Around The Web
Submitted by Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
In case you weren’t aware, several of China’s major cities have experienced record-breaking, extremely dangerous levels of smog in recent days. For example, here is a shocking picture of Lianyungang, China:
So how did China’s state-run media decide to respond to this environmental and public health disaster? With ridiculous propaganda about the “unexpected benefits” of smog of course. You have to see this to believe it.
From The Guardian:
China’s noxious air pollution has made people smarter, funnier and impervious to missile attacks, the country’s official media reported this week, as a toxic cloud covering half of the country began to lift.
On Monday the website of the state broadcaster CCTV published a list of five “unexpected benefits” brought by the smog.
It said the haze had unified Chinese people, as they found solidarity in their complaints; equalised them, as both rich and poor people were vulnerable to its effects; enlightened them, as they realised the cost of rapid growth; and “made Chinese people more humorous”, as smog-related jokes proliferated on the internet.
It had also helped to educate people, it said. “Our knowledge of meteorology, geography, physics, chemistry and history has progressed.”
As I have said many times before, The Onion is a short.
This year China has registered its highest pollution levels in 52 years, according to state media. More than 100 Chinese cities spanning half the country spent early December enveloped by smog. Both articles attracted such vitriol online that the media outlets quickly took them down. By Tuesday afternoon “benefits of smog” was a trending topic on China’s most popular microblog, Sina Weibo, racking up 240,000 posts.
Full article here.
"If we evaluate an organization's performance by what it promised when it was created, the Federal Reserve has clearly failed the American people," is how Murray Sabrin concludes this documentary on the first 100 years of the Fed's reign. The sad truth, he details, is that "the USD has lost more than 95% of its purcahsing power since the Fed was created and the cost of living has skyrocketed since Nixon severed the last linkage between the USD and gold in 1971." In short, the revolution of 1913 shifted power from individuals, communities and states to the federal government and its powerful allies in the private sector.
Submitted by Murray Sabrin via dshort.com,
Before we view the documentary, I'd like to put 1913 in historical perspective.
1913 was, in many ways, one of the most extraordinary years in American history. In fact, according to one analyst a revolution took place in 1913.
1913 began with the ratification of the 16th amendment, which gives the federal government authority to tax the income of the American people directly. We will explore the income tax on April 17 next year at a symposium I will moderate. So save the date April 17 at 7 PM in the Trustee's Pavilion.
In April of 1913, the 17th amendment to the Constitution was ratified ending the selection of US senators by state legislatures. Now the U.S. Senators would be elected directly by the people.
And on December 23 President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act giving the United States a permanent central bank.
All these events took place at the end of what is known as the Progressive Era, a time of supposedly great reforms to benefit the common man. Half a century ago historian Gabriel Kolko challenged the orthodox view in his trailblazing book, The Triumph of Conservatism. Kolko argued that the progressive era was in reality a time when big business interests used the power of the federal government for their own benefit at the expense of the general public.
One of the last so-called reforms of the era was the creation of the Federal Reserve.
In short, the revolution of 1913 shifted power from individuals, communities and states to the federal government and its powerful allies in the private sector. Hence, the Progressive Era expanded crony capitalism in America.
The documentary, The Federal Reserve: 100 Years of Boom Bust, explores the impact of the Fed on the US economy for the past century.
If one believes the various US diffusion indices - among which key are the assorted regional Fed surveys the monthly PMI data - and listens to the pithy soundbites of their respondents, the US economy has hardly ever been better (of course, that 60% of "growth" in the past year has been due to inventory accumulation on hope that the consumer end demand will finally come is neither here nor there). However, we don't exactly believe said indices. Instead, to get a true sense of what is going on, it is always better to listen directly to those who are not only deep in the trenches, but are also accountable to their shareholders every quarter: the various CEOs and CFOs of America's public corporations. Below, courtesy of Bloomberg chief economist Rich Yamarone, who has compiled a selection of Q3 earnings call soundbites, is an indicative snapshot of the US economy as seen most recently through the prism of executives in a wide range of industries.
Simon Property [SPG] Earnings Call 10/25/13: "…it is clear that the economy has slowed. You've seen it with wages, you've seen it with employment. Needless to say we don't have to get into what's going on in terms of leadership in our country, none of which we use as an excuse, because we put blinders on to the best of our abilities when it comes to that kind of stuff. But we're operating at a high level in a very slow growth economy, and we're outpacing the growth in the economy and that's all that we can do, but we are affected by the economy."
Caterpillar [CAT] Earnings Call 10/23/13: "….while it looks like there's a good chance that the world economy could improve next year, there's still much risk and uncertainty. The direction of U.S. fiscal and monetary policy remains uncertain, and the climate in Washington is divisive. Eurozone economies are far from healthy, and China continues to transition to a more consumer demand led economy. In addition, despite higher mine production around the world, new orders for mining equipment have remained low. As a result, we're holding our preliminary outlook for 2014 sales and revenues flat with 2013, in the plus or minus 5% range."
DuPont [DD] Earnings Call 10/22/13: "The macroeconomic environment and in particular global industrial production is improving sequentially, but at a slower pace than we expected three months ago. As a result, we recently lowered our global industrial production outlook for 2013 from 2.5% growth to slightly under 2%."
Brinker International [EAT] Earnings Call 10/23/13: "The malaise we've seen in the category didn't let up this quarter. Consumer sentiment is guarded at best and consumer confidence remains somewhat volatile. And there's some evidence that guests have shifted some of their spending to larger ticket items like homes and automobiles. And while we believe this is a temporary phenomenon, but one that has certainly impacted casual dining here in the short term. And while employment rates are showing signs of improvement, casual dining in particular is being impacted by struggles many young adults are facing, particularly those in that 18 to 24 age range. Many are graduating college significantly un- or underemployed, weighted down with debt and often moving back home with their parents. And as a parent with two of those, it's a scary thought."
Air Products [APD] Earnings Call 10/29/13: "Economic activity in the second half of 2013 was slower than we had initially anticipated in most regions. Given the current economic conditions, we are planning for economic growth to be modest again in 2014. Globally, for the regions we operate in, we are forecasting manufacturing growth of 2% to 4%. In the U.S., uncertainty in the economy remains, despite the government restart. The combination of unresolved fiscal challenges, weak job growth, low consumer confidence and diminished global demand are likely to continue to act as a headwind on economic growth, despite the positive drivers of lower energy costs and strength in housing. We are forecasting a range of 2% to 4% growth."
Revlon [REV] Earnings Call 10/24/13: "Total company net sales in the third quarter were $339.4 million, an increase of 1.1% excluding the impact of foreign currency fluctuations as compared to last year. This increase was primarily driven by higher net sales of Revlon color cosmetics despite low year-over-year new product net sales particularly in the U.S. as well as higher net sales of Revlon ColorSilk hair color and Revlon Beauty Tools."
