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Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 02:41

Categories: Economic Blogs

UN Plots War On Free Speech To Stop "Extremism" Online

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 02:30

Submitted by Alex Newman via The new American (h/t Brandon Smith),

The United Nations Security Council wants a global “framework” for censoring the Internet, as well as for using government propaganda to “counter” what its apparatchiks call “online propaganda,” “hateful ideologies,” and “digital terrorism.” To that end, the UN Security Council this week ordered the UN “Counter-Terrorism Committee” — yes, that is a real bureaucracy — to draw up a plan by next year. From the Obama administration to the brutal Communist Chinese regime, everybody agreed that it was time for a UN-led crackdown on freedom of speech and thought online — all under the guise of fighting the transparently bogus terror war.

The UN, ridiculed by American critics as the “dictators club,” will reportedly be partnering with some of the world's largest Internet and technology companies in the plot. Among the firms involved in the scheme is Microsoft, which, in a speech before the Security Council on May 11, called for “public-private partnerships” between Big Business and Big Government to battle online propaganda. As this magazine has documented, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other top tech giants have all publicly embraced the UN and its agenda for humanity. Many of the more than 70 speakers also said it was past time to censor the Internet, with help from the “private sector.”

At the UN meeting this week, the 15 members of the UN Security Council, including some of the most extreme and violent dictatorships on the planet, claimed they wanted to stop extremism and violence from spreading on the Internet. In particular, the governments pretended as if the effort was aimed at Islamist terror groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, both of which have received crucial backing from leading members of the UN Security Council itself. Terrorism was not defined. Everybody agreed, though, that terror should not be associated with any particular religion, nationality, ethnicity, and so on, even though at least one delegation fingered the Israeli government.

In its “presidential statement” after the session, the UN Security Council claimed that “terrorism” could be defeated only with “international law” and through collaboration between the UN and emerging regional governments such as the various “unions” being imposed on Europe, Africa, Eurasia, South America, and beyond. “The Security Council stresses that terrorism can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, international and regional organizations ... consistent with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy,” it said. Of course, the UN still has no actual definition of terrorism, but it is in the process of usurping vast new powers under the guise of fighting this undefined nemesis.

However, the UN, in its ongoing war against free speech and actual human rights around the world, has offered some strong hints about its agenda. According to UN officials, the plan to regulate speech on the Internet will complement another, related UN plot known formally as the “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.” As The New American reported last year, the plan calls for a global war on “ideologies.” That crusade will include, among other components, planetary efforts to stamp out all “anti-Muslim bigotry,” anti-immigrant sentiments, and much more, the UN and Obama explained. So-called “non-violent extremism” is also in the UN's crosshairs, as is free speech generally.

It was not immediately clear how a UN-led war on “anti-Muslim bigotry” would stop ISIS. The savage terror group, which according to top U.S. officials was created and funded by Obama's anti-ISIS coalition, served as the crucial justification for the UN plan. However, based on the outlines of the UN extremism scheme released so far, it is clear that there will be no serious efforts to address the growing extremism of the UN or the violent extremism of many of its mostly autocratic member regimes. Instead, the “extremism” plan will serve as a pretext to impose a broad range of truly extremist policies at the national, regional, and international level.

Seemingly oblivious to the totalitarian absurdity of the comments, top UN officials called for safeguards against “excessive punishment” wielded against those who express their views on the Internet. “The protection of free media can be a defense against terrorist narratives,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council during the meeting this week in a stunning example of double-speak. “There must be no arbitrary or excessive punishment against people who are simply expressing their opinions.” It was not immediately clear what specific punishments for free speech would be considered non-excessive. But in the United States, despite UN claims about pseudo-“human rights” requiring censorship, any and all “punishment” for expressing one's views is strictly prohibited.

Separately, the Communist Chinese dictatorship, which now dominates various UN bureaucracies, enthusiastically embraced the UN's efforts. Speaking on behalf of the brutal regime, Liu Jieyi, Beijing's permanent representative to the UN, said that institutions promoting “extremist ideologies” needed to be "closed down." Apparently he was not referring to the “extremist ideology” of the Communist Party of China or its brutal regime, which has murdered more innocent human beings than any other in history. Beijing alone has killed more than 60 million people, not including those butchered in forced abortions. Other communist governments allied with Beijing have murdered tens of millions more, just in the last century.

While the UN has a major role to play, governments also need to help out in censoring the Internet and abolishing free speech, the communist regime said. “States must shut down some social media networks,” Liu continued, calling for the UN and its members to “cut off the channels for spreading terrorist ideologies.” He also touted terror decrees adopted recently by Beijing that target the Internet and purport to authorize the deployment of the communist dictatorship's armed enforcers all over the world. As The New American has documented previously, the Chinese dictatorship will be playing a major role in the UN's anti-freedom of speech crusade. In fact, the regime currently has its agents embedded all throughout the UN, and even at the top of the UN agency that globalists are working to empower as the global Internet regulator. He claims censorship is all in the eye of the beholder.

Even as Communist China and other overtly dictatorial UN members emphasized censorship and regulation to stop ideologies and “propaganda” they dislike, the Obama administration, the European Union, and some of its formerly sovereign member states instead touted government propaganda to counter extremist propaganda. However, speaking for the EU, Alain Le Roy also celebrated the unaccountable super-state's own efforts to censor the Internet as something to be emulated. As this magazine reported last year, the EU's self-styled police force, Europol, even launched a whole unit aimed at censoring “extremist” content on the Internet. The EU spokesman pointed to, among other schemes, ongoing EU efforts to remove “propaganda materials” from the Internet, as well as EU propaganda efforts to “spread alternative messages.”

The representative of Syria's brutal dictatorship, Bashar Jaafari, showed up to crash the party. He pointed out that multiple UN member states had used terrorist fighters and mercenaries in their quest to destroy Syria. And he is right. Indeed, as far back as 2012, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents show that the Obama administration knew the “moderate Syrian rebels” it was supporting were led by al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The administration and its allies were also working to create what they described as a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria” — today the principality is known as the Islamic State, or ISIS — in order to destabilize the Assad regime. Even top U.S. officials have openly admitted that Obama's “anti-ISIS” coalition was responsible for creating, arming, and funding ISIS. What role the Internet and “propaganda” may have played in that, if any, was not made clear at the UN meeting.

In Libya, a similar situation occurred. The Obama administration, under the guise of enforcing an illegitimate UN resolution, openly partnered with self-declared al-Qaeda leaders to overthrow former U.S. terror-war ally and brutal dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Congress was never consulted, making Obama's war illegal and unconstitutional, in addition to the serious crime of providing aid to designated terror organizations. Today, thanks to that extremism, Libya is a failed state awash in heavy military weaponry and terror training camps. Much of the Obama administration-supplied aid for terror groups in Libya was transferred to supporting terror groups in Syria following the fall of Gadhafi's regime.

Aside from governments, dictators, and international bureaucrats, Big Technology was also represented at the UN meeting. Microsoft Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel Steve Crown told the assembled representatives of governments and tyrants that there was no “silver bullet” to prevent terrorists and extremists from using the Internet. “If there were an elegant solution, industry would have adopted it,” he claimed, adding that Google, Facebook, and Twitter were coming together to prevent the Internet from being abused. Facebook was exposed just this week censoring conservative media outlets from its “trending” news section. And earlier this year, Google was exposed for having helping the U.S. government foment jihadist-led revolution in Syria.

Echoing the UN's rhetoric, Crown claimed “international law” and fascist-style “public-private partnerships,” in which governments and Big Business join forces, were the appropriate response. He also said the “international community,” a deceptive term generally used to refer to the UN and its member governments, needed to “work together in a coordinated and transparent way.” The UN Security Council agreed, saying in its final declaration that there needed to be “more effective ways for governments to partner with ... private sector industry partners.” It is hardly a new agenda.

As The New American reported previously, the technology giants — all of which are regularly represented at the globalist Bilderberg summits — have also emerged as enthusiastic supporters of the UN's radical “Agenda 2030.” According to the agreement, the goal is “transforming our world,” redistributing wealth at the international level, empowering the institutions of global governance, and more. Among the mega-corporations proudly backing the scheme are the world’s top three search engines: Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and Yahoo. It was not immediately clear whether those corporations’ support for the deeply controversial UN agenda would affect the supposed impartiality of their search results. But critics of the UN plan expressed alarm nonetheless.

Of course, a handful of the more than 70 people who spoke at the Security Council confab paid lip service to freedom of speech and freedom of thought. The Iraqi government's delegation, for example, emphasized differentiating between “freedom of thought and extremist ideologies.” Others said the war on extremism could not be used to justify persecuting critics of governments. Some of the speakers no doubt had good intentions, too.

However, putting the UN in charge of fighting extremism and dangerous ideologies would be like putting a mafia boss in charge of fighting crime — it is patently absurd, even grotesque. Most of the UN's member regimes are undemocratic, to be generous, and many of them are led by genocidal psychopaths who murder with impunity. Among other UN member states, those enslaving North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Sudan, China, and many more are run by criminals and mass-murderers who epitomize terrorism and violent extremism. Plus, virtually every terror group on earth today has its roots in state-sponsorship, including ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The real solution to terror, then, is neither a stronger UN nor a global war on ideologies, extreme or otherwise. Empowering the UN to wage a global war on ideas, ideologies, propaganda, and speech is itself an extremist proposition riddled with extreme dangers. A far simpler answer to the scourge of terrorism would be to defund the UN, arrest those supporting terror groups, and stop propping up dictators and terrorists with taxpayer money. Anything else is a dangerous fraud.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Beijing Astronomers Advise Residents Of "Rare Event" Tomorrow Morning

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 02:00

BEIJING - Predicting ideal conditions for the rare sight, Chinese astronomers announced to Beijing residents Monday that the sky would be visible for a brief two-minute window tomorrow morning.

 

According to a statement from the China National Space Administration read in part, advising interested citizens to plan on waking early and to consider using a small telescope for better views of the sky.

“From approximately 6:14 a.m. to 6:16 a.m., a small section of the Earth’s atmosphere should be perceptible to the naked eye when looking towards the southwest in Beijing.”

 

“For anyone who hasn’t seen it before or isn’t sure what to look for, the sky will appear as a small, bluish area that should stand out clearly from its surroundings. We’ll also be streaming the phenomenon live on the official CNSA website for residents with obstructed views in their neighborhood.”

The agency added that anyone who missed out on witnessing the occurrence tomorrow would have to wait a while, as the sky was not expected to be visible again until late 2024.

Source: The Onion

While tongue in cheek - perhaps - not everyone is laughing and some are even attempting to combat the pollution. So here, as we noted previously, courtesy of VJ, are the 13 most head-scratching proposals intended to do just that: fix China's smog. Good luck.

