May 22

Today’s News 22nd May 2017

  • North Korea's Latest Missile Test Brings Us One Step Closer To WWIII (Here's How We Got Here)

    As time goes on, North Korea’s nuclear program is making war with the United States more and more likely. As SHTFplan.com's Daniel Lang details, we’re on a terrible path that no one knows how to escape from.

    On the one hand, North Korea is clearly led by an unhinged and tyrannical government that can’t be trusted with nuclear weapons. So you can understand why the US is so determined to stop their progress with these weapons. But at the same time, those nuclear weapons could one day guarantee that the leaders of North Korea will remain in power for a long time. Those weapons would make any potential aggressor think twice about trying to invade the bellicose nation, so there’s no way that North Korea is going to abandon its nuclear program.

    Perhaps the only thing that’s preventing a war from breaking out right now, is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have an effective way to deliver a nuke, nor have they been making much progress in that arena. It seems like every time they test a long range missile, it fails spectacularly. So long as that state of affairs continues, war can be averted.

    Unfortunately, North Korea’s missile program has just made a huge leap. On Sunday they tested a new missile that was arguably far more effective than anything they’ve ever launched before.

    A Hwasong-12, a new medium long-range surface-to-surface missile, was launched from Kusong early Sunday morning. The missile flew roughly 430 miles, but the weapon was intentionally lofted. Analysts suspect the missile could potentially hit targets 2,800 miles away if fired along a standard trajectory.

    In other words, the missile was launched with a steep arc, as a opposed to a relatively flat trajectory. This was done so that the missile could be tested without launching it over any neighboring countries. Most experts believe that if the missile had been given a flatter trajectory, it could have reached American military assets throughout much of the Pacific.

    The North “appears to have not only demonstrated an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that might enable them to reliably strike the U.S. base at Guam, but more importantly, may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” John Schilling, a respected aerospace engineer who specializes in rockets, explained.

     

    With the ability to strike Guam, the North may now have the means to strike most major U.S. strategic assets in East Asia and the western Pacific. While this would be an impressive achievement, North Korea is determined to master ICBM technology. The missile tested Sunday may be the predecessor to a future ICBM.

    Is it any wonder why  North Korea is the perfect trigger for World War 3? This unstable nation is rapidly increasing its nuclear capabilities, and it’s a nation that China and Russia have a vested interest in keeping alive. They want a buffer state between their borders and South Korea, which is allied with the United States. So any conflict with North Korea (a conflict that is looking more likely every day) could easily drag more nuclear armed nations into the fray.

    Unless one side of this fight backs down, World War 3 is inevitable. And so far it doesn’t look like either side is willing to compromise on North Korea’s missile program.

    And here is how we got here, courtesy of Goldman Sachs – The Timeline of North Korea Developments

     

    Finally, Goldman's Jeff Currie and Mikhail Sprogis discuss gold as a hedge against geopolitical events

    …we find that gold can effectively hedge against geopolitical risk if the geopolitical event is extreme enough that it leads to some sort of currency debasement, and especially if the gold price move is much sharper than the move in real rates or the dollar. For these events, gold essentially serves as a call option and can therefore be thought of as a “geopolitical hedge of last resort.”

    …This analysis, however, doesn’t take into consideration gold market liquidity itself, which can be crucial when deciding to hedge via physical gold in a vault versus COMEX gold futures.

    Using a gold futures contract as the basis of the hedge makes the implicit assumption that market liquidity will not be a problem in the realization of a geopolitical event. The importance of liquidity was tested during the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Gold prices declined sharply as both traded volumes and open interest on the exchange plummeted. After this liquidity event, investors became more conscious of the physical vs. futures market distinction and began to demand more physical gold or physically-backed ETFs as a hedge against black-swan events.

    The lesson learned was that if gold liquidity dries up along with the broader market’s, so does your hedge – unless it is physical gold in a vault, the true “hedge of last resort.”

  • Gnome Underpants Gold Model, Report 21 May, 2017

    There is a often-promoted plan to grow your wealth. Here’s the background. The dollar is going to be worthless. Soon! The reason is because [their peeps in high places tell them / the Chinese / end of the petrodollar / historical fiat currencies / Rothschild Jekyll Island Master Plan Private Fed / Fed printing] will cause the dollar to collapse and gold will rocket to $50,000. In fact, it’s a miracle that the price is a mere $1,253 and it hasn’t already. It will, once people discover this One Weird Secret that They Don’t Want You to Know that we have been reiterating every day for decades.

    (By the way, Monetary Metals is about to publish the data to finally shine the full sunlight of disinfectant on this—stay tuned)

    The plan has three phases.

    Phase 1: You gotta buy gold. Now. In fact, call 1-800-BUY-GOLD now! That number, again, is one eight hundred bee yoo wye gee oh ell dee.

    Phase 2: Price goes up

    Phase 3: Profit!

    This is a bit reminiscent of the underpants business model on South Park. South Park of course showed phase 2 as “???” but the analogy holds.

    Pay particular attention to the context switch. The story switches midway from the-dollar-will-collapse to gold-will-go-up.

    In fact, these are the same thing. It is important to realize because a higher price of gold does not make you richer. Sure, you have more dollars but each of them is worth proportionally less. And why would you want to exchange your gold for collapsing Rothschild private bank petrodollar printing press Monopoly money? On top of this, the tax man will take a big chunk of any price appreciation. So, if you sell you have less wealth.

    Aside from being wrong as a matter of fact, it is an example of dollar thinking. It comes from the belief that gold is to be sold. That is not historically how people thought about it. Gold is money and those who have it should seek to earn a return on it, not sell it.

    This week, the prices of the metals went up. Perhaps that rubber stopper under the silver elevator is durable.

    However, as always we are interested in the supply and demand fundamental of the metals. We will show graphs, but first, the price and ratio charts.

    The Prices of Gold and Silver
    The Prices of Gold and Silver

    Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It moved lower this week.

    The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price
    The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price

    For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

    Here is the gold graph.

    The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
    The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price

    We changed to the August contract.

    August is far from expiration, and we see no sign of temporary backwardation (another phenomenon that disproves the naked short manipulation theory). And we see something clear and revealing. There is a steadily rising scarcity (i.e. the cobasis, the red line) and falling abundance (the basis, the blue line). The trend has been ongoing for many months, with not a lot of jitter. The scarcity of gold, as indicated by the August gold spreads, has been on the rise.

    For somewhat less time, the price of gold has been rising.

    Our calculated fundamental closed the week up another $21, to $1,275. That’s hardly “call 1-800-BUY-GOLD now before it hits $10,000” territory, but noteworthy nonetheless.

    Now let’s look at silver.

    The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
    The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price

    Last week, we said that “silver does not yet show any backwardation, though it’s close at -0.03%.” This week, it’s +0.1%. However, this is definitely temporary backwardation. The near contract in silver tends to fall earlier than the near contract in gold.

    Obviously, past a certain date, speculators looking to bet on silver would not buy the July contract but instead the September. Everyone may have his own boundary, in part depending on how long they want to hold the position. But clearly, for the marginal silver speculator, we are past that point in the July contract.

    So there is an imbalance, less and less buying. The selling (to roll July) may not be urgent yet, but silver is less liquid than gold. So a small imbalance will show up as a change in basis.

    Our calculated fundamental price of silver was down a few pennies.

    We will end on an amusing note. The previous week, we said:

    “We saw a technical analysis trader write a note this weekend. He said he plans to short silver on Monday. When the technicals and then fundamentals align, that can make for an interesting week.”

    Assuming he shorted it early on Monday morning, he might have top-ticked it at $16.40. On Tuesday, he could have closed at $16.05, for a gain of 2.1%. There has to be an easier way to earn a few bucks (and we never recommend naked-shorting gold or silver).

    Well, as of Friday silver is $16.84. Depending on how much leverage he used, that could be a big owwie.

    Keith will be speaking at the Mining Investment Europe event in Frankfurt in mid-June. He will be in London the week of June 19, and in New York the week of June 26. If you’re interested in attending a Monetary Metals seminar on GOFO and transparency in the gold market in either city, or to meet with Keith to discuss gold investment, please click here.

    © 2017 Monetary Metals

  • World Leaders Gather In Beijing While The US Sinks Into Irrelevancy

    Authored by Wayne Madsen via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    While vaudevillian comedy-like shouting matches broke out in the West Wing of the White House between President Donald Trump and his senior advisers and between the White House press secretary and various presidential aides, world leaders gathered in Beijing to discuss the creation of modern-day land and maritime «silk roads» to improve the economic conditions of nations around the world. Nothing more could have illustrated the massive divide between the concerns of many of the nations of the world and those of the United States, which is rapidly descending into second-rate power status, along with its NATO allies Britain, France, and Germany.

    While Mr. Trump was threatening to fire his senior White House staff, reprising his one-time role in his reality television show «The Apprentice», China’s President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and presidents and prime ministers from around the world sat down to discuss the creation of new international and intercontinental highways, railways, and maritime routes under China’s proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

    Even countries that are cool on the Chinese initiative, including India and Japan, sent representatives to the summit that carried a bit more clout than the pathetic representation of the United States, Matt Pottinger, a little-known special assistant to Trump and the senior director for East Asia of National Security Council. In fact, the only reason Trump sent anyone to represent the United States at the Beijing gathering was because of a special request made by President Xi during his recent meeting with Trump at the president’s private Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

    South Korea, which saw relations with China sour over America’s placement of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, sent a delegation to Beijing after a phone call between South Korea’s new liberal president, Moon Jae-in, and President Xi. Moon responded to the phone call by sending a delegation led by his Democratic Party’s veteran legislator to Beijing.

    Even North Korea, which rankled South Korea, Japan, and the United States by firing a ballistic missile into waters near Russia, sent a delegation to the Beijing meeting headed by Kim Yong Jae, the North’s Minister of External Economic Relations. The Trump administration, which sent a virtual unknown to Beijing, complained loudly about North Korea’s representation at the Silk Road summit. But Washington’s complaint was conveyed by someone as unknown as Mr. Pottinger, Anna Richey-Allen, a low-level spokesperson for the U.S. State Department's East Asia Bureau. The reason why the United States is being spoken for by middle-grade bureaucrats is that the nation that still believes it is the world’s only remaining «superpower» is now governed by an administration rife with top-level vacancies, inter-agency squabbling, and amateur league players.

    Even though major European Union member states were not represented in Beijing by their heads of government, Germany sent its Economy Minister, Brigitte Zypries. She warned, however, that the EU would not sign a Silk Road agreement with China unless certain EU demands on free trade and labor conditions were guaranteed. Germany’s reticence did not seem to faze other EU nations, which were represented in Beijing by their heads of government and appeared to be more avid in their support of the Chinese initiative. These EU member state leaders included Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Czech President Milos Zeman, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Moreover, had British Prime Minister Theresa May not been in the middle of a general election campaign, she would have been in Beijing. Nevertheless, she sent British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in her place.

    If the Trump administration hoped to convince world leaders to stay away from Beijing, it was sorely disappointed. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, was there, along with the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Also present in Beijing were the presidents of Turkey, Philippines, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Kenya, Uzbekistan, and Laos, as well as the prime ministers of Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Fiji, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

    Ministerial delegations from Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Maldives, Romania, Nepal, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates were at the Beijing summit. Japan was represented by the senior adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai. France, which was experiencing a change of presidents, sent former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

    The Silk Road initiative has projects planned in all the nations whose governments were represented in Beijing, except for the United States and Israel. In addition to the nations represented by their government heads of state and ministers, Silk Road agreements were signed between China and Palestine, Georgia, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Tajikistan, Brunei, Croatia, and East Timor.

    The one clear message the Beijing meeting sent out to the world is that America’s «unipolar» vision of the world was dead and buried. Even among Washington’s longtime friends and allies, one will not hear Donald Trump referred to as the «leader of the Free World.» That phrase has been discarded into the waste bin of history along with America’s insistence that it is the world’s only «superpower.» The United States is a power, a second-rate one that happens to possess a first-rate nuclear arsenal. But nuclear weapons were not being discussed in Beijing. Major projects were on the agenda, projects that when completed will leave the United States at sea in the propeller wash.

    President Xi, in his keynote address to the conference, said that the «One Belt and One Road» initiative is «a project of the century» and that will benefit everybody across the world. And to put his money where his mouth is, Xi said China will contribute 80 billion yuan (US$113 billion) as added financial impetus to create a global network of highway, railway, and maritime links in a recreation of the ancient Silk Road that linked China to the West. Meanwhile, in Washington, Trump spoke of having recorded «taped» conversations with his fired director of the FBI James Comey, setting off a political firestorm. A new global infrastructure being spoken about in Beijing and political hijinks the major topic of conversation in Washington. The United States has fallen into second-rate global status and is seriously ill as a cohesive nation-state but does not even realize it.

    China and Russia used the Beijing summit to showcase several Eurasian initiatives, including the Russia-inspired Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Both the Chinese and Russian heads of state let it be known that the BRICS alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was still a potent world entity, even though South Africa was not represented in Beijing by its president and India chose not to send any representative to Beijing.

    President Putin’s words to the conference about the new geopolitical status in the world were noteworthy: «the greater Eurasia is not an abstract geopolitical arrangement but, without exaggeration, a truly civilization-wide project looking toward the future.» In other words, the European Union, which is losing the United Kingdom as a member and will never see membership for Turkey, is a dying international organism. Other international initiatives, like the EEU, BRICS, AIIB, and the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), are leaving the EU and the United States in the dust. That was evident by the fact that the United States was represented in Beijing by an overrated desk clerk and the EU by a Brussels «Eurocrat,» the European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen.

  • Shocking Admission From NY Bankruptcy Judge: "Chapter 11, 15 Filings Have Exploded"

    A stunning soundbite was captured by a Bloomberg reporter during last week’s event at the American Bankruptcy Institute. According to judges speaking at an ABI conference Thursday in Manhattan, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is seeing a sharp rise in cases this year, with Chapter 11 and Chapter 15 filings outpacing national averages.

    “Chapter 11s and Chapter 15s have exploded” said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman, speaking at American Bankruptcy Institute event, cited by Bloomberg reporter Tiffany Kary.

    The numbers for the bankruptcy court which serves Manhattan are, frankly, horrifying: Chapter 11s have tripled in the first quarter of the year, while Chapter 15s for companies seeking U.S. aid for a reorganization in a foreign court have increased sevenfold, Chapman added.

    What makes New York data so dramatic is that the region’s bankruptcy filings contrast with national data, that show Chapter 11 filings are down slightly, Judge Carla Craig from Eastern District of New York said.

    New York is not alone it seems: As Bloomberg adds, Judge Brendan Shannon from Delaware said he has also seen an uptick in Chapter 11s and Chapter 15s, though not as marked as in New York. Shannon also sees trend in retail and energy sector bankruptcies continuing, based on current cases .

    The culprit? Take one guess:

    “The report is that for at least a lot of retailers, it is certainly a difficult, if not flat out impossible environment to operate in,” Shannon said. “We do see more of those cases likely on the horizon.”

    And while we appreciate the transfer of business from bricks and mortar retail to online, it is simply impossible that the millions of soon to be laid off legacy retail, minimum-wage workers will find suitable employment in the coming retail bankruptcy tsunami (which will claim the following 11 names next according to Fitch), and which will unleash a tidal wave of bankruptcies first across New York, and soon after, across the entire US. How far this particular destructive tsunami of default will reach, and how fast, will determine just how acute the next recession will be.

  • Softbank Chairman Making Good On Promise To Invest Billions In the US

    Looks like Softbank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son is making good on his promise to invest billions and create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

    The Softbank Vision Fund, now the world’s largest private-equity fund, announced on Saturday that it has raised over $93 billion to invest in technology like artificial intelligence and robotics, Reuters reported.

    Trump tweeted back in December that Masayoshi Son had promised to invest $50 billion in the U.S. – something that, according to Trump, wouldn’t have happened if Hillary Clinton had won the election.

    The announcement coincided with President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – his first trip abroad as president – and the signing of billions of dollars’ of deals between the two countries, including a $350 billion arms deal that’s been tagged as the largest ever. Softbank Group and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the kingdom's sovereign-wealth fund, have partnered the create the fund, which also has received contributions from deep-pocketed investors including Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment, which has committed $15 billion, Apple Inc, Qualcomm, Taiwan's Foxconn Technology and Japan's Sharp Corp.

    The fund is still hoping to reach $100 billion and expects to complete its money-raising in six months, according to Reuters.

    We're looking forward to the flood of leveraged buyouts that will likely follow.

  • "Baizuo" Is The New Derogatory Term Millions Of Chinese Are Using To Describe America's "White Left" Regressive Liberals

    Authored by Daniel Lang via SHTFplan.com,

    After the last election, the far-left in our society became a laughing stock. The social justice warriors, the progressives, the regressive left; whatever you want to call them, they became a joke after Trump was elected. And it wasn’t because they lost the election. It was because of how they reacted to losing. We all witnessed what amounted to a nationwide temper tantrum on November 9th. And in the weeks that followed, it became apparent that these people aren’t just childish. They are freaking insane.

    However, it may surprise you to learn that these people aren’t just a joke in America. They are the laughing stock of the world. They are looked down upon, even in countries where they don’t have a significant presence.

    In China for instance, they have a word for these people. They are called “baizuo” or the “white left” on social media. Which is interesting, because even though China has its fair share of socialists and communists, they don’t have a direct equivalent to our liberal snowflakes. Most of the Chinese are still fiercely nationalistic and anti-immigrant, regardless of political affiliation. That country just doesn’t have a large population of politically correct, affluent liberals (presumably, they were all killed off during the Great Leap Forward). So what does this term mean to the average Chinese citizen?

    It might not be an easy task to define the term, for as a social media buzzword and very often an instrument for ad hominem attack, it could mean different things for different people. A thread on “why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve “white left” in China” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.

     

    The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the ‘white left’. Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.

    Baizuo has basically become the go to word for Chinese social media users, who want to trash other people in online debates. It’s also frequently used to make light of what is viewed in China, as the inherent weakness of western democracies. So not only has the far-left made themselves into a joke, they’re making everyone else who supports Western civilization look bad all around the world.

    It just goes to show, the people who speak the loudest in society often become the face of that society, even if most sane people aren’t taking them seriously anymore.

  • Timeshare Fraud – the hot new securities fraud

    Every now and again we at Elite E Services stumble upon business models in the course of our operation that are sometimes interesting but alarming at the same time – in this case, timeshare fraud.  After having our head held under water by combination of ugly circumstances (tough regulation making business impossible but at the same time losing millions to Forex fraudsters which ironically the regulations failed to stop); we are sensitive on fraud – especially that which does not appear to be on the surface!  And as markets evolve, so do fraud models.. 

    With the conviction of stock lending fraud master and citizen of Boca Raton Florida Jeffrey Spanier, stock lending fraud is on the way out:

    SAN DIEGO – Jeffrey Spanier, a 51-year-old former owner of Amerifund Capital Finance, LLC located in Boca Raton, Florida, was convicted by a federal jury today for his role in an elaborate stock-loan fraud scheme in which executives and shareholders of publicly traded corporations collectively lost over $100 million when the stock they pledged as collateral for loans was immediately sold in order to fund the loans.

    Why this is a good example though – this fraud was perpetrated at the highest levels.  Victims of this fraud included the who’s who of Wall St., corporate executivies, ultra high net worth individuals, and even Bono (

    This may have to be a multi-part series as we uncover this new type of fraud which may be the next big ‘securities fraud’ as what we are looking at – appears to be unregistered securities.  Let’s start with a short history of what a timeshare is and how we got where we are.  

    Long ago, before the dinosaurs, the Johnson family wanted to share their lake cottage with the Smith family for the summer, and asked them to kick in for the repairs of the old dock.  Or something like that.  And then it became a business – of course starting from the infamous Fort Frauderdale, Florida (during this time Boca Raton was still a swamp, inhabitied only by IBM and some Japanese..)

    The first timeshare in the United States was started in 1974 by Caribbean International Corporation (CIC), based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It offered what it called a 25-year vacation license rather than ownership. The company owned two other resorts the vacation license holder could alternate their vacation weeks with: one in St. Croix and one in St. Thomas; both in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands properties began their timeshare sales in 1973 with owners Hillie Meyers, Don Saunders, and Arthur Zimand.

    How we got to where we are today follows the same path of all industries; fuelled by Fed policy of cheap money, an expanding real estate market, retiring rich baby boomers, and all the other favorable demographics.  But what insiders in this industry learned quickly was that, they were really selling the dream.  It was possible to sell the nothing, the artificiality.  “Real” estate is just that – it’s real.  Timeshare owners don’t really ‘own’ anything, if you read the agreements – it’s a contract to pay, an obligation – in perpetuity.  Every time share contract is different but in no case is there actual ownership of ‘real estate’ – you may own the ‘rights’ to a ‘membership’ but if it cannot be ‘sold’ then what kind of ownership is that really?  What they learned was that the profit here was all in the sizzle, not in the steak – and if they could enhance the sizzle to be 99% and serve Grade B flank steak, they’d have a winning model to become very rich, which was borderline legal.  While the timeshare industry itself is ‘legal’ and in some states there are ‘regulations’ – many of the tactics they use, contracts they offer, are illegal.  Many of the ‘salespeople’ they hire, have criminal records for financial fraud.  In fact, the FTC currently has hundreds of criminal investigations against timeshare companies, timeshare resale scams, timeshare fraud, and related illegal activities.  Similar to how the Forex fraud we saw had nothing to do with Forex, many of these frauds have nothing to do with timeshares.  People are so desperate to sell their obligations, when a scammer calling from Mexico says he can ‘resell’ your timeshare (which is practically impossible) hopeful victims wire thousands of dollars to the foreign bank account with little respute.  Doesn’t sound like a lot of money for a scam, but – multiplied by the 10 Million timeshare owners out there, this can add up to millions of dollars for the fraudsters.

    When you ‘buy’ a timeshare ‘contract’ it’s sort of like a debt, you are obligated to pay and if you die, your children will inherit the payments.  Sounds a lot like a bond!  Yes, these are unregistered securities.  The ‘exchange’ as they call it, RCI, is an unregistered exchange.  There are issues with the SEC, the CFTC, the states, and possibly even anti-trust issues.  Some of these issues are starting to be talked about in the financial media:

    Summary

    • Analysts upgrading HGV are not considering the ‘dark side’ of this industry.
    • Potential liabilities can spring up anytime that can change this tune.
    • Angry customers complain, which can soon become lawsuits, with deleterious consequences.

    About half of the big timeshare companies are public companies, so here’s where the biggest issues lie.  Because public companies are required to follow rules such as disclosure rules that don’t apply to private companies.  So this may be where we see the first complaints.

    Really what it comes down to, is a broken model.  Not all timeshares are frauds – but in an inflationary environment, is such a model – fraud removed – profitable anymore?  It’s like the Series 7 stockbroker, who used to charge a percent of the trade – now anyone can place their own trade for $9.99 or less whilst sitting in their bathrobe petting their cat.  The timeshare model is a broken bricks and mortar model from the past, it’s dead like the shopping mall is dead, just like Amazon is killing retail stores, new upstarts that remain to be seen (still do not exist) will cannabalize this rotten model.  In the meantime, there’s a lot to be decided in court.

    Even according to industry ‘official’ statistics, about 17% of timeshare owners are not happy.  Although Diamond is now private and bigger companies have ‘cleaned up’ their act, reports of false imprisonment, fraud by trickery, misleading sales statements, and outright refusals to comply with customers requests, and just a few of the things still going on.. just read sites like this Consumer Reports (RCI): 

    We see no reason to sign up for RCI except to give the company money. We are new members who tried to use RCI for the first time. We wanted to visit El Dorado Suites, Riviera Maya, using our exchange. Through RCI, we have to pay a $399 fee for a mandatory 7-day visit. RCI requires we also pay a $2500 “Mandatory all inclusive” fee for the El Dorado. So that’s the cost of our RCI membership, plus a $399 fee, plus a $2500 all-inclusive fee. Curious, we logged into El Dorado’s home page and found we could sign up for the exact same vacation, not using RCI, for a total cost of $2200, also all-inclusive. So the all-inclusive fee alone is more than the actual cost of staying at the El Dorado Suites, without having ever met an RCI salesperson.

     

     

    I have been with RCI approx 12yrs. My previous issues have been the fact that they charge for unused points… Live and learn. My complaint is that I had to cancel a reservation. It’s unfortunate but situations do arise and plans have to get changed. I cancelled 5-days prior to my check-in date. RCI WILL NEITHER REFUND NOR CREDIT my charge of $99.00! They say they have a 24-hour ‘grace period’. I feel this is a major RIP-OFF to consumers and extremely bad business practice. I have contacted them by email, customer service and ‘blabbering’ supervisor. I was told “they have to keep the lights on” in order to provide their service. Well, RCI, my lights need to be on as well!! BUYER BEWARE.

    You get the idea.  One can spend a weekend reading these, it does make more interesting reading than outright financial fraud, but eventually it will make you want to vomit.  You can’t call this a business model – you have to call it ‘fraud’ or ‘scam’ because it’s like that.  If normal companies operated like this, they’d be shut down.  Imagine walking into Wal Mart and instead of their ‘no questions asked’ return policy they argued with you and told you there was a ‘grace period’ or some such nonsense, there would be riots, boycotts – Wal Mart would be no more.  90% of business operates like that.  The only exception is software sales because practically, once you ‘download’ the software you can copy it and there’s no way to prove that you didn’t.  Other than that – and some other rare exceptions, you can’t lock people in a room for 8 hours without their permission.  Readers – this is a time-bomb waiting to explode!  How can we profit from it?  Short the stocks; (HGV) (WYN) (VAC) et al   

    If you own a timeshare and want out, there are only a few lawfirms who are actually law firms who can do this for you, like this one Fortis Law Group PLC.  There are also hundreds of scam companies claiming to be ‘timeshare resale experts’ who even have ‘licenses’ to do this – but beware – this is a scam too!  This industry is filled with fraud from one end of the business cycle to the other.  It can only be explained by George Carlin, with this clip:

    We know what we have to do.  Let’s get working!

    For a detailed breakdown of how the financial system works (in reality – not how it is supposed to work) – checkout Splitting Pennies Understanding Forex.

    Visit our sponsor Please Order It.com

  • 'Tolerant'? Cali Democratic Chair Urges Crowd "All Together Now, F**k Donald Trump"

    Once again the left exposes itself as the "do as we say, not as we do" party of tolerance, non-violent protest, and free speech…

    As Gateway Pundit's Cristina Laila reports, the classless Democrats gathered in Sacramento for a state convention on Saturday. They had some harsh words for the President as they chanted, ‘F*** Donald Trump!’.

    AP reports:

    California’s elected Democrats had tough words for President Donald Trump and the GOP Congress on Saturday, urging their party’s fired-up activists to work against the 14 Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation.

     

    The party’s leaders blasted Trump’s alleged ties to Russia and presented California as the epicenter of liberal resistance to the president.

     

    “The world, literally the world, is counting on all of you, counting on California to reject Trump’s deception and destructiveness,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is among a crowded field of Democrats running for governor next year.

     

    U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, often mentioned as a potential candidate for president in 2020, accused Trump of putting “Russia first, America second.”

     

    In a sign of the vigor of the party’s distaste for the president, outgoing party Chair John Burton, a longtime Democratic lawmaker and powerbroker known for his blunt and profane manner, extended two middle fingers in the air as the crowd cheered and joined him.

     

    “F— Donald Trump,” he said.

    Video of crowd with middle fingers in the air after outgoing CA Dem Chair, John Burton screamed, ‘F*ck Donald Trump!’

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    Video of Ca Dem Chair, John Burton telling protesters to ‘shut the f*** up!

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    This is the Democrat party, folks…what a bunch of classless lowlifes…

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    More F-bombs from John Burton…(language warning)

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  • It Takes A Bullshitter To Know A Bullshitter

    Authored by Duane Norman via Free Market Shooter blog,

     

    On Wednesday, PEOPLE Magazine released a preview of an upcoming issue, titled “The Obamas; Their Lives Now”, which includes commentary on Obama’s “relationship” with President Trump:

    “He’s nothing but a bullsh–ter.”

    Tell us how you really feel, Obama, because after your oval office meeting with Trump, we never would have guessed that you two hated each other.

    But isn’t this a major case of hypocrisy on Obama’s part, with a track record of lies and “bullshit” miles long?

    So let’s take a minute and recap all of the bullshit former President Obama told the American public during his tenure.  It’s the only fitting rebuttal, isn’t it?

    But first, let’s start with the biggest hunk of bullshit out there – the fact that Barack and Michelle, after eight years as President and First Lady, actually did a photo shoot and cover spread for PEOPLE magazine.  It isn’t difficult to believe they did it, but seeing it is another thing altogether:

    After eight years, George W. Bush remained completely quiet through the entire Obama presidency; in fact, he spent a great deal of his time painting, of all things.  Bill Clinton racked up millions of dollars of speaking fees and got his wife a Senate seat, but never criticized or mentioned Bush at all during his term.

    Meanwhile, it appears Obama misses being the celebrity-in-chief, as this magazine spread indicates, but how about PEOPLE’s claim and citation of David Axelrod in regards to the unspoken rule that ex-Presidents don’t criticize the current commander in chief?

    But the former president has been meticulous since the election about not publicly violating that unwritten code of conduct among ex-presidents that bars criticizing whoever’s currently in the Oval Office.

     

    “He’s very respectful of the appropriate role of a former president and that ex-presidents should not be looking over the shoulder of their successors and commenting on every decision,” says Obama’s long-time friend and political strategist David Axelrod, now director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, noting how George W. Bush refrained from criticizing Obama.

    In what world is Axelrod (and conversely PEOPLE magazine, for publishing his commentary) living in, in which Obama has not criticized President Trump?  Less than ten days after Trump took office, Obama did just that:

    Through his spokesman, Mr. Obama said he was “heartened” by all of the anti-Trump protests that have erupted throughout the nation.

    If you think Barack was the only Obama who criticized Trump, you’d be wrong as well:

    Michelle Obama on Friday criticized a Trump administration decision to delay federal rules aimed at making school lunch healthier, saying kids will end up “eating crap” instead.

     

    “You have to stop and think, ‘Why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you and why is that a partisan issue?” Mrs. Obama said. “Why would that be political?”

    So much for that “unwritten code” Axelrod said Obama was upholding.

    Of course, it hardly tops Obama’s biggest bullshit quote(s) of all:

    “That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

     

    “And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.  No one will be able to take that away from you.  It hasn’t happened yet.  It won’t happen in the future.”

    Even The Washington Post, of all places, was completely unable to defend Obama’s multiple quoted assurances; as The Daily Caller indicated on Jan 1, 2014, when the law took effect, 4.7 million Americans lost their health insurance because of Obamacare, with reports of far more cancellations at later dates.

    Of course, as Free Market Shooter previously covered, Obama’s bullshit initially blamed insurers, not his healthcare monstrosity, for the cancellations:

    “One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the underinsured. And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.

     

    Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.”

    As one of the lucky ones who managed to purchase coverage after the law was signed but before the exchanges took effect, I can unequivocally state that my policy would be at least double were I to repurchase similar coverage in the exchange today… and could be as high as triple.  How many of those cancelled policies faced monster health insurance hikes?  Was Obama’s greatest bullshit claim, the blame that he assigned to “bad apple” insurers before he was forced to backtrack?

    How about another Obama quote, regarding “scandal” in his administration?

    “We have not had a major scandal in my administration.”

    As The Blaze pointed out, Obama’s administration could be just as easily defined by the word “scandal” as it is by the word “bullshit”:

    Obama sidestepped the comprehensive list of scandals that plagued his tenure as president. These scandals include but are not limited to: the Operation Fast and Furious gun walking scandal, the IRS scandal involving IRS workers intentionally targeting Tea Party organizations, and his own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using a private email server.

    The Blaze also pointed out another fiction of Obama’s, which again reference the same Washington Post that goes out of its way to defend him:

    “The day after Benghazi happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism”

     

    Obama did refer to an “act of terror” in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, but in vague terms, wrapped in a patriotic fervor. He never affirmatively stated that the American ambassador died because of an “act of terror.” Then, over a period of two weeks, given three opportunities in interviews to affirmatively agree that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack, the president obfuscated or ducked the question. So this was a case of taking revisionist history too far for political reasons.

    When it comes to Obama’s Presidency, and the comparison to bullshit, nobody summed it up better than Constitution.com:

    The two constants of the Obama era has been the president’s willingness to lie to the American people, and the media’s willingness to allow the president’s lies to slide by uncondemned. The Obama years have been nothing more than a series of thinly veiled (and sometimes blatantly naked) lies, uttered to placate the citizens of the United States while the federal government ballooned beyond meaningful control. Barack Obama’s legacy is one of unadulterated hubris, his efforts all focused on rending power from the people and handing it to bureaucrats, and America is fortunate to have survived this historically catastrophic presidency.

    Just take Obama’s (and PEOPLE Magazine’s) word for it though:

    “He’s nothing but a bullsh–ter.”

    But first ask yourself; is Obama referring to Trump, or just describing himself?

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May 21

Today’s News 21st May 2017

  • Trump Inks Largest Arms Deal in U.S. History with Country He Said Funded ISIS

    There was a lot of pomp and circumstance upon Trump’s arrival in Saudi Arabia. It’s important to note, after 8 years of Iranian friendly Obama, the Saudis have strong motives to curry the favor of the new American President.

    The visit to Saudi Arabia is historic. It marks the first time in American history a President had chosen to make Saudi Arabia his first international visit. Upon landing in the oil rich gulf state, the President signed a massive arms deal — which could swell to more than $350b over the next decade. The deal includes blackhawk helicopters, a modified version of the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, thousands of precision guided weaponry, cargo helicopters, transport helicopters, 115 M1A2s tanks, anti-ballistic missile systems (THAAD), and ‘maritime assets.’

    The theory behind arming Saudi Arabia is that it would permit them to handle Iran in the Persian Gulf, granting us license to throw a few logs on the fire and doze off a bit while they do all the work for a change. All that sounds well and good, especially since the money will be spent with our weapons manufacturers, who employ thousands of Americans. But what about all of the stuff Trump said about Saudi Arabia during the campaign? Does that count for anything, or was it just election time shit talking?

    Here’s Trump chastising Clinton for accepting Saudi money, a country that ‘kills women’ and ‘treat women horribly.’

    Or what about the time Trump told The Morning Shill that Saudi Arabia was arming ISIS?

    This is the “if, then” logic I want to put on the table for you to think about. If Saudi Arabia funds radical Islam and ISIS, like Trump said, then should we be selling them advanced weaponry?

    One minor detail that is vexing me today. All of the conservatards are out in force, praising Melania Trump for not wearing a headscarf, which she’s 100% right for doing.

    But Michelle Obama didn’t wear one either. I don’t know why people are saying she did wear one.

    As a matter of fact, President Trump actually had the stones to criticize Michelle for doing so back then, calling it an insult.

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    If we’re gonna talk about this ‘historic trip’, let’s be honest about it then.
    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

  • 10 Crazy Conspiracy Theories That Became Conspiracy Facts

    Authored by Jake Anderson via TheAntiMedia.org,

    Generally speaking, conspiracy theories form where there is a vacuum of verifiable facts associated with a controversial, usually tragic event. The concept has evolved over the years and is a part of our popular culture. There are legions of conspiracy theorists and “truthers” who have devoted their lives to certain theories, and there are legions of skeptics who have devoted their lives to debunking those theories. All the while, conspiracy theories of every stripe and variety festoon the footnotes of history. Even the origin of the phrase itself is subject to conspiracy theory, as some researchers have argued that the CIA invented and promulgated the term in order to marginalize fringe thinkers and neutralize investigations.

    The internet has obviously had a profound effect on conspiracy theories, simultaneously helping and hurting the cause. While a world of information is at people’s fingertips, so too are alternate worlds of manufactured propaganda. While the Internet may appear to be a democratized, unfiltered path toward facts and truth, it is easily manipulated. Powerful corporations pay a lot of money to have their dirty laundry buried in the search results underneath contrived puff pieces.

    With nearly the entire mainstream media apparatus at their disposal, the government is a maestro at this practice. As we learned from so-called Operation Mockingbird — a conspiracy theory fact discussed in my first post on the subject, “Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True,” — hundreds, if not thousands of news organizations have been conscripted into working with the CIA to support pro-government narratives. That was in the 1960s. One can only imagine how vast the network is now. Not to mention the fact that a single proprietary algorithm owned by Google dictates the vast majority of the population’s exposure to a subject.

    In Part 1, I noted that the list had been meticulously whittled down to focus only on conspiracies that have been irrefutably proven to be fact. There are hundreds of conspiracy theories I think are likely to be true that are not on this list because there simply isn’t enough hard evidence yet to confirm it 100%. I also aimed for a good mixture of old conspiracies and new conspiracies. With groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous out there, the last decade has witnessed a dam burst of new data and documents. Thanks to intrepid journalists, whistleblowers, hacktivists, and leakers, the human race continues to tear down the wall of lies erected by the corporatocracy.

    Without further ado, let’s get to it….ten more conspiracy theories we can start calling conspiracy facts.

    1. Operation Ajax, the CIA’s Iranian Coup

    In Iran it was called 28 Mordad coup; the United Kingdom contributed under the name Operation Boot. However you refer to it, Operation Ajax was an Iranian coup that in 1953 deposed the democratically elected Muhammad Mossadeq and reinstalled the monarchical power of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The primary cause of the coup was Mossadeq’s attempt to nationalize the Iran’s oil fields, which threatened the oil profits of Britain’s Anglo-Persian Oil Company (AIOC). The U.S. — in addition to protecting its ally’s petroleum monopoly — viewed Mossadeq’s move as communist aggression and therefore helped plan the return to power of one the world’s more insidious dictators, the shah. Operation Ajax resulted almost directly in 1979 Iranian revolution that created an anti-West Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

    Though it was long considered an open secret, the U.S. government kept the truth behind Operation Ajax concealed from the American people until very recently. The CIA declassified various documents on the 60th anniversary of the coup.

    Because of the recent declassification, much information relevant to this CIA-sponsored coup is now available in the CIA’s archives.

    In describing Operation Ajax, the CIA itself has become rather oddly self-reflective:

    “The world has paid a heavy price for the lack of democracy in most of the Middle East. Operation Ajax taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants that the world’s most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and to Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship.”

    In a recent interview on Democracy Now, Bernie Sanders remarked to Amy Goodman that this seminal chapter in the history of U.S./Middle East relations is almost entirely ignored by mainstream media. “Have you seen many shows about that on NBC?” he asked the crowd.

    2. “Nayirah,” the False Pretext for the first Gulf War

    It’s now commonly believed that the second Iraq War was sold to the American people — and their congressional representatives — based on an elaborate web of lies and manipulated intelligence. What is less commonly known is that the first Iraq War came about in a very similar fashion. While, surprisingly, there is broad agreement that “Operation Desert Storm” was a worthwhile war, many people overlook the role of a fifteen-year-old girl named “Nayirah,” whose 1990 testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus is credited with cementing the idea of Iraqi war crimes in the American popular consciousness. Nayirah testified to having witnessed Iraqi troops tearing babies from their incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and leaving them to die on the floor. It’s a profoundly disturbing image….and one that was entirely fictitious.

    After a lengthy investigation, Amnesty International and other independent watchdog groups discovered that the situation described by Nayirah was fabricated by a PR firm named Hill & Knowlton (the largest in the world at this time), which was hired by the group Citizens for a Free Kuwait in order to create propaganda that would galvanize pro-war sentiment. The man overseeing the campaign was Bush political confidante Craig Fuller. This was a massive project utilizing 119 H&K executives in 12 offices across the United States and even involved casting Nayirah, who turned out to be Nayirah al-Sabah, daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. The Justice Department, which could have investigated the entire effort under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, turned a blind eye, allowing the Bush administration to pull off a massive “Wag the Dog”-style ideological false flag. Others call it “atrocity propaganda,” a form of psyop (psychological operation).

    The “Nayirah” story is just another example of the government falsifying a narrative in order to manipulate the public into supporting war. This kind of psychological propaganda continued all through the second Iraq War and the War on Terror. Just recently, it was revealed that the Pentagon paid PR firm Bell Pottinger $540 million to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq.

    3. Operation Paperclip

    Originally called Operation Overcast, Operation Paperclip was the codename of the secret American plan to conscript Nazi scientists into U.S. intelligence services at the end of World War II. This ushered in and shielded about 1,500 Germans, including some engineers and technicians. Ostensibly, the purpose of this redeployment by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) was to prevent Nazi scientific intelligence from helping reconstitute a new German government; it was also a tactic meant to ensure the Soviet Union didn’t acquire any new technology.

    Whatever strategic mindset might have lived inside Operation Paperclip, at its core, the project gave American identities to some of the most ruthless war criminals the world has ever seen.

    According to Ynet, the new Nazi CIA scientists helped develop chemical weapons for the U.S. and worked alongside American scientists to develop LSD, which the CIA viewed as a ‘truth serum.’

    4. Operation Gladio: Anti-Communist False Flags in Italy

    Operation Gladio was the post-World War II love-child of a CIA/NATO/M16 plot to battle communism in Italy. The operation lasted two decades and used CIA-created “stay behind” networks as part of a “Strategy of Tension” that coordinated multiple terrorist attacks from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Authorities blamed these attacks on Marxists and other left-wing political opponents in order to stigmatize and condemn communism. The operation involved multiple bombings that killed hundreds of innocent people, including children. The most notable attack was the August 2, 1980, bombing of the Bologna train station, which killed 85 people.

    In an Anti-Media piece written about five confirmed false flag operations (which includes Operation Gladio, I wrote:

    How do we know about Operation Gladio in spite of its incredibly clandestine nature? There are two principle sources. One, the investigations of Italian judge Felice Casson, whose presentation was so compelling it forced Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to confirm Gladio’s existence. The second source is testimony from an actual Gladio operative, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, who is serving a life sentence for murder. In a 1990 interview with the Guardian, Vincenzo stated that Gladio was designed to psychologically coerce the Italian public to rely on the state for security.”

    Operation Gladio is a textbook modern “false flag.” It used terror and violence to discredit an ideology (communism). And to think, this came at a time before the internet when the CIA didn’t have a fully entrenched mainstream media to trumpet, echo, and build consensus around every little nuance (though they were working on it with COINTELPRO and Operation Mockingbird). Nowadays, the CIA has multinational propaganda machines — the news networks — to make sure all terrorist attacks fit into the carefully scripted narrative that manufactures consent around our wars for oil, natural gas, and other resources.

    5. Government uses insect and rodent drones to spy

    It’s somewhat of a cliche to jokingly refer to a surrounding insect or bird as a clandestine spy deployed by the government to watch you. While we lack certain specifics on the ubiquity of the technology, we know definitively that the government has the technology to surveil citizens using insects and other small animals, and they use this technology in military applications.

    There is some evidence to suggest that insect drones are used domestically to spy on citizens. In 2007, this theory conspiracy theory took shape when anti-war protesters reported strange buzzing insects. Written off as tin foil material, officials dismissed the suggestion that the government used insect drones to spy. Multiple witnesses reported erratic dragonfly-type objects hovering in the sky. The very next year, the U.S. Air Force announced their intended use of insect-sized spies ‘as tiny as bumblebees’ to infiltrate buildings in order to ‘photograph, record, and even attack insurgents and terrorists.‘ The government has come clean about its use of drones to spy on American citizens, so it’s difficult to believe they wouldn’t have at least tried insect drones.

