Trump Calls For Waterboarding And “A Lot More,” Clinton Says Torture “Not Effective”

Earlier today, Donald Trump phoned into Fox News and delivered his initial reaction to this morning’s tragic events in Belgium where dozens of people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on the Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station.

Needless to say, these type of catastrophes play right into Trump’s hands. That’s not to say he isn’t genuinely perturbed and/or saddened by what happened. He probably is. But Trump has repeatedly proven to be far more savvy politically than anyone gives him credit for and one rule in politics is that you never, ever let a good crisis go to waste. Especially when your message is border security and the crisis in question has a definitive connection to migration. 

We cannot let these people into our country,” Trump told Fox, referencing Muslims, who he says are “having a hard time assimilating” into Western society. “They have to let people know when they see people making bombs on the first floor of an apartment,” he added for emphasis, in an apparent reference to the home of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino.

For Trump, Tuesday’s attacks are partial vindication of comments he made in January about Belgium. The GOP frontrunner called Brussels a “hellhole” after the international media picked up on the fact that the Muslim enclave of Molenbeek was used as a staging ground for the attacks in Paris. “If you went into Brussels 20 years ago, it was like a magical city,” he said this morning. “Not anymore,” a twitter post reads.

Last week, Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam was captured in Molenbeek after a firefight with police. Authorities contended that Abdeslam would provide officials with a wealth of information about Islamic State. You can expect Tuesday’s attacks to be trotted out by critics as evidence that whatever interrogation tactics are being used on terrorists in the post-Abu Ghraib world aren’t working. Or aren’t working fast enough.

Waterboarding would be fine and if they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding,” Trump said Tuesday morning on NBC’s Today, adding authorities “should be able to do whatever they have to do.”

“Do you think suspects give useful rather than false information [when tortured],” NBC asked.  “I’m in that camp,” the Republican frontrunner responded.

Listen, he continued, “you have to get the information and you have to get it rapidly.”

Trump didn’t elaborate on what “a lot more than waterboarding” meant, and he did acknowledge that some “laws” around interrogation should be upheld. Still, “liberal” views on torture are holding back terror investigations, he contended.

Other presidential hopefuls weighed in on Tuesday as well. For her part, Hillary Clinton called Trump’s suggestion that if something akin to Brussels were to happen in the US he would close the borders “unrealistic.” That would stop commerce for example and that’s not in anybody’s interest,” she told NBC.

As for waterboarding, Clinton simply dismissed Trump’s comments as vacuous. “Our country’s most experienced and bravest military leaders will tell you that torture is not effective,” she said, flatly, on ABC.

Perhaps Trump summed it up best: “We can’t be soft and weak… [that’s] why I’m probably number-one in the polls.” 


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Oil Rips On Yet Another Doha “Freeze” Meeting Headline (As Predicted)

Around 915ET we tweeted the need for an OPEC meeting headline as oil prices started to accelerate losses. 70 minutes later, the market’s “wish” was granted when Algeria (yes, seriously) announced they will attend, Nigeria is hopeful, and Libya said it would not attend… of course any headline is a buying opportunity and the algos went wild…

We tweeted…

And then, headlines hit…

  • *LIBYA SAID TO SKIP DOHA OIL-OUTPUT FREEZE MEETING ON APRIL 17
  • *ALGERIA’S SONATRACH SAYS OIL FOUND AT HASSI BIR REKAIZ WELL
  • Algeria Said to Attend Doha Meeting on Oil-Output Freeze Talks
  • Nigerian oil minister welcomes Doha meeting of oil producers and wants OPEC to take binding action to stabilize oil prices

And the machines went wild…

 

One wonders how many more times oil can rally on the same (or even less newsworthy) headlines.


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Brussels Attacks Give Cruz Another Occasion to Slam Obama for Not Saying ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’

Responding to the terrorist attacks in Brussels today, Ted Cruz once again faulted President Obama for refusing to name the enemy:

Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality. And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy—radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.

