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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 22nd of March 2021

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Anybody can be decisive during a panic It takes a strong Man to act during a Boom. VS NAIPAUL

“The businessman bought at ten and was happy to get out at twelve; the mathematician saw his ten rise to eighteen, but didn’t sell because he wanted to double his ten to twenty.”

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The front end of the us interest rate curve is flirting with negative
World Of Finance

Negative rates are the only escape hatch

Here's my alchemy formula. You take real $ rates, -100bps and you multiply by total debt-to-GDP, 450pc, and you get a negative real cost of debt at the macro level of -4.5pc of GDP, a trillion bucks. @hendry_hugh

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Wall Street tests Jay Powell’s mettle as long-term bonds tumble @FT.
World Of Finance

The US Federal Reserve is locked in a high-stakes showdown with markets.

This week, chair Jay Powell won plaudits for acknowledging a rapidly brightening economic outlook and the chance of a push higher in inflation, while emphasising his commitment to keeping interest rates at rock-bottom levels for the foreseeable future.

But this relaxed attitude to inflation is biting in to the price of long-term US government bonds, sending ripples across global markets. 

Despite Powell’s hands-off approach to the rise in yields, in contrast with his peers in the eurozone, investors are continuing to question how long the Fed can allow this to run.

“It is not the level of yields that matters, but how it interacts with risky assets,” said Gene Tannuzzo, global head of fixed income at Columbia Threadneedle Investments. “

If yields are moving up at a pace that is causing the stock market to fall and credit spreads to widen, then [Powell] will be a lot more concerned.”

In just the past week, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note jumped as high as 1.75 per cent, having traded around 1.6 per cent just days earlier. 

Since the start of the year, long-dated Treasuries, which mature in 10 years or more, have dropped almost 15 per cent on a total return basis, according to a Bloomberg Barclays index

If those losses are sustained, the first quarter of this year will mark the worst since at least the early 1970s.

The decline reflects a large upgrade among economists of inflation and growth forecasts, and a suspicion that the Fed will eventually be forced to bring forward its first rise in interest rates.

The European Central Bank has pushed back against the rise in yields on its turf, fearing a harmful rise in borrowing costs for companies and individuals at a delicate economic juncture. 

In contrast, the Fed chair has brushed off any unease, despite the ferocity of the move at times, in sharp contrast with the March 2020 episode when policymakers were in constant contact with banks and other market participants about the chaotic market moves.

The swiftness of the sell-off, which has begun to spill over into equity and credit markets, has rattled investors. 

In February, yields breached even some of the toppiest forecasts for the year, after a poorly received Treasury auction kicked off choppy trading.

Powell again dismissed the recent gyrations in the $21tn market for US government debt on Wednesday, reiterating that financial conditions across a variety of metrics remained “highly accommodative” and that the central bank would be concerned only about “disorderly” moves that threaten to undermine the economic recovery. 

To drive home the point, he suggested no intention to adjust the Fed’s $120bn monthly bond-buying programme.

“The market might push them to make a change in their behaviour but for now [Fed policymakers] have clearly indicated they do not want to directly participate in having an impact on the yield curve,” Rish Bhandari, a senior portfolio manager at hedge fund Capstone, said.

Mike Collins, senior portfolio manager at PGIM Fixed Income, warned that another sharp rise in Treasury yields could test their stance, however.

“Financial conditions do remain pretty loose, but if rates go up another [0.5 to 1 percentage point], that could really slow things down,” he said. 

The blowback in equity and credit markets could also be severe enough to prompt verbal intervention from the Fed, or even a shift towards the Fed buying more longer-term debt.

How the economic picture evolves as summer approaches could make the situation even thornier for the Fed.

Economists have already pencilled in a pick-up in consumer price increases this year as the economy reopens — a rise Fed officials say will be temporary. 

But the central bank’s endorsement of higher inflation, with its recent commitment to let inflation run hot to make up for past periods of undershooting its 2 per cent target, coupled with the enormity of the fiscal stimulus package recently signed into law have investors on edge.

“Markets have become incredibly concerned that the Fed will make a policy error in terms of higher inflation,” said Saira Malik, head of global equities at Nuveen. 

“The market can handle an increase in yields, but it needs to be orderly and driven by stronger growth and not going higher because the economy is overheating.”

Brian Rose, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, said he was watching longer-term inflation expectations closely for any sign that inflationary pressures could become destabilising. 

Five-year break-even rates, which are derived from US inflation-protected government securities, now hover around 2.6 per cent, just shy of the highest level since 2008. The 10-year rate is slightly lower at 2.3 per cent. 

“If they are too successful and inflation expectations threaten to become de-anchored, then it becomes an issue and would make it a lot harder for the Fed to maintain very loose policy,” he said. 

On Wednesday, the so-called dot plot of policymakers’ interest rate projections implied that the central bank would keep interest rates close to zero until at least 2024, despite the sharp upgrade in its growth forecasts.

“There is nothing for now that tells us we are entering a new inflation regime that will . . . force the Fed to tighten,” said Diana Amoa, a fixed income portfolio manager at JPMorgan Asset Management. “That said, there is a lot more uncertainty around that.”

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They fancied themselves free, wrote Camus, ―and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.

In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.

A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.

But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions

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A chief's palace in bandiagara - Mali, photo taken in 1911 @rhaplord

Built in typical sudano-sahelian architecture <the tukulor style of djenne> 

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Xi Jinping is both Sun Tzu ‘'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting''
Law & Politics

Xi Jinping is both Sun Tzu ‘'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting''

And hard edged at the same time.

He has brought Hong Kong to heel, he is prowling around Taiwan like a Lion prowled around our Tent one night in the Tsavo, he has marched 400 kms into Indian Territory and Narendra ‘’Benito’’ Modi has said nary a word.

Xi has taken calculated risks.

