Moscow Blasts “Extremely Outrageous” Strike On Syria As Biden Stays Silent

Moscow Blasts “Extremely Outrageous” Strike On Syria As Biden Stays Silent

As expected Russia has reacted fiercely to the overnight US airstrikes on eastern Syria, which marked the first military action of the Biden presidency, calling out what the Kremlin said is an “extremely outrageous” violation of sovereignty.

“We strongly condemn such actions and call for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be unconditionally respected,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing.

Other Russian officials, including a prominent senator for foreign affairs, Sergei Tsekov, blasted the American aggression as an “extremely outrageous” move, saying further, “Now, if someone struck a blow on U.S. territory, what would that look like? They strike at the territory of a sovereign republic without the consent of Syrian leadership.”

But perhaps the most interesting detail is that Russia’s defense ministry was forewarned about the strike shortly before it happened. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed as much – saying the warning came a mere “minutes” before they commenced.

“This sort of warning — when strikes are already underway — gives (us) nothing,” Lavrov said according to Moscow Times.

Given that over the past years since Russia’s invitation by the Assad government in 2015 to assist in defeating the jihadist insurgency there’s been an increasing number of rival warplanes operating over Syria’s skies, the Pentagon and Russia have maintained a military-to-military hotline in order to avoid inadvertent escalations. Presumably the Russians were “warned” via this method of communication.

While little has ultimately been confirmed, regional media outlets and monitors have cited over 20 killed in the strike, which the US claims was on “Iranian-backed militias” operating in Syria.

More details of how the strike unfolded have kept rolling in throughout the day Friday…

“Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

“The operation sends an unambiguous message; President Biden will act to protect American coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq.”


But Biden himself has remained silent on the strike, which has angered a handful of Congress members questioning his basis for authorizing the unilateral attack.

Damascus for its part called the attack “cowardly” and said it will surely “escalate” the crisis in the region. “Syria condemns in the strongest terms the cowardly US aggression on areas in Deir Ez-Zor near the Syrian-Iraqi border, which is inconsistent with international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Syria warns that it [this move] will lead to consequences that will escalate the situation in the region,” the country’s foreign ministry said, as cited in state-run news agency SANA.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 13:15

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Redlining: US Economy Growing At Fastest Pace On Record, Goldman Finds

Redlining: US Economy Growing At Fastest Pace On Record, Goldman Finds

While debate rages whether the overheating of the US economy will is transitory – and thus any burst in inflation can be ignored as it will quickly reverse – or the strength will be permanent (resulting in the well-known concerns that the Fed is now woefully behind the curve), Goldman today has updated its proprietary Goldman Sachs Analyst Index (GSAI) which provides a snapshot perspective on the US economy (and thus differs from the BEA’s GDP measure which is an average look at output over a period of time), and finds that it just hit an all time high.

Here are the details:

  • The Goldman Sachs Analyst Index (GSAI) rose 9.4pt to an all-time high of 76.0 in February. The composition of the survey was strong, as the orders, shipments, and employment components all increased.

  • Other major business activity surveys were strong on net in February.

  • A majority of our sector analysts report that business activity in their industry is at or above normal levels. Most also indicated that last week’s winter storm in the South and Midwest did not significantly affect their industry.

Visually:

Most regional business activity surveys were very strong in February with Goldman’s manufacturing (+0.4pt to 58.2) and non-manufacturing (+1.7pt to 54.2) survey trackers both rising.

The overall composition of the GSAI was also strong in February.

  • The sales and shipments component surged +19.0pt to an all-time high of 90.2. The orders component increased (+13.3pt to 76.2) by more than the inventories component (+3.2pt to 53.2), increasing the orders-less-inventories gap to +23.0. The exports component also increased (+1.1pt to 63.6).

  • The employment component rose to its highest level since December 2018 (+0.9pt to 66.6), and the wages component rose to its highest level since May 2018 (+6.8pt to 81.8).