This semantic issue is dear to Cruz’s heart. The Texas senator brought it up during at least six of the 12 Republican presidential debates:

August 6: “We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, ‘radical Islamic terrorism.'”

September 16: “We will have a president willing to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ [if I’m elected].”

December 15: “We’re looking at a president who’s engaged in this double-speak where he doesn’t call radical Islamic terrorism by its name.” 

January 14: “I understand why Americans are feeling frustrated and scared and angry when we have a president who refuses to acknowledge the threat we face and, even worse, who acts as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.”

February 6: “This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy.”

March 10: “You’ve got to understand the nature of the threats we’re facing and how you deal with them. And yes, it is true there are millions of radical Islamic terrorists who seek to kill us. We need a president, commander in chief focused on fighting them.”

Obama argues (through his press secretary) that the phrase Cruz favors alienates Muslims and lends legitimacy to groups like ISIS by implying that they are acting in the name of Islam (albeit an extreme version of it). I tend to agree that trying to avoid the phrase (or variations on it that would presumably raise the same issues, such as “violent jihadists” or “militant Muslims”) is needlessly awkward. At the same time, Cruz’s faith in the quasi-magical power of labels tends to obscure the details of how exactly he would “completely destroy ISIS.”

What do you think: Is this a bogus issue?

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Donald Trump on Brussels: ‘I Would Close Up Our Borders’

TrumpDonald Trump has renewed his call to seal off the U.S. border and halt immigration—all immigration, it seems—until such time as we “figure out what’s going on.” 

Trump called into the Fox & Friends program on Fox News this morning to address the terrorist attack in Brussels. 

“I would close up our borders to people until we figure out what’s going on,” he said. “We have to be very, very vigilant with who we let into this country. We are taking in people without real documentation. We don’t know who they are or where they’re from. We don’t learn. I will tell you I’ve been talking about this for a long time. This whole thing will get worse as time goes by.” 

Trump has already proposed a travel ban for all foreign-born Muslims who want to come to the U.S. It isn’t totally clear if Trump is merely doubling down on that position, or broadening it to include all immigrants, from anywhere. A total immigration ban would be a logistical nightmare, according to The Washington Post

The closest thing to the latter we’ve seen in recent history was the grounding of flights after 9/11 — a temporary measure narrowly focused on the precise type of threat that had been presented. Beyond that, and beyond laws in the early 20th Century limiting particular types of immigration, we’ve never seen an incident in which the country halted all migratory traffic. (Which, of course, would be a logistical challenge of enormous scale.) 

It would also be profoundly illiberal and brazenly authoritarian to punish millions of non-threatening immigrants because of the crimes of a few. Trump wrote on Twitter that the U.S. must be “vigilant and smart,” if it wants to prevent the kinds of attacks that have rocked Paris and Brussels. But halting all immigration is neither vigilant, nor smart: it would be a reactionary, counter-productive course of action that increases the power of the government to disrupt the lives of ordinary, peaceful people. 

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FX Market Chaos Signals Brexit Risk Surge Post-Belgium

The markets’ various indicators of ‘Brexit Risk’ are all elevated this morning post-Belgium-attacks.

GBPUSD is tumbling…

 

But most crucially, the cost of protection against pound currency swings over EU currency swings has jumped to the highest ever signalling the highest market-impled risk of Brexit so far.

 

As Fed’s Lockhart warned yesterday, the contagious risk of Brexit will likely spread to the US economy – so this is not to be ignored.


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WTF Chart Of The Day: Richmond Fed Prints 9 Standard-Deviation Beat Near 23 Year Record Highs

WTF is going on? Richmond Fed's manufacturing survey exploded from -4 to 22 in March, beating expectations of 0 by the most ever). This is the 3rd highest print ever (in 23 years) driven by the highest level of New Orders in 6 years. Inventories tumbled, prices paid and received jumped, and expectations for future orders surged (despite stagnation in expectations for jobs).

WTF!

