Hope Hicks Resigning As Trump’s Communications Director

A day after she “Bannoned” members of the House Intel Committee during private testimony, White House Communications Director and longtime Trump confidante Hope Hicks is preparing to leave the West Wing, according to the New York Times.

Hicks is one of the longest serving members of the administration, and was a key player during the campaign – and in the Trump Organization’s media machine before that, where she was first brought on by Ivanka Trump to manage PR for Ivanka’s clothing line.


Hicks is leaving of her own volition, and has reportedly been mulling her departure for several months. According to several anonymous White House staffers, she told colleagues she had accomplished what she felt she could in the job. The job made her one of the most powerful people in Washington. Unlike most of the White House comms directors that came before her (during the Trump era and in previous administrations), Hicks worked primarily behind the scenes, and was one of the least visible members of Trump’s inner circle. She has rarely sat for interviews and profiles, and has made only a handful of public statements not directly pertaining to her job.

She did not say what her next job would be. A CBS News reporter said the exact date of her departure has yet to be decided, but will likely be some time during the next few weeks.



Earlier today, the Times reported that Hicks admitted to the Intel Committee that she had told “white lies” on behalf of President Trump (to the media, of course) – but had never lied about anything pertaining to the various investigations into collusion between the Trump camp and Russia.

Both Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly praised Hope in on-the-record statements made to the Times, and the White House Communications Department confirmed her departure.

“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Mr. Trump said. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

“I quickly realized what so many have learned about Hope — she is strategic, poised and wise beyond her years,” said John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. “She became a trusted adviser and counselor and did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the president’s agenda including the passage of historic tax reform. She has served her country with great distinction. To say that she will be missed, is an understatement.”

Speculation will turn now to the question of who will replace Hicks. In an interesting twist, media reports published this week noted that Trump has recently been pushing for campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, whom Hicks briefly dated during the campaign though Lewandowski was married at the time, to join the West Wing in a senior role.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2CPmrPI Tyler Durden

Trump Blasts Sessions, Billy Graham Remembered at Capitol, Georgia Teacher Fires Gun in Classroom: P.M. Links

  • President Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for having the Department of Justice’s Inspector General investigate potential abuse of foreign intelligence surveillance warrants instead of department prosecutors.
  • Billy Graham was honored at a private ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
  • A teacher in Georgia reportedly fired a shot in his classroom and then barricaded himself inside.
  • Students returned to Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida two weeks after 17 were killed in a mass shooting.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates will write Captain America for Marvel.
  • Temperatures in the Arctic have surged to above freezing.

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Ted Cruz Challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke, on a Possible DACA Deal: ‘I’m not seeing it’

Vanity Fair has already christened him Rep. Beto O’Rourke could mean blue wave hits deep red Texas in Senate race,” ran a CBS News headline this week. “Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke out-fundraises opponent Ted Cruz,” enthused Salon. Recent profiles of the 45-year-old former punk rocker have appeared the past few weeks in The New York Times, The Ringer, and CNN.

It’s a long way from even seven years ago, when O’Rourke was a city council member in El Paso whose tiny national profile was limited to being one of the few elected politicians in the country back then in favor of legalizing marijuana. He used that issue in part to who successfully primary a long-time House incumbent in 2012, caucusing with the New Democrat Coalition of self-styled pro-growth moderates. He sits on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, and has also sponsored a bunch of immigration-related bills during his tenure. And now he’s gunning for Ted Cruz.

I interviewed O’Rourke yesterday about immigration, guns, and weed on Sirius XM Insight’s Stand Up! With Pete Dominick program (we did a longer interview for Reason in 2015, and Mike Riggs also interviewed him here in 2013). The congressman wargamed upcoming negotiations over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“I’m not seeing it”), lamented that Congress doesn’t even debate things any more let alone vote, and reiterated his controversial assertion that we’re already enjoying “record safety and security on our border.”

The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Reason: Yesterday, the Supreme Court let stay an injunction against president Trump’s action on DACA. Can you give us a sort of snapshot: What is the state of play from your perspective on Capitol Hill on immigration negotiations and DACA, which expires in a week?

O’Rourke: I wish I had better news. While I’m grateful for the reprieve granted by the Supreme Court, and the finding that there’s at least something to the contention that the president’s decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious, I don’t know that my colleagues are making the most of this moment. We, as you know, cannot even get a vote—not scheduled, not taken, not even promised, not even alluded to by the speaker, who controls the ability to bring legislation to the floor. In the Senate, they devoted a week to this—which in Senate time, that’s like years—and were unable to get to 60 votes to move forward with any kind of meaningful vote or debate.

