China Backs Russia To Veto Western-Backed UN Sanctions On Syria

The Trump administration’s early attempts to change, and restore, ties with Russia may be fading fast, but at least when it comes to relations between Russia and its western counterparts at the United Nations, absolutely nothing has changed. And, as has been the case for the past three years, the antagonism was on full front display when Russia, now without the recently deceased Vitaly Churkin, on Tuesday cast its seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from United Nations Security Council action, blocking an attempt by Western powers to impose yet another sanction over accusations of the recurring strawman, i.e., chemical weapons attacks, during the six-year Syrian conflict.

While the Russia vote was to be expected, what was surprising is that China once again backed Russia with its sixth veto on Syria according to Reuters, making it clear that at least when it comes to the UN and matters involving Syria, China is firmly in the Russia camp, and thus opposing the west.

Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov

Russia had said the vote on the resolution, drafted by France, Britain and the United States, would harm U.N.-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week. Nine council members voted in favor, Bolivia voted against, while Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the draft resolution on Tuesday as totally inappropriate. “As for sanctions against the Syrian leadership, I think the move is totally inappropriate now,” Putin said at a news conference. “It does not help, would not help the negotiation process. It would only hurt or undermine confidence during the process.”

Doing her best Samantha Power impression, the new US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the council after the vote that ““For my friends in Russia, this resolution is very appropriate,” said US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley after the vote. “It is a sad day on the Security Council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people. The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”

The vote was one of the first confrontations at the United Nations between Russia and the United States since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January, pledging to build closer ties with Moscow.

Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov described the statements made against Moscow in the Security Council as “outrageous” and declared that “God will judge you.”

“Today’s clash or confrontation is not a result of our negative vote. It is a result of the fact that you decided on provocation while you knew well ahead of time our position,” said Safronkov. “The problem is that the basis of expert work on Syria come from dubious information submitted by the armed opposition, international NGOs sympathetic to it, the media and so-called ‘Friends of Syria’,” he argued.

“The co-sponsors [of the proposal] have chosen and odious and erroneous concept, which is totally unacceptable. The fact that the resolution wasn’t supported by six of the fifteen security council members should make the co-sponsors seriously think,” Safronkov said.

On the other hand, western powers put forward the resolution in response to the results of an investigation by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The international inquiry “found” that as reported a month ago, Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas. British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: “This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned. It’s that simple. It’s about taking a stand when civilians are maimed and murdered with toxic weapons.”

This reminds us of the first such fabricated attempt to start a war in Syria in the summer of 2013 when a produced YouTube clip was used as evidence of a chemical attack, only to be refuted several month later, although by then Russia and the US were already engaged in the Syrian proxy war.

To be sure, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons. Russia has questioned the results of the U.N./OPCW inquiry and long said there was not enough proof for the Security Council to take any action.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the failure by the council to act would “send a message of impunity.”

Meanwhile China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said it was too early to act because the international investigation was still ongoing. “We oppose the use of chemical weapons,” he said.

* * *

And while the sanctions were being debated, a new round of UN-sponsored Syria peace talks between the warring sides kicked off in Geneva last week. Saying that he is not expecting a breakthrough, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was nonetheless determined not to lose the momentum towards a resolution. Although the liberation of the city of Aleppo and the loss of key territories by Islamist rebels have tipped the balance in the Syrian conflict, potential disagreements could arise over the opposition’s continued insistence that the fate of the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad be settled as a precondition – something that is not currently on the table.

Russia announced that it has asked the Syrian government to halt all military operations for the duration of the talks, while other countries were expected to deliver the same message to the rebels. The last round of the Geneva talks was broken off nine months ago amid a sharp escalation in hostilities.

Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian government’s negotiator at the Geneva talks, warned on Saturday that Damascus will view opposition groups that refuse to condemn the deadly suicides attacks in Homs as accomplices of terrorists. In another comment on the attack, Jaafari said that “the terrorist explosions that hit Homs city are a message to Geneva from sponsors of terrorism, and we tell everyone that the message is received and this crime won’t pass unnoticed.”

via Tyler Durden

Obamas To Make Over $60 Million From Book Deal

What took the Clintons years of confidential speeches before major investment banks and middle eastern clients of the Treasury Department, the Obama’s plan to achieve with just two books.  According to the FT, several publishers are participating in a blockbuster auction for the global rights to two books by Barack and Michelle Obama where the bid has reached more than $60 million. The Obamas, who are writing separate books but selling the rights jointly, stand to make a record amount for their presidential memoirs.

The publishers involved in the auction for “the most hotly anticipated publishing deal of the year” include Penguin Random House, which published Obama’s previous three books, and HarperCollins, which ironically is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News. Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS, and Macmillan, are also in the mix. As the FT points out, a win by HarperCollins would bring the Obamas into the same publishing house as Bill O’Reilly, the author and Fox News Channel presenter who has been one of the former president’s fiercest critics.

For now, Penguin Random House is reportedly leading the pack for the publishing deal with a decision on the winning bid expected imminently.