  • The output prices component decreased (-4.0pt to 77.3), while the materials prices component increased (+1.4pt to 80.0).

  • A majority of Goldman’s sector analysts report that business activity in their industry is at or above normal levels. Most also indicated that last week’s winter storm in the South and Midwest did not significantly affect their industry.

A detailed table of the GSAI is shown below.

Of course, in a month when household personal incomes exploded thanks to the $900BN stimulus checks, coupled with the collapse in covid cases and hospitalizations, the resultant burst of economic strength is hardly a surprise.

A bigger question is what happens to the economy after the next Biden stimulus hits, and more importantly, what happens 3-6 months later when the economy hits a fiscal reversal and the current overheating goes into reverse.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 12:55

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“Dumb**s Snitch”: WaPo Reporter Attacked For Undermining The Nomination Of Neera Tanden

“Dumb**s Snitch”: WaPo Reporter Attacked For Undermining The Nomination Of Neera Tanden

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Seung Min Kim, a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, has found herself under vicious attack this week because she had the temerity to show Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski a critical tweet from President Joe Biden’s nominee for budget director, Neera Tanden. Kim was seeking a comment from the key senator on whether the tweet criticizing her in personal terms would influence her vote.

Kim was then attacked as a “dumb**s snitch” for undermining the nomination of a person of color.

The attacks began after HuffPost Capitol Hill reporter Igor Bobik posted the picture of Kim asking Murkowski about the tweet in which she accused Murkowski of being “high on your own supply” for supporting Trump’s massive corporate tax cut.

Kim was immediately set upon by a digital mob. One person reportedly wrote:

“Hi. What a coonish thing to do to fuck up another POC nomination on behalf of whites. Dumb**s snitch.” 

Vox senior correspondent Matthew Yglesias posted, in a now-deleted tweet, that:

“I do not approve of harassing @seungminkim, but just FYI to everyone covering the Hill the reason many people were triggered by that image is there were so so so so many instances of republican members of congress saying they hadn’t seen Trump tweet X.” 

Kim shot back in a tweet that said:

“When you have to add a ‘but,’ after saying you don’t approve of harassment on someone, just take a moment and think about that.”

Yglesias then deleted his tweet.

Columbia University lecturer Tom Watson joined the criticism. Watson is the President of Cause Wired where cites his past work with the New York Times as a writer. Watson tweeted “@seungminkim decided to try and sink the nomination. Good lord.”

The story surrounding the Tanden nomination is a long list of deleted tweets that attacked member of the Congress and particularly Republicans. I have not read all of the tweets, but I am not convinced that the tweets make her unqualified for his position. I am concerned when members are influenced by criticism of themselves in voting against a nominee. They are public figures and Tanden clearly holds opposing views. I do not see why such tweets should be determinative in a nomination vote and could send a chilling message to others not to criticize people in power.

However, the legitimate story is how these tweets are impacting key senators and Kim wanted to see how this tweet would influence Murkowski, a key swing vote in the Senate. That does not mean that Kim “decided to try and sink the nomination.” She was doing her job as an independent journalist opposed to being an advocate.

Watson’s criticism reminded me of the recent position of a leading journalism professor at Stanford. Professor Ted Glasser publicly called for an end of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters in seeking “social justice.” He insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” Good lord.

The attacks on Kim is another example of this age of rage, as I discussed his week in my testimony before the House. There is a growing distemper where academics engage in vulgar or religious attacks and others endorse violence. Our most basic values of free speech and the free press are under attack. When a reporter like Kim must face such disgraceful abuse, we have become untethered from those values that define us.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 12:35

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ECB Banker Is First To Openly Call For More QE In Response To Yield Surge

ECB Banker Is First To Openly Call For More QE In Response To Yield Surge

We have already seen aggressive jawboning from the likes of BOJ and RBA (which boosted its YCC bond purchases in an attempt to halt the blow out in 3Y yields) in hopes of containing the bond rout seen this week. Then, this morning Greece’s central bank head Yannis Stournaras became the first European Central Bank policymaker to openly call for increasing the pace of ECB bond purchases to stem a rise in borrowing costs, Reuters reported.