#13. Sky Watering Skyscrapers

Technically, it is called precipitation scavenging. In actuality all this means is turning skyscrapers into giant sprinklers in an effort to wash the skies of pollution. “If you can offer a half-hour watering your garden, then you can offer a half-hour watering your ambient atmosphere to keep air clean . . . ,” rings the sales pitch of this rather lo-fi geoengineering strategy.

Basically, precipitation scavenging works on the premise that rain clears smog, so artificial rain should do the same. To create “rain,” giant sprinklers will be attached to the roofs of tall buildings in China’s most polluted cities. During times when the air pollution rises due to a lack of rain the sprinklers will turn on, pulling SO2, NOx, and other airborne poisons out of the sky and dropping them down to the ground below. Researchers estimate that even on China’s worst air days it would only take a few hours to a few days of artificial rain to drop the PM 2.5 content down to 35 µg m-3, the recommended WHO limit — leaving blue skies in its wake.

As for where this water will come from, researchers say that it could easily be taken from nearby lakes and rivers, where it could be pumped up to the tops of skyscrapers, sprayed, collected, and then cycled back through the system. Though I have to admit that the thought of having the bubbling sludge from many of China’s polluted waterways being sprinkled out on top of my head doesn’t sound very appealing. The last thing we need is a second deadly aerial assault.

As for the cost of precipitation scavenging, researchers estimate that it would only take 1 kilowatt hour of electricity to lift one ton of water 200 meters, which would apparently only cost around $0.05. “. . . the low-tech nature of this geoengineering approach has led us to believe that it will cost much less than many other interventions such as cutting emissions.”

(Yes, that’s  a direct quote.)

Oh yeah, proponents of precipitation scavenging would also like to add that their system comes with a built in duel purpose bonus: it could also be used to fight fires.

Read Shaocai Yu’s research on this geoengineering method.

#12. Giant Floating Jellyfish-Like Acid Eating Membranes

If you don’t necessarily like the idea of artificial rain showers of potentially toxic Chinese river water knocking particulate matter out of the sky then here’s another solution you may prefer. It consists of launching squadrons of giant floating jellyfish-like membranes into the sky that eat SO2, NOx, and other pollutants which harm plants, animals, architecture, and humans, and then turning them into reclaimed water and chemical fertilizer.

Floating jellyfish?

Technically they’re called aerocysts.

Aerocysts?

Giant membranes filled with H2.

The H2 makes the aerocysts float and the long flowing tentacles hanging off of their bottoms make them look unequivocally like jellyfish.

If this strategy is ever implemented on a large scale China’s urban skies will be full of these things hovering 200-300 meters off the ground, where the most acidic pollutants hang out. The membrane, which makes up the jellyfish-like “head” of the apparatus is porous and will suck in the acidic materials it touches, thus removing them from the environment.

But these dystopian drones don’t stop there, as after the acidic materials are collected they are run through an on-deck purifier, which neutralizes them with with an on board microorganism produced alkaline substance. The now PH balanced gunk will then be transformed into a neutral, benign liquid with ammonium salt, which will conveniently be derived from the plants which will be growing off of the tentacles. When all filled up, the aerocysts will be programmed to return to port and deposit the liquid into a receptacle, where it can later be used as reclaimed water.

#11. Smog Fighting Drones

While talking about unmanned aerial anti-pollution devices we can’t leave out the array of smog fighting drones that are being tested throughout China. The most promising is a parafoil drone, which basically looks like a generator hanging from a parachute, that is being developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. It’s function is to soar through the air blasting PM 2.5 particles with a chemical which freezes them, thus making them fall to the earth below. Each of these drones can clean a five square kilometer area, which is about large enough to scrub the air around an airport, port, or, as the case may be, urban districts where select groups of influential citizens wish to have cleaner air. Apparently, the Chinese government has already been using fixed-wing drones to chemically remove smog for some years now, but this new design allows each one to carry far more ammunition.

Though, of course, nobody really knows what effect these airborne “chemicals” will have on the humans and environment they will inevitably dust below.

#10. Impregnating the Air with Liquid Nitrogen

It is know that under the right circumstances artificially cooling particulate matter can disperse them from the atmosphere, and liquid nitrogen has been shown to be one of the best smog fighting chemicals yet available. Basically, the idea is to blast industrial coolant into the sky, which can cause crystals to form on PM 2.5 particles, whereupon gravity will do the rest. This method can also create a blanket of cool air which prevents warmer, polluted air from reaching the street surface.

“It is possible in theory to create a smog-free zone with liquid nitrogen and a shield against air pollutants with man-made cold, but even in laboratories we handle liquid nitrogen with care due to its extremely low temperature,” Dr. Wang Xinfeng, a researcher out of Shandong University in Jinan, told the SCMP.

#9. Cloud Seeding

As we’ve previously discovered, precipitation knocks smog out of the skies. So why not just create rain and snow? Cloud seeding, an anti-pollution measure which consists of blasting silver iodine packed rockets into clouds, is back. This was one of the ways that Beijing manufactured blue skies for the Olympics, and, according to a document published by the China Meteorological Administration, in 2015 local municipalities across China will be given the go ahead to use it at will.

When the silver iodine is shot into the clouds it assists in the formation of ice crystals, which then melt and drop to the ground below as rain, cleaning the skies in the process.

As a side note, silver iodide is toxic.

#8. Just Vacuum It

It has been suggested by Dutch researcher Daan Roosgaarde that China could create patches of clean air by essentially vacuuming it up. The method consists of burying Tesla coils just beneath the ground, which would then create an electrostatic field that could create a shaft of clean air by sucking away particulate matter and depositing it on the ground. In laboratory tests at the University of Delft, Roosgaarde has been able to clear smog from a one cubic meter area in five cubic meter room. He currently has a deal with Beijing to test out one of these devices in one of the city’s parks.

#7. Biodomes

A year or so ago a high-end school in Beijing offered my wife a job. Like so many others, she ultimately turned it down due to the atrocious quality of the city’s air. The school’s rebuttal was that they were building a giant bubble around their playground. This fact came off as more frightening than enticing: Is the air there really so bad that people are living in airtight domes?

In China’s smog encapsulated wealthy cities biodomes may soon become a part of life. Well, they may someday become a part of life for those who can afford to go to institutions that can pick up the tab — as at $950 per square meter, biodomes don’t come cheap.

These structures are essentially giant transparent domes that can enclose gardens, playgrounds, sports centers, schools yards — maybe someday even homes or entire neighborhoods. The ambient environment within these pods will be controlled, the air will be filtered of particulate matter and other pollutants, essentially creating an entire artificial environment.

From Dvice:

The “Bubbles” concept is designed to be an encapsulated oasis of clean air, much like the planet-sized air shield from the movie Spaceballs. Bubbles won’t be anywhere near planetary, of course. Instead, this air shield will house a park and botanical garden. Above the canopy, an undulating glass roof will contain translucent solar cells meant to collect whatever light actually penetrates Beijing’s Mordor-like perpetual gloom.

Though their builders are approaching them like any other project. “It’s just an infrastructure project like building metro stations and parks,” said Rajat Sodhi of Orproject, a British company that specializes in biodomes. (Yes, there are now companies specializing in biodomes). Perhaps more than anything else on this list, this strategy makes us realize that yes, it has really come to this.

#6. Banning Outdoor Barbecues

Air pollution looks like smoke and, well, smoke looks like smoke. Cooking food produces smoke, so perhaps cooking could be partiality responsible for the atrocious state of China’s air? Apparently, this is the thinking behind Beijing’s ban on outdoor barbecues. According to the Global Times, almost 13% of the particulate matter in Beijing’s air comes from cooking. That doesn’t quite seem right, but as the GT is the international mouthpiece of the PRC who could deny it? The outdoor barbecue ban was first enacted in 2000 but was not enforced until recently, when the city’s chengguan have been going around smashing smoke emitting street food stales and fining their proprietors.

#5. Removing 6 Million Cars

Calling the country’s environmental situation “extremely grim,” the PRC announced that it will remove nearly 5.3 million higher polluting cars off the roads this year. Basically, all vehicles manufactured before 2005 are going to get the boot. 330,000 will be removed from Beijing alone, and an incredible 660,000 will be decommissioned in Hebei Province, which is one of the smoggiest regions in the world. China currently has 240 million automobiles on the road, half being passenger cars. Though, in rather typical Chinese fashion, the decree lacks a disclosure as to how this measure is going to be put into effect.

Along with this initiative comes a plan to require gas stations in Beijing, Shanghai, and a handful of other large cities to sell only the highest grade, lowest polluting fuel available.

Actually, this doesn’t seem to be that deranged of a pollution fighting method after all.

#4. Removing Mountains

In 1997, Lanzhou’s Daqingshan Project aimed to remove a 1,689 meter high mountain that encased the city improve its air quality — as well as to create a little extra land that could be sold to developers. Lanzhou also has some of the worst air on the planet, which is partially a result of the fact that it sits deep down in a valley and is hemmed in on all sides by mountains. So to increase circulation a little and whisk away some smog the city decided to just remove one of the largest mountains that rose above it. They actually removed half of it before it became obvious that it just wasn’t going to work: the air quality remained as sordid as ever.

This is not a potential “solution” that has yet been replicated elsewhere.

#3. Coal by Wire

Out of sight out of mind. Or, more poignantly, if it’s far away from major cities then who gives a shit seems to be the philosophy behind China’s coal by wire initiative. This is one of the most massive infrastructural projects going in the world today, and consists of building large amounts of coal fired power plants way out in remote places in China’s north and west and sending the energy over thousands of miles to big cities. The initiative is a continuation of an ongoing movement to decentralize and disperse heavy polluting industries into the hinterlands of the country, where less people will see them and feel their immediate effects.

So in-focus places like Beijing and Shanghai will become less and less polluted while previously pristine areas that hardly anybody knows even exist, like Hulunbuir, will become wastelands. Already, the wide open grasslands of Inner Mongolia are speckled with expansive arrays of power plants, and this looks to be a trend that will be intensified over the coming decades.

The biggest problem with coal by wire, besides environmentally assaulting millions of innocent bystanders and destroying China’s last unpolluted frontiers, is the fact that the places most of the power plants are going tend to have a low supply of water. As coal fed power plants need incredible amounts of freshwater to function, there is a definite conflict of interests built into this initiative.

