IS began in Iraq and in Syria in 2014.
In Syria, the Assad regime at week’s end had opened a corridor for rebels and civilians who want to leave the besieged city of Aleppo, but many residents won’t go because there is no guarantee they won’t be arrested by government forces. Rebels have rejected the order saying it isn’t serious. The UN said a lack of security guarantees hasn’t allowed them to carry out medical evacuations. It’s a tragic farce.
Prior to a temporary halt in the bombing, Syrian and Russian airstrikes were relentless, resulting in over 400 civilian deaths. As the United States and the European Union have said, Russia and Syria were committing war crimes. UN human rights chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein described Aleppo as a “slaughterhouse.” In a speech he said the siege and bombardment of the rebel-held east were among the “crimes of historic proportions” being committed in Syria.
Zeid: “The ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty, is today a slaughterhouse – a gruesome locus of pain and fear, where the lifeless bodies of small children are trapped under streets of rubble and pregnant women deliberately bombed.”
Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he suspected the West wanted to protect the Syrian militant group formerly known as Nusra Front because it wanted to try to topple Assad.
Meanwhile, Turkey has been bombing parts of northern Syria, with the Syrian army threatening to shoot down Turkish planes violating its airspace. Details are sketchy, but Turkey may have killed as many as 200 U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia north of Aleppo. [Other reports have the death toll at 10.]
[This week, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Anadolu news agency, that when it came to Syria, “If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war.”]
As for the ISIS stronghold in Syria of Raqqa, U.S. officials are anxious to launch the fight to retake it quickly before more ISIS fighters from Mosul can reinforce it, but there is no consensus on a battle plan, with Turkey, for example, not wanting to use a Kurdish-led force.
Iran: An Iranian court sentenced an Iranian-American businessman and his elderly father to 10 years in prison on charges of cooperating with the United States on Tuesday. The father is 80 years old and a former UNICEF official.
Editorial / Washington Post
“President Obama’s foreign-policy legacy will include significant, if temporary, curbs on Iran’s nuclear program – but not the broader détente with the Islamic republic that he hoped for. More and bitter evidence of that came Tuesday, when Tehran announced that two American citizens and a permanent U.S. resident had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of ‘cooperating with the hostile U.S. government.’....
“The government of Hassan Rouhani, which negotiated the nuclear deal with the Obama administration, is often portrayed as opposed to this de facto hostage-taking. If so, the government appears powerless to prevent it. Instead, officials complain about the relatively slow return of Western investment and trade following the lifting of United Nations sanctions, even as some of those who promote the opening are unjustly imprisoned.
“Iranian foreign policy, too, remains unchanged. The regime has dispatched thousands of fighters to Syria to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad and is using Shiite militias to extend its influence across Iraq. It is encouraging Russia’s new bid for influence in the Middle East while doing its best to drive out the United States...Though it was officially part of a separate claims settlement, the Obama administration’s delivery of $400 million in cash to the Iranian regime at the time of the release of Mr. Rezaian [the Washington Post reporter] and other prisoners may have whetted the appetites of Tehran’s jailers. The administration, which duly pronounced itself ‘deeply concerned’ by the prison sentences, may face the choice of striking another distasteful deal or leaving office with a notable blemish on its Iran legacy. In the meantime, promoters of Iranian-American understanding such as the Mr. Namazi [one of those imprisoned] would be well advised not to set foot in Tehran.”
Egypt: ISIS militants killed 12 members of Egypt’s military in North Sinai province in an attack last weekend and in retaliation, the Egyptian army killed over 100 ISIS fighters. The first figure is accurate. The second one may not be, but came via the Egyptians. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said his country’s war against Islamic militants in the Sinai would be long.
Afghanistan: Two Americans, a service member and a civilian, were shot and killed Wednesday by an Afghan wearing a military uniform at a base near Kabul. Three other Americans were wounded. It wasn’t clear if the Taliban was responsible for the “insider attack.”
This was the eighth U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan this year.
