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Your pension could be at the center of America’s next financial crisis

Your pension could be at the center of America’s next financial crisis

Your pension could be at the center of America's next financial crisis

I’m not a fan of the “greed is good” mentality of Wall Street investment firms. But the next financial crisis that rocks America won’t be driven by bankers behaving badly. It will in fact be driven by pension funds that cannot pay out what they promised to retirees. According to one pension advocacy organization, nearly 1 million working and retired Americans are covered by pension plans at the risk of collapse.

The looming pension crisis is not limited by geography or economic focus. These including former public employees, such as members of South Carolina’s government pension plan, which covers roughly 550,000 people — one out of nine state residents — and is a staggering $24.1 billion in the red. These include former blue collar workers such as roughly 100,000 coal miners who face serious cuts in pension payments and health coverage thanks to a nearly $6 billion shortfall in the plan for the United Mine Workers of America. And when the bill comes due, we will all be in very big trouble.

It’s bad enough to consider the philosophical fallout here, with reneging on the promise of a pension and thus causing even more distrust of bankers and retirement planners. But I’m speaking about a cold, numbers-based perspective that causes a drag on many parts of the American economy. Consider the following.

Pensioners have no flexibility

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report from 2015, the average household income of someone older than age 75 is $34,097 and their average expenses exceed that slightly, at $34,382. It is not an exaggeration, then, to say that even a modest reduction in retirement income makes the typical budget of a 75-year-old unsustainable — even when the average budget is far from luxurious at current levels. This inflexibility is a hard financial reality of someone who is no longer able to work and is reliant on means other than labor to make ends meet.

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

March to Default

March to Default 

“May you live in interesting times,” says the ancient Chinese curse.  No doubt about it, we live in interesting times.  Hardly a day goes by that we’re not aghast and astounded by a series of grotesque caricatures of the world as at devolves towards vulgarity. Just this week, for instance, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters tweeted, “Get ready for impeachment.”

Well, Maxine Waters is obviously right – impeaching the president is an urgent task of the utmost importance. As everybody knows, he is best friends with Vladimir Putin, the shirtless barbarian who rules the Evil Russian Empire (they were seen drinking kompromat together in Moscow, a vile Russian liquor that reportedly tastes a bit like urine. Senator McCain has the details on that story). And as Maxine Waters has just disclosed, Putin’s armies are recently advancing into Korea! We cannot let this stand, or he’ll invade Kekistan next (note that he already controls Limpopo and Gabon). Who knows where it will end?

 

We assume this was directed at President Trump.  But what Waters meant by this was sufficiently vague.  There was no guidance as to how President Trump should be getting ready.

Should he pack his bags?  Should he double knot his shoelaces?  Should he say a prayer? Naturally, the specifics don’t matter in the darnedest.  Rather, these days, it’s style over substance in just about everything.  This is why Waters – a committed moron – rises to the top of class in the lost republic of the early 21st century.

At the same time, the individual has been displaced by the almighty aggregate.  Economists pencil out the unemployment rate, with certain omissions, as if it represents something meaningful.  Then lunkheads like Waters repeat it as if it’s the gospel truth.

Somehow, through all of this, our representatives are oblivious to what’s really going on; that the U.S. government is just months away from a possible default.

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

 

Are America and China Destined for War?

Are America and China Destined for War?

Are America and China Destined for War?

In his recent book The Improbable War, professor Christopher Coker explains that it is “of vital importance that the possibility of a conflict between China and the United States continues to be discussed.” Coker’s rationale for this is simple: “If the United States and China continue to convince themselves that war is too ‘improbable’ to take seriously, it is not they but the rest of the world that may ultimately pay the price.”

It would seem the good professor’s wish is about to be granted. We are about to be treated to what surely will be a media blitz over what can only be described as the most comprehensive book to ever tackle the question of not only whether a US-China war is possible, but what steps Washington and Beijing can take to avoid such a calamity.

Written by one of the world’s most prominent political scientists and strategic thinkers of the day, director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center, Graham Allison, anyone who has been following China in recent years likely guessed such an effort was in the works. The book is hooked on Allison’s popular “Thucydides Trap” concept. The trap, as Allison described in a prominent piece for the Atlantic in 2015, is “the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power — as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago.” Allison goes on to warn that in 12 of 16 cases he has studied throughout history, when such a situation takes place, war has been the result.

US and China: A relationship in dangerous flux

So what happens in case study number 17? Knowing the odds history has given us, is war between China and America unstoppable?
To answer such questions, we first need to understand the complexity that is the US-China relationship. In fact, there are two US-China relationships.

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

Loose Cannon

Back in the days of sword and sail, warships mounted heavy cannon on their decks in such a way as to maximize their range of fire. Out of necessity, this meant the cannon were not permanently fixed in place and needed to be properly lashed to the deck during high seas or violent maneuvers. The cannon, cast from iron, were extremely heavy weapons of war and wrought great death and destruction if they ever broke free from their restraints and got loose on deck.