With the price set to surpass $60 million, rhe sum offered would eclipse other book deals secured by departing presidents, and would be four times greater than the $15 million Bill Clinton received from Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House, for his 2004 memoirs My Life when he left the White House. George W Bush made an estimated $10 million from his book Decision Points.

The FT also notes that Robert Barnett, Obama’s literary agent who is fielding offers on behalf of the former president, has become a power player for politicians seeking big book deals. He brokered Tony Blair’s £4.5 million contract with Penguin Random House, which is jointly owned by UK education group Pearson and Bertelsmann, the German media company.

Obama has extensive prior book authoring experience, having gained a reputation as a writer before entering the White House with his bestselling books Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Obama previously disclosed that he earned $8.8 million from The Audacity of Hope, and the children’s book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, according to a report by Forbes. Sales of his first memoir, Dreams from My Father, published in paperback in 2004, brought in a further $6.8m in royalties.

However, it is the prospect of a joint book deal with his wife Michelle that has propelled the auction to record-breaking levels and has set the publishing industry alight.

via Tyler Durden

Energy, Money, And The Destruction Of Equilibrium

Via Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

I see many economists and entrepreneurs as opponents even if that is not the intention of the economists. Academic economists are most needed by those who have power and want to keep it. Multinational corporations, banks, and governments. The last thing those entities want is disruption, their principal and interlocking goals are stabilization and optimization of the existing order. They have an incentive to “optimize” the current system and extract rents.


I would argue that hyper focus on optimization is the enemy of creative beings such as ourselves and makes us very unhappy and leads to blow-back from human beings. And rightfully so. But that blow back can get ugly.


– From the piece: Energy, Money, and the Destruction of Equilibrium

Earlier today, a reader named Brett Maverick Musser, who works in Operations at Airbitz sent me an article he published on Medium, which I thought was excellent.

With permission, I have reposted the entire piece below:

Energy flux is the driver of change in our galaxy. Nothing happens without a flow of energy. And what is energy? Energy is the ability to perform useful work. And in physics, what is useful work? Work is useful if it overcomes inertia or resistance in order to generate motion.

Energy not money makes the world go round. Energy is destiny.


A Failed Paradigm and Fake Prices

To paraphrase Paul Romer author of the scathing paper “The Trouble With Macro”, economics has had a ‘considerable observed regression since the 1970s’ yet hides behind mathematical elegance and authority that the public at large is not sophisticated enough to rebuke nor powerful enough to eschew. Never ending zero interest rate policies, negative interest rates and other forms of financial alchemy perpetuated by central banks all over the world are intellectual concessions that the existing paradigm of economic thought and authority is just flat wrong. No matter what the economic leaders say, these actions prove to me and many others that their mental models of the world have failed. The status quo has ventured into the shallow sea of un-reason just to keep the global socio-economic system afloat. They’re able to hide behind authority and academic vocabulary which if put in plain terms for the lay person could be described as theft, ponzi, tyrannical and moronic.


Many were shocked at how wrong the media was about the entire democratic mood and political conditions of not just the United States but much of the world. It is scary for me to know that they know orders of magnitude less about economics and even worse the people they run to for guidance have failed the world miserably. And a HUGE part of the media’s predictive incompetence and narrative without substance is their economic incompetence. Many with the right economic lens could see the Donald Trump and Brexit phenomena from a mile away but this was an embarrassingly tiny percentage of the professional talking class who are supposed to inform the public.


The United States and much of the Western World has been put to sleep by nice, well meaning leaders(Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, etc) and their bloviating media sycophants. Unfortunately most have barely noticed the emergency financial measures put in place after the 2008 financial crisis are still very much in place all over the world and have even intensified. If the world economy was doing so well why is it under constant central bank life support?


The narrative parroted by the Western propaganda agencies NYT, CNN, NBC, BBC etc have been one of economic recovery justified by a flurry of statistical measures that any close analysis would dispel any perception of a well functioning economy for everyone. If looked through the prism of the common man and woman, centralization of financial power, and the fiscal sustainability of nation states this “recovery” has been an abject failure. If looked through the prism of increasing returns on assets owned by the asset owning population and super rich, then it’s been an overwhelming success.


Stock indices have gone through the roof on embarrassingly anemic world wide growth and nearly all those returns go to a very small percentage of the global population.


Financial markets have morphed into state propaganda tools yielding no useful information about actual economic conditions but rather the primacy of central bank alchemy and the greater fool theory of investing. Fake prices are way more dangerous than fake news because fake prices are intimately tied to resource allocation leading to large market distortions, fraud, and inequality. Many get the false impression that information in the form of an Arabic number are just facts that can’t be disputed. The stock market is up! The economy must be good! Government statisticians say unemployment is at 5%! Things must be great! Facts! Science man!


Last year the Bank of Japan was the biggest buyer of Japanese ETF’s, the ECB hasn’t found a corporate bond it doesn’t like, and the Federal Reserve knows it can’t raise interest rates in any substantial way without popping huge fat bubbles in the bond, stock, real estate, and auto loan markets.