    While we can’t say with 100% certainty that there are insect drones spying on American citizens, though it’s exceedingly likely, what is irrefutable is the use of micro air vehicles (MAVs) and “spy animals” as war-time tools. DARPA launched its Stealthy Insect Sensor Project in 1999 as an effort to deputize bees as bomb locators in war zones. This was just the first phase in an ongoing project. In her book The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency, journalist Annie Jacobsen revealed that the agency’s near-future trajectory is to introduce “biohybrids” — part animal, part machine cyborgs — into the United States’ military arsenal.

    In an interview with Coast to Coast AM, Jacobsen said:

    DARPA has already succeeded in creating a rat that will be steered by remote control by implanting an electrode in its brain.

    “And it’s done the same thing with a moth which is really remarkable because the scientists implanted the electrodes in the pupa stage of the moth when it was still a worm! And then it transformed into having wings, and those tiny little micro-sensors transformed with the moth and the DARPA scientists were able to steer that moth.”

    This section references information from The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen. Details not linked to external sources are cited in this book.

    6. CIA assassinations and coups in foreign countries

    When operatives for the Democratic Party claim the 2016 United States presidential election was tampered with by a foreign entity, it’s hard not to cringe at the irony. Firstly, they’ve presented no evidence, except to claim that government intelligence agencies believe it to be true. Sorry, that’s not actually evidence. That’s like the police saying they have DNA evidence but never actually scientifically presenting it in court. It’s kind of unnerving that we even have to point that out. Secondly, our own government and intelligence agencies, namely the CIA, have actively and aggressively subverted countless foreign elections over the last century and, in some cases, have outright funded the assassinations of candidates.

    This subject could easily fill a multi-volume book, and countless authors have worked over the years to uncover the role of the CIA in foreign coups. Using every tool in their arsenal — including white, grey, and black psychological operations, counterinsurgencies, and brutal coups aimed at repressing and destroying radically democratic candidates — the CIA has subverted the “will of the people” across the world.

    The most commonly noted instances of the CIA meddling in foreign elections and governments include the following: South Korea (late-1940s); Italy (1948-mid-1970s); Guatemala (1954); Congo (1960), Dominican Republic (1961), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964); Uruguay (1969); Bolivia (1971); Chile (1970-1973); Argentina (1976); Australia (1975); El Salvador (1980); Iran (late-1970s); Grenada (1983) Haiti (1986); Panama (1990) Nicaragua (1990); Czechoslovakia (1990); Peru (1990-2000) Yugoslavia (2000). This is but a small sampling of countries where even mainstream news outlets and, in many cases, the CIA itself, admits calamitous U.S. involvement. There are literally dozens more and, of course, this is restricting the conversation to soft coups — otherwise, we could certainly include the complete military decimation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other Middle Eastern countries during the War on Terror, as well as the myriad imperial wars against perceived communist threats.

    ‘A foreign government hacked and subverted our election!’

    The irony is thick with this one. Payback’s a bitch…..which, of course, isn’t giving our intelligence agencies, who have proven themselves to be pathological liars, the benefit of the doubt regarding their claims of Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election. It’s just to kind of say…..you reap the harvest you have sown. When you look at the track record of the United States government, it’s a wonder the average citizen is safe traveling abroad.

    7. Mainstream media is the propaganda branch of the State Department

    People have long accused the media of being a proxy branch of the State Department, a highly sophisticated and well-produced form of manufactured consensus and controlled opposition all rolled into one. In ostensibly democratic nations, a free and independent press is of paramount importance. But in the U.S., we find a cohesion of the state and corporate news networks that do not constitute ‘state-run media’ in the traditional sense — but it’s close.

    Our first solid documentation that the media is an echo chamber for the government came with the disclosure of what has come to be called Operation Mockingbird. This nefarious and far-reaching conspiracy was documented in Part 1 and involved the CIA essentially conscripting journalists, American news agencies, and major broadcasters to become domestic propagandists and spies. Eventually, this CIA/media symbiosis included journalists from all the top news organizations. Literally, thousands of people were involved.

    This infiltration of the American media and press took place during the 1950s, at the start of the Cold War, and was carried out under the auspices of fighting communism. The CIA began to restrict its use of journalists in the Operation Mockingbird program in 1976, but many people believe it has since transmogrified into something far more powerful, nefarious, and ubiquitous today. We’re still in the early stages of proving to the masses that mainstream media is little more than a mouthpiece and propaganda machine for the government and its various agencies, but the evidence is accumulating.

    During the 2016 presidential election, Wikileaks exposed a number of disturbing revelations showing collusion between the media and political operatives. This included collusion between the media, the Democratic National Committee, and the Hillary Clinton campaign. But it wasn’t just about swaying the election. New revelations showed that the government actively infiltrates powerful media corporations in order to shape their content and narratives. One of the best examples of this was the State Department’s role in affecting a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Julian Assange.

    A more comprehensive list of examples of the Orwellian symbiotic relationship between the press and the government can be found here.

    Perhaps the most disturbing recent addition to this chapter was the “Countering Disinformation Act” that President Obama slipped into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Christmas Eve of last year. In the context of the still-festering narrative of foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, the act’s putative goal was to fight “fake news,” which many believe is actually a campaign to silence and dismantle alternative media on the Internet.

    In order to accomplish this, the government is establishing a Global Engagement Center for managing disinformation and propaganda. Since we already know our government routinely performs psychological operations (psyops, or as they’ve been recently rebranded, Military Information Support Operations [MISO]), it should come as no surprise that manipulating the civilian population is a permanent goal. In fact, in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, the government formally legalized the use of psyops on U.S. citizens. So how does this Global Engagement Center factor in?

    The new law states:

    “The Center is authorized to provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions for the following purposes:

    • To support local independent media who are best placed to refute foreign disinformation and manipulation in their own communities.
    • To collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.
    • To analyze and report on tactics, techniques, and procedures of foreign information warfare with respect to disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.
    • To support efforts by the Center to counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability of the United States and United States allies and partner nations.”

    While it may not immediately strike one as sinister, this codification of repressing journalists and voices the government deems to be disinformation while creating an even more centralized infrastructure to control “fact-based narratives” in the media should be highly alarming to anyone who cares about a free press. It would seem that while the State already has a steel grip on corporate news networks, they are struggling to control the influence of online independent media. This new law may be the start of this century’s Operation Mockingbird — a new full-scale infiltration of the local news and a war against anti-establishment narratives on the Internet. This is already taking the form of algorithmic censorship through Facebook and Google, as well as a weaponization of the “fake news” narrative.

    8. The Deep State (or the conspiracy theory formerly known as The New World Order)

    I describe the Deep State in depth in an article entitled “Forget the New World Order — Here’s Who Really Runs the World.” In it I wrote:

    “For decades, extreme ideologies on both the left and the right have clashed over the conspiratorial concept of a shadowy secret government often called the New World Order pulling the strings on the world’s heads of state and captains of industry.

    “The phrase New World Order is largely derided as a sophomoric conspiracy theory entertained by minds that lack the sophistication necessary to understand the nuances of geopolitics. But it turns out the core idea — one of deep and overarching collusion between Wall Street and government with a globalist agenda — is operational in what a number of insiders call the “Deep State.”

    In the wake of the 2016 election, the concept of the Deep State has grown into somewhat of a common phrase in the lexicon of alternative media theorists, crossing political boundaries and resonating across the ideological spectrum. Everyone from alt-left socialists to alt-righters now agrees there is an unelected cabal of elite neo-conservative corporatists and crony lawmakers running the geopolitical show.

    Because it’s such a complex subject and permeates so many different academic, economic, and state apparatuses, it’s virtually impossible to issue a single, simple definition of the Deep State. If I were to hazard one, I would call it “the nexus of Wall Street and the national security state — a relationship where elected and unelected figures join forces to consolidate power and serve vested interests.” But even that is vague. We could also call it “the failure of our visible constitutional government and the cross-fertilization of corporatism with the globalist war on terror.”

    Former Republican congressional aide Mike Lofgren gets more specific with who is involved:

    “It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.”

    In his writing, Lofgren emphasized the role of FISA international surveillance courts. This was confirmed in a very interesting way when President Donald Trump accused former President Obama of tapping his phones, a charge Obama aides deflected by saying that if such a warrant had been issued, it would have been done through a FISA court. This shows how presidents are able to skirt the constitution by outsourcing surveillance requests. It also shows the interconnectedness of these agencies.

    However you want to describe it, it’s the natural conclusion of Operation Mockingbird and most certainly a reality that the elites would have rather kept under the radar. Fortunately for the people of the Earth, revelations from Wikileaks and other whistleblowers have, over the last couple decades, made it abundantly clear that the Deep State (the New World Order) not only exists, but also that it’s far more sinister and powerful than early conspiracy theorists could have ever imagined.

    9. CIA used psychics to infiltrate the Soviet Union during Cold War

    It’s a plot in a science fiction movie or TV show we’ve all seen: a psychic being leveraged by a law enforcement agency to track down a criminal. The concept of a government psychic program was popularized by the film The Men Who Stare at Goats, which lampooned the mythical STARGATE program supposedly run by the CIA. Most people scoffed at the reality of this and considered it a wacky conspiracy theory, but a recently declassified trove of hundreds of thousands of CIA files finally confirmed not only that psychics are regularly used by police and other law enforcement agencies, but also that the government actually weaponized psychics during the Cold War to try to infiltrate the Soviet Union and gain information.

    The documents, made publicly available thanks to the activist group Muckrock, confirm there were top-secret CIA and Defense Department programs to use remote viewing to infiltrate Soviet military installments. There were also programs developing ways to engage in “psychic warfare,” including the development of a “psychic shield” to block Soviet psychics.

    10. CIA monitors U.S. citizens via their smart devices

    Early in 2017, the organization Wikileaks began releasing their first post-2016 election cables with a series of explosive data dumps regarding the CIA’s cyber hacking abilities and exploits. It is called Vault 7. Updated serially in “Year Zero,” “Dark Matter,” “Marble,” “Grasshopper,” “HIVE,” “Weeping Angel,” and “Scribbles,” the documents show the unprecedented collection of cyber vulnerabilities, exploits, and hacking abilities consolidated within the agency that many believe constitute wide-ranging breaches of civil liberties.

    Chief among these breaches is domestic surveillance and extrajudicial cyberhacking, which the Wikileaks documents confirm are taking place in an abundance of forms. The Vault 7 documents confirm that: The CIA can break into Android and iPhone handsets and all kinds of computers; the agency has the ability to hack into Apple iPhones and Android smartphones and actually assume full remote control of the device; the CIA can access consumer smart TVs to listen in on surrounding conversations; the agency looked into ways to hack into cars and crash them, allowing ‘nearly undetectable assassinations’ (an assertion that may be relevant to the Michael Hastings case); the CIA concealed vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers from other countries or governments.

    This is just the beginning. Early in the release, Julian Assange said the documents released represented only a tiny fraction of the total data that was forthcoming. Wikileaks’ episodic data dumps on the CIA’s cyber hacking programs are nothing less than stunning. The establishment’s reaction to the ongoing releases verifies how big of a deal they are. One congressman went so far as to refer to Julian Assange and his whistleblowing outfit as a “foreign terrorist organization.” This isn’t new or unexpected, as the group’s slow but inexorable drips of revelations about government malfeasance continue to confound and disturb private citizens, consumer rights activists, tech companies, and international leaders alike.

    Conclusion

    Of course, not all conspiracy theories are true. In fact, there are hundreds, even thousands, that have been roundly debunked. Unfortunately, there are those who seek to lie and invent fictions for monetary gain and fame. Disinformation, propaganda, and dishonesty exist at all levels of society.

    However, sometimes conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Therefore, it’s worth assessing them, even if their claims appear wholly outlandish. Especially if their claims appear wholly outlandish.

    The conspiracy theory is a tool in a larger tool kit used by those who wish to decode the grossly imperfect and fluid narrative describing our world. When investigated responsibly, conspiracy theories function as part of a conceptual spectrum of analysis with which we can investigate government and corporate abuses of power and the manufacturing of ‘consensus reality.’ In the 21st century, when the very transmission of information can be considered criminal, being a responsible conspiracy theorist just means you practice due diligence and hunger for the truth.

  • The Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault To Save The World… Has Flooded Thanks To Global Warming

    Having first been used in 2015 to save Syrian biodiversity, the Arctic stronghold for the world’s seeds – designed to rescue humanity in case of doomsday – has flooded after permafrost melts due to global warming. While no seeds were lost, The Guardian writes that the ability of the rock vault to provide failsafe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change.

    As a reminder, on a remote island that is just 800 miles (1,300 km) from the North Pole, the Norwegian government has built a failsafe in the freezing cold that protects thousands of the most vital crops from extinction.

    Officially called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, it already holds close to a million samples of crops around the world, with each sample holding about 500 seeds. The following infographic, from Futurism, has more on this Doomsday Vault that could one day help to save civilization:

    Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

    However, as The Guardian reports, while it was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever, the Global Seed Vault has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

    When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

    But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

    “A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C.

    But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”The vault’s managers are now waiting to see if the extreme heat of this winter was a one-off or will be repeated or even exceeded as climate change heats the planet. The end of 2016 saw average temperatures over 7C above normal on Spitsbergen, pushing the permafrost above melting point.

    “The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?” said Aschim. The Svalbard archipelago, of which Spitsbergen is part, has warmed rapidly in recent decades, according to Ketil Isaksen, from Norway’s Meteorological Institute.

    Aschim said there was no option but to find solutions to ensure the enduring safety of the vault: “We have to find solutions. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. We are doing this for the world.”

    “This is supposed to last for eternity,” said Åsmund Asdal at the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, which operates the seed vault.

     

  • Kim Dotcom Goes All In: 'I Knew Seth Rich… I Was Involved'

    Kim Dotcom; hacker, serial entrepreneur – and for a while the #1 ranked Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 player in the world – may be the key to the entire Seth Rich saga. From testimony in the Wikileaks investigation to Rich’s still unsolved murder – and facing extradition – Dotcom is ready to go nuclear…

    To bring you up to speed

    Last week, Private Investigator Rich Wheeler appeared on Fox5 news in DC with an update in the unsolved murder of DNC IT expert Seth Rich, claiming proof exists on Rich’s laptop proving he was Julian Assange’s source for leaked DNC emails during the 2016 election – an account in direct conflict to the Russian hacking narrative based on a discredited IT firm’s report.

    Wheeler walked back his statements the next day, however the fuse was already lit… Weaponized autists on Reddit and 4chan began furiously digging back into the Seth Rich case for clues in the still unsolved murder – and they went deep.

    Among the findings were Seth Rich’s Reddit account, email addresses, and Twitter accounts – one of which was in support of candidate Bernie Sanders. As an aside – before joining the DNC, Rich moved to Washington DC to take a job with polling and research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner – whose founder Stanley Greenberg was a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton.

    Reddit’s the_donald goes dark

    As Seth Rich posts reached a crescendo Friday night – dominating the front page of /r/The_Donald, the Conde Nast-linked website shut the ‘subreddit’ down for around 12 hours following a moderator’s unrelated declaration of war on the rest of Reddit over censorship – completely killing the Seth Rich momentum. When The_Donald was reopened, ‘officially’ to aid the Seth Rich effort – the offending moderator had been banned and two other mods were removed from their positions. Seth Rich posts, however, are notably sparse. Oh, and Reddit edited Seth Rich’s account during the lockout.

    Meanwhile in New Zealand

    Kim Dotcom is pissed – and has been plotting revenge against Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Hollywood after being targeted in the biggest copyright infringement case in history – which included a massive illegal (and then legal) raid on his New Zealand mansion by 76 armed officers and two helicopters.

    Also seized were giant screen TVs and works of art, US$175m (NZ$218m) in cash, the contents of 64 bank accounts world-wide, including BNZ and Kiwibank accounts in New Zealand, Government bonds and money from numerous PayPal accounts.

    Police said last night up to $11m in cash was restrained in various accounts. stuff.co.nz

    Dotcom was arrested and thrown in prison for almost two months, and has been fighting ongoing court battles and pressure to extradite him to the USA ever since. In December of 2016, New Zealand’s district court announced Mr. Dotcom was eligible for extradition – a decision upheld on appeal by NZ’s High Court.

    The Mega founder has stepped forward to offer proof that Seth Rich was one of Wikileaks’ sources during the 2016 presidential election.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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    Sean Hannity has offered Dotcom a national platform (which Kim retweeted)

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    Dotcom’s offer to Congress

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    And he’s crystal clear on why he’s doing this

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    Turning back the clock – hinting at hacks

    In December of 2014, Dotcom kicked off a series of tweets foreshadowing events to come – beginning with the claim that he was going to be “Hillary’s worst nightmare in 2016.” In a subsequent Bloomberg article from May of 2015 which used Kim’s threat in the headline, Dotcom revealed that Julian Assange was about to unleash hell on Hillary Clinton – with Dotcom clearly involved;

    “I have to say it’s probably more Julian,” who threatens Hillary, Dotcom said. “But I’m aware of some of the things that are going to be roadblocks for her.”.

    Assange has access to information, Dotcom said –Bloomberg, May 2015



    Now take a look at a few of Dotcom’s tweets from December 2014 on…

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    (p.s. for all the anons looking for digits, the above tweet’s ID is: 539567677732171777)

    Kim was confident Hillary was going to lose back in May of 2015

    (dubs in twitter ID)

    Around two months later, Kim asks a provocative question

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    Dotcom responds to an article from July of 2016 about classified info found on her server – directly hinting at upcoming leaks.

    First, let’s review part of the timeline:

    July 4th, 2016: Wikileaks tweets a link to a bunch of Hillary emails obtained legally under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

    July 22nd, Wikileaks releases around 20,000 emails related to the DNC.

    October 7th, The Podesta emails begin to leak, which included emails to and from Hillary Clinton and associates.

    October 17th, Wikileaks announced a ‘state party’ had severed Julian Assange’s internet connection at the Ecuadorian embassy.

    The day after Wikileaks released the 20,000 DNC emails, Dotcom referred it as “Episode 1”

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Kim goes into his beef with Hillary…

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Kim reaches out to Google employees

    In light of this week’s Reddit / 4chan investigation turning up Rich’s email addresses (which Reddit scrubbed during the blackout), Dotcom is urging Google employees to submit Rich’s email contents to Wikileaks.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Questions remain

    Why did Seth Rich do it?

    11 days after Seth Rich’s death, his girlfriend made a Facebook post in which she said Seth found out that Hillary Clinton was rigging the election through fake polling stations whereby Bernie Sanders ballots were shredded and replaced with Hillary ballots.

    Others think Rich became enraged after learning how Hillary and the DNC stole the election from Bernie Sanders – who Rich supported. Furthermore, Rich worked closely with to the players involved in a suspected setup to make it appear that Bernie Sanders had ‘hacked’ Hillary Clinton.

    How long was Rich working against Hillary Clinton?

    Kim Dotcom began alluding to Hillary’s downfall in December of 2014, six months after Seth Rich joined the DNC. Was Rich feeding Wikileaks information since then – or did Julian Assange have other sources? What made Kim Dotcom so confident? Recall that prior to working for the DNC, Seth Rich worked for Bill Clinton advisor Stanley Greenberg’s polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. Is it possible Rich discovered things about the Clintons and/or Clinton Foundation which turned him off?

    Seth Rich only accounts for the DNC emails, not John Podesta’s

    Ex-Kissinger official and CIA operator Dr. Steve Pieczenik went on record in November of 2016 to assert that rogue elements within US Intelligence agencies – not Russians – passed the information to Julian Assange.

    Now consider the official story that the Podesta emails were obtained via phishing email scam, in which John Podesta fell victim to a fake email claiming to be a Google password reset.

    Did that even happen? Or were Podesta’s emails in fact obtained by ‘rogue elements’ within US Intelligence who passed them to WikiLeaks in conjunction with Seth Rich’s email dump from the DNC?

    I am hopeful the truth will emerge in the fullness of time.

    Content originally generated at iBankCoin.com * Follow on Twitter @ZeroPointNow

  • Schlichter Warns "This Is A Coup Against Our Right To Govern Ourselves"

    Authored by Kurt Schlichter via Townhall.com,

    The blizzard of lies and distraction blowing through Washington is not just any routine stuffstorm, but a calculated attempt to bring down a president – our president, not the establishment’s president. And more than that, it’s an attempt to ensure that we never again have the ability to disrupt the bipartisan D.C. cabal’s permanent supremacy by inserting a chief executive who refuses to kiss their collective Reid.

    This is a coup against us. It’s a coordinated campaign by liberals and their allies in the bureaucracy and media to once and for all ensure their perpetual rule over us. We need to fight it, here and now, so we don’t have to fight it down at the bottom of this slippery slope.

    It’s brazen. It’s bold. It’s insulting to our intelligence. They aren’t even trying to hide their lies anymore. Truth is irrelevant; this is a choreographed dance routine and everyone has his moves. Call it Breakin’ 2: Electric Leakaroo, except instead of trying to save the community center they’re trying to save their power and prestige.

    To buy the media narrative on this latest Russian nonsense, you must believe:

    1. That whatever was revealed was super-secret, though we don’t know exactly what it was. When in doubt, assume it’s on par with the nuclear codes!

     

    2. That there was no good reason to share this info with Russia, like coordinating our fight against our joint enemy or to prevent another Russian airliner massacre. Because why would we want another power fighting ISIS or civilians not to be blown out of the sky?

     

    3. That LTG McMaster, who literally wrote the book on soldiers standing up to misbehaving civilian leaders and displayed immense personal courage in battle, turned chicken and sat there silently as Trump monologued about this unknown mystery info of doomsday-level import.

     

    4. That LTG McMaster lied on camera. Twice. And that Secretary of State Tillerson lied too.

     

    5. That random anonymous sources in an intelligence community that hates Trump with a burning passion must be believed without question, though we don’t know their identities or their motives.

     

    6. That these anonymous randos must be believed, even though they were not actually in the room to, you know, actually hear what happened. The traditional bar on hearsay is apparently now just a bourgeois conceit.

     

    7. That when the Washington Post and the rest of the media publishes classified stuff (including intelligence provided by allies) leaked by anyone not named “Donald Trump,” it’s awesome.

     

    8. That the Washington Post and the rest of the media, which has been wrong over and over again in their reporting, are not wrong again.

     

    9. That the Washington Post and the rest of the media are objective and have no anti-Trump bias, even though they are literally cheering the hits on the president.

     

    10. That there are unicorns.

    The latest pseudo-scandal is that Trump doesn’t think Mike Flynn did anything wrong, and told James Comey so back in February. So basically, Trump expressed the same view he had of the whole Flynn nonsense to Comey as he has expressed to every interviewer. Comey did nothing, and said nothing (even when testifying to Congress) for nearly three months, because it was nothing. The Russian snipe hunt continued throughout unabated. That off-hand comment was a pretty poor attempt at obstruction of justice since it didn’t obstruct anything – to the limited extent these Russian witch hunts can be confused with “justice” at all.

    So the Menschian thinkers who usually scream “Treason!” are now screaming “Obstruction of Justice!” It’s adorable when they learn new terms and try to use them correctly; they’re so proud of themselves and their vocabulary building that you almost feel bad having to point out that they sound like idiots.

    It is nice, though, to have liberals finally come out against the abuse of executive power, misuse of classified material, and Russians. Welcome to the party, except we know you’re full of Schumer.

    It’s all lies, and they know it and we know it. Normal people just shake their heads and wonder why Washington is so consumed with political nonsense instead of solving problems. But then, Washington does not produce solutions. It produces only political nonsense.

    This is a concentrated, coordinated effort by elite insiders to take down not this president – Trump’s not the point here – but to take down us, the normal American they seek to rule. Someone came to Washington who wasn’t part of the club, and that’s intolerable. So they are desperate to expel him, and by extension, us.

    Every day will be a crisis, every action he takes will be the worst thing that has ever happened, and every step towards keeping his promises a crime.

    Repeal Obamacare? TRUMP’S SENTENCING MILLIONS TO DEATH!

    Talk to Russians? IT’S TREASON!

    Telling Comey he wishes this nonsense would stop? OBSTRUTION OF JUSTICE EVEN THOUGH NOTHING WAS OBSTRUCTED!

    Now, this campaign isn’t aimed at us. Normal people, people who don’t live in DC or NYC or LA, just tune it out. After all these years, and with the help of the web, we normals know the game. We’re woke, as the dorky leftists say.

    The target of this constant barrage is the soft and the stupid, the smug and the sanctimonious, the wusses and the surrender flunkies. That’s why you get the girlish-handed likes of David Brooks writing dainty columns that give Trump such a pinch! That’s why David Frum starts using words like “courage” to impugn actual men who have done actual man-things, like LTG McMaster. That’s why Kasich spews his bilious funk of sanctimony and submission, among other funks. It’s all to appeal to the Fredocons, the soft-headed RINOs who are smart, not dumb like everyone says, who just want something for themselves – attention, approval, and media pats on their pointy little heads.

    So these fussy ninnies, fresh from having some v-capped crone screeching at them that they will vote to take away her right to have taxpayers fork cash over to kill the baby no man will ever give her, wander outside into a wall of mics and cameras and pause. Then they talk, and when what they say trashes Trump sufficiently, the smiles from the press come, and the nods, and then the faux respect. Now they are no longer mean old Rethuglicans but dauntless heroes, at least in Georgetown, because they are willing to dance and caper to the tune of the establishment.

    This tsunami of baloney isn’t aimed at us. It’s aimed at them, the Republicans who are foolish enough to believe their new friends when they whisper words like “honor” and “patriotism.” Some of the marks are real patriots who fall prey to these liars when they couch their bogus narrative in national defense terms. But the majority of the marks are just morons.

    When targeting the dummies, the goal is simple. Draw off enough weak, attention-addicted RINOs to make it impossible for the President to govern. Then, hopefully, us normals will shrug, and slink away, having relearned our place. After all, we’re deplorable.

    And when the liberal establishment retakes power, and the mavericks and goody-goodies get tossed aside, the bureaucracy, media and the Democrats will conspire to ensure that no one can ever take their power from them again. But they haven’t considered the consequences. We’ll object.

    So we have to fight against this cable network coup. Because, if we don’t fight now, we all may end up fighting later.

  • Is Trump About To Flip-Flop On "Radical Islamic Terrorism"?

    With the President's base already turning against him (after appearing to flip-flop on five core campaign promises), Trump may be able to do the biggest reversal yet as The Hill reports that White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster suggested that President Trump may abandon the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in a scheduled speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

    As The Hill points out, Trump frequently used the phrase "radical Islamic terror" on the campaign trail to describe Islamist extremists and militant groups, but the term has historically been avoided by presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  In fact, McMaster himself has urged the president to refrain from using the phrase, arguing that violent extremists, such as ISIS militants, push a perverse view of Islam and that the phrase "radical Islamic terror" ultimately hinders U.S. goals, according to CNN.

    McMaster said on ABC's "This Week"…

    "The president will call it whatever he wants to call it. But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of some kind of religious war."

     

    "But I think what the president will point out is the vast majority  – the vast majority of victims from these people are Muslims. And of course the Muslim world is very cognizant of that, having born witness to and experienced directly this humanitarian catastrophe that's going on across the greater Middle East and beyond."

     

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    In his speech on Sunday, Trump is expected to cast the fight against extremism as a "battle between good and evil," rather than a religious war, while calling for unity with allies in the Islamic world.

  • "An Empty Lot, An Idle Backhoe And Pieces of Rubble": NYC Real-Estate Market Is Imploding

    The stringent capital controls adopted by Chinese authorities on Jan. 1, some of which were specifically designed to curb foreign real-estate purchases, appear to have had their desired effect. To wit: First-quarter property sales plummeted 58% to $4.3 billion, compared with a year earlier, Bloomberg reported, citing data from real-estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

    And nationwide, the picture wasn’t much better: Sales dropped 18 percent, research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc. found.

    Here's a rundown of the new capital controls, as reported by Bloomberg:

    • Customers must pledge money won’t be used for overseas purchases of property, securities, life insurance or investment-type insurance. While such rules aren’t new, citizens previously didn’t have to sign such a pledge
    • Customers must give a more detailed account of the planned use of funds, such as business travel, overseas study, family visits, medical treatment, merchandise trade or purchases of non-investment insurance policies, including the timing, by year and month
    • Violators of foreign-exchange rules will be be added to the currency regulator’s watch list, denied foreign-exchange quota for three years and subjected to anti-money-laundering investigations
    • Customers must confirm compliance with restrictions on money laundering, tax evasion and underground bank dealings
    • Customers must now confirm they aren’t lending or borrowing quotas to or from other citizens

    But the capital controls were just the spark: For months we've been warning that real estate markets in NYC and San Francisco, among others, are getting ready to rollover as the market is squeezed by already-high valuations and a flood of new luxury apartments (see here and here).

    As we reported back in December: With a substantial amount of capacity expected to come online over the next several quarters and a growth cycle that is entering its 8th year, one Chinese real estate investor admits "you get a sense now that it’s peaking."

    Of course, the mainstream media would be remiss if it didn't find some way to blame it all on Trump:

    As Bloomberg reports:

    Much of the slowdown has nothing to do with Trump. Concern is mounting that real estate prices have peaked following six years of record-shattering growth, and there are signs of overbuilding in large cities such as New York and San Francisco—the biggest beneficiaries of the recent boom.

    Some of this hesitancy, however, can be traced to Trump’s gilded door. Real estate investors worry that Trump’s industry-friendly tax cuts will fail to pass. At the same time, others figure that lower taxes and higher spending could spark inflation and rising interest rates—a liability in the debt-driven business.

    In fact, "uncertainty about the fate of Trump’s entire economic agenda is holding up deals across the country. Buyers and sellers “need to have shared expectations” before signing on the dotted line, said Jeff Friedman, a principal at Mesa West Capital, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm," Bloomberg reported.

    If investors are worried about rising interest rates, they should stop paying attention to the Federal Reserve's dubious projections. Remember, Trump wants to keep interest rates low; the dot are just a distraction.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the New York market is sagging as developers struggle with a glut of hotels, condos and apartment complexes following a multiyear construction boom. Now, landlords are slashing rents, and lenders are tightening loand requirements.

    Bloomberg uses Louis Ceruzzi, a developer who, like Trump, got his start outside Manhattan, as an example of how major projects have ground to a halt in the city. Two years ago, Ceruzzi and a Chinese partner bought a plot at 520 5th Avenue, paying $275 million – doubled the price paid for it in 2011. In late 2015, Ceruzzi told the Commerial Observer that construction would begin the following Spring.

    But more than a year later, theere's only "an empty lot, an idle backhoe and scattered piles of rubble," Bloomberg notes.

    Ceruzzi, for his part, didn't respond for comment. A picture of his land can be seen below.

     

  • And The Winner Of The 2017 Pulitzer Prize For Journalism Goes To…

    “unknown”

     

    Source: Townhall.com

  • Why Is The Trump Administration Rewarding Saudi War Crimes With More Weapons?

    Authored by Kristine Beckerle op-ed via The Hill,

    Last October the Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed a funeral hall in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing and wounding hundreds of people.

    “The scene was catastrophic,” one survivor told me.  “Beyond what I can explain to you or describe … There were burned bodies and dead bodies all over the hall.”

    Soon after that unlawful bombing, the Obama administration suspended the sale of nearly $400 million in weapons to Saudi Arabia.

    It was a recognition, a long time in coming, that the coalition’s military campaign in Yemen had devastated the country, killed thousands of civilians, and brought it to the brink of famine.

    After the funeral bombing, unlawful airstrikes continued, but the decision to suspend arms sales sent an important message to the Saudis. President Donald Trump, in his first trip abroad as president, is going to send an alternative, deeply troublesome message.

    While in Riyadh this weekend, Trump reportedly plans to announce more than $100 billion in arms deals to Saudi Arabia – nearly as much as Barack Obama authorized during his eight years in office.

    The deals  include Raytheon bombs, Lockheed Martin missile defense systems and BAE combat vehicles, and some  of the weapons whose sales had been suspended.

    The scars of unlawful airstrikes can be found across Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition has carried out scores of attacks that hit homes, schools, markets, and hospitals since March 2015, when it began its military campaign against the Houthi armed group and forces loyal to the former longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh. 

    Human Rights Watch has documented 81 apparently unlawful coalition attacks over the last two years, many possible war crimes. In almost two dozen of these cases, including the attack on the funeral hall, we were able to identify the US weapons that were used. 

    According to the United Nations, at least 4,773 civilians have been killed and 8,272 wounded since this conflict began, the majority by coalition airstrikes. The war has driven Yemen, already the poorest nation in the Middle East, toward humanitarian catastrophe. 

    Both the coalition and Houthi-Saleh forces have blocked or restricted critical relief supplies from reaching civilians. Seven million people face starvation, and cholera ravages parts of the country.

    Trump should be urging the Saudis to shift course by abiding by the laws of war and holding those responsible for past abuses to account. Instead he will effectively be telling them to continue as before and not to worry – the flow of US weapons will not stop.

    Trump will also be putting Americans at risk. Continued U.S. arms sales to a country that has repeatedly violated the laws of war exposes US officials to legal liability for aiding and abetting coalition war crimes.

    Some lawmakers in the U.S. are pushing back, introducing a bill intended to limit US arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. It would require the White House to certify that Saudi Arabia is taking all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties in Yemen, and stipulate that the White House must brief Congress on whether Saudi Arabia has used US weapons in previous unlawful attacks in Yemen. Other lawmakers have pledged to try to prevent future US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

    Earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt [our] value[s]… it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance, our national security interests, our economic interests.” The Trump administration needs to recognize instead that protecting civilians in armed conflict is part and parcel of enhancing US national security.

    The U.S. cannot quietly hope that the coalition will take the blame for past and future atrocities like the funeral hall bombing. Yemeni civilians suffering from unlawful airstrikes know the US supports the coalition and that U.S. weapons have been used against them. This is the national security problem the administration should be paying more attention to.

    If the Trump administration won’t try to curtail war crimes by Saudi Arabia and the rest of the coalition, Congress should step in and make clear – by using its own power to stop weapons sales – that the lives of Yemeni civilian can no longer be disregarded.

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May 20

Today’s News 20th May 2017

  • Friday Night "Intelligence Community" Leak: Russia Bragged About Flynn Connections in Private

    This has now reached TMZ styled gossip. Now the ‘intelligence community’, aka the CIA, are leaking private conversations between unnamed Russian officials who bragged about how they could influence Trump via Flynn? Who actually believes this malarkey?

    Let’s think this through for a minute.

    It’s fairly obvious the CIA/NSA/FBI loathe President Trump and have decided they want to remove him, or at least greatly diminish his power. These are the sort of leaks, however, that make them look desperate. How are we to believe an unnamed source intercepted the conversations of unnamed Russian officials who discussed how they could control Trump via their influence over Flynn?

    More importantly, I’ve never seen a man, who has otherwise served his nation with great distinction (Flynn), get ripped apart like this on a daily basis. It’s important to remember that Flynn’s son was a big pedogate/pizzagate theorist and had drawn the venomous ire of the left after John Podesta’s emails were obtained by the public.


    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

  • Paul Craig Roberts Laments "The Assault On Trump"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    We are witnessing an assault by the national security state and its liberal media on a President of the United States that is unprecedented.

    Wild and unsupported accusations of treasonous or illegal Russian connections have been the mainstay of the news since Trump’s campaign for president. These accusations have reached the point that there is an impeachment movement driven by the national security state and its liberal media and endorsed by Democrats, the American leftwing which has turned against the working class as “Trump deplorables,” and luminaries such as Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe. The Washington Post, which was not present at the meeting of President Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, purports to know that Trump gave Lavrov US national security information.

    The Russian government has offered the presstitute media a transcript of the meeting, but, of course, the pressitutes are not interested.

    The latest story is that Trump tried to bribe FBI Director Comey, before he fired him, not to investigate Trump as part of the “Russian investigation.” Clearly there is no intelligence left in the American media. The President doesn’t need to bribe someone he can fire.

    What we are witnessing is the determination of the national security state to keep their prized “Russian Threat” in its assigned role as the Number One Threat to the US. The liberal media, owned by the CIA since the 1950s is in accord with this goal.

    The American media is so accustomed to its enslavement by the national security state that it does not think of the consequences. But Professor Stephen Cohen does. I agree with him that the greatest threat to national security “is this assault on President Trump.” 

    Cohen said that there is a 4th branch of government, the intelligence community, which obstruts the management of American foreign affairs by the executive branch and Congress.

    As an example, he reminded us that “In 2016, President Obama worked out a deal with Russian President Putin for military cooperation in Syria. He said he was going to share intelligence with Russia, just like Trump and the Russians were supposed to do the other day. Our department of defense said it wouldn’t share intelligence. And a few days later, they killed Syrian soldiers, violating the agreement, and that was the end of that. So, we can ask, who is making our foreign policy in Washington today?”

    In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy thought he was in charge, and he was assassinated for his belief. JFK blocked an invasion of Cuba, the Northwoods project, a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, and spoke of ending the Cold War.

    In the 1970s President Nixon was driven from office, because he thought he was in charge of foreign policy. Like Kennedy, Nixon was a threat to the national security state. Nixon pushed through SALT 1 and the anti-ABM Treaty, and he opened to China, defusing those tensions as well. The military/security complex saw its budget dwindling as the threat dwindled. Nixon also determined to withdraw from Vietnam, but was constrained by the national security state. Nixon, the most knowledgeable president about foreign affairs, was forced from office, because his efforts in behalf of peace constituted a threat to the power and profit of the military/security complex.

    It is important to understand that there is no evidence whatsoever against Nixon in the Washington Post “investigation.” The Post’s reporters simply put together a collection of inuendoes that cast aspersion on Nixon, whose “crime” was to say that he learned of the Watergate buglary at a later date than he actually did. Nixon kept the burglary quiet until after his reelection, because he knew that the CIA’s Washington Post would use it in an effort to prevent his reelection.

    The “crime” for which Nixon was really removed was his success in establishing more peaceful and stable relations with Russia and China.

    Trump, being in real estate and entertainment, was unaware of the landmines on which he was stepping when he said it was time to normalize relations with Russia and to rethink the purpose of NATO.

    The US military/security complex sits on a budget extracted from very hard-pressed American taxpayers of $1,000 billion dollars annually. By threatening to normalize relations with the enemy which was created in order to justify this vast budget, Trump presented as the major threat to the American National Security State’s power and profit.

    This is why Trump will be broken and/or removed as President of the United States.

    Once again democracy in American is proving to be powerless. There is no one in Washington who can help Trump. Those who could help him, such as myself, cannot be confirmed by the US Senate, which is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military/security complex, Wall Street, and the Israel Lobby.

    Trump tried to connect the suffering American people to their government, an act of treason against the oligarchy, who are now making an example of Trump that will dissuade politicians in the future from making populist appeals to the people.

  • "ShadowBrokers" Hacking Group Launches Subscription Service Selling Nuclear Secrets

    The hacking group known as 'The Shadow Brokers' is pushing a monthly subscription service offering members top secret information including "compromised network data" from the nuclear and ballistic missile programs of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

    As a reminder, we have noted in the past, many security experts believe the Equation Group is the National Security Agency, and that the Shadow Brokers may be part of a psychological operations campaign run by Russian intelligence.

    Shadow Brokers first emerged last August, offering to auction hacking exploits it said were used by the NSA’s elite hacking team known as Equation Group (officially named Tailored Access Operations). NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and others confirmed the leak was authentic.

     

    In December, Shadow Brokers cancelled its auction and offered to sell the exploits.

     

    In April, the group released passwords to the rest of the hacking exploits in a move described as a protest against President Donald Trump for abandoning his base.

     

    The release included a Windows SMB [Server Message Block] exploit, EternalBlue, which was leveraged in the recent WannaCry global ransomware attack.

     

    In its Tuesday blog post, the group expressed its surprise that governments or tech companies didn’t bid in its past auctions.

    It said is has always been about “the shadowbrokers vs theequation group,” and implied the NSA is a cohort of tech companies like Microsoft.

    And now, as RT reports, the group’s monthly data dump could also include hacking exploits for web browsers, routers, and operating systems including Windows 10.

    "TheShadowBrokers Data Dump of the Month" is a new monthly subscription model, the group said.

     

    Payment will likely be made in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin given the group’s ransom demands in previous cyber attacks.

     

    The group also promised to include compromised financial data from the SWIFT international payment order system, used by banks to transfer trillions of dollars each day, as well as confidential data from several central banks.

    In a blog post published Tuesday, titled, ‘Oh Lordy! Comey Wanna Cry Edition’ the group accused the NSA of paying Microsoft to keep vulnerabilities in its software (and did not hold back in its accusations)

    If theshadowbrokers is telling the peoples theequationgroup is paying U.S technology companies NOT TO PATCH vulnerabilities until public discovery, is this being Fake News or Conspiracy Theory?

     

    Why Microsoft patching SMB vulnerabilities in secret? Microsoft is being embarrassed because theequationgroup is lying to Microsoft. TheEquationGroup is not telling Microsoft about SMB vulnerabilities, so Microsoft not preparing with quick fix patch. More important theequationgroup not paying Microsoft for holding vulnerability. Microsoft is thinking it knowing all the vulnerabilities theEquationGroup is using and paying for holding patch.

     

    Douche bag, dumbass, libtard, rich prick Head Microsoft Lawyer is running his cock holster because he is having ruff weekend doing real work. Head Microsoft Lawyer being angry because he is missing leisurely weekend playing the skin flute behind the country club.

     

    Real work is not being for executives. Real work is being for dirty foreign H1B workforce, happily working for less than stupid lazy American workers.

    Shadow Brokers finished its post saying if a responsible party were to buy “all lost data before it is being sold to the peoples” then the group would have no more financial incentives and would “go dark permanently.”

  • UK Government Moves Aggressively To Censor & Control The Internet

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    The following dystopian excerpts come from today’s UK Independent article titled, Theresa May to Create New Internet that Would Be Controlled and Regulated by Government:

    Theresa May is planning to introduce huge regulations on the way the internet works, allowing the government to decide what is said online.

     

    Particular focus has been drawn to the end of the manifesto, which makes clear that the Tories want to introduce huge changes to the way the internet works.

     

    “Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,” it states. “We disagree.”

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Senior Tories confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the phrasing indicates that the government intends to introduce huge restrictions on what people can post, share and publish online.

     

    The plans will allow Britain to become “the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet”, the manifesto claims.

     

    It comes just soon after the Investigatory Powers Act came into law. That legislation allowed the government to force internet companies to keep records on their customers’ browsing histories, as well as giving ministers the power to break apps like WhatsApp so that messages can be read.

     

    The government now appears to be launching a similarly radical change in the way that social networks and internet companies work. While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn’t published, the manifesto suggests.

     

    The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. “We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm,” the Conservatives write.

    “Other sources of harm.” Can’t wait to see the ever-expanding government definition of that.

    Perhaps most unusually they would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives.

     

    The manifesto also proposes that internet companies will have to pay a levy, like the one currently paid by gambling firms. Just like with gambling, that money will be used to pay for advertising schemes to tell people about the dangers of the internet, in particular being used to “support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms”, according to the manifesto.

     

    The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will “take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy” – and crack down on Facebook and Google to ensure that news companies get enough advertising money.

     

    If internet companies refuse to comply with the rulings – a suggestion that some have already made about the powers in the Investigatory Powers Act – then there will be a strict and strong set of ways to punish them.

    Given how willing tech companies have been to comply with government spying in the past, it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to this dangerous, authoritarian power grab.

  • Rising Occupancy In China's Fake Manhattan Is "Mostly Government Driven"

    China's copy of Manhattan is no longer a ghost town, Bloomberg reports. But that doesn't mean it has forever forestalled a "day of reckoning" for its debt-fueled growth.