Today, the phrase ‘loose cannon’ is used to describe an individual, usually a politician or other ‘authority’, who has become reckless and rash, lashing out senselessly at anyone and everyone within reach. Dangerously uncontrollable would be a proper description of both the loose cannon and the described individual.

But I am not referencing Donald Trump or any other individual for that matter. Instead I am speaking with regard to the faceless, nameless, uber powerful chameleon better known as the Deep State, the existence of which has been repeatedly mentioned in the mainstream and alternative press of late. However, I am not necessarily claiming the Deep State itself is the loose cannon. Read on for the answer.

While various forms of the phrase “Deep State” have been around for decades, I began to pay particular attention soon after the false flag event of 9/11, when I launched into deep study sessions reading the likes of Smedley Butler, John Perkins, Roger Stone, Michael Ruppert, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Engelhardt, Peter Dale Scott, Noam Chomsky, Webster Tarpley et al. The list is deep and varied and by no means does it represent strictly truthsayers. To truly know your enemy you must understand their tactics, methods and disinformation/propaganda.

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

Beware the Debt Ceiling

Euphoria has been pervasive in the stock market since the election. But investors seem to be overlooking the risk of a U.S. government default resulting from a failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling. The possibility is greater than anyone seems to realize, even with a supposedly unified government.

In particular, the markets seem to be ignoring two vital numbers, which together could have profound consequences for global markets: 218 and $189 billion. In order to raise or suspend the debt ceiling (which will technically be reinstated on March 16), 218 votes are needed in the House of Representatives. The Treasury’s cash balance will need to last until this happens, or the U.S. will default.

The opening cash balance this month was $189 billion, and Treasury is burning an average of $2 billion per day – with the ability to issue new debt. Net redemptions of existing debt not held by the government are running north of $100 billion a month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has acknowledged the coming deadline, encouraging Congress last week to raise the limit immediately.

Reaching 218 votes in favor of raising or suspending the debt ceiling might be harder than in any previous fiscal showdown. President Donald Trump almost certainly wants to raise the ceiling, but he may not have the votes. While Republicans control 237 seats in the House, the Tea Party wing of the party has in the past has steadfastly refused to go along with increases.

The Republican Party is already facing a revolt on its right flank over its failure to offer a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Many members of this resistance constitute the ultra-right “Freedom Caucus,” which was willing to stand its ground during previous debt ceiling showdowns. The Freedom Caucus has 29 members, which means there might be only 208 votes to raise the ceiling. (It’s interesting to recall that, in 2013, President Trump himself tweeted that he was “embarrassed” that Republicans had voted to extend the ceiling.)

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

China Prepares Countermeasures Against South Korea Missile Shield

China Prepares Countermeasures Against South Korea Missile Shield

The recent deployment by South Korea of the controversial US-made Terminal High Altitude Area ­Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in response to potential ballistic threats from North Korea, has led to a furious response by China, whose first-strike ability would be compromised under the existing military configuration.  And as BBC reports, “the deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system has been slammed by Beijing. Now the Chinese Communist Party is calling on its people to embrace their ill will towards their neighbours” and notes that as anti South-Korea fever sweep China, local school students chant “Boycott Sth Korea!”, and smash South Korean appliances as the “communist Party unleashes anti-Korea spirit.”

However, while eliciting up a traditional nationalistic response by China was to be expected, what is more troubling is that according to the South China Morning Post, China is set to deploy anti-radar countermeasures which will neutralize the South Korean THAAD. The THAAD system consists of a sophisticated radar and interceptor missiles designed to spot and knock out incoming ballistic missiles.

Speaking to retired PLA general Wang Hongguang, the SCMP reports that China knew it might not be able to stop Seoul deploying a US anti-missile system “and was prepared to counter with its own anti-radar equipment.” The comments came as a South Korean court’s decision to uphold the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye had fanned hopes Seoul might put plans for the Terminal High Altitude Area ­Defence system on hold.  Park supported the installation of the system to help protect South Korea against threats from North Korea, which Beijing says can peer through China’s defences. However, such a de-escalation does not appear to be imminent.

 

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

The Bag Holder and His Bag

Can you see those swans coming in for a landing on Pond USA? They’re not exactly black swans, because you knew they were out there circling, but they’re dark enough against the twilight’s last gleaming to give you the heebie jeebies.