Insider attacks have killed at least 150 foreign soldiers since 2008. [L.A. Times]
Separately, it is estimated 85 percent of Helmand province is now controlled by the Taliban. Of the 540 Afghan police and army checkpoints there, 142 have been abandoned. Afghan security forces have been taking unsustainable casualties.
Russia: Editorial / The Economist
“Four years ago Mitt Romney, then a Republican candidate, said that Russia was America’s ‘number-one geopolitical foe.’ Barack Obama, among others, mocked this hilarious gaffe: ‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the cold war’s been over for 20 years,’ scoffed the president. How times change. With Russia hacking the American election, presiding over mass slaughter in Syria, annexing Crimea and talking casually about using nuclear weapons, Mr. Romney’s view has become conventional wisdom. Almost the only American to dissent from it is today’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
“Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. [Ed. Kaliningrad] This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel.* He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters. ‘Impudent behavior’ might have ‘nuclear consequences,’ warns Dmitry Kiselev, Mr. Putin’s propagandist-in-chief – who goes on to cite Mr. Putin’s words that ‘If a fight is inevitable, you have to strike first.’
*Excuse my language, but the aircraft-carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is a total piece of shit. It was belching black smoke as it cruised the Channel.
“In fact, Russia is not about to go to war with America. Much of its language is no more than bluster. But it does pose a threat to stability and order. And the first step to answering that threat is to understand that Russian belligerence is not a sign of resurgence, but of a chronic, debilitating weakness....
“Russia confronts grave problems in its economy, politics and society. Its population is aging and is expected to shrink by 10% by 2050. An attempt to use the windfall from the commodity boom to modernize the state and its economy fell flat. Instead Mr. Putin has presided over a huge increase in government: between 2005 and 2015, the share of Russian GDP that comes from public spending and state-controlled firms rose from 35% to 70%.....
“Mr. Putin has sought to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad....Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr. Putin’s rotten state.
“For much of his time in office Mr. Obama has assumed that, because Russia is a declining power, he need not pay it much heed. Yet a weak, insecure, unpredictable country with nuclear weapons is dangerous – more so, in some ways, even than the Soviet Union was. Unlike Soviet leaders after Stalin, Mr. Putin rules alone, unchecked by a Politburo or by having witnessed the second world war’s devastation. He could remain in charge for years to come. Age is unlikely to mellow him....
“Russia does not pretend to offer the world an attractive ideology or vision. Instead its propaganda aims to discredit and erode universal liberal values by nurturing the idea that the West is just as corrupt as Russia, and that its political system is just as rigged. It wants to create a divided West that has lost faith in its ability to shape the world. In response, the West should be united and firm.”
Speaking of propaganda offensives, according to state-run pollster VTSIOM, almost three-quarters of Russians believe that criticism of the Kremlin’s military strategy in Aleppo is an attempt to weaken the country. Just 6 percent believe that the military had “gone too far.”
Robert D. Kaplan / Wall Street Journal
“Of the two great autocratic powers in Eurasia, Russia is emerging as a greater short-term threat than China. The Chinese hope to gradually dominate the waters off the Asian mainland without getting into a shooting war with the U.S. Yet while Beijing’s aggression is cool, Moscow’s is hot. When the current administration seems out of gas and a new one is not in place, there has never been a better opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to veer toward brinkmanship....
“A deeply embedded sense of historical insecurity makes Russian aggression crude, brazen, bloodthirsty and risk-prone. While the Chinese build runways on disputed islands and send fishing fleets into disputed waters, the Russians send thugs with ski masks into Ukraine and drop cluster bombs on unarmed civilians in Aleppo, Syria.
“Not counting the cyber domain, where its interference in our politics is approaching an act of war, Russia is engaged in aggression in four theaters: the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea basin, Ukraine and Syria. Yet to Moscow this constitutes one theater – the Russian ‘near abroad’ that includes the periphery of the old Soviet Union and its shadow zones of influence. Because Mr. Putin sees this as one fluid Eurasian theater, if the U.S. were to put pressure on him in Syria, say, he could easily respond in the Baltic states....
