Monday Reads: Feux de Jois in Louisiana and Chaos Christmas in the BeltwayPosted: December 24, 2018
C’est la bonne nuit!
It’s Bonfire Night in the River Parishes! The fires are lit to guide Père Noël to the homes of Cajun children in the southern swamps of the state. Towers and all kinds of things made of timber are lit up and down the Mississippi River levees in St John the Baptist and St James’ Parishes.
Things are also being set on fire on Wall Street and in the Beltway but not in quite the same, joyous way.
I woke up this morning to news of a full blown and quite unnecessary financial panic in the markets. This was pretty shocking given its source is basically the President’s Great Depression-creating economic policy and whatever it is his Treasury Secretary did yesterday by asking all the big bank CEOs if they had adequate liquidity.
We’ve already got total panic on our middle east policy and the unceremonious exit of the only really capable cabinet member in the an increasingly corrupt and incompetent Trump administration. Oh, and the incoming Defense minister is basically a Defense lobbyist and numbers kruncher with absolutely no actual military experience. Merry Fucking Christmas Eve America! Meanwhile, the Dow Dive continues as noted by CNN.
Alarmed investors drove the Dow more than 650 points lower in a shortened trading session on Monday. Markets plunged after the Trump administration sent out confusing signals about markets and the economy.
The S&P 500 fell 2.7% and the Nasdaq was off 2.2%. The Dow, which fell 2.9%, and the S&P 500 suffered their biggest Christmas Eve declines ever.
Stocks initially fell on Monday following a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he had checked on the health of the country’s largest banks.
The market recovered late morning, but then slid even lower after President Donald Trump tweeted: “The only problem our economy has is the Fed.” Investors are concerned that Trump may fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
It’s like they just do whatever it takes to blow things up naturally. I’ve never seen anything like this and never thought I would see anything like this. It’s like all of them have shorted America. Here’s some other indicators in this Bloomberg Analysis.
U.S. stocks fell to the lowest since April 2017 as the turmoil in Washington rattled financial markets anew, pushing the S&P 500 to the brink of a bear market. Crude sank below $45 a barrel and the dollar tumbled.
The S&P 500 notched a fourth straight drop of at least 1.5 percent, a run of futility not seen since August 2015. It’s now down more than 19.8 percent from its September record and on pace for the worst monthly drop since 2008. Trading was 41 percent above the 30-day average in a session that’s normally subdued ahead of the Christmas holiday. The stock market closed at 1 p.m.
Investors looking to Washington for signs of stability that might bolster confidence instead got further rattled. President Donald Trump blasted the Federal Reserve, blaming the central bank for the three-month equity rout days after Bloomberg reported he inquired about firing the chairman.
The comments came after Steven Mnuchin called a crisis meeting with financial regulators, who reportedly told the Treasury secretary that nothing was out of ordinary in the markets. Traders also assessed the threat to the economy from a government shutdown that looks set to persist into the new year.
“Any kind of disciplined market-friendly messaging from the White House has gone out the window,” said Ernesto Ramos, head of equities at BMO Asset Management. “It’s all related to politics and the fact that the market’s figuring out there’s very little in the way of consistency and discipline.”
Did I mention that markets hate uncertainty? Wave hi to Meltdown Mnuchin who–according to Stephanie Rule –“Accompanied by his secret service detail- is attending cocktail parties, hitting the links and panicking bankers & markets on his own from Cabo” and I understand it’s an exclusive, private resort.
A legal battle that appears to involve Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has reached the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. on Sunday night ordered a weeklong pause on an ongoing subpoena fight, which may be the first known incidence of the high court weighing in on legal proceedings related to the Mueller probe into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
Roberts temporarily stayed an order holding an unnamed foreign government-owned company in contempt of court and accruing financial penalties for every day it does not comply with a subpoena the company has been challenging for months.
The stay will give the Supreme Court seven days to decide if the justices want to intervene in the case, and it could be the first time the full court hears a completely sealed court case, according to CNN.
The firm fighting the subpoena asked the Supreme Court to intervene after a D.C. Circuit Court panel ruled Tuesday that it was not immune to subpoenas because of its connection to a foreign government and the laws in the company’s home country, according to Politico.
Court filings in this case have been short on details and shrouded in secrecy for months.