The muscular and multi-faceted nature of Chinese Power is seen in its handling of COVID19.

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Brutal statement from a senior Biden admin official on today's meeting in Alaska @vmsalama
Law & Politics

Brutal statement from a senior Biden admin official on today's meeting in Alaska, which notes that the Chinese delegation "seems to have arrived intent on grandstanding, focused on public theatrics and dramatics over substance. They made that clear by promptly violating protocol"

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The clown king: how @BorisJohnson made it by playing the fool @guardian @gdnlongread
Law & Politics

The long-running German satirical show Extra 3 recently featured a sketch with the following voiceover: “From the people who brought you The Crown – the epic saga of the Queen – now comes the ridiculous story of this guy, a notorious buffoon at the head of a country … The Clown.”

The word “clown” has often been used in a flippant or dismissive way with regard to Boris Johnson. But the underlying paradox is that it is only as a clown – a fool in the oldest and deepest sense of the word – that his character can truly be understood. 

What happens when you make the clown king is what we in the UK have been witnessing in real time. 

With the success of the vaccine, though, a new question emerges: can one archetype transform into the other? Can Johnson creep away from his clownish past altogether?

Clowns, of course, are very serious and important people. At their simplest, they remind us of the silliness of things: that the world we have created is ridiculous

They reassure us in this observation by appealing to our innate understanding of the absurd. They relieve the endless tension and trauma of reality.

At a deeper level, the clown is the mirror image of the priest. Both represent two ancient sides of our nature. Both elucidate what it means to be human. 

The priest summons, celebrates and interrogates the sacred; the clown does the same with the profane. The one is concerned with the eschatological, the other with the scatological. 

The priest propounds abstinence and fasting; the clown gluttony and indulgence. The one solemnifies sex, the other carnalises. 

As David Bridel, founder of the Clown School in Los Angeles, says, clowns are often roundly welcomed because they “remind us that we are as practised in falling over, shitting and humping, as we are in prayer and purification”.

Would-be biographers of Johnson might do worse than to read Paul Bouissac, the leading scholar on the semiotics of clowning. 

Clowns are “transgressors”, he writes, cultural subversives who enact rituals and dramatic tableaux that “ignore the tacit rules of social games to indulge in symbolic actions that … toy with these norms as if they were arbitrary, dispensable convention.” 

Clowns “undermine the ground upon which our language and our society rest by revealing their fragility”

They “foreground the tension” between “instinct” and “constraint”. 

Bouissac could be writing directly of Johnson when he adds: “Their performing identities transcend the rules of propriety.” They are, he says, “improper by essence”.

Observe classic Johnson closely as he arrives at an event. See how his entire being and bearing is bent towards satire, subversion, mockery. The hair is his clown’s disguise. 

Just as the makeup and the red nose bestow upon the circus clown a form of anonymity and thus freedom to overturn conventions, so Johnson’s candy-floss mop announces his licence. 

His clothes are often baggy – ill-fitting; a reminder of the clothes of the clown. He walks towards us quizzically, as if to mock the affected “power walking” of other leaders. 

Absurdity seems to be wrestling with solemnity in every expression and limb. 

Notice how he sometimes feigns to lose his way as if to suggest the ridiculousness of the event, the ridiculousness of his presence there, the ridiculousness of any human being going in any direction at all.

His weight, meanwhile, invites us to consider that the trouble with the world (if only we’d admit it) is that it’s really all about appetite and greed. (His convoluted affairs and uncountable children whisper the same about sex.) 

Before he says a word, he has transmitted his core message – that the human conventions of styling hair, fitting clothes and curbing desires are all … ludicrous. And we are encouraged – laughingly – to agree. 

And, of course, we do. Because, in a sense, they are ludicrous. He goes further, though – pushing the clown’s confetti-stuffed envelope: isn’t pretending you don’t want to eat great trolleys of cake and squire an endless carousel of medieval barmaids … dishonest? 

Oh, come on, it’s so tiresome trying to be slim, groomed or monogamous – when what you really want is more cake and more sex. Right? I know it. You know it. We all know it. Why lie? 

Forget the subject under discussion – Europe, social care, Ireland – am I not telling it like it is, deep down? 

Am I not the most honest politician you’ve ever come across? Herein the clown’s perverse appeal to reason.

Next, witness how, in the company of a journalist, Johnson’s whole demeanour transmits the sense of him saying: “Aha! An interview! How absurd! This is no way to find anything out! But, yes, if you want, I will play ‘prime minister’ and you can reprise my old role – if that’s what the audience is here for.” 

Notice how often he asks (knowingly) “Are you sure our viewers wouldn’t want to hear … ?” or “You really want to know this?” This is because the clown is always in a deeper relationship with the audience than with his ostensible subject

See how he rocks on his feet as if to lampoon a politician emphasising his words. Hear how his speech is not – in truth – eloquent, but rather a caricature of eloquence. 

The dominant mode is not fluency, but a kind of stop-start oratio interrupta; hesitancy followed by sudden spasms of effusion. 

The hesitancy is designed to involve us in the confected drama of his choosing the next word. The sudden effusion that follows can then be marketed as clinching evidence of his oratorical elan.

You do not have to be a dramatist to recognise the clown archetype immediately. Johnson’s impulsiveness. The self-summoned crises. His attitude to truth, to authority, to every construct of law and art and politics, to power and to pleasure. 

His personal relationships and his relationship to the public. The self-conscious ungainliness. His blithe conjuring of fantasy and fairytale. The way he toys with norms – inverts, switches, tricks, reverses. 

The collusive warmth oddly symbiotic with a distancing coldness. Anything for a laugh. Everything preposterous. All of it richly articulate of the antic spirit that animates his being. 

Indeed, Johnson is an apex-clown – capable of the most sophisticated existential mockery while simultaneously maintaining the low moment-by-moment physical comedy of the buffoon.