Timken [TKR] Earnings Call 10/24/13: "It's now clear to us that the weakness in several of the key markets we serve, including the emerging market infrastructure, mining and energy exploration, is more a structural and will be longer lasting than we had expected. This leads us to believe that the slow steady improvement in demand that we've seen thus far in 2013 will extend well into next year. This situation has been exacerbated in the third and fourth quarter of this year by seasonal reductions in demand in some sectors."
AutoZone [AZO] Earnings Call 9/25/13: "A key macro issue facing our customers today is the reinstitution of payroll taxes back to historic norms. This reduction in our customers' take-home pay began at the beginning of the new calendar year and at this point it has been difficult to objectively quantify the ramifications of this change, however, we believe this is and will continue throughout the year to be a headwind to our consumer's spending habits."
Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,
At a time when Wall Street is absolutely swimming in wealth, New York City is experiencing an epidemic of homelessness. According to the New York Times, the last time there was this many homeless children in New York City was during the days of the Great Depression. And the number of homeless children in the United States overall recently set a new all-time record.
As I mentioned yesterday, there are now 1.2 million public school kids in America that are homeless, and that number has gone up by about 72 percent since the start of the last recession. As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as "the wealthiest nation on the planet", and yet the number of young kids that don't even have a roof over their heads at night just keeps skyrocketing. There truly are "two Americas" today, and unfortunately most Americans that live in "good America" don't seem to really care too much about the extreme suffering that is going on in "bad America". In the end, what kind of price will we all pay for neglecting the most vulnerable members of our society?
If you live in "good America", I very much encourage you to read an excellent piece about homelessness in New York City that was just published in the New York Times. What some young kids have to go through on a nightly basis should break all of our hearts...
She wakes to the sound of breathing. The smaller children lie tangled beside her, their chests rising and falling under winter coats and wool blankets. A few feet away, their mother and father sleep near the mop bucket they use as a toilet. Two other children share a mattress by the rotting wall where the mice live, opposite the baby, whose crib is warmed by a hair dryer perched on a milk crate.
Could you imagine having your own family live like that? The name of the little girl in the story is Dasani, and every night her family sleeps in a city-run homeless shelter that sounds like it is straight out of a horror movie...
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.
It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.
You can read the rest of that excellent article right here. Sadly, there are countless other children just like Dasani that live like this day after day, month after month, year after year.
Shouldn't we be able to do better than this as a society? After all, the stock market has been hovering near record highs lately, and Wall Street is absolutely drenched with wealth for the moment.
With so much wealth floating around, why are New York City subways being "overrun with homeless" right now?
Something has gone horribly wrong.
I think that a recent editorial by David Simon, the creator of the Wire, summarized things pretty well. We are not "one America" anymore, and most of the people that live in "good America" don't really care much about those living in "bad America"...
America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It's astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There's no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be.
Once upon a time, things were different in America. Nobody resented businessmen for building strong businesses and making lots of money. And successful businessmen such as Henry Ford hired large numbers of American workers and paid them very well. He felt that his workers should make enough money to buy the cars that they were building. In those days, businessmen were loyal to their workers and workers were loyal to those that employed them.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today, in business schools all over America students are taught that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the stockholders. Not that there is anything wrong with making money. But at this point we have elevated greed above all other economic goals. Taking care of one another isn't even a consideration anymore.
In the old days, big businesses actually needed our labor. But that is now no longer the case. Today, corporations are shipping millions of our jobs overseas and they are replacing as many of us with technology as they possibly can. The value of the labor of the working man is declining with each passing day.
As a result, the fortunes of big business and American workers are increasingly diverging. For example, the disconnect between employment levels and stock prices has never been greater in this country. If you doubt this, just check out this chart.
And instead of fixing things, Barack Obama is negotiating a secret treaty which will result in millions more American jobs being shipped overseas. The following is a brief excerpt about this secret treaty from an Australian news source...
The government has refused the Senate access to the secret text of the trade deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed.
As the final round of ministerial talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership resumed on Sunday, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote to each of the 12 participating nations warning that the deal and the secrecy surrounding it presented ''grave risks''.
So why aren't we hearing much about this secret treaty from U.S. news sources?
If this is going to affect millions of American jobs, shouldn't the mainstream media be making a big deal out of this?
And even if we weren't losing millions of jobs to the other side of the planet, we would still be losing millions of jobs to advancements in technology. In fact, a CNBC article that was posted earlier this week seems to look forward to the day when nobody will have to worry about the low pay that fast food workers get anymore because they will all be replaced by droids...
Maybe so, but as fast food workers protest low wages and the president of the United States equates hard work with the right to decent pay, the rise of technology once again proves to be no stunt, or laughing matter. McDonald's, where food production is already about as mechanized as food science allows, stopped updating the famous number "served" figure at its restaurants back in 1994—just short of 100 billion—but how long will it be before trillions are served their burgers and fries by a drone, after being cooked by a droid? Those machines work for cheap, and the best thing is, they have no concept of hard work, or dignity, or the foresight to consider whether or not the "cool" things they can do ultimately contribute, or detract, from a strong, consumer-dependent economy.
So what is the solution to all of this?
Where will the millions of desperately needed jobs for "bad America" come from?
Well, it appears that good ideas are in short supply these days. In fact, some of the ideas being promoted by our "leaders" are absolutely insane. For example, one prominent entrepreneur recently suggested that the solution to our employment crisis is for Congress to pass an immigration bill which would bring in 30 million more low-skilled workers over the next ten years...
Middle class Americans face a tough future because robots and machinery are eliminating their jobs, according to Steve Case, an entrepreneur who earned roughly $1 billion by creating the first successful internet firm, America Online.
But Congress could help the situation by passing an immigration bill that would import some foreign entrepreneurs and almost 30 million low-skilled workers over the next decade, Case told an audience of D.C. lobbyists and lawyers gathered on Tuesday by the business-backed Bipartisan Policy Center.
Exactly how would this improve the employment situation in this country?
I still cannot figure that one out.
But there are people out there that actually believe this stuff.
Meanwhile, many parts of Europe are suffering through similar things.
Over 124 million people in the European Union – or almost a quarter of its entire population - live under the threat of poverty or social exclusion, a report by EU’s statistical office has revealed.
Last year, 124.5 million people, or 24.8 percent of Europe’s population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 24.3 percent in 2011 and 23.7 percent in 2008, the Eurostat said in a document published earlier in the week.
So what is going to fix this?
Where are the good jobs for workers in North America and Europe going to come from in the years ahead?