“In the cyber domain the U.S. has not sufficiently drawn red lines. What kind of Russian hacking will result in either a proportionate, or even disproportionate, punitive response? The Obama administration seems to be proceeding ad hoc, as it has done with Russia policy in general. The next administration, along with projecting military force throughout the Russian near abroad, will have to project force in cyberspace, too.
“I am a realist – and realism dictates that Russia’s aggression in its near abroad has upset the balance of power and has for some time required a definitive response. The fact that President Obama has been wary of quagmires is merely a tactic. It does not give him an overarching philosophy or make him a realist. That is where the problem lies in Syria and elsewhere.”
North Korea: Pyongyang had two failed ballistic missile tests in five days, but this should hardly make anyone in the Pentagon happy as it only points out further the rapidly growing threat posed by the North’s missile program.
The problem has been with the Musudan, the longest-range ballistic missile in Kim Jong Un’s arsenal. There was a successful launch in June after five consecutive failures, but the North has yet to perfect it. This is the missile that could hit Guam, as well as South Korea and Japan.
Nuclear weapons expert David Albright said, “It’s really troubling,” when talking of the pace of missile and nuclear testing.
I’ll stick to my prediction that North Korea will do something incredibly reckless around the Fourth of July. They will have made enough progress by then to do so.
Philippines/China: President Rodrigo Duterte insulted and mocked Americans in a speech given in China’s Great Hall of the People where he announced his “separation” from the United States.
“Americans are loud, sometimes rowdy. Their larynx is not adjusted to civility,” Duterte said. “They are discourteous people,” adding it was wise not to do business with them because “that is the surest way of losing your money.”
In response, the State Department, baffled after a 70-year alliance has helped underpin stability in Asia, said, “We are going to be seeking an explanation of exactly what the president meant when he talked about separation from the U.S.”
Addressing the Chinese, Duterte said, “I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia and talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”
Earlier in Duterte’s red-carpet state visit to China, he said it was “time to say goodbye” to the United States. He also said: “The only hope of the Philippines economically, I’ll be frank with you, is China.”
It’s not just the U.S. that is concerned with this wacko’s behavior. Australia is as well.
As for Chinese President Xi Jinping, he described his meeting with Duterte as a “milestone” in ties. China and the Philippines were brothers and they could “appropriately handle disputes,” though he did not mention the South China Sea in front of reporters. [South China Morning Post]
Speaking of the South China Sea, the U.S. sailed a destroyer near islands claimed by China, in this case the Paracel Islands, on Friday as a way of challenging China’s “excessive maritime claims,” U.S. officials said.
China labeled it a provocation, but this is really wimpy stuff, sports fans. The United States’ warships in these maneuvers really aren’t testing China. They aren’t getting that close. And China sure as hell knows it.
Venezuela: No surprise here...election officials suspended the opposition’s recall referendum campaign that was being mounted against President Nicolas Maduro, who will not now be forced from power, unless through a coup.
Remember, the opposition has a supermajority in congress and its leaders thought they had the ability to end 17 years of socialist rule. But the courts neutralized the congress and the military was granted more power. So Maduro will finish out his term in 2019, even as he is unable to feed his people.
Presidential Polls...the most important ones will be this coming week after voters have had a chance to mull over the final debate and any fallout.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll had Hillary Clinton at 48%, Donald Trump 37%, Gary Johnson 7%, Jill Stein 2%. Clinton leads Trump 67-17 among Hispanics in this survey.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll had Clinton with just a 4-point lead, 47-43, Johnson at 5, Stein at 2, among likely voters.
A CBS News national poll has Clinton leading Trump 47-38 (Johnson 8, Stein 3). It was 45-41, Clinton, two weeks earlier.
A Quinnipiac University national poll has Clinton up 47-40 (Johnson 7, Stein 1). In this one, men are divided with 43% for Trump, 41% for Clinton. Women back Clinton 52-37.