#2. Turning Coal into Gas

China plans to cut down the particulate matter in the northern reaches of the country by 25 per cent by 2017. One of the main ways it intends to do this is by turning coal into gas. While coal is often blamed for the most of China’s air pollution woes, natural gas burns cleaner, creating less emissions. So why not just convert the coal to natural gas in order to use China’s abundant supplies of this energy source in a way that will create less air pollution? That’s the strategy behind China’s new initiative to raise synthetic coal-to-gas output to 50 Bcm a year by 2020, which would account for 12.5% of the country’s total domestic gas supply. To these ends, approval was given to build 18 new large scale synthetic natural gas (SNG) plants across China’s northern fringes.

 

Though this plan does not seem to be the environmental solution it’s initially billed to be:

While SNG emits fewer particulates into the air than burning coal, it releases significantly more greenhouse gases than mainstream fossil fuels. Peer-reviewed studies in the journal Energy Policy estimate that life-cycle CO2 emissions are 36–108 percent higher than coal when coal-based SNG is used for cooking, heating, and power generation. Rapidly deploying SNG projects might, therefore, be a step backward for China’s low-carbon energy strategy.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), the production of synthetic gas could ultimately result in twice the total carbon emissions as coal-fired energy.

Converting coal to natural gas is also takes an incredible amount of water. It takes 6-10 liters of water to produce one cubic meter of SNG. As most of the new coal to gas power plants are to be built in the China’s arid northern regions — Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia — they will further add stresses to a water table that’s already coming close to tapping out.

Like the Coal By Wire initiative, SNG production is an effort to keep the big cities of China’s east running with cleaner skies by exporting environmental stresses out to the hinterlands:

Under a memorandum of understanding with the Inner Mongolia Government, Beijing will become the first Chinese city powered by SNG, receiving at least 4 billion cubic meters of the fuel annually. This production would consume more than 32 billion liters of freshwater, enough to meet 1 million Inner Mongolians’ domestic needs for an entire year.

#1. Building Ecocities

The words “eco” and “city” combined together in any fashion sound like an oxymoron. If ecological well-being alone was truly the goal, China probably wouldn’t being plowing up thousands of square kilometers of agricultural fields, small villages, wooded areas, and foothills to build new ecocities. “It’s difficult everywhere, all over the world, to develop something like cities in a sustainable way,” spoke Fanny Hoffman-Loss, the principle architect of the Nanhui eco-city that sits at the far edge of Shangha’s Pudong district. Though there are nearly 300 ecocities that are being built across China. That’s around one ecocity per every two municipalities in the entire country, and the trend is expected to grow until 50% of all new urban developments will flaunt the “eco” banner. These cities are sold as being a low polluting alternative to conventional cities, tend to have tight emissions standards, and are meant to be models for future urbanism. But does building any type of new city from scratch actually serve to better the environment in anyway? Who knows, but in the mean time these intriguing cutting edge developments can at least take our minds off the thick gray air that invariably hems them in.

*  *  *

While some say that tighter regulations on industrial pollution, stronger emission standards, and a quicker transition away from coal power would drastically improve the quality of China’s air, the PRC would apparently rather go with sci-fi-esque smog fighting drones, floating acid eating membranes, biodomes, air sprinkling skyscrapers, cloud seeding, and aerial liquid nitrogen blasters. China wants to have their emissions and breath clean air too, but even with squadrons of pollution scrubbers hovering over airtight domes in the middle of ecocities, ‘Airpocalypses’ will more than likely remain an integral part of the China experience for a long time yet.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Silent Majority: 55% Of Americans Want Independent To Run Against Trump, Clinton

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 01:30

Submitted by Carey Wedler via TheAntiMedia.org,

It’s happening! According to a new poll, Americans have finally maxed out their tolerance for “lesser evils” in presidential politics. The survey, published by independent research firm, Data Targeting, found a majority of Americans now want an independent candidate to take on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — two of the most disliked candidates in recent history.

Researchers for the poll, conducted among 997 registered voters via both home and mobile phones this month, reported that “58% of respondents are dissatisfied with the current group of Republican and Democratic candidates for President” — and that 55 percent believe there should be an independent ticket (it is unclear why 3 percent apparently dislike the current candidates but puzzlingly do not think there should be another option). In perhaps the most extreme finding of the analysis, “a shocking 91% of voters under the age of 29 favor having an independent candidate on the ballot.” Considering younger generations’ lack of party allegiance and disillusionment with the status quo, their disapproval of Clinton and Trump seems predictable — but 91 percent constitutes near-total rejection.

Tellingly, over 68 percent of participants in the poll were over the age of 50. Older generations are more likely to be attached to party identity, making their acceptance of other options a telling indicator of the populace’s distaste for their current options.

The United States has notoriously clung to the narrow two-party duopoly for most of its history — even as the crafters of the Constitution, for all their staggering shortcomings, cautioned of the dangers of such myopic political representation and party allegiance.

But considering the unpopularity of Trump and Clinton — the former has a 55 percent unfavorability liking, the latter 56 percent — Americans appear to be turning a corner on their perception of who deserves power in politics.

In fact, 65 percent of poll respondents said they would be “at least somewhat, pretty or very willing to support a candidate for President who is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton” — a stark difference from 2012, when Americans resisted deviation from the norm. A Gallup poll from that year highlighted the nation’s two-party rigidity. “U.S. registered voters show limited support for third-party candidates…with the vast majority preferring Barack Obama or Mitt Romney,” analysts reported just a few months before the 2012 general election. They concluded about 5% of Americans would vote for a third-party candidate that year.

Just four years later, however, that figure has exploded. As the Data Testing report explains:

“In a ballot test against Clinton and Trump, a truly independent candidate starts off with 21% of the vote,” already far greater than 2012’s 5%. “But this number increases to 29% in the ‘Big Sky’ region, 30% in ‘New England’ and 28% in the ‘West’ region.”

Independents were even more willing to break away from the options they’ve been given. “Among voters with an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton, the independent actually wins the ballot test,” researchers reported, noting that of the three options, 7 percent of respondents chose Clinton, 11 percent chose Trump, and a staggering 56 percent chose the unspecified third-party candidate. Though these ballot test findings are lower than the statistic that 65 percent would be open to breaking away from Clinton and Trump, the increase of third-party interest from 2012 remains palpably significant.

It should be noted that Data Targeting is a GOP-affiliated political research firm, however, the results indicate little room for bias. In fact, they are paramount in an election where, as the analysis notes, Clinton and Trump provoke more animosity than enthusiasm. Perhaps highlighting lingering attachments to two-party thinking, Clinton’s highest unfavorability rating (78 percent) came from Republicans, while Trump’s highest unfavorability rating (71 percent) came from Democrats.

Regardless, it is undeniable Americans are fed up with the system at large. According to another recent poll, just over half believe elections are rigged. Interest in third-party options, like the Libertarian and Green parties, is also steadily growing. As Ron Paul, the outspoken former presidential candidate, whose 2012 campaign was undermined by the media and Republican establishment, recently said, “I’ve never bought into this idea that the lesser of two evils is a good idea” — and Americans increasingly agree. According to a Gallup poll released last year, 43 percent of Americans identify as independent — the highest number in the history of the poll.

Meanwhile, faith in mainstream media is also dwindling — and it tends to dip even lower in election years, as Americans observe the perpetual circus acts performed by corporate outlets.

With contentious power struggles raging both within the major parties and between them, Americans appear to be sobering up to the realities of party dominance and loyalty as they evolve beyond their crumbling political past.

It might have taken a shameless war criminal and a repugnant demagogue to finally wake Americans from their two-party stupor, but it’s happening — and it’s better late than never.

Categories: Economic Blogs

In An Interesting Turn Of Events, Russia Proposes Joint Missions With US In Syria

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 01:00

In light of all of the recent tensions between the US and Russia, of which there have been many (here, here, here, here, and here), one would assume that Putin wouldn't be interested in working with the US on anything other than steering clear of each other for time being.

However, as RT reports, Russia has extended an olive branch with the US. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu recently told journalists that the US and Russia should fly joint missions together in Syria to fight ISIS.

"Taking such a step would help the progress of the peace settlement in Syria. Of course such measures have been agreed with the Syrian Arab Republic. Yesterday we started negotiating these measures with our colleagues in Oman and Geneva.

 

We suggest to the US, starting on May 25, joint action of the Russian Air Forces and the US-led coalition forces to plan and conduct strikes against the Al-Nusra Front, which does not support the ceasefire, as well as against convoys of arms and fighters crossing the Syrian-Turkish border."

As RT explains, this puts the US in a difficult position due to the fact that the stance the US has taken all along has been that Assad would have to leave power for the conflict to end.

The suggestion puts the US in a difficult situation from a legal and public relations standpoint. Washington for years has been treating Syrian President Bashar Assad as an illegitimate figure, rather than Syria’s head of state. The airstrikes it conducts in Syria are illegal because the US has neither a mandate from the UN Security Council nor an invitation from Damascus to use force in a sovereign nation’s territory.

 

Moscow, for its part, was called upon by the Syrian government to help its army fight against terrorist forces. Joint Russian-US missions would technically require legal permission from Damascus to Washington, and asking for one would be a great embarrassment for the Obama administration and a serious blow for the Democratic Party, which would be exposed to Republican criticism in an election year.

* * *

Russia has clearly demonstrated that it doesn't need any help to get the job done in Syria. This is just one more opportunity for Vladimir Putin to embarrass the Obama administration on a global stage. If the US agrees, then it has to ask Assad for permission to operate in the country. If the US declines, then the world will look at it as the US turning its nose up at a chance to smooth relations with Russia and work for the common good. Either way, Putin wins again.