Recall general election Johnson of 2019. Think of the famous moment where he drove a JCB through a polystyrene wall on which was written the word “Gridlock”. His union jack-painted digger burst through the polystyrene with the legend “Get Brexit Done” written on its loader. 

His subsequent speech even mentioned custard: “I think it is time,” he said, smirking, “for the whole country – symbolically – to get in the cab of a JCB – of a custard colossus – and remove the current blockage that we have in our parliamentary system.” 

This scene must surely be as close to the actual circus as politics in the UK has ever come.

Consider what is actually going on here. The wall is a wall that he helped create. Now he wants everyone to join him demolishing it. And he’s the man to lead the charge. Why? Because he’s the only one who can smash through the nonsense that is … the wall. Yet, he built the wall

Most of this nonsense is his doing – figuratively, literally, in the studio, in the country. And why are the hazard lights on? Because, of course, this is an emergency, for the clown must forever be concocting drama.

 An emergency that he has conjured and staged – to place himself in the cab of the rescue vehicle. Which is not a rescue vehicle. But a JCB. 

(Paradox inside paradox; is he destroying or rescuing?) A JCB painted as a union jack. Why? To celebrate the flag? Not quite. To mock it, then? Also, not quite. But in order to toy with it – to clown with it – to move back and forth across the borders of the serious and the comic.

“Time for the whole country,” he says, “symbolically – to get in the cab of the JCB.” Symbolically? Was ever a word deployed with so many layers of foolery? What – we thought he might mean we all get in the JCB? Of course, we didn’t. 

So who is he mocking with that word? He’s mocking everything – the stunt, us, himself – even in the moment of performance, he mocks his own performance. We cannot take him seriously and yet we must take him seriously. 

And note how that word “symbolically” steps up from the backstage of Johnson’s consciousness when talking of Brexit – which, as he well knows, is an act of symbolism at the expense of everything else.

The JCBs, the polystyrene walls, the stuck-on-a-zipwire-with-two-mini-union-jacks, the hiding in fridges, the waving of fish, the thumbs up, the pants down, this is the realm of the mock heroic – to which Johnson returns again and again. This is where he’s most at home. This is where he’s world-king. And he urges us to join him there. Nudges our elbows. Offers us a drink. Beckons us in. Smirks. Winks.

Johnson’s novel Seventy-Two Virgins is one long tour of the territory. The book is beyond merely bad and into some hitherto unvisited hinterland of anti-art. More or less everything about it is ersatz. 

Commentators who fall for his self-conjured comparisons to Waugh and Wodehouse miss the point entirely and do both writers an oafish ill-service. 

Because here again: Johnson is not seriously interested in writing novels at all. It’s not that he’s a fraud. Rather, as ever, he is a jester-dilettante peddling parody and pastiche. 

In truth, the attentive reader is not invited to take anything seriously about the novel – not its title; not its handling of character, dialogue, plot or point of view; not its dramatic construction, nor its stylistic impersonations. 

And certainly not its thematic dabbling. In fact, for more than 300 ingenious pages, Johnson manages to commit to nothing in the art of writing a novel so much as the attempt to be entertaining in the act of mocking a commitment to the art of writing of a novel. 

There is no heroic; it’s all mock.

“To a man like Roger Barlow,” Johnson writes of his clownishly named hero in the book, “the whole world just seemed to be a complicated joke … everything was always up for grabs, capable of dispute; and religion, laws, principle, custom – these were nothing but sticks from the wayside to support our faltering steps.”

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The clown king: how @BorisJohnson made it by playing the fool @guardian @gdnlongread [continued]
Law & Politics

Clowns have been with us through history. They turn up in Greek drama as sklêro-paiktês – childlike figures. 

During the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a clown-king was chosen and all commerce was suspended in favour of a wild cavort. (“Fxxk business.”) 

In Norse mythology, the archetype is the figure of Loki – silver-tongued trickster and shape-shifter who turns himself into horse, seal, fly, and fish. (Note the echo of the reference by a close ally of Joe Biden to Johnson as a “shape-shifting creep”.) 

In the Italian commedia dell’arte, there is the character of Pierrot. There is Badin in France, Bobo in Spain, Hanswurst in Germany. And here in Britain: Shakespeare’s many famous fools.

We need our clever fools, of course. Too much solemnity is sickly. We need the carnival. We need reminders of our absurdity. The culture should be subverted. The sacred should be disparaged. 

Institutions should be derided when they become sclerotic. We live in an age of posturing and zealotry and never needed our satirists and our clowns more.

But the transgressor is licensed precisely because they are not in power. The satirist ridicules the government – fairly, unfairly – and we smile because (ordinarily) they are not in charge of the hospitals, the schools, our livelihoods or the borders. 

We laugh and clap at the circus, the theatre and the cinema because we can go home at the end of the evening, confident that the performers are not in charge of the reality in which we must live.

Previously, of course, this was Johnson’s relationship to power. He was the clown-journalist tilting idly at straight bananas, Tony Blair, political correctness gone mad. When he was made mayor of London, he was in effect elevated to quasi-official court jester. 

There he was stranded on the zipwire (the buffoon parodies the circus trapeze act) but real power still remained elsewhere. 

Even during the referendum campaign, David Cameron and George Osborne were the government … whereas Johnson was continuing to perform the role of fool – holding up a kipper here, draped in sausages there, arriving in town squares with his red circus bus and a farrago of misdirection and fallacy. 

He was stoutly devoid of any real idea or concern for what might replace the structures he disparaged. 

His humour, his glee, his energy, his campaigning brilliance – it delighted and sparkled because he was free of responsibility, free to be himself, free to throw the biggest custard pies yet dreamed of in the UK.

Vanishingly few people had any serious idea of what was involved in leaving the EU; and resoundingly not Johnson. 

But those who simply wanted to leave because their gut instinct told them it was right to do so would have failed and failed miserably without him. 

