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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
August 31, 2017

Conservative Texans Love To Fight The Feds Until They Need Them

For Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), suing the federal government is a point of pride.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, Texas sued the administration at least 48 times. Abbott, who served as the state’s attorney general before winning the governorship in 2014, filed 31 of those lawsuits, according to the Texas Tribune. The Lone Star State has fought the federal government on matters ranging from drugs used for executions to climate change regulations. And Texas Republicans have refused to become part of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, turning their backs on billions of federal dollars.

Abbott is so skeptical of federal activities that he deployed the Texas State Guard in 2015 to monitor a U.S. military training exercise in the state. The move was seen as fanning conspiracy theories about the Obama administration, including one that claimed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was creating political prisoner camps in Walmarts.

But since catastrophic Hurricane Harvey hit, Abbott has eagerly accepted the feds’ support. (Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)


August 31, 2017

Venezuela to prosecute those supporting U.S. sanctions

Venezuela will prosecute those who supported recent U.S. sanctions against the South American country, its Constituent Assembly, made up of government supporters, agreed on Tuesday.

Last week, Washington imposed financial sanctions against Caracas in an effort to cut back funds for the already severely cash-strapped government.

President Nicolas Maduro described the move as illegal and designed to "asphyxiate" the economy and lead the oil-rich nation to default.

"We accept the call of President Nicolas Maduro to initiate, together with the competent state authorities, a historical judgment of treason against those engaged in the promotion of these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people," said Diosdado Cabello, a senior member of the body.


August 31, 2017

Maduro Now Owns Venezuela's Economy and Its Collapse

Venezuela’s socialist regime has consolidated near-total political control after installing an all-powerful constituent assembly. Resolving the economic crisis and coming up with $3.5 billion for bond payments through November however will prove trickier.

President Nicolas Maduro has thrived in the face of vicious street demonstrations, talk of military force by the U.S. and several rounds of sanctions. His new constituent assembly is bypassing congress and is expected to start rewriting the nation’s charter this week. But the end result may be that Maduro has sole ownership of the once-rich nation’s terminal financial collapse.

Maduro has been hunting for new financial lifelines in Russia as he’s slashed imports, called in debts and sold or mortgaged assets at a deep discount. As of July 31, the government had amassed $2.8 billion for its November payments, according to Caracas-based consultancy Ecoanalitica.

Reneging on debts could deepen the country’s cash squeeze and creditors could snatch up Venezuela’s assets abroad -- everything from refineries, to oil tankers and gas stations -- further undermining its ability to export.


August 31, 2017

Venezuela Bond Default Probable Fitch Downgrade Says

Fitch Ratings downgraded Venezuela's sovereign bond ratings deeper into junk territory, saying the imposition of U.S. sanctions last week further reduces government financing options and means "default is probable."

Fitch said it expects Venezuela's inflation to catapult from an average of 360% in 2016 to over 600% by the end of this year due to foreign exchange rationing, monetary financing of the fiscal deficit and price adjustments to counter scarcity. Fitch lowered Venezuela's long-term foreign and local currency IDRs, senior unsecured debt and the country ceiling to CC from CCC, and affirmed short-term foreign and local-currency IDRs at C. From the press release:

" ... sanctions on Venezuela by the U.S. government on Aug. 25 ... prohibit U.S. persons or entities based in the U.S. from a series of financial transactions with the government and government-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa), including any dealings in new debt as well as dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector and dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.

Venezuela's external liquidity ratio was weak before the sanctions at just 33% (the stock of central bank international reserves plus the banking system's liquid foreign assets relative to external debt with a residual maturity of less than one year). Gross international reserves have declined by nearly $1.2 billion in the year through August to $9.8 billion. Venezuela has additional FX liquidity in government-managed funds, but these have likely declined and remain opaque in their administration and execution. The U.S. sanctions will exacerbate the country's already-weak external liquidity.


August 31, 2017

Sore at Macron's 'dictatorship' criticism, Venezuela blasts France

Venezuela accused France on Wednesday of joining an “imperialist” campaign after President Emmanuel Macron portrayed the widely criticized socialist government as dictatorial.

Adding to criticism from Washington, the United Nations and major Latin American nations, Macron on Tuesday called President Nicolas Maduro’s administration “a dictatorship trying to survive at the cost of unprecedented humanitarian distress.”

Many countries are outraged at the Venezuelan government’s overriding of the opposition-led congress, crackdown on protests, jailing of hundreds of foes and failure to allow the entry of foreign humanitarian aid to ease a severe economic crisis.

Authorities say local opposition leaders want to topple Maduro in a coup with U.S. support, but its new Constituent Assembly will guarantee peace.