These popular movements all over the west are aiming to disrupt, deconstruct, and transform. They are not the problem but the symptom of a system that is bankrupt partly because the underlying intellectual foundations are bankrupt. The world is yelling and puking because it’s sick.


These poisons include government backed inflationary money, flawed economic theory, and an immature understanding of risk. All of these have worked in conjunction to produce a fragile global financial system full of populations finally waking up from their credit based consuming binge and media induced coma.


Follow the Money

Inflationary money is the scourge of the common person and a boon to those who have privileged access to money. The longer one holds a dollar the less and less it buys overtime without fail. This is done on purpose and is a deliberate policy tool used by governments for various reasons and backed up with economic academic authority. No matter what the theories purport to aim for, in practice inflationary money allows for maximum purchasing power by those who first receive the newly minted currency and cheapens their liabilities i.e banks, governments, and multinationals. Once that dollar trickles down to the bottom of the social ladder it buys a fraction of the goods and services it used to buy. And whatever savings the bottom of the population has is eventually inflated away in the name of bank bailouts and never ending government deficits to fuel more demand.



The young working poor and working middle exist mostly on a cash economy, they don’t have real estate but if they do have real estate its just an over leveraged structure they work hard to get the privilege of sleeping in at night. Of course only after work. They don’t have well diversified portfolios, they don’t have tax advisors, and they don’t own businesses. They usually hold unsophisticated forms of cash. And you might not see the inflation per se in consumer goods or technology which is deflationary but you’ll see inflation in asset prices which disproportionately favor the old and rich while keeping the young and poor out of assets they might otherwise afford if their money kept its purchasing power over time.


This rapid asset inflation coupled with insignificant economic growth makes it hard for those at the bottom to dependably build wealth and become independent, self-sustaining citizens over time. Independent, self determined human beings are the lynch pin of a free, self governing society. Instead we have a nation of debt serfs who move up in the world by being allowed to borrow more i.e. credit cards, pay day loans, student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.


Inflationary money also encourages spending/consuming behavior instead of saving behavior which is the only way to increase wealth overtime and the hall mark of a sustainable long term society. Inflationary money transforms a society of prudent savers into a society of mindless consumers, hell bent on shortermism which we can see manifest itself not only in our transactional lives but also in our culture and government. Why hold on to something when it becomes worth-less over time?


One of the key attributes of money is the preservation of value. This is especially true for those that depend on money. Gold for this very reason has stood the test of time in the free market of money for thousands of years partly because it’s an element that is resistant to entropic forces, meaning it lasts overtime and everything else doesn’t. Everyone could trust that their labor value could be stored for very long periods of time and not decay in anyway, a powerful concept early in man’s history. And naturally when you have something that doesn’t decay or inflate away you want to store it and hold on to it and only trade it for something else when necessary.


Inflationary money punishes you for holding on to it for too long.


Its the Energy Stupid

Contrary to popular belief; energy, not money makes the world go round.


Printing more and more money will not make your economy better, it’ll weaken it, distort it, and eventually infect the culture. Money is the common unit of trust that bonds everyone together. There is nothing that is truly common throughout the 50 states more than our belief in and use of the US dollar for economic calculation, value storage, and economic transactions.


The slow measured desecration of the one thing that actually holds us all together will lead to and has led to a breakdown in trust between people, groups and institutions. This trend will continue as long as our financial alchemy continues.


Physicists and those of the historical sense posit over and over again that energy is everything. I call for an economic system that is intellectually and practically rooted in energy and is focused on the transformation of energy towards useful work not one sustained by financial engineering.


Unfortunately our collective productivity or ability to perform useful work has been declining ever since moving off an energy intensive money system to one that is managed by international banks and their nation state offshoots.


We’ve descended into an agrarian-like economic growth environment.


When the cost of money creation is basically nothing and its a good that can be exchanged for anything else, it makes sense that so many of the wealthiest come from the financial industry. They get a declining asset first, and it always gets replenished with no energy cost to them. Its no wonder we’ve become less productive as our financial system has taken over our means of production and has effectively turned the global economic system into a giant private equity LBO where money is debt, profits are private, losses are socialized, workers are commoditized , and the world with all of its complexity and ambiguity reduced to an impressive excel spread sheet.


Parasitic finance disguised as free markets, free trade, globalization, and inclusiveness. Creation and transformation is not the prerogative but a successful financial exit. A transactional society not a meaningful society.




Darwinian evolution itself can be characterized as increasing energy consumption and efficiency at the individual and species level. The key to biological evolution is to become better and better at capturing external energy supplies. The same goes for economic “evolution” if we think of the economy as an evolving organic system full of complex human beings.


The agricultural revolution allowed the human population to overcome the limitations of hunter gatherer energy cultivation. As a consequence of agriculture’s ability to fuel more and more human beings and free up human energy for more sophisticated tasks, the complexity and consciousness of our individuals and our collectives went up an evolutionary notch.


Likewise, coal was the basis on which the first industrial revolution was born and the ability to use petroleum birthed the second industrial revolution and has made our modern world possible.