These men and women – the likes of Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Steve Baker, Nigel Farage, Mark Francois, John Redwood, Gisela Stuart, Kate Hoey et al – were never more than a dim congregation of rude mechanicals. 

And what they required to win was someone who instinctively understood how to conduct a form of protracted public masque. 

Someone who could distract, charm, rouse and delight with mischief and inversion and a thousand airy nothings. (The clown was ever the perfect ambassador of meaninglessness.) 

But even Puck sends the audience home with an apology and the reassurance that all we have witnessed was but a dream.

We, however, have made our clown a real-world kingAnd from that moment on, we became a country in which there was only the mock heroic – a “world beating” country that would “strain every sinew” and give “cast-iron guarantees” while bungling its plans and breaking its promises

A country “ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles” and act “as the supercharged champion” of X, Y, Z. A country on stilts – pretending that we had a test and trace system that was head and shoulders above the rest of the world. 

A country performing U-turns on the teetering unicycle of Johnsonian buffoonery – A-levels, school meals, foreign health workers and more. 

A country of tumbling catastrophes. Trampolining absurdities. Go to work. Don’t go to work. A country proroguing parliament illegally here, trying to break international law there. Paying its citizens to “eat out to help out” in the midst of a lethal pandemic. 

A country testing its eyesight in lockdown by driving to distant castles with infant and spouse during a travel ban. 

A country whose leadership stitched up the NHS in the morning and then clapped for them at night. 

A country opening schools for a single day, threatening to sue schools, shutting schools. A country on holiday during its own emergency meetings. A country locking down too late; opening up too early. 

A country sending its elderly to die in care homes. A country unwilling to feed its own children. A country spaffing £37bn up the wall one moment and refusing to pay its own nurses a decent salary the next. 

A country doing pretend magic tricks with the existence of its own borders – no, there won’t be a border in the sea; oh yes there will; oh no there won’t; it’s behind you …. A country of gimmicks and slapstick and hollow, honking horns.

This is Eastcheap Britain and Falstaff is in charge. It is in the two Henry IV plays that Shakespeare most clearly illuminates the gulf between his great, theatre-filling clown, Falstaff, and the young Prince Hal who will go on to become the archetype of the king – Henry V. 

At the mock-court of Falstaff’s tavern, we are invited to laugh and drink more ale, pinch barmaid’s bottoms, dance with dead cats and put bedpans on our heads while Falstaff entertains us with stories of his bravery and heroism that we all know are flagrant lies. 

Says Prince Hal to the portly purveyor of falsehoods: “These lies are like their father that begets them, gross as a mountain, open, palpable.” Meanwhile, the realm falls apart.

Since we have no Hal and have crowned the clown instead, the play we are now watching in the UK asks an ever more pressing question: can Falstaff become Henry V and lead his country with true seriousness and purpose? 

Or is the vaccine-cloaked transformation now being enacted merely superficial – a shifting of the scenery?

The lies themselves are the problem. The kingly archetype embodies at least the ambition of sincerity, meaning and good purpose at the heart of the state. 

Whereas deceit continues to be the default setting on Johnson’s hard drive. 

Rory Stewart calls Johnson “the best liar ever to serve as prime minister” but writes that “what makes him unusual in a politician is that his dishonesty has no clear political intent”

But Stewart does not quite see that Johnson is the purest form of clown there is – “improper by essence” – and that truth and lies are like two sides of the argument to him: equally tedious, equally interesting, equally absurd, both a distant second in their service of tricks, drama, distraction, invention, manipulation.

He will write you two columns, four, 10, 100 – pro-Marmite, anti-Marmite; pro-EU, anti-EU. And then he’ll tell you all about them. All about how he couldn’t decide. 

Because not deciding is where all the drama is to be found and who cares about the arguments anyway? 

No, what the trickster wants is neither your agreement nor your disagreement. (For he himself agrees and disagrees.) 

What the trickster wants most of all … is for you to admire his trickery. 

Heinrich Böll, the German Nobel-prize winner and author of the truly great novel The Clown, answers Stewart’s question when he says: “You go too far in order to know how far you can go.”

The difficulty for the clown is that once truth and seriousness have been merrily shattered, they cannot be put back together and served up anew. 

Or, to put it another way, the buffoon who has just entertained the audience by smashing all the plates cannot now say that he proposes to use them to serve up a banquet in honour of himself becoming a wise and honest king. Everyone can see: the plates are all in pieces on the floor.

Meanwhile the realm really is still falling apart. Johnson’s predicament could not be more starkly illuminated than by the next existential challenge he faces: to do with the very nature of the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The other home nations have long seen him as a pantomime king and they are certainly not going to believe in any kind of transformation of character – vaccine or no. 

After all the centuries of blood and trauma, the Northern Irish are unusually united in feeling that they have been treated like stooges at his circus. 

Meanwhile, Scottish nationalists need only plaster their advertising hoardings with Johnson’s picture to swell their ranks with the as-yet-undecided. 

For too long, the other nations have witnessed the business of the kingdom being conducted clownishly – by bluster, mishap, side-effects, the unforeseen consequences of the last trick but one. 

How, then, can Johnson now present himself as a conscientious envoy of the union?

The ironies thicken here. Johnson is a lackadaisical student of history and he has entirely misunderstood his own destiny. 

(His book on Churchill is nothing so much as a plastic clown trumpet masquerading as a bugle.) 

Instead of uniting his country, he now finds himself facetiously hastening its breakup. And it is the Conservative and unionist parties that have facilitated him. They licensed their comforting fool and told themselves that he could restore a glorious past. 

But a leader who personifies tomfoolery and nostalgia is eloquent about sharpening decline not renaissance. 

You send in the clowns when something has gone wrong and you need to distract the audience.

Too late, the Conservatives now see that the same transgressive spirit they empowered has been childishly tearing at the very fabric of the kingdom they wish to conserve. 