With euro zone bond yields set for their biggest monthly rise in three years, the ECB is under some pressure to make good on its promise to keep borrowing costs easy for the coronavirus-stricken bloc through its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP).

“In my view, there is an unwarranted tightening of bond yields, so it would perhaps be desirable for the ECB to accelerate the pace of PEPP purchases to ensure favorable financing conditions during the pandemic,” Stournaras told Reuters in an interview.

“In my view there’s no fundamental justification for a tightening of nominal bond yields in the long end,” the Greek central bank governor said.

Of course, if there is no fundamental reason for the “tightening” there should be no fundamental reason to respond to it… but that’s not how the Greek central banker thinks. To him, any mini crisis is an excuse for – what else – more QE.

Stournaras said ECB policymakers should instruct the Executive Board, which runs day-to-day business including bond purchases, to intervene accordingly when they meet on March 11. And if yields indeed keep rising, that just may happen.

Stournaras added that they may also alter the ECB’s policy message “slightly”, although he said no material change was needed as the central bank still had almost 1 trillion euros left to spend in its PEPP arsenal.

In response, Germany’s 10-year bond yield, the region’s benchmark, fell to its lowest for the day at -0.287% after Stournaras’ comments. Still, it was still set for its biggest monthly gain since January 2018, however, with a 24 basis point rise.

“This is a big shift from the message we have been used to and it remains to be seen whether other ECB members share the same view,” said Divyang Shah, global strategist at IFR Markets. Earlier on Friday, ECB board members Philip Lane and Isabel Schnabel had said bond yields warranted monitoring but stopped short of calling for more purchases.

For those confused, here is what’s going on” when a flood of monetary policy finally triggers the inflation central they have been demanding for years, they want to add even more money to counterbalance it’s effect. Yes, this is considered high economic thought these days.

That will change, of course. While the current rate scare may be over for now, yields will resume their march higher in the coming weeks and months, and at that point it will be only a matter of what level on the 10Y TSY, or Bund, or JGB is the “max pain” for central bankers before they all launch global coordinated YCC… at which point the last trace of price discovery will be forever gone.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 12:22

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Gold Is Getting Monkey-Hammered!

Gold Is Getting Monkey-Hammered!

Having broken below $1800 earlier in the week, after suffering a ‘death cross’, gold prices are plunging this morning – on heavy volume – as real yields soar.

This is the lowest in 8 months…

As real yields surge…

When will people stop selling gold and silver and realize that rising inflation is not a one-time threat that the Fed will stomp out by raising rates and tightening monetary policy? Peter Schiff explains:

“They [The Fed] are going to do nothing. The dollar is going to collapse, which is the mother of all tailwinds for gold. And so, at some point, it’s going to happen. But in the meantime, they’re simply creating more buying opportunities for people who have been really slow to pull the trigger on getting their precious metals, getting their mining stocks.”

In effect, Powell this week was telling the market, “Don’t worry, we won’t be tightening monetary policy for years.” This despite the fact that the commodity markets are screaming inflation. Oil, industrial metals, grains, beans – they are all making big gains. The only thing that’s not catching a bid is gold.

“For some reason, people are still thinking that rising interest rates are bad for gold and silver, but they’re bullish for everything else. But the reality is — they’re not. They’re more bullish for gold and silver than any of these other commodities… In fact, here is the reality that nobody wants to acknowledge: as interest rates are moving up, rather than raising rates and reducing the size of its QE program, it is going to increase the size of its QE program.”