Categories: Economic Blogs

The Mother Of All Head & Shoulder Patterns Just Completed The Right Shoulder

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 00:30

Submitted by Chirs Hamilton via Hambone's Stuff blog,

The global economy and finances are all about growth (increasing flow) and not about equilibrium (stock).  The ultimate driver of growing economies and finance has been millenniums of population growth.  A growing quantity of people has meant more buyers, more consumers, more demand.  So, if the growth or flow of demand is waning...that should matter...a lot.  Like entering an ice age after 10,000 years of warm.  The expected response to something like that would be all out.  Not a surprise that 4 decades of central bank mandated interest rate cuts have been used to incent a decelerating base of consumer growth to debts untold.  It's all in a vain attempt to maintain centrally determined rates of growth far above what rising population, jobs, wages, and savings can sustain.   QUANTITY of GROWTH Take a gander at the chart below, annual global population growth from 1950 to present and the OECD population growth estimations through 2050.  You might notice a...HEAD AND SHOULDERS pattern!!!  1988 was the head of annual global population growth...1973 was the left shoulder and 2012 was the right shoulder.     But what if the OECD and their future estimates are wrong???  The chart below is annual population growth (in total) vs. the annual growth of the under 45yr/old global population.  The base of population growth (young) has caved in and only been masked by the 45+yr/olds living a decade or two longer than their parents.  However, this extension of lifespans vs. the previous generation is a one off.  The current young are not likely to live decades longer again than the current generation.  Simply put, we have significant population longevity among the wealth and rapidly waning population growth most everywhere except the very poorest.  As you may have noticed, it's a night and day difference.     The chart below is the ultimate visual of stabilizing global population of young vs. globally swelling elderly populations.  What was a 9-1 ratio of babies (0-4yrs/old) per 75+yr/olds in 1950 has become a 2.7-1 ratio in 2016...and estimated to be a 1-1 ratio by 2050.  The global growth of young has essentially ceased but the growth of old is skyrocketing.     QUALITY of GROWTH Where the growth is coming from broken down.  The chart below is global population growth split out among wealthy OECD, aspiring BRIICS (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, S. Africa), and the RoW (rest of the world).  From an economic standpoint, the sources of quality growth are slowing and lesser sources unable to replace this loss.  Simply put, those with income, savings, and access to credit are able to consume significantly more than those without.     A focus solely on the population growth of those under 45yrs/old removes the confusion of the older generations living far longer.  Below, as of 2016 all net under 45yr/old net population growth is among the poor RoW as all growth has ceased among the OECD and BRIICS.  Among the RoW, the majority of all younger population growth is Africa.  The same Africa where 1/3 of the nations have average incomes below that of Haiti.  Africa is not an engine of consumptive growth.     The chart below is a simple multiplication of under 45yr/old annual population growth by average GDP per capita (capability to consume).  One look at that chart, and the implementation of NIRP & ZIRP plus the global debt bomb should be no surprise.  The collapse of growth has been underway for decades and central bankers and central planners are willing to do anything to maintain the appearance of "growth".     Quality of Growth Really Matters  The final charts below show the impact of quality (income, savings, and especially access to and utilization of credit) over quantity of population growth.  The chart is a breakdown of oil consumption by the wealthy 1.3 billion OECD residents, 3.8 billion persons of China-India-Africa, and the 2 billion "Rest of the World".     The chart below highlights the impact of rising wages but particularly (in China's case) the impact of rising credit / debt) in pushing Chinese oil consumption so far in advance of India or Africa over the same time frame.  Quantity + "quality" of credit growth.     And a close up on China's rapidly slowing quantity of adult population growth vs. the equally rapid escalation of debt in place of population growth...and the impact to maintain China's "growth".  This sort of growth, particularly credit creation, is likely not reproducible in India or Africa (thank goodness for India and Africa).     And below, another view of China's decelerating growth among its adult population (and as of 2018, outright declining adult population) and the only answer to maintain "growth" has been debt on an unprecedented scale.  What happens in China and globally as China's depopulation sets in...for decades....is unknowable.     Conclusion China was, in essence, the right shoulder to the greatest head and shoulder pattern in the history of mankind.  Central banks and federal governments will do everything in their power to maintain the present system.  They will attempt anything and likely everything to maintain what ultimately cannot be maintained.  Unfortunately, no one knows how much is too much and the economic, financial, and societal ramifications.  Invest accordingly?!?

 

Categories: Economic Blogs

WTF Headline Of The Day: GOP Senator Says "US Is Under-Incarcerated," Should Lock Up More People

Zero Hedge - Sat, 21/05/2016 - 00:00

Nobody in the world loves locking people behind bars as much as Americans do.  As we noted previously, we have more people in prison than any other nation on the planet.  We also have a higher percentage of our population locked up than anyone else does by a very large margin.  But has all of this imprisonment actually made us safer?  Well, the last time I checked, crime was still wildly out of control in America and for the most recent year that we have numbers for violent crime was up 15 percent.  The number of people that we have locked up has quadrupled since 1980, but this is not solving any of our problems.  Clearly, what we are doing is not working.

Here is U.S. imprisonment rate per 100,000 people since 1880:

Land of the free indeed...

So, just in case anyone needed a little more crazy to end the week, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is here to help.

Recall that last year the Arkansas Senator said that there were too many empty beds in Guantanamo...

"In my opinion the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now. We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far as I'm concerned every last one of them can rot in hell."

Enjoy...

 

It appears as though the only thing on Cotton's mind is filling up jail cells, because now the Senator wants to enlarge US prisons so they can be filled up further. At a speech at the Hudson Institute, Cotton said that if anything, the US has an under-incarceration problem.

"There's a bill in congress now that would sharply reduce mandatory minimums for a slew of federal crimes. The bill's advocates contend that we're locking up too many offenders, for too long, for too little, and we can't afford it anyway, and we should show more empathy toward those caught up in the criminal justice system. These arguments put simply are baseless. Take a look at the facts. First, the claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact. For the vast majority of crimes, the perpetrator is never identified, or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted, and jailed. Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem."

Relevant portion begins at 9:20

* * *

Some fact bombs...

There are 2.3 million Americans in prison or jail. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. One in three black men can expect to spend time in prison. There are 2.7 million minors with an incarcerated parent. The imprisonment rate has grown by more than 400 percent since 1970.

 

Recent research suggests that incarceration has lost its potency. A report released this week from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law finds that increased incarceration has had a very limited effect on crime over the past two and a half decades.

 

– From Five-Thrity-Eight article: The Imprisoner’s Dilemma

Unfortunately for Mr Cotton, if jails could become larger and become more full than they already are, all of the world's problems would not simply go away. Perhaps Cotton should join a central bank so he can be amongst fellow "magic people," and live in denial of anecdotes, history, and facts.

Perhap the following are 21 amazing facts about America’s obsession with prison might help Mr. Cotton…

#1 There are more than 2.4 million people behind bars in America as you read this article.

#2 Since 1980, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons has quadrupled.

#3 The incarceration rate in the United States is more than 4 times higher than the incarceration rate in the UK and more than 6 times higher than the incarceration rate in Canada.

#4 Approximately 12 million people cycle through local jails in the U.S. each and every year.

#5 Overall, the United States has the largest prison population and the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

#6 Approximately one out of every four prisoners on the entire planet are in U.S. prisons, but the United States only accounts for about five percent of the total global population.

#7 The state of Maryland (total population 5.9 million) has more people in prison than Iraq (total population 31.9 million).

#8 The state of Ohio (total population 11.6 million) has more people in prison than Pakistan (total population 192.1 million).

#9 Incredibly, 41 percent of all young people in America have been arrested by the time they turn 23.

#10 Between 1990 and 2009 the number of Americans in private prisons increased by about 1600 percent.

#11 At this point, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all “youth correctional facilities” in this nation.

#12 There are more African-Americans under “correctional supervision” right now than were in slavery in the United States in 1850.

#13 Approximately 90 percent of those being held in prisons in the United States are men.

#14 The incarceration rate for African-American men is more than 6 times higher than it is for white men.

#15 An astounding 37.2 percent of African-American men from age 20 to age 34 with less than a high school education were incarcerated in 2008.

#16 Police in New York City conducted nearly 700,000 “stop-and-frisk searches” in 2011 alone.

#17 The “SWATification” of America has gotten completely and totally out of control.  Back in 1980, there were only about 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States for the entire year.  Today, there are more than 80,000 SWAT raids in the United States every single year.

#18 Illegal immigrants make up approximately 30 percent of the total population in our federal, state and local prisons.

#19 The average “minimum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $21,000 a year.

#20 The average “maximum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $33,000 a year.

#21 Overall, it costs more than 60 billion dollars a year to keep all of these people locked up.

*  *  *

Finally, we wonder just how much funding Mr. Cotton gets from The Deep State private prisons?

Categories: Economic Blogs

Leaking Las Vegas: Lake Mead Plunges To Lowest Level Ever As "The Problem Is Not Going Away"

Zero Hedge - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 23:35

The hopes of an El Nino-driven refill from last summer's plunging levels of the nation's largest reservoir have been dashed as AP reports Lake Mead water levels drop to new record lows (since it was filled in the 1930s) leaving Las Vegas facing existential threats unless something is done. Las Vegas and its 2 million residents and 40 million tourists a year get almost all their drinking water from the Lake and at levels below 1075ft, the Interior Department will be forced to declare a "shortage," which will lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada. As one water research scientist warned, "this problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds."

As USA Today reports, the nation’s largest reservoir has broken a record, declining to the lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s.

Lake Mead reached the new all-time low on Wednesday night, slipping below a previous record set in June 2015.

 

The downward march of the reservoir near Las Vegas reflects enormous strains on the over-allocated Colorado River. Its flows have decreased during 16 years of drought, and climate change is adding to the stresses on the river.

 

As the levels of Lake Mead continue to fall, the odds are increasing for the federal government to declare a shortage in 2018, a step that would trigger cutbacks in the amounts flowing from the reservoir to Arizona and Nevada. With that threshold looming, political pressures are building for California, Arizona and Nevada to reach an agreement to share in the cutbacks in order to avert an even more severe shortage.

 

“This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds,” said Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University. “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline. The good news is that we have time and the smarts to manage this, if all the states work together.”

 

He said that will require “making intelligent but difficult changes to how we have managed the river in the past.”

 

As of Thursday afternoon, the lake’s level stood at an elevation of about 1,074.6 feet.

Lake Mead water levels sink to a new record low - notably ahead of the seasonally-normal lows...

Under the federal guidelines that govern reservoir operations, the Interior Department would declare a shortage if Lake Mead’s level is projected to be below 1,075 feet as of the start of the following year. In its most recent projections, the Bureau of Reclamation calculated the odds of a shortage at 10 percent in 2017, while a higher likelihood – 59 percent – at the start of 2018.

But those estimates will likely change when the bureau releases a new study in August. Rose Davis, a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said if that study indicates the lake’s level is going to be below the threshold as of Dec. 31, a shortage would be declared for 2017.

That would lead to significant cutbacks for Arizona and Nevada. California, which holds the most privileged rights to water from the Colorado River, would not face reductions until the reservoir hits a lower trigger point.

 

As AP concludes,

Officials in Nevada, Arizona and California are working on a deal to keep water in the lake by giving up some of their Colorado River water.

 

The river serves about 40 million residents in seven Southwest states. Two key points are lakes Powell and Mead, the largest reservoir in the system.

 

Lake Mead's high-water capacity is 1,225 feet above sea level. It reaches so-called "dead pool" at just under 900 feet, meaning nothing would flow downstream from Hoover Dam.

As population growth and heavy demand for water collide with hotter temperatures and reduced snowpack in the future, there will be an even greater mismatch between supply and demand, said Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in water and energy issues.