Of the 25 companies with the largest corporate profits in the world; banking, energy and technology firms are absolutely raking it in. Despite stagnating incomes, these companies made $567,856,000,000 in 2012 alone... here's the subsidies, tax breaks, and offshoring that helped them do it...
Despite being found guilty of and fined for manipulations of every other market in the world (from FX to rates to energy), investors small and large continue to play the markets on the basis that they are fair and balanced. Aside from high-profile insider trades; day after day, the oddly high correlations, the obvious spikes, blips, and front-running are ignored... until now. In this brief documentary, CBC asks the critical question "are the world's stock markets rigged?" Amanda Lang concludes "there’s a sense among the general public that nobody seems to be maintaining the integrity of the system." as she highlights case after case "as though everything is rigged!" Conspiracy theory evolves once again into conspiracy fact as the system that's supposed to benefit many, but actually enriches a few.
"Historically, the system works because people have confidence in the rules and believe they are treated the same as anybody else.
But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the stories of powerful people cheating the system for their own gain. As the bad apples add up, it gets harder and harder to ignore a troubling realization — “everything is rigged.”"
Courtesy of the revelations over the past year, one thing has been settled: the statement "Wall Street Manipulated Everything" is no longer in the conspiracy theorist's arsenal: it is now part of the factually accepted vernacular. And to summarize just how, who and where this manipulation takes places is the following series of charts from Bloomberg demonstrating Wall Street at its best - breaking the rules and making a killing.
Regulators are looking into whether currency traders have conspired through instant messages to manipulate foreign exchange rates. The currency rates are used to calculate the value of stock and bond indexes.
Banks have been accused of manipulating energy markets in California and other states.
Since early 2008 banks have been caught up in investigations and litigation over alleged manipulations of Libor.
Banks have been accused of improper foreclosure practices, selling bonds backed by shoddy mortgages, and misleading investors about the quality of the loans.
Not since the Middle Ages has the bubonic plagues taken so many lives in a year. Having wiped out 25 million people in Europe, appearances of the Black Death since have been rare but the Red Cross is reporting a new outbreak has killed more than 20 people on the island of Madagascar. Living standards in the nation have collapsed since 2009 (what else happened in 2009?) and the prevalence of rats has helped spread the disease easily. While China claims to have the bird flu under control (despite some rumors out of Hong Kong), the Red Cross warns there is a risk of a Black Death epidemic.
A village in Madagascar has been hit by a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague, medical experts on the island have confirmed.
Test were carried out after at least 20 people in the village, near the north-western town of Mandritsara, were reported to have died last week.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in October that Madagascar was at risk of a plague epidemic.
The disease is transmitted to humans via fleas, usually from rats.
Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.
The prevalence of rats in Madagascar's prisons means the plague can spread easily.
The Pasteur Institute said there were concerns that the disease could spread to towns and cities where living standards have declined since a coup in 2009 and the ensuing political crisis.
We are sure this will all end well... but as Marketwatch reports, Fidelity has partnered with SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust to allow its clients to save for their retirement by putting the virtual currency in self-directed IRAs.
“If you are a Fidelity client, you can now invest in the Bitcoin Investment Trust through an IRA,” said Barry Silbert, chief executive of SecondMarket, in an interview.
MarketWatch previously reported that SecondMarket had teamed up with self-directed IRA providers PENSCO, Entrust and Equity Institutional to allow investors to save for retirement with bitcoin.
Fidelity is the largest and most well-known company that SecondMarket has teamed up with for this, Silbert said, adding that he hopes to add a few more providers soon.
How long until other larger pension funds demand access (via mandate changes) to the cryto-currency? This evening's comments from CALSTRS CIO:
- *CALSTRS: `WE ARE UNDERFUNDED' SO NEED CONTRIBUTIONS, RETURNS
- *CALSTRS: TARGETS 7.5% RETURN ANNUALLY OVER 10-YEAR PERIOD
Implies he needs to be "saving" to fund his liabilities in more than simple old stocks...
Is Bitcoin the great white hope for the nation's under-funded pension schemes?
Today the US Treasury auctioned 21bln 10yr notes (re-opened the Nov-2023 issue).
Going into today's 10yr auction, ever since the NFP number at 8:30am on last Friday, the US treasury market has been in short covering mode. There was a markets survey that indicated the active trading participants in the treasury market were extremely short (by over 30% which is huge) a full week before the NFP data was released, and the short position continued to build as we approached NFP. The NFP number was strong (+200k jobs) and so the mkt immediately repriced lower as you would expect. However, the important piece of information was not the NFP number...no, the important information was the mkt's aggregate position (very short going in), because in the end, it is positioning that drives trading activity. So, what would you expect this large community of shorts to do after the market dropped in their favor because of the strong NFP data? If you said "cover their short by buying the market," then you would be correct.
Normally (in the past), this type of short covering event would take place in a single day. However, because this net short position took multiple days to develop (since Dec-1), and was so widespread (not only was the short position large in size...but it was large in the number of participants that were involved), the following short covering rally has taken a full 4 days to work thru the market. I can say with confidence that now, that large short position has mostly been covered. This does not mean the market is long...this just means that the market no longer has an embedded short position that needs to buy to cover.
From all our lessons on market behavior, we know that when the last short covers (is done buying) the market stops going up (no more buying) and falls back down to around where it all started. I think we've just about seen that.
So, the question to ask is "now what?"
Tomorrow we have the 30yr bond auction, and next week the 2yr, 5yr and 7yr auctions. So, the market will need to reset those shorts to absorb the upcoming supply.
I could say a bunch of other fluff to fill space, but that really is all there is to it. The mkt must have a certain amount of short position embedded to make room to buy the supply (auctions), and so, i expect a pop in the market to be sold to facilitate that supply process. If the market does not "pop," thereby not enabling the market to get short again, then i expect last minute setup selling, and perhaps another tail in the 30yr auction tomorrow.
That's about all the strategy I have for now. Levels will be available on the private twitter stream.
Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog,
In the 1st installment of this article – May the Odds Ever Be in Your Favor – The Reaping, I addressed how wealth inequality created by men rigging the system and utilizing media propaganda ultimately leads to rebellion. In Part 2, I will show how hope and defiance can ignite the flame of liberty in the minds of men. Edward Snowden has ignited that flame.
A Lot of Hope is Dangerous
President Snow: Seneca… why do you think we have a winner?
Seneca Crane: [frowns] What do you mean?
President Snow: I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at once? It would be a lot faster. [Seneca just stares, confused]
President Snow: Hope.
Seneca Crane: Hope?
President Snow: Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.
Seneca Crane: So…?
President Snow: So, contain it.