I don’t know what it’s going to take. The anxiety and fear that you see on the face of those Dreamers, stories that their friends and teachers are sharing with us from their communities, for whatever reason it’s not moving the majority to allow us to move forward on this. The way I look at it, having a vote doesn’t obligate anybody to vote a certain way, it just allows what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body to have the discussion and be able to understand this. Maybe I’m going to learn something by listening to my colleagues! But we don’t even have the opportunity to start there.

I don’t know if it’s going to be more pressure from the public, more of my colleagues facing the prospect of losing their re-election, to bring them to the table, but something’s missing in that debate right now. I wish I could do more to bring more people to the table. We’ll continue to try, though.

Reason: In the past, certainly 2006 and 2013, which were the big previous run-ups to an attempt at a comprehensive immigration reform—and who knows if this current thing is going to be comprehensive at all; I’d actually kind of bet against it—anyways, in the past, those negotiations have been between centrists, essentially. John McCain and Teddy Kennedy back in the day; in 2013 others from that point of view….

My impression from the outside is that the negotiations are actually between more the extremes on both sides, or at least committed activists. The Stephen Millers on the Trump side, and the more legalize-everybodys on the Democratic side. What is your assessment of who is going to be doing the real negotiation here?

O’Rourke: I’m more familiar with the House, where you see perhaps the first example that you gave playing out. If you have somebody like Pete Aguilar, who’s a Democrat from California, more of a centrist Democrat, in what they call a “frontline” district where the Democratic advantage is minimal, if it even exists. Will Hurd, a Republican, my colleague and neighbor in Texas, who’s on another one of those frontline districts.

They’ve come together with a Dreamer/border security deal that has, I believe, 27 Republican co-sponsors. By the math, if you figure most Democrats would vote for it, and you have those 27 Republicans, it passes the House. The logjam seems to be—you mentioned Stephen Miller—the White House plays the Trump card in this one with Paul Ryan. He said, “I will not bring anything to the floor that does not have the president’s approval,” and there’s been nothing.

Even the most extreme versions of a Dreamer fix or a border security bill have not seemed to satisfy the White House so far….It’s unfortunate given that the Constitution begins with the first article, which is Congress, and that Ryan seems to have abdicated our independence to the president’s advisors on this issue, and to the politics of immigration, and the fear and the paranoia of Mexican immigrants coming to get us that the president stoked—although he wasn’t the first to do this—in his maiden speech, and then promising a wall to keep them out despite record safety and security on our border.

You’ve got Ted Cruz promising to triple the size of the Border Patrol, which already has 20,000 agents. The average number of apprehensions for an El Paso agent, which is the largest sector on the Mexican border, is five for the entire year. I think the debate has really gotten off the tracks and away from reality and the facts.

Again, I come back to what will the political pressure be that forces Ryan to allow for a vote, or gets it to a 60 vote threshold on the Senate side of this? I’m not seeing it. It may take the math changing after the 2018 elections. I hope it doesn’t; I’m not going to assume that, I’m going to do everything we can with our colleagues. But it’s pretty dispiriting right now.

Reason: What, for you, is a deal breaker on an immigration deal? You referenced how border security, which is already tripled or quadrupled or quintupled over the past 10 years in terms of the money given to ICE and on the wall funding that’s already grown. So for you, if they’re putting X amount of money for more wall and fencing, is that a deal breaker? Is decreasing the total amount of legal immigration, is that a deal breaker for you? What are your flash points?

O’Rourke: I’ll try to keep an open mind, and I’m just reminded of the [saying about] not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. If we can make things better and it’s imperfectly done, well so be it.

It’s going to be really hard at a time of record safety and security on the U.S.-Mexico border. You have the lowest levels of northbound apprehensions in our lifetimes, and we’re spending about 19 and a half billion dollars on border security just in case a terrorist or a terrorist group wants to come get us from Mexico, which has never happened. I’ve asked the counter-terrorism folks, the FBI, the CIA: no instances of that. But just in case, we’re vigilant, we’re ready, we’re there.

To add more to the already 600 miles of fencing and walls and physical barriers along that 2,000-mile border, to further militarize our communities, to end migration as we know it—sometimes called “block migration,” “block chain migration,” or “family migration”—it’s going to be really hard for me to get there.