Fossil fuels are cheap, abundant resources but we have yet to find a viable, scalable, and affordable alternative that can handle the sheer amount of energy demand modern societies need to function and are incentivized to consume. Remember, there is never enough consumption. There is never enough demand for those of the Krugman School.


Both coal and petroleum spawned all types of new products, industries, and social relations that are directly related and attributable to that specific resource. A huge economic leap forward will only be possible through cultivation of another energy source, more knowledge about our current sources, and a reorganization of our collective human energy.


Geo-politics is hyper focused on energy resources for a reason. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves, our societies would literally stagnate and billions would starve.


We can only imagine what new types of products, organizations, and social relations emerge from a new energy source.


Equilibrium? Wait…Whut?

Energy flux(change) is so fundamental to how our universe operates, yet a large amount of economic analysis depends on the incorrect idea that economies are in equilibrium or want to be in that state. The concept of equilibrium in physics or economics means a state in which essentially nothing happens. Unfortunately as Heraclitus and other ancient luminaries have often reminded us, change is the only constant.


We clamor for economic growth yet our experts’ models depend on the concept of equilibrium which is almost oxymoronic if our goal is growth. There is no growth or change in a state of equilibrium.


We want an economic system that is dynamic and changes with the changing social and physical reality not one that tries to keep its current “equilibrium”. Unsurprisingly almost all large economic models are based on equilibrium conditions and are always looking to “stabilize” or “optimize” the economy in its current state especially when its in a crisis.


Optimization of a system maximizes the effectiveness of a certain model of operation. This is perfect for incumbents who want to lock in their place in the world and maximize their profit potential. However to evolve consciously as a species we need to leave room for experimentation, iterations, chaos i.e. “mistakes”. This isn’t optimal within an existing system but allows for a new model to emerge and replace the existing system. A systemic self-overcoming. An unfolding of sorts.Truly creative destruction.


I see many economists and entrepreneurs as opponents even if that is not the intention of the economists. Academic economists are most needed by those who have power and want to keep it. Multinational corporations, banks, and governments. The last thing those entities want is disruption, their principal and interlocking goals are stabilization and optimization of the existing order. They have an incentive to “optimize” the current system and extract rents.


I would argue that hyper focus on optimization is the enemy of creative beings such as ourselves and makes us very unhappy and leads to blow-back from human beings. And rightfully so. But that blow back can get ugly.


Embrace the Chaos


“It is no different with the faith with which so many materialistic scientists rest content nowadays, the faith in a world that is supposed to have its equivalent and its measure in human thought and human valuations- a ‘world of truth’ that can be mastered completely and forever with the aid of our square little reason. What? Do we really want to permit existence to be degraded for us like this?—?reduced to a mere exercise for a calculator and an indoor diversion for mathematicians? Above all one should not wish to divest existence of its rich ambiguity: that is a dictate of good taste, gentleman, the taste for reverence for everything that lies beyond your horizon. That the only justifiable interpretation of the world should be one in which you are justified because one can continue to work and do research scientifically in your sense (you really mean mechanistically?)-an interpretation that permits counting, calculating, weighing, seeing, and touching, and nothing more- that is a crudity and naïveté, assuming that is not a mental illness, an idiocy.”?—?Friedrich Nietzsche


If you’ve ever taken a standard economics class the concept of equilibrium will undoubtedly be a part of the curriculum, probably in the form of a supply and demand graph. Unfortunately there is no proof that the equilibrium described even exists in an economic context or that an evolving complex system wants to be in a state of equilibrium.


If economics is going to be treated as a science it should have assumptions that are empirically derived from actual observations. Empirically derived assumptions allow for a coherent set of theorems to emerge that coincide with economic reality. There’s lots of literature debunking “equilibrium” as a useful assumption yet it is still used in economic models and taught in our elite universities and trickles down from there.


The taking down of the concept of “general equilibrium” strikes at the very foundation of mainstream economic thought. Economists are very intelligent men and women, but naturally a profession with a core assumption of equilibrium they are going to be employed and funded by people who want the existing equilibrium to perpetuate and optimize it to its highest efficiency. The bankers and government leaders essentially hired the economists to perpetuate a certain paradigm.



This is not to say that everything economists say, think, or recommend is bogus, far from it but the intellectual foundation of their thinking and our system is fundamentally flawed. Any builder would know that a shaky foundation will cause the collapse of any structure no matter how sophisticated the engineering on top of it happens to be. Unfortunately, their mathematical elegance is worthless if the starting assumptions are not empirically derived from actual observations in the universe! What a thought!


The new academic generation needs to tear down the concept of general equilibrium. Their forbearers went off on a flawed intellectual tangent and there needs to be a rehashing of some old debates that are philosophical in nature and value driven. The economic intelligentsia need to re-evaluate old assumptions and build from the ground up a respectable economic discipline that has a firm epistemological foundation.