“The question becomes how to resolve this mismatch across states that all depend on the river to support their economic growth,” Sanders said. She expects incentives and markets to help ease some of the strains on water supplies, “but it is going to be tricky to make the math work in the long term.”

Categories: Economic Blogs

What Does The Next OPEC Meeting Have In Store?

Zero Hedge - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 23:30

Submitted by Rakesh Upadhyay via OilPrice.com,

The next OPEC meeting on the 2nd of June will act as little more than a forum for continued altercations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The 2 June 2016 OPEC meeting will be held amid a backdrop of oil prices near $50 per barrel, a sharp drop in Nigerian production due to sabotage, turmoil in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia operating with a new oil minister, and Iran aggressively pumping close to pre-sanction levels.

OPEC interactions have become a direct altercation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the remaining members reduced to mere observers.

The new Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, will be attending his first OPEC meeting, but experts doubt he will have the same clout and skills as the outgoing Saudi oil minister, Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi.

“OPEC’s unity is now in the spotlight more than ever,” said an OPEC official. “Would we ever see a minister that carries the same weight as Naimi? I don’t think so, especially as it is clear now that decisions are in the hands of the deputy crown prince,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Prince outlined his strategy in “Vision 2030”, and a major step in that direction is the listing of the state-owned oil company Aramco.

In order to gain additional traction for the proposed listing, the Saudis will continue their aggressive stance in OPEC, and keep all the oil producers on the hook, a glimpse of which was given by the new Saudi Aramco Chief executive Amin Nasser.

“Whatever the call on Saudi Aramco, we will meet it,” Mr. Nasser said. “There will always be a need for additional production. Production will increase upward in 2016,” reports The Financial Times.

Though Mr. Nasser did not hint at the percentage increase, even a small increase will add to the supply glut, because Aramco produces around 9.54 million barrels per day (bpd).

On the other hand, its adversary—Iran—has quickly ramped up production to 3.56 million barrels per day and is on course to reach its targeted output of 4 million bpd.

Iran has increased its market share in the excess supply environment by offering large discounts, undercutting the Saudi and Iraqi prices for their deliveries to Asia.

Though Iran had initially hinted at joining any production freeze once it reached its target of 4 million bpd, the heightened tensions with Saudi show no signs of abating.

“Our main competitor is Saudi Arabia,” Amir Hossein Zamaninia, Iran’s deputy oil minister for international affairs, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Zamaninia said Iran disapproves of increased politicization of the OPEC. “In the Southern Persian Gulf, oil is becoming a political commodity, more than an economic commodity,” he said. “OPEC is in a difficult situation.”

He said that without solutions to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, an agreement is unlikely.

The relations between the two warring nations have reached a new low, with Iran refusing participation in the Hajj pilgrimage. The negotiations between the delegates of the two nations ended in conflict.

Considering the existing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, if the OPEC meeting ends without a fight, it should be considered an achievement.

The proposal by the Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister Khaled Jarallah for the member nations to freeze production is a feeble attempt to support prices.

“It is clear that Mohammed bin Salman wants to confront Iran not just in the Middle East but in the energy markets,” Amir Handjani, a member of the Board of Directors of the Dubai-based RAK Petroleum, told RT. He said that it was unlikely that Prince Salman will back down now. “And certainly the Iranians are not going to back down either,” reports Hellenic Shipping News.

While these two nations continue their slugfest in the OPEC meeting, the smaller nations have no choice but to remain mute spectators, dreaming of their glory days.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Deutsche Bank Investigates How "Improper" Private Trades Made Six Employees $37 Million

Zero Hedge - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 23:00

Deutsche Bank is investigating a series of trades that may have improperly generated millions of dollars in personal profits for a handful of current and former employees.

One of those named in the scheme is Colin Fan, former co-head of Deutsche Bank's investment bank who left as part of a shake-up last October (allegedly due to his role in the transaction). Auditors estimate that Fan made $9 million on a roughly $1 million investment according to the WSJ.

As the bank was making an effort to unload some risk that stemmed from a deal with a large insurance company client in 2009, Fan and his team "found" a hedge fund willing to take the trade. The hedge fund however, was also partly funded by Fan and five other Deutsche Bank employees.

Auditors allege that Fan set up the deal structure to allow for Fan and his cohorts to receive an inflated share of the profits and fees to themselves and the hedge fund.

Deutsche Bank said they are reviewing the transaction, and will take "disciplinary measures where appropriate".

“We are reviewing a transaction that may have involved unacceptable conflicts of interest when structured in 2009,” a Deutsche Bank spokesman said. Following its internal investigation, he said, the bank “will take disciplinary measures where appropriate and review further our controls to minimize the chance of a reoccurrence.”

The final results of the investigation are set to be reported to senior management in the coming weeks, but thus far the transaction on its own is estimated to have cost Deutsche Bank more than $60 million. Whether the bank lost money overall hasn't been determined due to the fact that there were many ancillary trades that took place as well.

Fan, who in 2009 was global head of credit trading, is the person alleged to have profit the most from the scheme. Auditors estimate the six employees made an estimated $37 million on the trades, which will close off next year, on an investment of about $4.5 million. Greengate SAM, based in Monaco also invested in the deal alongside Fan and his colleagues.

The 2009 trade originated in a $750 million deal between French insurer AXA SA and Deutsche Bank, through which the bank would arrange derivatives trades in part using AXA's money. Deutsche Bank sought to profit through an index arbitrage strategy but didn't want the price swings on its own books, which is where the need for a hedge fund came into the picture.

Two more known identities that put invested in the deal along with Fan are John Pipilis, currently co-head of global credit trading, and Andre Muschallik, a senior salesman.

Henry Ritchotte, who was operations chief of the trading unit in 2009 approved the general structure of the transaction declined to comment, but it is alleged that the approval was based on certain conditions, such as the bank would market the offering to clients and the bank would earn its fair share of the profits.

As the WSJ reports, one person briefed on the internal audit said other employees were told the offer was oversubcribed, however another person close to the matter said the investment was too small and complicated for big clients, and other hedge funds didn't want to take part in a deal in which they wouldn't be in control of investment strategy.

Senior executives became aware of the situation in 2014 when employees raised the issues with auditors about Mr. Fan and his colleague's positions.

A spokesman for Mr. Fan said that he had "fulfilled all appropriate compliance procedures, been entirely transparent at all times, and denied any wrongdoing."

* * *

It seems everyone is taking advantage of the massive German banks and as Deutsche Bank's already massive derivatives book appears entirely out of control given the above debacle, one can't help but feel an ugly sense of deja vu...

Categories: Economic Blogs

Markets, Manias and Cranks, Part II

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 21:12

This post Markets, Manias and Cranks, Part II appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

In yesterday’s reckoning, we brought you the first part of our interview with Chuck Butler. Chuck’s the writer of the indispensable Daily Pfennig newsletter and the managing director of EverBank’s Global Markets Group.

We discussed how the U.S. economy is flirting with recession despite all the happy talk by the mainstream press… Britain leaving the European Union… the “Shanghai Accord”… and more.

Chuck mentioned yesterday that he didn’t foresee the Fed raising interest rates anytime soon, despite what seem to be good unemployment numbers. He added these comments in this morning’s Daily Pfennig:

Yellen is a dove at heart, and much of her academic studies prior to her appointment as the Fed chairwoman were centered on the labor markets. I continue to believe the FOMC will wait for a move higher in wages prior to pushing rates up; Yellen and company would rather error on the side of higher inflation than being blamed for killing the nascent recovery and fragile wage growth which has accompanied it.

Despite some hawkish talk by some Fed members this week based on unemployment numbers, Fed fund futures data still only indicate a 30% chance that Yellen will raise rates in June.

Today, we bring you Part II of our interview with Chuck. You’ll see what he thinks is driving the price of gold higher… if we’re really heading for a cashless society… if the Chinese economy is in for a major crash… and if the petrodollar is in serious trouble.

Answers below…

 

Markets, Manias and Cranks, Part II A conversation between Chuck Butler and Brian Maher

Brian Maher: We’ve covered a lot of ground yesterday, from Brexit to China to the dollar. Now let’s turn to gold, Chuck. Gold, as you know, has had a great year so far, the best year in 30 years. It’s up something like 20% so far this year. What’s your take on gold? Where’s it going, and what do you think is pushing it higher?

Chuck Butler: I think the driving force in gold right now is all these countries going with negative interest rates. And there’s even talk of it happening here in the U.S. I’m not sure it’ll happen here, but important people are seriously discussing it. And just talking about negative interest rates here in the U.S. gets people concerned about their cash. If they’re not going to earn any money on their cash, or they’re going to have to pay banks to store their cash, they might as well put it in gold.

So I think all this talk about negative interests rates is what’s driving gold right now. And then, you’ve always got the geopolitical stuff going on around the world. There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the world.

Brian Maher: We saw how the Japanese reacted to negative rates. Instead of going out and spending like the government expected, the only thing they bought were safes to hoard their cash. Many also bought gold.

Chuck Butler: Yup, and the talk of a ban on cash is also another thing. That just scares the bejesus out of me, it really does. There are so many other things that could happen if they started banning cash. Ever since I started writing about this issue, people have been sending me emails telling me, for example, that they were in Italy and tried to pay for their hotel room in cash and were told they couldn’t.

And this ban on cash is going to really drive the price of gold higher, I think. Right now you’ve got Mario Draghi fighting with the Bundesbank, the German Central Bank, about stopping printing of the 500 euro note.   

I was surprised that the Bundesbank was against him on that, but still, the point is that he’s trying to get rid of cash and doing it under the guise of stopping money launderers, criminals and terrorists. But it won’t.

Brian Maher: Isn’t that always the excuse, though?

Chuck Butler: Yup, it’s very similar to some other arguments that have been used over the years to get rid of something. So anytime you see talk about banning cash, negative rates or even interest rate cuts, it should drive the price of gold higher.

Brian Maher: It seems like things are inexorably headed in that direction, that they’re going to succeed ultimately. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but it seems like we’re heading for the cashless society, the banning of physical cash. It’s going to be the new barbarous relic, like gold was called. I don’t know how long it will take, but once these things start they just don’t stop. Agree?

Chuck Butler: Oh yeah, absolutely. And to me it’s like a government program that’s put in temporarily, it never goes away.

Brian Maher:  Nothing’s so permanent as a temporary government program, right?

Chuck Butler: Right. And when Nixon removed the gold backing from the dollar, it was only supposed to be a temporary move. Most people don’t realize that.

Brian Maher:  I’m sure those who orchestrated it knew otherwise, but it’s the old frog in the pot scenario. The elimination of cash is already well advanced in places like the Scandinavian countries, there are hardly any transactions conducted these days in cash.