Silver is also getting clubbed like a baby seal, back to pre-Reddit-Raiders’ levels…

February looks set to be Gold’s worst month since Nov 2016 (Trump’s election), which also saw rates surge.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 12:19

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Morgan Stanley: “This Was A Historic Vol Shock, But It’s Almost Over”

Morgan Stanley: “This Was A Historic Vol Shock, But It’s Almost Over”

The biggest daily increase in real yields since the Taper Tantrum (excluding March 2020) drove derisking Thursday and according to Morgan Stanley’s Quant and Derivatives Strategy (QDS) group, there is now now $25bn of supply today (which likely already hit this morning) from systematic strategies on top of $20 to $25bn in asset allocation supply. While this flow suggests weakness likely continues through month-end and potentially into next week, and much will depend on how strongly the Fed pushes back on these moves and volatility in the bond market, Morgan Stanley views this as a temporary adjustment and “would look to buy dips” as more signs of rate, vol and equity stabilization emerge. And while areas of the market with very long-duration cash flows may be more structurally impaired, “both large cap Tech NDX and cyclicals/re-opening plays should participate in the rebound once this is over.”

Some more technical observations:

Thursday’s vol shock flips what was $10 to $15bn of systematic demand per week to supply: QDS expects $25bn of supply from Vol Target and CTA strategies plus $20 to $25bn from asset allocation and pension rebalancing tomorrow.  Into next week, supply will depend on tomorrow’s volatility:  a +/- 1% day means systematic flows next week should be ~flat, while another 2% on Friday would drive a $20bn wave of supply next week. On the other hand, a strong rebound – as we are now experiencing – may result in actual buying.

What about the impact of rates? While MS finds there is some sensitivity of this supply to rates directly, it’s not huge: i.e. if the US 10-year rises 10 bps alongside another equity selloff, it only adds about $5bn to 10bn of incremental supply.  Echoing the earlier observations from Nomura, MS notes that one of the key historical transmission mechanisms between coordinated stock-bond weakness and equity supply is less impactful today:  risk parity funds, and the reason for that is the persistently low leverage in the sector. With leverage only rebuilt 1/3 of the way back to pre-COVID highs, risk parity funds are unlikely to be material sellers of stock on the back of these moves, despite suffering their worst day since November 2018 (excluding the COVID period).  Risk parity models also would need to price a more sustained change in stock-bond correlation to be sellers (and even if they did, QDS only estimates they would need to sell an extra $10 to $15bn of equity).

Next, and also addressing something we discussed earlier namely dealer gamma on today’s weekly op-ex, MS notes that “the increase in vol and drop in spot means dealers are likely less long S&P 500 gamma than they were for the last few weeks – dealers came into Thursday long $5bn of gamma per 1%, but that number is likely just $2bn into Friday (subject to today’s flows).” While dealers won’t flip to short gamma until below ~3650 in the S&P 500, the decline in the long position does mean that this flow that has helped reverse recent intraday selloffs will likely be less important at least for the next few days.  Whether the long gamma position gets rebuilt next week likely depends on today’s price action: on its own a 1-day shock is unlikely to deter volatility sellers, but another selloff tomorrow likely causes them to step back and wait for calmer markets.

On top of increased realized vol, implied vol is also likely to remain firm over the next few days. As QDS has previously highlighted VIX ETPs are significantly long VIX futures with institutions on the other side and this imbalance both supports volatility and makes VIX more reactive to SPX. That reactivity was on display Thursday as the VIX rose by 7.55 points while SPX fell -2.45%, which is 4.5-5 points more than what its typical beta to SPX returns would imply.

That said, Thursday’s price action clearly showed signs of active manager derisking – a barbell of secular growth + reopening has been the consensus trade since last fall, and Thursday’s underperformance of RTY and reopening plays and the NDX versus S&P suggests some of those positions were being unwound.  On the other side, Defensives and Passively-held names outperformed – which is unusual given the rate spike – suggesting that passive outflows were not a big driver Thursday.

As noted earlier in the week the underperformance of longs during this selloff is the opposite of January where a short squeeze caused more of the pain.  Long-side volatility is always more challenging to deal with, and as Joanie Kim from the MS Thematic Investment Strategies team noted in a piece today “the ongoing Momentum selloff is more meaningfully driven by the long leg and the 2nd half of 2018 selloff episode can be comparable to what’s happening today” (see A Different Kind of Momentum Selloff).  While performance cushions can help offset this volatility, as long-side volatility increases so do the chances that derisking accelerates.