Troubles and portents of more trouble are stacking up as we approach the Ides of March zone of financial turmoil. You must surely surmise that a debt ceiling impact, a Federal Reserve interest rate hike, and the election of a Dutch anti-EU leader all scheduled for that one day are a good start on the greater unravel to follow. Glowering in the spotlight at center stage will be President Donald Trump, designated bag-holder of the Deep State and its myrmidons. And what’s in that bag he’s holding? Just a couple of shit sandwiches and a hair shirt for his journey down the lonely road to exile. But getting rid of Trump would only leave the Deep State with a bigger problem: itself. That is, an economy and a society that can’t be governed by any means.

I think many professional observers-of-the-scene are missing something in this unspooling story: the Deep State is actually becoming more impotent and ineffectual, not omnipotent. Case in point: RussiaGate — come on, let’s finally call it that — the popular idea that Russia hacked the 2016 presidential election. It’s popular because it’s such a convenient excuse for the failure of a corrupt, exhausted, and brain-dead Democratic establishment. But all the exertions of the Deep State to put over this story since last summer were negated this week by two events.

First, there was former NSA Director James Clapper’s appearance on NBC’s Sunday Meet the Press show with Chuck Todd featuring the following interchange:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

 

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

The Real Nuclear Threat

The Real Nuclear Threat

On January 26, 2017 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board has moved up its Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to metaphorical midnight, and it now stands at just 2.5 minutes to midnight. Why did the Board decide to make this change? Essentially, “because Donald Trump.” In other news, the Board also observed that although the Paris climate accord is a good thing, the climate is pretty close to midnight as well.

These are very serious people: well-educated, professional, some Nobel Prize winners—in a word, experts. We should trust their word. But then they trust Donald Trump’s word. What gives? Apparently, none of them are experts on Donald Trump. I don’t pretend to be one either, so for the paragraph that follows let me turn it over to my old friend and resident expert on all things Trump, Captain Obvious.

“If you look at Trump’s business dealings, he has been consistently cautious and risk-averse. If you look at his political maneuverings, and glance briefly at his book, The Art of the Deal, you discover that his negotiating technique always involves making an extreme first offer, then seeking compromise. And if you look at his Twitter feed, you discover that he loves to troll people. Have these respected Atomic Scientists been trolled? It would certainly appear that way…”

And so I remain entirely unimpressed by the untestable hypothesis espoused by the atomic experts that Trump’s mouth is capable of moving the minute hand of the doomsday clock. But I am even less impressed by something else: the complete and utter failure of these nuclear sages to understand what the actual nuclear threat is, which is, at this moment, becoming quite extreme. For this they may perhaps be forgiven; if all they do is read and listen to Western media sources, then they would never find out anything about it. Western intelligence sources are no better, seeing as they appear to have been “hacked by the Russians.”

In fact, it would appear that the only way to get an inkling of what’s really going on…

The Future – Putting it All Together

2017 Countdown

Temple of JanusThis is the year of political hell. The question is not about supporting one side or the other. This is a time that calls for us not to be small petty creatures but a case that requires rational human beings, which seems to be more impossible with each passing day. Never did there arise a period that has witnessed any generation devolve into such agitations in political views surrounded by every considerable danger to our way of life and the survival of our government structure. The imprisoned winds of the Romans symbolized by keeping the doors to their Temple of Janus closed during peace and opened during war have indeed been let loose, but this is predominantly for civil war.

CONFIDENCE rules everything. It is critical upon what society believes. With all the turmoil in politics, even with the Congress in the hands of the Republicans, they still lack the votes for major reform. Then there is the rise of the left hell bent upon bringing down Trump at all costs to preserve the elite and status quo. The majority are generally fools. They actually believe the words of politicians to their doom.

IBEUUS-D 3-11-2017

Nevertheless, it is the unsettling disturbance within politics that reflects the crumbling level of CONFIDENCE. With that, all bets are off. Capital becomes confused. Looking at the Euro, the turmoil politically in Europe one would look to sell the Euro and buy dollars. Then we turn and look at the United States and all we see is incredible infighting and a battle waged by the left to prevent any populist reforms whatsoever. We hear politicians and the press demeaning the rise of “populism” as if the people are just fools who are clueless and do not really know what they are demanding.

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

The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare

The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare

The battle raging in the Deep State isn’t just a bureaucratic battle–it’s a war for the soul, identity and direction of the nation.
When do the unlimited powers of the Intelligence/Security agencies threaten America’s domestic and global national interests? The CIA and its political enablers claim the agency’s essentially unlimited powers, partially revealed by Wikileak’s Vault 7, pose no threat to America’s interests, since they are intended to “defend” American interests.
This is the rationale presented by neocon CIA allies in both political parties: the CIA can’t possibly threaten America’s interests because the CIA defines America’s interests.
This is the wormhole down which civil liberties and democracy have drained. It is an extraordinarily defining moment in American history when the director of the FBI publicly declares that there is no such thing as “absolute privacy” in the U.S.
In effect, privacy is now contingent on the level of interest the Security State has in the private conversation/data. If we read the U.S. Constitution, we do not find such contingencies: civil liberties are absolute. Post-1790 presidents have temporarily mooted civil liberties in time of war, and the CIA-led camp of the Deep State has justified its unlimited powers by effectively declared “a state of war is now permanent and enduring.”
So what’s left to defend if America has become the enemy of civil liberties and democracy, i.e. become a totalitarian state ruled by Security Services and their political henchmen and apologists?
I have long suggested that the tectonic plates of the Deep State are shifting as the ruling consensus has eroded. Some elements of the Deep State–what I call the progressive wing, which is (ironically to some) anchored in the military services– now view the neocon-CIA (Security State)-Wall Street elements as profoundly dangerous to America’s long-term interests, both domestically and globally.

