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Russian Meddling: Gagging on the Irony

Russian Meddling: Gagging on the Irony

The irony that is most gagging is that America’s power elite is destroying the nation’s social order by its concentration of wealth and abuse of power.

The irony of the Deep State’s obsessive focus on “Russian meddling” in the precious bodily fluids of our hallowed democracy is so overwhelming that it’s gagging. The irony is a noxious confluence of putrid hypocrisy and a comically abject terror at the prospect that the citizenry may be awakening to the terrible reality that America has lost its soul as well as its democracy.

The foul stench of hypocrisy arises from the long and sordid history of America’s meddling in the internal politics of virtually every nation on the planet— a deeply entrenched policy of meddling on such a vast scale that the Deep State minions tasked with projecting a wounded astonishment that some foreign power has the unmitigated gall to attempt to influence our domestic politics must have difficulty restraining their amusement.

America’s foreign policy is one of absolute entitlement to influence the domestic affairs and politics of every nation of interest, which to a truly global empire includes every nation on the planet to the degree every nation is a market and/or a potential threat to U.S. interests.

Assassination of elected leaders–no problem. Funding the emergence of new U.S.-directed political parties–just another day at the office. Inciting dissent and discord to destabilize regimes–it’s what we do, folks. Funding outright propaganda–one of our enduring specialties. Privatizing public assets to reward our cronies and domestic corporations–nothing’s more profitable than a public monopoly transformed into a privately owned monopoly.

(If your nation hasn’t been targeted for intervention and campaigns of hard and soft power influence, we apologize for the oversight. We’ll get to destabilizing your political order and economy just as soon as the queue of pressing interventions clears a bit.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Financial Markets Definitely Destabilizing – Charles Hugh Smith

Financial writer and book author Charles Hugh Smith has been watching the extreme movements in financial markets closely. Is he nervous?  Smith says, “Oh yeah, it’s definitely destabilizing.  In other words, it’s becoming not just more volatile, the whole underlying structure of our economy is destabilizing.  What I mean by that is it’s becoming more brittle or fragile.  That is fundamentally why we are seeing these wild swings.  People are swinging between . . . keeping the money machine like it is for another nine years, and the other side of the coin says wait a minute, we have already had a weak expansion for nine years.  It’s almost the longest expansion in U.S. history.  A normal business cycle doesn’t run in one direction forever. . . .If you don’t allow your economy to have a business cycle recession, then you are simply making it more fragile by encouraging really marginal and risky investments, and that’s where we are now.”

One very big problem is a dramatic loss in buying power of the U.S. dollar, but it’s not just the dollar. According to Smith, “All these currencies, there is nothing backing the currencies except the government’s force.  That’s the yen, the euro, the dollar and the Chinese yuan.  They are all going to have a catastrophic drop against real assets because they are all based on too much leverage, too much debt, too much money being pumped into the financial system that ends up in unproductive speculation.  You can’t grow your debt at six times the rate of your economy.  In other words, if you are creating $6, $8 or $10 of debt to eke out $1 of low productivity growth, you are dooming your currency, and all currencies are doing the same thing.  All the currencies are going to take a big drop at some point . . . relative to real stuff.  Real stuff is commodities we need:  water, grains, food, oil, natural gas and, of course, precious metals.  Everybody knows they have been money for 5,000 years, and I personally feel there is a role for crypto currencies.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Charles Hugh Smith, author of the new book “Money and Work Unchained” and the founder of the popular site OfTwoMinds.com.

Our Approaching Winter of Discontent

Our Approaching Winter of Discontent

The tragedy is so few act when the collapse is predictably inevitable, but not yet manifesting in daily life.

That chill you feel in the financial weather presages an unprecedented–and for most people, unexpectedly severe–winter of discontent. Rather than sugarcoat what’s coming, let’s speak plainly for a change: none of the promises that have been made to you will be kept.