Finally, turning back to the place where this all started, the spike in bond volatility signals near-term risk for both stocks and bonds, but until the market starts pricing a greater tightening of financial conditions sometime in the next year or two, this volatility is likely not going to be sustained in QDS’s view. 

QDS continues to think that as long as the Fed remains accommodative (and the market prices this, as it still largely is with short-dated real rates deeply negative), the relationship between stocks and bonds won’t structurally change – i.e. it won’t be until yields are higher (breakevens closer to 3%) that stocks consistently go lower with incremental increases in yields. 

So what could change Morgan Stanley’s cheerful view on all that is happening? A few things: An even bigger spike in bond vol, sharper flattening of the real yield curve, or a pull forward in the pricing of rate hikes would all be concerning.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 12:10

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Schumer Mulls Penalty For Big Businesses That Don’t Pay $15 Minimum Wage

Schumer Mulls Penalty For Big Businesses That Don’t Pay $15 Minimum Wage

As top Democrats defy their own Senate parliamentarian and forge ahead with a $15 minimum wage provision in the upcoming $1.9 trillion stimulus package – a provision which may kill the entire package thanks to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and others, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is weighing a provision which would penalize big companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour, according to Bloomberg, citing a Democratic aide.

The idea had been floated earlier by two Senate committee chairs following the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the minimum-wage proposal fell afoul of the rules for the legislative process which Congressional Democrats are using to advance Biden’s aid bill, requiring that measures be primarily fiscal in nature.

Democrats are seeking a phased-in increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

On Thursday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats said they would keep the minimum wage hike in the latest COVID-19 relief package, saying in a statement:

“The ruling from the Senate parliamentarian is disappointing, because raising the minimum wage would give 27 million Americans a well-deserved raise and pull nearly one million Americans out of poverty in the middle of a once-in-a-century devastating pandemic and economic crisis.”

The House plans to vote on the relief package on Friday. Whether it passes through the Senate with the $15 minimum wage is a toss-up, the failure of which would delay relief yet again.

Tyler Durden
Fri, 02/26/2021 – 11:55

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Debris Represents the Crumbling Leftovers of X-Files Rip-offs

debris_1161x652_1161x653

Debris. NBC. Monday, March 1, 10 p.m.

Tragically—well, maybe; you be the judge—that bastard COVID has claimed another victim. The X-Files is finally dead, a stake pounded through its throbbing space-alien heart by its dozenth or so television clone. The killer was Debris, a mumbly and mindless sci-fi drama that would never have made it on the air if NBC weren’t so desperately scrambling for new pilots as the COVID production lockdown virus slouched toward Hollywood last spring.

If you somehow missed The X-Files during its 11-season run on Fox, or the various movie spin-offs, comic books, and video games that followed, you’ve probably seen it under some other name—FringeWarehouse 13Dark Skies, and too many others to count—because it essentially engraved the template for nearly all the television science fiction that followed over the three decades that followed its 1993 debut.

Not every series followed every particular, but generally speaking, you had a team led by two temperamentally opposed but sexually attracted investigators looking into weird phenomena caused by—in descending order of sinisterness—conspiracies of the U.S. government and/or extraterrestrial civilizations manipulating human history. Some episodes were devoted to the series’ overarching conspiracy storyline; some to a “monster of the week” that didn’t necessarily tie in very closely with the big story. (I was gravely disappointed when a demon’s lecherous obsession with a Stanford coed in an early episode of Supernatural turned out not to be a central tenet of Satanist theology.)