So once a whole economic area goes cashless, ultimately it has to be coordinated on a larger scale. For practical reasons, you can’t have one area using cash and the other doesn’t. So eventually there’s going to have to be a convergence.

Chuck Butler: Exactly, and that was my point in one of my recent issues. You may not think that’s going to happen here in the U.S. But if all the other countries in the world are getting rid of cash, how’s it going to work for the U.S. to have cash? It’s not. So we’ll have to go along with everyone else.

Brian Maher: Scary. But do you think the Japanese experience has frightened some of these bankers out of negative rates, because the Japanese people’s reaction was the complete opposite of what was expected? So do you think that gave Janet Yellen and the rest of these people pause going forward?

Chuck Butler: No, in fact, I think what it tells them is that they probably need to do more of it. It’s sort of like the Krugman argument that when we were doing quantitative easing. We just didn’t do enough of it, that’s why it didn’t work.

Brian Maher: When theory confronts reality, they go with theory every time. They all attend the same schools, they have the same theories, and they just will not adjust their theories to reality. And their arrogance is really overwhelming.

Chuck Butler: Well, I truly don’t believe that the economists and everybody else at the Federal Reserve, are stupid. I really believe that they realize that all their Keynesian economic theory and everything else that they’ve done hasn’t worked for decades. However, I just don’t think that they have the courage to take a different course.

Brian Maher: God forbid the market is free to decide.

Chuck Butler: That’s always been my take, that we don’t need a central bank. We just need markets to set the interest rates.

Brian Maher: I read an interesting quote yesterday from an ECB official dismissing the idea that central banks have run out of powder as it were, or ammunition. He said, I think the quote was, we are magic people, we can, we have far more tools at our disposal than people realize, or we can do much more. It’s amazing. Just the incredible arrogance of it just struck me as really unhinged.

Chuck Butler: Yeah, the whole thing has gotten out of control as far as I’m concerned.

Brian Maher: Jim Rickards, unlike that ECB official, warns that when the next crisis strikes, the banks won’t have anything left to handle it. Then it’s on to the IMF and special drawing rights to the rescue.

Chuck Butler: Yeah, I’ve read that, too. I can’t argue with him, but at the same time I’d like to think that it’s not going to happen.

Brian Maher: So what about China, do you think it’s got more air in the tire or do you think it’s going down?

Chuck Butler: I think China’s fine. They grew way too fast for too long and they have to go back and clean out those excesses. They have to take some lumps now and endure a period where they simply clean out the excesses. But they’ll work it out. I really do believe that they will and they’ve got a huge treasure chest of reserves, which I always remind people.

It has $3.4 trillion worth of reserves. It has decreased from over $4 trillion. But it’s still $3.4 trillion. And they can do a lot of things with that amount of money to correct problems in their economy.

Brian Maher: Interesting. China has a very long history cycling back between fragmentation and centralization. So they have a whole different view of history than we do. So their main concern is having these millions of single unemployed men in these cities, and the civil unrest that can cause. So you have to figure they’re going to pull out every stop to ensure some kind of soft landing.

Chuck Butler: Exactly, exactly. But at the same time, I think they really do want to try to stay out of it and let the markets go where they’re going to go. That’s towards more of a market-driven, domestic demand-driven type economy.

I think that they realize now that their export driven economy worked great for a while, but if all the other countries they export to slow down, it’s not a reliable model. So they need to increase their domestic demand, and they’re really working towards that.

Brian Maher: It’s really a major transition from an export-based, mercantilist model to a domestic consumption type model. Obviously there’s going to be some rough patches along the way, it’s not going to happen overnight. But you’re confident they will get it right ultimately?

Chuck Butler: Yes, I am very confident that they will.

Brian Maher: OK, what about emerging markets? What about emerging market currencies in the near future?

Chuck Butler: Well, they just have so much dollar-denominated debt that they scare me right now. But when things are good, they’re responsible for the majority of the economic growth in the world. But I don’t think right now is a good time for them. I’m talking about emerging markets as a whole, not individual countries.

But they’re working towards having better balance sheets and that will help them get through this dollar-denominated debt that they’ve got. That reminds me of this book I read by a paid assassin if you will, that would go in and show these emerging market countries how they needed to run up debt. When they couldn’t pay them, these people would go in and gobble up their assets like vultures. I believe it was called, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

It just boggles my mind that so many countries fell for that type of talk. Greece did it, they were shown by the Goldman Sachs of the world that they could have all this debt. Why not?

But getting back to the emerging markets, they’re still working out their problems, and so it’s probably not a really good time to look at them. But when they do get their problems worked out, they will be responsible for the majority of the growth in the world, like they were before.

And that’s when you’ll want to look to countries like India, Brazil, South Korea, and some of these other countries that have such great potential for growth.

Brian Maher: Makes sense. Chuck, I wanted to ask you about the petrodollar. It’s an important source of dollar strength since the world is forced to buy so much of its oil in dollars. Does the petrodollar have a future?

Chuck Butler: No, I don’t think the petrodollar has a future. I think that Russia’s going to start pricing their oil in rubles and I don’t think we’re going to send any missiles through Putin’s tent like we did Gaddafi’s when he decided to price his oil in his currency.  

I think Saudi Arabia probably is going to, at some point, it could be this year, maybe next year, reach a point where it just doesn’t make any sense for them to price their oil in dollars any longer.

Brian Maher: Well, especially now that the U.S. is much less dependent on Saudi oil than it used to, and we’re making deals with Iran. Iran’s their sworn enemy. And the Saudis see China as a more important customer than the U.S. going forward, so the old system is showing cracks.

Anyway, as Jim Rickards has explained, currency systems last 30 or 40 years on average, so the petrodollar system could be near the end of the line, if you go by history.

Chuck Butler: Yes, I agree. I just don’t see it lasting that much longer. I’ve historically been notoriously early in when I see this type of thing. And so then I talk about them and then six months to a year later it happens. By that point, most people forget about what I said. Oh well. But I believe it will happen soon enough.

Brian Maher: Thanks Chuck. Now let’s quickly turn to how our readers can can profit from the market conditions we’ve discussed. As the managing director of EverBank’s Global Markets Group, I know you offer some great products for investors they won’t find anywhere else. I believe you’re offering a special commodities CD that you’re really excited about. Please tell our readers why you like it so much.

Chuck Butler: Well, since 2005, we’ve issued what we call MarketSafe CD’s. And they have 100% principal protection and an underlying asset, or group of assets, with substantial potential for gain.

That means if they don’t gain over the period of the CD, which is usually three to five years long, you get 100% of your principal back. That’s why it’s called a MarketSafe.  So over the years we’ve picked different categories, or underlying assets for them, and they have a theme if you will. Our first ones were a gold CD and a silver CD, and those saw unbelievable returns. But we’ve issues them on Japanese REITs and on interest rate increases, for example.

So, I was sitting around in January looking at commodities, and thought man, they’ve had a tough four or five years. And I’ve always told people, and I have to remind myself of it all the time, is that you buy on weakness.  But you’ve got to have a reason why that weakness is not going to last. And to me, commodities just looked like they were the most hated things on earth, and that is always an indication to me that it’s time for them to turn around.

And when commodities move, their trends last quite a long time. So having them in a market safe, five year CD actually works out pretty well because if commodities were going to go on a long run, this would be the type of vehicle you would want. So we put together eight commodities in an indexed CD.

We have a west Texas crude, gold, silver, soybeans, corn, sugar, copper and nickel, all in this one CD.

And basically how it works is every year you reach the annual anniversary of the CD’s issuance, we check the prices of those commodities versus where they were when we issued it. If they’re up, then you book that gain and hold it.

Then in the second year, we check all those prices again. So at maturity, you have five interim performance measures, capped at 70% each, and you average them up. The CD is capped at a 70% return, for the record.

Brian Maher: I think anyone can live with a 70% return.

Chuck Butler: I think so, yes. And if the commodities didn’t gain a nickel over those five years, then you get 100% of your principal back. And EverBank is a member FDIC.

Brian Maher: So you can’t really lose. You have 70% potential upside, and your principal is guaranteed.  And with practically zero inflation, even if you don’t gain much, you still maintain your principal. That’s not so bad.

Chuck Butler: Exactly. If you don’t earn anything during the five years, you still get all your principal back. You do have to pay an original issue discount (OID) tax every year that you can potentially get back at the end of the five years. That’s just a little caveat I sometimes forget to mention.

But these are good for IRA’s or individual accounts, they’re a very interesting way to go about looking at commodities without having to take a position and face a loss on it if it doesn’t work out.

Brian Maher: That sounds like a great deal, Chuck. You’re guaranteed the principal back, no matter what. How often do you get the opportunity for enormous gains while guaranteeing your principal? If commodities go in your favor, you can really come out far ahead.. You don’t find that too many places these days, that is for sure.

Chuck Butler: Yup, so that’s the CD. Now, it technically had a funding deadline of yesterday, May 19th. But if you contact us and mention that you learned about it in The Daily Reckoning, we’ll extend the offer a few days for you. So don’t be discouraged that the official cutoff was the 19th. But yes, you have to hurry to take advantage.

Brian Maher: Well Chuck, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your insights today with Daily Reckoning readers. I think we all learned some things today. I really appreciate it.

Chuck Butler: No problem. I always enjoy talking with you guys.

Regards,

Brian Maher

Managing editor, The Daily Reckoning

P.S. As Chuck described, EverBank is offering you a chance for serious capital gains if commodities rise over the next five years… and zero risk to your deposited principal if they don’t.

If there’s a net gain at maturity, you’ll get your money back plus the upside payment. And if there’s a loss, you’ll just get 100% of your principal back. That’s right — there’s virtually zero risk to your principal! And, EverBank is a member FDIC, which means your deposit is even insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC.

Technically, the offer’s closed. But the folks at EverBank have extended the MarketSafe CD offer a few days for Daily Reckoning readers. So be sure to tell them you read about it here.

Click here now to learn more.

The post Markets, Manias and Cranks, Part II appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Categories: Economic Blogs

No Updates Tonight

Jesse's Café Américain - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 20:46
Categories: Economic Blogs

Head’s Up, Pittsburgh, Uber Is Testing a Self-Driving Car

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 18:45

This post Head’s Up, Pittsburgh, Uber Is Testing a Self-Driving Car appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

We’ve been talking recently about the desire by the two largest ride-sharing car companies in the United States (Uber and Lyft) to augment their human fleets of automobiles with self-driving cars. Well, folks, the future has arrived.