The Dreamers are the first to remind us that in their minds, at least, the original dreamers were their parents who made the decision to come here in the first place. I’m really open to listening to my colleagues about how we resolve that. There has to be a consequence for breaking the law. There has to be an understanding that there are people who are trying to do this by the law and are waiting in lines that stretch 15 and 20 years long to get into the U.S. when they’re being sponsored by a family member.

I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, and I’m not going to be righteous on this. I also can’t make a compromise that will compromise who we are. The lasting shame of building a wall or ending an immigration process that allowed my family to be here and millions of others, just is not something that I could live with. I’m going to try to do my best to work and keep an open mind on these things, but those are some tough issues for me.

Reason: We’ve had four presidents in a row now who have made a show out of—or made a priority on, we’ll not be cynical—out of increasing border security and doing that sort of first before we get on to other issues there….In the political arena, for the most part, that has been just a kind of a no-brainer. It’s automatic: “Well, let’s just increase border security.” As someone who represents a border district and lives down there, can you give us a sense of what is a potential practical downside to the never-ending ratchet up of border security?

O’Rourke: Yeah. I’m glad you brought it up. For those of us who live on the border…this rhetoric, from Democrats as well as Republicans, is just so divorced from reality, and just stupid. I live in one of the safest if not the safest cities in the world. Yes, we have a lot of local and federal law enforcement who do a great job keeping us safe, but also we’re a community of immigrants. I think that’s correlated to our safety.

Democrats, especially, I’m disappointed with, because they make this concession that I don’t think they fully believe in. But they think that if they show that they’re tough on immigration, that they’re tough on the border, if they can talk a big game, then they’ll be able to get concessions on the other side for legalizing those who are already in this country. It’s just a failing strategy every single time.

When you begin with a premise that is just untrue, that the border is inherently unsafe and that we’ve got this raging problem there that requires more billions, more boots, more drones, and more military equipment, then the goal line will always continue to move back. You just can never get to 100 percent safety and security, and so you’ll never get to move on to the next issues.

I worked on a bill with John Cornyn, a Republican member of the Senate, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that would increase funding and staffing at our ports of entry. Why are those important? More than 99 percent of everything that comes into the U.S. from Mexico—legal entry, illegal entry, legal commerce, illegal commerce—comes through those ports.

More Customs officers means more people are inspected, more goods are searched. We have a better understanding of who and what is coming into our country. It facilitates hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S.-Mexico trade, millions of jobs throughout the country. Six million [jobs] is a conservative estimate by the Department of Commerce that depend on U.S.-Mexico trade. It’s good for jobs. It’s good for economic growth. It’s good for security. It’s a bipartisan solution [for] a legitimate concern.

I won’t just criticize past attempts on border security; I’m trying to offer something that I think makes sense and has found a bipartisan path forward. Maybe that becomes a starting point for negotiations apart from a wall, or ending migration as we know it right now.

Reason: Let’s shift gears to what the country has been talking about for the last 10 days, which is gun policy. You are running for statewide office in the state of Texas, which, last I looked, is a place where people kind of enjoy being able to have a gun….

O’Rourke: Right.

Reason: What do you want to see in terms of gun policies, reforms, going forward? What do you take from the president’s comments about bump stocks and suchlike?

O’Rourke: Yeah, yeah. No, Texas has got a great tradition and heritage when it comes to gun ownership. In my family, [I was] taught to shoot and own, handle a gun, by my uncle, who’s a jail captain and sheriff’s deputy and proud marksman. That’s the story for a lot of Texans who use guns for hunting, or self-protection, or collection, or sport. All of which are fine and legitimate.

As I listen to the Texans across the state and hold these town hall meetings, they don’t understand why, for example, the Centers for Disease Control is functionally prohibited from even studying gun violence so that lawmakers like me can make better-informed policy and decisions. They don’t understand why we don’t have comprehensive universal background checks, why there are still millions of gun purchases being made that are not being reviewed in this country. I take it from the Vietnam-era veterans who used AR-15s in the jungles of Vietnam, who ask why is this gun—which was designed for the sole purpose of being able to kill people as effectively and efficiently as possible—being sold to people in our communities right now?

Those are just three areas that I would like to find some common ground with my colleagues on. As you know, I’ve been in Congress for five years. There’s been not even common ground [on guns], much like immigration today, not even a vote. You can’t even have a debate.