This includes explicit promises to provide income security and healthcare entitlements, etc., and implicit promises that don’t need to be stated: a currency that holds its value, high-functioning public infrastructure, etc.

Nearly “free” (to you) healthcare: no.

Generous public pensions: no.

Social Security with an equivalent purchasing power to the checks issued today: no.

As for the implicit promises:

A national currency that holds its value into the future: no.

High-functioning public infrastructure: maybe in a few places, but not something to be taken for granted everywhere.

A working democracy in which common citizens can affect change even if the power structure defends a dysfunctional and corrupt status quo: no.

A higher education system that prepares its graduates for secure jobs in the real-world economy: on average, no.

Cheap, abundant fossil fuels and electricity: during recessionary head-fakes, yes; but as a permanent entitlement: no.

High returns on conventional capital (the kind created and distributed by central banks): no.

A government that can borrow endless trillions of dollars with no impact on interest rates or the real economy: no.

Pay raises that keep up with real-world inflation: no.

Ever-rising corporate profits: no.

You get the idea: the status quo will be unable to keep the myriad promises made to the public, implicitly and explicitly. The reason is not difficult to understand:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Just Changed?

What Just Changed?

The illusion that risk can be limited delivered three asset bubbles in less than 20 years.

Has anything actually changed in the past two weeks? The conventional bullish answer is no, nothing’s changed; the global economy is growing virtually everywhere, inflation is near-zero, credit is abundant, commodities will remain cheap for the foreseeable future, assets are not in bubbles, and the global financial system is in a state of sustainable wonderfulness.

As for that spot of bother, the recent 10% decline in stocks: ho-hum, nothing to see here, just a typical “healthy correction” in a never-ending bull market, the result of flawed volatility instruments and too many punters picking up dimes in front of the steamroller.

Now that’s winding up, we can get back to “creating wealth” by buying assets–$2 million homes in Seattle that were $500,000 homes a few years ago, stocks, bonds, private islands, offshore wealth funds, bat guano, you name it. Just borrow whatever you need to borrow to buy more.

(But don’t buy bitcoin. No no no, a thousand times no. It is going to zero, Goldman Sachs guaranteed it.)

Ahem. And then there’s reality: something has changed, something important.What changed? The endlessly compelling notion that risk has magically vanished as the result of financial sorcery is now in doubt. If risk hasn’t been made to disappear, and even worse, can’t be corralled into a shortable instrument like VIX, then–gasp–every asset and instrument might actually be exposed to some risk.

As I’ve noted many times here, risk cannot be made to disappear; it can only be transferred onto others or off-loaded into the financial system itself. Risk can be cloaked or masked, and indeed, that is the beating heart of financial alchemy: we can eliminate risk by hedging via exotic instruments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Just Changed?

What Just Changed?

The illusion that risk can be limited delivered three asset bubbles in less than 20 years.

Has anything actually changed in the past two weeks? The conventional bullish answer is no, nothing’s changed; the global economy is growing virtually everywhere, inflation is near-zero, credit is abundant, commodities will remain cheap for the foreseeable future, assets are not in bubbles, and the global financial system is in a state of sustainable wonderfulness.

As for that spot of bother, the recent 10% decline in stocks: ho-hum, nothing to see here, just a typical “healthy correction” in a never-ending bull market, the result of flawed volatility instruments and too many punters picking up dimes in front of the steamroller.

Now that’s winding up, we can get back to “creating wealth” by buying assets–$2 million homes in Seattle that were $500,000 homes a few years ago, stocks, bonds, private islands, offshore wealth funds, bat guano, you name it. Just borrow whatever you need to borrow to buy more.

(But don’t buy bitcoin. No no no, a thousand times no. It is going to zero, Goldman Sachs guaranteed it.)

Ahem. And then there’s reality: something has changed, something important.What changed? The endlessly compelling notion that risk has magically vanished as the result of financial sorcery is now in doubt. If risk hasn’t been made to disappear, and even worse, can’t be corralled into a shortable instrument like VIX, then–gasp–every asset and instrument might actually be exposed to some risk.