President Snow and his chief propagandist, Seneca Crane, have a discussion that could be taking place between president Obama and chairman Bernanke today. Hope is a funny thing. If the ruling class removes all hope, then the masses begin to feel they have nothing to lose and revolution becomes a foregone conclusion. For the elites of Panem, hope is used as a method of control. President Snow understood the danger of allowing the downtrodden multitudes too much hope. The Hunger Games allows one child to survive out of 24. The districts are forced to remember the iron grip of the Capitol every year, while rooting for an unlikely hollow victory of one child surviving.
The parents of children in the districts hope their children aren’t chosen. They hope they’ll scrounge up enough food to survive another day. They hope they don’t get killed in a mine explosion. They hope the peacekeepers don’t break down their doors and imprison them for illegal hunting. They hope they can endure another week. Snow knows that as long as they have only a faint hope to maintain their subsistence level lifestyle, they are unlikely to rebel. Seeing a sixteen year old girl openly defying the Capitol and awakening a spirit of humanity and courage in the subjugated masses is a huge threat to the ruling class.
Katniss Everdeen ignited the flash of hope in the districts when she befriended a young girl from District 11 named Rue. The contestants are supposed to kill each other, but Katniss protects the young girl. When Rue is killed, Katniss decorates her body with flowers as a means of memorializing Rue, which the television audience in the districts views as defying the Capitol. As she walks away from Rue’s memorial and back into the fight, she turns to the cameras and gives a three finger salute. The three fingered salute of District 12, a gesture rarely used, means thanks, admiration, and good-bye to a loved one. Her message to the people watching is they have a common enemy. They don’t have to fight each other because a tyrannical government commands them to do so. Once the beaten down and subjugated masses began to understand the other districts were not the true enemy, the flame of liberty was kindled.
Katniss had experienced an act of kindness and mercy earlier in the novel when she had reached the end of her rope and had failed to scavenge any food for her helpless mother and sister after her father’s death in a mine explosion. Her thoughts were dark and dire.
“I couldn’t go home. Because at home was my mother with her dead eyes and my little sister, with her hollow cheeks and cracked lips. I couldn’t walk into that room with the smoky fire from the damp branches I had scavenged at the edge of the woods after the coal had run out, my hands empty of any hope.”
In the world of District 12 bread signifies hope. Food symbolizes hope as freedom from hunger. When Peeta sees Katniss and her anguish, he shows compassion for her. He purposely burns some bread from his parents’ bakery and throws the bread to Katniss, who is huddled outside in the rain. Later on, as Katniss thinks about the meaning of this interaction with Peeta, she says,
“To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope.”
One of the key undercurrents of the Hunger Game trilogy is what happens in a world where all hope seems to be lost. Through small acts of kindness, like providing a few loaves of bread or honoring a departed contestant, hope can be sparked, and a spark can turn into a flame, a “girl on fire.” In this way, Katniss comes to embody the hope of a better future, a liberated and free Panem. When an authoritarian regime can no longer keep the populace sedated with bread and circuses, they turn to oppression and force.
With 47 million people wallowing in poverty and real median household income lower than it was in 1999 a pallor of hopelessness has descended upon our land. Banking and corporate interests have captured the economic, financial and political systems to such an extent the people no longer have any say in how this country is governed. The people are given a choice of flavors in what passes for elections by the corporate interests that choose the candidates. Once a politician attains office and does what they are instructed by the financial interests that fund their campaigns, they become rich and powerful. This is why 90% of incumbents are re-elected despite Congress having a 12% approval rating in polls.
The last 13 years has confirmed the country is run by one party, as the Republican figurehead rolled out new trillion dollar entitlement programs, fought undeclared wars, created an Orwellian organization to spy on Americans, and drove deficits to staggering levels. Now the current Democrat figurehead has rolled out a disastrous new trillion dollar entitlement program, continues to fight undeclared wars, drones innocent people in foreign countries, secretly collects data on every American, and has driven deficits to epic heights.
The Crisis began in 2008 with the Wall Street created worldwide financial implosion, spurred by the greatest control fraud in history. The bankers and politicians have implemented “solutions” that have further enriched the kleptocratic parasite class, while impoverishing savers, seniors, and the working middle class who played by the rules. The temperament of the country has continued to darken and societal trust is imploding, just as Strauss & Howe predicted in 2007.
“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust.” - The Fourth Turning
When a tyrannical privileged class has taken their greed and avarice too far, reaped the remaining spoils of a declining empire and the exploited hordes begin to grow restless, the oligarchs will always utilize their mercenaries to retain control and keep the multitudes cowering and fearful. Even though the financial elite have been harvesting the riches of our bountiful land for decades, it only started to become apparent to a few aware critical thinkers in the late 1990’s. It is no coincidence the War on Terror has been used as an excuse to pass the Patriot Act, unleash the NSA to gather every piece of electronic data generated by all American citizens, militarize local law enforcement agencies, conduct military “training exercises” in major cities, roll out drones to monitor the activities of the people, subject citizens to degrading body searches in airports and train stations, install surveillance cameras throughout the land to monitor our every move, use Bernaysian propaganda techniques and create fake terrorist plots to keep the masses trembling and terrified.
The ruling class leeches lost their blood sucking grip on the financial markets in 2000 and again in 2008. As the common people have lost their trust in the financial and political leaders and their propaganda techniques wear thin, truncheons, guns and a vast treasure trove of weapons and surveillance equipment are being prepared for use against the people.
The Party put forth an unknown hope and change teleprompter flim-flam man in 2008 in a last ditch attempt to sooth the masses and allow the fat cats to continue feasting, with the periodic purging in the vomitorium when their gullets were stuffed. The proof of a single ruling party has never been clearer, as a supposedly liberal populist democrat has fallen into line and followed the orders of the Financial Industrial Complex, Military Industrial Complex, and Sickcare Industrial Complex by not prosecuting one criminal banker, letting Wall Street write the 800 page Dodd Frank bill, ramping up our wars in the Middle East while spending more on Defense than Bush, and gladly allowing the insurance and drug industry to write the 1,000 page Obamacare abortion of a law. At the same time he has taken the Orwellian surveillance state to levels that would have been considered criminal and impeachable in 1990. The two heads of the ruling party play their parts to keep the masses distracted, believing voting actually matters, while fighting the wrong enemy.
The parallels between the Hunger Games novels and our current situation are innumerable. But the dehumanization of a society is the most significant analogy between the dystopian culture of Panem and the greed and materialism of our late stage declining empire. It will not be war, plague or famine that sets the stage for our collapse. A moral sickness has engulfed the soul of our civilization, spread by the dark forces of wickedness occupying the throne of power on Wall Street, Washington DC, and in the boardrooms of mega-corporations across the land.