Listen, I’m humble enough to know that I don’t know everything about this. I’d love to hear from my colleagues, what they think about this, and maybe they can convince me that there is a reason to be able to purchase an AR-15 and use that, and have those on the streets of our communities. I’m open to their argument, but we can’t even have the debate. I can think of nothing more un-American than being afraid of having the conversation and listening to one another and then coming up with a policy and voting. Up or down, what do you all think? …

Reason: A lot of people are paying attention to your race against Ted Cruz, for understandable reasons. I presume, without having done the research, that this will be the most expensive Senate race in 2018, just because Texas is big and it’s a big prize, certainly, for the Democratic Party. One thing that really struck me in just doing some Google News searches on you, they don’t mention pot. It’s like, you were Pot Guy eight years ago, and now it’s not even an issue. Does it even come up, like in cross examination? Has Ted Cruz tried to make you a weed guy?

O’Rourke: He has not. I mean, I don’t know that he’s even really acknowledged the existence of a campaign or an election.

I’ll tell you what’s interesting. I was in Waco, Texas, just off the Baylor campus at an ice cream parlor on Saturday night, holding a town hall meeting there. Mostly young people, good questions about gun safety and gun violence, cost of education. Then there was an older couple, and they pulled me aside afterwards.

The woman said, “Look, I’m too embarrassed to say this in front of everybody, but I have fibromyalgia”—which I’d never heard of before—”and it means there’s basically just pain throughout my body, almost all the time, severe fatigue, memory loss. The only thing that seems to work is medical cannabis, or marijuana, or pot, you know, whatever you want to call it. And, why in the hell am I a criminal in the eyes of the law for doing the one thing that makes this better, which even my doctor says is the thing that I should be taking?”

You listen to her, or you go to Greenspoint in Houston, and you listen to moms whose kids are in jail right now for marijuana possession. You go to…Wichita Falls, a whole neighborhood, and a lot of them are convicted felons. Their first offense was a marijuana possession arrest. They’ve just got police cruising that neighborhood looking for the next catch. Yeah, this absolutely has to be an issue that we decide in part through this election.

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“Take The Guns First” – Trump Breaks With Republicans Over Gun-Control Plan

President Trump told a group of lawmakers that they must do something to keep guns away from mentally ill individuals – even if that means raising the minimum age for rifle ownership to 21, Bloomberg reports.

His remarks appeared to contradict a CNN report from earlier in the week, which quoted anonymous White House aides saying Trump would soon walk back his support for raising the age limit.

But on Wednesday, in a surprise break with his Republican Congressional allies, Trump reportedly told lawmakers that easing gun owners’ ability to carry concealed weapons across state lines, a provision of the House-passed gun bill and the NRA’s top legislative priority, should be part of a separate bill. Per Bloomberg, this is a strategy favored by Democrats. The House bill combining background check provisions with the loosening of concealed carry rules has stalled in the Senate after passing the House. Instead, Trump said he supports the proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., which he says is best positioned to pass. Sen. Amy Klobuchar agreed that the Manchin-Toomey bill is a “good place to start.”



Trump predicted his plan would pass with broad support, suggesting that he plans to win over a sizable chunk of the Democratic caucus.

Trump told his audience that raising the ownership age is “something you have to think about,” Trump said. He added that “people don’t bring it up” because the NRA opposes the policy. Trump had initially claimed that he would convince the NRA to go along with it.

As the Hill pointed out, he also said he supports confiscating guns from mentally ill individuals, a position vociferously opposed by Republicans.

“I like taking the guns early like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida … to go to court would have taken a long time,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers on school safety and gun violence.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

He also said mentally ill people shouldn’t have guns.

“A lot of people are saying ‘oh you shouldn’t be saying that’,” Trump said. “But I don’t want mentally ill people having guns.”

To be sure, states don’t need to enact the exact same restrictions, Trump said. But “what does have to be the same is the background checks and all of the data.”

Per Reuters, Trump urged lawmakers to pass a comprehensive gun control bill as the national conversation surrounding gun control – a conversation that was triggered by a shooting at Marjory Douglas Tillman High School in Parkland Fla. The shooting left 14 students and 3 faculty dead, and more than a dozen injured.

Rebutting accusations that he is beholden to the NRA, Trump added that gun lovers have less power over him than lawmakers.


Earlier today, Dick’s Sporting Goods said it is “going to take a stand” and announced it would permanently ban sales of the AR-15 – the rifle used by Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz and several other mass shooters – from its stores.

The meeting with lawmakers was his fourth “free-flowing gun policy discussion” since the Valentine’s Day massacre in Florida, according to Reuters.