Rooted in Energy, Not Faith In Confiscation

The first order of business from a practical perspective is to fix our international monetary system which is built upon our collective faith in the US dollar. The faith in the US dollar is really built on the domestic and international belief that the United States government will tax its citizens the appropriate amount at the right time and they can afford it. Put in more harsh language its the belief that the United States government can confiscate wealth from its electorate when appropriate. This puts the feds in a predatory financial relationship with the electorate even though many in the government may be well intentioned. The positioning matters.


What we need is money or monies that are rooted in energy not the extraction of wealth from the citizens of a nation state. Both gold and bitcoin are monies that are rooted in the transformation of energy. Bitcoin has its Proof of Work algorithm and gold has the physical mining process. The creation of state money is controlled by the minds of technocrats who are heavily immersed and heavily incentivized to perpetuate a system of equilibrium not one of transformation. It takes very little energy for central banks to create more and more currency to keep their shareholders afloat.


In contrast, bitcoin and gold are heavily energy intensive and require a massive amount of energy to produce and maintain. There are large costs to “mining” bitcoin or gold. The producers of them take huge risks. They have skin in the game, they are subject to organic market pressures, and there are physical limits to their efforts. And lets remember both have a rare supply.



Both bitcoin and gold are rooted in the laws of thermodynamics while the current economic theory and practice is openly inconsistent with those laws. The question becomes do you want a monetary system actively stabilized by the minds of persons with flawed models or one that is rooted in physical laws? I’ll take the latter.


Energy, not money makes the world go round. Energy is destiny.


When physical systems get pushed “far from equilibrium,” they escape this chaos by leaping into a higher-level state of organized order?—?as when water that is chaotically rushing down the drain suddenly leaps into a perfect downward swirling whirlpool?—?referred to simply as “order out of chaos.” If nonliving matter inherently possesses this drive to self-organization and order out of chaos, living systems certainly do?—?and that definitely includes evolution?—?a drive that philosophers often call “Eros,” an inherent dynamic toward greater and greater wholeness, unity, complexity, and consciousness.?—?Ken Wilber

Source: Energy, Money, and the Destruction of Equilibrium.

via Tyler Durden

Nevada U.S. Attorney Sets His Sights on the Las Vegas Cannabis Cup

The United States Attorney representing Nevada warned hosts of the annual Cannabis Cup earlier this month that attendees must comply with federal law banning the possession, distribution, and use of marijuana, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

“I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden reportedly wrote in a letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe, which is hosting High Time’s annual Cannabis Cup outside Las Vegas. “Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”

Incorrect? Or outdated?

Bogden’s letter is the first sign that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer wasn’t blowing smoke when he promised “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws at a press conference last week.

If attendees follow federal law to the letter, the Las Vegas Cannabis Cup will be quite different from cups past. The event, which has been held in Amsterdam since at least 1988, is one of the cannabis industry’s largest gatherings. The “cup” aspect is a contest between marijuana strains. The first Cannabis Cup wasn’t held stateside until 2010, just after Obama’s Justice Department issued the Ogden Memo signalling a more relaxed attitude toward state-legal medical marijuana. (The aforementioned Cole memo was a clarification of the Ogden memo; the Bogden letter is a rebuttal of Cole; federal marijuana policy is a shell game.)

Following the Reno Gazette-Journal‘s report, High Times released a statement today saying that it has worked closely with Nevada agencies, and was, prior to Bogden’s letter, “confident we would have an event that was a safe celebration of cannabis within Nevada’s medical cannabis statutes” and Moapa Tribal Law.

In light of Bogden’s letter, the magazine says “vendors, guests, performers and attendees are advised to comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding the use and distribution of cannabis and cannabis related products.”

As for Bogden, not to be confused with Ogden: He was first appointed U.S. Attorney of Nevada by President George W. Bush, and served six years before joining a private practice in 2007. He was nominated for a second stint by President Barack Obama in 2009.

I’ve reached out to High Times for more information.

from Hit & Run

NYC Reasonoids: Come Watch Cato’s Michael Cannon vs. HuffPo’s Jonathan Cohn on Free-Market Health Care

Can the free market provide the best medical care? On March 13, Cato’s Michael F. Cannon will debate health care policy with The Huffington Post’s Jonathan Cohn at the Soho Forum, a monthly Oxford-style debate series that “features topics of special interest to libertarians” and “aims to enhance social and professional ties within the New York City libertarian community.”Michael Cannon vs. Jonathan Cohn |||

Cohn and Cannon will be sparring over the following resolution: “A market system for medical care would save more people from suffering inadequate care than any other system.” At the beginning of the event, attendees will vote “yes,” “no,” or “undecided.” After the debaters have had their say, the audience votes again, and the side that’s gained the most ground wins the contest.

The throwdown will take place at the Subculture Theater, located at 45 Bleecker Street in Manhattan. Tickets are $18 (10 for students) and must be reserved in advance. Get them here. Doors open at 5:45pm, and the event starts at 6:30.

Audio from the event will be available the same week on Reason’s podcast (subscribe here).

Cohn is the author of Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis—and the People Who Pay the Price (Harper Perennial, 2007).