As I’ve noted many times here, risk cannot be made to disappear; it can only be transferred onto others or off-loaded into the financial system itself. Risk can be cloaked or masked, and indeed, that is the beating heart of financial alchemy: we can eliminate risk by hedging via exotic instruments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Three Crazy Things We Now Accept as “Normal”

Three Crazy Things We Now Accept as “Normal”

How can central banks “retrain” participants while maintaining their extreme policies of stimulus?

Human habituate very easily to new circumstances, even extreme ones. What we accept as “normal” now may have been considered bizarre, extreme or unstable a few short years ago.

Three economic examples come to mind:

1. Near-zero interest rates. If someone had announced to a room of economists and financial journalists in 2006 that interest rates would be near-zero for the foreseeable future, few would have considered it possible or healthy. Yet now the Federal Reserve and other central banks have kept interest rates/bond yields near-zero for almost nine years.

The Fed has raised rates a mere .75% in three cautious baby-steps, clearly fearful of collapsing the “recovery.”

What would happen if mortgages returned to their previously “normal” level around 7% from the current 4%? What would happen to auto sales if people with average credit had to pay more than 0% or 1% for a auto loan?

Those in charge of setting rates and yields are clearly fearful that “normalized” interest rates would kill the recovery and the stock bubble.

2. Massive money-creation hasn’t generated inflation. In classic economics, massive money-printing (injecting trillions of dollars, yuan, yen and euros into the financial system) would be expected to spark inflation.

As many of us have observed, “official” inflation of less than 2% does not align with “real-world” inflation in big-ticket items such as rent, healthcare and college tuition/fees. A more realistic inflation rate is 7%-8% annually, especially in the higher-cost regions of the US.

But setting that aside, there is a puzzling asymmetry between low official inflation and the unprecedented expansion of money supply, debt and monetary stimulus (credit and liquidity). To date, most of this new money appears to be inflating assets rather than the real world. But can this asymmetry continue for another 9 years?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is the 9-Year Long Dead Cat Bounce Finally Ending?

Is the 9-Year Long Dead Cat Bounce Finally Ending?

Ignoring or downplaying these fundamental forces has greatly increased the fragility of the status quo.

The term dead cat bounce is market lingo for a “recovery” after markets decline due to fundamental reversals. Markets tend to bounce back after sharp declines as participants (human and digital) who have been trained to “buy the dips” once again buy the decline, and the financial media rushes to reassure everyone that nothing has actually changed, everything is still peachy-keen wonderfulness.

I submit that the past 9 years of market “recovery” is nothing but an oversized dead cat bounce that is finally ending. Here is a chart that depicts the final blow-off top phase of the over-extended dead cat bounce:

Why are the past 9 years nothing but an extended dead cat bounce? Nothing that’s fundamentally broken has been fixed, and none of the dynamics that are undermining the status quo have been addressed.

The past 9 years have been one long dead cat bounce of extend and pretend, i.e. do more of what’s failed because to even admit the status quo is being undermined by fundamental forces would panic those gorging at the trough of the status quo’s lopsided rewards.

This 9-year dead cat bounce was pure speculation driven by cheap central bank credit and liquidity. Demographics, environmental degradation, the decline of middle class security, the erosion of paid work, the bankruptcy of public and private pension plans, the global debt bubble, soaring wealth and income inequality, the corruption of democracy into a pay-to-play bidding war, the destruction of price discovery via market manipulation by those who have turned markets into signaling devices that all is well, the laughable distortion of statistics to mask the real world decline in our purchasing power (inflation is near-zero–really really really), the perverse incentives to leverage up bets in financial instruments that have no connection to the real-world economy–none of these have been addressed in the market melt-up.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Political Correctness Serves the Ruling Elite

Political Correctness Serves the Ruling Elite

No wonder the Ruling Elites loves political correctness: all those furiously signaling their virtue are zero threat to the asymmetric plunder of the status quo.