A Fox News national poll of likely voters has Clinton with a six-point lead, 45-39, Johnson at 5, Stein 3. [Clinton was up by 7 points last week, 45-38.] Trump is ahead by 7 points among men, Clinton by 17 among women.
Significantly, among independents in the Fox poll, Trump was at 38%, Clinton 31%.
A Monmouth University national poll has Clinton ahead by 12, 50-38, among likely voters with 5% for Johnson, 2% Stein. Clinton led by only 46-42 just three weeks ago.
But among registered voters, the margin for Clinton today is 47-38.
And late Friday, a new Reuters/Ipsos national survey has Clinton with only a 4-point lead, 44-40. A week earlier it was 44-37. Hmmm.
In Battleground state polling....
CNN/ORC has Clinton leading in Nevada, 46-44 (Johnson 7); Clinton leads in North Carolina 48-47 (Johnson 4); but Trump leads in Ohio 48-44 (Johnson 4).
A Quinnipiac University survey of key states has: Colorado: Clinton 45, Trump 37, Johnson 10. Florida: Clinton 48, Trump 44, Johnson 4; Pennsylvania: Clinton 47, Trump 41, Johnson 6. But Ohio is 45-45, Johnson 6.
[In Senate races, Quinnipiac has Florida Rep. Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, 49-47, while Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey has a 49-45 lead over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania.]
A Monmouth University Poll had Clinton ahead of Trump in Nevada, 47-40, 7% for Gary Johnson. In September, Trump had 44% and Clinton 42% in the same survey. The difference is that Clinton has been expanding her lead among non-white voters, now 67-18, compared with 63-28 in September.
A Suffolk University poll of likely voters in Ohio has Clinton and Trump tied at 45, Johnson 2.
--A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed only half of Republicans would accept Clinton as their president, and nearly 70 percent of them said a Clinton victory would be because of voter fraud (illegal voting or vote rigging).
--The aforementioned NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found two important Democratic constituencies, African-Americans and young voters, are showing very low levels of interest.
65% of African-Americans rate themselves as highly interested in the election, down 18 points from the 2012 election and down 28 points from 2008.
54% of younger voters, those under age 35, say they have high interest in the election, down 6 points from 2012 and nearly 30 points from 2008.
But, Hispanic voters are engaged...69% rate themselves as highly interested in the campaign, up 1 point from 2012. [Aaron Zitner / WSJ]
--As Reid Wilson of The Hill put it: “Elections officials and experts say Donald Trump’s claims of a ‘rigged’ presidential election are ludicrously off base, given the use of a decentralized system in which ballots are counted by thousands of Democratic and Republican officials across the country.
“That decentralized system, which is often criticized for holding voters in different states to different standards, has acted as a barrier to widespread fraud in more than two centuries of American elections.”
“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, hours after his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said the Republican ticket would accept the election’s outcome.
Reid Wilson: “The Constitution gives states the power to conduct their own elections. States, in turn, give power to municipal and county officials to administer polling sites, manage their own machines and count ballots.
“ ‘We are not conducting one election, or even 51 elections, but something like 14,000 elections because we have all these electoral jurisdictions,’ said Rick Hasen, a law professor and elections expert at the University of California, Irvine....
“Every vote cast in almost every state – with the exception of certain parts of Pennsylvania – will be backed up by a paper receipt.”
When Trump references the Pew 2012 report in terms of the election being “rigged,” the title of the report is actually: “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade.”
As noted in the Washington Post, Page one of the 12-page report has several bullet points, one of which is that “More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters.”
But Trump presents this as an example of how the vote is fraudulent and the process rigged, though FactCheck.org found Trump has been citing Pew inaccurately on the campaign trail.
“The report did not allege the 1.8 million deceased people actually voted. Rather, Pew said that it is evidence of the need to upgrade voter registration systems,” the organization wrote.
--Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. / Wall Street Journal
“Here’s what we can expect after Election Day: Democrats will claim that a sweeping victory over Mr. Trump is a mandate for policies that were hardly talked about during a campaign focused on the shortcomings of Mr. Trump’s treatment of women. If Democrats don’t win the House, Mrs. Clinton will adopt President Obama’s strategy of aggressively using executive orders to expand Washington’s dominance of the private sector while painting Republicans as obstructionists.