In this paradoxical way, Johnson’s very essence summons the end of everything Conservatives most revere – everything that began with the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Act of Union in 1707.

And, true to his nature, Johnson invites this ending in the slapdash manner of a clown: inadvertently, by accident, as the result of a series of improvisations.

And so, at the last, we come to death. Which even the clown cannot toy with or mock. The figures are stark – 126,000 dead at the time of writing. 

In terms of total numbers, the four countries above us have much greater populations – the US, Brazil, Mexico and India. 

We have by far the highest death toll in Europe and the fourth highest death rate per million of the population in the world. 

There is no serious discussion that does not arrive at the conclusion that the UK has lost tens of thousands of men and women whose death was not inevitable. 

Not all of the losses are Johnson’s fault, but many of them are the direct result of his calls and his character. 

Research by Imperial College shows that up to 26,800 deaths could have been prevented had the first lockdown come just one week earlier. 

Then came the care homes disaster, the premature lifting of the first lockdown, the ignoring of Sage throughout September. 

And only a clown would begin the October announcement of a second lockdown with the phrase “good evening and apologies for disturbing your Saturday evening with more news of Covid” when the nation was already stiff with the legions of dead and had been waiting all day to hear from its leader. 

The run-up to Christmas was a catastrophe of mismanagement that all-too-inevitably became the January of 30,000 more people dead. 

Are we supposed to forget this legacy and “move on”? That is what Johnson is now tacitly suggesting. 

Like all storytellers, he knows the public remember endings, less so beginnings and seldom the middle. He did all he can, he says. He knows it’s not true, but that is what he is selling.

In dramatic terms, just as death reveals the life of the kingly archetype as noble and purposeful, so the clown is revealed as foolish and meaningless. 

When Hamlet takes hold of Yorick’s skull (another popular clown) in the graveyard, he asks: “Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning?”

And there’s another moment in Hamlet that’s germane here – the scene where Shakespeare has the prince instruct the visiting actors. 

Where Hamlet explicitly warns them about clowns. Warns them not to allow the clowns to distract the audience and make them laugh while important issues are being settled. 

Warns them that there are certain clowns who seek to do this merely to remain in the limelight – with no regard for either the meaning of the play, nor the understanding of the audience.

“Let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them,” Hamlet says. 

“For there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the meantime, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: that’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.”

Masks change, not archetypes. The fool still holds the stage. And pitiful ambition is precisely what we are watching.

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Mar 17, 2017 An incredibly amusing and erudite Foreign Minister @BorisJohnson Esq.
Law & Politics

He used the word syncretic describing UK and Kenya relations and then later asked me if i knew what the word meant which I did. 

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Whoever Controls The Narrative Controls The World
Law & Politics

The Pandemic and Political Order @ForeignAffairs @FukuyamaFrancis

Another reason for pessimism is that the positive scenarios assume some sort of rational public discourse and social learning. 

Yet the link between technocratic expertise and public policy is weaker today than in the past, when elites held more power.

The democratization of authority spurred by the digital revolution has flattened cognitive hierarchies along with other hierarchies, and political decision-making  is now driven by often weaponized babble.

That is hardly an ideal environment for constructive, collective self-examination, and some polities may remain irrational longer than they can remain solvent

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Global 526,232 #COVID19 cases yesterday grew 122,279,004 total 0.43%. One week average 0.39% growth rate (daily/total) up 1.17x past 2wks. @jmlukens

Global 526,232 #COVID19 cases yesterday grew 122,279,004 total 0.43%.  One week average 0.39% growth rate (daily/total) up 1.17x past 2wks.  2,699,935 total deaths expanded 0.39% yesterday with 10,409 new deaths.

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My concern is that Brazil which was the epicenter of the Virus in May 2020 is once again a Precursor and a Harbinger

And sure the numbers slid for around 6 consecutive weeks but they have bottomed out of late.

“I see a huge storm forming in Brazil.” Denise Garrett, vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington

The bottom line: P.1 is 2.5 times more transmissible than the wild-type B lineage. And way more transmissible than B.1.1.7. @bollemdb @obscovid19br 

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Professor Allen Bartlett 

Exponential growth unlike any other that we have seen. Brazil is a global threat @bollemdb

Model-based evaluation of transmissibility and reinfection for the P.1 variant of the SARS-CoV-2

The variant of concern (VOC) P.1 emerged in the Amazonas state (Brazil) and was sequenced for the first time on 6-Jan- 2021 by the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

It contains a constellation of mutations, ten of them in the spike protein.

The P.1 variant shares mutations such as E484K, K417T, and N501Y and a deletion in the orf1b protein (del11288-11296 (3675-3677 SGF)) with other VOCs previously detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa (B.1.1.7 and the B.1.351, respectively).

Prevalence of P.1 increased sharply from 0% in November 2020 to 73% in January 2021 and in less than 2 months replaced previous lineages (4).

The estimated relative transmissibility of P.1 is 2.5 (95% CI: 2.3-2.8) times higher than the infection rate of the wild variant, while the reinfection probability due to the new variant is 6.4% (95% CI: 5.7 - 7.1%).

If you have a "normal" pandemic that is fading, but "variants" that [are] surging, the combined total can look like a flat, manageable situation. @spignal

COVID19 Historic Peaks Deaths a day @brodjustice

I expect th P.1 Lineage to be dominant worldwide in 8-12 weeks notwithstanding the Focus on SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7

My Thesis is based on the ultra hyperconnectedness of the c21st World.

Therefore, I would be tempering my COVID19 optimism and holding my horses which introduces interesting dynamics into the markets.