“We’re going to come up with some ideas,” Trump said.

“Hopefully we can put those ideas in a very bipartisan bill. It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everybody can support, as opposed to – you know – 15 bills, everybody’s got their own bill.”

Seven senators and representatives were invited to Wednesday’s session. The group included Democrats and Republicans who, according to Reuters, have diverse views on gun control.

Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who have proposed legislation to fix holes in the background check system for gun buyers, and their Democratic co-sponsors.

Trump also said he back Cornyn’s bill while urging senators to add more items to the bill to make it more comprehensive.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2FdVbQn Tyler Durden

FUBAR February: Stocks Worst In 9 Years As Record Win-Streak Abruptly Ends

This is the first down-February for The Dow since 2009, the worst February for the S&P 500 in 9 years, first down-month since Oct 2016, and biggest monthly drop since Jan 2016 (right before the Shanghai Accord)…

Well it happened…

This is also the worst month since August 2015 for ‘balanced’ portfolios with an aggregate bond and stock mix down dramatically (both bonds and stocks down)…

All the major RP funds bounced back but had ugly months in the end…

Let’s look at February for US equity indices – first cash…


And futures (which show the more extreme swings)…

Stuff started to hit the fan into the close today…Dow is down 700 points from when Powell started speaking in hawkish tones (and VIX is up 5vols)

So much for “rebalancing flows” into month-end.

Observing the rest of the February carnage…

  • Trannies worst month since Jan 2016

  • Small Caps worst month since Oct 2016

  • VIX biggest monthly jump since Aug 2015

  • 30Y TSY Yield biggest monthly jump since Nov 2016

  • 2Y TSY Yield up 6 straight months

  • HY Credit (HYG) worst month since Jan 2016

  • HY Spreads worst month since Sept 2015

  • WTI worst month since Aug 2017

  • Gold worst month since Sept 2017

  • Silver worst month since Nov 2016

Since The Fed last hiked rates, Gold is the winner and bonds the biggest loser…

The February equity carnage has been global…

  • European stocks had their worst month since June 2016 (Brexit) and worst Feb since 2009.
  • Japan’s worst month since June 2016.
  • China’s worst month since Jan 2016.


S&P saw its ‘VIX’ up most in Feb but the entire vol complex ended higher…


The S&P broke below its 50DMA…


Liquidity disappeared today – this was the lowest liquidity for any GDP data release day since at least 2008 (h/t Nanex)


Treasuries rallied today, erasing the Powell Pop in yields from yesterday…


Treasury yields were up dramatically in February (even more than January) – most since Nov 2016 (post-election spike)…


The yield curve has flattened dramatically in the last few days…

But February saw the biggest steepening in the curve since July 2017 (in fact the only steepening month since then).


10Y Breakevens are now up 6 months in a row (February barely scratched out a 1bps rise though)

On a side note, stocks were tick for tick with breakevens today…

The Dollar Index extended its recent gains today (best month – first positive month – for the dollar since October) but continues to trade in a relatively narrow range…


Dollar strength sparked more weakness across commodities today and while WTI plunged , silver was February’s worst performer…

All the PMs ended lower on the month…


WTI Crude had its first down month since August, tumbling below $62 handle today…

Cryptos were mixed in Feb – Bitcoin and Litecoin managed gains while Ripple and Ether tumbled…


Finally, we note Bank of America’s comments on just how crazy the last two years have been…

The 2nd day of Yellen’s Humphrey-Hawkins testimony on Feb 11th 2016 marked the last great “entry point” into the credit & equity bull market. At the time the meltdown in China/EM/oil/HY induced extremely bearish Positioning (the BofAML Bull & Bear Indicator was 0), tumbling global Profit estimates (-7% YoY), and a big Policy stimulus (Chinese/ECB credit easing)…all of which swiftly followed Yellen’s defense of the Fed’s decision not to resort to a Negative Interest Rate Policy in the winter of 2016.

And what an entry point it was… little more than two years later on the 1st day of incoming Fed Chair Powell’s testimony, global stock markets are up 58% (a remarkable $30 trillion in market cap), CCC-rated US high yield bonds 69%, bank stocks 68%, Emerging Market equities 81%, tech stocks 92%, oil prices 139%. Only two asset classes have been in bear markets since Feb’2016: the US dollar (-8%), and volatility (both the MOVE & VIX indices recently hit 50-year lows).

But one wonders, is that fun over now that China’s credit impulse has disappeared and central bank balance sheets are set to compress?