    The northern city of Tianjin drew negative press coverage a few years ago because of a newly built replica of Manhattan complete with a mock Rockefeller Center that was created as part of a massive government infrastructure project but for years was little more than a ghost town.  But the city is now occupants are finally clocking to the city: Bloomberg reports that once empty skyscrapers, vacant office towers and unfinished hotels and apartments are gradually filling up amid the central government’s renewed push to refashion the city into a crucial gateway for a revitalized Northern China.

    As Bloomberg reports:

    There still may still be a financial reckoning for Tianjin looming in the future, but right now there are green shoots of economic life in the urban districts at the center of the city’s unprecedented construction boom.

    But there's a catch, of course: As is true for the broader Chinese economy, the growth in Tianjin "is mostly government driven, though there are signs private industry is coming."

    Here's more from Bloomberg:

    In the Binhai district, empty offices are filling up with staff from private companies as well as employees of some of the biggest state-owned enterprises, such as China National Chemical Corp., railcar manufacturer CRRC Corp., and China Poly Group Corp., a conglomerate with businesses ranging from explosives manufacturing to real estate." While many local governments across the country are struggling with heavy dependence on debt-fueled growth, Tianjin benefits more than almost any city from its position at the vanguard of two of the country’s biggest national projects.

    *  *  *

    Bloomberg saves one notable detail for the last paragraph of the story, citing an official who offers some local perspective: The city is supposed to play in important role in China's "one belt, one road" initiave, another massive debt-fueled trade and transport infrastructure project meant to replicate the ancient Silk Road trade routes that connected Europe and Asia. The government-funded expansion aims to join Beijing with the surrounding Hebei Province to create a mega city of 100 million people.

    It should come as no surprise that Tianjin has…backing from heavy hitters in the party.

    "We want the city to become one of the world’s largest ports like Singapore or Hong Kong," said Xiao Sheng, vice director of the free trade zone in Tianjin. "We want to develop a new business and development model that could be promoted to other regions in China."

    But even as China signs up foreign partners for its latest scheme, offering financial inducements like a $50 billion infrastructure investment in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, some at least are showing unease at the massive debt-fueled spending necessary to bring the project into reality. 

    In a diplomatic showcase years in the making, Chinese President Xi Jinping invited leaders from 29 countries to hear his pitch about the "one belt, one road." But what's notable is that India, the worlds fastest growing and second-most populous country, didn't even bother to send a delegation, warning that the "unsustainable debt burden" required to launch the project would be a disaster for the countries involved.

    The story notes that though Tianjin's growth rate slipped to 8% last year – down from 9% the year before – it still outpaced 6.8% YoY rate for the broader Chinese economy in 2016. But that's a pretty low bar: China's economy grew in 2016 at its slowest pace in 26 years.

  • Venezuela: Forty Years Of Economic Decline, Part 2

    Authored by Jose Nino via The Mises Institute,

    This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One is here.

    The brunt of the blame for Venezuela’s current economic catastrophe should fall on Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro. However, this does not mean that all was well in Venezuela before Chávez arrived on the scene. The ideological and institutional seeds of the current crises were sown decades earlier. A rising tide of government interventions in the marketplace during the 1960s and 1970s would soon lead to a host of new problems for Venezuela.

    The Oil Boom Party Ends

    The 1970s looked like a never-ending boom period for Venezuela thanks to high oil prices. The then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez took full advantage of this boom to implement his lavish social spending program. Eventually, the boom period came to a crashing halt by the early 80s, and Venezuela had to face a harsh economic downturn.

    Luis Herrera Campins would succeed Carlos Andrés Pérez’s government. From the start, he came to the realization that Pérez’s spending bonanza was unsustainable. In fact, Herrera had choice words for Pérez's policies, claiming that Pérez left him a "mortgaged" country.

    Although Herrera was correct in his assessment of the Pérez administration’s fiscal irresponsibility, he would ironically continue more of the same cronyist policies as his predecessor. The chickens eventually came to roost as Venezuela experienced its very own “Black Friday.”

    What once was one of the world’s most stable currencies, the Bolívar, experienced it’s most significant devaluation to date. Unfortunately, Herrera’s administration responded with heavy-handed exchange controls to stem capital flight. These controls would be administered by an agency called the “Differential Exchange Rate Regime” (RECADI), effectively creating a multi-tiered system of exchange rates.

    Considerable corruption scandals emerged during the succeeding government of Jaime Lusinchi, as countless members of the political class would exploit the multi-tiered exchange rate system for their own gain.

    Despite its abolition in 1989, RECADI would serve as a precursor to the byzantine exchange rate systems that the Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (CADIVI) and its successor, the National Center for Foreign Commerce (CENCOEX), would later preside over during the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s period of dominance throughout the 2000s.

    All in all, Venezuela’s Black Friday devaluation marked the beginning of a lost decade of sorts for Venezuela throughout the 1980s that set the stage for subsequent devaluations, currency controls, and irresponsible fiscal policy further down the line.

    IMF to the Rescue?

    Rising poverty rates, increased foreign and public debt, corrupt state enterprises, and burdensome regulations contributed to an environment of growing social tension and economic malaise throughout the 1980s. Venezuela’s previous growth miracle became an afterthought at this point. And it’s golden goose, oil, could not bail it out thanks to the low oil prices of the 1980s.

    For Venezuela to right its ship, it would have to undergo painful fiscal reforms.

    Ironically, it was Carlos Andrés Pérez that was entrusted with reigning in the excessive government largesse; the very same leader that established Venezuela’s profligate welfare state and laid the foundations for its collapse in the 1980s.

    In 1988, Pérez campaigned on a platform that promised to bring back the splendor and prosperity of the 1970s. But once he assumed the presidency, Pérez realized that the Venezuela before him was on the verge of bankruptcy and crippled by excessive state intervention in the economy.

    Under the auspices of the IMF, Pérez made a half-hearted attempt in reforming Venezuela’s broken petrostate. When broken down and analyzed, these reforms consisted of tariff reductions, tax hikes, flawed privatizations, and marginal spending cuts that ultimately did not address the underlying problems with the Venezuelan political economy — its flawed monetary policy, burdensome regulatory framework, and entrenched crony capitalist policies.

    However, these reforms were too much for Pérez’s very own party, Acción Democrática (AD). AD was incensed by these reforms that hacked away at certain facets of the cronyist petrostate that it depended on to maintain its political power.

    Of note, the phasing out of gas subsidies by the Pérez government — a popular social program that artificially kept gas prices low for the impoverished sectors of Venezuelan society — was used by the AD to channel discontent among the general populace.

    Enter Hugo Chávez

    Countless individuals would then take to the streets and protest the so-called “austerity” policies of the Pérez government. This eventually led to the infamous “Caracazo” incident in 1989, where the capital city of Caracas was engulfed in a series of protests, lootings, and riots. The government responded in a heavy-handed manner, leaving hundreds dead.

    In the midst of the political chaos, radical groups took advantage of Venezuela’s political turmoil to advance their agenda. One of the most famous was then Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez´s group, Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200).

    Chávez took advantage of the political disarray by consolidating an anti-government movement within the ranks of the Venezuelan military. This culminated in the failed coup attempts of 1992.

    Even though Chávez was imprisoned for his coup attempt, Chavez’s agitation was enough to put the whole bipartisan Punto Fijo model into question. Eventually, corruption scandals and rising degrees of social unrest would whittle away at the Pérez administration’s legitimacy. The final nail in the coffin came when Pérez was impeached for corruption charges in 1992, thus putting the Punto Fjio model on the ropes.

    Collapse of the Punto Fijo Model

    Two coup attempts and the impeachment of Carl Andrés Pérez, marked the beginning of a tumultuous 1990s for Venezuela. The Venezuela of the 50s to 70s — characterized by its unprecedented economic prosperity and political stability — was starting to become a distant memory.

    By 1994, the Punto Fijo model was in shambles as Rafael Caldera assumed the presidency under a new coalition, Convergencia (Convergence), of disaffected political parties.

    Policywise, Rafael Caldera did not rock the boat. He pursued several of the IMF’s half measures, while not addressing structural problems such as the privatization of the oil industry, Venezuela’s downward spiraling monetary policy, and big business’s cozy relationship with the state. In addition, Caldera pardoned Hugo Chávez in 1994, rehabilitating him politically.

    Thanks to the failed land reforms and housing subsidization polices pursued by the two major social democrat parties (AD and COPEI) during previous decades, major metropolitan areas like Caracas, Maracaibo, Maracay, and Valencia began to be populated by a growing subsect of impoverished Venezuelans. Chávez would tap into this low stratum of Venezuelan society and effectively turn them into shock troops for his campaign to radically transform Venezuela into a full-blown socialist state.

    The Failure of the Social Democratic Era

    It is undeniable that Venezuela’s social democratic consensus delivered sub-optimal results. From 1958 to 1998, Venezuela’s per capita GDP growth was a paltry -0.13 % indicating that the Venezuelan populace grew faster than the wealth produced in that time frame. In his book, Introduction to Economic Growth, Charles I. Jones classified the Venezuelan case as an example of a “growth disaster.” Venezuela was one of two countries in Latin America that suffered negative growth during this 40-year period, the other being Nicaragua, a country that suffered a costly civil war and was under the rule of a socialist government.

    Chávez capitalized on this stagnation by launching a campaign against the bipartisan political consensus that ruled Venezuela at the time. Branding himself as a “Third Way” candidate, Chávez sought to provide an alternative to the perceived corruption of the Punto Fijo political order.

    Despite the rosy rhetoric, Chávez was surrounding himself with hardened Marxists and other collectivist figures that were hell-bent on subverting Venezuela’s already fragile political order. Little did the disillusioned voters that cast a ballot for Chávez know what they were about to get themselves into.

    Chavismo: Interventionism on Steroids

    While Chávez may have been correct in pointing out the corruption of the old Punto Fijo order, he would ironically continue many of its failed policies throughout his regime, amplifying their disastrous effects and implementing them in a tyrannical fashion.

    Currency controls, expropriations, price controls, and the use of the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to finance lavish social spending programs were fixtures of Hugo Chávez’s socialist economic policy.

    In addition, Venezuelan political institutions were completely eviscerated, media outlets were suppressed, and political activists were subject to numerous human rights violations under Chávez’s heavy-handed rule.

    Chávez had the luxury of high oil prices from 2003 to 2010 to finance his socialist schemes and channel the petroleum rents to consolidate political support in the short term. But once oil prices plummeted, the laws of economics reared their ugly head and the system began to unravel in no time.

    Even with Chávez’s death in 2013, his brand of tyrannical socialism has continued unabated under the rule of his successor, Nicolás Maduro.

    The Venezuela that stands before us is a failed state. In an atavistic sense, Venezuela has returned to its 19th century state as an increasingly fragmented, political backwater.

    Time will tell if the Venezuelan nation will continue to exist as a cohesive whole, or if certain sectors of Venezuelan society decide to blaze their own trail and start to break up the country.

    Lessons Learned

    If Venezuelans want to restore Venezuela to its once prosperous state, they must look back and understand the genesis of Venezuela’s current crisis.

    It is myopic to pit the blame solely on demagogues and believe that things will be perfectly fine once the “right people” are put in charge. Political events like the rise of Hugo Chávez do not occur in a vacuum. Astute observers of political economy must analyze the overarching institutions and policies that create the type of political environment that enables authoritarians like Hugo Chávez to come into power.

    The Venezuelan case serves as a strong warning to many a European country with crumbling welfare states and growing social discontent. Sooner or later, unsustainable transfer systems are bound to collapse and social disorder ensues.

    Left unchecked, socialism only creates a vicious cycle of interventionism that leads to more chaos and misery. To reach the light at the end of the tunnel, Venezuela must completely abandon socialism and embrace the capitalist path to prosperity.

  • Structured Credit Bubble 2.0: Asian Investors Binge On "Boom-And-Bust" CLOs; Issuance Up 97% YoY

    Back in 2006, some of the wall street banks (ahem, Goldman) managed to layoff quite a bit of their mortgage risk to unwitting European and Asian investors who, in their desperate ‘search for yield’, had no idea they had just been conned into stepping in front of a freight train.  Now, it seems that the same thing may be happening yet again with another favorite wall street structured product, Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs).

    According to Bloomberg, money managers in Korea, Japan and China are piling into CLOs, and often into the most junior tranches no less, at an alarming rate which has resulted in a staggering 97% increase in YoY new issuance volume.

    Faced with near record-low interest rates at home, money managers in Korea, Japan and China have been piling into complex and increasingly risky structured loan products in America. Their investments in collateralized loan obligations — including the high-yield “equity’’ tranches most exposed to defaults — have helped drive a doubling of issuance in 2017.

     

    The bets have performed well so far. But some observers worry that Asian buyers are overlooking risks. Headwinds in the retail and energy sectors have raised the specter of defaults, while Moody’s Investors Service has stopped evaluating one type of CLO product amid concern that buyers will end up holding less creditworthy positions than they anticipated.

     

    “CLOs are a difficult investment universe, and CLO equity is a boom-and-bust product,’’ said Mike Terwilliger, a New York-based portfolio manager at Resource America Inc., which oversees more than $9 billion and invests in CLOs. “Investors need to make sure they’re being adequately compensated.’’

     

    “U.S. CLO equity is starting to look a little less attractive,” Tyler said. “Investors may want to lighten up on this space before there’s a turn in the credit cycle given the illiquid nature of CLO structures.”

    Meanwhile, non-U.S. money managers’ share of American CLO tranches with single-A credit ratings more than tripled to 21% last year, mostly due to surging demand from Asia, according to Citigroup Inc.

    Korea Post, which manages about $102 billion of savings and insurance products, said in March it had been adding to CLO holdings. Japan Post Bank Co. has made plans to boost exposure to the safest tranches, people familiar with the matter said in January. Gopher Asset Management, a Chinese investment firm that oversees $17.5 billion, is currently raising money for a second global credit fund that may invest in CLOs, said Chief Investment Officer PV Wang.

     

    Some “super-aggressive’’ Korean funds are buying equity tranches, according to Eugene Chun, who helps manage about $100 million of CLOs as a Seoul-based executive managing director at HDC Asset Management. Others are purchasing what’s known as combination notes, Chun said. The products blend investment grade and equity tranches to deliver higher yields while still maintaining adequate credit ratings.

    Helped by strong Asian demand, CLO issuance has totaled about $32 billion so far this year, up 97% from the same period in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    Of course, the reasoning is fairly simple and quite familiar for those of us who lived through the ‘great recession’.  With all-in yields on even the riskiest U.S. debt hovering at just over 5.5%, much lower than even the 2006/2007 bubble levels…

    HY

     

    wall street has a convenient product that takes ‘safe’ levered loans, packages them up in a nice little bundle and then sells them to folks all over the world with juicy yields and an investment grade rating.  It’s a win-win-win…lower risk, higher yield and IG rating…

    CLO

     

    Haven’t we seen this movie before?

  • Chinese Media Warns US Social Division Shows "Western Democracy Is Crumbling"

    Well known government mouthpiece, The China Global Times, published an op-ed overnight that was shockingly frank about the state of America (in their eyes) and did little to confirm President Trump's opinion that he and Premier Xi are best-buddies…

    President Trump's Troubles Are Not Going Away

    US President Donald Trump appears to be in big trouble. A memo by former FBI director James Comey exposed by The New York Times shows Trump had asked Comey to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a meeting on February 14. US mainstream media and the Democratic Party accused Trump of obstruction of justice.

     

    Earlier, US media had reported that Trump leaked highly classified intelligence on the Islamic State to visiting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, yet Washington failed to share the same information with its allies to protect the source.

     

    As the attacks on Trump ramp up, many are now calling for him to be impeached. According to one poll, 48 percent supported impeachment, while 41 percent opposed. The numbers don't bode well for Trump.

     

    The American elite still refuse to accept Trump after his 100 days in the Oval Office. He is at odds with the mainstream media; insiders have constantly leaked information to the media. Now some commentators have compared the exposure of the Comey memo to the Watergate scandal. As Congress is under Republican control, few believe there will be a move to impeach the president, but these latest revelations will certainly further erode Trump's presidential authority.

     

    At the beginning of the corruption scandal, few believed that South Korean president Park Geun-hye would be impeached either. Could this be a reference for Trump's case? But evidence of Park's illegal activities was solid, while it will be more complicated to make determinations over whether Trump obstructed justice and leaked classified intelligence. 

     

    To impeach Trump will need more evidence from further investigation. To completely discredit Trump among voters, the present scandal is not enough as it does not add to the negative image of Trump. Many just think Trump often speaks off the cuff, which ends up in silly blunders. 

     

    If there is a major substantive scandal over and above him speaking out of turn then that will be another thing. But this is not the case at the moment.

     

    Every country has its own troubles. The US model represents Western democracy, but it is crumbling, and the resulting social division has become more and more serious. The US Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into link between Russia and the 2016 US presidential election and related matters on Wednesday. More juicy details will continue to appear and the rifts may become wider. Trump will become one of the most frequently accused Americans.

     

    The US won't be engulfed by chaos if its president is caught in a lawsuit. Someone has pointed out that no matter how chaotic the White House and Capitol Hill are, the overall operation of the US will not be a major problem as long as the enterprises and social organizations in the country are stable. This is seen as an advantage of the American system.

     

    Although American society is relatively stable, the political tumult can't be taken as an advantage of the US system. The fact is that US politics is in trouble, and the benefits brought by its system are being squandered.

    With friends like that, who needs North Korean enemies?

  • Journalists Drink Too Much, Are Dumber Than Average, Study Finds

    A recent scientific study just proved something that viewers of CNN have probably suspected for years: Journalists' brains function at a lower level than the rest of the population. 

    A study conducted by neuroscientist Tara Swift and the London Press Club determined that "the highest functions of journalists brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, due to dehydration, self-medicating, and fueling their brains with caffeine and high-sugar foods"

    "However, the pressures of the job are not affecting journalists ability to endure and bounce back from adversity in the long term, due to a belief that their work has meaning," according to a press release from the London Press Club.

    Journalists' brains show a lower level of executive function – that is, the ability of the brain to regulate emotions, suppress biases, switch between tasks, solve complex problems and think flexibly and creatively –  than the average person because to their heavy drinking, and caffeine consumption. They also eat too many high-sugar foods, and don't devote enough time to mindfulness.  

    Dr Swart recruited 31 journalists from across the industry to participate in the study. Participants were required to record their eating and drinking habits, answer a brain profile questionaire, take blood tests, and wear heart-rate variability monitors. 

    The study was initially launched to examine how journalists manage to "survive and thrive" while managing such high levels of occupational stress. "Journalism," the press release notes, "is one of many industries under an increasing amount of pressure in the digital age. Low pay, frequent deadlines, and high levels of accountability all contribute to high reported stress levels."

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May 19

Today’s News 19th May 2017

  • AND NoW FoR IMPoRTaNT MeSSaGE FRoM THe DeeP STaTe…
  • Venezuela: Forty Years Of Economic Decline, Part 1

    Authored by Jose Nino via The Mises Institute,

    Venezuela Before Chavez: A Prelude To Soclialist Failure

    Venezuela’s current economic catastrophe is well documented. Conventional narratives point to Hugo Chávez’s regime as the primary architect behind Venezuela’s economic tragedy. While Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro deserve the brunt of the blame for Venezuela’s current economic calamity, the underlying flaws of Venezuela’s political economy point to much more systemic problems.

    Observers must look beyond stage one, and understand Venezuela’s overall history over the past 50 years in order to get a more thorough understanding of how the country has currently fallen to such lows.

    Socialism Before Chávez

    Analysts like to point to rosier pictures of Pre-Chávez Venezuela, but what these “experts” conveniently ignore is that the seeds of Venezuela’s destruction were sowed during those “glory years.” Years of gradual economic interventionism took what was once a country bound to join the ranks of the First World to a middle-tier developing country. This steady decline eventually created an environment where a demagogue like Chávez would completely exploit for his political gain.

    The Once-Prosperous Venezuela

    To comprehend Venezuela’s long-term decline, one must look back at what made it so prosperous in the first place. Before the completion of its first oil field on April 15, 1914, Venezuela was essentially a Banana Republic marked by political instability. This was largely a consequence of its colonial past and the period following its independence from Spain. Despite gaining independence from Spain, Venezuela maintained many of its primitive political and economic practices, above all, its exclusionary mercantilist and regulatory policies that kept it in an impoverished state.

    However, the discovery of oil in the early twentieth century completely changed the entire ballgame. The powerful agricultural aristocracy would be supplanted by an industrialist class that sought to open its oil markets to multinational exploitation and foreign investment. For the first time in its history, Venezuela had a relatively liberal, free market economy and it would reap countless benefits in the decades to come.

    From the 1910s to the 1930s, the much-maligned dictator Juan Vicente Gómez helped consolidate the Venezuelan state and modernized an otherwise neocolonial backwater by allowing market actors, domestic and foreign, to freely exploit newly discovered oil deposits. Venezuela would experience substantial economic growth and quickly establish itself as one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries by the 1950s.

    In the 1950s, General Marcos Pérez Jiménez would continue Gómez’s legacy. At this juncture, Venezuela was at its peak, with a fourth place ranking in terms of per capita GDP worldwide.

    More Than Just Oil

    While oil exploitation did play a considerable role in Venezuela’s meteoric ascent from the 1920s to 1970s, this only scratches the surface in explaining how Venezuela became so prosperous during this period. A combination of a relatively free economy, an immigration system that attracted and assimilated laborers from Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and a system of strong property rights, allowed Venezuela to experience unprecedented levels of economic development from the 1940s up until the 1970s.

    As mentioned earlier, Venezuela was at the height of its prosperity during the military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez’s regime. Like Juan Vicente Gómez’s regime, Pérez Jiménez’s stewardship of Venezuela was characterized by heavy political repression.

    Venezuela’s capitalist structure remained largely intact during Pérez Jiménez’s tenure, albeit with creeping degrees of state involvement. Pérez Jiménez did introduce some elements of crony capitalism, pharaonic public works projects, and increased state involvement in “strategic industries” like the steel industry. Nevertheless, the Pérez Jiménez regime was open to foreign investment, let the price system function normally in most sectors of the economy, and did not embark on creating a profligate welfare state.

    The Road to Social Democracy

    Despite the prosperity brought about by Venezuela’s booming economy in the 1950s, Marcos Pérez Jiménez’s government drew the ire of many left-leaning activists due its heavy-handed measures. The tipping point came in 1958, when these leftist activists, working in tandem with a sympathetic military, successfully overthrew Pérez Jiménez in a coup. Pérez Jiménez would live the rest of his life in exile and would be a figure of derision among Venezuelan intellectual and political elites, despite the unprecedented economic and social development under his watch.

    Following the 1958 coup, naval officer Wolfgang Larrázabal occupied the presidency briefly until general elections were held later that year. Notable social democrat political leader Rómulo Betancourt would come out on top in these elections and assume the presidency from 1959 to 1964. The Fourth Republic of Venezuela — Venezuela’s longest lasting period of democratic rule, was established under Betancourt’s administration. In 1961, a constitution was introduced, dividing the government into 3 branches — executive, legislative, and judicial — and establishing an activist role for the Venezuelan state in economic affairs.

    This political order was further consolidated by the establishment of the Punto Fijo Pact. The Punto Fijo Pact consisted of a bipartisan agreement between two political parties — Acción Democratica (Democratic Action) and COPEI (Christian Democrats) — that laid the foundation for a social democratic political order and alternation of power between the two parties.

    What seemed like a genuine move toward democratic stability, Venezuela’s Fourth Republic marked the beginning of a process of creeping socialism that gradually whittled away at Venezuela’s economic and institutional foundations.

    The Socialist Origins of Venezuela’s Pro-Democracy Advocates

    Venezuela’s current collapse did not happen overnight. It was part of a drawn out process of economic and institutional decay that began decades before.

    When Venezuela returned to democracy in 1958, it looked like it was poised to begin an era of unprecedented prosperity and political stability.

    However, Venezuela’s democratic experiment was doomed from the start, and one needn’t look any further at the political background of its very own founder, Rómulo Betancourt, to understand why it’s entire political system was built on a house of cards.

    Rómulo Betancourt was an ex-communist who renounced his Marxist ways in favor of a more gradualist approach of establishing socialism. Despite evolving into more of a social democrat, Betancourt still believed in a very activist role for the State in economic matters.

    Betancourt was part of a generation of intellectuals and student activists that aimed to fully nationalize Venezuela’s petroleum sector and use petroleum rents to establish a welfare state of sorts. These political figures firmly believed that for Venezuela to become a truly independent country and free itself from the influence of foreign interests, the government must have complete dominion over the oil sector.

    Under this premise, a nationalized oil industry would finance cheap gasoline, “free” education at all levels, healthcare, and a wide array of other public services.

    This rhetoric strongly resonated among the lower and middle classes, which would form the bulwark of Betancourt’s party, Acción Democrática, voter base for years to come.

    At its core, this vision of economic organization assumed that the government must manage the economy through central planning. Oil would be produced, managed, and administered by the state, while the government would try to phase out the private sector.

    Interventionism from the Start

    Betancourt’s administration, while not as interventionist as succeeding 4th Republic governments, capped off several worrisome policies, which included:

    1. Devaluation of the Venezuelan currency, the Bolívar.
    2. Failed land reform that encouraged squatting and undermined the property rights of landowners.
    3. The establishment of a Constitutional order based on positive rights and an active role for the Venezuelan state in economic affairs

    Betancourt’s government followed-up with considerable tax hikes that saw income tax rates triple to 36%. In typical fashion, spending increases would be accompanied with these increases, as the Venezuelan government started to generate fiscal deficits because of its out of control social programs. These growing deficits would become a fixture in Venezuelan public finance during the pre-Chávez era.

    The Nationalization of the Oil Industry

    While Betancourt did not achieve his end goal of nationalizing the Venezuelan oil industry, his government laid the foundation for subsequent interventions in that sector.

    Thanks to the large oil boom of the 1970s, the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez capitalized on the unprecedented flow of petroleum rents brought about by the 1970s energy crisis where oil-producing countries like Venezuela benefited handsomely from high oil prices.

    Betancourt’s vision was finally achieved in 1975, when Carlos Andrés Pérez’s government nationalized the petroleum sector. The nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry fundamentally altered the nature of the Venezuelan state. Venezuela morphed into a petrostate, in which the concept of the consent of the governed was effectively turned on its head.

    Instead of Venezuelans paying taxes to the government in exchange for the protection of property and similar freedoms, the Venezuelan state would play a patrimonial role by bribing its citizens with all sorts of handouts to maintain its dominion over them. 

    On the other hand, countries based on more liberal frameworks of governance have citizens paying taxes, and in return, these governments provide services that nominally protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. The state is not the owner, thus giving the citizens a strong check against the Leviathan should the government overstep its boundaries.

    Oil Nationalization: A Pig Trough for Politicians

    Pérez would take advantage of this state power-grab to finance a profligate welfare state and a cornucopia of social welfare programs that resonated strongly with the populace. As a result, deficit spending became embraced by the political class and increasing levels of foreign and public debt would become the norm in Venezuelan fiscal affairs.

    At this juncture, Venezuela’s economy became overwhelmingly politicized. Oil boom periods were characterized by an inflow of petrodollars that the state used for pharaonic public works and social projects as a means to pacify the populace.

    In reality, no real wealth creation took place during these boom periods, as the state redistributed the rents according to political whims and usurped functions traditionally held by civil society and private economic actors. When politicians and bureaucrats oversee businesses, decision-making is based on partisan and state interests rather than efficiency and consumer preferences.

    Although the nationalization of the petroleum industry did not result in an immediate economic downturn, it laid the groundwork for institutional decay that would clearly manifest itself during the 80s and 90s.

  • Close Friend of Comey, Ben Wittes, Makes Up Absurd Story About Comey Being 'Disgusted' by Trump Hug

    If Comey admits to being ‘disgusted’ by ‘hugging’ Trump, I fucking promise to eat a shoe on my inactive periscope account. When I clicked on this stupid story from The Shill, I figured I’d just watch it and move on. So I got to watching it and as it went on, it became more absurd, almost perverse, in the blatancy of the lies being purported by this former Washpo editor and Brookings Institue faggot.

    If you’re a democrat and believe this is a person of repute, feel free to fuck yourself. Look at this submental, literally making the story up as he went along the faggot rode paved for him by the PBS eunuch.

    ‘He really wanted to blend in and not be singled out. He’s wearing, if you watch the video, he’s wearing a blue blazer. And he stands in the room that is as far from Trump that is physically possible to be and also against blue drapes that are the same color as his –‘

    ‘He chose that spot?’

    ‘He chose that spot because it was almost like a chameleon or camouflaged against the wall.’

    Fuck yourself Ben Wittes.

    It’s worth noting, Wittes has a black belt in Taekwondo. I still like my chances in beating him senseless, if afforded the chance, however.

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

  • The Russian Obsession Goes Back Decades

    Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

    Just consider the accusations that have been leveled at the president:

    1. He has betrayed the Constitution, which he swore to uphold.
    2. He has committed treason by befriending Russia and other enemies of America.
    3. He has subjugated America’s interests to Moscow.
    4. He has been caught in fantastic lies to the American people, including personal ones, like his previous marriage and divorce.

    President Donald Trump?

    No, President John F. Kennedy.

    What lots of Americans don’t realize, because it was kept secret from them for so long, is that what Trump has been enduring from the national-security establishment, the mainstream press, and the American right-wing for his outreach to, or “collusion with,” Russia pales in comparison to what Kennedy had to endure for committing the heinous “crime” of reaching out to Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union in a spirit of peace and friendship.

    They hated him for it. They abused him. They insulted him. They belittled him. They called him naïve. They said he was a traitor.

    All of the nasties listed above, plus more, were contained in an advertisement and a flier that appeared in Dallas on the morning of November 22, 1963, the day that Kennedy was assassinated. They can be read here and here.

    Ever since then, some people have tried to make it seem like the advertisement and flier expressed only the feelings of extreme right-wingers in Dallas. That’s nonsense. They expressed the deeply held convictions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, the conservative movement, and many people within the mainstream media and Washington establishment.

    In June 1963, Kennedy threw down the gauntlet in a speech he delivered at American University, now entitled the “Peace Speech.” It was one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered by an American president. It was broadcast all across the communist Soviet Union, the first time that had ever been done.

    In the speech, Kennedy announced that he was bringing an end to the Cold War and the mindset of hostility toward Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union that the U.S. national-security establishment had inculcated in the minds of the American people ever since the end of World War II.

    It was a radical notion and, as Kennedy well understood, a very dangerous one insofar as he was concerned. The Cold War against America’s World War II partner and ally had been used to convert the United States from a limited-government republic to a national-security state, one consisting of a vast, permanent military establishment, the CIA, and the NSA, along with their broad array of totalitarian-like powers, such as assassination, regime change, coups, invasions, torture, surveillance, and the like. Everyone was convinced that the Cold War — and the so-called threat from the international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Russia — would last forever, which would naturally mean permanent and ever-increasing largess for what Kennedy’s predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower, had  called the “military-industrial complex.”

    Suddenly, Kennedy was upending the Cold War apple cart by threatening to establish a relationship of friendship and peaceful coexistence with Russia, the rest of the Soviet Union, and Cuba.

    Kennedy knew full well that his actions were considered by some to be a grave threat to “national security.” After all, don’t forget that it was Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz’s outreach to the Soviets in a spirit of friendship that got him ousted from power by the CIA and presumably targeted for assassination as part of that regime-change operation. It was Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s outreach to the Soviets in a spirit of friendship that made him the target of Pentagon and CIA regime-change operations, including through invasion, assassination, and sanctions. It was Congo leader’s Patrice Lamumba’s outreach to the Soviets in a spirit of friendship that got him targeted for assassination by the CIA. It would be Chilean President Salvador Allende’s outreach to the Soviets in a spirit of friendship that got him targeted in a CIA-instigated coup in Chile that resulted in Allende’s death.

    Kennedy wasn’t dumb. He knew what he was up against. He had heard Eisenhower warn the American people in his Farewell Address about the dangers to their freedom and democratic way of life posed by the military establishment. After Kennedy had read the novel Seven Days in May, which posited the danger of a military coup in America, he asked friends in Hollywood to make it into a movie to serve as a warning to the American people. In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Pentagon and the CIA were exerting extreme pressure on Kennedy to bomb and invade Cuba, his brother Bobby told a Soviet official with whom he was negotiating that the president was under a severe threat of being ousted in a coup. And, of course, Kennedy was fully mindful of what had happened to Arbenz, Lamumba, and Castro for doing what Kennedy was now doing — reaching out to the Soviets in a spirit of friendship.

    In the eyes of the national-security establishment, one simply did not reach out to Russia, Cuba, or any other “enemy” of America. Doing so, in their eyes, made Kennedy an appeaser, betrayer, traitor, and a threat to “national security.”

    Kennedy didn’t stop with his Peace Speech. He also began negotiating a treaty with the Soviets to end above-ground nuclear testing, an action that incurred even more anger and ire within the Pentagon and the CIA. Yes, that’s right — they said that “national security” depended on the U.S. government’s continuing to do what they object to North Korea doing today — conducting nuclear tests, both above ground and below ground.

    Kennedy mobilized public opinion to overcome fierce opposition in the military, CIA, Congress, and the Washington establishment to secure passage of his Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

    He then ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, and told close aides that he would order a complete pull-out after winning the 1964 election. In the eyes of the U.S. national-security establishment, leaving Vietnam subject to a communist takeover would pose a grave threat to national security here in the United States.

    Worst of all, from the standpoint of the national-security establishment, Kennedy began secret personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro to bring an end to America’s Cold War against them. That was considered to be a grave threat to “national security” as well as a grave threat to all the military and intelligence largess that depended on the Cold War.

    By this time, Kennedy’s war with the national-security establishment was in full swing. He had already vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds after its perfidious conduct in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. By this time, he had also lost all confidence in the military after it proposed an all-out surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, much as Japan had done at Pearl Harbor, after the infamous plan known as Operation Northwoods, which proposed terrorist attacks and plane hijackings carried out by U.S. agents posing as Cuban communists, so as to provide a pretext for invading Cuba, and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the military establishment accused him of appeasement and treason for agreeing not to ever invade Cuba again.

    What Kennedy didn’t know was that his “secret” negotiations with the Soviet and Cuban communists weren’t so secret after all. As it turns out, it was a virtual certainty that the CIA (or NSA) was listening in on telephone conversations of Cuban officials at the UN in New York City, much as the CIA and NSA still do today, during which they would have learned what the president was secretly doing behind their backs.

    Kennedy’s feelings toward the people who were calling him a traitor for befriending Moscow and other “enemies” of America? In response to the things that were said in that advertisement and flier about him being a traitor for befriending Russia, he told his wife Jackie on the morning he was assassinated: “We are heading into nut country today.” Of course, as he well knew, the nuts weren’t located only in Dallas. They were also situated throughout the U.S. national-security establishment.

  • 31 Fascinating Facts On The Early History Of The US Dollar

    Today, we all know the U.S. dollar as an iconic currency that is recognizable to people around the world.

    And while Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardin has previously looked at the buying power of the U.S. dollar over time, as well as important events like the Great Depression, we have not looked at the history of the dollar itself.

    How and why was it conceived, and why do we call it a “dollar” or a “buck”? How did the dollar’s early history help to shape today’s world?

    Courtesy of: The Money Project

    Before the Dollar

    For the early colonists, currency was a bit of a free-for-all.

    Officially, cash was denominated in pounds, shillings, and pence, but in reality things were a different story. Cash was often scarce, and colonists needed to be innovative to fulfill transactions. At various points in time, they used tobacco, beaver skins, and wampum in the place of money. Some colonies even tried to issue their own fiat currencies – many of which went bust.

    As it turned out, the Spanish dollar was often the most abundant form of cash – and this is what led to U.S. currency eventually being denominated in dollars.

    The Revolution

    During the American Revolution in 1775, the Continental Congress issued a money known as the Continental Currency to try and fund the war. The government printed too many, and the value of a Continental diminished rapidly.

    Just five years later, after runaway inflation, the Continental was worth 2.5% of its face value. Benjamin Franklin rightly noted that the depreciation of the Continental had, in fact, acted as a tax to pay for the war. Holders of the currency – everyday people – were punished by losing massive amounts of buying power. Interestingly, this is where we get the phrase “Not worth a Continental”.

    Birth of the Dollar

    The failure of the Continental Currency must have been top of mind during the writing of the Constitution. A clause was even added, under Article 1, Section 10, to make sure such a failure would never happen again. It was written that states were not permitted to “coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; [or] make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”

    And so, the Coinage Act of 1792 created the U.S. dollar as a standard unit of currency. The U.S. Mint was authorized to oversee coinage, and the Act also established a penalty of death for debasing coinage issued by the Mint.

    The Almighty Buck

    In the 19th Century, a new slang term emerged for the dollar.

    Especially in the Great Lakes area, different amounts of money were equated with animal skins. One particular reference showed that in Ohio in 1851, the skin of a muskrat was worth $0.25, and that of a doe was worth $0.50. Meanwhile, the skin of a buck was equal to the “almighty dollar” – and hence, the word “buck” became synonymous with the U.S. dollar.

    The Civil War

    Leading up to the Civil War, private banks around the country issued their own paper currencies.

    With 10,000 or so of these currencies in circulation as the war broke out, governments soon found it very cumbersome to try and pay debts with many different types of notes. As a result, the $10 Demand Note was the first official paper currency issued in 1861 by the government to help finance the war.

    The North began paying debts with a fiat currency called the “greenback”, while Confederate states issued their own paper currency as well. The latter was worthless by the time the Confederacy lost the war.

    The Counterfeiting Problem

    Around this time, counterfeiting was a widespread problem with greenbacks and all the private notes that were circulating. More than 1/3 of bills were fake at this time.

    Sophisticated counterfeit operations were happening in British Canada, and some bank engravers would even moonlight as counterfeiters, using the same plates and dyes they had from their day job.

    To deal with the problem, the Secret Service was formed in 1865.

    The Modern Dollar

    Counterfeiting measures have come a long way since the late 19th century. Today, it’s estimated that less than 0.01% of notes are fake.

    Learn more about the modern U.S. dollar in the next part of this series.

    *  *  *

    The Money Project is an ongoing collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals that seeks to use intuitive visualizations to explore the origins, nature, and use of money.

  • Inside The US Government's Plan To Survive Nuclear War (While The Rest Of Us Die)

    Authored by Sadie Dingfelder, originally posted at The Washington Post,

    In 2011, a staffer at Washingtonian found a government ID in a Metro parking garage and gave it to Garrett M. Graff (the magazine’s editor-in-chief at the time) to track down its owner. “Since I reported about that world, he figured I’d know what to do with it,” Graff says.

    Graff immediately noticed something strange.

    “The back of the ID had these evacuation instructions on it. And so I got on Google Maps and followed the instructions and they led to a road that very clearly went into the side of a mountain, and you can see on the Google satellite view big concrete bunker doors.”

    Raven Rock, a hollowed out mountain near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, is reportedly one of the undisclosed locations Dick Cheney worked from after 9/11.

    That discovery inspired Graff to comb through newly declassified documents to learn more about the U.S. government’s plans in the event of a nuclear war or other catastrophe. His research culminated in the new book “Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself — While the Rest of Us Die.”

    At first, the government didn’t plan to let “the rest of us die.”

    “In the early 1950s, the government really hoped and believed it would be able to save most Americans,” Graff says.

     

    As bombs became more destructive, “plans and ambitions gradually shrunk until, realistically, the best they could hope to do is save the senior leadership.”

    Drills and disasters have shown that the federal government is too complex and unwieldy to pluck out of D.C. by helicopter and set up in an underground bunker — though that was, and still is, the basic plan, Graff says.

    One such shelter is the mountain fortress Graff tracked down: Raven Rock. Here’s more on it, plus other tidbits from doomsday scenarios past and present.

    Raven Rock

    This compound, carved out of a mountain near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, contains several freestanding, multistory buildings (on giant, shock-absorbing springs) for a total of 900,000 square feet of office space. It has its own subterranean water supply, too. Raven Rock is where top government and military officials would hide out in the event of a major attack on Washington, D.C.; it was reportedly one of the “undisclosed locations” former Vice President Dick Cheney worked from in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Mount Weather

    Another major underground government complex, Mount Weather has been in use since the 1950s. Located at the border of Loudoun and Clarke counties in Virginia, the 600,000-square-foot bunker inside the mountain was once (and still may be) the official evacuation site for Supreme Court justices, documents such as the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and the National Gallery of Art’s most valuable paintings.

    E-4B ‘doomsday planes’

    These custom-built 747s, also known as “Air Force One When It Counts,” are flying war rooms that follow the president when he travels internationally.

    When POTUS is stateside, one plane sits ready on a runway at a Nebraska military base, “fully staffed with battle planners and war planners and meteorologists and anything else you might need to run a nuclear war,” Graff says. The planes are protected from electromagnetic pulse attacks with a fine wire mesh, and they can unfurl a 5-mile-long wire that allows communication with nuclear submarines.

    Survival crackers

    In the 1960s, the U.S. government distributed 150 million pounds of wheat crackers and biscuits to fallout shelters across America. Packages are still routinely found unopened in civic building basements, and apparently they don’t taste great. “I did actually find on eBay a box of them, but I haven’t been brave enough to try them in part because I have watched enough YouTube videos of other people trying them to know how disgusting they actually are,” Graff says.

    Button #13

    In the late 1970s, the D.C. mayor’s emergency control center at 300 Indiana Ave. NW had a Plexiglas-shielded button that, when pressed, triggered “Emer-zak,” the broadcast of emergency messages to lobbies, elevators and anywhere else served by the Muzak system.

    *  *  *

    While much of this is known, given the recent "Gotham Shield" nuclear attack drill and Washington D.C.'s recent "terror attack drill", one can't help but wonder if these old bunkers and emergency systems are getting dusted off… just as Hawaiian officials have already demanded.

  • Chinese Phone Giant Admits To "Unprecedented Degree" Of Falsified Revenue

    Fabricating data in China, it turns out, is not only a favorite government pastime. Publicly traded, if state-owned, phone giant Unicom Group fabricated financials relating to 1.8 billion yuan ($261 billion) in revenue over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016 – or as the company admitted, it engaged in an "unprecedented degree of falsified revenue."  This is China we are talking about, where the definition of "unprecedented" is very different from the US.

    Lest there be any confusion, Bloomberg further elucidated that Unicom "engaged in organized, cross-departmental faking of financial figures" – according to an internal document leaked to Bloomberg. The disclosure is just another reminder of just how endemic fraud is at both government agencies and various enterprises in China. Recall that back in January, People’s Daily confirmed what everyone had known: the government was officially making up numbers in the rust-belt province of Liaoning, and fabricated fiscal numbers after the local economy was crippled by the commodity crunch. 

    In a statement provided to Bloomberg, company officials claimed the fraud had a “relatively small impact” on the company and that figures had already been corrected in its financial statements. To assure investors, the company claims it has now strengthened oversight, having sacked 70 managers who were allegedly responsible for the fraud. It has also strengthened its monitoring efforts. Of course, with non-existant government oversight, corrupt auditors and "pay me as you go along" internal supervision, the numbers will remain as cooked as ever.

    What was interesting was the timing of the leak: the report appeared as the Unicom Group is preparing to raise billions in capital from private investors after the firm was one of six state-owned enterprises selected for a pilot program in mixed ownership. Some have speculated that the leaker is either a disgruntled insider, or a case of industrial sabbotage with the document being passed to Bloomberg by a bidder hoping to buy at a more attractive price.