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India 43,846 #COVID19 cases yesterday above 34,297/day avg up 110% past 2wks. @jmluken

COVID-19 avg 2wk case/day increase

#Bangladesh: 220%

#Azerbaijan: 176%

#Kenya: 171%

#Philippines: 134%

#Armenia: 112%

#India: 110%

#Pakistan: 105%

#Bosnia#Herzegovina: 102%

#Jamaica: 91%

#Bulgaria: 88%

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Whole of Germany rose to 103.9 across past even days, the @rki_de for infectious diseases said Sunday @dwnews

Within one day, 13,733 new Corona infections were also reported on Sunday — up from 10,790 cases a week ago. The seven-day incidence was 79 a week ago. It recently rebounded after temporarily falling below 60 in February.

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Structural Analysis of Spike Protein Mutations in an Emergent SARS-CoV-2 Variant from the Philippines

A SARS-CoV-2 emergent lineage with multiple signature mutations in the Spike protein region was recently reported with cases centered in Cebu Island, Philippines. 

Whole genome sequencing revealed that the 33 samples with the Ph-B.1.1.28 emergent variant merit further investigation as they all contain the E484K, N501Y, and P681H Spike mutations previously found in other variants of concern such as the South African B.1.351, the Brazil P.1 and the UK B.1.1.7 variants. 

This is the first known report of these mutations co-occurring in the same virus. 

The possible implications of the mutations found in the Spike protein were analyzed for their potential effects on structure, stability, and molecular surface character. 

The analysis suggests that these mutations could significantly impact the possible interactions of the Spike protein monomer with the ACE2 receptor and neutralizing antibodies and warrants further clinical investigation. 

Some of the mutations affecting the N and C terminal domains may have effects on Spike monomer and trimer stability. 

This report provides insights on relevant targets for the design of future diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines against the evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants in the Philippines.

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08-FEB-2021 :: We are at peak vaccine euphoria

Folks I followed on Twitter for their epidemiological excellence now simply recite Vaccine / Inoculation data like a liturgy.

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Ph-B.1.1.28 Figure 8 illustrates the signature mutation positions within the emergent Philippine variant with the expected functional effects of these mutations

Although many of the mutations reported herein have been documented before, this is, to our knowledge, the first report of the N501Y, E484K, P681H and N-terminal LGV141-143del mutations occurring together in a single virus. 

Figure 8 illustrates the signature mutation positions within the emergent Philippine variant with the expected functional effects of these mutations, and how these relate to the locations of mutations in other emergent variants worldwide. 

The co-existence of these mutations of concern, along with several others within Ph-B.1.1.28 must be further characterized in terms of transmission dynamics, pathogenicity and susceptibility to existing vaccines and antibody treatments.

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Israel case Study via @JMLukens


Israel is the best Vaccine Efficacy Proxy to look at and so far @IsraeliPM has a winning hand.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1884

Dollar Index 92.023

Japan Yen 108.75

Swiss Franc 0.93046

Pound 1.3853

Aussie 0.7725

India Rupee 72.3935

South Korea Won 1128.795

Brazil Real 5.4897

Egypt Pound 15.7038

South Africa Rand 14.8621

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314,467 Active COVID-19 Cases in Africa @BeautifyData

+2.683% from recent Low Print -39.5255% below record high reached in January 2021 


Looks like the Trough has been crossed 

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Africa is currently reporting a million new infections about every 67 days @ReutersGraphics

Ethiopia and Togo at Peak Seychelles 99% Ivory Coast and Kenya 95% Libya 92% 

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Seychelles 99% of peak 611 infections per 100K people reported last 7 days reporting 85 new infections on average each day, 99% of the peak — @ReutersGraphics

There have been 3,770 infections and 16 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

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“I have died many times,” Mugabe said in 2012. “That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I have died and resurrected and I don’t know how many times I will die and resurrect.” @thecontinent_

“Someone said Bingu is dead: government officials are going there to bring his coffin. So when I came here, I apologised and said, ‘In my haste to come to Malawi I forgot my casket at the airport; the casket is coming’,” the president joked.

But just two months later, the president really was dead. He keeled over in a meeting with a member of parliament, and was gone by the time he hit the floor.

The ruling party went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the president’s death from the rest of the country. 

This was to prevent the vice-president, Joyce Banda, from taking power – she was only meant to be a placeholder. 

So they strapped the president’s corpse into a hospital bed, stuck an IV drip in his arm and then flew the dead body to South Africa to receive “medical treatment”.

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Worst rodeo with a president’s failing health being shrouded in secrecy. That dubious honour belongs to President Umaru Yar’Adua. @thecontinent_

Before he died in May 2010, Yar’Adua had not been seen in public since a trip to Saudi Arabia the previous November, to receive treatment for acute pericarditis, a swelling of the heart membrane. 

He left the country without transferring presidential powers to his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, plunging Nigeria into a constitutional. 

With demonstrations in Nigeria and the diaspora and court cases arguing in favour of Jonathan’s elevation to the seat of power, Yar’Adua gave a curious radio interview to BBC Hausa in January 2010, saying he would return soon.

It was impossible to determine whether he was actually the one who gave the interview, and local media speculated wildly about his demise. 

The owners of Nigeria’s most prominent media outlets called for his resignation or impeachment weeks after the interview. 

By March he had returned to Nigeria, but no-one saw him, not even Jonathan, who had become acting president by this time. 

On May 5, the presidency finally announced Yar’Adua’s passing, to no-one’s surprise. 

The only debate was whether he had died hours before the announcement was made, or weeks.

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Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to claim that President Laurent Kabila was alive, if not well, last night even though one of his closest allies said his corpse was lying in a foreign morgue.

Both Kabilas were taken by helicopter to hospital in Kinshasa. But with outdated equipment there was not much the doctors could do. 

So Laurent Kabila followed the path of so many privileged Congolese in need of medical treatment and was flown out of the country.

If Zimbabwe's defence minister is right, Kabila was dead before the 747 touched down in Harare. Mr Mahachi says the body is now lying in a Harare morgue.