Bonus Chart:  According to analysts at Bespoke Investment Group the high-flying technology sector hit a potentially ominous milestone on Tuesday: It now amounts to more than 25 percent of the S&P 500 Index.

“It’s the first time the sector has made up at least a quarter of the S&P since a one-year period that ran from Thanksgiving 1999 through Thanksgiving 2000…Notably, the weighting only got above 25 percent for the final four months of the dot-com bubble when share prices were going insane.”

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2F1wOpQ Tyler Durden

Ron Paul: Is The (Tea) Party Over?

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

The recently-passed big-spending budget deal’s failure to generate significant opposition from the “tea party” has led some to pen obituaries for this once-powerful movement. These commentators may have a point.

However, few of them understand the true causes of the tea party’s demise.

The movement commonly referred to as the tea party arose in opposition to the 2008 bank bailouts. The tea party grew as its focus shifted to opposition to President Obama’s policies, particularly his stimulus spending bill, cap-and-trade legislation, and, of course, the health care plan tea party leaders successfully branded as Obamacare. In its early days, the tea party was equally opposed to big spenders in both parties. In fact, it was often harder on Republicans than on Democrats. Tea party groups even backed primary challengers to Republican incumbents.

Unfortunately, the tea party was quickly coopted by the GOP. As a result, while tea party groups still opposed Republican policies, they began muting their opposition to all but the worst Republican politicians. Now that Republicans control the White House and Congress, tea party groups have even muted their opposition to the policies. This reinforces the tendency of Republicans to support spending bills backed by Donald Trump or George W. Bush that they would have fought tooth and nail if they were proposed by Barack Obama or Bill Clinton.

The tea party’s effectiveness as a force for fiscal conservatism was also crippled by the support of too many of its leaders and favorite politicians for a hyper-interventionist foreign policy. Support for foreign interventionism logically requires support for huge military budgets, which conflicts with a commitment to fiscal conservatism.

Some tea party-backed politicians tried to reconcile support for militarism and fiscal conservatism by claiming to be “cheap hawks.” The problem with this formulation is that the so-called cheap hawks accept the neoconservative premise that American exceptionalism justifies US military intervention around the globe. This makes it impossible for them to resist the calls for increased military spending to ensure the United States has the ability to police the world in the name of “democracy.”

Devotion to protecting the military-industrial complex from the budget ax leads defense hawks to cut deals with progressives to increase spending on both warfare and welfare. We saw this with the recent budget deal, where so-called fiscal conservatives defended a $65 billion increase in domestic spending because it was necessary to get progressive support for an $80 billion increase in military spending. One cannot be both a budget hawk and a defense hawk.

Fortunately, while the tea party is dead or at least on life support, a related movement is alive and growing. This is the liberty movement that grew out of my 2008 presidential campaign. Ironically, one of the first events of that movement was called a “tea party.”

Unlike the tea party, the liberty movement does not just focus on domestic policy. It works to roll back government in all areas. Thus, the liberty movement is just as committed to ending unnecessary and unconstitutional wars and protecting civil liberties as it is to repealing Obamacare. Liberty movement leaders and activists also refuse to compromise their principles for the benefit of the Republican Party. The commitment to consistency and principle may be why the liberty movement is so attractive to young people. This growing movement is a source of hope that the cause of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government will prevail.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2oDp0PW Tyler Durden

Florida Killer Sought $800,00 Inheritance Before Shooting According To Court Filing

Accused Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz tried to obtain a reported $800,000 inheritance nearly two months before the shooting, according to court records.

The 19 year old signed a retainer agreement with lawyer Audra Simovitch on December 13 in order to pursue his share of the estate left behind by his adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, who died in November. Nikolas was set to receive his share when he reached the age of 22, according to an order by Broward County Probate Division Judge Charles Greene.

Simovich accused the public defender’s office of “obstructing justice” by denying access to Cruz, and telling the guardian of his younger brother, 42-year-old Roxanne Deschamps, that the suspected shooter may wish to “waive his interest in the estate.”

If Cruz is allowed to access the inheritance, he wouldn’t be entitled to a free defense attorney under Florida state law. 

Of note, a call placed to the FBI one month before the massacre by a person close to Nikolas Cruz said that he was set to inherit $25,000 per year from his mother’s life insurance policy when he turned 21 until the age of 30, and that she was worried that he would spend it on guns, according to transcripts leaked to the WSJ. 