“It neither kills outright nor inflicts apparent physical harm, yet the extent of its destructive toll is already greater than that of any war, plague, famine, or natural calamity on record — and its potential damage to the quality of human life and the fabric of civilized society is beyond calculation. For that reason this sickness of the soul might well be called the ‘Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse’. Its more conventional name, of course, is dehumanization.” – Ashley Montagu
The financial elite have used the power of mass media propaganda and jurisdiction over the public educational system to turn accountable thinking citizens into irresponsible irrational consumers. The ultra-rich men, constituting the invisible government described by Edward Bernanys, have used their control of the currency and monetary system to create a plantation society of enslaved debtors who have been trained like monkeys to consume when they are not facebooking, twittering or twerking. This dehumanization is in full display on Thanksgiving/Black Friday as the corporate fascists stir the masses into a frenzied materialistic orgy of pandemonium for cheap electronics produced by slaves in China, doing jobs formerly performed by Americans. Corporate profits have reached all-time record highs as the Ivy League MBA CEOs have used global wage arbitrage to de-Americanize their work force, convinced the lowly wilfully ignorant American serfs to spend money they no longer have on crap they certainly don’t need, and paid themselves billions in bonuses for successfully destroying the former middle class by the book.
The Party has utilized the cudgel of Federal Reserve created inflation to fleece the math challenged masses for the last 100 years. The modern day financial mad scientists use inflation, consumerism, debt, and media propaganda to keep the rats in their grand experiment running faster and faster around the maze, seeking an ever dwindling hunk of cheese. The rats are trapped in this experiment and have not the time, energy, resolve or enough cheese to escape. The rats will never breakout and their progeny are born into the maze, also with no hope of getting out alive. The mad scientists periodically reorient the maze, adjust the stimuli to elicit new behavior, and increase or decrease the rewards as they deem appropriate. Through their control of the financial, political and media centers, the ruling class not only manipulates society, they convince the rats they are really free and not confined in a maze, with no possibility of escape. The ruling class has succeeded in capturing the system to such an extent that they are syphoning off the income of the nation at a rate only seen prior to the Great Depression.
The real median household income of the bottom 90% is lower than it was in 1968, as inflation has destroyed the purchasing power of the proletariat. While wages have stagnated due to mega-corporations off-shoring American jobs for the sake of quarterly profits and stock price performance, the price of middle class essentials like food, energy, shelter, tuition and medical care have skyrocketed. The demented American nobility have disregarded centuries of history with regards to inequality borne of corruption and unfettered greed. When mild deflation reigns, as it did for most of the 19th century, goods and trade are plentiful, prosperity is ample and broadly spread to the working classes. When banker created inflation causes prices to rise, trade plummets, living standards deteriorate, and extreme wealth inequality accelerates. Once poverty reaches a tipping point, unrest and discontent lead to revolution and rebellion.
It is not a coincidence the rebellion in the Hunger Games begins in the two poorest districts. District 12 is inhabited by mostly white people in the Appalachia region of the former United States. District 11 is inhabited by mostly black people in the Southern region of the former United States. The symbolism of black people picking crops and being publicly whipped if they steal any of the food for their own survival is reflective of the plantation economy we have today. Miners getting killed in mine explosions due to unsafe conditions are reflective of the corporate greed that permeates our culture. The masters of this human tragedy attempt to keep the plebs in one district angry and mistrustful of the plebs in the other districts so they don’t focus on the real enemy. It has worked for decades, but as the workers see their lots in life descend to bare subsistence levels they have nothing to lose by resisting and rebelling. The privileged ruling plutocrats have the power to lessen the burden on the slaves, diminishing the chances of revolution, but in their sociopathic gluttonous hunger for ever more riches and supremacy they seal their fate of ultimate destruction, as John Kenneth Galbraith aptly described.
“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”
A simple act of human kindness by a young girl is what ignited a rebellion in Panem. The power of hope and courage, once unleashed, can overwhelm the wickedness of evil men. But, those men will not be defeated without an epic struggle requiring much sacrifice, suffering, death and destruction. Katniss did not realize the impact she had until on her victory tour when during her speech an old man gives her the three finger salute, leading the crowd to follow his lead and defy the peacekeepers. She had inspired the oppressed to resist their bondage.
In the most disturbing scene of the movie, the old man is grabbed by the police thugs, dragged to the podium and shot in the head, while the other thugs beat and pummel the crowd into submission. Shades of the OWS beatings by the NYPD are clear.
This is how an Orwellian surveillance state reacts to the discontent caused by the appalling treatment of their subjects. Every district is kept under the thumb of the ironically named peacekeepers. They enforce the dictatorial mandates of the Capitol at the point of a gun and threats of imprisonment, or public beatings. The technologically advanced Capitol uses surveillance cameras and spy aircraft to monitor the districts and enforce their dictates. Since the passage of the paradoxically named Patriot Act, the American surveillance state has been perfected to a level that would impress Orwell.
With the NSA gathering every piece of electronic data generated by every citizen, surveillance cameras monitoring our every movement in major cities, spy drones patrolling the skies, fascists attempting to disarm the public, and police state thugs roaming the countryside enforcing the dictates of the oligarchy, we’ve descended into authoritarian rule. The Constitution is no longer a valid document. The President is free to send boys to their death in foreign countries without the approval of Congress. He is free to ignore laws and use executive orders to implement his agenda. Any doubt regarding whether we are still free was obliterated by the police state crushing of the OWS protests and more recently the door to door illegal searches conducted by heavily armed American “peacekeeper” thugs in Watertown, Massachusetts searching for a wounded 17 year old kid.
The courageous actions of Katniss in the Hunger Games ignited a rebellion and the ultimate demise of President Snow and his evil empire. Edward Snowden’s audaciously brilliant take down of the NSA and Obama’s growing surveillance empire has awakened a slumbering public and hopefully kindled the flame of freedom in enough patriots to instigate the revolution which will drive the next stage of this Fourth Turning.
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.” – Strauss & Howe -The Fourth Turning
Defiance – Catching Fire
“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.” – Katniss Everdeen – Catching Fire
“The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.” – Edward Snowden
Now we get to the most important theme of the Hunger Games trilogy and a theme that will drive the regeneracy stage of this Fourth Turning – Defiance. There can be no change unless someone has the courage to make a stand. Generational archetypes will need to play their assigned roles, just as they did in the Hunger Games novels. The Boomers should be seeking a new vision of a better future; Gen-X should be seeking realism and implementable solutions; and the Millennials should be seeking the power to change the course of a terribly misguided country.
It will not take a majority to prevail during this Fourth Turning, just an inspired courageous minority willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Suzanne Collins may not have meant to place her characters into their proper generational roles, but they played their parts as would be expected during a Crisis. Plutarch Heavensbee, a 50 something Prophet Generation visionary, is the leader of the rebellion who exploits the power and courage of Katniss Everdeen, from the Hero Generation, to inspire and lead the rebellion. Haymitch Abernathy, the 40 year old drunk from the Nomad Generation, is the brains behind the plan to spur rebellion and defeat the Capitol. He made it his purpose in life to protect and support the young heroes who were required to do the heavy lifting during the Crisis.