The Ruling Elites loves political correctness, for it serves the Elite so well. What is political correctness? Political correctness is the public pressure to conform to “progressive” speech acts by uttering the expected code words and phrases in public.

Note that no actual action is required. This is why the Ruling Elite loves political correctness: conformity is so cheap. All a functionary of the Ruling Elite need do is utter the code words (“hope and change,” “we honor diversity,” “thank you for your service,” etc.) and they get a free pass to continue their pillaging.

Those placated by politically correct utterances accept symbolic speech acts as substitutes for real changes in the power structure. This glorification of symbolic gestures–virtue signaling via social media, the parroting of progressive phrases, etc.–is as cheap as the mouthing of PC platitudes. Everybody gets to feel validated and respected at no cost to anyone: the progressives feel smugly superior because the Ruling Elite now feels compelled to parrot “progressive” speech acts in public, and the Ruling Elite is free to pillage without any demands for a radical restructuring of the incentives and distribution of the nation’s wealth and income.

The rise of “progressive” speech acts and political correctness parallels the decline of the fortunes and incomes of the bottom 90%. While the “progressives” focus on cheap symbolism, the laboring classes are being gutted by the centralized financialization that rewards the few at the expense of the many.

Here’s median family financial assets: back to the levels of 1995:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Rowboat (Wages) and the Yacht (Assets)

The Rowboat (Wages) and the Yacht (Assets)

As I keep saying: the status quo has divested the working and middle classes.

The reason why the status quo has failed and is fragmenting is displayed in these three charts of wages, employment and assets: wage earners (labor) are in a rowboat trying to catch the yacht of those who own assets (capital).

Here is a chart of weekly wages of those employed fulltime: up a gargantuan $4/week in the 18 years since 2000. Let’s see, $4 times 52 week a year–by golly, that’s a whole $208 a year. Brand new Ford F-150, here we come!

If we go back 38 years to 1980–an entire lifetime of work–we find real (adjusted for official inflation, which seriously understates big-ticket expenses such as rent, healthcare and college tuition/fees) wages have notched higher by $10/week–a gain of $500 annually.

If we adjusted wages by real-world income, we’d find wages have declined since 1980 and 2000.

Here’s employment by age group since the year 2000. THose who can’t afford to retire are still dragging their tired old bones to work while employment for the under-55 cohort hasn’t even returned to the levels of 2000.

Meanwhile, asset valuations have soared. Those who own capital (assets) have done very, very well, those who trade their labor for dollars–they’ve gone nowhere.

Households with two regular jobs could afford to buy a house in Seattle, Brooklyn, or the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995. By 2005, they were priced out. Can a household with median income ($59,000 annually) afford a crumbling shack in any of the white-hot housing markets? You’re joking, right?

The cold reality is wage-earners are tugging on the oars of a water-logged rowboat, trying to catch up with the sleek yacht of asset owners. The system has been rigged to reward those who own assets (capital) or who can borrow immense sums of nearly-free money (credit) to buy assets.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rising Social Disorder Is Inevitable: Here’s Why

Rising Social Disorder Is Inevitable: Here’s Why

We can do better, and if we don’t, the only possible output of such an unequal system is increasing social disorder.

We are in a very peculiar point in history. On the one hand, we’re reassured that all is well because Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing. (NY Times)

Yet at the same time, we read that “Something Is Very Wrong With The Global Economy”: Richest 1% Made 82% Of Global Wealth In 2017 and are asked, Can the World Survive a Winner-Take-All Global Economy?

Even the authors of the rah-rah NY Times piece on the wonderfulness of the global economy expressed concern that this “growth” may not be distributed any more equally than the previous 10 years of “recovery.”

We already know absolutely nothing will change because neither the inputs nor the feedback loops in the economy have changed. As Donella Meadows explained in her seminal paper Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, the only ways to change a system’s outputs (in this case, widening income and wealth inequality and rising social disorder) is to change the inputs or add a new feedback loop.