Cannon (“Obamacare’s fiercest critic“) appeared on the Reason podcast in November to discuss four things Trump could do to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Listen here:

from Hit & Run

Caught On Tape: Uber CEO Argues With Driver Over Declining Fares – “Take Responsibility For Your Own Shit”

Earlier this month, on Superbowl Sunday, in fact, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hopped into an Uber Black Car with two female companions for what he thought would be just another easy trip to the destination of his choice.  Unfortunately, this particular ride got a little more complicated than he had hoped when his driver, 37-year-old Fawzi Kamel, decided to confront him on Uber’s falling fares, which he alleged had cost him a total of $97,000 and forced him into bankruptcy.  After the ride, Kamel rated Kalanick at 1-star and submitted his recorded conversation with the confrontational CEO to Bloomberg

The first 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the video is nothing more than a series of awkward exchanges between Kalanick and his special lady friends along with a series of random body gyrations to the tune of Maroon 5’s “Don’t Wanna Know”. 

That said, things start to heat up when one of the young ladies implies that Uber is having a rough year financially (she must be a reader).  Of course, Kalanick responds by implying that burning hundreds of millions of dollars annually is all part of his master plan:

“I make sure every year is a hard year.  That’s kind of how I roll. I make sure every year is a hard year. If it’s easy I’m not pushing hard enough.”

But things really get interesting when Kalanick’s driver decides to confront him on falling Uber fares:

Kamel: “You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices.”


Kalanick: “We’re not dropping the prices on black.”


Kamel: “But in general the whole price is—”


Kalanick: “We have to; we have competitors; otherwise, we’d go out of business.”


Kamel: “Competitors? Man, you had the business model in your hands. You could have the prices you want, but you choose to buy everybody a ride.”


Kalanick: “No, no no. You misunderstand me. We started high-end. We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business.”


Kamel: “What? Lyft? It’s a piece of cake right there.”


Kalanick: “It seems like a piece of cake because I’ve beaten them. But if I didn’t do the things I did, we would have been beaten, I promise.”


Kamel: “But people are not trusting you anymore. … I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.”


Kalanick: “Hold on a second, what have I changed about Black? What have I changed?”


Kamel: “You changed the whole business. You dropped the prices.”


Kalanick:  “Bullshit.  Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”

Fast forward to the 3:50 mark for the fireworks:


As Bloomberg points out, this incident just adds to what has already been a relatively rough couple of months for Uber which has included everything from patent infringement lawsuits to sexual harassment charges to Kalanick being forced to resign from Trump’s business advisory council.

In December, Uber pulled its self-driving cars off the road in San Francisco after the California Department of Motor Vehicles said they were operating illegally without an autonomous vehicle license. In January, more than 200,000 people uninstalled their accounts, and #DeleteUber trended on Twitter, after the company was accused of undermining a New York taxi union strike protesting President Donald Trump’s refugee ban. On Feb. 2, Kalanick reluctantly left his spot on Trump’s business advisory council to appease the company’s liberal-leaning employees and users—not to mention its many immigrant drivers. On Feb. 19, a former software engineer at Uber wrote a blog post alleging that she had been propositioned for sex by her manager and that when she’d taken the issue to human resources, an HR rep had said that he wouldn’t be punished, in part, because he was a “high performer.” On Feb. 23, Alphabet’s autonomous car company Waymo sued Uber and its self-driving car company Otto, accusing an Uber employee of stealing trade secrets by downloading 14,000 files onto an external hard drive. On Monday, Uber’s head of engineering resigned after the company said it learned that he had faced a sexual harassment complaint at Alphabet, his former employer. He denied the allegations.

So where should we set the over/under on Kalanick’s remaining tenure with Uber?

via Tyler Durden

NY Teamsters Pension Becomes First To Run Out Of Money As Expert Warns “Pension Tsunami” Is Coming

The New York Teamsters Road Carriers Local 707 Pension Fund has won the unfortunate award for “First Pension to Officially Run Out of Money.”  According to the New York Daily News, and a host of angry former truck drivers who’ve had their pension benefits slashed, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) has officially been forced to step in and take over payments to retirees of the Local 707, albeit at a much lower rate.

Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially — which happened this month.


“I had a union job for 30 years,” Chmil said. “We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.”


“It’s a nightmare, it has just devastated all of our lives. I’ve gone from having $48,000 a year to less than half that,” said Chmil, one of five Local 707 retirees who agreed to share their stories with the Daily News last week.


“I don’t want other people to have to go through this. We need everyone to wake up and do something; that’s why we’re talking,” said Ray Narvaez.

Of course, the Teamsters 707 and other Teamster pension boards attempted to submit plans that would have cut benefits in order to prolong payments to retirees but those plans were universally rejected by the Obama administration…better that the pensions just run out of cash completely.  Per Pensions & Investments:

The Obama administration is in denial about the necessity of cutting pension benefits under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 to try to put distressed multiemployer plans on sounder financial footings and make them more sustainable. It must face reality and order the Treasury Department to stop blocking action.