The theme of defiance and its ability to undermine an evil, yet fragile, authoritarian regime is portrayed through the symbol of the mockingjay in the novels. The mockingjay is a surveillance state blunder, accidently fashioned by the hubristic Capitol. After the first rebellion, the Capitol left the jabberjays, a bird they created to spy on the districts and relay whole conversations to the Capitol, in the wilderness to die off. Instead, the jabberjays mated with mockingbirds and a species called the mockingjay was born. The mockingjay was a signal of weakness in the armor of the Capitol.Mockingjays had the talent of being able to relay any song or tune they hear to any species. Katniss’ father used to love to sing songs in the woods while hunting and loved to hear the mockingjays repeat his tune back to him. Katniss and Rue used the mockingjays to communicate during the Games. Mockingjays were a hardy resilient species that could survive in the harshest of environments.
The mockingjay becomes a symbol of defiance, rebellion and hope among the districts. Before the Games, a friend of Katniss’ from school gave her a gold mockingjay pin as a token from home. The television audience sees the pin on Katniss’ clothes during the Games. After the Games, the symbolism of the mockingjay becomes a rallying point for the subjugated masses in the districts. As the rebellion gathers steam, the rebelling districts use the mockingjay symbol as a primary method of communication. The rebels bake the bird symbol into breads, crackers, and other things that could easily be eaten or hidden quickly. The mockingjay becomes sign of resistance, a sign of uprising, and a sign of hope. The brush fires of rebellion are glimpsed by Katniss during the victory tour and celebration before the 75th anniversary Games. Plutarch Heavensbee, supposedly a high level Capitol apparatchik, attempted to win Katniss’ trust by showing her his watch, which viewed in the right position you could see the symbol of the rebellion – the mockingjay.
The defiance of a young girl versus the façade of an all-powerful state, through her humanity, the mockingjay symbol, and the willingness to eat poison berries as the ultimate act of rebellion against the rulers of the game, is the defining motif of our time.
“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.” – Katniss Everdeen – Catching Fire
What is not immediately apparent to the vassals of a totalitarian regime is the internal rot, infighting among the lieutenants, and superficial level of support among the citizenry. A government racked by corruption, dependent upon financial gimmickry and massive levels of debt to give the appearance of solvency, only able to preserve domination through brutal police state thug tactics, monitoring its subjects with intrusive surveillance machines, and led by sociopathic paranoid egomaniacal men, is sickly and rotting on the inside. President Snow spitting up blood throughout the novels is symbolic of this disease. Like a gigantic 224 year old oak tree that appears imposing, robust and indestructible, but has been decaying within, a strategically placed lightning strike or sudden gust of wind is capable of toppling the once mighty tree.
Sometimes all it takes is for one person of good conscience, with the courage to accept the consequences of revealing the truth, to strike down the mighty oak and ignite brush fires of freedom in the minds of men. Edward Snowden is that person.
“I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building. I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.” – Edward Snowden
In the Hunger Games trilogy Katniss Everdeen created a problem for President Snow when she pulled out the poisonous berries and foiled the game being orchestrated by the cruel sovereigns of Panem. She refused to be a pawn in their game. She had the courageousness of spirit to illustrate to the suppressed citizens in the locked down prison-like districts that she was not owned and enslaved by the state. She was a human being who deserved to be treated with respect, not like an animal or a specimen in their malicious man made game.
“I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.” – Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Edward Snowden has created a problem for President Obama, his surveillance state apparatus, and the banking cabal that pull the strings in this empire of consumerism, by revealing the dirty secrets of a paranoid tyrannical ruling party. We are late in the game and pleading ignorance regarding how technology is being used by evil men for evil purposes is inexcusable. Snowden refused to remain a pawn in the NSA game and decided his fellow citizens needed to be warned about the dangers of an omniscient, secretive, malevolent state whose powers were unchecked and whose motives were geared towards oppression and coercion. He was a brilliant young cog within the government machinery, making good money, with a bright future if he conformed and obeyed, but he chose to be free. A free man can’t be bought, controlled or conquered. Edward Snowden decided someone needed to make a stand and that someone was him.
“Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”- Robert Heinlein
The explosive disclosures of government criminality, mass spying, cover-ups, lying to Congress by government apparatchiks, and conclusive evidence of a surveillance state completely out of control confirmed another truth for those not captured by the red/blue party propaganda. Snowden was declared a traitor by Obama, Romney, Schumer, McCain, Pelosi, Boehner, Reid, McConnell, Feinstein, Rove, and of course, the blood thirsty, hate spewing, dark-lord of the neo-cons – Dick Cheney. The immediate and united venomous response from the slimy politician snakes should have removed all doubt there is really one ruling party and the rest of us are nothing but pawns in their game. We live in a corporate fascist warfare/welfare surveillance state run by ultra-wealthy unelected men with evil intentions.
“We’ve slipped away from a true republic. Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government, big business and authoritarian rule, and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen. When it comes to any significant differences on foreign policy, economic intervention, the Federal Reserve, a strong executive branch, a welfarism mixed with corporatism, both parties are very much alike. The major arguments in hotly contested presidential races are mostly for public consumption to convince the people they actually have a choice.” – Ron Paul
Snowden’s response to the murdering thug Cheney calling him a traitor makes me proud to call him a hero and a patriot, on par with George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine.
“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give to an American.” – Edward Snowden
Obama and the Party are continuously being made fools of by a 30 year old Millennial, as he periodically releases information damaging to the government’s surveillance efforts on the American people and foreign leaders. Each revelation further erodes the trust people and countries once had in the moral leadership of the United States. Snowden is our mockingjay, a creature the NSA never intended to create. The predator drone happy Obama would like nothing better than to have Snowden eliminated, but he is faced with the same dilemma as President Snow in the fictional world of Panem, captured in this dialogue:
President Snow: I have a problem, Miss Everdeen. A problem that began the moment you pulled out those poisonous berries in the arena. If a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same?
Katniss Everdeen: It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down.
If the mighty American empire can be embarrassed by a sole young patriot, proving to the world they are in decline financially, morally, and militarily, it must be very fragile. Snowden’s revelations did not immediately spark rebellion, but an attitude of defiance is gaining traction, as the mood in the country darkens like the sky before a blizzard whose full fury will strike with a vengeance lasting for several years. Since our entry into this Fourth Turning in 2008 there have been sparks of rebellion (OWS & the original Tea Party movement) but they were immediately subverted, discredited and crushed by the Party and their propaganda media machines. The attitude of defiance can be seen in the rise of Bitcoin, citizens buying physical gold and silver despite the Federal Reserve/Wall Street efforts to discredit it, the efforts of hackers like Anonymous to disrupt the corporate fascist state, the tireless efforts of websites like Zero Hedge, Washington’s Blog, Charles Hugh Smith, and Mike Krieger to uncover the truth, and the relentless pursuit of liberty and freedom by Ron Paul and his army of patriots. It is time for more leaders and heroes to step up and act.