The status quo has not changed the inputs or added any new feedback loops, so the output of the system–extremes of widening income and wealth inequality–cannot possibly change.

The portmanteau word “precariat” (precarious + proletariat) describes much of the modern work force–those in the less specialized sectors of the gig economy, informal/black market economy or in the traditional corporate-employment economy but with irregular work hours and little in the way of benefits.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Pie Is Shrinking So Much The 99% Are Beginning To Starve

Melissa E Dockstader/Shutterstock

The Pie Is Shrinking So Much The 99% Are Beginning To Starve

How much longer until the pitchforks come out?

Social movements arise to solve problems of inequality, injustice, exploitation and oppression. In other words, they are solutions to society-wide problems plaguing the many but not the few (i.e. the elites at the top of the wealth-power pyramid).

The basic assumption of social movements is that Utopia is within reach, if only the sources of the problems can be identified and remedied.  Since inequality, injustice, exploitation and oppression arise from the asymmetry of power between the few (the financial and political elites) and the many, the solution is a reduction of the asymmetry; that is a tectonic realignment of the social structure that shifts some power—economic and/or political—from the few to the many.

In some instances, the power asymmetry is between ethnic or gender classes, or economic classes (for example, labor and the owners of capital).

Social movements are characterized by profound conflict because the beneficiaries of the power asymmetry resist the demands for a fairer share of the power and privileges, while those who’ve held the short end of the stick have tired of the asymmetry and refuse to back down.

Two dynamics assist a social, political and economic resolution that transfers power from those with too much power to those with too little power: 1) the engines of the economy have shifted productive capacity definitively in favor of those demanding their fair share of power, and 2) the elites recognize that their resistance to power-sharing invites a less predictable and thus far more dangerous open conflict with forces that have much less to lose and much more to gain.

In other words, ceding 40% of their wealth-power still conserves 60%, while stubborn resistance might trigger a revolution that takes 100% of their wealth-power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Central Banks: From Coordination to Competition

Central Banks: From Coordination to Competition

This is one reason why I anticipate “unexpected” disruptions in the global economy in 2018.

The mere mention of “central banks” will likely turn off many readers who understandably have little interest in convoluted policies and arcane mumbo-jumbo, but bear with me for a few paragraphs while I make the case for something to happen in 2018 that will impact us all to some degree.

That something is the decay of the synchronized central bank stimulus policies that have pumped trillions of dollars, yuan, yen and euros into the global financial markets over the past nine years. Here are two charts that depict the “tag team” coordinated approach central banks have deployed: when one CB tapers its stimulus, another ramps up its money-creation/asset-purchases stimulus:

The balance sheets of all the primary central banks added together is astronomical:

This team effort is motivated by self-interest, of course; no one central bank can reflate the entire global economy, and yet that is the only way to reflate each nation/bloc’s own economy, given the global connectedness of the modern economy.

But the threads of mutual self-interest are fraying. At this late stage in the credit cycle, the central banks must begin “tapering”, i.e. diminishing and then ending their stimulus policies and eventually reducing their balance sheets by selling assets they bought in the stimulus phase (or simply stop replacing bonds they own that mature).

The Federal Reserve was first out of the gate in launching quasi-unlimited bond purchases, and it was the first central bank to cease stimulus (quantitative easing) and raise interest rates. It has now signaled that it will begin selling assets (i.e. stop replacing bonds that mature).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s Time to Retire “Capitalism”

It’s Time to Retire “Capitalism”

Our current socio-economic system is nothing but the application of force on the many to enforce the skims, scams and privileges of the self-serving few.

I’ve placed the word capitalism in quotation marks to reflect the reality that this word now covers a wide spectrum of economic activities, very little of which is actually capitalism as classically defined. As I have explained here for over a decade, the U.S. economy is dominated by cartels and quasi-monopolies that are enforced by the Central State, a state-cartel system of financialized rentier skims that has no overlap with Adam Smith’s free market, free enterprise concept,i.e. classical capitalism.