This was kind of fun for a while on The X-Files, but even the show’s own producers seemed to have sensed it was getting a little thin when they entitled an episode in the ninth season “Jump The Shark.” Most of the clones died off much more quickly. And finally one of them has been stillborn. Debris will freeze your blood not with terror but tedium. Its monsters are puny and its dialogue mostly left over from 1955. (“In the wrong hands,” gravely warns one investigator of the outer-space junk they’re chasing, “it could be the end of humanity.”) I wouldn’t watch this stuff with your eyeballs.

Debris stars Jonathan Tucker (Westworld) as CIA operative Bryan Beneventi and Riann Steele (NCIS: New Orleans) as his partner Finola Jones, an agent of the British intelligence outfit MI6, who’ve been teamed on a task force searching for the shattered remains of an alien spaceship. (Anybody who remembers the results of the CIA’s partnership with MI-6 through its agent Kim Philby will not exactly be optimistic about the outcome of this project.)

Beneventi, who just completed several years in Afghanistan that entailed the removal of eyeballs with knives or some similar intelligence task, is not inclined to view the alien junk in a positive light. Steele, who blathers on like a Hallmark card in the terminal stages of diabetes, thinks it’s like penicillin of the cyberage. She holds fast to her belief even after seeing the debris transmogrify a waitress into something that plunges seven stories to her death on a dining table in a hotel restaurant, not to mention causing various random Americans to burst into hemorrhages from their eyes. Sherlock Holmes has left the building.

Supposedly the search for the debris is complicated by various factors, including counterplotting by the CIA and MI-6; the interference of Jones’ dad, a star physicist and—um—dead; and a group of unknown but thuggish-looking fellows who are trying to get their own hands on it. Their exact goal is unknown, but some of them have letters of the alphabet tattooed on their fingers, which in my experience is never a good sign.

But the interest in these various subplots is seriously undercut by the sparse dialogue and its frequent incomprehensibility due to Steele’s posh British accent, which will likely leave a lot of viewers feeling like Whoopi Goldberg to decipher Rolling Stones lyrics in Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Incomprehensibility, though it’s usually due to plot machinations rather than accents, is a regular feature of creator-writer J.H. Wyman’s work, particularly the old sci-fi series Fringe, another X Files clone that Debris closely resembles. By the end of its 2008-2013 run, Fringe had hopped through so many time-travel worlds and alternative universes that even the characters seemed uncertain where they were at any given moment. But I could always tell. In Hell, about the Ninth Circle. It’s a neighborhood viewers of Debris will get to know well.

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Debris Represents the Crumbling Leftovers of X-Files Rip-offs

debris_1161x652_1161x653

Debris. NBC. Monday, March 1, 10 p.m.

Tragically—well, maybe; you be the judge—that bastard COVID has claimed another victim. The X-Files is finally dead, a stake pounded through its throbbing space-alien heart by its dozenth or so television clone. The killer was Debris, a mumbly and mindless sci-fi drama that would never have made it on the air if NBC weren’t so desperately scrambling for new pilots as the COVID production lockdown virus slouched toward Hollywood last spring.

If you somehow missed The X-Files during its 11-season run on Fox, or the various movie spin-offs, comic books, and video games that followed, you’ve probably seen it under some other name—FringeWarehouse 13Dark Skies, and too many others to count—because it essentially engraved the template for nearly all the television science fiction that followed over the three decades that followed its 1993 debut.

Not every series followed every particular, but generally speaking, you had a team led by two temperamentally opposed but sexually attracted investigators looking into weird phenomena caused by—in descending order of sinisterness—conspiracies of the U.S. government and/or extraterrestrial civilizations manipulating human history. Some episodes were devoted to the series’ overarching conspiracy storyline; some to a “monster of the week” that didn’t necessarily tie in very closely with the big story. (I was gravely disappointed when a demon’s lecherous obsession with a Stanford coed in an early episode of Supernatural turned out not to be a central tenet of Satanist theology.)