    Hong-Kong based analyst Steven Liu of China Securities International also downplayed the significance of the disclosure, arguing the “irregularities” wouldn’t materially impact the company's bottom line. What was to be expected: after all Liu has a buy rating on the stock.

    Here are a few more selections from the leaked document, courtesy of Bloomberg:

    • About 17% of the total falsified revenue came from Shaanxi’s Tongchuan and Yulin cities, while the Hanzhong branch falsified more than a third of its revenue
    • Penalties ranged from dismissals to administrative warnings, suspended party membership and salary deductions
    • Managers were punished according to the Communist Party disciplinary guidelines
    • The nature and repercussions of the fraud are "unprecedented" in Unicom’s history, according to the document

    The news rocked shares of Unicom on Thursday; they closed at HK$10.24 after falling 3.2%, the largest drop in a month. Shares of China United Network Communications, its Shanghai-listed arm, have been suspended since late March, pending further disclosure of its mixed-ownership plan. Who knows what fraud is hiding there.

    Despite authorities’ claims to the contrary, the fraud is, of course, representative of how managers at large Chinese corporates react when the numbers don't match their expectations. The Hong-Kong listed arm of the company has seen revenue fall during each of the last three years, together with profits for the last two as competition in the space has intensified. The leak offers a glimpse into how Chinese firms react when business starts to slow: managers hoping to preserve their reputations, not to mention their jobs, and keep the government-funded money spigot flowing have every incentive to falsify revenues and profit figures.

    Incidentally, US companies do the same thing, only there it's called non-GAAP EPS (and revenue) and adjusted effective tax rate and remains perfectly legal.

  • Is There A Coup Attempt Underway In America?

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    Personally, I’m horrified by the fact that Goldman Sachs goons are in total control of the Trump administration’s economic policy. I’m also horrified that our new President’s first overseas trip will be to the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia, a autocratic, brutal monarchy with undeniable ties to 9/11. I’m likewise disgusted by Attorney General Jefferson Sessions’ oppressive and uncivilized relaunch of the misguided and disastrous “war on drugs.” Finally, I’m very troubled by the fact Mike Flynn attempted to disrupt a military operation using Syrian Kurds to rout ISIS in Raqqa because Turkey didn’t like it, given he was working as a paid agent of Turkey months earlier and never disclosed it.

    There are a plethora of things to be deeply concerned about when it comes to Trump, yet the coup attempt against him being launched by elements of the deep state, corporate media and Hillary dead-ender Democrats is more concerning still. It’s obvious what’s happening right now is not a sincere attempt to hold a President accountable, or fight him on policy or personnel choices. Rather, this all seems to be a very deliberate and premeditated attempt to remove him from office.  

    What’s so troubling about what I just wrote is not so much that I think it, but that it’s becoming accepted truth by a growing number of mainstream Americans. For example, can you believe CNBC actually published a post with the following title?

    Here are a few excerpts from the piece:

    There is, indeed, a bombshell of a story coming out of the news that President Donald Trump revealed sensitive information during his White House meeting with Russian officials last week. But it’s not that President Trump committed any crime. The really alarming news is that the duly-elected President of the United States appears to be the target of a political coup.

     

    First, let’s be clear: President Trump has been sloppy, arrogant, and just plain misguided plenty of times during his short tenure in office — including the way he handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the hiring and firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And if he did unnecessarily compromise the source of the sensitive information he shared with the Russians, shame on him.

     

    But a president cannot be removed from office for arrogance and sloppiness…

     

    Here’s the kicker: None of this is actually working where it counts. Again, we have not one piece of evidence of any impeachable act. And it’s not even truly working in the polls. President Trump’s approval ratings may be lower than any modern president this early in his tenure, but they’re still higher than they were throughout the election. If anything, these constant attacks coming from this obviously angry and potentially illegal place are only strengthening the resolve of Trump’s base of supporters. They elected a guy they believed was truly the enemy of the established political class. And right on cue, the established political class is stopping at nothing to prove them right.

     

    For all the things President Trump has said that have dragged down the level of our American political discourse, this sustained takedown effort is worse. And it’s not clear how this is going to end. Unlike President Trump, the leakers remain anonymous and thus unaccountable. They can presumably go on forever.

     

    And President Trump doesn’t seem like he’s going to stop fighting back or irritating and threatening his political opponents.

     

    But don’t fool yourself into thinking this is OK or even tolerable. The bottom line is that we have some very powerful people in Washington who really don’t like how democracy played out this time around and what they do to attack it next isn’t going to be any better than what they’re doing now.

     

    Luckily the American people remain wisely circumspect about all of this. President Trump’s polls aside, the voters are still giving him a decent shot to govern. And unaccountable people in Washington shouldn’t be trying to make that decision for us.

    Once again, I want to remind you the above was published at CNBC. Sure it’s a vapid Wall Street oligarch-worshipping rag, but it’s still pretty mainstream.

    Moreover, it’s not just CNBC writers and obscure bloggers such as myself who are coming to these sorts of conclusions.

    For example, listen closely to what Dennis Kucinich had to say on the topic in a recent interview.

    I agree with Dennis completely, and another troubling aspect of all this is that the hysteria incessantly being driven by the corporate press in its attempt to destroy Trump is distracting attention away from genuine scandals. For example, yesterday’s McClatchy story on Mike Flynn’s undisclosed work as a agent of Turkey, and how that may have influenced his foreign policy recommendations appears to be a very real and extremely concerning scandal. Yet it gets buried in the hyperbole and hysteria, and millions of people end up tuning everything out.

    The road we’re headed down is unhealthy, counterproductive and extremely dangerous. As is typically the case, you can thank the corporate press.

  • Chinese Fighter Jets Conduct "Unprofessional" Inverted Intercept Of US Radiation Detector Over Yellow Sea

    In the second incident between US and Chinese planes this year, two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets came within 150 feet of a U.S. Air Force WC-135 radiation detection plane while it was flying over the Yellow Sea in international airspace on Wednesday, CNN reports, citing an unidentified U.S. official.

    The Chinese jets came within 150 feet of the US plane, with one of the Su-30s flying inverted, or upside down, directly above the American plane, the official said. 

    As CNN reports, the US plane involved was an Air Force WC-135 jet.

    Dubbed the "Constant Phoenix," the four-engine WC-135 jet looks for distinctive elements a nuclear test of any type would emit into the air. The collected samples can be analyzed to determine exactly what occurred.

    The WC-135 has been regularly deployed on routine missions in Northeast Asia, according to the US official. The planes have been used in the past to gather evidence of possible nuclear tests by North Korea.

    There was a modest reaction in USDJPY on the headline…

    This is the second 'intercept' this year. In February, US defense officials said there was an "unsafe" close encounter between a US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft and a Chinese surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea. In that incident, a US official told CNN the US Navy plane had to alter course to ensure there wasn't a collision with what one official said was a People's Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200. The planes came within 1,000 feet of each other, US officials said.

    And with a second carrier heading towards the Korean Peninsula, we suspect more are inevitable (despite US officials saying close encounters between US and Chinese forces are extremely rare).

Digest powered by RSS Digest

May 18

Today’s News 18th May 2017

  • World Money: Five Hidden Signals From The IMF

    Authored by Craig Wilson via The Daily Reckoning blog,

    Less than a month ago a handful of the world’s policy makers gathered in Washington at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), no surprising headlines were run – but an obscure meeting and a discreet report launched exclusive signals for the next global economic crisis.

    The panel, which included five of the most elite global bankers, was held during the IMF’s spring meetings to discuss the special drawing rights (SDR) 50th anniversary.  On the surface the panel was a snoozefest, but reading beyond the jargon offers critical takeaways.

    The discussion revealed what global central banks are planning for a future crisis and how the IMF is orchestrating policy for financial bubbles, currency shocks and institutional failures.

    Why the urgency from the financial elites?

    In theApril 2017 “Global Financial Stability Report,” IMF researchers targeted the U.S corporate debt market and how extreme changes in its equity market has left the global economy at risk. While the report may have been missed by major financial news outlets, it was enough to give major concern to those paying attention.The IMF research report noted:

    “The [U.S.] corporate sector has tended to favor debt financing, with $7.8 trillion in debt and other liabilities added since 2010…”

    In another segment the IMF report said:

    “Corporate credit fundamentals have started to weaken, creating conditions that have historically preceded a credit cycle downturn. Asset quality—measured, for example, by the share of deals with weaker covenants—has deteriorated.”

    “At the same time, a rising share of rating downgrades suggests rising credit risks in a number of industries, including energy and related firms in the context of oil price adjustments and also in capital goods and health care. Also consistent with this late stage in the credit cycle, corporate sector leverage has risen to elevated levels.”

    This report  together with the panel discussion highlights a very concerning trend. Jim Rickards, a currency wars expert and macroeconomic specialist, has identified the special drawing rights (SDR) as a class of world money that is a tool used to bailout central banks during crisis.

    World Money, The IMF and Signals for Economic Crisis

    World money was praised for its ability to be a catalyst for international loans during the IMF spring panel discussion.

    The panel discussion was moderated by Maurice Obstfeld, an established academic who serves as a Director of Research at the IMF. Obstfeld is connected, knows the right people, and can see the macroeconomic implications of SDRs.

    World Money SDR

    In his opening remarks Obstfeld identified, “There has been increasing debate over the role of the SDR since the global financial crisis. We in the Fund have been looking more intensively at the issue over whether an enhanced role for the SDR could improve the functioning of the international monetary system.”

    “The official SDR is something we are familiar with but is there a role for the SDR in the market or a market SDR? What is the SDR’s role for the unit of account?”

    Here’s the five most important signals from the world money panel, what they could mean for the international monetary system and the future of the dollar.

    1. China Spars for the SDR Market

    Yi Gang, the Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China disclosed to the IMF panel that, “China has started reporting our foreign official reserves, balance of payment reports, and the international investment position reports.”

    “All of these reports, now, in China are published in U.S dollars, SDR and Renminbi rates… I think that has the advantage of reducing the negative impact of negative liquidity on your assets.”

    What that means in real terms is that China views the opportunity of being a part of the exclusive world money club as an opportunity to diversify away from the U.S dollar.

    The Bank of China official took that message even further saying that he hopes that China could lead in world money operations by integrating it into the private sector.

    Yi Gang

    “If more and more people, companies and the market use SDR as unit of accounts – that would generate more activity in the market with focus on the MSDR. [The hope would be] that they could create more products and market infrastructures that would be available for trade products to be denominated in SDR.”

    The People’s Bank of China official referenced how this trend was already underway. Just last year Standard Chartered bank began to maintain accounts in SDR’s. “In terms of the first and secondary markets they will develop fairly well.”

    Perhaps the most important segment that the Chinese official signaled was his reference that, “The Official Reserve SDR (OSDR) that allocation from the IMF is very important. [This allows] Central Banks to make the SDR an official asset, and easier for them to convert that asset into the reserve currency they need.”

    What that means is that China will become an even greater player in the world money market.

    Nomi Prins, an economist and historian stated when analyzing China’s economic positioning, “The expanding SDR basket is as much a political power play as it is about increasing the number of reserve currencies for central banks for financial purposes.”

    2. Special Drawing Rights: The Case for Liquidity and Central Banks

    Jose Antonio Ocampo, one of the foremost scholars on international economics and a board member of the Central Bank of Colombia noted, “The main objective of SDR reform is actually… for it to be a major reserve asset for the international monetary system.”

    “First of all, it is a truly global asset. It is backed by all of the members of the IMF and it doesn’t have the problems that come with using a national currency as international currency. Second, it has a much better form of distribution of the creation of liquidity. Because it is shared by all members of the IMF… in that regard, it does serve as unconditional liquidity.”

    That means that IMF and institutional economists view the SDR as a potential way of financing not only national government loans, but markets.

    The most fascinating point that Ocampo made about the SDR was about the position of conditional reserves and what it could mean for more SDR reform. Conditional reserves reference the ability of central banks to borrow and repay loans in a timely manner with conditionality.

    “Countries that hold excess SDR’s should deposit them in the IMF. The IMF then could use those SDR’s to finance its lending. [This will reduce] the need to have quotas, borrowing arrangements and methods to finance IMF programs. Like any decent central bank in the world they could use their own creation of liquidity as a sort of financing of that central bank.”

    While the IMF has been a “central bank for central banks” this proposal would see the international monetary system shift entirely.

    Jim Rickards takes his analysis a step further showing that the liquidity and lending offer the IMF the ability to act during a crisis, as it did during the most recent global financial crisis.

    Rickards, The New York Times best-selling author, reveals, “The 2009 issuance was a case of the IMF ‘testing the plumbing’ of the system to make sure it worked properly. With no issuance of SDRs for 28 years, from 1981–2009, the IMF wanted to rehearse the governance, computational and legal processes for issuing SDRs.”

    “The purpose was partly to alleviate liquidity concerns at the time, but also partly to make sure the system works in case a large new issuance was needed on short notice.”

    3. Elites Signaling the Blueprint Plan for World Money

    Mohamed El-Erian a former Deputy Director of the IMF and the Chief Economic Adviser at Allianz (affiliated with PIMCO) was the premier panelist to discuss the future blueprint plan of world money.

    El-Erian started out his discussion, “If the SDR is to play a really important role you cannot go through the official sector only today.”

    He outlined the current political landscape for world money saying, “The politics today do not favor delegating economic governance from national to multilateral levels. Yet the case for the SDR is very strong.”

    “It is not only about the Triffin Dilemma and [acting as] the official reserve, it’s because if you ask anybody do you want to reduce the cost of self-insurance, they’ll say yes. Do you want to facilitate diversification? They’ll say yes. If you ask anybody, do you want to make liquidity less reciprocal, they’ll say yes.”

    “The SDR helps address every one of these issues. So, it solves problems not just at the official level but it solves problems in the private sector.”

    To break that jargon down Jim Rickards offers, “In other words, the latest plan is for the IMF to combine forces with mega-banks, and big investors like BlackRock and PIMCO to implement the world money plan.”

    “El-Erian is ‘signaling’ other global elites about the SDR plan so they can prepare accordingly.”

    4. The SDR Signals Death of the Dollar

    Catherine Schenk, a professor of International Economic History at the University of Glasgow, is one of the top scholars of economic relations. While speaking she took up the case of what the special drawing rights meant for the U.S dollar.

    Dr. Schenk when asked whether the international market could proceed without a “lender of last resort” she pressed, “Why would you use a relatively illiquid element when you have the U.S dollar?”

    “The U.S dollar has a lot of problems, some of it is unstable but the depth and liquidity of it in financial markets are unrivaled. The history of trying to create bond markets for other currencies or other instruments shows that it takes a long time.”

    She then elaborated later in the conversation the premise that, “What we are talking about with the market SDR is trying to turn it and add more facilities to turn it into money. That will take time. Having reluctant issuing, I am worried about how that market it going to be created.”

    As the dollar continues to have its issues what central banks like the Federal Reserve select to do matters significantly.

    Christopher Whalen pens, “Whether you look at US stocks, residential housing markets or the dollar, the picture that emerges is a market that has risen sharply, far more than the underlying rate of economic growth. This is due to a constraint in the supply of assets and a relative torrent of cash chasing the available opportunities.”

    Whalen then asks the bigger question and one that could specifically matter for the SDR when he notes, “What happens when this latest dollar super cycle ends?”

    How the competition for the top world reserve position unfolds between the SDR and U.S dollar will be answered in time.

    5. World Money Becomes Central Bank Money

    During the final Q&A for the panel on the SDR’s, they were asked what the political climate looks like facing the issues of world money and the direction of political headwinds?

    In response Jose Antonio Ocampo said, “In the issue of liquidity, we still have a basic problem during a crisis – which is, how do you provide liquidity during crisis?”

    Ocampo, the Colombian central bank official disclosed, “My view is that it is a function for the SDR as central bank money, let’s say.”

    The SDR specialist took it further, “The real question is whether any of the major actors… and whether the U.S, either from the previous administration or the current administration, was willing [to politically act]?”

    He offered, “From the point of view of the U.S the use of SDR’s as a market instrument should be more problematic than the reforms of the SDR to be used as central bank money.”

    Under such circumstances the demand and confidence for the U.S dollar as a global reserve would be diminished.

    Jim Rickards summarizes, “By the time the final loss of confidence arrives, much of the damage will already have been done. The analytic key is to look for those minor events pointing in the direction of lost confidence in the dollar.”

    “With that information investors can take defensive measures before it’s too late.”

    As was confirmed by both the IMF report and the elite panel on special drawing rights, the U.S dollar is facing severe competition while undergoing a fiscal crisis.

    Rickards leaves a stark warning, “The U.S. is playing into the hands of these rivals by running trade deficits, budget deficits and a huge external debt.”

  • Cyber Attacks Are The Perfect Trigger For A Stock Market Crash

    Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

    The world has been stunned over the past few days by the advent of “Ransomware;” the use of sophisticated cyber attacks on vital systems in order to (supposedly) extort capital from target businesses and institutions. I am always highly suspicious whenever a large scale cyber incident occurs, primarily because the manner in which these events are explained to the public does not begin to cover certain important realities. For example, the mainstream media rarely if ever discusses the fact that many digital systems are deliberately designed to be vulnerable.

    Software and internet corporate monoliths have long been cooperating with the NSA through programs like PRISM to provide government agencies backdoor access to computer systems worldwide. Edward Snowden vindicated numerous “conspiracy theorists” in 2013 with his comprehensive data dumps, exposing collusion between corporations and the NSA including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo. And make no mistake, nothing has changed since then.

    The level of collusion between major software developers and the establishment might be shocking to some, but it was rather well known to alternative analysts and researchers. The use of legislation like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to skirt Constitutional protections within the 4th Amendment has been open policy for quite some time. It only made sense that government agencies and their corporate partners would use it as a rationale to develop vast protocols for invading people’s privacy, including American citizens.

    The issue is, in the process of engineering software and networks with Swiss cheese-like defenses in the name of “national security,” such exploits make vast spreads of infrastructure vulnerable to attack. I think it likely this was the intention all along. That is to say, the NSA and other agencies have created a rather perfect breeding ground for false flag attacks, real attacks and general crisis.

    It should be noted that the Ransomware attacks which struck systems around the world used “Wannacrypt,” derived from an NSA exploit called “Eternalblue.” This program was designed to specifically target Microsoft Windows machines, no doubt using vulnerabilities which Microsoft ENGINEERED into their own software. Now, interestingly, a batch of NSA exploits was published online by a hacker group called “the shadow brokers” only last month. From the information I have gathered so far, it seems that “Eternalblue” was part of that data dump and that the Ransomware incident is directly connected.

    Something else that is very interesting about Eternalblue — as CNN notes, similar exploits were used not long ago by the NSA to get backdoor access to financial data within the SWIFT banking system. This was rather odd because through international agreements the NSA already had front door access to such data. However, front door access can be tracked and traced and any illicit activity can be exposed. Therefore, the NSA must have had something more nefarious in mind than simply looking for terrorist activity, such as testing the effectiveness of their own exploits for future use in attacks.

    I mention the incident with SWIFT because it brings up a potential danger that I don’t think many people have considered.

    First, let’s assume for a moment that groups like the “shadow brokers” actually exist and aren’t some kind of NSA created front. These groups are using the considerable weaknesses that corporations like Microsoft put in place for the NSA in order to reap profits through criminal enterprise or to commit terrorist acts. The NSA and its Silicon Valley partners literally created this monster; a monster which has the capacity to attack otherwise secure banking networks like SWIFT.

    This begs the question – how much of the global banking system and global stock exchanges are open to attack with these same NSA exploits. I would suggest that ALL of them are.

    Second, let’s consider for a moment the possibility that groups like the “shadow brokers” are mostly fraudulent fronts for establishment agencies and elitists. Consider that maybe, just maybe, the NSA is releasing some of these exploits on purpose to the public. Why? Well, one might consider that issue complicated, but to summarize, it may be very advantageous for international banks and governments to deliberately place financial systems at risk.

    In my article The Economic End Game Explained, I outline in detail with evidence why the establishment is seeking a major economic crisis within the near term. Organizations like the IMF have been talking excitedly for the past few years about something they call “the great global economic reset.” The details behind this “reset” are rather vague, but the general notion is that the economic systems of today are going to evolve in a painful way and that certain elements of our fiscal structure could be wiped clean altogether. In order for such a “reset” to take place, some kind of crisis event would be needed or would happen inevitably as a consequence.

    In order for a new economic system to be entrenched, the old system has to be dismantled; but how can banking moguls and globalist interests succeed in doing this without taking the blame for the ultimate social and geopolitical suffering and carnage that would result? Well, they would need scapegoats.

    Some of these scapegoats will be political in origin. For example, the mainstream media has been pumping out non-stop rhetoric suggesting that the next global crisis will be a direct result of the “rise of populism and nationalism” within Western societies. Meaning conservatives, classical liberals and sovereignty champions are the new patsies for economic instabilities that the globalists built into the system long ago.

    Some of these scapegoats, though, will be far more illusory and intangible.

    It is my belief that agencies like the NSA are unleashing some of their own exploits to the public on purpose. But what does this accomplish?  For one, it makes the use of false flag attacks more viable. If attacks like Ransomware continue to escalate, the public may in a sense become normalized to them. What if one of these attacks targets major financial elements? Say the large networks of algorithmic computers that dominate stock transactions today come under threat; what would be the result? Most likely complete market disaster. And, almost everyone in the world will believe the culprit was some kind of terrorist hacking group, rather than the establishment itself, which has the most to gain from this brand of catastrophe.

    Also, the establishment may simply be hoping that if they release enough of these exploits which they have been devising for years, someone will use them to attack the financial system autonomously. That is to say, the establishment does not necessarily need to use false flag attacks to bring down stock markets or banking networks. All they need to do is put the weapons out in the open and wait for someone to fall to temptation and do their dirty work for them.

    I would compare this to the act of forcefully injecting millions of Muslim immigrants into western nations without a rational vetting process. If the elites want more terrorism in Europe, for instance, they don’t have to do all the work of forming domestic cells and training the members as they have done in the Middle East with ISIS. All they have to do is leave the front door wide open in the name of “humanitarianism” and allow the enemy to waltz right in.

    This strategy gives the establishment plausible deniability while also giving them the crisis environment they secretly desire.

    Our economy and the economies of most nations today stand upon a razor’s edge. Historically negative data is now reported weekly. Hard and “soft” data indicates a massive downturn is lurking under the surface. In fact, the ONLY elements of the economy which remain “positive” are stocks and some currencies. This is what we call a bubble scenario. The globalists have managed to stretch equities markets for years on the back of untold stimulus measures, but this illusion is quickly coming to an end.

    Central banks are backing away from quantitative easing and steadily increasing interest rates, removing cheap debt as a tool to prop up stocks. The era of easy money is almost over. It seems to me that this is a perfect time for a trigger event that is completely unrelated to the financial elites, an event that will distract the public away from their culpability. This is not to say that a cyber attack on our market networks will be the only trigger event or distraction, but I am starting to think it will be a primary measure, no doubt while the world is mesmerized by James Comey "memos" and other such nonsense.

    The NSA and other organizations have handcrafted global networks to fail, and not just fail, but fail spectacularly leaving maximum destruction in their wake. I do not think this was done without foresight. Events like Ransomware might only be the beginning. Watch this trend carefully, and be extra vigilant if cyber attacks begin to target financial institutions and systems. If this does happen, the “great economic reset” may not be far away.

  • Brazil Plunges Into Fresh Political Crisis After Temer "Hush Money" Recordings Emerge; Market Crashes

    The presidency of Brazil’s Michel Temer, who replaced disgraced and impeached predecessor Dilma Rouseff last summer, lasted about one year without a major corruption scandal.

    That changed tonight, when Brazil’s O Globo newspaper which was instrumental in exposing the Carwash scandal which ultimately led to Rouseff’s downfall and the arrest and incarceration of countless politicians, reported that the chairman of meatpacking giant JBS secretly recorded his discussion with Temer about “hush money” payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha in return for his silence.


    Brazil’s President Michel Temer

    The allegations are the latest development in Operation Carwash, a sprawling corruption probe that has implicated many of Brazil’s business and political elite, including some in the president’s own party. Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

    Readers may recall that in a delightfully ironic case study of political irony and power vacuum, Eduardo Cunha, the conservative Brazilian political leader who led the push in 2016 to oust Dilma Rousseff, was sentenced in March to more than 15 years in prison himself, when a Brazil judge found him guilty of corruption, money laundering and illegally sending money abroad, all in connection with the sprawling graft investigation involving the state-run oil company Petrobras, and which Cunha himself used as a pretext to dispose of Rouseff.

    The tragically ironic Cunha was the highest-profile politician to be sentenced as a result of the Operation Car Wash investigation into corruption at Petrobras, which has shaken Brazil’s political and business establishments to their core. Ultimately, he was convicted of charges that included receiving bribes during Petrobras’ acquisition of a Benin oil field for $35.5 million in 2011, and of money laundering crimes between 2011 and 2014. Yet somehow he was the man tasked with bringing justice to Rouseff.

    Furthermore, Cunha, once a powerful member of Temer’s ruling party, has previously said he had compromising information about a host of senior politicians linked to a vast political bribery scandal at state oil firm Petrobras. And yet he never spokeup.

    Now, not only do we know why Cunha kept silent, but there is finally proof of a corruption link between Cunha and Temer himself.

    According to the O Globo report, JBS Chairman Joseley Batista recorded the discussion with Temer about hush money the executive paid to Cunha, according to the newspaper. The report did not say what Cunha was asked to keep quiet about. When Batista told Temer he was paying Cunha to remain silent, the president was recorded saying, “You need to keep that up, okay?”


    Batista and Temer

    Temer on Wednesday acknowledged he had met with the JBS Chairman in March but denied any part in alleged efforts to keep jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha from testifying.

    According to O Globo, executives from JBS submitted a tape to the Supreme Court of a secret recording of Temer approving a payment to the abovementioned Cunha. Batista and his brother, JBS Chief Executive Wesley Batista, presented the recording to prosecutors as part of plea bargain negotiations underway since March.

    Reuters adds that  JBS also hired a law firm to discuss a leniency deal with the U.S. Department of Justice. JBS declined to comment immediately.

    To be sure, the presidential press office immediately issued a statement vehemently denying the allegations. “President Michel Temer never requested payments to obtain the silence of ex-deputy Eduardo Cunha,” it said. “The president defends a deep and wide investigation to get to the bottom of the claims put forward in the media.”

    Unfortunately for Temer, Brazil appears to no longer believe politician lies, especially of Temer, whose approval rating is in the single digits. As a result, as Bloomberg writes, “Brazil has plunged back into political crisis, reminiscent of the chaos surrounding last year’s impeachment process.”

    Bloomberg adds that O Globo’s report caused an immediate stir in Congress, where opposition congressmen started to shout anti-government slogans. The session was subsequently suspended. Legislators from five opposition parties called for Temer’s resignation and early elections, according to a statement sent by the opposition leader in the lower house. Temer went to his official residence after an emergency meeting with some of his closest aides.

    According to further press reports, legislators from 5 opposition parties have demanded Temer’s resignation and call for new elections, according to statement from lower house opposition leader’s press office. And while the US spent much of the day talking about impeachment, in Brazil they actually did it: Rede party deputy Alessandro Molon filed an impeachment request against Temer, according to his press office.

    The local authorities already know what’s coming: amid growing protests in Brasilia on Wednesday evening, military police have moved into position around the presidential palace and one of the judges on Brazil’s Supreme Court has called for calm. “It’s a moment for calm, moderation and watching the institutions work,” said Marco Aurelio Mello.

    “We still need more information, but on the face of it there’s enough to say that it weakens substantially the government,” said Andre Cesar, an independent political analyst. “I see a huge increase in the difficulties in approving reforms. Pension reform could take a step back.”

    The head of the Brazilian Bar Association, Claudio Lamachia, said in a statement that society needs immediate answers and that the alleged recordings need to be made public as soon as possible. “Brazilians can no longer live with doubts regarding their representatives,” Lamachia said.

    On Wednesday evening, people were already lining up on the streets of Sao Paolo, preparing to protest against Temer:

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    Meanwhile, the same market which soared last year after the Rouseff impeachment, for some still unknown reason, is now plunging on the news. A Brazilian ETF trading in Tokyo, tumbled more than 8% on the O Globo news, its biggest drop since September 2015.


    At this point it is unclear if there is any politician left in Brazil who has not been tainted by the Carwash scandal; it is also not clear who could possibly replace Temer when he too is kicked out of office, in light of the unprecedented power vacuum on all sides that currently exists in the Latin American country.

  • Are Auto-Makers Bailing On Their Job-Creation Pledges?

    Carmakers quickly kowtowed to Trump after his upset victory over Hilary Clinton on Nov. 8, allowing the then-president-elect to take credit for their pledges to hire thousands of workers and keep U.S. factories open. 

    At the time, fears of a 35% import tariff were enough to keep them in line. But while Trump still has the support of his voter base, the administration is having a hard time whipping up votes in Congress. Trump has struggled to pass a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare – a law that almost nobody in the Republican party wants to keep. So it's difficult to imagine the administration passing something as controversial as the import tax any time soon. 

    But, now that its become apparent that Trump doesn't wield absolute authority over Republicans in Congress, The Wall Street Journal is asking: When will the corporate sector jump ship?

    From WSJ:

    Detroit has been an engine of growth for U.S. employment since the financial crisis, with General Motors Co. , Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV adding tens of thousands of jobs to keep pace with growing demand and fund autonomous-car engineering and other moonshot programs. Total auto employment manufacturing, including parts suppliers, hit 945,000 in April, 50% higher than industry employment in 2009 when GM, Chrysler and several auto suppliers were undergoing bankruptcy restructuring.

     

    Earlier this year, company executives promised to add head count at certain factories in response to criticism from President Donald Trump.

     

    Now, those executives are quickly retreating.

     

    GM and Ford are making cuts to their U.S. workforces that could far outpace the job commitments made in recent months amid political pressure. Amid softening U.S. car sales and mounting investor skepticism about Detroit's ability to weather the industry's first downturn in nearly a decade, auto executives are facing a tough choice in whom to please: Wall Street or the White House.

     

    Auto sales have fallen for four straight months. Inventory is near record highs. Used-care sales prices are falling. R&D budgets have become bloated. And interest rates are half a percentage point higher than they were five months ago.

    Unless the Trump administration can swiftly furnish the 4% economic growth, these companies have every incentive to pull back. And judging by Ford's decision earlier this week to slash 10% of its workforce, they're not willing to wait.

    Auto stocks have largely missed out on the broad market rally; At $33, shares of GM are trading at their November 2010 IPO price. Ford shares are down 12% YTD at $10.94, while Fiat-Chrysler has seen modest gains.

    Meanwhile, Tesla shares are soaring even as Elon Musk and his merry band of futurists have yet to turn a profit. And that alone should be enough to make auto execs like Mary Barra, who receive an increasing percentage of their compensation in stock, forget all those promises made during the heady days leading up to the inauguration.

  • The Most Important Question That No One Is Asking…

    With every mainstream media orifice chock full of prognosticators speculating on what Trump must have done given the anonymously-sourced reports about Comey, Russia, and Cock-holsters; there appears to be one question that very few dare ask…

    If Trump indeed asked Comey to end the Flynn probe, why was Comey so silent about the meeting for two months?

    One such American who dared to ask the question is infamous neocon Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who told Fox News tonight that he has “real questions” for Comey…

    “If Director Comey in any way thought that he was being intimidated or the president was trying to interfere with an investigation, I believe that Director Comey had an obligation to report that, report it to the Justice Department, to tell those around him,” King said.

     

    “Because that could be considered a crime, and as director of the FBI, he had an obligation to make that known.”

    He added that Comey also had an obligation to share that information with the House and Senate intelligence committees when he testified before them.

    //video.insider.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=5437727553001&w=466&h=263

    Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

    King said he is not aware of Comey speaking to anyone in Congress about any interference in any ongoing investigations into Flynn, Russia or the Trump campaign.

    “If this was as serious as it’s now being made out to be, why has Director Comey been so silent for the last two months?” King said.

    Next week’s Comey hearing could be more exciting than we thought as the answer to those questions is unlikley to be covered by the standard “that’s classified” response.

    We note that King’s comments – somewhat defending President Trump – come shortly after Senator McCain’s Trump-defending comments… did Trump ‘cross the aisle’ to the neocons?

  • McMaken: Dismantle The FBI, And Give Its Money Back To The States

    Authored by Ryuan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

    With James Comey's firing, we're told the FBI is in turmoil, and Washington DC cocktail parties are all atwitter over the excitement of the scandal. But don't worry about the FBI. If history has proved anything, the Bureau, no matter how much chaos it may endure, can always rely on a fat check from Congress — funded by the American taxpayers. 

    But why does the US need a huge national police force at all? Can't state police forces do just as well? The FBI continues to assert never-proven claims that bigger governments are better at law enforcement than smaller onces. This myth is not only untrue, but very expensive for taxpayers. 

    The FBI's Gravy Train

    The FBI is very well paid. The 2017 budget request for the FBI, for instance, is for $8.7 billion. That's up from 2014's budget of $8.4 billion. That may not seem like a lot compared to say, the Defense Department's typical haul of $500 to $600 billion. But as far as law enforcement agencies in the United States go, the FBI is awash in money.  

    It's so much money, in fact, that if the FBI were abolished, and the sum were divided up into 50 even portions for the states, each state would receive $174 million dollars.

    That's not chump change. The entire public safety budget for the Illinois State Police in 2016, for example, was $242 million. Even if every state got an equal share of the FBI's budget back, the Illinois state Police could increase their public safety budget by 71 percent. 

    Illinois, though, is the sixth largest state (by population) in the Union. Just imagine what smaller states could do with a similar amount were those monies not used to pay for the FBI's latest efforts to raid peaceful political gatherings in Texas, or provide private luxury jets for politicians.  The total budget of the Colorado State Patrol, for instance — including everything from salaries to public relations — is $144 million.

    But what a great racket the FBI has going. As an arm of a federal government that prints its own money, the FBI need never worry about any meaningful budget cut. Moreover, it keeps getting bigger budgets regardless of its ineptitude. And ineptitude is easy to find. As James Bovard reported this week in USAToday:

    Before the 9/11 attacks, the FBI dismally failed to connect the dots on suspicious foreigners engaged in domestic aviation training. Though Congress had deluged the FBI with $1.7 billion to upgrade its computers, many FBI agents

     

    ad old machines incapable of searching the Web or emailing photos. One FBI agent observed that the bureau ethos is that "real men don’t type. … The computer revolution just passed us by."

     

    The FBI’s pre-9/11 blunders "contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists," according to a 2002 congressional investigation. (The FBI also lost track of a key informant at the heart of the cabal that detonated a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.)

     

    In the late 1990s, the FBI Academy taught agents that subjects of investigations "have forfeited their right to the truth." This doctrine helped fuel pervasive entrapment operations after 9/11. Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, estimated that only about 1% of the 500 people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were bona fide threats. Thirty times as many were induced by the FBI to behave in ways that prompted their arrest. The bureau’s informant program extends far beyond Muslims.

     

    It bankrolled an extremist right-wing New Jersey blogger and radio host for five years before his 2009 arrest for threatening federal judges.

     

    And then there are the other scandals — the perpetual false testimony from the FBI crime lab, its use of National Security Letters and other surveillance tools to illegally vacuum up Americans’ personal info, its whitewashing of every shooting by an FBI agent between 1993 and 2011, and its operation of dozens of child porn websites (another entrapment operation gone awry).

    But don't worry, the FBI still has plenty of time to spy on ordinary peaceful Americans and antagonize them. Bovard continues:

    From 1956 through 1971, the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence programs) conducted thousands of covert operations to incite street warfare between violent groups, to get people fired, to smear innocent people by portraying them as government informants, and to cripple or destroy left-wing, black, communist, white racist and anti-war organizations. FBI agents also busied themselves forging "poison pen" letters to wreck activists’ marriages. COINTELPRO was exposed only after a handful of activists burglarized an FBI office in a Philadelphia suburb, seized FBI files, and leaked the damning documents to journalists.

    But, the FBI's defenders will surely tell you that every penny of that 8.7 billion is there to keep you "safe." This naive position relies on the decades-old mythology behind a government agency that has long been, as Bovard has called it, a "stasi for America." Last year, I noted

    Of all federal police forces, the FBI is the most romanticized, and every FBI agent is assumed to be the modern embodiment of a fictionalized version of Eliot Ness: incorruptible, professional, and efficient. Decades of pop culture has driven this home with TV series and movies such as The UntouchablesThe FBI Story, and This Is Your FBI have long perpetuated the idea that when local police fail, the FBI will step in to be more effective and simply better than every other law enforcement agency. Corruption cannot touch the FBI, we are told, and they apply the law equally to everyone. 

    This mythology was necessary to overcome decades-long opposition to a federal police force which was long properly viewed an an unconstitutional usurpation of state and local prerogatives. 

    We Don't Need Vast Government Agencies for Quality Policing

    The advocates for national police also often claim that without a national police force, the individual states of the US would be overrun by criminals. The US states are too small and weak, we are told, to mount any effective opposition to sophisticated crime operations. 

    So, by this reasoning, small countries should have more criminal activity than larger, more powerful countries. 

    But where's the evidence for this? Is Switzerland crime infested while much-larger Mexico is crime free? Nope. Does Poland have sky-high homicide rates while much-more-powerful Russia is serenely peaceful? Wrong again. Indeed, no relationship whatsoever has been demonstrated between the size and scope of a country's regime, and the amount of crime it has. Brazil, after all, is an immense state both in geography and in regulatory vigor. Yet crime there is a major problem. 

    Moreover, even if there were some optimum minimum size for countries (which there is not) many US states have more than enough wealth, population, and power to fund immense police operations. 

    Texas, for instance, has approximately the same GDP and population size as Australia. If Australia is not ruled by drug runners and terrorists — as we're supposed to believe would happen to Texas without the FBI — why is Texas too small to obtain the same level and quality of law enforcement? With more than 20 million inhabitants, Florida and New York have GDPs similar to those of a mid-sized European country. Pennsylvania has a GDP equal to that of Switzerland. California has both a population and a GDP larger than that of Canada. 

    Moreover, without the FBI not even very small US states would be on their own since no FBI is necessary to coordinate information-sharing between states. INTERPOL, of course, has been around for decades as a body that helps police organizations share information and apprehend suspects. INTERPOL itself, however, has no agents who make arrests, and INTERPOL's budget is much, much smaller than that of the FBI.

    Not even the European Union has gone so far as to create a police force that resembles the FBI in its vast power. Europol, like INTERPOL, assists in coordination among police agencies, but Europol officers do not conduct independent investigations in member countries as the FBI does in American states. Europol's budget is only a small fraction of the FBI's. 

    So why is the FBI necessary? If you're a DC politician, the FBI may be quite useful in terms of settling scores, finding cushy jobs for your friends, and for living out one's control-freak fantasies as appears to be the case with Jeff Sessions' revived drug war. 

    For ordinary Americans, though, the FBI doesn't do anything that smaller and more responsive governments can't do on their own.

  • 'The Everything Bubble': Why The Coming Collapse Will Be Even Worse Than The Last

    The next crash is coming, and the decision by central banks to paper over their economy's troubles with a massive injection of debt likely means that the next crash is already overdue.

    Soon, investors will be forced to reconcile a massive expansion of debt and falling productivity and growth with a host of potentially disruptive crises: The advent of government-sponsored cyberwarfare, followed by the collapse of the global dollar-based monetary system. Whereas the last crisis trigger massive devaluations in the real estate and stock markets, the next crash will be the result of a triple bubble in stocks, real estate and bonds as investors bail out of traditional assets in favor of the safety of gold, silver and – perhaps – cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

    Gold analyst Mike Maloney believes that traditional assets will plunge, and gold, silver and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will outperform, as investors seek protection from the coming collapse of the global dollar system. Maloney explains his thinking in a new YouTube video "The Everything Bubble."

    In the U.S., housing prices have experienced a halting recovery since the subprime crisis. But in other markets, like New Zealand, Canada, a frenzy of buying by wealthy Chinese hoping to stash their money abroad kept prices afloat, driving the ratio of home prices to incomes to all time highs. In Canada, the affordability index – the ratio of housing prices to incomes – has risen to an all-time high of 1.4.

     

    In the stock market, a few vulnerabilities have emerged; the ratio of debt borrowed against investors' brokerage account balances has reached all-time highs, which tells you that recent gains are vulnerable to a short-squeeze – which is when brokerages close clients out of their positions.

    Worth noting: the rise in margin debt has traced the run-up in the S&P 500.

    The VIX – a gauge of expected volatility – has fallen to multi-decade lows, suggesting that markets have grown complacent in the face of the coming crash. Earnings-per-share ratios are looking precariously stretched to dot-com-era levels.

    And, finally, a look at intraday trading patterns also reveals signs of strain: Maloney, borrowing from the research of John Hussman of Hussman Funds, the former University of Michigan finance professor who famously predicted the 2008 crisis, explains that lately he's seen what he calls "exhaustion gaps" appearing with increasing frequency. Hussman defines an "exhaustion gap" as any time the S&P 500 opens 0.5% above its previous close while its within 2% of its all-time high. These gaps show that the supply of capital pouring into the market is thinning, or " that there are no more suckers willing to buy at the top."

    Bonds have been in a "perfect bull market" for 36 years, Maloney says. But historical patters suggest that the coming shock will likely trigger its demise: Over a span of decades, interest rates have tended to spend about equal time on either side of a peak. If this pattern holds, it would mean that the decadeslong bond-market rally only has two or three years left to run, which brings us to another important question: when the crash comes, what's it going to look like?

    Maloney believes it will unfold in two stages:

    In the first, investors will flood into the perceived safety of bond markets, causing a temporary spike, as stocks and real estate markets collapse.

     

    Then all three markets will plummet as the collapse of a catastrophic pile of debt brings about the end of the global dollar-based monetary system.

    In the 20th Century, shifts in the global monetary paradigm have occurred about every 30-50 years.

    And shifts in secular bond-market trends have tended to mirror them. Maloney, who has long advocated owning gold and silver, also revealed that he has purchased a small share of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, though he cautions against owning an outside position. Rising demand in the East has been offsetting falling demand in the U.S. So far, excess capacity in the U.S. market has helped compensate for this as the East has attracted Western gold.

    But soon this imbalance will be ameliorated, and the price of gold – which has already risen modestly year-to-date – will see a large, sustained rise.

  • Trump Responds To Appointment Of Special Counsel

    President Trump has just issued the following statement in response to the news that former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as Special Counsel in an investigation looking into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia intended to throw the 2016 campaign.  Taken at face value, it seems to confirm what the administration has said several times, namely that, like many of us, the White House is eager to proceed with, and conclude, an investigation as quickly as possible. 

    “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.  I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.  In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issue that matter most to the future of our country.”

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    Per our earlier post, in an effort to avoid any conflicts, the Department of Justice has confirmed that the White House was only informed of Acting Attorney General Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a Special Counsel in the Russia probe after the order was already signed.

    Of course, we’re all waiting with bated breath to see whether Trump will offer any other, less-scripted thoughts via Twitter.

    Courtesy of Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, here is a full breakdown of today’s sequence of events:

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  • Trump Safe? McCain Rejects Call To Impeach Trump

    And just like that, Trump may have avoided near certain political doom.