One day after the February 14 shooting, Simovich filed court papers on behalf of Deschamps, claiming that she has an interest in Lynda Cruz’s estate since she is caring for Zachary Cruz – Nikolas’s brother, who has a 50% interest in the state of Lynda.

Zachary, who turned 18 last week, was reportedly taken to a psychiatric hospital “against his will” two days after the shooting at the request of Deschamps under Florida’s Baker Act.

After the Cruz brothers’ adoptive mother died, they moved in with Deschampps – however Nikolas was kicked out after a few weeks amid agruments over his weapons. Cruz then moved in with Kimberly and James Snead, who agreed to let him live with them last Thanksgiving on the condition that he keep his guns in a safe.

Of note, the caller who tipped the FBI off to Cruz a month before the shooting said that Nikolas was very defensive of his $25,000 per year inheritance, and that James Snead was going to invest it for him.

“He doesn’t know Nikolas from a hole in the wall. And I don’t know who he’s going to invest it with or what’s going to happen but I do know, and this is a fact, when you ask Nikolas for money, he goes up one rule and down the other. he gets crazy, because he will not give anybody his money. Matter of fact… the bank is all is, and, you know, to hell with everybody else including his brother.”

Simovich told The Post that she had yet to meet with Nikolas, but was planning to do so “probably before the first of March.” It is unclear whether he wants to waive his inheritance, which Simovich said is “one of the reasons I need access to him.” 

Cruz is being held without bail on 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2FG2fmL Tyler Durden

Geopolitical Risk Is On The Rise In Oil Markets

Authored by Nick Cunningham via OilPrice.com,

In the long-term, many oil analysts expect the world to become increasingly dependent on oil production from the Middle East, as U.S. shale fades in importance.

However, geopolitical turmoil is already causing disruptions in major oil-producing countries in the Middle East, raising questions about the region’s ability to supply the global market in the long run.

The IEA has repeatedly warned that while U.S. shale has led to oversupply in the short run, shale output cannot meet future demand by itself. By the mid-2020s, especially because there are questions about the longevity of U.S. shale, there could be a much greater reliance on the Middle East, just as there was in the past.

However, according to the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), the deteriorating geopolitical landscape in the Middle East could leave longstanding scars on the region’s energy sector.

Geopolitical threats are cropping up in various ways in the Middle East and North Africa. Formal institutions have been weakened, and in places like Libya, Yemen and Syria there is an absolute lack of legitimacy in government. Non-state actors have stepped into the void, such as Hezbollah, the Houthis, Libya Dawn, and others, according to OIES. These rivaling power centers make it tricky for oil companies and oilfield services to make investments.

As far as the oil market goes, these geopolitical problems are not obvious just yet. The glut of U.S. shale has inoculated the oil market from instability and unrest for the time being. Also, while there are plenty of sources of conflict and no shortage of potential threats, actual oil production outages have remained minimal. In fact, Iran ramped up production after the removal of international sanctions, while Libya, and Nigeria restored quite a bit of output after serious outages.

Nevertheless, geopolitical flashpoints are sowing the seeds of future supply problems, OIES argues. For instance, as tension bubbles, Middle Eastern governments are stepping up spending on security and defense, and the ballooning expenditures translate into higher revenue requirements. That means that a lot of key oil producers will need higher oil prices for their budgets to breakeven.

Moreover, geopolitical tension today is preventing the necessary investments in new production capacity. For example, while Iran was able to restore huge volumes of upstream production after the lifting of sanctions, the Trump administration seems set on ratcheting up tensions. It is unclear where this conflict is heading, but it is already deterring investment in oil and gas production capacity in Iran. French oil company Total is trying to invest in the South Pars Phase 2 project, but has suggested it might hesitate if U.S. sanctions returned.

Meanwhile, tension elsewhere has also inhibited investment in production capacity. For years, the Kurdish Regional Government has tried to attract upstream investment, but the conflict with the central government in Baghdad will prevent the region from scaling up output.

OIES also cites the case of Libya, where unrest is not only leading to the occasional outage today, but it essentially prevents the country from realizing its full potential. OIES pointed out that in a 2005 forecast, the IEA predicted Libya would ramp up output to 3 million barrels per day by 2030. That seems unrealistic at this point, and Libya’s production is down from its pre-war level of 1.6 million barrels per day (mb/d) and is now stuck at around 1 mb/d.

While this may not seem like an acute problem today, geopolitical instability becomes increasingly problematic as the oil market tightens. Already, the cushion of crude inventories has been significantly reduced. Any unexpected outage becomes more influential in a tighter market.