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Of Covid deniers and heart failures @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye comes from a long line of Africa’s greatest Covid-19 deniers. 

He calls his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza Sogo, Kirundi for grandfather. 

During his first foreign trip as head of state last September, he proclaimed the late president John Magufuli of Tanzania to be his Baba, or father, both dismaying and bemusing international relations experts.

In less than a year, Ndayishimiye’s immediate “ancestors” have officially been failed by their hearts — “cardiac arrest” for Nkurunziza and “heart complications” for Magufuli. 

Technically (and medically) speaking, dying of cardiac arrest might as well be a tautology. As a public relations tidbit, however, it feeds conspiracies and speculation.

That’s what happened in Burundi once the government announced that “cardiac arrest” had claimed the life of Nkurunziza on June 9, 2020. 

His passing followed a three-day silence from official communicators on his whereabouts. 

In Burundi WhatsApp groups, everyone knew the newly-minted “Eternal Supreme Guide” was no more, long before the formal communiqué.

The long suspense that preceded the announcement of Magufuli’s death felt like a replay of “Keeping up with the Nkurunzizas” in May/June 2020.

Meanwhile, Janet Magufuli, the First Lady, had been ill, “experiencing respiratory difficulties,” days before her husband disappeared from public view. Another illness that went unacknowledged.

Hopefully, Tanzania will begin to take Covid-19 as seriously as Ndayishimiye did once his “grandfather” trundled off to meet his maker. It would save lives. 

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After Magufuli, a difficult transition @Africa_Conf

The ruling party's old guard is set to back Samia Suluhu Hassan against a security cabal which was in charge for the last week

The main forces in contention are the old guard in CCM and a group of securocrats composed of Magufuli ultra-loyalists.

Until now, she was viewed as outside the ruling party's simmering factional contests. 

The constitution dictates that after being sworn in, the new president name a new Vice-President, who has to be approved by half of all MPs. 

Suluhu Hassan has within her gift a number of parliamentary seats, which she could allocate to placate rival factions. 

She could also use these to make strategic cabinet appointments and boost her standing.

The dominant faction within the party is an old guard loyal to former President Jakaya Kikwete. Bolstered by the return of once-key party financier, Rostam Aziz, Kikwete's influence is set to increase 

Also in this group is the former prime minister Edward Lowassa and former Secretary General of the CCM, Abdulrahman Kinana. 

They will push against some of the more unpopular Magufuli loyalists at the top of the party such as CCM Secretary for Ideology Humphrey Polepole.

Along with CCM Vice-Chairmen Philip Mangura and Ally Mohammed Shein, Polepole has announced there will be a special meeting of the party's central committee on 20 March in Dar-es-Salaam.

Other factions centre on Prime Minister Kassam Majaliwa, Local Government Minister Selemani Jafo and the former Environment Minister and Minister of State for Union Affairs, January Makamba. 

Makamba knows Suluhu Hassan well, calling her the 'most underrated politician in the country'.

Zanzibar president's Hussein Ali Mwinyi, who is the son of former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, is seen as a bridge between Magufuli loyalists and the CCM old guard and could play a key role in managing the transition. 

Mwinyi was to have presided at an official function, with Suluhu Hassan as guest, at State House in Zanzibar's Stone Town on 14 March. 

The event was cancelled because of Magufuli's health.

The securocracy, dominated by Magufuli loyalists, has kept a tight grip on the government in the past weeks and will try to protect their position in the new order. 

They include: Public Service head and Secretary General of the CCM, Bashiru Ally; former police chief and new Director General of the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS), Diwani Athumani; and Director of Operations at TISS, Frederick Kibuta. 

So far, Ally and Athumani have cooperated formally with Suluhu Hassan.

Tanzania’s new president has work to do Samia Hassan takes power amid tragedy, hardship and a very real pandemic @mailandguardian @thecontinent_ 

Samia [referred to by her first name, as per local convention] entered politics as a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives in 2000. 

She served in various capacities in the autonomous region’s government, including as tourism minister, before moving to the mainland.

In 2010, she shot to national prominence, winning a seat in the Tanzanian Parliament where she served until Magufuli handpicked her as his running mate during his successful first term campaign in 2015.

Samia is considered an introvert and contemplative thinker, the opposite of her more off-the-cuff predecessor, Magufuli, who craved the limelight and was fond of cracking jokes.

Magufuli took Covid-19 denialism to an extreme, famously saying “Coronavirus, which is a devil, cannot survive in the body of Christ. It will burn instantly.” 

In that spirit, Tanzania stopped recording official Covid-19 figures last April, but an investigation in The Continent last month found that hospitals were recording an increasing number of infections related to the pandemic.

Samia asked people to vote for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party but warned that even if they did not, the CCM would still win the elections. 

She compared voting for other parties to pouring sugar into Lake Victoria in a doomed attempt to sweeten the water.

And, while campaigning in the port city of Tanga last September, she argued that allegations that police officers were involved in the 2017 assassination attempt on opposition candidate Tundu Lissu could not be true — because had it been the police, they would have succeeded in killing him. 

Lissu was shot 16 times at his residence in Dodoma. “Our police officers are well trained, there was no way they could have missed him,” she said.

She was, however, the only high-ranking government official to visit Lissu in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was recovering after the attack. Perhaps, then, the benefit of the doubt is hers to lose

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Looks like @SuluhuSamia has retained her female OC-BG (head bodyguard), at least for now. @Chahali

Why am I so keen on her security detail? Simply because it is an open secret that the "Chato Mafia" would do anything it takes to get rid of her. 

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There are no blurred lines in the latest statement from the @PMEthiopia @YemaneGBerhe1

The Ethiopian gov is threatening to inflict severe punishment & misery to #Tigrayans unless their targets surrender.