“Those who reason that Mrs. Clinton and House Speaker Paul Ryan have histories and temperaments suited to cooperation and see hope for bipartisan progress will be disappointed. Why? Because of the steady drip of email leaks. Because of new information challenging the quality and objectivity of the FBI investigation.
“Mrs. Clinton, like Nixon in 1972, may not get a honeymoon no matter how big her win. The debate we aren’t having in the campaign, we will continue not to have: how to foster a modern state that doesn’t metastasize corruption, cronyism, elites helping themselves. There will be no bipartisan action on things that ail the economy and hold back its growth. All of Washington will be enmeshed in a replay of the Watergate era, inward-looking, destructive, consumed with investigations and score-settling.
“Of course, much will depend on how the vote for control of Congress goes, and whether Mrs. Clinton has an unsuspected gift for creative political leadership that somehow can give the GOP a stake in her success – as Mr. Obama so signally failed to do. Pleasant surprises are always possible. Don’t bet on one.”
--The Financial Times first reported that Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner “has informally approached one of the media industry’s top dealmakers about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the presidential election in November.”
A month ago, Trump told the Washington Post, “I have no interest in a media company. False rumor,” but this was after a Vanity Fair report that he and his advisers had explored the idea.
But it’s not easy these days starting a new television network in an era of shrinking audiences and ‘cord-cutting.’
If you’re wondering about how Roger Ailes would fit in, Ailes being a friend of Trump’s, he would be prohibited from working on a new television venture by virtue of his exit agreement from Fox.
--Tech titan Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Facebook board member, is giving $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign and super PACs, the New York Times first reported. Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention, where he said he was “proud to be gay” despite the party calling for the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide to be overturned.
--Thomas G. Donlan / Barron’s
“Trump declared last week in a tweet that defecting Republican officeholders and contributors had liberated him to ‘fight for America the way I want to.’ Inspired by that, some of his supporters defected from the defectors, refusing to support Republican candidates for Congress who don’t back Trump.
“A prime example was Diana Orrock, a member of the Republican National Committee from Nevada, who withdrew her support for the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nevada, heedless of the importance of that race to continuing Republican control of the Senate. The same sort of thing is happening in other close Senate races, where Republican candidates know they can’t win without Trump and doubt they can win with him.
“Trump sounded almost gleeful in another tweet: ‘So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers – and elections – go down!’
“It’s difficult to imagine Trump getting such a wish and also winning the White House if local races are dragging the ticket down. It’s even harder to imagine him governing with congressional members of both parties more hostile to him than Republicans have been to Barack Obama. But it’s easy to imagine Trump as an embittered loser loudly dividing the party for years to come.”
--So I’ve told you the past year how I’ve been thinking of just what President Obama will say in his farewell address to us, believing he doesn’t have a single signature accomplishment, especially given what a fiasco ObamaCare has become, let alone the godawful global scene he is leaving his successor.
I’m sickened that his approval rating is rising, solely because of Donald Trump, which will make it easier for the media to write glowing stories in December and January.
David Nakumura of the Washington Post had a lengthy piece the other day, reporting on the series of interviews Obama has had on this very topic with magazine writers, newspaper columnists and historians.
“Obama has been presenting a favorable narrative of his presidency, framing it as a historic moment that managed to rise above unprecedented partisanship.
“All presidents hope to have some say in how they are judged by history, usually relying on august farewell addresses and blockbuster memoirs. But Obama has started earlier and seems more publicly strategic than his predecessors about framing his legacy. He is determined to get the jump on his critics about how his presidency is preserved for posterity.
“So far, a central theme has been to cast himself as the rational actor in an arena full of irrational ones.”
Yup, I’ll be spitting up my Chex Mix watching him that last time from the White House.
--Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval rating in New Jersey has sunk to a new low, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll, with just 21% approving of his performance, down from 26% in June. 72% disapprove, including 52% of Republicans. I’d be in the latter camp if asked. Talk about abysmal. And Friday was not a good day for the governor with the latest in the Bridgegate trial.
--So I have no problem with the agreement reached by more than 150 countries to phase out hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) that every schoolchild has known for ages are used in fridges, air conditioning and aerosol sprays. Frankly, I thought a comprehensive agreement on HFCs was reached years ago. I mean this one is a no-brainer.
But this agreement is a farce. The U.S. and others will start to limit their use within a few years and make a cut of at least 10% from 2019, while developing countries like China will freeze their use of HFCs from 2024. India won’t make its first 10% cut in use until 2032.
I mean what the heck?!
--According to the latest Gallup poll, a record high 60 percent of American adults support the legalization of marijuana. When Gallup first asked about this issue in 1969, 12 percent of Americans supported legalization.
67 percent of Democrats support legalization, compared to 42 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents.
Support among adults aged 18-34 was 77 percent, compared to 45 percent among those over 55.
Personally, I never used to care about this issue, but after observing Gary Johnson on the campaign trail, I’m against it.
--From WIR, 7/7/12:
“So after giving you some cryptic comments of my own the past few weeks, here’s the deal. On June 4, 2012, I received an email from Mr. Assange and his people. It was about a WIR I did wherein I quoted another story on Assange and the Assange team found it and said among other things:
“Majid Jamali Fashi is not the source named in the cable:
“The cable does not even mention Israel.
“Fashi was not a martial arts expert, he was a kickboxer. The source mentioned in the cable was a Taekwondo coach.
“At no point have the Iranian authorities mentioned any U.S. embassy cable in connection with Fashi’s case.”
It goes on and on…But then:
“Due to the number of inaccuracies it contains, the (article) is extremely misleading to its readers and you may prefer to write a whole new article….
“Cost of the libel to me are:
“ – As a result of re-reportage and internet readership the harm to my reputation, and to my organization, is global. WikiLeaks relies entirely on the goodwill of the public, which this article compromises through false means.
“ – Contribution to a hostile media climate in the United States where a Grand Jury has been empaneled to indict me for espionage.
“ – Contribution to a hostile media climate in the U.K. while the decision to extradite me is before the courts.
“ – Contribution to a hostile media climate in Sweden, to which I am likely to be extradited and trailed in.
“ – Contribution to undermining political support in Australia, discouraging the Australian government from intervening to stop my extradition or intervene in the Grand Jury process.
“ – Contribution to a reduction in my ability to raise revenue for WikiLeaks through loss of reputation.
“ – Contribution to a reduction in donations to my personal Defense Fund through a loss of reputation.
“ – Contribution to a reduction in political support for WikiLeaks and myself at a time when we are imperiled by publicly declared FBI, Pentagon, CIA and U.S. State Department Task Forces.
“pp Debra Sheehan
on behalf of Julian Assange”
“The letter only shook me up briefly, in actuality, but it was an initial shock.”
There was no further communication.
--Good precip news. Mammoth Mountain in the Sierras, east of Yosemite, received a boatload of snow last weekend, 1-2 feet, with more in the forecast. This is good, though the mountain isn’t open for business until November 10.
But my home state of New Jersey is suffering through its worst drought in 14 years. Many are critical of state authorities for not acting sooner to issue warnings because in some parts, there are real threats to the water supply, with inadequate backup plans.
Pray for the men and women of our armed forces, and all the fallen.
God bless America.
Returns for the week 10/17-10/21
Dow Jones +0.04% 
S&P 500 +0.4% 
S&P MidCap +0.5%
Russell 2000 +0.5%
Nasdaq +0.8% 
Returns for the period 1/1/16-10/21/16
Dow Jones +4.1%
S&P 500 +4.8%
S&P MidCap +9.2%
Russell 2000 +7.2%
Bears 23.8 [Investors Intelligence]
Have a great week.
Check out the All-Species List site that I ‘soft-launched’ the other day. It’s not on the app, but you can find it at StocksandNews.com.