August 31, 2017

Venezuela policies leave democracy 'barely alive': UN

Source: AFP

The widespread rights abuses committed against protesters in Venezuela has left democracy "barely alive", the UN said Wednesday, after France branded the Caracas regime a "dictatorship."

A fresh UN report warned that the rights situation in Venezuela was at "grave risk" of unravelling further as the authorities continue to brutally repress demonstrators, and urged international action.

Recent actions by Venezuela's authorities "support the feeling that what is left of democratic life in Venezuela is being squeezed", UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told reporters in Geneva, where the report was launched.

Democracy in Venezuela "must be barely alive, if still alive", Zeid said.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuela-policies-leave-democracy-barely-alive-un-150711983.html

August 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey And The Potential Hypocrisy Of Texas Republicans

Texas Republicans, long accustomed to bashing the federal government, are already changing their tune now that Hurricane Harvey has devastated parts of their state.

An emergency aid package hasn’t surfaced yet, but Congress almost certainly will have to approve a spending bill to help those affected by the hurricane-force winds and widespread flooding in southeastern Texas. The question is whether that money will be offset by cuts to other government programs, whether extraneous spending will be attached to the package, and whether, under any circumstances, Texas Republicans will have a problem voting for it.

Money to help those in need from a lawmaker’s homestate isn’t a particularly tough vote. At this point, no Texas Republican has declared any sort of condition for their support of an emergency aid package. But when it was New York and New Jersey hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, all but one Texas Republican in Congress ― Rep. John Culberson ― voted against a $50.5 billion package to help people in those states.

That was no surprise. The Texas delegation tends to speak with one voice, and there’s little political repercussions for its members to vote against government largesse for another state.


I think the headline states "potential" because there's not been any Harvey relief legislation yet. But of course they'll all vote for it when it does come up for a vote.

August 28, 2017

Trump Has Essentially Abdicated The Basic Responsibilities Of A President

It was a stunning moment. On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the president of the United States does not speak for American values.

After deflecting questions from Fox News’ Chris Wallace about President Donald Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacist groups who incited deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, by saying that he and the State Department “represent America’s values,” Tillerson said that “the president speaks for himself.”

Tillerson’s statement caps a tumultuous two weeks in which Trump demonstrated that he has abandoned essential duties of the office, failing to provide basic, measured responses to violence and natural disasters.

Throughout last week, he continued to defend his widely condemned response to the violence in Charlottesville — in which he delayed and then backtracked on a denunciation of white nationalist, KKK and neo-Nazi groups — including during a campaign-style rally in Phoenix.


August 26, 2017

Venezuela's Maduro vows to punish opponents for US sanctions

Source: AP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed Friday to prosecute for treason opponents he accused of being behind sweeping U.S. financial sanctions that will strain relations between the countries and make it harder for the socialist leader to raise badly needed cash.

Maduro accused President Donald Trump of trampling on international law and relations with Latin America by taking actions that he said would cause "great damage" to the Venezuelan oil economy as well as American investors who own the country's bonds.

He singled out the president of Venezuela's congress, Julio Borges, as being the "mastermind" of the financial and economic "blockade" and called on the government-stacked supreme court and a new, all-powerful constitutional assembly to initiate proceedings against opponents who have lobbied in favor of the sanctions.

"You've got to be a big traitor to your country to ask for sanctions against Venezuela," Maduro said in a televised appearance.

Read more: http://thetandd.com/news/world/venezuela-s-maduro-vows-to-punish-opponents-for-us-sanctions/article_2397fa3e-7c6d-510a-949d-d99cc02654eb.html

August 25, 2017

Trump and his GOP allies could roil markets this fall

Traders worry about low volatility in financial markets, a possible sign of complacency as overvalued stocks hover near record highs. If they’re looking for more turbulence, they may be about to get it.

President Donald Trump and his GOP allies in charge of Congress have some important business to conduct in a short period of time once they return from a long summer recess in early September. First they have to raise the federal debt ceiling, so the U.S. government can continue to borrow the money needed to pay its bills. Then they have to pass legislation to fund the government beginning Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

This is the most basic business of government — keeping itself solvent and open for business. It ought to be pro-forma — but of course it’s not. And the Trump presidency could produce the extraordinary spectacle of one political party at war with itself, creating needless economic turmoil when it ought to be unifying in pursuit of shared goals.

Most senior Republicans say the only responsible path is to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government in short order, so they can move on to tax cuts, a longstanding Republican priority. The president himself is the wild card. Trump recently said he’d trigger a government shutdown if he can’t get $1.6 billion to start building his Mexico border wall, a project Republican appropriators aren’t eager to fund. And Trump continues to pick fights with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other key Republicans, sowing division within his party rather than harmony. All this suggests nothing will go as smoothly in September, as it should.


Could roil markets? I think it will roil markets. I'm seeing disturbing moving averages trends over the past 2 weeks.

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