“I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act. I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.” – Edward Snowden
Despite the monetary manipulations of the Federal Reserve arm of the Party, supported by the propaganda efforts of the corporate media arm of the Party, the extreme level of criminally induced wealth inequality will ultimately result in a second far worse financial crash that will topple this teetering edifice of corruption. The violent stage of this Crisis will then erupt.
“But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on a teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how their government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners who owns their mortgages, and shareholders who runs their equities – and vice versa.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe
The first American Fourth Turning was a rebellion against a foreign empire. The second American Fourth Turning was an internal rebellion that killed 700,000 young men. The third American Fourth Turning resulted in a foreign conflict that resulted in the deaths of 65 million people. Do these once every 80 year turnings alternate between external and internal conflict? If so, we are on the verge of events that will tear the fabric of this nation apart. The debt, civic decay, and heinousness of those in power will lead to the disintegration of our existing social order and sheer chaos, as forces battle for the soul of the nation. What it is replaced by is unknown at this time. It could be something far worse, or it could be a rekindling of our nation’s founding heritage of liberty, freedom and civic duty.
Linear thinking old timers are likely to scoff at the notion that some trilogy of novels for teenagers could capture the mood of the time in a way that explains how the people of this country will respond to the current worsening Crisis. I’m sure the works of Steinbeck and Tolkien were scoffed at during the last Fourth Turning.
“The original American patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power. The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state.” – Ron Paul
Do you reject the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state? Know your enemy.
While we are told that QE was "easing" but tapering is not tightening, it is worth remembering that "conventional" balanced portfolios have performed dramatically worse when the Fed is not easing. However, what is more worrisome for the 60/40 crowd is the following chart as "excess" returns suggest a period of disappointing performance lies ahead. As we've asked before, is this as good as it gets?
Source: Wadhwani Asset Management
The long anticipated and often rumored move of Facebook to the S&P 500 has finally arrived, only this time one gets two for the price of one. From BBG:
- FACEBOOK TO JOIN S&P 100 AND S&P 500
We can't wait for TWTR to move up in sympathy. As for the reasons behind the move - one must do whatever is needed to keep what little is left of retail speculators happy.
And in other news, Alliance Data Systems (ADS) and Mohawk (MHK) are also joining the S&P 500
For the last year or two, European banks have engaged in the ultimate of self-referential M.A.D. trades - buying the sovereign debt of their own nation in inordinate size to maintain the ECB's illusion of control (even as their economies collapse and stagnate). Today though, as The FT reports, a top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.
This is a problem as banks assume zero risk-weights (under BIS III) to these "assets" as they swap them for cash with the ECB and, as Praet notes, if sovereign bonds were treated “according to the risk that they pose to banks’ capital” during the health check, then lenders would be less likely to use central bank liquidity to buy yet more government debt.
A top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.
the central bank could combine its new powers as chief banking regulator with its existing role as currency issuer to toughen up the requirements on sovereign bonds, which have been traditionally classed as risk-free.
Mr Praet said if sovereign bonds were treated “according to the risk that they pose to banks’ capital” during the health check, then lenders would be less likely to use central bank liquidity to buy yet more government debt.
The vicious cycle that has seen banks use central bank cash to buy government bonds has been partly blamed for prolonging the eurozone financial crisis.
But do not worry - should this decision to force banks to hold more capital against their massive sovereign bond books backfire (though credit creation is already dismal), the ECB will save the day...
If the health check were to choke off lending to eurozone households and businesses then the ECB would provide another round of cheap loans, Mr Praet said.
He said monetary policy would be used “without hesitation” if the ECB’s data on money and credit showed banks were continuing to shrink their loan books. The ECB would ensure any liquidity was used to spur lending to the real economy by attaching tougher requirements to banks’ holdings of sovereign debt.
And ever the optimist,
“Perhaps paradoxically, a rigorous AQR and stress test helps monetary policy [function],” Mr Praet said.
but the kicker is...
“Should the procyclical impact of the AQR be significant, then monetary policy would be able to act – without hesitation and being reassured that the side effects of a liquidity injection that we have seen for the 2011-2012 [three-year long term refinancing operations] would be minimised.”
Though it appears to us that the "side effects" of massive liquidity-driven demand for the bonds of the distressed nations smashing their risk to record lows while the economies of those nations languishes - is exactly what they wanted...
So again - it comes back to their reliance on the ECB's "we'll collateralize any-old-shit at Par" programs, its unintended consequence of driving the banks and the sovereigns even more symbiotically intertwined, and its inept belief that the stress tests to be undertaken next year will solve all the problems...
Wondering why the Italian bond market has been stable and "improving" in recent months, with yields relentlessly dropping as a mysterious bidder keeps waving it all in despite the complete political void in the government and what may be months of uncertainty for the country, and despite both PIMCO and BlackRock recently announcing they are taking a pass on the blue light special offered by BTPs? Simple. As the Bank of Italy reported earlier today, total holdings of Italian bonds by Italian banks hit an all time record of €351.6 billion in February.
Why are local banks loaded to the gills in the very security that may and will blow up their balance sheets when the ECB loses control of the European sovereign risk scene as it tends to do every year? Because courtesy of ECB generosity, Italian debt continues to be "cash good collateral" with the ECB, and as a result Italian banks can't wait to pledge and repo it with Mario Draghi in exchange for virtually full cash allottment.
In other words, the more debt the Italian Tesoro issues, the more fungible cash the Italian banks have to spend on such things as padding up their cap ratios and making their balance sheets appear like medieval (any refernce to Feudal Europe is purely accidental) fortresses.
Until - the ECB changes the rules...
With the Ukraine situation increasingly precarious, and now even the US state department getting involved with the occasional unexpected harsh warning...
- U.S. MAY CONSIDER SANCTIONS ON UKRAINE: STATE DEPT
... into what Putin has made very clear is his brand new sphere of influence (it is unclear just why the US is responding in such a way: did the pro-Europe protesters not use Made in the US tear gas or chemical weapons?), Russia casually threw it out there earlier today that it would use nuclear weapons if it comes under an attack. As vice prime minister and defense industry chief made clear, "One can experiment as long as one wishes by deploying non-nuclear warheads on strategic missile carriers. But one should keep in mind that if there is an attack against us, we will certainly resort to using nuclear weapons in certain situations to defend our territory and state interests." Just in case it wasn't quite clear...