    As news was breaking that the DOJ had named a Special Counsel for the Russia probe, a move that will substantially ease political tensions on the Hill (and is a move which the administration would almost certainly not have allowed if it had anything material to hide), another major hurdle for Trump dissolved this afternoon, when one of the biggest “risk-factors” behind a potential Trump impeachment was removed.

    Recall that in its initial analysis of the biggest risk factor facing Trump, Height Securities’ Peter Cohn said to keep a close eye on just one republican: John McCain.

    Cutting to the chase, Cohn writes that ending Trump’s viability as president “depends on Republicans turning against him”, as impeachment proceedings can only begin with the majority party, and the 25th Amendment (allowing for president’s removal when unable to discharge powers/duties of his office) can only be invoked by Congress and/or vice president, majority of Cabinet.

     

    What will Height be closely watching to see if the Trump drama enters a potentially terminal phase: the main catalyst is whether Sen. John McCain, chairman of Armed Services Committee, begins calling for Trump’s resignation, as U.S. national security issues may increase concern among Republican voters.

    And while earlier today, one GOP Rep. Justin Amash already suggested that if the FBI memo story is true, impeachment would be appropriate, in the clearest sign yet that Trump may be safe after all, the Washington Examiner reported that John McCain said that calls from congressional Democrats to impeach President Trump are not “rational” adding that “I don’t think very many people take that very seriously,” he said Wednesday.

    “All I can do is judge the situation as it is. Every day, we are surprised by some other twist and turn of this issue so I can only respond now and now I do not think that is a rational approach.”

    Earlier in the day, Democratic representative Al Green called for Trump’s impeachment on the House floor Wednesday, accusing the president of obstruction of justice.

    “I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the President of the United States of America for obstruction of justice,” he said. “There is a belief in this country that no one is above the law. And that includes the President of the United States of America.”

    While Democrats urging Trump’s impeachment had new energy following a bombshell report about Trump on Tuesday, ultimately it was all up to getting Republicans behind the push, and it was in this context that JPM said “a Trump impeachment was very, very unlikely.”

    Trump – impeachment very, very unlikely and regardless it wouldn’t be positive. There is a lot of talk about Trump impeachment and how a President Pence could be a positive. It is way, way too early to begin having the impeachment conversation. Impeachment is much more a political (instead of a legal) process and w/the GOP controlling both chambers and Trump’s popularity in the party being (relatively) healthy the political dynamics don’t signal impeachment. That could change in Jan ’19 assuming Republicans lose either the House or Senate in Nov ’18 but if that happens the whole pro-growth agenda would grind to a halt. The impeachment bar is very, very high (no president ever has been removed from office as a result of impeachment; two had articles of impeachment brought up in the House before being acquitted in the Senate; one resigned before going through the process). The daily scandals obviously don’t help Trump’s political capital but market expectations for legislative action are already very low.

    JPM said this before McCain had made his position clear. Now that the Arizona Senator has also voiced his support of Trump (we ignore Putin’s offer to present a transcript of the conversation with Lavrov, exonerating Trump) any likelihood of a Trump impeachment, absent some stunning finding by the Special Counsel, is materially lower (if not gone altogether), for the foreseeable future.

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May 17

Today’s News 17th May 2017

  • Turkish-American Relations At Crossroads

    Authored by M.K.Bhadrakumar via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    When President Donald Trump received President Recep Erdogan on Tuesday at the White House, his legendary deal-making prowess was be on trial.

    Trump has not been in a tearing hurry to receive Erdogan. During the first 100 days of his presidency, Trump received the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan (twice), Iraq and Palestine. Yet, none of them belongs to a Nato member country and or is a crucial “swing” state in Trump’s messianic war against ISIS, as Turkey is.

    Could it be Erdogan’s dalliance with ISIS in the past that put a dampened Trump’s enthusiasm for this “strongman”? But then, Saudi Arabia too was promoting al-Qaeda groups in Syria.

    Or, was it Erdogan’s growing friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin that discouraged Trump? But then, Trump greeted Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the White House as an old ally.

    Clearly, the only good reason could be that Trump deliberately decided that there is a time for everything – even for meeting Erdogan. Trump thoughtfully let the Turkish referendum on constitutional reform run its course first. Trump now has the answer.

    Erdogan extracted a “yes” vote in the referendum alright, and is set to concentrate executive power in his hands, but, paradoxically, he is a wounded man, having lost the referendum vote in all major cities, especially Istanbul, which has been his citadel. Erdogan barely scraped through.

    On the other hand, an invigorated German-French axis following the resounding election victory of Emmanuel Macron means that a consolidated EU pressure is building on Erdogan to curb his authoritarian drift. Erdogan knows that a rupture of Turkey’s ties to the West would have grave economic and political consequences.

    Meanwhile, if Erdogan had calculated that he could play off the US and Russia, that is also not to be. Trump simply outflanked him by opening a line to Putin regarding Syria before he met Erdogan.

    Erdogan has been naïve. The Kremlin won’t risk annoying Trump. Détente with the US is an overriding concern for Russia.

    All things taken into account, therefore, Trump did the right thing to meet Erdogan in the fullness of time. Trump’s decision to sign the executive order allowing the Pentagon to transfer heavy weapons to the Kurdish militia on the eve of Erdogan’s visit underscores it.

    Trump is looking for a quick victory in Raqqa. The liberation of Raqqa will be prime time news in America. Who’d pay attention anymore to “a showboat” such as James Comey when the pictures are beamed from Raqqa into the living rooms of America?

    The Pentagon commanders estimate that the Kurdish militia with US air support will liberate Raqqa successfully and swiftly. Indeed, latest reports suggest that the Kurdish militia has reached within two kilometers of Raqqa city limits.

    Simply put, Erdogan who was hoping to dissuade Trump from aligning with the Kurds will now have to discuss concerns over post-liberation Raqqa. The ground beneath Erdogan’s feet has dramatically shifted.

    He still can resort to strategic defiance by resorting to air strikes against the Kurdish militia, similar to the attacks staged by the Turkish air force on April 25 on the town of Sinjar (Iraqi Kurdistan) and on targets in the Karachok Mountains (northeastern Syria).

    However, the US and Russian deployments to the Kurdish cantons in northern Syrian show that both Washington and Moscow have factored in such a possibility and have a tacit understanding that only their physical presence might act as a deterrent against Erdogan’s adventurism.

    This opens up a tantalizing prospect – US and Russia having an unwritten division of labor to “tame” Erdogan. The Russian diplomacy has shown masterly skill in shepherding Turkish policies away from covert backing for extremist groups toward new directions that help to end the fighting in Syria. The Russia-US cooperation in Syria drastically curbs Erdogan’s elbow room.

    What are Erdogan’s options? Trump has put him out of business since the US is no longer using Turkish proxies to push the “regime change” agenda in Syria. American retrenchment affects Saudi and Qatari policies, too.

    Besides, Erdogan will be wary of provoking Trump. Apart from the discord over the extradition of Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen, the US is keeping under detention the top executive of Halkbank Mehmet Hakan Attila whom it implicates in the sensational criminal case (which is also linked to Erdogan’s immediate family members) regarding abuse of the US financial system to conduct fraudulent transactions on behalf of Iranian entities.

    Will Erdogan retaliate by shutting down Incirlik air base? Such a possibility exists, but remains unlikely. At any rate, Washington is focused on the liberation of Raqqa, and access to Incirlik is a secondary issue at the moment.

    The bottom line is that Erdogan is running out of options and may be coming under pressure, finally, to (re)open his own channels to the Kurdish groups. Indeed, Turkey got along well with the leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan and a similar deal can be worked out with Syrian Kurds.

    Being the consummate pragmatist that he is, Erdogan may well decide to pick up the threads of the peace process with the Kurds from where he summarily left them in 2015 due to compulsions over forthcoming electoral battles culminating in the March referendum to transform Turkey into a presidential system.

    Significantly, Erdogan has reacted with extraordinary restraint to the Pentagon move to arm Kurds in Syria. He is mulling over his options. Trump can encourage him to seek a deal with Kurds. It may not be the mother of all deals, but a historic deal nonetheless, which will go a long way to stabilizing Syria and the wider Middle East.

  • Retired Green Beret Warns A Successful Derailment Of Trump's Efforts Is Well Under Way; War Is Inevitable

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson, nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces, via SHTFplan.com,

    In previous articles, I mentioned the importance of the midterm elections, and how (to run the country effectively and to be reelected) the President needs success within his first six months in office.  Although he is more than willing to make changes and has demonstrated his good intentions, the battle with the ensconced Marxists labeling themselves as either “progressives” or “centrists” is being lost.  Why is it being lost?  It is because these prior Obama appointees in the Circuit courts and the Supreme Court, along with the innumerable holdovers within the administration’s machinery effectively amount to a “fifth column,” bent on sabotaging the President’s efforts.

    The successful derailment is well under way.  As I wrote in other articles, all that is needed for the Democrats to take the Senate and the House of Representatives in the upcoming Midterm elections is for the President to not make visible and productive changes within the first six months of his term.  The stultified public will perceive it as a failure, and with the RINO (Republicans In Name Only) Republican party to help with a “shove” here and there, the President will fall right into the pool.

    The planned border fence will not be built, the repeal of Obamacare will not take place, the flood of illegals will neither be stopped or reversed, and financial measures to stimulate the domestic economy are being implemented at glacial speed.  All the President’s executive orders are being struck down by the Obama-appointed judges in the courts.  There is not much time remaining before the Midterm congressional elections. We are a year out, and even before the campaigning has begun, it appears it will be up for grabs.

    Obamacare is the best example of what has been outlined.  Aetna recently bowed out and pulled out of the machinery as far as private insurance companies run.  They stated that the arena was “untenable” and that the firm could no longer underwrite with the budgetary shortfalls and the nebulosity that lacked a demarcation of where government responsibility was to pick up what the company did not underwrite.  From an economic perspective, everyone with a brain knew that Obamacare would not function properly and would be a financial and administrative disaster.

    That is why Obamacare is a success: it was meant to collapse the system and the insurance companies, forcing into existence a single-payer system and a government “exchange” that intruded on the lives of every citizen…pure “Cloward and Piven” at its finest.

    The Republican Party is responsible for the continuance of Obamacare.  Nobody is focusing upon this fact.  Right now, everyone is focused upon Comey and a potential tie-in with Flynn and any connection to Russia regarding pre-election campaign communiques between then-candidate Donald Trump and the Russian leadership.  Obamacare is all but forgotten.

    With the Republicans in control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, at this point, the bill to repeal Obamacare should have already passed both houses of Congress and been on the President’s desk to sign: this was not done, and the Republican Party is to blame.

    If the President is unable to make a change while he has both houses of Congress under Republican control, what will happen after the Midterm election changes the complexion of Congress and makes it Democrat?  How will he be reelected, and if so, to what end?  He waited too long to fire Comey…a name that will torment us in the news even more than that of Natalie Holloway…and now it is turning around to bite him.  What is the solution?

    War.  War is the means an administration uses to sway public opinion and garner the Congress and the other nabobs into lockstep under the guise/choice of “you’re either patriotic or unpatriotic,” forced upon all of them in the court of public opinion and on the media’s stage.  War is supported by the Congress, who is bought by the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) and the oligarchy and their army of lobbyists.

    The administration is not accomplishing anything effectively, but a war can “rescue” it from its difficulties and divert the public’s attention.  There are several theaters that can easily metastasize into a full-blown conflict and then draw in other nations for an all-out war.  To catalyze such actions would be a simple feat for any administration with the resources of the United States backing it.  The question remains to be answered whether the administration will take such a step to save itself.

    History proves out a high probability that an administration will do such

    Carter with Desert One (the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt),

     

    Reagan with Grenada,

     

    Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain with the Falkland Islands,

     

    Bush Sr. with Iraq (I),

     

    Clinton with the bombing of Serbia and the war in Bosnia,

     

    and Bush Jr. with Iraq (II). 

    Will this administration take similar measures in any of the “powder keg” theaters of Ukraine, North Korea, or Syria?  The question remains to be answered, and the probability is high that the answer will be “yes.”

  • Professor Cohen Says Assault on Trump Presidency is Our Greatest National Security Threat: Is There A 4th Branch of Government?

    Steven Cohen, Professor of Russian studies at Princeton and NYU (an obvious Russian spy) was besides himself tonight, in sheer disbelief over the with hunt of gigantic nothing-burgers that are being used to assault the Presidency of Donald Trump.

    He declared, “today, I would say (the greatest threat to national security) is this assault on President Trump. Let’s be clear what he’s being accused of is treason. This has never happened in America, that we had a Russian agent in the White House. Cohen believes Flynn did nothing wrong by talking to the Russian ambassador, describing it as ‘his job’ to do so.

    He then illuminated the indelible fact that there is a 4th branch of government, the intelligence community, who have been meddling in American foreign affairs, obstructing the other 3 branches of government.

    “In 2016, President Obama worked out a deal with Russian President Putin for military cooperation in Syria. He said he was gonna share intelligence with Russia, just like Trump and the Russians were supposed to do the other day. Our department of defense said it wouldn’t share intelligence. And a few days later, they killed Syrian soldiers, violating the agreement, and that was the end of that. So, we can ask, who is making our foreign policy in Washington today?”

    Professor Cohen added, “you and I have to ask a subversive question, are there really three branches of government, or is there a 4th branch of government? These intel services. What we know, as a fact, is that Obama tried, not very hard but he tried for a military alliance with Putin, in Syria, against terrorism and it was sabotaged by the department of defense and its allies in the intelligence services.”

    Watch.

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

  • Why Was Comey Fired?

    Last week, President Trump justified his decision to fire James Comey by citing a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein accusing Comey of serious mistakes in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. However, as Statista’s Niall McCarthy details, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, however, Americans largely disagree with that rationale.

    Infographic: Why Was Comey Fired?  | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    Only 15 percent of the U.S. public think Trump fired Comey due to his unhappiness with the email server investigation compared to 34 percent who think he acted due to Comey’s investigation into his administration’s ties with Russia.

    The largest share of Americans, 36 percent, blame the Comey firing on a combination of reasons.

  • America's Reign Of Terror: A Nation Reaps What It Sows

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    “The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” ? James Madison

    Who designed the malware worm that is now wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers internationally by hackers demanding a king’s ransom? The U.S. government.

    Who is the biggest black market buyer and stockpiler of cyberweapons (weaponized malware that can be used to hack into computer systems, spy on citizens, and destabilize vast computer networks)? The U.S. government.

    What country has one the deadliest arsenals of weapons of mass destruction? The U.S. government.

    Who is the largest weapons manufacturer and exporter in the world, such that they are literally arming the world? The U.S. government.

    Which is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon in wartime? The United States.

    How did Saddam Hussein build Iraq’s massive arsenal of tanks, planes, missiles, and chemical weapons during the 1980s? With help from the U.S. government.

    Who gave Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida “access to a fortune in covert funding and top-level combat weaponry”? The U.S. government.

    What country has a pattern and practice of entrapment that involves targeting vulnerable individuals, feeding them with the propaganda, know-how and weapons intended to turn them into terrorists, and then arresting them as part of an elaborately orchestrated counterterrorism sting? The U.S. government.

    Where did ISIS get many of their deadliest weapons, including assault rifles and tanks to anti-missile defenses? The U.S. government.

    Which country has a history of secretly testing out dangerous weapons and technologies on its own citizens? The U.S. government.

    Are you getting the picture yet?

    The U.S. government isn’t protecting us from terrorism.

    The U.S. government is creating the terror. It is, in fact, the source of the terror.

    Just think about it for a minute: almost every tyranny being perpetrated against the citizenry—purportedly to keep us safe and the nation secure—has come about as a result of some threat manufactured in one way or another by our own government.

    Cyberwarfare. Terrorism.

    Bio-chemical attacks. The nuclear arms race.

    Surveillance. The drug wars.

    In almost every instance, the U.S. government has in its typical Machiavellian fashion sown the seeds of terror domestically and internationally in order to expand its own totalitarian powers.

    It’s time to wake up and stop being deceived by government propaganda.

    We’re not dealing with a government that exists to serve its people, protect their liberties and ensure their happiness. Rather, these are the diabolical machinations of a make-works program carried out on an epic scale whose only purpose is to keep the powers-that-be permanently (and profitably) employed.

    Case in point: For years now, the U.S. government has been creating what one intelligence insider referred to as a cyber-army capable of offensive attacks.

    As Reuters reported back in 2013:

    Even as the U.S. government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers. The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community that Washington is in effect encouraging hacking and failing to disclose to software companies and customers the vulnerabilities exploited by the purchased hacks. That's because U.S. intelligence and military agencies aren't buying the tools primarily to fend off attacks. Rather, they are using the tools to infiltrate computer networks overseas, leaving behind spy programs and cyber-weapons that can disrupt data or damage systems.

    As part of this cyberweapons programs, government agencies such as the NSA have been stockpiling all kinds of nasty malware, viruses and hacking tools that can “steal financial account passwords, turn an iPhone into a listening device, or, in the case of Stuxnet, sabotage a nuclear facility.”

    And now we learn that the NSA is responsible for the latest threat posed by the “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor” malware worm which—as a result of hackers accessing the government’s arsenal—has hijacked more than 57,000 computers and crippled health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities in more than 70 countries already.

    All the while the government was repeatedly warned about the dangers of using criminal tactics to wage its own cyberwars.

    It was warned about the consequences of blowback should its cyberweapons get into the wrong hands.

    The government chose to ignore the warnings.

    That’s exactly how the 9/11 attacks unfolded.

    First, the government helped to create the menace that was al-Qaida and then, when bin Laden had left the nation reeling in shock (despite countless warnings that fell on tone-deaf ears), it demanded—and was given—immense new powers in the form of the USA Patriot Act in order to fight the very danger it had created.

    This has become the shadow government’s modus operandi regardless of which party controls the White House: the government creates a menace—knowing full well the ramifications such a danger might pose to the public—then without ever owning up to the part it played in unleashing that particular menace on an unsuspecting populace, it demands additional powers in order to protect “we the people” from the threat.

    Yet the powers-that-be don’t really want us to feel safe.

    They want us cowering and afraid and willing to relinquish every last one of our freedoms in exchange for their phantom promises of security.

    As a result, it’s the American people who pay the price for the government’s insatiable greed and quest for power.

    We’re the ones to suffer the blowback.

    Blowback: a term originating from within the American Intelligence community, denoting the unintended consequences, unwanted side-effects, or suffered repercussions of a covert operation that fall back on those responsible for the aforementioned operations.

    As historian Chalmers Johnson explains, “blowback is another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows.”

    Unfortunately, “we the people” are the ones who keep reaping what the government sows.

    We’re the ones who suffer every time, directly and indirectly, from the blowback.

    We’re made to pay trillions of dollars in blood money to a military industrial complex that kills without conscience. We’ve been saddled with a crumbling infrastructure, impoverished cities and a faltering economy while our tax dollars are squandered on lavish military installations and used to prop up foreign economies. We’ve been stripped of our freedoms. We’re treated like suspects and enemy combatants. We’re spied on by government agents: our communications read, our movements tracked, our faces mapped, our biometrics entered into a government database. We’re terrorized by militarized police who roam our communities and SWAT teams that break into our homes. We’re subjected to invasive patdowns in airports, roadside strip searches and cavity probes, forced blood draws.

    This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

    We can persuade ourselves that life is still good, that America is still beautiful, and that “we the people” are still free.

    However, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the moment you tune out the carefully constructed distractions—the year-round sports entertainment, the political theatrics, the military’s war cries, the president’s chest-thumping, and the techno-gadgets and social media that keep us oblivious to what’s really going on in the world around us—you quickly find that the only credible threat to our safety and national security is in fact the government itself.

    As science fiction writer Philip K. Dick warned, “Don’t believe what you see; it’s an enthralling—[and] destructive, evil snare. Under it is a totally different world, even placed differently along the linear axis.”

    In other words, all is not as it seems.

    The powers-that-be are not acting in our best interests.

    “We the people” are not free.

    The government is not our friend.

    And America will never be safe or secure as long as our government continues to pillage and plunder and bomb and bulldoze and kill and create instability and fund insurgencies and police the globe.

    So what can we do to stop the blowback, liberate the country from the iron-clad grip of the military industrial complex, and get back to a point where freedom actually means something?

    For starters, get your priorities in order. As long as Americans are more inclined to be offended over the fate of a Confederate statue rather than the government’s blatant disregard for the Constitution and human rights, then the status quo will remain.

    Stop playing politics with your principles. As long as Americans persist in thinking like Republicans and Democrats—refusing to recognize that every administration in recent years has embraced and advanced the government’s authoritarian tactics—then the status quo will remain.

    Value all human life as worthy of protection. As long as Americans, including those who claim to value the sanctity of human life, not only turn a blind eye to the government’s indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians but champion them, then the status quo will remain.

    Recognize that in the eyes of the government, we’re all expendable. As long as we allow the government to play this dangerous game in which “we the people” are little more than pawns to be used, abused, easily manipulated and just as easily discarded—whether it’s under the guise of national security, the war on terror, the war on drugs, or any other manufactured bogeyman it can dream up—then the status quo will remain.

    Demand that the government stop creating, stockpiling and deploying weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, biological, cyber, etc. As long as the government continues to use our tax dollars to create, stockpile and deploy weapons of mass destruction—whether those weapons are meant to kill, maim or disable (as in the case of the WannaCry computer virus)—we will be vulnerable to anyone who attempts to use those weapons against us and the status quo will remain.

    Finally, stop supporting the war machine and, as Chalmers Johnson suggests, “bring our rampant militarism under control”:

    From George Washington’s “farewell address” to Dwight Eisenhower’s invention of the phrase “military-industrial complex,” American leaders have warned about the dangers of a bloated, permanent, expensive military establishment that has lost its relationship to the country because service in it is no longer an obligation of citizenship. Our military operates the biggest arms sales operation on earth; it rapes girls, women and schoolchildren in Okinawa; it cuts ski-lift cables in Italy, killing twenty vacationers, and dismisses what its insubordinate pilots have done as a “training accident”; it allows its nuclear attack submarines to be used for joy rides for wealthy civilian supporters and then covers up the negligence that caused the sinking of a Japanese high school training ship; it propagandizes the nation with Hollywood films glorifying military service (Pearl Harbor); and it manipulates the political process to get more carrier task forces, antimissile missiles, nuclear weapons, stealth bombers and other expensive gadgets for which we have no conceivable use. Two of the most influential federal institutions are not in Washington but on the south side of the Potomac River–the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. Given their influence today, one must conclude that the government outlined in the Constitution of 1787 no longer bears much relationship to the government that actually rules from Washington. Until that is corrected, we should probably stop talking about “democracy” and “human rights.”

  • 48% Of Americans Want To Impeach Trump

    Update: We can only imagine what the poll says after tonight's debacle from The New York Times.

    *  *  *

    According to a new survey by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), 48% of Americans want Trump impeached.  Of course, while it makes for a provocative headline, the poll does little more than prove that (i) pollsters are still using generous Democrat "oversamples" and (ii) Trump's favorability is heavily dependent on ones party affiliation with 81% of Hillary voters supporting impeachment and 83% of Trump voters opposing it.

    And while 81% of Hillary voters can't wait for impeachment proceedings, we can't help but wonder whether any of them could point to a single "fact", as opposed to an anonymously sourced fake news story from the New York Times and/or Washington Post, that would merit such a punishment. 

    As far as we know, the only thing that Democrats have managed to "prove" so far is that a couple of Russian-based media outlets ran some negative articles about Hillary during the 2016 election cycle…which pales in comparison to the amount of negative press that Republicans get from the combination of CNN, NYT, Wapo and the rest during every single election cycle…does this mean that CNN has tried to hack every election for the past 35 years?

    And, just as a matter of housekeeping because it's pretty much taken as a given at this point, here is proof of PPP's 9-point Democrat oversample.

     

    That said, all of Trump's latest controversies, starting with Comey's firing last week and culminating with Wapo's latest 'bombshell' that he shared "highly classified intelligence" with the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office, seem to be taking a toll on his overall public perception and increasing the market odds of his impeachment.

    Impeach

     

    And further still since The New York Times reported the Comey Memo..

     

    In other news, the PPP poll found that ~90% of Hillary voters 'disapprove' of Trump…shocking, we know.

     

    Moreover, nearly 90% of Hillary voters do not think the Russian story is 'fake news'.

     

    Anyone else noticing a trend here?  We're almost certain that Trump could announce that he'd found a cure for cancer and 90% of Hillary voters would be opposed to using it.

    Finally, the only issue where Hillary voters seemed to be somewhat confused was whether or not they support former FBI director James Comey…on Comey's favorability Hillary voters were roughly equally split between 'favorable', 'unfavorable' and 'we have no freaking clue how to respond because we're not sure which answer means that we hate Trump more.'

     

    But, while Hillary voters have no idea how they should feel about Comey, once again ~90% are certain that Trump shouldn't have fired him….Hillary maybe…but definitely not Trump.

  • Oregon Officials Threaten To Seize 2,000 Acre Organic Farm, Spray It With Roundup

    Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

    Sherman County Oregon believes the 2,000 acre Azure Farms is not doing enough to control Canada Thistle, a noxious weed. In this case, not doing enough means not spraying weeds with herbicides.

    To remedy the alleged problem, the county proposes seizing the farm and spraying everything with Roundup and other herbicides. Azure Farms is certified organic. Of course, organic farms cannot by definition use herbicides, so the farm would be forced out of business by the county government.

    Adding insult to injury, the county would place a lien on the property forcing it to pay for the herbicides.

    Details of the proposed takeover can be found at Keep Azure Farm Organic

    An Organic Farm Under Threat

    Azure Farms is a working, Certified Organic farm located in Moro, Central Oregon, in Sherman County. It has been Certified Organic for about 18 years. The farm produces almost all the organic wheat, field peas, barley, Einkorn, and beef for Azure Standard.

     

    Sherman County is changing the interpretation of its statutory code from controlling noxious weeds to eradicating noxious weeds. These weeds include Morning Glory, Canada Thistle, and Whitetop, all of which have been on the farm for many years, but that only toxic chemicals will eradicate.

     

    Organic farming methods – at least as far as we know today – can only control noxious weeds—it is very difficult to eradicate them.

     

    What’s Happening?

    Sherman County may be issuing a Court Order on May 22, 2017, to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the whole farm with poisonous herbicides, contaminating them with Milestone, Escort and Roundup herbicides.

     

    This will destroy all the efforts Azure Farms has made for years to produce the very cleanest and healthiest food humanly possible. About 2,000 organic acres would be impacted; that is about 2.8 times the size of the City of London, England, and 1.5 times the size of the city center of Philadelphia that could be sprayed with noxious, toxic, polluting herbicides.

     

    The county would then put a lien on the farm to pay for the expense of the labor and chemicals used.

     

    Take Action Now

    If you are concerned about where your food comes from, enjoy Organic and non-GMO food grown in the United States, and support organic farmers, contact Sherman County Court before May 22, 2017 (and preferably before May 17 when the next court discussion will be held).

     

    Contact info:

    1. Via email at lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us or…
    2. Call Lauren at 541-565-3416.

     

    Raise your voice and speak up for you and your families and communities.

     

    This proposed action is completely unreasonable and would destroy an organic farm and pollute a massive area. If enough voices that benefit from organic produce speak up, the county will understand that there are people that care about their food NOT containing toxic chemicals. And if the supporters of healthy food can have a louder voice than the supporters of toxic chemicals, every politician will listen. PLEASE take action today and share this message. Overwhelm the Sherman County representatives with your voice.

     

    Sincerely,

    Nathan Stelzer
    Azure Farm Manager

    Agricultural Scientist Responds

    Alos consider Will There be Mandatory Herbicide Spraying on Organic Farms in Sherman County, Oregon? by Charles Benbrook, PhD.

    He sent a letter to Lauren Hernandez (email above).

    Dear Ms. Hernandez et al:

     

    I live in Wallowa County. I learned today of the recent, dramatic change in the Sherman County noxious weed control program and the plan to forcibly spray a 2,000-acre organic farm in the county.

     

    Over a long career, I have studied herbicide use and efficacy, public and private weed control efforts, the linkages between herbicide use and the emergence and spread of resistant weeds, and the public health and environmental impacts of herbicide use and other weed management strategies.

     

    I served for six years, along with fellow Oregonian Barry Bushue, past-president of the Oregon Farm Bureau, on the USDA’s AC 21 Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee. Issues arising from herbicide use were a frequent topic of discussion during our Committee’s deliberations.

     

    I have published multiple scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals on glyphosate, its human health risks, and the impact of genetically engineered crops on overall herbicide use and the spread of resistant weeds. In a separate email, I will forward you copies of my published research relevant to the use of herbicides, and glyphosate in particular.

     

    The notion that Sherman County can eradicate noxious weeds by blanket herbicide spraying is deeply misguided. I cannot imagine a single, reputable university weed scientist in the State supporting the idea that an herbicide-based noxious weed eradication program would work (i.e., eradicate the target weeds) in Oregon, or any other state.

     

    There is near-universal agreement in the weed science community nationwide, and surely as well in the PNW, that over-reliance on glyphosate (Roundup) over the last two decades has created multiple, new noxious weeds posing serious economic, environmental, and public health threats.

     

    In fact, over 120 million acres of cultivated cropland in the U.S. is now infested with one or more glyphosate-resistant weed (for details, see http://cehn-healthykids.org/herbicide-use/resistant-weeds/).

     

    The majority of glyphosate-resistant weeds are in the Southeast and Midwest, where routine, year-after-year planting of Roundup Ready crops has led to heavy and continuous selection pressure on weed populations, pressure that over three-to-six years typically leads to the evolution of genetically resistant weed phenotypes, that can then take off, spreading across tens of millions of acres in just a few years.

     

    Ask any farmer in Georgia, or Iowa, or Arkansas whether they would call “noxious” the glyphosate-resistant kochia, Palmer amaranth, Johnson grass, marestail, or any of a dozen other glyphosate-resistant weeds in their fields.

     

    It is virtually certain that an herbicide-based attempt to eradicate noxious weeds in Sherman County would fail. It would also be extremely costly, and would pose hard-to-predict collateral damage on non-target plants from drift, and on human health and the environment. But even worse, it would also, almost certainly, accelerate the emergence and spread of a host of weeds resistant to the herbicides used in the program. …

     

    if Sherman County is serious about weed eradication, it will have to mandate widespread spraying countywide, and not just on organic farms, and not just for one year. The public reaction will be swift, strong, and build in ferocity. It will likely lead to civil actions of the sort that can trigger substantial, unforeseen costs and consequences. I am surely not the only citizen of the State that recalls the tragic events last year in Malheur County.

     

    Plus, I guarantee you that the County, the herbicide applicators, and the manufacturers of the herbicides applied, under force of law on organic or other farms, will face a torrent of litigation seeking compensatory damages for loss of reputation, health risks, and the loss of premium markets and prices.

     

    I have followed litigation of this sort for decades, and have served as an expert witness in several herbicide-related cases. While it is obviously premature to start contemplating the precise legal theories and statutes that will form the crux of future litigation, the County should develop a realistic estimate of the legal costs likely to arise in the wake of this strategy, if acted upon, so that the County Commissioners can alert the public upfront regarding how they will raise the funds needed to deal with the costs of near-inevitable litigation.

     

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

     

    Sincerely,

    Charles Benbrook, PhD

    Troy, Oregon

    Canada Thistles in Sherman County

    Ther above image from Eddmaps.

    Even if someone thought this action would eradicate the weeds, it would have to be applied to the entire county if not the entire state. Then what? The nation?

    Farmer vs Farmer

    I always want to know the other side of the story.

    In this case, the story is farmer vs farmer. Neighboring wheat growers say weeds spreading from Azure Farms threaten their crops.

    Capital Press reports County May Press for Quarantine of an Organic Farm.

    Local wheat farmers say weeds spreading from Azure Farms, on the outskirts of Moro in north central Oregon, cost them money in the form of additional herbicide control. Most critically, growers of certified wheat seed say their crops will be worthless if contaminated by Rush Skeleton Weed, Canada Thistle, Morning Glory and White Top spreading from the farm.

     

    Spraying the weeds with Milestone or other herbicides, however, would cause the farm to lose organic certification for three years. Azure Standard, which operates Azure Farms, is a major distributor of organic products.

     

    Sherman County gave the farm until May 22 to respond with a weed management plan. If not, the county will ask the Oregon Department of Agriculture to quarantine the farm.

     

    The issue has blown up on social media.

     

    The manager of Azure Farms, Nathan Stelzer, urged supporters to “Overwhelm the Sherman County representatives with your voice.” A video posted on the farm website called for people to express their outrage reportedly has resulted in hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails to county officials.

     

    The issue may come to a head Wednesday when the county’s Board of Commissioners takes up the issue. The county is expecting such a crowd that it moved the session from the courthouse to the Sherman County School gym, 65912 High School Loop, Moro, at 4 p.m.

     

    “The school gym is the only site in Sherman County big enough to hold the expected crowd and we received permission to use the gym only if we delayed our meeting until after the students are dismissed,” Commissioner Tom McCoy said in an email.

     

    Wheat farmer Bryan Cranston, who grows certified seed next to Azure Farms, said its weed problems have gotten progressively worse over the years. Cranston said he spoke to Selzer and told him, “I don’t drift chemicals on you, I’d appreciate it if weeds don’t drift on me.”

     

    Cranston said he told Selzer, “I grow seed wheat to garner more out of the market, you grow organic to garner more out of the market — we have a lot in common here.”

     

    But he added, “You’re messing me up.”

     

    The county warned that it would spray if the farm didn’t, and the cost for multiple surveys throughout the growing season would be billed to the farm as a lien on its property taxes.

     

    Asher said the county could help identify weed, recommend control methods and herbicide products, and had a spray crew for hire if necessary.

     

    David Stelzer said Azure is attempting to improve its ground through crop rotation and “companion planting” of various crops.

     

    “Bio-diversity, a few weeds in the field, does not make a bad farmer,” he said.

     

    Responding to comments he said have been made about the farm, he said it is not affiliated with a religion although they are a “family a faith.” He said Azure properly pays its taxes and provides a $6 million payroll. He said the farm’s wheat yields nearly meet the county average and is of high quality. Eventually, organic farming methods will be “dominant,” he said.

    Both Sides

    That’s both sides of the farming story.

    But there is a medical issue as well. Some patients claim Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped the company.

    Questions

    1. Are the increased used of herbicides on neighboring farms caused by Roundup resistant plants or seeds from the organic farm?
    2. Is Azure Farms responsible for blown seeds?
    3. Realistically, how far do these seeds blow? Miles? Thousands of acres?
    4. Is the remedy a lawsuit against Azure Farms by other farmers or action by the County?
    5. Is it possible to create a buffer zone of some sort?
    6. Is Roundup a carcinogen?

    Whether or not you buy and eat organic foods, the proposed action (property seizure)  is extremely controversial, and it likely will not do much about the weeds either.

    Widespread overuse of herbicides (I admit I use them on my lawn and garden), has created Roundup resistant weeds that are near impossible to get rid of.

    Thistle is one weed I have a very difficult time with myself.  Some plants turn brown in a day or two, but thistles stay green for quite a long time even if they wilt and look sick.

    I sprayed thistles four times over the course of a week this year hoping to get rid of them.

    Action

    If you care to voice an opinion, you can do it here: lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us

    I recommend being polite.

    My opinion: Spraying will not work. More importantly, the proposed county action of property seizure steps well over the bounds of reasonableness.

  • New Theory Behind Stalled Economy: Retirees Are Hoarding Too Much Cash

    For years we’ve written about the fact that Americans, young to old, are lousy savers (see “Retirement Crisis Looms As Average U.S. Household Has Saved $2,500 For Retirement“). Of course, they have to be because how else can a mature economy continue to grow unless every single person levers every asset they own to the maximum extent possible and then spends all of that money?  Anything less would mean that all of Janet Yellen’s efforts have been a colossal waste. Meanwhile, this inherent inability to save is awful news for a nation that faces a massive wave of baby boomer retirements over the next 20 years. 

    All that said, we were somewhat shocked to come across a report from money manager United Income which effectively argues that American retirees are saving too much money rather than too little.  To summarize the thesis, United Income argues that retirees become more conservative as they grow older which causes them to save more and allocate less to equities…which is, of course, a somewhat self-serving conclusion but never mind that.

    Innovations in medicine and technology have extended human life by over 30 years since 1900. This has helped to double the amount of time the average adult now spends in retirement compared to several decades ago. But, the benefits of longer lives and retirement may be limited if older households curb their consumption or investment in preventive health measures because they are overly pessimistic about their future financial health. Overly negative viewpoints toward the future may also create self-fulfilling economic problems if it leads to an overly aggressive fixed-income portfolio. To assess these possibilities, we analyze consumer sentiment and spending data from the University of Michigan that was commissioned by the Social Security Administration and U.S. Commerce Department, among other federal agencies.

    The only problem with the theory is that, intentional or otherwise, it’s based on a complete misinterpretation of data.  Per the chart below, United Income referenced the growth in “Mean Net Wealth” as evidence that retirees are hoarding too much cash. 

    Unfortunately, when combined with the fact that “Median Net Wealth” is actually shrinking, it’s easy to deduce that while the majority of American retirees are actually spending their retirement income (and then some), there is a group of super wealthy old folks who simply can’t spend enough money to offset annual investment income growth….which speaks more to the growing wealth gap than to some economic fear that is causing retirees to hoard cash.

     

    In this context, it’s not too difficult to understand why aggregate YoY spending trends collapse as old folks get older.  The most wealthy retirees can only find so many ways to burn their massive nest eggs which means that, at least for these folks, YoY spending doesn’t grow but retirement balances do

     

    …while the overwhelming majority of people simply run out of cash and have to cut every corner possible to survive….

     

    But we’re sure the report from United Income, as misleading as it may be, will undoubtedly convince more retirees to allocate more money to equities…all of which will inflate this ETF-induced equity bubble even more, all while adding to United’s fee income…It’s one of those ‘win-win’ deals.

  • Chaffetz Demands FBI Hand Over All Comey's Notes, Memos, & Recordings Related To Trump

    Update: Jason Chaffetz office just released the letter sent to the FBI’s Andrew McCabe demanding all Comey-Trump related memos…

    Today, the New York Times reported former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey memorialized the content of phone calls and meetings with the President in a series of internal memoranda. At least one such memorandum reportedly describes a conversation in which the President referenced the FBI investigation of former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and said to Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”

     

    According to the report, “Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president.” If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn. So the Committee can consider that question, and others, provide, no later than May 24, 2017, all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President.

     

    The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at “any time” investigate “any matter” as set forth in House Rule X. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about responding to the Committee’s request. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Original…

    Trump and/or Comey are getting increasingly boxed in here – one or other is going to be proved a liar soon enough.

    *  *  *

    As we detailed earlier, following the New York Times latest Trump bombshell (see “Comey’s Revenge: Leaks Memo To NYT Saying Trump Asked Him To End Flynn Investigation“), the impeachment word seems to be getting tossed around a little more loosely this evening.  And, given the serious accusations levied by former FBI Director James Comey, the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, has  just promised that he will “get the Comey memo, if it exists,” which was backed up by the not so thinly veiled threat: “I have my subpoena pen ready.”

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

    Meanwhile, in the following Q&A with NBC, Chaffetz says his committee has already started “drafting the necessary paperwork” to get Comey’s memo to the extent it is not handed over voluntarily.

    “If the memo exists, I need to see it and I need to see it right away.  We are drafting the necessary paperwork to get the mom so we will find out in a hurry if its out there.”

     

    “I want to read the memo first but on the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shutdown an investigation being done by the FBI.  I don’t know if it’s true yet but I want to find out if that’s actually out there.”

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May 16

Today’s News 16th May 2017

  • The World According To Trump

    The following map, from BofaML's Transforming World Atlas, shows the world mapped proportionally by country according to the number of times mentioned  by President Trump in his tweets and speeches (campaign and presidency)…

    Source: BofAML

    The Top 8 are: USA, China, Syria, Russia, Iraq, Mexico, Iran, and United Kingdom

  • Is The US Prepared For A Nuclear EMP To Shut-Down New York City?

    Authored by Peter Pry, chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, op-ed via The Hill,

    Since Sept. 11, 2001, analysts have been increasingly concerned terrorists might steal, buy, build, or be given a nuclear weapon — and the War on Terrorism would become a nuclear war. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Planning Scenario #1 is detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb, in a location such as New York City or Washington, D.C. 

    Many experts warn an act of nuclear terrorism is not a question of if, but when.

    Until the recent protracted nuclear crisis with North Korea, relatively less attention has been paid to the increasing possibility of nuclear war between nations. India and Pakistan are widely regarded as the most likely candidates for a nuclear conflict between states.

    Although North Korea, Russia, and China have all made nuclear threats against the United States recently, in the case of North Korea and Russia repeatedly, most analysts dismiss these as mere “bluster” and “nuclear sabre rattling” not to be taken seriously. One day, perhaps soon, this may well prove to be a fatal mistake for millions.

    In the West, generations of leaders and citizens have been educated that use of nuclear weapons is "unthinkable" and the ultimate horror. Not so in Russia, China, and North Korea where their nuclear capabilities are publicly paraded, missile launches and exercises are televised as a show of strength, an important part of national pride.

    Whereas the U.S. nuclear deterrent is kept low-profile, almost invisible, and its utility and legitimacy much debated, Russia and China run TV documentaries describing how they would win a nuclear war with the United States.

    The "international taboo" on nuclear warfare is one-sided and far more likely to have a psychologically paralyzing effect on the U.S. and its allies than on Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran.

    An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack would be perfect for implementing Russia's strategy of "de-escalation," where a conflict with the U.S. and its allies would be won by limited nuclear use. It's their version of "shock and awe" to cow the U.S. into submission. The same kind of attack is viewed as an acceptable option by China and North Korea as well.

    An EMP attack would be the most militarily effective use of one or a few nuclear weapons, while also being the most acceptable nuclear option in world opinion, the option most likely to be construed in the U.S. and internationally as "restrained" and a "warning shot."

    Because EMP destroys electronics instead of blasting cities, even some analysts in Germany and Japan, among the most anti-nuclear nations, regard EMP attacks as an acceptable use of nuclear weapons. High-altitude EMP attack entails detonating a nuclear weapon at 30-400 kilometers altitude — above the atmosphere, in outer space, so high that no nuclear effects, not even the sound of the explosion, would be experienced on the ground, except EMP.

    An EMP attack will kill far more people than nuclear blasting a city through indirect effects – by blacking out electric grids and destroying life-sustaining critical infrastructures like communications, transportation, food and water – in the long run. But the millions of fatalities likely to eventually result from EMP will take months to develop, as slow as starvation.

    Thus, a nation hit with an EMP attack will have powerful incentives to cease hostilities, focus on repairing their critical infrastructures while there is still time and opportunity to recover, and avert national extinction. 

    Indeed, an EMP attack or demonstration made to "de-escalate" a crisis or conflict is very likely to raise a chorus of voices in the West against nuclear escalation and send Western leaders in a panicked search for the first "off ramp."

    Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in their military doctrines and training regard EMP attack as part of all-out cyber warfare, not necessarily as nuclear warfare. 

    Our proximity to a nuclear war may be suggested by the simple fact that analysts can now imagine many more possible pathways to a nuclear conflict today than was the case during the Cold War, then dominated by a more or less stable relationship between two nuclear superpowers, the U.S. and USSR.

    Today, simply reading the newspapers reveals another possible nuclear confrontation regularly, for those with eyes to see.

    For example, it was reported this week that the U.S. will deploy Patriot missiles to the Baltic states for a NATO exercise in July—just before Russia’s big annual military exercise ZAPAD-17 (WEST-17) that usually employs 100,000 troops to practice an invasion of NATO. What could possibly go wrong?