This was kind of fun for a while on The X-Files, but even the show’s own producers seemed to have sensed it was getting a little thin when they entitled an episode in the ninth season “Jump The Shark.” Most of the clones died off much more quickly. And finally one of them has been stillborn. Debris will freeze your blood not with terror but tedium. Its monsters are puny and its dialogue mostly left over from 1955. (“In the wrong hands,” gravely warns one investigator of the outer-space junk they’re chasing, “it could be the end of humanity.”) I wouldn’t watch this stuff with your eyeballs.

Debris stars Jonathan Tucker (Westworld) as CIA operative Bryan Beneventi and Riann Steele (NCIS: New Orleans) as his partner Finola Jones, an agent of the British intelligence outfit MI6, who’ve been teamed on a task force searching for the shattered remains of an alien spaceship. (Anybody who remembers the results of the CIA’s partnership with MI-6 through its agent Kim Philby will not exactly be optimistic about the outcome of this project.)

Beneventi, who just completed several years in Afghanistan that entailed the removal of eyeballs with knives or some similar intelligence task, is not inclined to view the alien junk in a positive light. Steele, who blathers on like a Hallmark card in the terminal stages of diabetes, thinks it’s like penicillin of the cyberage. She holds fast to her belief even after seeing the debris transmogrify a waitress into something that plunges seven stories to her death on a dining table in a hotel restaurant, not to mention causing various random Americans to burst into hemorrhages from their eyes. Sherlock Holmes has left the building.

Supposedly the search for the debris is complicated by various factors, including counterplotting by the CIA and MI-6; the interference of Jones’ dad, a star physicist and—um—dead; and a group of unknown but thuggish-looking fellows who are trying to get their own hands on it. Their exact goal is unknown, but some of them have letters of the alphabet tattooed on their fingers, which in my experience is never a good sign.

But the interest in these various subplots is seriously undercut by the sparse dialogue and its frequent incomprehensibility due to Steele’s posh British accent, which will likely leave a lot of viewers feeling like Whoopi Goldberg to decipher Rolling Stones lyrics in Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Incomprehensibility, though it’s usually due to plot machinations rather than accents, is a regular feature of creator-writer J.H. Wyman’s work, particularly the old sci-fi series Fringe, another X Files clone that Debris closely resembles. By the end of its 2008-2013 run, Fringe had hopped through so many time-travel worlds and alternative universes that even the characters seemed uncertain where they were at any given moment. But I could always tell. In Hell, about the Ninth Circle. It’s a neighborhood viewers of Debris will get to know well.

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Inimicus Curiae Briefs

Lawyers know about amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, which give interested or expert third parties an opportunity to provide courts with a perspective that the parties might have omitted. But we more rarely hear about inimicus curiae briefs, even though it turns out that many supposed amicus briefs are, in fact, inimicus briefs that have been, er, accidentally mislabeled.

A few tips for writing inimicus briefs from someone who’s read a few; I posted this in 2003, but was recently reminded about it.

[1.] Focus primarily on repeating the arguments of your favored party. After all, anything worth saying once is worth being said by everyone who wants to say it. The official term for this (originally from Law French) is the “moi aussi principle.”

[2.] If you do have a genuinely original twist to add to the analysis, don’t just stick with it—that’s bad form. Be sure to surround it with lots of other points that echo what your favored party says (see item 1 above). A ratio of 10 page of repetition to 1 page of new material is the norm, though experts believe that even this is too low.

[3.] Always include lots of general rhetoric, such as “The importance of the timeless guarantees of the First Amendment cannot be overstated in our marketplace of ideas, and the republic on which it rests.” Judges and law clerks just love that sort of stuff.

NB: This is especially true when filing briefs before the Supreme Court. The sorts of close and difficult cases that the Court hears are almost always decided primarily by applying general slogans. In fact, it’s considered disrespectful of the Court to focus on mere factual or doctrinal details, or to use more mundane language.

[4.] Always keep in mind that (according to Rule 3.7),

The primary purpose of an inimicus curiae brief is to allow the inimicus to tell donors and other supporters that the inimicus Has Filed A Brief Before The Court expressing the timeless verities for which the inimicus and its supporters stand.

Any departure from this purpose is frowned on.

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