So far the department, required under the act to approve proposed reductions, has rejected proposals by the Teamsters Central States, Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Plan and the Road Carriers Local 707 Pension Fund.


Ten plans total have applied for cuts, including the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, Syracuse, whose Aug. 31 application is too new to be listed on the Treasury’s website.


The Road Carriers 707 application stated that the plan projects it will become insolvent in February — only about five months away — absent suspension of benefits.


As desperate as the plan’s financial situation appears to be, the Treasury denied the application.

And while the Local 707 pension was the first to dry up, it certainly won’t be the last…

Also on the brink of drying up are the pensions for two Teamster locals — 641 and 560 — in New Jersey, union officials said. Plus 35,000 Teamster members upstate who are part of the money-hemorrhaging New York State Teamsters Pension Fund.


Bigger than all of New York’s Teamster locals combined is the Central States Pension Fund — another looming financial disaster that could leave 407,000 retirees without pensions across the Midwest and South.



Meanwhile, under the maximum benefits provided by the PBGC, many former Teamsters, like Ray Narvaez, said their monthly retirement checks have been slashed by two-thirds.

Then Narvaez, like 4,000 other retired Teamster truckers, got a letter from Local 707 in February of last year.


It said monthly pensions had to be slashed by more than a third. It was an emergency move to try to keep the dying fund solvent. That dropped Narvaez from nearly $3,500 to about $2,000.


“They said they were running out of money, that there could be no more in the pension fund, so we had to take the cut,” said Narvaez, whose wife was recently diagnosed with cancer.


The stopgap measure didn’t work — and after years of dangling over the precipice, Local 707’s pension fund fell off the financial cliff this month. With no money left, it turned to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government insurance company that covers pension.


Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. picked up Local 707’s retiree payouts — but the maximum benefit it gives a year is roughly $12,000, for workers who racked up at least 30 years. For those with less time on the job, the payouts are smaller.


Narvaez now gets $1,170 a month — before taxes.

Of course, as the Central States Pension General Counsel notes, the real “pension tsunami” will come when the massive “municipal and state plans go down next.”

The same crisis now hitting Local 707 has been stewing among numerous Teamster locals around the country for the past decade, he said, and that includes in upstate New York.


The trucking industry — almost uniformly organized by Teamsters — has suffered enormous financial losses in its pension and welfare funds due to a crippling combination of deregulation and stock market crashes, Nyhan said.


“This is a quiet crisis, but it’s very real. There are currently 200 other plans on track for insolvency — that’s going to affect anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million people,” said Nyhan. “The prognosis is bleak minus some new legislative help.”


And it’s not just private-sector industries that are suffering, he added.


“Municipal and state plans are the next to go down — that’s a pension tsunami that’s coming,” he said. “In many states, those defined benefit plans are seriously underfunded — and at the end of the day, math trumps the statutes.”

We’re looking at you Illinois

via Tyler Durden

Lavrov Vs. McCain: Is Russia An Enemy?

Via Patrick Buchanan of,

The founding fathers of the Munich Security Conference, said John McCain, would be “be alarmed by the turning away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.”

McCain was followed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who called for a “post-West world order.” Russia has “immense potential” for that said Lavrov, “we’re open for that inasmuch as the U.S. is open.”

Now McCain is not wrong. Nationalism is an idea whose time has come again. Those “old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism” do seem everywhere ascendant. But that is a reality we must recognize and deal with. Deploring it will not make it go away.

But what are these “universal values” McCain is talking about?

Democracy? The free elections in India gave power to Hindu nationalists. In Palestine, Hamas. In Lebanon, Hezbollah. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, then overthrown in a military coup welcomed by the world’s oldest and greatest democracy. Have we forgotten it was a democratically elected government we helped to overthrow in Kiev?

Democracy is a bus you get off when it reaches your stop, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, autocrat of Ankara, a NATO ally.

Is freedom of religion a “universal value”?

Preach or proselytize for Christianity in much of the Islamic world and you are a candidate for martyrdom. Practice freedom of speech in Xi Jinping’s China and you can wind up in a cell.

As for the Western belief in the equality of all voluntary sexual relations, in some African and Muslim countries, homosexuals are beheaded and adulterers stoned to death.

In Nuristan Province in U.S.-liberated Afghanistan this month, an armed mob of 300 besieged a jail, shot three cops and dragged out an 18-year-old woman who had eloped with her lover to escape an arranged marriage. Beaten by relatives, the girl was shot by an older brother with a hunting rifle and by a younger brother with his AK-47.

Afghan family values.

Her lover was turned over to the husband. An “honor killing,” and, like suicide bombings, not uncommon in a world where many see such actions as commendable in the sight of Allah.

McCain calls himself an “unapologetic believer in the West” who refuses “to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries.”

Lavrov seemed to be saying this:

Reality requires us here in Munich to recognize that, in the new struggle for the world, Russia and the U.S. are natural allies not natural enemies. Though we may quarrel over Crimea and the Donbass, we are in the same boat. Either we sail together, or sink together.

Does the foreign minister not have a point?