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@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed

PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

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Congo heading to polls as Nguesso seeks to extend 36-year reign @AJENews @hamza_Africa

Voters in the Republic of the Congo will head to the polls on Sunday to elect a president in a vote boycotted by the country’s leading opposition party.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled the oil-producing country of five million people for 36 years, is seeking a new five-year mandate. 

The 77-year-old incumbent faces six opposition challengers but is widely expected to win.

“Congo is a dictatorship. It is impossible to have a free and fair election. Two former presidential candidates are in prison. Journalists and civil society leaders have also been jailed,” Ebina told Al Jazeera. 

“There is no credibility whatsoever in this election. Everyone knows the president will win,” he added

The election comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic and a drop in energy prices have battered the oil-reliant Congolese economy, which contracted by 8 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

Congo’s ever-increasing debt burden is also weighing heavily on the economy. In 2019, the IMF estimated the debt at nearly $9.5bn.

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Turning To Africa Spinning Top

Democracy from Tanzania to Zimbabwe to Cameroon has been shredded.

We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point

“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street''

Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming

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NOV 14 : African youth demographic {many characterise this as a 'demographic dividend"} - which for Beautiful Blaise turned into a demographic terminator

Martin Aglo, a law student from Benin, told Reuters: “After the Arab Spring, this is the Black Spring”.We need to ask ourselves; how many people can incumbent shoot stone cold dead in such a situation – 100, 1,000, 10,000?

This is another point: there is a threshold beyond which the incumbent can’t go. Where that threshold lies will be discovered in the throes of the event.

The Event is no longer over the Horizon.

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Forty- eight of the MDC-Alliance’s 88 elected MPs have been recalled. @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

Mnangagwa has rewarded his supporters in the opposition, making Khupe, who came a distant third in the 2018 presidential elections, the leader of the opposition in parliament, and forming the Political Actors Dialogue, constituted by opposition leaders who praise him.

Biti was not immediately available for comment but he told local media soon after the recall that he had participated in the elections under the MDC- Alliance ticket and not the PDP. He said Mnangagwa was behind the recalls. 

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The crate contains fresh fish from Lake Nakuru, a sewage-infested body of water in Nakuru county. @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

The reason the fish are being delivered so discreetly is that amid a thriving business, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute issued a warning on the high levels of metals contained in the fish that led the government to ban fishing from the lake. 

The fish have to be gutted and deep-fried quickly since there have been reports of them rotting within three hours.

“I get a variety of fish, like tilapia and catfish. Gutting some of the fish is a nightmare because they literally have small sewage pits in their stomachs, especially the catfish,” Grace says.

“But once I properly clean them and they join the other fish from places like Kisumu on the market, no one can tell where they are from. I sell the fish depending on the size, and they range anything from 50 to 400 shillings. I would like to take heed of the warning, but since Corona, I have been out of work and this is how I feed my family.”

Wafula*, a fisherman from Kisumu says he is laughing all the way to the bank. 

“I truly feel like divine intervention led me here,” he says. “At Lake Victoria I could go all night and come up with only a handful of fish – in these waters, I haul up nets and nets of fish each night. I can even afford to send money back to my family. How can something this blessed be a curse? I have not seen anyone even fall ill, let alone die from eating the fish.”

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Kakuzi reports FY Earnings 2020 Earnings EPS -12.80% here
N.S.E Equities - Agricultural

Par Value:                  5/-

Closing Price:           365.00

Total Shares Issued:          19600000.00

Market Capitalization:        7,154,000,000

EPS:             31.74 

PE:               11.499


Kakuzi PLC FY 2020 results through 31st December 2020 vs. 31st December 2019

FY Sales 3.608941b versus 2.888662b

FY Profit before Fair Value Gain 789.719m versus 931.063m

FY Fair Value Gain in non-current biological assets 57.813m versus 83.414m

FY Profit before Tax 847.532m versus 1.014477b

FY Profit After Tax 622.034m versus 713.439m

FY EPS 31.74 versus 36.40 

FY Cash and Cash Equivalents 1.670124b

FY Dividend 18.00 versus 14.00

Company Commentary 

''robust results'' 

Avocado and macadamia export volumes were higher than in 2019 but these were not sufficient to mitigate a significant reduction of 34% in the price of avocados

market prices in 2019 were at record highs

Significant increase in Tea Production [569m KG versus 458m KG in 2019] AS IMPACTED NEGATIVELY ON PRICE LEVELS 

Results also included the cost of the company defending itself from a UK Law firm who wished to bring Kakuzi into jurisdiction of United Kingdom

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@Kakuzi_Plc acreage @Bonneh_Oyunge
N.S.E Equities - Agricultural


Strong results. Diversified Portfolio. Attractive Plantation share. 

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ILAM Fahari I-REIT reports FY 2020 Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment

Par Value:                  

Closing Price:           6.84
Total Shares Issued:          180972300.00
Market Capitalization:        1,237,850,532
EPS:             0.82
PE:                8.341

FY Results through 31st December 2020 versus through 12 months through Dec 2019 

FY Revenue 324,669m versus 353.886m

FY Other Income 22.875m versus 25.323m

FY Operating Expenses [229.611m] versus [225.636m]

FY Bad Debts Provision [33.118m] versus [0.122941m]

Increase in Fair Value of Investment Property 30.091m versus 21.654m

FY Net Profit 148.025m versus 175.228m

FY Total Assets 3.883b versus 3.878b

FY NAV 20.86 versus 20.80

FY Distributable EPS 0.74 versus 0.80

FY Basic EPS 0.82 versus 0.97 

FY Headline EPS 0.65 versus 0.85 

Dividend 60cents a share 8.77% Yield 

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ILAM Fahari I-REIT - Audited Condensed Results for the Year Ended 31st December 2020. @tradingroomke
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment


a significant provision for bad debts as a result of non-performance of Anchor tenant at Greenspan Mall


8.77% is a good Yield.

2020 was a difficult year.

Looks inexpensive. 

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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March 2021

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