    My book, "The Long Sunday," explores a dozen possible nuclear EMP attack scenarios that could plausibly happen in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and against North America — tomorrow.

    Some analysts think the world is on the threshold of a "new nuclear age" where Cold War rules and assumptions about deterrence no longer apply and the likelihood of nuclear use is greatly increasing. The first nation to use nuclear weapons today — even a rogue state like North Korea or Iran — will immediately become the most feared and most credible nuclear power in the world, a formidable force to be reckoned with, and perhaps the dominant actor in a new world order.

  • Confirmed: DNC Emails LEAKED … Not Hacked

    We’ve reportedly documented that the DNC emails were leaked … not hacked.

    (And the “evidence” that it was the Ruskies has collapsed.)

    The head of Wikileaks – the organization which published the leaked DNC emails – has previously hinted that the leaker was DNC insider Seth Rich.

    Today, the local Washington DC Fox news channel reports that the Rich family’s private investor – a former Homicide Detective in Washington DC and white collar criminal investigator for the Attorney General of the State of Ohio – says that evidence on Rich’s computers proves that he communicated with Wikileaks:

    https://twitter.com/TimRunsHisMouth/status/864320973469777920?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.washingtonsblog.com%2F

    We’ll update details as they’re released …

     

  • The 'Soft Coup' Of Russia-Gate

    Authored by Robert Parry via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Where is Stanley Kubrick when we need him? If he hadn’t died in 1999, he would be the perfect director to transform today’s hysteria over Russia into a theater-of-the-absurd movie reprising his Cold War classic, “Dr. Strangelove,” which savagely satirized the madness of nuclear brinksmanship and the crazed ideology behind it. 

    A scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” in which the bomber pilot (played by actor Slim Pickens) rides a nuclear bomb to its target in the Soviet Union

    To prove my point, The Washington Post on Thursday published a lengthy story entitled in the print editions “Alarm at Russian in White House” about a Russian photographer who was allowed into the Oval Office to photograph President Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

    The Post cited complaints from former U.S. intelligence officials who criticized the presence of the Russian photographer as “a potential security breach” because of “the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics.”

    To bolster this alarm, the Post cited a Twitter comment from President Obama’s last deputy CIA director, David S. Cohen, stating “No, it was not” a sound decision to admit the Russian photographer who also works for the Russian news agency, Tass, which published the photo.

    One could picture Boris and Natasha, the evil spies in the Bullwinkle cartoons, disguised as photographers slipping listening devices between the cushions of the sofas.

    Or we could hear how Russians are again threatening to “impurify all of our precious bodily fluids,” as “Dr. Strangelove” character, Gen. Jack D. Ripper, warned us in the 1964 movie.

    Watching that brilliant dark comedy again might actually be a good idea to remind us how crazy Americans can get when they’re pumped up with anti-Russian propaganda, as is happening again now.

    Taking Down Trump

    I realize that many Democrats, liberals and progressives hate Donald Trump so much that they believe that any pretext is justified in taking him down, even if that plays into the hands of the neoconservatives and other warmongers. Many people who detest Trump view Russia-gate as the most likely path to achieve Trump’s impeachment, so this desirable end justifies whatever means.

    Boris and Natasha, the evil spies from the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows

    Some people have told me that they even believe that it is the responsibility of the major news media, the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and members of Congress to engage in a “soft coup” against Trump – also known as a “constitutional coup” or “deep state coup” – for the “good of the country.”

    The argument is that it sometimes falls to these Establishment institutions to “correct” a mistake made by the American voters, in this case, the election of a largely unqualified individual as U.S. president. It is even viewed by some anti-Trump activists as a responsibility of “responsible” journalists, government officials and others to play this “guardian” role, to not simply “resist” Trump but to remove him.

    There are obvious counter-arguments to this view, particularly that it makes something of a sham of American democracy. It also imposes on journalists a need to violate the ethical responsibility to provide objective reporting, not taking sides in political disputes.

    But The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, have made it clear that they view Trump as a clear and present danger to the American system and thus have cast aside any pretense of neutrality.

    The Times justifies its open hostility to the President as part of its duty to protect “the truth”; the Post has adopted a slogan aimed at Trump, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” In other words, America’s two most influential political newspapers are effectively pushing for a “soft coup” under the guise of defending “democracy” and “truth.”

    But the obvious problem with a “soft coup” is that America’s democratic process, as imperfect as it has been and still is, has held this diverse country together since 1788 with the notable exception of the Civil War.

    If Americans believe that the Washington elites are removing an elected president – even one as buffoonish as Donald Trump – it could tear apart the fabric of national unity, which is already under extraordinary stress from intense partisanship.

    That means that the “soft coup” would have to be carried out under the guise of a serious investigation into something grave enough to justify the President’s removal, a removal that could be accomplished by congressional impeachment, his forced resignation, or the application of Twenty-fifth Amendment, which allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to judge a President incapable of continuing in office (although that could require two-thirds votes by both houses of Congress if the President fights the maneuver).

    A Big Enough ‘Scandal’

    That is where Russia-gate comes in. The gauzy allegation that Trump and/or his advisers somehow colluded with Russian intelligence officials to rig the 2016 election would probably clear the threshold for an extreme action like removing a President.

    President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

    And, given the determination of many key figures in the Establishment to get rid of Trump, it should come as no surprise that no one seems to care that no actual government-verified evidence has been revealed publicly to support any of the Russia-gate allegations.

    There’s not even any public evidence from U.S. government agencies that Russia did “meddle” in the 2016 election or – even if Russia did slip Democratic emails to WikiLeaks (which WikiLeaks denies) – there has been zero evidence that the scheme resulted from collusion with Trump’s campaign.

    The FBI has been investigating these suspicions for at least nine months, even reportedly securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, an American whom Trump briefly claimed as a foreign policy adviser when Trump was under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers.

    One of Page’s alleged offenses was that he gave a speech to an academic conference in Moscow in July 2016 that was mildly critical of how the U.S. treated countries from the former Soviet Union. He also once lived in Russia and met with a Russian diplomat who – apparently unbeknownst to Page – had been identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.

    It appears that is enough, in these days of our New McCarthyism, to get an American put under a powerful counter-intelligence investigation.

    The FBI and the Department of Justice also reportedly are including as part of the Russia-gate investigation Trump’s stupid campaign joke calling on the Russians to help find the tens of thousands of emails that Hillary Clinton erased from the home server that she used while Secretary of State.

    On July 27, 2016, Trump said, apparently in jest, “I will tell you this, Russia: if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

    The comment fit with Trump’s puckish, provocative and often tasteless sense of humor, but was seized on by Democrats as if it were a serious suggestion – as if anyone would use a press conference to seriously urge something like that. But it now appears that the FBI is grabbing at any straw that might support its investigation.

    The (U.K.) Guardian reported this week that “Senior DoJ officials have declined to release the documents [about Trump’s comment] on grounds that such disclosure could ‘interfere with enforcement proceedings’. In a filing to a federal court in Washington DC, the DoJ states that ‘because of the existence of an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI anticipates that it will … withhold all records’.

    “The statement suggests that Trump’s provocative comment last July is being seen by the FBI as relevant to its own ongoing investigation.”

    The NYT’s Accusations

    On Friday, in the wake of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the President’s characterization of Russia-gate as “a total hoax,” The New York Times reprised what it called “The Trump-Russia Nexus” in a lead editorial trying to make the case of some fire behind the smoke.

    Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page

    Though the Times acknowledges that there are “many unknowns” in Russia-gate and the Times can’t seem to find any evidence of collusion, such as slipping a Russian data stick to WikiLeaks, the Times nevertheless treats a host of Trump advisers and family members as traitors because they’ve had some association with Russian officials, Russian businesses or Russian allies.

    Regarding Carter Page, the Times wrote: “American officials believe that Mr. Page, a foreign policy adviser, had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign. He also gave a pro-Russia speech in Moscow in July 2016. Mr. Page was once employed by Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office, where he worked with Gazprom, a government-owned giant.”

    You might want to let some of those words sink in, especially the part about Page giving “a pro-Russia speech in Moscow,” which has been cited as one of the principal reasons for Page and his communications being targeted under a FISA warrant.

    I’ve actually read Page’s speech and to call it “pro-Russia” is a wild exaggeration. It was a largely academic treatise that faulted the West’s post-Cold War treatment of the nations formed from the old Soviet Union, saying the rush to a free-market system led to some negative consequences, such as the spread of corruption.

    But even if the speech were “pro-Russia,” doesn’t The New York Times respect the quaint American notion of free speech? Apparently not. If your carefully crafted words can be twisted into something called “pro-Russia,” the Times seems to think it’s okay to have the National Security Agency bug your phones and read your emails.

    The Ukraine Case

    Another Times’ target was veteran political adviser Paul Manafort, who is accused of working as “a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin.”

    New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

    Left out of that Times formulation is the fact that the Ukrainian political party, which had strong backing from ethnic Russian Ukrainians – not just Russia – competed in a democratic process and that Yanukovych won an election that was recognized by international observers as free and fair.

    Yanukovych was then ousted in February 2014 in a violent putsch that was backed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. The putsch, which was spearheaded by right-wing nationalists and even neo-Nazis, touched off Ukraine’s civil war and the secession of Crimea, the key events in the escalation of today’s New Cold War between NATO and Russia.

    Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

    Though I’m no fan of U.S. political hired-guns selling their services in foreign elections, there was nothing illegal or even unusual about Manafort advising a Ukrainian political party. What arguably was much more offensive was the U.S. support for an unconstitutional coup that removed Yanukovych even after he agreed to a European plan for early elections so he could be voted out of office peacefully.

    But the Times, the Post and virtually the entire Western mainstream media sided with the Ukrainian coup-makers and hailed Yanukovych’s overthrow. That attitude has become such a groupthink that the Times has banished the thought that there was a coup.

    Still, the larger political problem confronting the United States is that the neoconservatives and their junior partners, the liberal interventionists, now control nearly all the levers of U.S. foreign policy. That means they can essentially dictate how events around the world will be perceived by most Americans.

    The neocons and the liberal hawks also want to continue their open-ended wars in the Middle East by arranging the commitment of additional U.S. military forces to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – and perhaps a new confrontation with Iran.

    Early in Obama’s second term, it became clear to the neocons that Russia was becoming the chief obstacles to their plans because President Barack Obama was working closely with President Vladimir Putin on a variety of projects that undermined neocon hopes for more war.

    Particularly, Putin helped Obama secure an agreement from Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013 and to get Iran to accept tight constraints on its nuclear program in 2014. In both cases, the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks were lusting for war.

    Immediately after the Syria chemical-weapons deal in September 2013, key U.S. neocons began focusing on Ukraine as what National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman called “the biggest prize” and a first step toward unseating Putin in Moscow.

    Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders

    Gershman’s grant-giving NED stepped up its operations inside Ukraine while Assistant Secretary Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, began pushing for regime change in Kiev (along with other neocons, including Sen. John McCain).

    The Ukraine coup in 2014 drove a geopolitical wedge between Obama and Putin, since the Russian president couldn’t just stand by when a virulently anti-Russian regime took power violently in Ukraine, which was the well-worn route for invasions into Russia and housed Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol in Crimea.

    Rather than defend the valuable cooperation provided by Putin, Obama went with the political flow and joined in the Russia-bashing as key neocons raised their sights and put Putin in the crosshairs.

    An Unexpected Obstacle

    For the neocons in 2016, there also was the excited expectation of a Hillary Clinton presidency to give more momentum to the expensive New Cold War. But then Trump, who had argued for a new détente with Russia, managed to eke out an Electoral College win.

    Perhaps Trump could have diffused some of the hostility toward him but his narcissistic personality stopped him from extending an olive branch to the tens of millions of Americans who opposed him. He further demonstrated his political incompetence by wasting his first days in office making ridiculous claims about the size of his inaugural crowds and disputing the fact that he had lost the popular vote.

    Widespread public disgust over his behavior contributed to the determination of many Americans to “resist” his presidency at all junctures and at all costs.

    Peter Sellers playing Dr. Strangelove as he struggles to control his right arm from making a Nazi salute

    Russia-gate, the hazy suggestion that Putin put Trump in the White House and that Trump is a Putin “puppet” (as Clinton claimed), became the principal weapon to use in destroying Trump’s presidency.

    However, besides the risks to U.S. stability that would come from an Establishment-driven “soft coup,” there is the additional danger of ratcheting up tensions so high with nuclear-armed Russia that this extreme Russia-bashing takes on a life – or arguably many, many deaths – of its own.

    Which is why America now might need a piercing satire of today’s Russia-phobia or at least a revival of the Cold War classic, “Dr. Strangelove,” subtitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

  • China Suspends Bond Market After "Abnormal Fluctuations"

    China has suspended trading in its bond market for at least one Ministry of Finance-issued bond suffered "abnormal fluctuations" in the last two trading days.

    The MOF 2021s dumped and pumped by almost 10 points in the last two days (and at the same time 5Y China bond futures rallied and fell notably…

     

    The Shanghai Stock Exchange has suspended trading of the bond (Number 019535):

    [The bond] is trading this morning with abnormal fluctuations. According to the relevant provisions of the "Shanghai Stock Exchange Trading Rules" and the "Shanghai Stock Exchange Securities Exception Trading Real-time Monitoring Rules", the firm decided to suspend treasury bonds from 11:00 on May 16, 2017 (019535).

     

    From 20:17 on May 16, 2017 to resume trading.

     

    We remind investors to pay attention to transaction risk, rational investment.

     

    After the resumption of trading, if the bond transaction again abnormal fluctuations, the implementation of the second interim suspension of trading, suspension time lasted to 14:55 today.

    One wonders if the delveraging is killing liquidity in the Treasury market now (as we have already seen the impact in the corporate bond market)

  • New Cali Budget Warns CalPERS Contributions "On Track To Double" In 6 Years

    In his latest budget proposal, California Governor Jerry Brown, who continues to vehemently pursue various multi-billion dollar pet projects like the high-speed rail and the so-called “Delta Water Fix” despite his state teetering on the brink of insolvency, has finally admitted that CalPERS, California’s public pension system, is a total disaster.

    Apparently Brown finally came to the realization that a 65% funding ratio is slightly less than ideal, especially since we’re on the precipice of a massive wave of Baby Boomer retirements, and warned that the “state’s contributions to CalPERS are on track to nearly double by fiscal year 2023?24.”

    As of June 30, 2016, CalPERS reported that the state plans’ unfunded liability totals $59.5 billion and is 65 percent funded, meaning that CalPERS only has 65 percent of the funding required to make pension payments to state retirees.

     

    Without the supplemental payment, by 2023?24, the state’s contribution is estimated to reach $9.2 billion ($5.3 billion General Fund), due to anticipated payroll growth and the lower assumed investment rate of return.

    But don’t worry, it’s nothing that a little extra taxpayer-funded bribe to organized labor can’t fix…how does an extra $6 billion sound?…is that sufficient to buy your votes for a few more election cycles?

    The May Revision includes a one?time $6 billion supplemental payment to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) in 2017?18. This action effectively doubles the state’s annual payment and will mitigate the impact of increasing pension contributions due to the state’s large unfunded liabilities and the CalPERS Board’s recent action to lower its assumed investment rate of return from 7.5 percent to 7 percent.

    And for those who might be worried that a doubling of California’s annual pension contributions seems like a huge burden for taxpayers to absorb…fear not, because they’ve basically already doubled over the past 5 years…so Brown has experience in “managing” such catastrophes.

     

    Moreover, once we get to 2030 the whole problem just kind of magically fixes itself.

     

    Of course, as we noted last December (see “CalPERS Board Votes To Maintain Ponzi Scheme With Only 50bps Reduction Of Discount Rate“) the above contribution forecast is nothing but a pipe dream as even CalPERS’ own finance committee chair admits that the pension’s discount rate still needs to come down materially from the current level of 7%.  Per our prior post:

    A few weeks ago we asked whether CalPERS would rely on sound financial judgement and math to set their rate of return expectations going forward or whether they would cave to political pressure to maintain artificially high return hurdles that they’ll never meet but help to maintain their ponzi scheme a little longer (see “CalPERS Weighs Pros/Cons Of Setting Reasonable Return Targets Vs. Maintaining Ponzi Scheme“).  The decision faced by CALPERS was whether their long-term assumed rate of return on assets should be lowered from the current 7.5% down to a more reasonable 6%.  Well, we now have our answer and it seems the board erred on the side of maintaining the ponzi with a decision to reduce the fund’s discount rate by only 50 bps, to 7%, to be phased in over 3 years.

     

    While a 50bps decrease to a 7% discount rate will still trigger roughly $1 billion in incremental annual contributions from various California government entities according to Eric Stern of the California Department of Finance, it is still a long way from the fund’s estimated returns of just 6.2% over the next decade which happens to match exactly their returns from the past decade.

     

    Meanwhile, Richard Costigan, chairman of the CalPERS finance committee, who vowed that “this is just a start,” more or less admits that the decision was politically motivated to allow “municipalities and other government agencies some breathing room before they absorb the impact.”

    Of course, you could never get re-elected if you told the whole truth…

  • Rand Paul Fears His Conversations May Have Been "Unmasked" By Obama Administration

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    Before we get into the meat of this post, it’s important to refresh our memories on what the unmasking scandal is and why it’s important. In order to do that, let’s revisit excerpts from last month’s post, If What Susan Rice Did Wasn’t Illegal, It Should Be:

    U.S. citizens who are caught up incidentally in foreign intelligence surveillance are typically subject to minimization rules to conceal their identities, though there are some exceptions.

     

    Individuals can be exempt from the minimization rules if their identities are necessary to understand the value of the foreign intelligence.

     

    Paul used Monday’s development to renew his push for reform of a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allows the U.S. intelligence community to target non-Americans outside the United States without a warrant. The provision, Section 702, is up for renewal later this year.

     

    Paul’s emphasis on reforming the law is exactly where it ought to be. For example, Susan Rice herself explained during a recent MSNBC interview, how the unmasking process works. Basically, she sees an intelligence report containing surveilled conversations between a foreigner and an American, and if she decides she wants to unmask the American, she makes that request to the intelligence community, which then approves or denies the request. That’s all it takes. Think about how potentially abusive this is. What happened when you have a situation where the deep state and the President are adamantly united against a candidate, as they were against Trump? Naturally they’re going to approve the unmasking of a political enemy, and it appears that is precisely what happened.

    The key thing to remember here is that the current “process” of unmasking an American is rife for abuse. All it takes is a political operative who wants the surveillance intelligence, in this case Susan Rice, to request it from the intelligence community. No normal judge is needed to issue a warrant in a transparent process as should be the case. This makes a political hit using classified intelligence extremely easy, particularly against a guy like Trump. Just submit the request to an intel community that already hates the guy, get the information you want, then make sure it gets leaked to the press. Whether you like Mike Flynn or not, this is what seems to have happened to him, and it’s shady as hell.

    Given what we know happened to Flynn, the logical next question is who else did Susan Rice, or others in the Obama administration, “unmask” while they were in power? We don’t have answers to that yet, but Rand Paul has some concerning suspicions.

    Here’s some of what he had to say on the subject, courtesy of a Fox News interview:

    Earlier this week, Paul said reporters have told him they have evidence he was a target of Obama administration spying.

     

    This is the first time that Paul mentioned another senator is also concerned about the Obama administration’s surveillance.

     

    He said if this proves to be true, it’s a much bigger story than any allegations about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential election.

     

    “It’s about your own government spying on the opposition party,” Paul said. “That would be enormous if it’s true.”

     

    Paul told Fox Business Network’s Charles Payne on Wednesday that he’s asked the White House and the House and Senate intelligence committees to investigate.

     

    He said if the intelligence community is indeed being used for politics, it’s a “very, very serious crime.”

    I completely agree with his assessment. We really need to get to the bottom of this fast, and reform the entire amateurish “unmasking” process.

    Here’s the full interview, I suggest you watch it. Starts off slowly, but really gets going toward the end.

    //video.insider.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=5430569777001&w=466&h=263

    Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

  • How Is This Not A Recession? Ford To Slash 10% Of Global Workforce

    Having admitted in March that "used car prices will drop for years" and amid near-record inventories,  a so-called 'plateau' in car sales, and soaring auto-loan losses, WSJ is reporting that Ford is planning substantial cuts to its global workforce amid CEO Mark Fields’s drive to boost profits and address the auto maker’s sliding stock price, according to people briefed on the plan.

    With near record high inventories of 3.9 million vehicles…

     

    Demand tumbling…

     

    Auto

     

    and a flood of off-lease vehicles set to send prices tumbling, as Morgan Stanley recently pointed out, we're just getting started as they see used car prices dropping by up to 50% over the next 5 years.

    It appears Ford has seen the light of survival in this non-recession, recession… (via The Wall Street Journal)

    The move comes as Ford targets $3 billion in cost cuts for 2017, a plan aimed at improving profitability in 2018 even as U.S. auto sales plateau.

     

    Ford’s share price has suffered during Mr. Fields’s three-year tenure, and the company’s market value has slipped far behind Tesla and General Motors.

    The job cuts, expected to be outlined as early as this week, largely target salaried employees and aim to reduce the global head count by an equivalent of about 10%, these people said.

     

    It is unclear if the plan includes cuts to the hourly workforce at Ford’s U.S. factories and plants that are abroad.

    Ford has 200,000 employees globally, half of which work in North America…

    One can only imagine what this will do to production, and thus US manufacturing output – still The Fed should hike rates anyway, right? How is this not a recession?

    And finally, let's reflect a little on the government's hand in this utter debacle. As a reminder, for those who vehemently believe that Ford did not receive a government bailout

    Although Ford did not receive TARP funds, it did receive government loans. These were critical because banks were not lending during the financial crisis. It requested a $9 billion line-of-credit from the government. In return, it pledged to spend $14 billion on new technologies. (Source: "Ford to Congress: Keep $9 Billion Handy for Us," Politico, December 2, 2008.)

     

    On June 23, 2009, Ford received a $5.9 billion loan from the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. In return, it pledged to accelerate development of both hybrid and battery-powered vehicles, close dealerships and sell Volvo. It upgraded factories in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio to produce hybrid vehicles.

     

    Ford used the funds to switch its focus to commercial electric vehicles. In 2016, CEO Mark Fields said, “"We want to become a top player in electrified solutions.” The company wants to lead, “…we can win such as with our commercial vehicles." (Source: "Trump Should Be Asking: Will Ford Pay Off Its Loan Before Moving Small Car Production to Mexico?" Forbes, September 21, 2016.)

     

    Eighty-one percent of the funds went to create new efficiency technologies for gas-powered vehicles. For example, they helped fund Ford's aluminum bodies in the F-series pickups. The Congressional Research Service estimated the loans saved 33,000 jobs. Ford will repay this loan by 2022. (Source: "The Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program: Status and Issues," Congressional Research Service, January 15, 2015.)

     

    Many argue that Ford needed the funds to sustain its cash flow during the recession. Ford says it was in better shape than the other two because it had mortgaged its assets in 2006 to raise $23.6 billion. It used the loans to retool its product lineup to focus on smaller, energy efficient vehicles. It got the United Automobile Workers to agree it could finance half of a new retiree health care trust with company stock. By April 2009, it retired $9.9 billion of the debt it had taken out in 2006. (Sources: "Obama Administration Awards First Three Auto Loans," Energy.gov, June 23, 2009. "How Ford Avoided the Meltdown that Hit GM, Chrysler," CNBC, April 9, 2009.)

    So to clarify:

    • Dec 2008 – headcount 213,000
    • Dec 2008 – Ford received $9bn line of credit from the government. The Congressional Research Service estimated the loans saved 33,000 jobs. Ford will repay this loan by 2022.
    • May 2017 – headcount 180,000

    Money well spent… to lock in a few more voters, eh?

    As The Wall Street Journal concludes, deep cuts in the U.S. could trigger political backlash due to the role the auto industry played during the campaign and early tenure of President Donald Trump.

  • Trump Derangement Syndrome Worsens In Washington State: "She's Going Nuts"

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    Trump Derangement Syndrome is a real thing, the first symptom of which, according to an op-ed in the LA Times, is a loss of all sense of proportion by those afflicted with the recently discovered disease.

    Don’t believe us?

    Just take 2 minutes to watch the following video from Western Washington University, a bastion of free speech, tolerance and progressive ideals. What you’ll see is a female student come completely unhinged after seeing a sign supporting Donald Trump.

    Within milliseconds of crossing paths with the sign the unnamed student is triggered to such an extent that she shrieks at the top of her lungs.

    A passerby from a part of the country that may not be as progressive as Washington might have thought the woman was being stabbed by a knife wielding terrorist.

    But no… It was just a sign:

    Via Campus Reform

     

    At certain points throughout the video, passers-by stop to ask the woman if she’s alright, to which she seems to indicate that she’s screaming as a form of protest.

     

    “Right here on the Western Washington campus, she’s going nuts with a Trump sign—she doesn’t like the Trump sign. She’s anti-Trump,” preacher Eric Bostrom can be heard explaining in the video, holding a sign that reads “Trump: Borders, Laws, Jobs, Liberty, USA,” and another intentionally-obtrusive sign containing shocking bible verses about judgement.

     

    In the video, Bostrom claims that the woman screaming is “an art major,” and at one point in the video another woman who appears to be an administrator runs into the shot to ask the student if she is alright, to which the student replies “call the police, bitch.”

    This isn’t the first time we’ve seen protesters totally lose control because of their affliction.

    At the moment Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, a video of this person totally freaking out was captured and shared across the world, highlighting just how difficult a time liberal snowflakes were having with their new reality:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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May 15

Today’s News 15th May 2017

  • Major Developments Strongly Suggest The End Of Unipolar World Order

    Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    With Moon Jae-In’s victory in South Korea, the period of tension on the Korean Peninsula is likely to end. With the rise to power of the new president, South Korea can expect a sharp decline in hostilities with North Korea as well as a resumption of dialogue with China.

    An expected and highly anticipated victory was confirmed in South Korea on May 9, with candidate Moon winning South Korea's presidential race over his rivals Hong Joon-pyo (Liberty Korea Party) and Ahn Cheol-soo (People's Party). After the resignation and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over an immense corruption scandal, public opinion turned away from her party in favour of the main opposition representative, a center-left lawyer specializing in humanitarian issues.

    Moon spent several years in the opposition party advocating for greater cooperation in the region and dialogue with Pyongyang as well as with Beijing, representing quite a contrast to Guen-Hye's pro-Americanism. Along the lines of Duterte in the Philippines, Moon intends to resume dialogue with all partners in order not to limit his options in the international arena. Such an approach reflects the essence of the multipolar world order: cooperation and dialogue with all partners in order to achieve a win-win outcome.

    Looking at the situation in the region, the victory of a politician who seems to have every intention of negotiating an agreement rather than supporting military escalation seems to provide for a hopeful future for China and her neighbors. The level of cooperation and trade between South Korea and China is fundamental to the economy of both countries, so a return to the negotiating table over the issues surrounding the deployment of THAAD are a hopeful sign that the business communities of China and South Korea value deeply.

    Duterte Strategy

    The United States is again faced with a Filipino-like scenario. Historically, South Korea and the Philippines have always been two fundamental US allies, more concerned with Washington's interests than their own national political agendas. Over the last few decades, both countries have been governed by politicians careful not to upset the sensibilities of US policy makers. South Korea and the Philippines are at the heart of the political strategy Obama called the Asian Pivot, more explicitly, a policy aimed at containing China and its expansion as a regional hegemon in Asia.

    Following the Trump administration's focus and threats against North Korea in recent weeks, war has seemed more likely on the peninsula. But with Moon’s victory, it has probably been permanently excluded as a possibility. In several interviews weeks prior to the election, Moon stated that a war between the US and the North Korea would constitute an impossible burden for South Korea to sustain. Moon is very realistic about the conventional deterrence that North Korea possesses, maybe even more so than the nuclear development.

    Even though Trump has said he is willing to meet with Kim Jong-un, most of his decisions seem to depend on the hawks surrounding him. Looking at the first hundred days of the Trump administration shows a remarkable departure from electoral promises, with the influence of generals he nominated, leading to various escalations in the hot regions of the world. Bottom line is, Trump’s intentions and words matter to a certain extent as US posture in the region seems to be guided by military generals and inner circle family members. Fortunately for the world, the tentative moves in Syria and Afghanistan have not amounted to much, such as with the bombing of the Shayrat airbase or the show in Afghanistan involving the MOAB.

    THAAD to Divide

    The deployment of the THAAD system continues as part of a belligerent attitude towards North Korea. The strong and firm rhetoric of Pyongyang is justified and not surprising given the context and the threats facing the country in wake of US provocations. The deployment of THAAD has had consequences, such as increasing tensions between South Korea and China. Moon’s victory goes contrary to the goal of the US policy-makers in Washington to isolate China. In this light, the hurried deployment of THAAD before the South Korean election obliged the probable winner, Moon, to be faced with an accomplished fact. This first step makes it clear what Washington's attitude towards the new South Korean president will be.

    The THAAD has also been deployed to antagonize the most frustrating point between Seoul and Beijing: North Korea. The measure was intentionally taken by Washington to pressure Seoul. THAAD has all the characteristics of a Trojan horse. Placed to reassure an ally (Seoul) against a fake-threat (Pyongyang), it becomes a weapon against China that puts in place a system, only a few hundred miles from its border, potentially able to affect China's strategic nuclear forces. The US military accelerated the deployment of THAAD in the knowledge that this would immediately place the future president in a difficult situation, in that removing THAAD would not be easy in the face of huge American pressure. This may perhaps be Moon's first challenge; to use the dismantling of THAAD as a means of exchange with Beijing to return to a normal relationship of co-operation. If Beijing wants to believe Moon's goodwill in eliminating the THAAD system, it may begin to loosen some of the measures imposed on Seoul as retaliation for the deployment of the US system.

    Multipolar world to the rescue

    In this scenario, one must not make the mistake of believing that Moon's victory means that a major US ally will cease its support for Washington. As always, in this era of transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, the pressure that Washington will decide to apply to South Korea will affect the nature of the US-ROK alliance. The United States will have to abandon the warlike posture so dear to Mattis, McMaster and Admiral Harris (the commander of the US Pacific Fleet). In this Tillerson as a realist might be the right man at the right place to negotiate with Moon. Potentially it could be possible to solve the problem in whole by dealing with North Korea, although that seems unlikely given the pressures the deep state will put on the administration to continue using North Korea to create instability in the region.

    This is why much of the region's future will remain subordinated to potential negotiations between Beijing, Pyongyang and Seoul on the Korean peninsula, especially after Moon's victory. If these three nations succeed in finding common ground on which to set upon a path of reconciliation, the region will benefit greatly. Of course, in this context, the one most likely to lose influence is the United States. If Washington wants to remain relevant, it should abandon the Chinese containment plan through the Korean peninsula by exploiting North Korean problems. If they instead decide to try to sabotage any peace agreement in the peninsula, this will only push Seoul and Pyongyang even closer together, to Beijing's great pleasure.

    Recent years have seen a mounting showdown between the old world order configuration based on chaos and destruction and led by Washington, and the new multipolar order that focuses on win-win opportunities, dialogue and sincere cooperation. If Washington decides not to accept the new rules of the game, where it can no longer dictate the law, it will end up producing more damage against itself than any foreign country could actually do, in actual fact accelerating the formation of the multipolar world and putting to bed the unipolar world order for good.

  • A Bumper Under that Silver Elevator, Report 14 May, 2017

    If you can believe the screaming headline, one of the gurus behind one of the gold newsletters is going all-in to gold, buying a million dollars of mining shares. If (1) gold is set to explode to the upside, and (2) mining shares are geared to the gold price, then he stands to get seriously rich(er).

    We are not mining experts, but we will address (2) by saying that mining shares only go up if the input costs don’t go up as much as the price of gold. And if the company keeps efficiency up, and costs down. And if local tax authorities don’t get greedy. And if mine labor unions don’t get violent, environmental regulators don’t make expensive demands, etc. And if the company finds new ore bodies at the same rate it depletes them.

    Here is a graph showing the price of the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) against the price of gold. We have plotted both price as a percentage of the start price to put them both on the same scale.

    GDX vs Gold
    GDX vs Gold

    You can see the problem. The price of gold from late May 2006 through present. In five years, the price of gold rose to 288% of its starting level. GDX was more than 100% behind, at only 170%. Note that the GDX is more than 40% down from its level in 2006. For comparison, the price of gold is just under double over the same period.

    If this is gearing, then it looks like the gear box was bolted on backwards.

    To bet big on gold mining shares now, your bet includes another conditional: (3) if the gearing has since been fixed…

    Anyways, this is not really our wheelhouse. We focus our commentary on (1). Did something change in the market, that will drive the price much higher? Before that can happen, we would have to see something happen to put a bumper under that falling silver elevator.

    Below is the only true look at the supply and demand fundamental of the metals, but first, the price and ratio charts.

    The Prices of Gold and Silver
    The Prices of Gold and Silver

    Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It began the week moving up, but then reversed and ended lower.

    Last week, we said:

    “If it breaks above 76, then the next resistance looks to be 80.”

    It did not break 76. It closed Monday at 75.7, but ended the week below 75.

    The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price
    The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price

    For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

    Here is the gold graph.

    The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
    The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price

    Note that the June contract has just a touch of backwardation, with the cobasis now at + 0.01%. Back in early 2013, we dubbed this new normal behavior, when each contract would go into backwardation before it expired, temporary backwardation. That is all this is, and not a very impressive specimen either.

    Yes, it is true that the scarcity of gold has been rising for about a month (look at the red line, the cobasis). However, that corresponds to the rise in the price of the dollar (which is the inverse of what most people measure, the price of gold in dollars). On April 12, the dollar was 24.18 milligrams gold, corresponding to a price of gold at $1286. The cobasis—our measure of scarcity—was at -0.81%. Since then, it has been a run up on the price of the dollar (which most people perceive as a run down in the price of gold), to 25.52mg gold (which people generally think of as a price of gold of $1,219).

    When we see such a clear correlation between the price of the dollar and the cobasis, we know that the move is just speculators repositioning (in this case, obviously selling). The more the price of gold is down, the more speculators liquidate their futures, the scarcer the metal becomes.

    Our calculated fundamental closed the week up $3, to $1,254. While this may be welcome news for gold speculators after a few weeks when it fell, it’s hardly the stuff of making million-dollar bets.

    Far be it from us to get in the way, when there’s serious money to be made. It’s a (more or less) free market. Where there’s an opportunity, people will take it. We refer, of course, to the newsletter hawkers and their explosive upside call. We assume this is a lucrative business.

    However, unlike the opportunity to sell newsletters to gold speculators who don’t know what most newsletters have been promising over the last 6 years, the opportunity to bet on a gold price increase looks rather less likely, at the moment.

    Now let’s look at silver.

    The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
    The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price

    Silver does not yet show any backwardation, though it’s close at -0.03%.

    However, the sharp and sustained rise of the cobasis is notable—along with the sharp and sustained rise in the dollar. Measured in silver, the dollar has risen from 1.68 grams of silver to 1.92 grams earlier this week. That’s a big run up (i.e. run down in the price of silver as popularly perceived).

    We have been talking about an ongoing flush in the silver speculators. The price fell through Wednesday, then rallied sharply on Thursday and Friday. Perhaps that elevator has found a rubber bumper?

    Significantly, our calculated fundamental price rose a buck this week. From around $15 last week, it’s now $16.

    We will end on an amusing note. Last week, we said:

    “We saw a technical analysis trader write a note this weekend. He said he plans to short silver on Monday. When the technicals and then fundamentals align, that can make for an interesting week.”

    Assuming he shorted it early on Monday morning, he might have top-ticked it at $16.40. On Tuesday, he could have closed at $16.05, for a gain of 2.1%. There has to be an easier way to earn a few bucks (and we never recommend naked-shorting gold or silver).

    Keith will be speaking at the Metal Writers Conference in Vancouver, at the end of the month. And at the Mining Investment Europe event in Frankfurt in mid-June.

    © 2017 Monetary Metals

  • Worried About 'WannaCry'? You Should Have Listened To Julian Assange

    Authored by Adam Currie via TheDuran.com,

    A widespread computer virus attack known as ‘WannaCry’ has been compromising computers with obsolete operating systems across the world. This should be the opening sentence of just about every article on this subject, but unfortunately it is not.

    The virus does not attack modern computer operating systems, it is designed to attack the Windows XP operating system that is so old, it was likely used in offices in the World Trade Center prior to September 11 2001, when the buildings collapsed. Windows XP was first released on 25 August, 2001.

    Furthermore, early vulnerabilities in modern Windows systems were almost instantly patched up by Microsoft as per the fact that such operating systems are constantly updated.

    The obsolete XP system is simply out of the loop.

    A child born on the release date of Windows XP is now on the verge of his or her 17th birthday. Feeling old yet?

    The fact of the matter is that governments and businesses around the world should not only feel old, they should feel humiliated and disgraced.

    With the amount of money governments tax individuals and private entities, it is beyond belief that government organisations ranging from some computers in the Russian Interior Ministry to virtually all computers in Britain’s National Health Service, should be using an operating system so obsolete that its manufacturer, Microsoft, no longer supports it and hasn’t done for some time.

    Perhaps in order to save money, governments should also use prop-planes from the 1940s to conduct recon missions?

    The scathing reality of this attack is that Julian Assange warned both private and public sectors to be on guard against known vulnerabilities in such systems, vulnerabilities Wikileaks helped to expose. Assange even offered to help companies to get their digital security up to date.

    The fact that Assange’s plea fell on deaf ears must bring further shame to all those impacted by the ‘WannaCry’ attacks who refused to listen to Assange and get with the times.

    As it is, the technology used in the hacking/malware incident was created by America’s National Security Agency (NSA).

    World famous whistle-blower Edward Snowden had something to say about that,

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    The fact is that, if only governments and mega-corporations took precautions to ensure actual safety measures were in place, rather than engaging in bogus fear-mongering in order to conceal their own incompetence and lack of modern technology, the people that such bodies are supposed to protect would be safe rather than misled and exposed to threats.

    The blame for today’s attack can and should be equally shared by the hackers themselves and by those who patently ignored the warnings of Julian Assange, who advised the wider world to get clever, get secure and get modern upon the release of Vault 7 by Wikileaks.

    When there is a wolf at your door, it is unwise to blame the person pointing out the presence of the hungry wolf. Those who attack Julian Assange for pointing out the wolf of un-secured computer systems are doing just that.

    In real democracies, people would be brought before tribunals to justify their supreme dereliction of duty. In the apathetic corporatist liberal west, the story will be swept under the rug.

  • "Peak China": Chinese Data Misses Across The Board As Housing Bubble Returns

    Following months of warnings that China’s economy is slowing down as a result of not only a collapse in China’s credit impulse but also tighter monetary conditions, as well as rolling over loan growth which has pressured both CPI and PPI – i.e., the global “reflation trade” – as the following chart from Bloomberg’s David Ingels shows…

    … and culminating over the weekend with a warning in no uncertain terms from Citi, which said that at least four key economic indicators are “starting to wave red flags” among which:

    • The Markit PMI is starting to turn over
    • China’s Inflation Surprise Index – a leading indicator to global inflation metric – has posted a recent sharp drop
    • China’s import trade has likewise tumbled after surging recently
    • Chinese Iron Ore imports into Qingado port have plunged

    … moments ago China’s National Bureau of Statistics validated the mounting fears, when it reported misses across all key economic categories for the month of April, as follows:

    • Retail Sales 10.7% Y/Y, Exp. 10.8%, Last 10.9%
    • Fixed Asset Investment 8.9% Y/Y, Exp. 9.1%, Last 9.2%
    • Industrial Output 6.5% Y/Y, Exp. 7.0%, Last 7.6%
    • Industrial Production YTD 6.7% Y/Y, Exp. 6.9%, Last 6.8%

    Additionally, confirming that China is backsliding into its old, “polluting, excess industrial capacity ways, China’s coal output rose to 294.5m tons last month, or up 9.9% Y/Y despite China’s so-called production curbs for “dirty industries”, even as oil processing declined by 0.6% Y/Y while out output fell 3.7% Y/Y, confirming that more pain may be in store for OPEC as Chinese demand continues to wane, forcing OPEC to cut even more output. In a sliver of silver lining, the NBS also reported that April power output rose +5.4% to 476.7b kwh while natgas output rose +15% to 12.2b cubic meters.

    Finally, in yet another indication that Chinese bubble creation and capital misallocation is back front and center, the NBS also reported that new property construction in April surged 482MM square meters, or +11.1%Y/Y for the Jan-April YTD period, while April home sales jumped 7.7% Y/Y.

    Bottom line: the economy is once again slowing down as China’s unprecedented excess liquidity is once again focusing on blowing bubbles, whether in old, inefficient industries or more disturbingly, housing.

    It also means that the PBOC is once again trapped, as any attempts to ease monetary conditions will result in a blow off top in China’s housing bubble, its third for the past 4 years, which also risks yet another housing hard-landing, wiping out trillions in “household net worth” for China’s citizens.

  • America Doesn't Need Global Perpetual War To Prove We Love Liberty

    Authored by Joey Clark via TheAntiMedia.org,

    I can forgive a man who loses his temper, but to lose one’s temperance lock, stock, and barrel? That is a damnable offense. Without a sense of moderation, even the most courageous and prudent man will fail in his quest for justice and may even become that which he wishes to destroy.

    Yet, “moderation” has come to mean something wholly different than temperance in American politics. Rather than restraint, American moderates insist our shared classically liberal ideals call for the prodigal spending of our wealth, as well as bellicose and bloody actions abroad — not only on behalf of the American people but also on behalf of the liberty of all people on the face of the earth.

    'Don' McCain

    Human rights exist above the state and beyond history. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another. They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be extinguished,” writes Senator John McCain in an op-ed for the New York Times, wherein he chastises Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for suggesting the United States government cannot always act simply with its ideals and values in mind.

    That the U.S. must show restraint — a sort of realist, “first do no harm” foreign policy in advancing its ideals with the many diverse nations around the globe – McCain considers to be a type of retreat of American values that can only lead the oppressed peoples of the world to despair that America is no longer their champion.

    Our values are our strength and greatest treasure,” McCain writes.We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.”

    Yes, John, America purports to stand for universal human rights and the liberty of all, but does this love of liberty require us to threaten and actually wage war as long as there are monsters abroad to destroy?

    Does our zeal for our libertarian ideals really behoove us to be forever tilting at windmills? Or, could this Quixotic quest actually be counterproductive to spreading the seed of liberty around the world?

    Could the love of power and the constant use of fear and force to advance liberty, in fact, pervert the cause of liberty?

    The Perversions of War

    Aggressive wars, even wars prosecuted in the name of liberty, have a way of sowing discord and devastation, both abroad and at home. The loss of life, the wasting of wealth, the destruction of social institutions, and the corroding of the commercial, liberal, limited government spirit — these are only some of the effects of war.

    War should be a last resort not only because of its costs in terms of blood and treasure but also because war always requires the sacrifice of liberty, e.g. today’s intrusive surveillance state. Furthermore, we should be wary of liberty becoming synonymous with American military intervention and global rule (even under the imprimatur of the “international liberal order.”)

    Are we truly prepared to say the bloody military misadventures in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and beyond represent America’s best ideals? Or, were these wars for democracy and human rights really just another episode of Americans, as Aldous Huxley observed of politics long ago, exercising their will to power dressed up by political gentlemen in the noble toga of American ideals?