Uber currently is testing its first self-driven car in Pittsburgh that will whisk you across town with absolutely no one behind the wheel. The car — a Ford Fusion hybrid – is traveling the streets of Pittsburgh right now but only in test mode.

It is outfitted with sensors, radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras, and is designed to gather mapping data as well as test its self-driving capabilities, Uber says. Not surprisingly, this test does not involve any real passengers, indeed, even company representatives have not – yet – taken their car for a spin.

Uber’s Pittsburgh Driverless Test Vehicle    Source: Uber

“When it’s in self-driving mode, a trained driver will be in the driver’s seat monitoring operations,” Uber said. “Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. We believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.”

The race does, indeed, appear to be on with automobile manufacturers from GM to Tesla Motors to Bentley all championing the day when technology – GPS, sensors, virtual reality and advanced radar capabilities – will become commonplace on city streets.

Still Uber says it’s still in the very early days of testing, so don’t expect a driverless car pulling up at your door anytime soon to take you to your friend Bob’s bachelor party. But the company did manage to get this prototype on the road in time to lay claim to being the first ride-sharing company to dabble in the nascent driverless car market. Within the next year, Uber’s chief U.S. rival Lyft plans to roll out autonomous electric Chevrolet Bolts, in an expansion of the partnership between the two companies.

And not to be outdone by the United States, China’s Uber-like service, Didi Chuxing, recently announced a $1 billion investment by Apple. It is believed that Apple is not interested in creating cars that compete with traditional automakers in China. No, its foray into the auto industry could come as a sort of ride-sharing or car-sharing service – first in China – that eventually could compete in the United States with Uber and Lyft.

As Bette Davis said in the 1950 motion picture classic “All About Eve,” “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Hopefully, Bette’s prediction will not come true.

Onward and Upward,

David Bross
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. Our Technology Profits Confidential Editor Ray Blanco has studied how you can invest in VR technology. You can check out his research one of two ways — the awe-and-wonder version here and the NSFW (not safe for work) version here. Enjoy!

The post Head’s Up, Pittsburgh, Uber Is Testing a Self-Driving Car appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Categories: Economic Blogs

Stock Market Laterally Painful...

The Market Oracle - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 17:31
Writing this newsletter is getting harder and harder these days as the market is incapable of moving sustainably in one direction. Just when it seems one side has control that control gets taken away. You get perfect action from the bulls. They break up through resistance only to have things reverse the very next day. The bears start to make a move for themselves. Just yesterday we tested below 2040 horizontal support, and then tested almost to the point at 2023 (2025 print), which is the 200-day exponential moving average.
Categories: Economic Blogs

Gold Stocks Following Bull Analogs

The Market Oracle - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 17:24
The gold stocks started to correct this week as large caps were off 13% at Thursday’s low. Both juniors and large caps have made tremendous gains since the January 19 bottom and are ripe for some profit taking. The Fed minutes provided the catalyst for such and we should also note the tendency for gold stocks, while in a bull market to peak in May. History argues that the miners could correct at least 20% now before moving higher.
Categories: Economic Blogs

The Gold Chart That Has Central Banks Extremely Worried

The Market Oracle - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 17:17
This gold chart should have Central Banks extremely worried.  Why?  Because the change in physical gold and Central Bank demand since the first crash of the U.S. and global markets in 2008 is literally off the charts. I advise precious metals investors not to focus on the short-term gold price movement, rather they should concentrate on the long-term trend changes.  This is where the ultimate payoff will be by investing in gold.   Now, I say “INVESTING”, in gold because that is what we are doing.
Categories: Economic Blogs

Bad News From the Ranch

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 17:00

This post Bad News From the Ranch appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

BALTIMORE, Maryland – An alarming email came on Tuesday from our ranch in Argentina:

“Bad things going on… We thought we had the originarios problem settled. Not at all. They just invaded the ranch.”

A Revolution Going On

To bring new readers fully into the picture, Northwest Argentina, where we have our ranch, has a revolution going on.

Some of the indigenous people – that is, people with Native American blood – believe they have a claim on the land, simply because their ancestors once lived on it.

You can see easily what a slippery claim this is. Most of the people in the area have ancestors who may or may not once have lived on our ranch. Nobody knows.

Which of them should have title to which land? And wouldn’t the same principle apply to all the land of Argentina… and America, too? Are there no Native Americans with an ancestral claim to Manhattan?

Yes, the history books say the island was purchased for $24 dollars’ worth of geegaws.

“We were cheated,” the redskins could say.

And what about the rest of us? We had ancestors, too. Where did they live? What rights do we have?

As a matter of law, it has been settled for 400 years: The Spanish stole the Chalcachi Valley fair and square. Since then, land has changed hands in the customary way – by voluntary purchase and sale. That is a system that is not likely to change.

But… the report from the ranch continued:

Santos [an activist for the rights of the indigenous peoples of the area… or a dangerous revolutionary… depending on how you look at it] showed the people in the valley a document that he claimed gave the originarios the title to the farm. 

He told them that if they were indigenous to the valley, they should be the owners. Naturally, about a dozen people – all of them from the four families who live up in the mountains and always give us trouble – declared that they were originarios. 

Then, when we tried to take our cattle up to our pasture, they blocked the road… they said the farm belonged to them.

But don’t worry. We called the police. They came. They’re here now. Lots of them. It’s tense. But there’s no violence. At least, so far.

Foxes and Feds

On Thursday, our lawyer contacted the authorities in the capital. He got the Minister for Human Rights and the person in charge of “Indigenous Affairs” to agree to go up to the ranch.

They are supposed to meet with the revolutionaries and explain that Santos doesn’t have any authority with the government and that his claims are completely bogus.

Meanwhile, the lawyer filed civil charges against the ringleaders in local court, claiming that they were unlawful trespassers who were interfering with our property rights.

But wait… not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of landlords. One reader writes:

There is a statement that, to me, is hypocritical. You state, “But the top 5% – where the foxes are – gained income. Their wages are up more than 50% over the same time. Why? Because they take more and more money from the rest of us.” Mr. Bonner, what do you mean by “us”? You are a very wealthy man (I admire and respect that). I have seen this in your other essays. You like to think of yourself as “one of the guys.” Perhaps in some ways you are. But don’t forget that you are wealthier than 99% of your reading audience. So when you say “they take more and more money from us,” it is disingenuous to act like those rich people are sticking it to you. You are part of that group that is taking more and more money from the rest of us. 

Now hold on. If it is a crime to be in the top 5% of income, we plead guilty. Throw the book at us.

But we don’t think it is wrong to make money. We don’t think it is wrong to own property. We don’t think it is wrong to try to increase the world’s real wealth – and our own – by playful acts of reckless capitalism.

On the other hand, we do think it is wrong to take money or property from other people without their permission. That’s what the foxes do. That’s what the feds do.  And that’s what the revolutionaries are trying to do to us in Argentina.

Fortunately, the foxes that were supporting the revolutionaries (with taxpayer money) were just booted out of office in Argentina. And now, we seem to have the law on our side.

Still, the war goes on… Which way will it go? How will it turn out? We don’t know.

But we know which side we’re on… the side of law and order… of European-style property rights…

We’re on the side of the landlords!

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for Bonner and Partners

P.S. Another dollar crisis is coming. It’s not a question of if, but when. And gold could soar to record levels when it strikes. If you own gold beforehand, you can preserve – and grow – your wealth. That’s why we’ve produced a FREE special report called The 5 Best Ways to Own Gold. Don’t buy any gold until you read it. We’ll send you your report when you sign up for the free daily email edition of The Daily Reckoning. Every day you’ll get an independent, penetrating and irreverent perspective on the worlds of finance and politics. And most importantly, how they fit together. Click here now to sign up for FREE and claim your special report.

The post Bad News From the Ranch appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Categories: Economic Blogs

The Inflation Targeting Scam That Will Guarantee The Mother Of Financial Meltdowns

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 16:43

This post The Inflation Targeting Scam That Will Guarantee The Mother Of Financial Meltdowns appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The estimable Martin Feldstein put the wood to the Fed in a recent op ed and in so doing hit the nail directly on the head. He essentially called foul ball on the whole inflation targeting regime and its magic 2.00% goalposts in part due to the measuring stick challenge.

 A fundamental problem with an explicit inflation target is the difficulty of knowing if it has been hit.

That problem is plainly evident in the chart below. You could very easily make the argument that goods prices are beyond the Fed’s reach because they are set in the world markets and by the marginal cost of labor in China and the EM.

Therefore the more domestically driven CPI index for services such as housing, medical care, education, transportation, recreation etc. is the more relevant yard stick. Alas, if there is something magic about 2.00%, why then, mission accomplished!

On a five year basis, services inflation is up at 2.2% annually, and during the past year it has heated up to 3.2%.

Then again, if the Fed were not comprised of power-hungry apparatchiks looking for any excuse to intrude in the financial markets and dominate their hourly behavior, it might well recognize the merit of what we have termed “CPI Using Market Rent” (box).

That’s because the regular CPI gives a 25% weighting to the OER (owners equivalent rent), which is more than a little squirrely. The BLS actually asks a tiny sample of homeowners what they would charge per month if they were to rent out their castle.

They have no clue! So the BLS plugs some survey questionnaire noise into an algorithm and calls it 25% of the entire damn index!

To improve upon this nonsense, we just swapped out the OER in the chart above and replaced it with an asking rent index that a private vendor provides to real clients in the housing rental business. The results get us exactly to the title of Feldstein’s post called “Ending the Fed’s Inflation Fixation”.

After all, can any adult really believe that there is any significant difference between 2.0% and 1.9% on a five-year trend basis? Or even that the 1.6%rate posted in the latest 12 months constitutes a significant “miss” that adversely impacts an $18 trillion economy during a year where the global collapse of oil and commodities has clearly temporarily depressed the overall CPI index?

So why does the Fed insists on the PCE deflator less food and energy to measure its inflation policy target? Is it technically or theoretically superior to the dozens of alternative measures available, including the internet based Billion Prices Project index, which is based on scrapping massive numbers of high frequency transaction prices from the internet each day?

Not in the slightest.

Bernanke and his disciples and successors embraced the PCE less food and energy deflator solely because at least in recent years it has been the shortest inflation measuring stick around. It thereby facilitates staying in the “stimulus” game, period.

These people are all about justifying a regime of financial market domination that is a complete historical anomaly and a wellspring of price falsification, malinvestment, rampant speculation and dangerous trolling for yield. And the smoking gun, in fact, is the data scrapped from the billions of actual transactions prices which course through cyberspace daily.

The chart below shows that consumer inflation has long been running above 2.0% in the real world of transactions. The light orange line plunged below the 2% marker only when global crude oil dropped from $100 per barrel to $40.