 

WTF!-er…

 

WTF!-est…

 

As everything exploded…

 

From the survey:

Fifth District manufacturing activity expanded in March, according to the most recent survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Shipments and the volume of new orders increased this month. Employment advanced at a slightly faster pace in March, while average wages grew moderately and the average workweek lengthened. Prices of raw materials and finished goods rose at a faster pace compared to last month. Manufacturers anticipated robust business conditions during the next six months. Firms expected faster growth in shipments and in new orders in the six  months ahead. Additionally, survey participants looked for increased capacity utilization and expected order backlogs to grow. Producers looked  for vendor lead times to lengthen modestly.  Survey participants’ outlook for the months ahead also included faster growth in average wages and the average workweek, with a pickup in hiring during the next six months. Over the next six months, manufacturers expected faster growth in prices paid and received. 

 

Current Activity 

 

Overall, manufacturing activity increased markedly in March. The composite index for manufacturing  climbed to a reading of 22, the highest since April2010. The index for shipments added 38 points and the new orders index advanced 30 points, finishing at strong readings of 27 and 24, respectively. Manufacturing employment grew at a slightly faster pace this month; the employment indicator added two points to end at 11. Backlogs flattened this month. However, the index moved up from last month’s -14 reading to settle at 1. Capacity utilization grew at a faster pace in March, pushing the index up 22 points and ending at 17. Vendor lead time also leveled off to a reading of 0 this month. Finished goods inventories rose at a somewhat slower pace compared to a month ago. That index lost two points, ending at a reading of 18. Additionally, raw materials inventories increased at a slower pace in March. That gauge moved down to 21 from 36. 

The spikes in New Orders, Average Workweek, and headline data all mark extreme cyclical tops in history:, so this "good" news seems like terrible cycle news… or did we just see the first triple-seasonal adjustment.


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Before We Know Much of Anything About Brussels Attack, Encryption Fears Already Invoked

Brussels attackWe know right now that at least 30 are dead from two terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, in explosions at an airport and a subway train.

We know very little else, and that vacuum of knowledge tends to get filled with speculation, knee-jerk solutions, and “question-raising” designed to draw attention to a pet issue.

In that last category comes Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of the House’s Intelligence Committee. We have no idea if communication encryption played any role in planning these attacks, but Schiff wants to have it both ways by bringing it up as an issue while not trying to speculate the facts. From The Hill:

The top House Intelligence Committee Democrat on Tuesday emphasized that officials are not sure whether encryption helped terrorists plan the Brussels bombings that have killed at least 34 people.

“We do not know yet what role, if any, encrypted communications played in these attacks,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“But we can be sure that terrorists will continue to use what they perceive to be the most secure means to plot their attacks,” he added.

It doesn’t appear that Schiff’s statement is in response to questions asked of him but rather a proactive positioning. Schiff’s attitude has been that he wants law enforcement to get access to communication but has openly worried that without some sort of “limiting principle,” government will regularly be calling on tech companies to break their security to assist in investigations even for small crimes.

It’s possible that Schiff is actually trying to get ahead of somebody else attempting to assert early on that encryption is to blame, but it ends up looking like he’s the one attempting to blame encryption, without committing in the event that he’s proven wrong.

And it’s possible that encryption wasn’t a major player in the attack. The information coming out of Paris from the investigation of last fall’s violence indicated the terrorists primarily relied on disposable burner phones, not encrypted communication, to pull off the attacks. If today’s attack turns out to be related to the Paris attack, we may end up seeing some of the same strategies.

And in case you missed it last night: The Justice Department may have figured out how to access San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook’s work iPhone without forcing Apple to help them.

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President Obama Addresses Cuban Freedom & Belgian Martial Law – Live Feed

Following yesterday’s awkward press conference, democracy-enforcing President Obama is set to address the Cuban people (living under a dictatorship). We are sure the Nobel-peace-prize winner will offer hope for ‘freedom’, suggest ‘change’ is coming, and downplay any fiction-peddlers. Of course, given the atrocities in Belgium we assume he will also address the lockdown and removal of personal freedom underway in Brussels also.

 

Live feed (Obama is due to speak at 1010ET)…


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