    Changing Hearts and Minds

    No, liberty needs much more than tough talk and the toppling of tyrants to blossom. We must recognize that the spontaneous order of a free society cannot be built by war or centrally planned by Washington. Liberty must first occur in the hearts and minds of foreign peoples themselves before they are encouraged to rebel.

    As John Adams noted of the American revolution:

    The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations …This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”

    Whether it be Russia or Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Syria or China, many tyrannical governments operate based on cultures going back centuries. It will be largely up to their own people to effect the change needed in their cultures and political institutions. America’s role in this struggle must be to serve as an example of a free society, as well as a well-wishing persuader. How tragic it would be to see those with a revolutionary zeal for liberty, in losing their temperance, give into an imperial mindset and use of imperial means.

    Liberty has never been something to be imposed by immense, let alone imperial power. We would be foolish to think simply cutting the head off the snake (or threatening to do so) will usher in new Jeffersons, Franklins, and Paines in foreign lands. No, such societies, when thrown into the maelstrom of war, tend not to be incubators for liberty, but rather, fertile ground for vengeful and power-hungry tyrants in waiting. Accordingly, we must be patient in our efforts to bring liberty to all.

    As Rex Tillerson said to Marco Rubio in his confirmation hearing to be secretary of state regarding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

    I share all the same values that you share and want the same things for people the world over in terms of freedoms. But, I’m also clear-eyed and realistic about dealing in cultures—these are centuries long cultures, cultural differences. It doesn’t mean we can’t affect them and affect them to change. In fact, over the many, many years that I’ve been traveling to the Kingdom, although the pace has been slow, slower than any of us wish, there is a change underway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. How and if they ever arrive at the same value system we have, I can’t predict that….what I wouldn’t want to do is to take some kind of a precipitous action that suddenly causes the leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have to interrupt that.

    Dare I say, what a temperate stance by the now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. If the United States acts too brutishly on the world stage, we may very well experience an unwanted, illiberal backlash. In the future, it may serve Tillerson well, at least for the sake of eloquence, to recite a well-known presidential sentiment to neoconservatives such as McCain and Rubio, that “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

    Beware the American Colossus

    In the meantime, Senator McCain and his ilk should be wary. If the United States government continues as it does today, bestriding the narrow world like a colossus, it will most likely be stabbed through the heart by daggers inscribed with the nation’s founding principles, the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” shedding salty tears of blood from sullied steel. I worry an American Colossus — full of dissonance, full of sound and fury, full of fear and vaunting — will not inspire a love of liberty but a fear and resentment of America’s power.

    Indeed, Senator McCain, we can see the world for what it is and then seek to make it better, but we must first keep our temperate wits about us, else our courage, prudence, and passion for justice and liberty for all may very well turn us into the monsters we seek to destroy.

  • Microsoft Slams NSA For Letting Its Hacking Tools Cause Global Malware Epidemic

    In early April, when we reported that the hacker group known as the Shadow Brokers had released the password to NSA’s “Top Secret Arsenal” of tools that allowed anyone to “back door” into virtually any computer system (in what it claimed was a protest of Trump’s betrayal), few people noticed. On Friday, however, the entire world did notice when an unknown group of hackers reportedly used the same set of NSA-created tools to launch a global malware cyberattack using the WannaCry ransomware virus, holding at least 200,000 computer systems around the globe hostage, and demanding a payment of $300 in bitcoin to unlock infected computers, or else threatening to wipe out the contents of the host machine.

    The crippling, global attack prompted Europol to warn that Monday could be a dark day for an unknown number of Windows XP-based systems which could simply fail to start, leading to massive productivity losses around the globe, while others predicted that the spread of the worm could accelerate in the coming days once the hackers bypass the temporary measure that prevented further distribution of the worm over the weekend.

    Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon, Microsoft itself got involved in the global hacking scandal and criticized the NSA for its role in spreading the WannaCry epidemic; specifically the tech giant urged governments to use and store their cyber warfare tools responsibly.

    “We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a blog post this afternoon. “This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem.”

    Ahead of the Shadow Brokers’ leak of the NSA hacking tools, Microsoft had released a patch against the vulnerability one month prior, on March 14, which indicates that the company was notified by the US intelligence agency that their tools using that particular backdoor had been compromised. However, older, unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP were not included in the update, in addition to millions of used who do not update their systems regularly. As a result, the WannaCry malware infected more than 200,000 unpatched computers, and was threatening to spread to countless more as the hacker further weaponized their virus.

    Needless to say, Microsoft was not happy.

    “Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage” Smith wrote, adding that an “an equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today – nation-state action and organized criminal action.”

    Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer also said the latest attack should serve as a “wake-up call” to world governments who should urgently establish a common set of strategies to deal with cyber threats.

    “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call. They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world,” Smith wrote. “We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.”

    Smith also acknowledged Microsoft’s responsibility for failing to prevent the attack by not notifying all customers to install the patch on time, but noted that cybersecurity is a “shared responsibility” between tech companies and customers.

    “We take every single cyberattack on a Windows system seriously, and we’ve been working around the clock since Friday to help all our customers who have been affected by this incident,” MSFT’s President added.

    Meanwhile, a global manhunt is currently underway to determine the source of the cyberattack. According to the European Cybercrime Centre, Europol is “working closely” with countries affected by the blitz to identify the culprits. Microsoft too is contributing to the investigation. “Working through our Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and Digital Crimes Unit, we’ll also share what we learn with law enforcement agencies, governments, and other customers around the world,” Smith wrote.

    As we reported earlier, the narrative is already set to determine that the culprits were most likely Russians.

    The full blog post by the Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer can be found here.

  • Bharara Joins The Trump "Resistance": Asks If Any Public Servants Will Dare Say No To The President

    It appears the so-called 'resistance' is coalescing around a number of fired-by-Trump formerly powerful Obama administration officials desperate to maintain the tyrannical Trump narrative. The latest is infamous non-prosecutor of Wall Street's worst Preet Bharara who questions: Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the president?

     

    The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 until he was fired by Trump this March takes to The Washington Post's echo chamber to pen an opinion piece proclaiming Trump's actions over Comey's firing (his old boss and friend) as damaging to faith in the rule of law, suggesting some ideas to fix his tyrannical ways…

    He begins with an anecdote to set the scene for historical precedent

    The most dramatic hearing I helped to arrange as chief counsel to a Senate subcommittee took place 10 years ago Monday, when James B. Comey, then deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, described how he and FBI Director Robert Mueller intervened at the hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft.

     

    The encounter occurred in 2004, after White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales tried to overrule Comey’s and Mueller’s legal objection to a secret terrorist surveillance program.

     

    When the White House nonetheless sought the ailing Ashcroft’s blessing to proceed, Comey prepared to resign. Ultimately, Comey and Mueller prevailed.

    And then explains how terrible things have become…

    Jim Comey was once my boss and remains my friend. I know that many people are mad at him. He has at different times become a cause for people’s frustration and anger on both sides of the aisle. Some of those people may have a point. But on this unsettling anniversary of that testimony, I am proud to know a man who had the courage to say no to a president.

     

    in the tumult of this time, the question whose answer we should perhaps fear the most is the one evoked by that showdown: Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the president?

    So having raised that question spuriously, let's go back to yet another instance of an event in which a Republican White House did something the so-called progressive left did not appreciate…

    Now, as the country once again wonders whether justice can be nonpolitical and whether its leaders understand the most basic principles of prosecutorial independence and the rule of law, I recall yet another firestorm that erupted 10 years ago over the abrupt and poorly explained firing of top Justice Department officials in the midst of sensitive investigations.

     

    The 2007 affair was not Watergate, the more popular parallel invoked lately, but the lessons of that spring, after the Bush administration inexplicably fired more than eight of its own U.S. attorneys, are worth recalling.

     

    When the actions became public, people suspected political interference and obstruction. Democrats were the most vocal, but some Republicans asked questions, too. The uproar intensified as it became clear that the initial explanations were mere pretext, and the White House couldn’t keep its story straight. Public confidence ebbed, and Congress began to investigate.

     

    In response, the Senate launched a bipartisan (yes, bipartisan) investigation into those firings and the politicization of the Justice Department. Early on, the then-deputy attorney general — Comey was gone by then — looked senators in the eye and said the U.S. attorneys were fired for cause; although such appointees certainly serve at will, this assertion turned out to be demonstrably false. We learned that the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, David C. Iglesias, was fired soon after receiving an improper call from Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici pushing him to bring political corruption cases before the election. We learned that Justice Department officials in Washington had improperly applied a conservative ideological litmus test to attorneys seeking career positions, to immigration judges and even to the hiring of interns.

     

    Ultimately, amid the drumbeat of revelations, every top leader of the department stepped down under a cloud. Finally, Gonzales himself resigned. Strict protocols were put in place severely limiting White House contacts with Justice officials on criminal matters. The blow to the morale and reputation of the department was incalculable.

    First things first, may we suggest that "the country" for which you speak of is not busily wondering "whether justice can be nonpolitical" – instead they are busily wondering where the next paycheck is coming from, how they will pay soaring healthcare costs and put a shelter over their families heads.. but of course, thats' not the Washington narrative-du-jour. Which brings us back to today…

    For me, the past week has been deja vu all over again. To restore faith in the rule of law, three obvious things must happen:

     

    First, we need a truly bipartisan investigation in Congress. That means no partisan nonsense — just a commitment to finding the facts, whatever they may be, proving (or disproving) Russian interference in our election and anything related. Congress is a check and a balance, and never more important than when a bullying chief executive used to his own way seems not to remember the co-equal status of the other two branches.

     

    Second, the new FBI director must be apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission, not someone with a long record of reflexive partisanship or commentary on the very investigative issues that will come before the bureau. Unfortunately, some of the candidates paraded by cameras this past weekend reality-show style fall into that category. I can’t think of anything worse for FBI morale, for truth-finding or for public trust. More than ever the FBI needs a strong and stabilizing hand, which means somebody who has not spent most of his or her career pandering for votes, groveling for cash or putting party over principle.

     

    Finally, I join in the common-sense call for an independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Given the manner of Comey’s firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way. My former colleague, now-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, is a respected career prosecutor but has mostly deserved the doubts he generated with his peculiar press-release-style memo purporting to explain Comey’s sudden sacking. He can still fix it. The move would not only ensure the independence of the investigation, but also provide evidence of Rosenstein’s own independence.

    Bharara ends strong with some 'constitutional'-sounding rhetoric that leaves one questioning everything about American life if Trump is left to run wild over 'law and order' – like trying to enforce immigration laws, trade agreements, and

    History will judge this moment. It’s not too late to get it right, and justice demands it.

    Chilling words of self-reinforcing terror.

    *  *  *

    As a reminder, here are some recent thoughts on Mr Bharara from respected journalist Jesse Eisenger – who is not afraid to throw a few punches of truthiness about the former prosecutor…

    After his election in 1968, President Richard Nixon asked Robert Morgenthau, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to resign. Morgenthau refused to leave voluntarily, saying it degraded the office to treat it as a patronage position.

    Nixon’s move precipitated a political crisis. The president named a replacement. Powerful politicians lined up to support Morgenthau. Morgenthau had taken on mobsters and power brokers. He had repeatedly prosecuted Roy Cohn, the sleazy New York lawyer who had been Senator Joe McCarthy’s right-hand man. (One of Cohn’s clients and protégés was a young New York City real estate developer named Donald Trump.) When Cohn complained that Morgenthau had a vendetta against him, Morgenthau replied, “A man is not immune from prosecution merely because a United States Attorney happens not to like him.”

    Morgenthau carried that confrontational attitude to the world of business. He pioneered the Southern District’s approach to corporate crime. When his prosecutors took on corporate fraud, they did not reach settlements that called for fines, the current fashion these days. They filed criminal charges against the executives responsible.

    Before Morgenthau, the Department of Justice focused on two-bit corporate misdeeds—Ponzi schemes and boiler room operations. Morgenthau changed that. His prosecutors went after CEOs and their enablers—the accountants and lawyers who abetted the frauds or looked the other way. “How do you justify prosecuting a nineteen-year old who sells drugs on a street corner when you say it’s too complicated to go after the people who move the money?” he once asked.

    Morgenthau’s years as United States Attorney were followed by political success. He was elected New York County District Attorney in 1974, the first of seven consecutive terms for that office.

    There are parallels between Morgenthau, and Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District who was fired by President Trump this weekend.

    Like Morgenthau, the 48-year old Bharara leaves the office of US Attorney for the Southern District celebrated for taking on corrupt and powerful politicians. Bharara prosecuted two of the infamous “three men in a room” who ran New York state: Sheldon Silver, the Democratic speaker of the assembly and Dean Skelos, the Republican Senate majority leader.

    He won convictions of a startling array of local politicians, carrying on the work of the Moreland Commission, an ethics inquiry created and then dismissed by New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (This weekend, Bharara cryptically tweeted that “I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like,” a suggestion that he was fired as he was pursuing cases pointed at Trump or his allies.)

    But the record shows that Bharara was much less aggressive when it came to confronting Wall Street’s misdeeds.

    President Obama appointed Bharara in 2009, amid the wreckage of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He inherited ongoing investigations into the collapse, including a probe against Lehman Brothers.

    He also inherited something he and his young charges found more alluring: insider-trading cases against hedge fund managers. His office focused obsessively on those. At one point, the Southern District racked up a record of 85-0 in those cases. (Appeals courts would later throw out two prominent convictions, infuriating him and dealing blows to several other cases.)

    Hedge funds are safer targets. The firms aren’t enmeshed in the global financial markets in the way that giant banks are. Insider trading cases are relatively easy to win and don’t address systemic abuses that helped bring down the financial system.

    Even there his record was more mixed than is popularly understood. As Sheelah Kolhatkar demonstrates in her propulsive and riveting “Black Edge,” when it came to bringing his biggest whale to justice, Steve Cohen of SAC Capital, the Southern District blinked. They did not charge him, only securing a guilty plea from his firm.

    Present and former prosecutors say Bharara did not give much emphasis to investigations arising from the financial meltdown, an approach shared by his boss, Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department insiders say many of those inquiries withered not because they were unpromising, but because they had little support.

    Bharara missed an opportunity by not bringing any significant criminal charges against individuals in the wake of the collapses of Lehman, investment bank Merrill Lynch, the insurer AIG, the mortgage securities and collateralized debt obligation businesses, or the myriad public misrepresentations from bank CEOs about their finances.

    Bharara and senior officials in Washington argue that there were no criminal cases to file after the 2008 crisis. But the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan did pursue significant civil cases against the banks for their mortgage activities, cases that had to proove misconduct by the “preponderance of the evidence.” And DOJ did win guilty pleas from the banks themselves, an indication that prosecutors might have been able to charge individuals for their part in crimes their institutions had acknowledged. Academics who studied those years, including Columbia’s Tomasz Piskorski and James Witkin and Chicago’s Amit Seru found widespread patterns of fraud in the mortgage business.

    The exception makes this failure all the more puzzling. As I detailed in 2014, Bharara’s office brought one case for misconduct during the financial crisis — against a mid-level banker. Prosecutors charged Kareem Serageldin of Credit Suisse with overseeing traders who knowingly misrepresented the value of mortgage securities. Serageldin pleaded guilty and went to prison.

    Serageldin’s colleagues in the industry and others familiar with Credit Suisse found it hard to believe that he was the only person involved in that particular fraud.

    Bharara’s reluctance to pursue senior executives was seen in other investigations of big banks. His office wrested a $1.7 billion fine from JPMorgan Chase over its complicity in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but it brought no charges against individual bankers.

    One odd aspect of his tenure was the Southern District’s willingness to defer to other jurisdictions when it came to Wall Street cases.

    Historically, the SDNY has been the leading enforcers of securities laws, nicknamed the “sovereign district” for its propensity to grab corporate fraud cases from elsewhere on the flimsiest of jurisdictional pretexts. Under Bharara, the southern district let other U.S. attorneys claim investigations into residential mortgage-backed securities, the instruments at the heart of the financial crisis. Those other offices were not nearly as versed in complex financial cases as their colleagues in Manhattan. In addition, Bharara’s office ceded post-financial crisis investigations into foreign exchange and global interest rate manipulation to prosecutors working from the Justice Department’s headquarters.

    Like Morgenthau, Bharara was a prominent figure in the New York landscape, given to well-orchestrated press conferences and memorable sound bites. Like Morgenthau, he did not leave office quietly, even thought the president has a longstanding right to name his own U.S. attorneys. And like Morgenthau, he may try to parlay his martyrdom into elective office.

    But if he runs on his record of convictions, as prosecutors often do, voters might want to consider as well the list of possible targets he never pursued.

  • The European Commission doesn’t agree with the ECB …

    Jean-Claude Juncker - European Commission

    In the Eurozone it’s not just the European Central Bank which publishes its forecasts on a regular basis, but the European Commission also releases its own expectations. And those don’t necessarily agree with the ECB’s assessments!

    In its Spring Economic Forecast, which was released last week, the EC is now clearly more positive about the outlook in the Eurozone as the Commission increased its GDP growth expectations by 0.1% to 1.7%, although it’s still warning for downside. This downside could be related to the decrease in inflation expectations. Yes, the official inflation rate will increase from 0.2% in 2016 to 1.6% in 2017 (thanks to the higher oil and gas prices), but according to the Commission, the inflation will start to trend down again and will fall back to 1.3% next year.

    European Commission 1

    Source: ec.europa.eu

    That’s an interesting view, and it shines a completely different light on the statement of the ECB, which was also released last week. As the ‘hard data’ coming out of the Eurozone are pointing in the direction of a continuously strengthening economy (with the factory orders in Germany finally picking up whilst the Netherlands and France saw a 4% and 3.5% increase in  their manufacturing production results), the ECB was finally starting to think about reducing its monthly purchases of securities on the open market.

    European Commission 2

    Source: ec.europa.eu

    There has been a lot of chatter lately about ‘normalizing’ the monetary policy, but the expected parameters used by the Commission might cause the ECB to ‘re-think’ its plans. The unemployment rate on the Eurozone will remain relatively high at 8% in 2017 and 7.8% in 2018 and when you compare this to the much lower unemployment rate in the USA (less than 4.5%) it’s clear the situation in the Eurozone isn’t nearly as good as in the United States. Keep in mind we have no details on the underemployment rate in the Eurozone (compared to the USA), and whilst we would expect the ratio of underemployed people to be lower, we think the total percentage of unemployed and underemployed people will be in excess of 10% in the Eurozone.

    EC 3

    Source: Danske Bank

    So, is this good enough to start to normalize the monetary policies? It’s doubtful, and the ECB has to be very careful it’s not destroying the preliminary signs of the recovery of the Eurozone’s economy. It would make sense to first start to gradually decrease the monthly asset purchases. Not only because these asset purchases would be scaled back gradually, but also because it’s the easiest measure to reinstate should stepping down the size of the purchase program result in adverse effects. Nobody would lose his or her face if there would be a temporary suspension in the buyback rate, which would be less devastating than a ‘oops’ moment when trying to ‘reset’ the benchmark interest rates. But as you can see on the previous image, Danske Bank is agreeing with our assessment the inflation expectations might not be high enough to warrant the ECB to reduce its asset repurchase rate…

    The ECB also literally said that whilst it expects its 60B EUR/month asset purchase program to run until the end of this year, its council could decide to extend this special measure until the inflation rate picks up again, and reaches the desired threshold.

    Long story short, the ECB is and will be basing its policy decisions on the inflation expectations in the Eurozone. And if the European Commission’s expectations are correct, the ECB won’t be able to reduce its asset purchase program, further inflating and increasing the size of its balance sheet…

    > Read our Guide to Gold FOR FREE!

  • Chris Martenson Warns "Humans Are Heading Towards Disaster"

    Authored by Chris Martenson via PeakProsperity.com,

    It’s time to be blunt: Humans are headed towards disaster. 

    Most of us already know this.  Some consciously, others unconsciously.

    Those aware to the many predicaments we face may understand them intellectually, such as through the data provided in The Crash Course. Or they may sense them intuitively as a feeling in their gut that “something is wrong." Many experience a combination of both.

    Those operating at the unconscious level may only experience a pervasive sense of dread encroaching into their lives.  Many of these people are confused because they are aware of the context and are increasingly either checking out via numbing behaviors such as drinking and opioid addiction, or they're acting out via violence and protest.

    No matter if it's consciously or unconsciously, everybody who ‘knows’ that something is terribly wrong is correct.

    A Very Different Future

    The data is obvious and the logic is clear. We cannot continue as we have been. The system is simply unsustainable.

    Unfortunately, "continuation" is the one and only plan of the state. Let's get back on track doing what we always have been (and use increasingly blunt techniques to saturate the populace with this message).  That’s the whole plan.  It boils down to: More of the same.

    But ‘the same’ is killing the planet.

    Species are disappearing at horrifying rates that have few comparisons over the past 500 million years. Soil washes to the sea creating dead zones, while humans and the animals they eat are now 95% of the terrestrial animal biomass.

    Oceans are acidifying, causing phytoplankton to disappear. Glaciers are melting and sliding away, with those in Greenland and Antarctica contributing to sea level rise, a phenomenon that is not somewhere out in the future, but right here, right now.

    Via Bloomberg:

    The impact [of sea level rise] is already being felt in South Florida. Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock.

     

    Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply. The area’s drainage canals rely on gravity; as oceans rise, the water utility has had to install giant pumps to push water out to the ocean.

    That’s not a future scenario, that’s right now.  When utilities are installing giant pumps, they are not doing that because of what might happen, but because of that which is already happening.

    Pro tip:  If you own coastal property worth a bundle that’s at risk, sell now and avoid the rush.  That’s the conclusion of the Bloomberg article above, and something that insurers and underwriters might render moot by pulling your insurance coverage. How much is an uninsurable property on the coast of a rising sea worth?  The answer is: Less than its current price.

    A (very) little bit of study reveals that exponential growth on a finite planet is a bad idea, which means that perpetual exponential growth is an even worse idea, insanity defined practically.  Unfortunately, and quite obviously, perpetual exponential growth lies at the very heart of every so-called ‘modern’ economic model.  It’s what we seek as a culture, and is lauded and rewarded in every possible way.

    But it turns out that debt-based money coupled to the insatiable human desire for ever more is a very toxic combo. Both to ourselves, individually, as well as the planet as a whole — as the historically-brief past 150 years of rampant human feasting on fossil fuels has been devastating to our ecosystems.

    While you’ve probably read a dozen articles talking about the death knell of fossil fuels and demand destruction due to substitution and technology, the reality is that (outside of severe economic downturns) each year humans quite reliably consume more oil than the year before:

    (Source)

    This is just the what the data tells us.  More oil consumed this year than last.  While demand destruction from new technology and different choices may show up in the future, that dynamic is nowhere to be seen in the actual data yet.

    Even more worryingly, there are at least 10 and possibly as many as 20 fossil fuel calories embedded in each single food calorie we eat. Our diet is made possible only by today's surfeit of fossil fuel energy. Yet there seems to be no replacement plan and no concern for this fact outside of a few ‘fringe’ blogs and academic arenas.

    But on our current course, 8 or 9 billion people will soon be trying to produce more food from degraded soils even as fossil fuels begin to wane, in both aggregate and especially in terms of net energy.

    And that’s not some super far off date in the future. That’s in as few as 15 years, which really isn’t a lot of time given the seriousness of the predicament.

    My point here is that The future has arrived. There’s no more waiting required for those who dare to look.  Or to feel what’s in their hearts, or gut, or wherever your intuition registers.

    Our Giant Canoe

    Think of our situation as if humanity were all together in a giant canoe and nearly everybody is paddling as hard as they can.  After all, we’re trying to get somewhere: to improve ourselves, to grow our economy and increase our prosperity. There are goals to be met!

    Along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that this canoe is the best one ever built and it cannot fail us. It is the very pinnacle of achievement.  It looks great, and there are creature comforts and pleasant distractions galore.   Food has never been more abundant or easier to obtain, new gadgets keep showing up, and (in theory, at least) you can determine for yourself where you want to sit in the canoe.

    The people in the front love being there, as they feel powerful and in control. Ironically, though, it's the few people in the stern who are actually secretly and rather effortlessly steering, but nobody in the rest of the canoe seems to notice or care.

    There's only one thing wrong with this canoe. It’s headed for a gigantic waterfall, and if it tips over the lip, very few will survive. It will be like going over Niagara Falls without a barrel.

    A few in the canoe have woken up and noticed this. But their protests are limited to either pulling their paddles out of the water and refusing to propel the canoe any faster, or even trying to futilely paddle backwards against the rest of humanity’s combined efforts.

    Neither approach is a solution, mind you. But at least for these 'awake' souls, it feels better than paddling mindlessly towards the roaring falls. 

    As it stand today, humanity’s canoe is destined to speed right over the edge. Unless we consciously do something about it. Which we could, if we really wanted to.

    As there’s nothing preventing us from steering the canoe safely to land, I find this one of the most interesting and fascinating times to be alive. We are currently playing the role of our own destroyer, but the savior role is still there for the choosing.

    But what stops us?  What keeps us paddling furiously ahead even as the sound of the roaring falls gets louder and louder?  The answer is at once both very simple and devilishly hard. 

    It’s our egos.

    To save ourselves from ourselves, we have to begin doing things very, very differently.  Truthfully, the only way we can save ourselves is to shift our consciousness. 

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May 14

Today’s News 14th May 2017

  • Paul Craig Roberts Rages "Are You Ready To Die?"

    Authored by Paul Criag Roberts,

    “Fifty years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me one thing: If a fight is inevitable, you must strike first.” Vladimir Putin

    In George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel, 1984, information that no longer is consistent with Big Brother’s explanations is chucked down the Memory Hole. In the real American dystopia in which we currently live, the information is never reported at all.

    On April 26 – 16 days ago – Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznihir, Deputy Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, stated at the Moscow International Security Conference that the Operations Command of the Russian General Staff has concluded that Washington is preparing a nuclear first strike on Russia.

    See:

    https://www.rt.com/news/386276-us-missile-shield-russia-strike/ 

    http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/04/us-forces-preparing-sudden-nuclear.html 

    https://www.times-gazette.com/ap%20general%20news/2016/10/12/russia-china-to-mull-joint-response-to-us-missile-shield  

    http://themillenniumreport.com/2017/04/us-forces-preparing-sudden-nuclear-strike-on-russia-moscow-security-conference/ 

    The Times-Gazett in Ashland, Ohio, was the only US print media that a Google search could turn up that reported this most alarming of all announcements. A Google search turned up no reports on US TV, and none on Canadian, Australian, European, or any other media except RT and Internet sites.

    I have been unable to find any report that any US Senator or Representative or any European, Canadian, or Australian politician has raised a voice of concern.

    No one in Washington got on the telephone to tell Putin that this was all a mistake, that the US was not preparing a nuclear first strike on Russia, or ask Putin how this serious situation could be defused.

    Americans do not even know about it, except for our readers.

    I would have expected at least that the CIA would have planted the story in the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR that General Poznihir was expressing his personal opinion, nothing to be taken seriously. But apparently Americans and their European vassals are not to even know that such an accussation was made.

    As I reported some time ago and more recently in my column about North Korea, the Chinese leadership has also concluded that the US intends a nuclear first strike against China.

    Alone either Russia or China can destroy the US. If they act together, the destruction of the US would be redundant. What is the intelligence, if any, and morality, clearly none, of the US leadership that recklessly and irresponsibly invites Russia and China to preempt Washington’s attack on them with an attack on the US?

    Surely not even insouciant Americans are so stupid as to think that Russia and China will just sit there and wait for Washington’s nuclear attack.

    I lived through every stage of the Cold War. I participated in it. Never in my life have I experienced the situation where two nuclear powers were convinced that the third was going to surprise them with a nuclear attack.

    I supported Trump because he, unlike Hillary, said he would normalize relations with Russia. Instead he has raised the tensions between the nuclear powers. Nothing is more irresponsible or dangerous.

    We currently are in the most dangerous situation of my lifetime, and there is ZERO AWARENESS AND NO DISCUSSION!

    How can this be? Putin has been issuing warnings for years. He has told the Western presstitute media on more than one occasion that they, in their dishonesty, are pushing the world to nuclear war. Putin has said over and over, “I issue warnings and no one hears.” “How do I get through to you?”

    Maybe the morons will hear when mushroom clouds appear over Washington and New York, and Europe ceases to exist, as it will if Europe continues the confrontation with Russia as is required from Washington’s well-paid vassals.

    Within the last several years I reported the Chinese government’s reaction to US war plans for a nuclear strike on China. The Chinese showed how their submarines would destroy the West Coast of the US and their ICBMs would finish off the rest of the country.

    I reported all of this, and it produced no response. The Memory Hole wasn’t needed, as neither Washington nor the presstitutes nor the Internet noticed. This is insouciance to the thousandth degree.

    In America and its subservient, crawling on their knees vassal states, the information never gets reported, so it never has to be put down the Memory Hole.

    If you convince someone that you are going to kill them, they are going to kill you first. A government, such as what exists in Washington, that convinces powerful countries that they are targeted, is a government that has no respect whatsoever for the lives of its own people or the peoples of the world or for any life on planet Earth.

    Such a government as Washington is evil beyond all measure, as are the media whores and European, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese vassal states that serve Washington at the expense of their own citizens.

    Despite all their efforts to believe otherwise, the Russian and Chinese leaderships have finally arrived, belatedly, at the realization that Washington is evil to the core and is the agent of Satan.

    For Russia and China, the Satanic Evil that rules in the West has reduced the choice for Russia and China to them or us.

  • Which US Region Contributes The Most To GDP?

    The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has published gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the fourth quarter of 2016 by state. According to the BEA data released on Thursday, real GDP increased in every state and the District of Columbia for that time period.

    GDP by state growth ranged from 3.4 percent in Texas to 0.1 percent in Kansas and Mississippi. Finance and insurance; retail trade; and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter.

    Overall, growth was pretty even when states are combined to regions. The GDP share of those regions didn’t change much, comparing year-over-year fourth quarter figures.

    Infographic: United States Gross Domestic Product by Region 2016 | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    As shown in the Statista chart above, the GDP has a strong correlation with how many people live in those areas. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Southeast, which has the combined population of 12 states, amounting to approximately 83 million (or a quarter of U.S. citizens), also has the biggest GDP share, standing at 21.4 percent of total GDP. The thinly populated Rocky Mountain area (12 million inhabitants) has a share of 3.4 percent of the GDP.

  • A California Business Banker Speaks Out: "It's A Classic Late-Cycle Red Flag"

    Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

    On occasion, I get emails from a commercial banker friend who lives in California. Today he provides anecdotes from a business banker’s perspective.chair
     

    Hey Mish

     

    It’s been a while since my last email. Here are some views from this business banker’s chair.

     

    I had lunch with a financial planner today, and he said the new tax plan coming from DC would eliminate tax-deductibility of state taxes. While Federal tax rates might go down a little, the net impact would be higher total taxes via higher total federal taxes due to the loss of writing off state taxes. At least, that is the view for those of us in high state income tax states like CA. He already had clients exiting the state.

     

    The gentleman I had lunch with today is a lifelong financial planner, mostly on the insurance side. He stated that the insurance industry today is in worse shape than that of the banking industry during the prior recession, and yet we hear very little about it. If so, we both agreed that the world isn’t ready for an insurance industry meltdown anything like that of the Banking industry during the last recession.

     

    I provide financing to a lot of subcontractors (the trades). While visibility 9-12 months looking forward has looked good for the past few years, I finally have a client (a framing contractor for the major home builders) that has said something to the contrary. He stated that some of his major home builders are starting to see some issues in selling inventory in CA. Without going into specifics, he also stated that he senses something is changing in their world.

     

    I’ve seen a spike in the number of unqualified (financially and expertise) in people who want to get into flipping homes. It’s becoming vogue amongst those who lack the qualification to do it at a time when the values in the San Francisco Greater Bay Area have never been higher. Somehow, 2007 peak real estate values were crazy, but the value today that are higher than 2007 are justifiable/sustainable. That’s a classic late cycle red flag.

     

    During the last 3-4 years, I’ve seen more people who seek to finance new restaurants than any time in the past 20 years. This industry seems frothy. With rising rental costs for space and higher minimum wages for staff, I’m seeing pressure on the cost structure of existing operators squeeze them, while people are rushing to build out a new restaurant.

     

    Finally, for the past 12-18 months, I’ve been flooded with new loan requests. I haven’t been this busy with new loan requests since the last cycle Top. Again, this seems like another last cycle red flag.

     

    Hope all is well

     

    “BBC”

    I had a friend tell me one time: “Mish if you ever get the urge to start a restaurant, please call me. I will talk you out of it. Some succeed, but most lose their investment or struggle for years barely surviving.”

    Everyone thinks they are different. But they aren’t. After a run up in property values, rising minimum wages, and increased competition, this is the worst time in the last 10 years.

  • The Final Straw: President Trump Had Two Scoops of Iced Cream, While Everyone Else Had One

    Correspondents from Time Magazine recently dined at the White House in the famed ‘blue room’ and were treated like savage animals. All went well with the enemies of America until dessert was prepared and served. As unbelievable as it might seem, the President made sure he was served not one, but TWO, scoops of iced cream, while everyone else got just 1.

    These revelations have led to new outrage on the left, with the people demanding swift resignation from the President.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Others on the right point out that President Obama was once seen with two scoops inside of a waffled cone.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Personally, I think the President was being generous, as I’d ensure the bastards from Time would’ve received nothing at all.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    CNN provides coverage on this important topic.

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

  • 'Holier-Than-Thou' – How America's Mainstream Media Rebuke Foreign Leaders

    Authored by Brian Cloughley via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    In the week of World Press Freedom Day the New York Times carried one of its holier-than-thou and unintentionally ironical editorials, this time titled «Donald Trump Embraces Another Despot». Seeing the headline, the world could be forgiven for asking which one it might be, this time, and eventually the Editorial Board revealed the target of their displeasure to be President Duterte of the Philippines, an unpleasant morsel of filth who had just been invited to visit the United States by President Donald Trump, who is also an unpleasant morsel of filth.

    In the run-up to identifying Mr Duterte as the object of its disapproval, the Times observed that «for the most part American presidents, Republican and Democratic, have believed that the United States should provide a moral compass to the world».

    A moral compass? That rang a bell, because one person who used this phrase recently was the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the egregious Nikki Haley, who declared at her confirmation hearing that she will «speak up against anything that goes against American values», because «we have always been the moral compass of the world». What nonsense.

    Many Americans have been horrified at the way in which their leaders have spun America’s moral compass over the years, and it is barely credible that anyone could utter such a phrase with sincerity.

    Past presidents may have paid lip-service to such ideals, but few have pursued policies that would in any way indicate that the United States of America was providing a global moral compass. Post World War II, Washington’s ethics were blasted into pieces by the Pentagon’s evil fandangos in Vietnam and surrounding countries, where the effects of its massacres, bombings of cities and towns, and use of the chemical Agent Orange are still being suffered.

    Ironically, the New York Times carried a piece in 2014 titled Agent Orange’s Long Legacy, for Vietnam and Veterans, which stated that «the war has not ended for many of the 2.8 million [US] servicemen and women who went to Vietnam. These ailing veterans are convinced that their cancers and nervous disorders and skin diseases — not to mention congenital maladies afflicting some of their children — are a result of their contact with Agent Orange». The writer claimed that «Often enough, that linkage has not been established incontrovertibly», which is a contemptible get-out, but the swinging moral compass went off the wall when he averred that the «Vietnamese accept almost as an article of faith that America’s aerial and ground spraying poisoned their environment, perhaps for decades to come, and is to blame for severe birth defects that afflict hundreds of thousands of their children. Whether that is indeed a reality has not been definitively established».

    The poison of Agent Orange has indeed continued, as evidenced by many reports, one of the latest being on 4 April 2017 that «on a hill above his home, former soldier Do Duc Diu showed me the cemetery he built for his twelve children, who all died soon after being born disabled. There are a few extra plots next to the existing graves for where his daughters, who are still alive but very sick, will be buried». And it was Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon who bore responsibility for the vile despoliation of a region and the deaths of so many of its innocent citizens.

    Moral compass? You’ve got to be joking.

    Then the Editorial Board excelled itself by pronouncing that the Presidents of the United States have been «encouraging people to pursue their right to self-government and human dignity and rebuking foreign leaders who fall short».

    The list of countries whose people have been actively discouraged by US Administrations from «pursuing their right to self-government» is long and depressing, and when there was movement to support people who want democracy the usual result was catastrophe. That this statement was made during Press Freedom Week was indeed ironic, because it was also reported that «Washington is working to push through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others in the pipeline, ahead of President Donald Trump's trip to the kingdom this month». He is visiting a dictatorship where, as his own State Department acknowledges, «civil law does not protect human rights, including freedoms of speech and of the press». Moral compass, anyone?

    President Duterte is a gross violator of human rights and entirely without any moral sense. As noted on CNN, he is «the thug President of the Philippines — our ally. Here’s a man who has bragged about committing murder . . . and who just happens to be presiding over an anti-drug operation that by some estimates has involved the extrajudicial killing of some 7,000 people».

    But there have been and continue to be many similar despots around the world whom the United States and the New York Times have supported for years. Take the truly evil Park Chung-Hee of South Korea with whom President Kennedy «reaffirmed the strong bonds of friendship traditionally existing between the two countries» and who lasted through Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and even the faintly morally-conscious Carter, until Park’s assassination in 1979. Where was the moral compass in these hideous years in which Park was a valued ally of the United States?

    Then there was the brutal Suharto of Indonesia (1967 to 1998; Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the First, Clinton) about whom in 2015, fifty years after Suharto’s most appalling massacres, the New York Times carried a piece acknowledging that «with American support, more than 500,000 people were murdered by the Indonesian Army and its civilian death squads. At least 750,000 more were tortured and sent to concentration camps, many for decades». Reagan liked Suharto and in a speech went so far as to spin his moral compass back-to-front and say that «tonight we welcome good friends back to the White House» because he considered his dictator guest to have «clear-sighted recognition of where the interests of both our nations lie».

    Of course Suharto recognised American interests — just as present-day dictators recognise them and know that although Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Tweeter-in Chief, Donald Trump, should, as Haley proudly announced, «speak up against anything that goes against American values», they’ll do that selectively. They adopt this approach because although US values are Constitutionally and morally at variance with those of all the Gulf dictatorships, for example, they are subject to modification in interpretation as they go up the gently-sloped moral ladders of the Congress and the Administration.

    There are never any public rebukes for the Gulf dictators, in spite of the State Department recording that they are intolerant bigots with no regard for human rights.

    Washington declares Saudi Arabia to be «a strong partner» in spite of it being noted in the report on human rights that its citizens have no «ability and legal means to choose their government» while there are «restrictions on universal rights, such as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the freedoms of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected most aspects of women’s lives».

    It would be refreshing if the New York Times Editorial Board were to get hold of America’s moral compass and encourage the President to rebuke the monarchy of Saudi Arabia for its long-standing, embedded and comprehensive contempt for the rights of Saudi citizens.

    By all means criticize Trump for cosying up to the savage Duterte – but spare us the claptrap about moral compasses.

  • The Other Shoe Drops: Prime Auto Loan Losses Surge As Recoveries Tumble

    When we looked at subprime auto delinquencies most recently, we found some troubling trends: first, in February, we showed that 61+ day delinquencies in General Motors’ subprime securitization book would support a rather bleak thesis for future auto sales, and specifically the demand side of the equation, with January 2017 delinquency rates soaring to the highest levels since late 2009/early 2010. 

    Autos

    Ironically, this hasn’t stopped lenders from providing financing, and according to Morgan Stanley since 2010, the share of Subprime Auto ABS origination that has come from deep subprime deals has increased from 5.1% to 32.5%, suggesting that yield-starved buyside will put “other people’s money” into anything as long as it provides a slightly higher yield.

    Subprime

    Meanwhile, the subprime shock has already impacted the broader market, observed with the latest monthly auto sales data which declined four month in a row heading into May. An even bleaker picture of the subprime market emerged a month later when looking at the latest securitization analysis from Morgan Stanley which revealed that 60+ day delinquencies at 266 subprime auto ABS deals were surging – despite low unemployment, high consumer confidence and debt-to-income ratios at 30-year lows – back to ‘great recession’ levels. Meanwhile, loss severities were also shooting higher just as used car prices were sliding.

     

    Used Car Prices

    In part, this tied in with the overnight look at the “flood of off-lease vehicles“, according to which by the end of 2019, an estimated 12 million low-mileage vehicles are coming off leases inked during a 2014-2016 spurt in new auto sales, which is set to put even more pressure on used (and new) car prices for the foreseeable future.

    As Reuters noted, a computer search for available used vehicles within 150 miles of Reel revealed an eye-popping figure: 668 Escapes. That’s enough to put more than 40 percent of the inhabitants of this small northeastern Ohio town, population 1,600, into the popular crossover. A search for the Chevrolet Equinox, a comparable crossover, showed 461 available.

    “The automakers have flooded the market,” said Reel, owner of Reel’s Auto in Orwell, Ohio, about 40 miles east of Cleveland.

    The above trends validate a recent bearish Morgan Stanley analysis, which forecast that the plunge in used car prices is just getting started, and in a bear case, the bank sees used car prices dropping by up to 50% over the next 5 years.

     

    * * *

    However, in an even more troubling development for US consumers, it now appears that the other shoe for the US auto market has finally also dropped, and according to analyses by both Morgan Stanley and S&P, losses on prime auto loans are also surging.

    In the latest note by Morgan Stanley’s Jeen Ng, the analyst reports that “fundamental performance deterioration has not been confined to Subprime. Both 60+ day delinquencies and default rates in Prime ABS pools have nearly doubled from their post-crisis lows.

    A slightly better picture – at least according to MS data – emerges in terms of loss severities. Still, while subprime losses are far worse, the deterioration among prime loans is unmistakable: compared to peak levels, 60+ day delinquencies in Prime auto loan pools are roughly 65% of the way back, whereas Subprime pools are close to 95% of their peak levels. On the default rate side, the deterioration is somewhat more subdued, with Subprime over 80% of the way back to prior peaks while Prime has yet to reach the 45% mark.

    One troubling observation, as confirmed in the recent Fed Senior Loan Officers Survey is that credit standards have continued to ease: as in Subprime, some of the ongoing Prime deterioration can be attributed to a relaxing of credit standards.

     

    Subprime

    Aggregate credit scores have decreased by about 5 points, which while easier is not even half as much as the 10+ point deterioration in Subprime. The same is true for longer origination terms. Most Prime issuers have extended loan terms by 3-4 months over the past 5 years. In Subprime, extension in most cases has been longer than 10 months. These easier standards can help explain both why delinquencies and defaults are higher, according to Ng. Also, keep in mind, there is a limit as to how far Prime issuers can expand their credit box in the form of lower credit scores before the deals become Subprime.

    Some more observations from Morgan Stanley, which finds a particular deterioration in recent loan issuance at Huyndai and Mercedes:

    As auto lenders expand their credit box to weaker credit borrowers, we should expect to see poorer credit performance among more recent deals relative to the more seasoned ones.

     

     

    Across the OEM originators above, we see a very consistent shift in lending standards over time – marginally longer loan terms, higher credit scores and lower used car composition. Overall, the longer loan terms and higher credit scores have offsetting effects on fundamental performance. If we look at the 60+ delinquencies and 3-month CDR curves by vintage, we don’t necessarily observe performance  deterioration over time, and for some issuers we even see relative outperformance among recent deals. However, we do see higher severities among recent vintages, which we can at least partly attribute to the decline in used car values.