Folks, that’s not missing the target from below. That plunge reflects, in fact, just the opposite.

Namely, that the world’s central banks have enabled so much cheap, uneconomic credit in recent years that massive excess energy and commodity investments have generated a condition of chronic over-supply, and therefore deflationary commodity price trends.

The temporary flattening in the consumer prices index, therefore, is yesterday’s monetary policy errors at work, not a reason for central banks to keep interest rates lashed to the zero bound today.

Indeed, the rank intellectual dishonesty of the Fed’s “2 percenters” is even more dramatically demonstrated below. The level of the overall consumer inflation index, regardless of which one you choose, is a function of its components. That is, the overall index value is a weighted average statistical derivative.

Yet the two driving forces on the CPI since inflation targeting was officially adopted in 2012 have been medical care services and consumer energy products like gasoline and heating oil.

As it happened, during the 48 month period ending in April 2016, the medical services component rose by 2.9% per annum while energy hasdropped by 7.7% per year. Neither of these component changes are driven by some Keynesian either called “aggregate demand” in the domestic economy, or anything else the central bank can remotely influence or manipulate.

Instead, energy prices are driven by long-cycle supply, demand and capacity balances and short-cycle inventory movements in the $80 trillion global GDP; and medical prices are driven by third party payer machinations in the nation’s $3 trillion bureaucracy-encrusted medical care delivery system.

Indeed, throw in the BLS’s phony OER component with these two items and you have 40% of the weight in the CPI and only slightly less in the PCE deflator. Given this, is it even remotely rational to believe that the deliberations and interventions of the FOMC have anything to do with the second decimal place outcome on the overall CPI of 1.19% annually during the last four years?

You might conclude that our monetary politburo consists of feckless and befuddled academics and apparatchiks who are tilting at inflation windmills, but you would be mainly wrong.

The truth is, these are power-hungry bureaucrats who have usurped their charter in manner so brazen and excessive as to be fairly described as a coup d etat. There is absolutely nothing in the elastic and aspirational language of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act that requires this kind of fanatical pursuit of 2.00% inflation or a 4.99%  U-3 rate, either.

And that gets us to the even more important point in Feldstein’s post regarding the real function of the Fed with respect to inflation. That is, its true inflation mandate, if it has one at all, is not about two-decimal point undershooting from below on a monthly basis; it’s about being vigilant for a break-out of inflation to the upside on a trend basis.

With a margin of error that large, it makes no sense to focus monetary policy on trying to hit a precise inflation target. The problem that consumers care about and that should be the subject of Fed policy is avoiding a return to the rapidly rising inflation that took measured inflation from less than 2% in 1965 to 5% in 1970 and to more than 12% in 1980.

Although we cannot know the true rate of inflation at any time, we can see if the measured inflation rate starts rising rapidly. If that happens, it would be a sign that true inflation is also rising because of excess demand in product and labor markets. That would be an indication that the Fed should be tightening monetary policy.

Here’s the thing. Feldstein has been at this game since the late 1960s and knows a thing or two about how economies work and what central banks can and cannot do with their primitive tools of money market pegging, yield curve management and wealth effects pumping and puts.

What they can’t do is micromanage the GDP or fine-tune the short-term rate of wage, price, production and job gains on domestic ledgers that are rooted in an integrated global economic and financial system. Attempting to do so, will only result in more price falsification in the financial markets and inflation of financial asset values.

That’s because at Peak Debt, the central bankers’ one-time parlor trick doesn’t work and actually backfires. Making credit artificially cheap previously induced households and business to tap their balance sheets and ratchet up their leverage ratios in order to supplement the natural sources of consumption and investment spending from wages and business cash flow, respectively, with the proceeds of incremental borrowings.

But now cheap credit doesn’t even get to main street; it only induces more collateralized borrowing and speculation on Wall Street.

Stated differently, when household and business balance sheets run out of capacity to absorb more debt, the repo man takes over. That is, speculators push the price of tradable financial assets ever higher, enabling them to be carried with higher and higher amounts of cheap wholesale funding. In theory, there is no limit to how much 25 basis point repo money can be applied to carry 10-year treasury notes yielding 190 basis points.

Needless to say, the effect of this Peak Debt blockage of the old monetary transmission channel to households and business is that cheap credit never leaves the canyons of Wall Street; it unnaturally and energetically causes the systematic mis-pricing of financial assets. As Feldstein cogently argued,

…but interest rates remain excessively low and are still driving investors and lenders to take unsound risks to reach for yield, leading to a serious mispricing of assets. The S&P 500 price-earnings ratio is more than 50% above its historic average. Commercial real estate is priced as if low bond yields will last forever. Banks and other lenders are lending to lower quality borrowers and making loans with fewer conditions.

When interest rates return to normal there will be substantial losses to investors, lenders and borrowers. The adverse impact on the overall economy could be very serious.

That’s right, but “serious” is not the word for it.

The Fed has been hijacked by a posse of fools who are tilting at inflation targets that are irrelevant and unachievable. There is not a shred of evidence that sustainable growth and real prosperity is better at 2.00% inflation than it is at the 1.60% that has prevailed under their own favored measure of the PCE deflator less food and energy over the past year. And at Peak Debt in an open world economy, they have no capacity to drive the main street economy toward their misbegotten inflation targets, anyway.

So 90 months of essentially zero rates in the context of financial markets that have been transformed into gambling casinos can only have one result.

To wit, what is coming down the pike is the Mother Of All Financial Meltdowns. And this time it will be evident to the world as to who is responsible for the resulting carnage.

Regards,

David Stockman
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. “A charmingly mordant take on the stock news of the day, accentuated by philosophical maunderings…” That’s how one leading financial magazine described the free daily email edition of The Daily Reckoning. You’ll find cutting-edge analysis from the complex worlds of finance, politics and culture. Presented in an entertaining style few can match. Click here now to sign up for FREE.

The post The Inflation Targeting Scam That Will Guarantee The Mother Of Financial Meltdowns appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Categories: Economic Blogs

TSA Total Failure – No Surprise

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 16:13

This post TSA Total Failure – No Surprise appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

For the “privilege” of being groped and radiated before being allowed to travel, passengers are now facing the additional TSA abuse of being forced to miss their flights due to unimaginably long security check lines.

Thousands are missing their flights, and much of the problem is that the agency has thrown a hissy-fit over a slight reduction in the number of screeners. Some 4,600 screeners were cut in hopes that more people would sign up for “TSA-PRE” (they didn’t) and thus fewer screeners would be necessary. They now want not only all of those back — they want an additional 6,000 screeners, which would far exceed the limit set by Congress!

To top it off, a recent Homeland Security investigation of TSA performance at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport found that nine out of twelve times TSA screeners missed simulated explosive material passing through checkpoints. What to do about an inefficient government agency that abuses our civil liberties? We have some ideas in today’s Liberty Report:

The post TSA Total Failure – No Surprise appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Categories: Economic Blogs

My Conversation With a Deep State Whistleblower

The Daily Reckoning - Fri, 20/05/2016 - 16:00

This post My Conversation With a Deep State Whistleblower appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

On Monday, Nancy Pelosi declared that “Donald Trump is not going to be President of the United States.”

“Take it to the bank, I guarantee it,” she growled.

Was this just more inane rambling from a partisan Democrat?

Or does Pelosi know something we don’t?

Well, when you dig into her connections to the Deep State, you have to wonder what she has planned…

Corrupted From Birth

The media loves to portray Democratic Congresswoman Pelosi as a softhearted grandmother from California.

The former Speaker of the House is positioned as a kindly woman of the people… a champion of the poor and downtrodden.

But in truth, she’s a dyed-in-the-wool Deep Stater.

Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., was a U.S. Congressman from Maryland who served on the immensely powerful Appropriations Committee, the one that controls the government’s purse strings.

Then he became Mayor of Baltimore, where he ran a well-oiled political machine with close links to the mafia and came to be known as “Big Tommy.”

Remember the young guy in Goodfellas? That’s Pelosi’s early life learning at the feet of Big Tommy.

And she used that same ruthlessness and corrupt connections from her father’s political machine to become the highest-ranking female politician in U.S. history.

In the words of David Firestone of the New York Times:

The ability to make merry while reaching for the jugular is an essential characteristic for politicians, and friends say Ms. Pelosi learned it from one of the classic political bosses and characters of an earlier era, Thomas J. D’Alesandro, Jr…

In short, Pelosi is a master political operator whose Deep State connections extend all the way back to her birth.

Twisting the Levers of Power

Today, Pelosi remains one of the most influential Democrats in Congress. And one of its wealthiest members, with reported assets north of $200 million.

How does a humble servant of the people on a government salary amass such a huge fortune?

Pelosi’s made a killing being at the nexus, the dead center, of Deep State deal making.

She’s infamous for crooked schemes like directing more than $1 billion in subsidies to benefit a big Democratic donor’s company in which her husband was a major investor.

Pelosi knows how to keep the Deep State’s players happy… and her family gets rich for greasing the skids.

She also knows how to keep the wheels of the Deep State’s war machine rolling by supporting the surge in Afghanistan, the military “action” in Libya, and advocating our entry into Syria’s mess.

Pelosi is an essential cog within the Washington D.C. Deep State apparatus. She twists the power levers to ensure that the insiders prosper off the backs of people like you.

And she is damn good at her job.

Look, yes, Pelosi might come off as a loon with overdone Botox brain damage.

But the truth is she’s a savvy, dangerous operative.

She’s a shrewd political animal with proven skills and the required pathology to get what she wants.

So when she “guarantees” that Trump won’t become President, people should sit up and take notice… especially Donald.

This is another sign that the Deep State will do anything to make sure “Crooked Hillary” is the next President.

My Conversation With Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren knows all about the dangers of the Deep State and Pelosi’s ilk.

In fact, he literally wrote the book on it. It’s called “The Deep State – The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.”

I spoke with Mike recently on my podcast.

Mike spent 28 years working in Congress, the last 16 as a senior analyst for the House and Senate Budget Committees.

He’s seen the inner workings of the Deep State firsthand. And the secrets he reveals are startling.

Here’s what you’ll learn in today’s podcast…

  • Why your vote doesn’t really matter
  • How the same system that invaded Iraq is the same system that exploded our deficit
  • How the Deep State ruthlessly silences its critics
  • How Hillary is about to get “reelected”
  • And much more…

Click here to listen to my conversation with Mike Lofgren.

Please send me your comments to coveluncensored@agorafinancial.com. What do you think of the Deep State threat?

Regards,

Michael Covel
for The Daily Reckoning

The post My Conversation With a Deep State Whistleblower appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

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