Meanwhile, The Daily Beast has found some pretty unsavory things out about the acting Secretary of Defense. As I mentioned before, he appears to be just a glorified financial analyst who hawks expensive, unwanted shit from Boeing.
Shanahan said during his 2017 Senate confirmation hearing that technology, not strategy, is his expertise.
“I believe my skill set strongly complements that of Secretary Mattis,” Shanahan said. “He is a master strategist with deep military and foreign policy experience. As deputy secretary of defense and Secretary Mattis’ chief operating officer, I bring strong execution skills with background in technology development and business management.”
Pentagon ethics rules require Shanahan to recuse himself from any decisions regarding Boeing. But the plane-maker, which historically places second behind Lockheed Martin as America’s biggest defense contractor, has enjoyed a chain of successes winning major competitive contracts.
In August, Boeing snagged a $7-billion contract to build aerial-refueling drones for the Navy. A month later it won a $2.4-billion contract to build helicopters for the Air Force. In September, it also scored a $9-billion contract to build training jets for the flying branch.
A much smaller contract perhaps is the most troubling. On Dec. 21, Bloomberg reported that the Pentagon would request funding in the 2020 defense budget for a dozen upgraded F-15X fighters worth $1.2 billion. Boeing builds the 1970s-vintage, non-stealthy F-15 at its plant in St. Louis.
The Air Force for years has said it does not want more F-15s, instead preferring to order F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed for around the same price as the F-15X, per plane. But the Pentagon reportedly overruled the Air Force and added the new Boeing fighters to the budget.
Shanahan “prodded” planners to include the planes, according to Bloomberg—this despite the requirement that Shanahan recuse himself from decisions involving Boeing.
Well, it may still be a good bet to buy defense stocks with yet another industry flak in charge of such a huge budget that likes his toys.
House Speaker nominee Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed the president on Christmas Eve, as they sought to pin blame for the partial government shutdown on him.
“It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos,” the two top Democrats in Congress wrote in a joint statement on Monday issued after the Dow closed down 653 points in the worst day of Christmas Eve trading in history. “The stock market is tanking and the president is waging a personal war on the Federal Reserve — after he just fired the Secretary of Defense.”
“Instead of bringing certainty into people’s lives, he’s continuing the Trump Shutdown just to please right-wing radio and TV hosts,” they continued, arguing that it was unclear what exactly what the president was trying to get out of the shutdown.
“Different people from the same White House are saying different things about what the president would accept or not accept to end his Trump Shutdown, making it impossible to know where they stand at any given moment,” Schumer and Pelosi said. “The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it.”
If you really want to get panicked read his damn tweet fest today. He sounds more unhinged that usual.
After canceling his Christmas trip to Florida in view of the government shutdown, Trump was marooned this weekend at the White House watching hours of cable television news shows. Advisers said he stewed over commentary hailing Mattis as heroic — a human guardrail against the president’s impulses.
Trump was so angry with Mattis that on Sunday morning he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform the defense secretary that he was being pulled from office two months early, according to a senior administration official.
Mattis resigned in protest Thursday after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria over the strong objections of Mattis and others on the national security team. Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group, also resigned in protest over Trump’s Syria decision.
With Trump’s elevation of Shanahan, the list of senior officials serving on a temporary basis grows. The White House chief of staff, attorney general and Environmental Protection Agency administrator are each serving in an “acting” capacity. On Jan. 2, the Interior Department also will have an acting secretary.
Unlike Mattis, Shanahan was not in the military and has little foreign policy or government experience. Shanahan worked for decades at Boeing handling the aviation behemoth’s commercial aircraft and missile defense programs. Trump, who had complained to aides that Mattis did not share his enthusiasm for negotiating defense contracts, admires Shanahan for taking a special interest in such matters, according to a senior administration official.
Anyway, back to the Twitter Meltdown today because I need to end this post somewhere. This is from Salon.
On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was “all alone” in the White House because of the government shutdown. The partial government shutdownis due to Trump refusing to sign off on funding until he gets his border wall.
“I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security. At some point the Democrats not wanting to make a deal will cost our Country more money than the Border Wall we are all talking about. Crazy!” he tweeted.
“I am alone (poor me) in the White house.” What the actual fuck?
May you all be Bright and Merry!