That is especially true because spare capacity is already thin, sitting at about 2 million barrels per day, which is at the low end historically. But spare capacity will shrink further once OPEC unwinds the current production cuts. As the oil market tightens, and absorbs new OPEC production, the EIA predicts that global spare capacity will fall to about 1.24 mb/d by the third quarter of 2019, an extremely low level.

As the years pass and demand rises, the global market will need more OPEC production. But as OIES argues, geopolitical turmoil today could prevent the group from bringing new supply online in the future.

In the near-term, the oil market will be well supplied with rising shale output and the prospect of the return of OPEC production.

(Click to enlarge)

But there are some serious questions about supply problems in the long-term.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2GQ9yYa Tyler Durden

Cancer Survivor Fined $2,260 for Providing Rides to Hospital Patients

In London, city bylaw officers fined a cancer survivor $2,260 for providing discounted rides to hospital patients—a service hospital staff said was invaluable.

For more than three years, the cancer survivor—an unnamed woman—served outpatients at St. Joseph’s Hospital, offering round-trip rides for those in need. Despite years of successful work and those in the hospital calling her a “critical volunteer,” her charitable operation was shut down after being a target of a police sting operation.

“I’m devastated,” she said, according to The Ottawa Citizen. “I had cancer and I just wanted to give back to the community.”

After her own health struggles, she saw the hospital’s need for drivers. Many patients were unable to arrange rides, and other alternatives were expensive. She charged the smallest fee manageable, $12 for round-trip rides, and refused tips. She drove her patients to and from appointments. She would offer her customers water and would walk them to their doors before departing. Having been a patient herself, she sought to be reassuring.

“I treat them well, the way I want to be treated,” she said.

On February 15th, her client—a cop—did not return the hospitality:

An enforcement officer called her for a ride, saying he was a patient getting a colonoscopy; she even providing words of reassurance on the ride to the hospital. But after he paid her, another enforcement officer ran over and issued her two tickets for owning and operating a vehicle for hire without a licence.

Chris Vinden, a doctor who performs endoscopies and colonoscopies at St. Johns, was upset by the news.

“From my point of view, she is providing a service to the hospital … It makes the hospital run more efficiently,” he said. “(She) solved a lot of problems for us.”

In addition to the $2,260 fine, the woman needs $450 to cover the cost of legal representation.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/2oD9IKU

“Don’t Try To Make Sense Of This”: Major Bank Give Up On Today’s Market

Confused by today’s whipsawed market action, which as much about month end flows, as it is about newsflow, post Powell jitters, breakevens, inflationary fears, and of course, whatever it is that Gartman may be doing? You are not alone: in its intraday macro update, the bank that is also the world’s largest currency trader, had some (very) simple advice for its clients: “Don’t try to make sense of this.”

It then clarifies, and we use the term loosely: “Price action today has been messy to say the least. The shortest explanation is, it’s month end and so there is little point in making sense of the move.”

Still, it highlighting a few notable moves:

  • Looking at broader markets, there’s a sense of risk reduction. It’s a sea of red in equities, yields and commodities. After discouraging signs in the DoE inventory report, the bears have taken WTI through one big figure to trade below $62, which seems to be weighing on energy shares. Some market observers have attributed this to be the trigger behind equities turning red. Elsewhere, bear flatteners have characterized the yield curve in the US, while European yields have sold off across the board.
  • Month end models suggested USD buying today, and we can see that has clearly played out. GBPUSD is the biggest underperformer today. The pair has traded through three big figures since the EU withdrawal agreement draft suggested further Brexit drama. The pair now trades at 1.3790, although major supports are approaching around 1.3765-1.3780 (converging 55d MA, trend line and February low). USDCAD meanwhile is above 1.28 for the first time since the Christmas period. The oil rout is unlikely to help and we could see a move towards 1.29
  • GBP performance in the crosses is arguably worse. GBPJPY has squeezed through the 200d MA at 147.78 to trade at 147.17 currently, levels we haven’t seen since September 2017. This has helped JPY be today’s top performer against USD, with the pair trading at 106.73 at time of print. 106.60-70 big level on the downside to break, contrasting sharply to CHF performance. USDCHF is back to testing the neckline of a major double top around 0.9440.

What is however most troubling – and fascinating – by far, is that having gone short overnight, Gartman appears to be right this time.

via Zero Hedge http://ift.tt/2oGJXtd Tyler Durden