Rogozin pointed out that this principle is enshrined in Russia’s military doctrine. Any aggressor or group of aggressors should be aware of that, he said. “We have never diminished the importance of nuclear weapons – the weapon of requital – as the great balancer of chances,” Rogozin said.
More from RT:
Russia’s Fund of Perspective Researches (FPI) will develop a military response to the American Conventional Prompt Global Strike (PGS) strategy, Dmitry Rogozin told the State Duma.
So far, the FPI has already looked at over a thousand proposed ideas and plans to work on 60 projects, eight of which are top priority, the politician said. He refused to disclose any details, but said that one of those projects is focused on preparing a response to the PGS, which is the “main strategy” that the Pentagon is nurturing.
PGS would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on the planet, with conventional weapons in as little as an hour.
As Rogozin explained earlier, the strategy would give America an advantage over a nuclear state, thanks to their better technical capabilities with weaponry, including the speed, RIA Novosti cited.
So if nothing else, at least the primary deterrence strategy of the cold war has just made a roaring comeback. We can only hope that with such skilled heads of the State Department as John Kerry, that the nuclear exchange that was avoided for the duration of the first cold war doesn't somehow become a GDP-boosting reality.
On a day when Sebelius faces more music, but small golf-claps are heard around Democrat offices at the sign-up rates for Obamacare, The Hill reports - rather dishearteningly, Capitol Hill staffers who signed up for ObamaCare through the Washington, D.C. healthcare exchange are being told to confirm their enrollments in person, and not to rely on data provided by the website... "Do not rely on your 'My Account' page or other correspondence from DCHL... do not assume you are covered."
The Hill obtained an email sent to staffers on Wednesday warning them, “it is essential that you confirm your coverage in DCHL through the Disbursing Office.”
“Do not rely on your ‘My Account’ page or other correspondence from DCHL,” the email reads.
“Please do not assume you are covered unless you have seen the confirmation letter from the Disbursing Office,” the email continues.
Capitol Hill workers had until Monday to sign up for healthcare in D.C., where members and their staffs are eligible for a generous employer healthcare subsidy from the government.
After weeks of pressure from journalists, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said that as much as 25 percent of enrollment transmissions sent from the federal portal to insurers were either garbled or contained bad data.
Based on HHS’s enrollment figures, upwards of 30,000 applications might need to be re-evaluated before the end of the year.
US equities fell their most in 5 weeks on marginal volume today as a budget deal (moar fiscal means less moar monetary policy) and a potentially hawkish Stan Fischer on the Fed spread taper fears across all assets with gold lower, Treasury yields higher, and USD rising. New 52-week-lows spiked to 4 month highs as higher beta muppetry took Trannies down most in almost 4 months. The S&P tested back below the payrolls-data and FOMC Minutes launchpad levels from last week as rather notably, while most sectors are still up 5-10% from the debt-ceiling lows, Utilities are now unch. Treasuries weakened back to unchanged from the payrolls print for 5Y (though 7s-130s are -3 to 4bps still). This is the biggest jump in VIX in 2 months as the term structure is the most inverted since US downgrade levels in Aug 2011. Dow <16,000; S&P <1,800; NASDAQ ~4,000 - Retirement Off!
New 52-Week Lows spiked to its highest in over 2 months...
And the advance-decline peaked a few months back... (as breadth remains weak as we warned)
The S&P 500 had a bad day... 50DMAs are coming back into focus on all the major indices... the S&P saw its lowest close in 3 weeks.
Utilities are now unchanged since the debt-ceiling lows and sectors are giving gains back in a hurry...
VIX saw its biggest pop in 2 months as the term structure is the most inverted (short-term risk the most above medium-term) since Aug 2011...
Treasury yields were banged higher - back to unch from payrolls...
Productivity. Every employer loves it, and every employee is fascinated by it, especially if it comes in cute colors, a retina screen, and weighs under a pound... at least until such time as "productivity" results in the loss of the employee's job, which in turn makes the employer love it even more as it results in even higher profits, even if it means one more pink slip and a 91 million people outside the labor force.
With a labor force already in turmoil as millions drop out every year never to be heard from again, made obscolete by the latest technological and computerized innovation, and students stuck in college where they pile up record amounts of student loans (at last check well over $1 trillion) hoping form some job, any job, upon graduation, unfortunately the future is not bright at all.
In a recently published paper, "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation," Oxford researchers Frey and Osborne, look at the probability of computerization by occuption. What they find is shocking for nearly half of the US labor force, and especially those in the transportation, production, office support, sales, service and extraction professions.
JPM's Michael Cembalest summarizes it as follows:
Life after college: be prepared for technology to continue changing the job landscape
There’s plenty of data on unemployment rates and salaries by undergraduate major (the majors with the lowest unemployment rates and highest salaries: computer, chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering; math/physics; and economics. Drama and film majors are a recipe for living at home). A more important long-run issue to think about may be how technology affects your career. Researchers at Oxford just published an analysis assessing what jobs might be computerized in the future. Their conclusion: a staggering 47% of the US workforce, spanning a range of career types. There are vigorous debates about outsourcing, but increasingly, computerization may grow as a factor affecting employment conditions.
In The Man in the White Suit, Alec Guinness invents a suit that never has to be cleaned or replaced. London’s tailors and dry cleaners angrily chase him down in the street to destroy his invention. They are relieved when the suit finally starts to unravel, since the fiber’s design is flawed. Productivity improvements are great things, but there might be a point at which too much power shifts to capital over labor. Anyway, when you think about a career, remember that in some professions, eventually a computer might be able to do it too, or reduce the economic value of you doing it (e.g., the impact of the internet on print journalism).
The good news: those iPad apps are cheap, and most unemployed workers - who were put out of a job thanks to one - can afford them. The bad news: anyone lamenting the return of America's employment golden age, is kindly encouraged to exhale.
Former OMB director David Stockman rages to none other than Rick Santelli that the budget deal is a "betrayal and a joke" and "the final surrender of the House Republican leadership to beltway politics." The dismal reality - that little to no one in the mainstream media will dare utter - the budget adds $70 billion to spending this year and next year, and "then they're going to pretend to save it in '22 and '23." Stockman blasts, "they've not only kicked the can down the road, but kicked it into low-earth orbit." The only hope of getting our fiscal house in order was if House Republicans stand up, and Stockman warns "will trigger an enormous negative reaction from Tea-Party Republicans." The truth hurts...
Santelli "we're not talking about kicking the timeline can til the mid-terms, " - "this is a two-year vacation on the fiscal budget."
"Just from the momentum built-in, our debt load will be $25 trillion by the end of the next Presidential cycle."