     

    HART (Hyundai) and MBART (Mercedes Benz) serve as exceptions to the above, with a higher % of used vehicles and FICO migration of less than +10 points over the last 7 years. They are also the two shelves which show the most pronounced performance shift. TAOT (Toyota) also extended their credit score by less than 10 points, but their change in origination loan terms has been minimal and they have a lower  composition of used vehicles over time.

    Additionally, in terms of loss severities, the bank finds that all originator types appear to be trending higher in similar fashion, with non-bank originators printing the lowest recovery values. OEM originators overtook bank originators to see the highest recovery values last year.

    * * *

    In a separate, and even more downbeat report, S&P Global Ratings analyst Ann Matin noted that losses in bonds tied to “prime auto loans have surged surged in recent months from a year ago, hurt by falling recoveries” and notes that prime net losses rose to 0.73% in February from 0.57% in same month last year. According to S&P, bonds from some issuers that have become a larger share of the index, including Mechanics Bank’s California Republic and TCF Financial Corp., and both are contributing to those higher losses.  Additionally, the rating agency referred to the abovementioned loan losses at Huyndai, stating that “we’ve increased our expected cumulative net loss levels for certain issuers, including Hyundai’s most recent transaction, HART 2017-A.”

    Margin also wrote that prime asset-backed deals issued in 2015 seem to be performing worse, comparatively, than those sold between 2010 and 2014, and the deterioration in loans made to strong credit borrowers has forced S&P to revise its net loss expectations for various bonds.

    * * *

    To summarize: subprime loan losses have been surging alongside loss severities (with the buyside happy to soak up any and all issuance, regardless of underlying fundamentals), as recoveries slide, and in recent months this deterioration has finally shifted over to prime loans. Meanwhile, used car prices are tumbling, while new car sales have declined for 4 consecutive months as auto loan demand among tapped out consumers has tumbled. Meanwhile, millions of used cars are about to hit the market as they come off lease, which in turn will further pressure used car prices and new car sales.

    So what happens next?  Here, we’ll repeat what we concluded last night:

    Unstable used car prices will almost certainly reduce OEM reliance on leases as the implied 3-year depreciation (or residual values, if you prefer) will make them all but completely uneconomical: remember, Americans only care about that monthly payment.  Meanwhile, the relative value between used and new cars will tilt heavily in favor of the used market.  Thankfully Americans will still be able to buy that Mercedes they require to get back and forth from their minimum wage jobs, while maintaining a monthly payment of $500 or less, but it will just have to have 30,000 miles on it.

    Of course, the OEMs of the world won’t admit that their game is over until it’s way too late.  So, they’ll keep right on producing new cars to cover a 17-18mm SAAR environment up until the point they face an outright revolt from their dealer networks.  At that point, however, dealer inventories will be so high that Detroit will be forced to shutdown for months on end while new car prices are slashed to reduce the massive inventory glut.  Tanking new car prices will put even more pressure on used car prices which will mark the beginning of the death spiral that will result in a new round of inevitable auto bankruptcies, catalyzing the next economic contraction… assuming one hadn’t started already.

  • Arizona Passes Bill To End Income Taxation On Gold And Silver

    Sound money advocates scored a major victory on Wednesday, when the Arizona state senate voted 16-13 to remove all income taxation of precious metals at the state level. The measure heads to Governor Doug Ducey, who is expected to sign it into law.

    Under House Bill 2014, introduced by Representative Mark Finchem (R-Tucson), Arizona taxpayers will simply back out all precious metals “gains” and “losses” reported on their federal tax returns from the calculation of their Arizona adjusted gross income (AGI).

    If taxpayers own gold to protect themselves against the devaluation of America’s paper currency, they frequently end up with a “gain” when exchanging those metals back into dollars. However, this is not necessarily a real gain in terms of a gain in actual purchasing power. This “gain” is often a nominal gain because of the slow but steady devaluation of the dollar.  Yet the government nevertheless assesses a tax.

    Sound Money Defense League, former presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul, and Campaign for Liberty helped secure passage of HB 2014 because “it begins to dismantle the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money” according to JP Cortez, an alumnus of Mises University.

    Ron Paul noted, “HB 2014 is a very important and timely piece of legislation. The Federal Reserve’s failure to reignite the economy with record-low interest rates since the last crash is a sign that we may soon see the dollar’s collapse. It is therefore imperative that the law protect people’s right to use alternatives to what may soon be virtually worthless Federal Reserve Notes.” In early March, Dr. Paul appeared before the state Senate committee that was considering the proposal.

    “We ought not to tax money, and that’s a good idea. It makes no sense to tax money,” Paul told the state senators. “Paper is not money, it’s a substitute for money and it’s fraud,” he added, referring to the fractional-reserve banking practiced by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

    After the committee voted to pass the bill on to the full body of the Senate, Dr. Paul held a rally on the grounds of the state legislature, congratulating supporters of the measure and of sound money.

    Paul told the crowd that “they were on the right side of history” and that even though those working to restore constitutional liberty to Arizona and all the states “had a great burden to bear,” there are “more than you know” working toward the same goal.

    Referring to the bill’s elimination of capital gains taxes on gold and silver, the sponsor of the bill, State Representative Mark Finchem, said, “What the IRS has figured out at the federal level is to target inflation as a gain. They call it capital gains.”

    Shortly after the vote in the state Senate, the Sound Money Defense League, an organization working to bring back gold and silver as America’s constitutional money, issued a press release announcing the good news.

    “Arizona is helping lead the way in defending sound money and making it less difficult for citizens to protect themselves from the inflation and financial turmoil that flows from the abusive Federal Reserve System,” said Stefan Gleason, the organization’s director

    As a reminder, in 1813 Thomas Jefferson warned, “paper money is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted.” This is also why the men who drafted the Constitution empowered Congress to mint gold and silver, sound money, and why they included not a single syllable authorizing the legislature to “surrender that critical power to a plutocracy with a penchant for printing fiat money.”

    Slowly, states may be summoning back the days when money was actually worth something. At least 20 states are currently considering doing as Arizona is about to do and remove the income tax on the capital gains from the buying and selling of precious metals: some state legislatures, including Utah and Idaho, have taken steps toward eliminating income taxation on the monetary metals.  Other states are rolling back sales taxes on gold and silver or setting up precious metals depositories to help citizens save and transact in gold and silver bullion. 

  • North Korea Test-Fires 7th Ballistic Missile Of 2017, Projectile Flew 700Km, Landed In Sea Of Japan

    Update: Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Sunday that North Korea's firing of a ballistic missile was a violation of U.N. resolutions and that Japan strongly protested the action. Additionally:

    • *MISSILE MAY BE NEW TYPE: KYODO CITES JAPAN DEFENSE MINISTER
    • *MISSILE EST ALTITUDE 2,000KM, KYODO NEWS REPORT
    • *S. KOREA WILL DEAL STERNLY WITH N. KOREA PROVOCATIONS: YOON
    • *S. KOREA PRESIDENT STILL OPEN TO DIALOGUE WITH N. KOREA: YOON

    *  *  *

    As we detailed earlier, on the eve of a summit in Beijing, and just hours after Pyongyang's chief nuclear negotiator said North Korea is ready to hold talks with the United States "if the conditions are mature", South Korea's Yonhap reports that North Korea has fired a projectile believed to be a ballistic missile, from a region named Kusong located northwest of Pyongyang, where the North previously test-launched its intermediate-range missile.

    The nature of the projectile was not immediately clear, a South Korean military official told Reuters.

    The ballistic missile firing is North Korea’s seventh this year.

    The launch comes just hours after The South China Morning Post reports Choe Son-hui, head of the North Korea's Foreign Ministry's North America bureau, offered the assurance in the Chinese capital after an informal meeting in Norway with Thomas Pickering, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

    "If conditions are mature, we will hold dialogue with the Donald Trump administration," she said.

     

    Choe made the remarks just days after Trump said he would be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "under the right circumstances".

     

    But the comments also came as the US embassy in Beijing told China's foreign ministry that North Korea's attendance at the top-level gathering for the "Belt and Road Initiative" could send the wrong message as the world was trying to pressure Pyongyang over its ­repeated missile and nuclear tests. The foreign ministry said Beijing welcomed the participation of all countries in the summit.

    South Korea's Yonhap News confirms North Korea has fired what appears to be a ballistic missile from its west coast, the South Korean military reported early Sunday. The launch would be the first in two weeks since the last attempt to fire a missile ended in a failure just minutes into flight. It would also be the first launch since a new, liberal president took office in South Korea on Wednesday saying dialogue as well as pressure must be used to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and stop the North's weapons pursuit. The new president Moon has said he is willing to engage in dialogue with his northern neighbor.

    Weapons experts and government officials, cited by Reuters, "believe the North has accomplished some technical progress with those tests."

    South Korean Military has now confirmed it was a ballistic missile that flew 700 km.

    The Japanese government confirms the missile flew 30 minutes and landed in The Sea of Japan.

    Kim claimed in January to be in the final stages of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, and has since launched several intermediate-range projectiles with varying degrees of success.

    The action provides an early test for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came to office on May 10 saying he would visit Pyongyang under the “right circumstances” to bring peace to the peninsula. Moon convened a meeting of the national security council Sunday morning, according to the Presidential Blue House.

    *  *  *

    Today's launch should not be a total surprise: In a interview earlier in the week with by Sky News, in response to a question "is a sixth nuclear test now imminent", the answer of the North Korean Ambassador to the UK, Choe Il was "In regards to the sixth nuclear test, I do not know the scheduled time for it, as I am here in the UK, not in my home country. However, I can say that the nuclear test will be conducted at the place and time as decided by our supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un."

    Asked if he is afraid of a possible US military response, the ambassador answers that "we are developing our nuclear strength to respond to that kind of attack by the US. If the US attacks us, our military and people are fully ready to respond to any kind of attack. I do not think the US are considering a military attack against us." 

    Asked what would North Korea's response be to a preemptive strike, he answer that: "The US cannot attack us first. If the US moves an inch, then we are ready to turn to ashes any available strategic assets of the US."

  • Trump-Appointed Manufacturing Tzar Backfires – Supports NAFTA, Backs Mexico

    In an apparent snub to the administration's trade policy plans, GE CEO Jeff Immelt – who sits on the Trump-appointed manufacturing council – said he "very supportive" of NAFTA adding that he was "optimistic about Mexico."

    Just a day after we showed Mexico's Manufacturing industrial production surge 8.5% year-over-year – the greatest surge since August 2010…

     

    And expectations for employment in US manufacturers are tumbling…

     

    Reuters reports that GE Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt said on a visit that Mexico had great potential and was not properly understood. He touted the conglomerate's Mexican operations and the trade deal binding Mexico, Canada and the United States.

    "GE as a company, we're very supportive of NAFTA," Immelt told employees at an event to mark the expansion of operations in the northern city of Monterrey. He said the trade accord could be modernized, as Mexico has argued.

     

    The GE boss said trade meant "win-win" opportunities across North America.

     

    "We will continue to work constructively in the context of wanting to see a close relationship between the U.S. and Mexico," he said, noting that GE's exports to the rest of the world from Mexico were worth $3 billion.

     

    "We're optimistic about Mexico, we're optimistic about what we can do here," Immelt added, saying Latin America's no. 2 economy would be a "big part" of GE's future.

    As a reminder, Immelt sits on a Trump-appointed manufacturing council (that Mexico has targeted for lobbying as Mexico and Canada push U.S. business leaders to defend NAFTA).

    While Trump touts a "Buy American" policy and has railed against U.S. companies moving operations to Mexico (threatening to ditch NAFTA, a lynchpin of the Mexican economy, if he cannot rework it to secure better terms for the United States), unlike some U.S. companies, GE has not backed off plans in Mexico, risking broadsides from Trump on Twitter.

    How long before Mr. Immelt gets a tap on the shoulder?

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May 13

Today’s News 13th May 2017

  • Top NSA Whistleblower: Ransomware Hack Caused by “Swindle of the Taxpayers” by Intelligence Agencies

    What should we make of the global ransomware attacks which happened today?

    We’ve documented that the intelligence services intentionally create digital vulnerabilities, then intentionally leave them open … leaving us exposed and insecure.

    Washington’s Blog asked the highest level NSA whistleblower ever* – Bill Binney – what he thinks of the attacks.

    Binney told us:

    This is what I called short sighted finite thinking on the part of the Intelligence Community managers.

     

    This is also what I called (for some years now) a swindle of the tax payers. First, they find or create weaknesses then they don’t fix these weaknesses so we are all vulnerable to attack.

     

    Then, when attacks occur, they say they need more money for cyber security — a total swindle!!! [Indeed.]

     

    This is only the second swindle of the public. The first was terror efforts by saying we need to collect everything to stop terror — another lie. They said that because to collect everything takes lots and lots of money.

     

    Then, when the terror attack occurs, they say they need more money, people and data to stop terror. Another swindle from the start. [The war on terror is a “self-licking ice cream cone”, because it creates many more terrorists than it stops.]

     

    And, finally, the latest swindle “THE RUSSIANS DID IT.” This is an effort to start a new cold war which means another bigger swindle of US tax payers.

     

    For cyber security, I would suggest the president order NSA, CIA and any others to fix the cyber problems they know about; then, maybe we will start to have some cyber security.

    The bottom line is that our intelligence services should start concentrating on actually defending us, rather than focusing on offensive mischief.

    * Binney is the NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, who served as the senior technical director within the agency, who managed six thousand NSA employees, the 36-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency and the NSA’s best-ever analyst and code-breaker, who mapped out the Soviet command-and-control structure before anyone else knew how, and so predicted Soviet invasions before they happened (“in the 1970s, he decrypted the Soviet Union’s command system, which provided the US and its allies with real-time surveillance of all Soviet troop movements and Russian atomic weapons”).

    Binney is the real McCoy. As we noted in 2013, Binney has been interviewed by virtually all of the mainstream media, including CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, PBS and many others.

  • A "Mysterious Antenna" Emerges In An Empty Chicago Field; Billions Depend On It

    Readers are familiar with the various microwave and laser arrays located at the real New York Stock Exchange in Mahwah, New Jersey, both of which we have written about in the past.

    Microwave tower located next to the NYSE in Mahwah, NJ.

    This article, however, is not about the familiar antennas off Route 17 in New Jersey. Instead, demonstrating to what lengths the high frequency traders will go for just a few millisecond advantage – which makes in the HFT world makes all the different between billions in profits and losses – Bloomberg reports that a mysterious antenna has emerged in an empty field in Aurora, near Chicago, and a trading fortune depends on it.

    Strange? Of course: as BBG’s Brian Louis admits “it was an odd transaction from the outset: $14 million, double the going rate, for a 31-acre plot of flat, undeveloped land just west of Chicago. In the nine months since, the curious use of the space has only added to the intrigue. A single, nondescript pole with two antennas was erected by a row of shrubs. Some supporting equipment was rolled in. That’s it.”

    As it turns out, those antennas – as readers may imagine – were anything but ordinary. Same goes for the buyer of the property: anything but your typical land investor, although the name will be all too familiar to those who have followed our reporting on HFT over the years: it was Jump Trading LLC, “a legendary and secretive trading firm that’s a major player in some of the most important financial markets.”


    Equipment on land purchased by an affiliate of Jump Trading

    Jump Trading affiliate World Class Wireless purchased the 31-acre lot for $14 million, according to county records. “They paid probably twice as much as it’s worth,” said David Friedlandof Cushman & Wakefield. “I don’t see anyone else paying close to that price.”

    There was a reason why Jump overpaid so much: it was an investment into guaranteed future returns.

    Because ultimately the purchase was all about the location: just across the street lies the data center for CME Group, the world’s biggest futures exchange. By placing its antennas so close to CME’s servers, Jump hopes to shave maybe a microsecond off its reaction time, enough to separate a winning from a losing bid in trading that takes place at almost the speed of light. Enough to make billions in profits if done successfully millions of times every minute for year.

    As Bloomberg describes the land grab, “it was the latest, and perhaps boldest, salvo in an escalating war that’s being waged to stay competitive in the high-speed trading business.”

    The war is one of proximity — to see who can get data in and out of CME the quickest. A company called McKay Brothers LLC recently won approval to build the tallest microwave tower in the area while another, Webline Holdings LLC, has installed microwave dishes on a utility pole just outside the data center.

    “It tells you how valuable being just a little bit faster is,” said Michael Goldstein, a finance professor at Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts. “People say seconds matter. This is microseconds matter.”

    It also tells you something else: at its core, modern trading is simply about being faster than your competition: no thinking goes into the trade, only reaction times matter. That, and frontrunning your competition. Some more details about this literal land grab:

    In October 2015, McKay Brothers, a company that sells access to its microwave network to high-speed traders, leased land diagonal to the CME data center, under the name Pierce Broadband LLC, according to DuPage County property records.

     

    Last month, the county gave McKay approval to erect a 350-foot high microwave tower that could be 600 feet closer to the data center than its current location, records show. Two trading firms, IMC BV and Tower Research Capital LLC, own minority stakes in McKay. Co-founder Stephane Tyc said his firm may never build the tower but it would be part of the firm’s continual efforts to speed transmission time.

     

    Then there’s Webline Holdings. In November 2015, it was granted a license to operate microwave equipment on a utility pole just outside the data center, according to Federal Communications Commission records. Webline has licenses for a microwave network stretching from Aurora to Carteret, New Jersey, where Nasdaq Inc.’s data center is located. Messages left for Webline were not returned.

    Back to the mysterious antenna: according to Bloomberg, the license for the transmission dishes is held by a joint venture between World Class and a unit of KCG Holdings, another HFT trading firm that was recently acquired by Virtu Financial. In other words, the “who is who” of HFT has been unleashed on an empty field near Chicago, and to the builder will go the spoils.

    It could be billions in revenues.

    * * *

    After all this frentic building of microwave tower, who is closest to the CME servers? It is unclear. Trading data first leaves CME computers via fiber cable, and then to nearby antennas that send it by microwave to other towers until it reaches New Jersey, where all the major U.S. stock exchanges house their computers. The moves in Aurora are intended to reduce the time that the data is conveyed through cable; the practical impact is shaving off a millisecond or maybe even a few nanoseconds.

    At its core, the race is about latency arbitrage, and not being the slowest firm on the block – a recipe for financial ruin. Sending data back and forth between the U.S. Midwest and East Coast allows high-frequency traders to profit from price differences for related assets, including S&P 500 Index futures in Illinois and stock prices in New Jersey. Those arbitrage opportunities often last only tiny fractions of a second.

    Ironically, all the land grab and overpriced land purchases could be made obsolete with one simple decision: a microwave tower could be installed on the roof of the CME data center to eliminate the need for jockeying around the site, the same way the NYSE has a microwave tower next to its NJ headquarters. The exchange is indeed looking at allowing roof access, along with CyrusOne, the company that bought the data center last year, CME said in a statement. Traders being traders, however, they may continue to battle, this time for the most advantageous position on the microwave tower itself.

    “We are confident the CME can provide an alternate and better solution which offers a level playing field to all participants,” said McKay’s Tyc.

    Which is ironic because at its core, modern High Frequency Trade is about everything but a level playing field: after all there are millions of traders to be frontrun, take that away, and the HFT parasites of the world have no advantage whatsoever.

  • President Donard Trixon and the Trump-Putin-Nixon Water-Tower Coverup Scandal

    Yesterday (the day after I first published my original article on the Trump-Nixon comparisons that are now screaming in everyone’s face), Trump was interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC and contradicted everything his press team had said about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, stating that it was entirely his idea from the beginning to fire Comey and that his reason was particularly related to the FBI investigation of the Trump-Russia conspiracy, though Trump implied his move was to help the investigation gain more credibility (and speed), not to impede it. (Apparently trusting his salesmanship enough to actually think people would believe him when he said with a straight face in the interview — that his purpose was to help the FBI investigate him and Russia more thoroughly … albeit expeditiously … and to build America’s trust in the outcome of the investigation.)

    Then today, as if Trump’s immediate contradiction of his entire press staff wasn’t peculiar enough, President Donard Trixon purposely established the most blatant tie between himself and Tricky Dick Nixon he possibly could have come up with. In order to prove he’s not a crooked Dick, he threatened (as Richard “I’m not a crook” Nixon would have done) the FBI director that he just fired (as Nixon would have done) by implying in a tweet that he will (in a manner that begs Watergate déjà vu) release the SECRET RECORDINGS he apparently has of conversations between himself and James Comey!

    Oh, my goodness! Even as numerous readers on Zero Hedge criticize me for laying out the Nixonian comparisons, Trump decides to heap more ready-made material on top for me! Yes, if the former FBI director dares to act like Deep Throat (the high-level FBI director who became the primary informant during the Watergate scandal) by leaking information to the press (as Deep Throat did to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post),Trump implied he will use secrete recordings he has apparently made of his conversations.

    Oh my gosh! Just when I thought the Nixon connections couldn’t get any more obvious! And Trump is the one creating all of them!

    The result, of course, of this blatant attempt to silence the FBI, is that leaks are now bursting out everywhere:

     

    At a moment of crisis, the White House looks surrounded on the outside and divided on the inside.

     

    “It’s total chaos,” said one former transition team official with close ties to the administration.

     

    “It’s image-making on the inside and people trying to protect themselves. There is a deep streak of paranoia among staff. The communications team shit the bed on the Comey firing and now the war with the FBI has them all scared and throwing each other under the bus.”Thank God I don’t work there. If I did, I’d be dialing up my attorney.”

     

     

    The unusually detailed accounts of inner turmoil frustrated Trump’s allies in the media, like Matt Drudge, who runs the enormously influential conservative aggregation website Drudge Report. “We never got 1 damaging leak out of Obama White House staff in 8 yrs. Under Trump, they appear hourly. BIG DANGER: Small leaks sink ships!!” Drudge said in a flurry of tweets.

     

    “Trump advisers leaking to media are now deliberately sabotaging presidency. Major house cleaning needed for survival. Leaks on hour, every hour, will destroy Trump presidency. There’s a Trojan horse plotting within the inner circle!” (The Hill)

     

    I think, and have stated even before Trump was elected, the Trojan horse is Trump. This is a White House falling apart at the seams as everyone is starting to realize they may really be serving a lunatic president. Like Don Quixote jousting at windmills, Trump has gone from fighting the deep state to fighting Deep Throat (or, at least, someone he fears will become Deep Throat). But the most amazing part of this is that, each step of the way, Trump is the one setting up scenes that are screaming for comparisons to Richard Nixon. He has now filled the chocolate box with morsels of Watergate-tasting treats ready-made for the press’s consumption.

    Trump’s own suspicious nature (like Nixon’s) creates suspicion. For example, I now ask what exactly is it that Trump so greatly fears James Comb-me-over will leak? At this point, I more than suspect something is there because “leaks” (Trump’s chosen word — and Trump “has and uses the best words” — are about real things you don’t want known, or they wouldn’t be called “leaks.” Trump’s not-even-slightly-veiled threat to Comey could have warned that he would reveal his recordings if Comey “lied” about the president or “denied” the truth or “fabricated” things to be more than they were.

    However, Trump did not threaten to reveal secret recordings if Comey comes out and lies about him. He threatened to reveal secret recordings if Comey “leaks” information. It’s not a leak if it’s a lie. So, Trump practically admitted there is truth Comey knows that Trump is very afraid of — so afraid that it appears to have sent him completely out of control of himself as he actually threatened Comey in a very public way, should Comey come out with any of it.

    And, of course, threatening the just-fired FBI director if he comes out with any information is a thinly veiled threat to the entire FBI because, if Trump will play get-even with their beloved director, he’ll play get-even with any one of them that dares to open his or her mouth. The FBI is familiar with how these kinds of threats are to be understood. How close is that threat from the most powerful person in the world (and the FBI’s commander-in-chief) to being an illegal impedance of justice?

    Unbelievable! This is just getting richer by the day as we watch President Donard Trixon dig his way deep into the manure pile of history and then pull it down over his own comby head.

    Is this what it looks like when a narcissist who started his career in the Watergate era self-destructs? This week’s stunning images of self-destruction and of a White House flying apart at the seams as its press agents literally run for cover in the hedges and beg news agencies to “turn the lights off” will be talked about for years and years to come.

    The meltdown has begun.

     

    Trump-Nixon comparison

  • "Flood Of Off-Lease Vehicles" Set To Wreak Havoc On New Car Sales

    The percentage of new car ‘sales’ moving off dealer lots via leases has nearly tripled since late 2009 when they hit a low of just over 10%.  Over the past 6 years, new leases, as a percent of overall car sales, has soared courtesy of, among other things, low interest rates, stable/rising used car prices and a nation of rental-crazed citizens for whom monthly payment is the only metric used to evaluate a “good deal”…even though leasing a new vehicle is pretty much the worst ‘deal’ you can possibly find for a rapidly depreciating brand new asset like a car…but we digress.

    Of course, what goes up must eventually come down.  And all those leases signed on millions of brand new cars over the past several years are about to come off lease and flood the market with cheap, low-mileage used inventory.  As Reuters noted, the flood of used vehicles is already starting to impact used car dealers:

    Recently, though, a computer search for available used vehicles within 150 miles of Reel revealed an eye-popping figure: 668 Escapes. That’s enough to put more than 40 percent of the inhabitants of this small northeastern Ohio town, population 1,600, into the popular crossover.

     

    A search for the Chevrolet Equinox, a comparable crossover, showed 461 available.

     

    “The automakers have flooded the market,” said Reel, owner of Reel’s Auto in Orwell, Ohio, about 40 miles east of Cleveland.

     

    By the end of 2019, an estimated 12 million low-mileage vehicles are coming off leases inked during a 2014-2016 spurt in new auto sales, according to estimates by Atlanta-based auto auction firm Manheim and Reuters.

     

    And, of course, that kind of supply is already starting to take it’s toll on used car prices…

    Chief Executive Mike Jackson said rising off-lease car numbers means “a higher supply of pre-owned vehicles at a more attractive price.”

     

    Consumers seeking great deals are in luck. Used-vehicle prices at auction fell about 3 percent last year, according to Carmel, Indiana-based KAR Auction Services Inc (KAR.N), which facilitated the sale of 5.1 million used and salvaged vehicles in 2016. Used prices should drop around 3 percent annually for the next couple of years, according to KAR’s chief economist Tom Kontos.

     

    General Motors Co (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co (F.N) say prices for its used vehicles, which consist largely of nearly-new ones coming off lease to consumers, fell 7 percent in the first quarter versus the same period in 2016. GM says it expects a 7 percent decline for 2017 compared to last year.

    …and, as Morgan Stanley recently pointed out, we’re just getting started as they see used car prices dropping by up to 50% over the next 5 years.

     

    So what happens next?  Unstable used car prices will almost certainly reduce OEM reliance on leases as the implied 3-year depreciation (or residual values, if you prefer) will make them all but completely uneconomical…remember, Americans only care about that monthly payment.  Meanwhile, the relative value between used and new cars will tilt heavily in favor of the used market.  Thankfully Americans will still be able to buy that Mercedes they require to get back and forth from their minimum wage jobs, while maintaining a monthly payment of $500 or less, but it will just have to have 30,000 miles on it.

    Of course, the OEMs of the world won’t admit that their game is over until it’s way too late.  So, they’ll keep right on producing new cars to cover a 17-18mm SAAR environment up until the point they face an outright revolt from their dealer networks.  At that point, however, dealer inventories will be so high that Detroit will be forced to shutdown for months on end while new car prices are slashed to reduce the massive inventory glut.  Tanking new car prices will put even more pressure on used car prices which will mark the beginning of the death spiral that will result in a new round of inevitable auto bankruptcies…but that’s just a hunch.

  • Do Ends Justify The Means?

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    I think the U.S. citizenry is being afflicted by a sort of mass insanity at the moment. There are no good outcomes if this continues. As a result, I feel compelled to provide a voice for those of us lost in the political wilderness. We must persevere and not be manipulated into the obvious and nefarious divide and conquer tactics being aggressively unleashed across the societal spectrum. If we lose our grounding and our fortitude, who will be left to speak for those of us who simply don’t fit into any of the currently ascendant political ideologies?

     

    – From February’s post: Lost in the Political Wilderness

    Given our increasingly hysterical, polarized and downright rabid political environment, I think it’s important for those of us who see ourselves as relatively conscious individuals to reflect upon our principles and how they play a role in our everyday lives. As such, today’s piece will examine the concept of whether “the ends justify the means” when it comes to achieving ones objectives, political or otherwise. It’s an extraordinarily important philosophical exercise to undertake, particularly since the turbulent period we inhabit is likely to get far more insane and divisive before it gets better.

    I think many people will quickly answer the question “do the ends justify the means” without putting enough thought into it. The question is meant to be considered when it comes to premeditated voluntary actions of questionable ethics taken with a defined objective in mind. It has nothing to do with matters of self-defense, or anything in that category. For example, if someone is coming at your family with an intent to inflict harm, the ethical decision might be to harm the aggressor to protect your family despite the fact that harming another person in itself is an immoral act. Pretty much everyone can agree with this, so it doesn’t add anything to the argument of whether the ends justify the means.

    That case is obvious. What about if you’re walking down the street and you see someone come from behind an old lady, hit her on the head and then struggle with her on the ground in an attempt to take her purse. You aren’t being directly attacked, so should you intervene with violence if necessary against the perpetrator to help an innocent bystander? Again, I think the right and ethical decision here is to step in to try to help the victim if possible.

    In both these cases the negative “means” of violence you might be required to use against violent aggressors do indeed justify the ends — in the first instance the protection of your family, and in the second a vulnerable old lady. Given these examples, one might be led to believe that the ends can often justify the means, but I would argue that this only holds true in extreme examples such as the ones described above, and that for a principled person, the ends almost never justify the means.

    When people seriously consider whether the ends of a particular action justify the means, it’s almost never in relation to scenarios like the ones described above for two reasons. First, those are extremely rare situations that many people (in the developed world at least) will only experience a few of times in the course of a lifetime, if that. On the other hand, many of us face constant but often overlooked ethical dilemmas on a daily or weekly basis. We all face situations where we are confronted with the choice to do something we know is wrong, but perhaps do it anyway either for instant gratification or in the pursuit of a larger goal. This post is focused on the latter.

    Many people involved in politics swear by the notion that “the ends justify the means,” which is typically the sign of a self-serving actor attempting to justify questionable if not downright evil action in order to get what he or she wants. While pursuit of “the greater good” is often put up for public consumption, the driving force behind this sort of action is almost always personal gain of some sort. This is what most politicians do for a living, which is why they are justifiably hated by the general public.

    One of my favorite books of all time is The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi. In the introduction, he writes:

    He who is ever brooding after result often loses nerve in the performance of his duty. He becomes impatient and then gives vent to anger and begins to do unworthy things; he jumps from action to action, never remaining faithful to any…When there is no desire for fruit, there is no temptation for untruth or hisma. Take any instance of untruth or violence, and it will be found that at its back was the desire to attain the cherished end.

    A few pages later he expounds upon the subject.

    We should do no work with attachment. Attachment to good work, is that too wrong? Yes, it is. If we are attached to our goal of winning liberty, we shall not hesitate to adopt bad means. 

    Gandhi clearly did not believe that ends justify the means, and I agree with this conclusion in something like 99% of the ethical dilemmas we regularly face as human beings.

    Someone who wants to make the opposite argument might selectively pick certain historical instances where questionable action led to a favorable outcome overall. I don’t dispute that such instances exist, but I’d argue that for each such instance there are hundreds of examples of the exact opposite. In fact, much of the tragic state of the world as it is today can be directly linked to scores of humans constantly justifying unethical behavior in order to advance their own self interests and goals. A primary driver of so much of the unnecessary suffering in the world relates to individuals making immoral decisions they justify to themselves and others as being a necessary part of a larger goal. Notice how these “larger goals” almost always end up benefiting the person taking and justifying the questionable action? That’s your red flag.

    To those of you who still disagree with my argument, think about it from the slippery slope perspective. The moment you justify one very wrong action to achieve a noble goal, what’s to stop you from next even more unethical action, or the next and the next? Nothing. This is what’s so dangerous about going down such a path. Indeed, those who fight monsters often end up becoming the exact thing they claim to be fighting. The world doesn’t benefit from this, only the person who has gained power as a result does, at least superficially. Ultimately, even that person doesn’t benefit when all is said and done. A person who attains their goal by sacrificing principles is a tormented, miserable person. They may seem to “have it all” from the outside, but deep down they hate themselves and what they’ve become. There is no peace. I believe karma eventually catches up to everybody one way or the other.

    Indeed, so many of the wars, massacres and bloodshed around the world can be directly linked to “ends justify the means” type thinking. That’s exactly what America’s insane neocons use to justify their endless wars of intervention that end up making the world a worse place than it was before. Notice how they always claim their action is to achieve good, yet it always ends up making things worse. Notice how it doesn’t stop them from making the same ridiculous argument over and over again?

    Unfortunately, many people don’t have any principles to begin with and simply live their lives in the pursuit of their own superficial, materialistic or egotistical goals. These are the types of people who most often employ “ends justify the means” thinking, which is exactly why those of us who do have principles must reject this way of thinking and pursue a more conscious manner of achieving our ends. If that means our ends aren’t achieved in our lifetime that’s something that must be accepted. The means we use will reverberate in the universe forever and will benefit the world whether we’re able to point to definitive results or not.

    As Gandhi also wrote:

    If we take a total view, we shall see that it is not wickedness but goodness which rules the world. The wicked can prevail only when they number multitudes, but goodness will rule when embodied to perfection even in one person. Nonviolence has been described as so powerful that all forces of violence subside in its presence. Under its influence, even beasts forget their nature. Even one good person can change the world. Such a one enjoys an empire over people’s hearts…

     

    Where wickedness prevails, there is disorder in every field of life, but where goodness rules, order prevails and people are happy. They are happy not in the sense that their material needs are satisfied, but in the sense that they lead virtuous and contented lives. As for material possessions, some men have fortunes in rupees and yet have a distracted life. That is no sign of being happy.

    Gandhi was himself a victim of the violence he so despised, but his timeless message lives on and he wouldn’t harbor any bitterness or anger to those who gunned him down. I first read the words above nearly a decade ago, and they’ve stayed closely beside me ever since. I hope they connect with you as well.

    Keep striving, keep learning and keep growing. Thanks for joining me on this wild ride that is life.

  • What Happens In An Internet Minute?

    Here is what plays out every 60 seconds online in 2017…

    Source: AllAccess.com

    As Lori Lewis concludes, “It’s a serious traffic jam out there.”

    The question – as we noted last night – is, how much of it is ‘real’?

  • Has Venezuela's Crisis Reached A Tipping Point?

    Authored by William Burke-White and Dorothy Kronick via Knowledge@Wharton,

    Venezuela’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis has assumed graver proportions over the past five weeks and pressure is mounting for a regime change, even as doubts persist over the likelihood of the next presidential elections, originally set for October 2018. Fresh protests broke out after President Nicolas Maduro earlier this month signed an order aimed at forming a new constituent assembly of some 500 members and rewriting the country’s constitution to reshape his powers and those of legislators.

    Many Venezuelans clearly saw Maduro’s ruling as a way to snatch powers from the opposition-led National Assembly and consolidate it in a constituent assembly over which he might have a better hold. “[Maduro] tried to do this as a way to unite the country, but it was seen as an attempt to retain power and sparked the latest round of protests,” said William Burke-White, director of the Perry World House and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

    Venezuela’s crisis has probably hit a tipping point and Maduro’s days in power are numbered, said Burke-White. “The path forward is Maduro will be pushed out of power, or there will be a repressive, horrible crackdown where the death tolls keep mounting,” he noted. “It may be better to be moving in that direction [towards Maduro’s ouster] than be in an ongoing political quagmire that we have been in for the last few years.”

    According to Dorothy Kronick, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “The best way forward for Venezuela would be elections and having a new government in power.” She noted that 2017 is the fourth consecutive year of negative GDP growth for Venezuela; last year, its economy contracted by more than 17%. “There are devastating shortages of food and medicine, and inflation is above 300%. And there is tremendous suffering.”

    Burke-White and Kronick discussed the scenarios likely to emerge in Venezuela in the foreseeable future on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

    Move to Consolidate Power

    The recent crisis had its first flash point on March 29, when the country’s Supreme Court passed a ruling to assume the functions of the National Assembly, but strong protests forced it to subsequently backtrack. Meanwhile, protestors continued calling for elections and a regime change. Maduro, who was elected in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, signed the executive order to form a new constituent assembly and rewrite the constitution on May 1. “We must modify this state, especially the rotten National Assembly that’s currently there,” he had said.

    Opposition leaders are pressing for a removal of the Supreme Court justices who issued the March 29 ruling, general elections in 2017, the creation of a humanitarian channel for medicine imports and the release of all political prisoners, according to a BBC report.

    Burke-White did not expect elections to happen anytime soon. He noted that Maduro had indicated that fresh elections would be held as part of the new constitution. “His [United] Socialist Party [of Venezuela] would lose those elections if they were held today,” he said. “Much of this is a move to push those elections out indefinitely.”

    Maduro’s plan for the new constituent assembly is to have about half of its 500 members elected directly from among all sections of Venezuelan society, including workers, youth, women, peasants and indigenous people, according to a CNN report. The other half would be made up of delegates chosen from among businesses and workers’ collectives. Kronick noted that the provisions in the rewritten constitution would “undoubtedly … favor the government.” She also predicted that the Maduro government would try to ensure that the convention “is full of delegates that are its supporters.”

    Even so, with Maduro’s low approval ratings, Maduro is taking a big risk, according to Kronick. “His approval ratings are so low that even with electoral rules that are extremely favorable to the government, the opposition could potentially gain control of this constitutional convention,” she said. “That could be very dangerous to the government and lead to regime change.”

    With growing protests, Maduro had his back against the wall, according to Burke-White. “He didn’t have many cards left,” he said. “This was a tactic that was legal within the constitutional structure — that the president can call for a new constitution — which you wouldn’t undertake if you weren’t in this moment of desperation.”

    An Economy Embattled

    Along with those political uncertainties, Venezuela’s economy is also in a sorry state. Oil accounts for 96% of the country’s exports, according to World Bank data, and low oil prices have taken a huge toll. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven supply of oil reserves, but much of that oil has high extraction costs, noted Burke-White. “When oil prices fall, those are the first to cease production because it is economically unviable to do so.” What makes that situation worse is the country has lost both technical talent (fired by the Chavez and Maduro governments) and investors, after foreign investments in the sector were nationalized. “They have lost a great deal of oil extraction capacity, which has both increased the cost of production and decreased the ability to keep production up,” he said. “The oil industry is no longer able to provide the economic support that Maduro needs to consolidate, or buy off, power.” Added Kronick: “Chavez had a windfall when oil prices rose, and raked in hundreds of millions of dollars, but they were not well invested and were squandered.”

    In addition to low oil prices, the Maduro government’s decisions “to maintain some destructive and expensive exchange control measures, and price controls” are responsible for the food and medicine shortages, Kronick said. “Economists have been urging Maduro to introduce “common sense” reforms for years such as lifting price controls, she added, noting that “price controls create shortages.”

    Pressures Closing in on Maduro

    Meanwhile, Maduro could face other threats as he tries to cling to power. For one, it is critical for him to ensure the military’s support. However, as the economic misery widens, it also affects the families of members of the military, Burke-White noted. “It is much harder to maintain a military-based regime when you have to point your guns at your own people,” he said. “Maduro realizes that that’s the support base he can’t let slip, and if it does slip, it could well be the end of his regime.” Kronick noted that a popular chant during protests translates from Spanish to English as: “Soldier, listen. Join the protest, join the fight.”

    Expectations run high that the Trump administration could impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Sanctions might not work well on an economy that is “already devastated,” and “very much isolated and closed from the rest of the world,” Burke-White said. However, if sanctions are targeted at specific individuals or supporters of the Maduro regime, they might work, he added. “Many of those people have bank accounts and condominiums in Miami, and getting them to feel some of the pain a little bit more might work.” However, targeted sanctions against Maduro’s supporters “could raise exit costs for members of the regime” said Kronick. “If they were to leave power, they won’t be able to go to Miami and enjoy their post-government life, and that could actually make regime change more unlikely.”

    The U.S. does not seem to have sufficient “diplomatic capacity” to engage with Venezuela, given the understaffed State Department, said Burke-White. But he did note Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., undersecretary for political affairs, is well versed with the region’s problems. In February, Donald Trump and Mike Pence met with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. “The Trump administration is much more willing to be much more openly critical of Venezuela than the Obama administration was,” he added.

    U.S. involvement in working with the Venezuelan opposition or trying to influence a regime change could backfire and strengthen Maduro’s hand, Kronick said. “Certain actions [the U.S.] might take against the government help [Maduro] to be able to more credibly say, ‘This is the imperialist U.S. that is responsible for the problems of the country.’”

    Pressure could build up on Maduro also within the region. Venezuela has been an important trading and energy partner in the northern part of South America, and it has provided aid to many countries in the region in the form of oil or cash. But its current status has left it unable to drive economic growth in the region. It has socialist-leaning countries as neighbors, including Cuba, “but those countries are leaning in different directions at the moment,” said Burke-White. He expected Cuba to be more susceptible to U.S. pressure “not to be as supportive a trading, economic or even health care partner for Venezuela” as it has been in the past. Kronick said pressure could come on Maduro from regional forums such as the Organization of American States.

    Indeed, some of that has begun. Burke-White noted that the Argentine foreign minister has openly criticized Maduro’s call for a new constitution. “That is unusual given that Latin American and South American states have traditionally been hesitant to criticize one another,” he said. “We’re starting to see the edges of that tacit alliance begin to crack.”

  • "Massive Disturbances" In German Rail System Due To Ransomware Attack

    Germany's WAZ reports massive disturbances in local and long-distance rail traffic on Friday evening due to what appears to be the same ransomware attack that is spreading across the globe.

    Numerous social media accounts are showing the following images…

    More details to follow…

    Local reports say that the situation in Germany is getting chaotic.

  • Great News For College Grads: Starting Salaries Are Finally Back To Where They Were 10 Years Ago!

    The Wall Street Journal and others are cheering today as a new study from executive search firm Korn Ferry International found that the “average base pay for college grads this year ticked to the highest level in at least a decade.”  We guess in the new millennial world that getting back to your original starting point is actually celebrated as an ‘accomplishment’.

    “This has been the best year for students that I’ve seen since coming here,” said Thomas Ward, executive director of the career-services center at Adelphi University, in Garden City, N.Y., who joined the school in 2008. Some students at the school are fielding multiple job offers, allowing students to be choosier about where they ultimately land, he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

    So where are new college graduates earning the most bank?  Well, average starting salaries for 2017 grads are just under $50,000 but software developers, engineers and actuaries, particularly those moving to San Francisco, can be expected to outperform that average by quite a bit. 

    Here are the top 10 money makers for grads:

     

    Of course, while this may all seem like a lot of money, with median rents in San Francisco still hovering around $3,200 per month that means that the average college graduate will be about $5,000 short of covering their annual rent payments…so looks like mom and dad will still get to cover a substantial portion of their daily living costs.

    San Fran

     

    Meanwhile, on the bottom of the earnings rankings we find “category assistants”, whatever that is, and “call center specialists”, which we’re almost certain could be done without a $250,000 college degree…but what do we know?

     

    Of course, higher salaries are only helpful if you’re among the graduates fortunate enough to find a job after graduation.  As we recently pointed out, according to the following chart from Bloomberg, there are 2.2 million millennials who live at home with mom but neither attend classes nor have a job.  Of those, 40% of them are already in their 30’s, they’re predominantly white and have a high school diploma of less.

     

    But we would hate to rain on the daily parade of our snowflakes…so congrats on the “good news” day.

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