This is what passes for “capitalism” in modern-day America: the super-rich get super-richer, a thin slice of technocrats, speculators and entrepreneurs advance their wealth and the vast majority lose ground or stagnate:

Here’s another snapshot of state-financier “capitalism” in modern-day America: the centralized organs of the state (the quasi-public Federal Reserve) creates trillions of dollars and hands the nearly free money to financiers, insiders and speculators, all of whom benefit immensely as this flood of cash pushes stocks into the stratosphere:

There are other versions of “capitalism” that are equally rapacious, all of which are iterations of crony-capitalism: gangster-capitalism, theocratic-capitalism, colonial-capitalism, and so on.

The key feature of these forms of organized pillage that mask their predatory nature by claiming to be “capitalist” is they ruthlessly suppress the three core dynamics of classical capitalism:

1. Competition

2. Open/free markets

3. Free flow of capital in all its forms (financial, social, intellectual, etc.)

The only way the few can pillage the many is if the many are denied access to competition, open markets and freely flowing capital.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Fascinating Psychology of Blowoff Tops

The Fascinating Psychology of Blowoff Tops

Central banks have guaranteed a bubble collapse is the only possible output of the system they’ve created.

The psychology of blowoff tops in asset bubbles is fascinating: let’s start with the first requirement of a move qualifying as a blowoff top, which is the vast majority of participants deny the move is a blowoff top.

Exhibit 1: a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJ-30):

Is there any other description of this parabolic ascent other than “blowoff top” that isn’t absurdly misleading? Can anyone claim this is just a typical Bull market? There is nothing even remotely typical about the record RSI (relative strength index), record Bull-Bear ratio, and so on, especially after a near-record run of 9 years.

The few who do grudgingly acknowledge this parabolic move might be a blowoff top are positive that it has many more months to run. This is the second requirement of qualifying as a blowoff top: the widespread confidence that the Bull advance has years more to run, and if not years, then many months.

In the 1999 dot-com blowoff top, participants believed the Internet would grow at phenomenal rates for years to come, and thus the parabolic move higher was fully rational.

In the housing bubble’s 2006-07 blowoff top, a variety of justifications of soaring valuations and frantic flipping were accepted as self-evident.

In the present blowoff top, the received wisdom holds that global growth is just getting started, and corporate profits will soar in 2018. Therefore current sky-high valuations are not just rational, they clearly have plenty of room to rise much higher.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Social Change Will Upend the Status Quo

Social Change Will Upend the Status Quo

The nation is fragmenting because the Status Quo is failing the majority of the citizenry.

The core narrative of the Status Quo is that nothing fundamental needs to be changed: all the problems can be solved with more “free money” (borrowed from the future at low rates of interest) and a few policy tweaks such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) (the topic of my new book Money and Work Unchained).

This core narrative is false: everything needs to change, from the bottom up.And that of course terrifies those gorging at the trough of status quo wealth and power.

The power structure can manipulate financial metrics, but it can’t manipulate rising wealth/power inequality or social discord. Whatever you think of President Trump, his election is a symptom of profound social discord–discord which author Peter Turchin explains is cyclical and cannot be squashed with phony reforms like UBI or police-state repression.

The nation is fragmenting because the Status Quo is failing the majority of the citizenry. The protected few are reaping all the benefits of the Status Quo, at the expense of the unprotected many.

As I have outlined many times, this unsustainable asymmetry is the only possible outcome of our socio-economic system, which is dominated by these forces:

1. Globalization–free flow of capital, labor arbitrage (workers must compete with the lowest-cost labor around the world).

2. Nearly free money from central banks for bankers, financiers and corporations.

3. Pay-to-play “democracy”– wealth casts the only votes that count.

4. State protected cartels that privatize gains and socialize losses.

5. A political system stripped of self-correcting feedback and accountability.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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