Unlike the Cold War, Moscow does not command a world empire. Though a nuclear superpower still, she is a nation whose GDP is that of Spain and whose population of fewer than 150 million is shrinking. And Russia threatens no U.S. vital interest.

Where America is besieged by millions of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico, Russia faces to her south 1.3 billion Chinese looking hungrily at resource-rich Siberia and Russia’s Far East.

The China that is pushing America and its allies out of the East and South China Seas is also building a new Silk Road through former Russian and Soviet provinces in Central Asia. With an estimated 16 million Muslims, Russia is threatened by the same terrorists, and is far closer to the Middle East, the source of Sunni terror.

Is Putin’s Russia an enemy, as McCain seems to believe?

Before we can answer that question, we need to know what the new world struggle is about, who the antagonists are, and what the threats are to us.

If we believe the struggle is for “global democracy” and “human rights,” then that may put Putin on the other side. But how then can we be allies of President el-Sissi of Egypt and Erdogan of Turkey, and the kings, emirs and sultans of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman?

But if the new world struggle is about defending ourselves and our civilization, Russia would appear to be not only a natural ally, but a more critical and powerful one than that crowd in Kiev.

In August 1914, Europe plunged into a 50-month bloodbath over an assassinated archduke. In 1939, Britain and France declared war to keep Poland from having to give up a Prussian port, Danzig, taken from Germany under the duress of a starvation blockade in 1919 and in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Danzigers’ right of self-determination. In the two wars, 50 million to 100 million died.

Today, the United States is confronting Russia, a huge and natural ally, over a peninsula that had belonged to her since the 18th century and is 5,000 miles from the United States.

“We have immense potential that has yet to be tapped into,” volunteered Lavrov. But to deal, we must have “mutual respect.”

Hopefully, President Trump will sound out the Russians, and tune out the Beltway hawks.

via Tyler Durden

RBOB Slides After Surprise Gasoline Inventory Build; New Record Glut In Crude

After a volatile day of White House rumors and denials, and OPEC headlines, WTI and RBOB ended the day lower ahead of tonight's API data which showed a slightly smaller than expected crude build (+2.5mm against expectations of +3mm). However RBOB prices tumbled after an unexpected build.



  • Crude +2.502mm (+3mm exp)
  • Cushing +544k
  • Gasoline +1.84mm (-1.5mm exp)
  • Distillates -3.73mm

While crude built again (the 8th week in a row), it was the swing back to a build in gasoline that is most notable…

If this holds for DOE data tomorrow it will be another new recod high for crude inventories.

Notably, along with denied reports of a shift in ethanol mandates, and reports of 94% OPEC cut complicance, U.S. shipments of crude by rail averaged ~377k b/d in December vs ~432k b/d in November, lowest since May 2012, EIA’s Petroleum Supply Monthly report shows.


The initial reaction post-API was weakness in RBOB (surprise build) and a jump in WTI but that quickly gave way as the realization was that it was still a build…

via Tyler Durden

Trump Proposes Cutting State Department Budget By 37%

One month ago, a media frenzy broke out after the WaPo reported of mass voluntary resignations at the State Department, to protest the arrival of Rex Tillerson. Shortly after, it was revealed that not only was it not a “mass resignation” (there were only four high level resignation) but it was all procedural, meant to streamline the transition from one administration to the next.

However, the bloodbath at the State Department – for years Hillary Clinton’s kingdom, and populated with many pro-Clinton staffers – may have been merely deferred because as AP reports, the Trump administration is proposing deep cuts in spending for diplomacy and foreign aid programs to help pay for increased military spending.

Officials familiar with the proposal say it calls for slashing more than a third, or 37%, of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development budgets. Development assistance would take the biggest hit.

In the current fiscal year, the State Department and USAID got $50.1 billion, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget. As AP sources add, a 37-percent cut would likely require reductions in staff, including security contractors at diplomatic missions abroad.

As the WSJ adds, people familiar with the deliberations said the Trump administration is examining the growth in spending by the State Department during the Obama administration, including that caused by the addition of special envoys, though they said that would not cover the proposed cuts. One U.S. official said that the State Department is looking at development assistance to other countries as a significant source for the cuts.

Word of the proposed cuts met with swift objections from Republicans and Democrats.

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Foreign
Relations Committee, said the budget process was only beginning. He said
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the process of preparing a

Others quickly slammed the idea: ”if it’s anywhere in the ballpark of what I’ve seen about the State Department, that’s definitely dead on arrival,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said of Trump’s State Department cuts. “That guts soft power and puts our diplomats at risk.”

Asked if Congress would support such deep State Department cuts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Probably not.”

Tillerson’s own response wasn’t immediately known, though he and Trump discussed the need to overhaul the department when he was interviewed for the job, according to a transition official familiar with the conversation.

“The department is working with the White House and OMB to review its budget priorities,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “The department remains committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security and prosperity of the American people.”

Trump is sure to meet similar push back from other US agencies as the threat of money being pulled away becomes all too real.

via Tyler Durden