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

16 Year Congressman: CIA Leak Shows We’re “Sliding Down the Slippery Slope Toward Totalitarianism, Where Private Lives Do Not Exist”

16 Year Congressman: CIA Leak Shows We’re “Sliding Down the Slippery Slope Toward Totalitarianism, Where Private Lives Do Not Exist”

That the CIA has reached into the lives of all Americans through its wholesale gathering of the nation’s “haystack” of information has already been reported.

It is bad enough that the government spies on its own people. It is equally bad that the CIA, through its incompetence, has opened the cyberdoor to anyone with the technological skills and connections to spy on anyone else.

The constant erosion of privacy at the hands of the government and corporations has annihilated the concept of a “right to privacy,” which is embedded in the rationale of the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are sliding down the slippery slope toward totalitarianism, where private lives do not exist.

We have entered a condition of constitutional crisis that requires a full-throated response from the American people.

Before you label Kucinich as being overly-dramatic, you may want to note that  Bill Binney – the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, the 36-year NSA veteran widely who was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees – told Washington’s Blog that America has already become a police state.

And Thomas Drake – one of the top NSA executives, and Senior Change Leader within the NSA – told us the same thing.

And Kirk Wiebe – a 32-year NSA veteran who received the Director CIA’s Meritorious Unit Award and the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award – agrees (tweet via Jesselyn Radack, attorney for many national security whistleblowers, herself a Department of Justice whistleblower):

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

Bill Gross: “Our Financial System Is A Truckload Of Nitroglycerin On A Bumpy Road”

Bill Gross: “Our Financial System Is A Truckload Of Nitroglycerin On A Bumpy Road”

Courtesy of Bill Gross’ latest monthly letter “Show Me The Money“, here are some perspectives on the only thing that has kept the global economy going since the financial crisis: debt, and lost of it.
in 2017, the global economy has created more credit relative to GDP than that at the beginning of 2008’s disaster. In the U.S., credit of $65 trillion is roughly 350% of annual GDP and the ratio is rising. In China, the ratio has more than doubled in the past decade to nearly 300%. Since 2007, China has added $24 trillion worth of debt to its collective balance sheet. Over the same period, the U.S. and Europe only added $12 trillion each. Capitalism, with its adopted fractional reserve banking system, depends on credit expansion and the printing of additional reserves by central banks, which in turn are re-lent by private banks to create pizza stores, cell phones and a myriad of other products and business enterprises. But the credit creation has limits and the cost of credit (interest rates) must be carefully monitored so that borrowers (think subprime) can pay back the monthly servicing costs. If rates are too high (and credit as a % of GDP too high as well), then potential Lehman black swans can occur. On the other hand, if rates are too low (and credit as a % of GDP declines), then the system breaks down, as savers, pension funds and insurance companies become unable to earn a rate of return high enough to match and service their liabilities. 

U.S. Total Credit Market Debt as a Percent of GDP

Chart: U.S. Total Credit Market Debt as a Percent of GDP

Central banks attempt to walk this fine line – generating mild credit growth that matches nominal GDP growth – and keeping the cost of the credit at a yield that is not too high, nor too low, but just right. Janet Yellen is a modern day Goldilocks.

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

Germany’s Chief Prosecutor To Start Probe Into Wikileaks-Exposed Frankfurt Cyber-Spy Hub

Germany’s Chief Prosecutor To Start Probe Into Wikileaks-Exposed Frankfurt Cyber-Spy Hub

The Germans are once again angry at the Americans over spying. Just a few years after Obama’s infamous apology for hacking Merkel’s phone, Germany’s chief federal prosecutor announced plans to carefully examine documents from Wikileaks (related to a secret CIA cyber-spy hub in Frankfurt), and will launch an investigation if it sees concrete indications of wrongdoing.

As VOA News reports, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said Berlin was in close touch with Washington about the documents, which Wikileaks said showed that the CIA used the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a major remote hacking base.

“We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told Reuters. 

“We’re looking at it very carefully.”

He said Germany needed to verify the authenticity of the documents, which, as DW.com reports, purportedly revealed that a top secret CIA unit used the German city of Frankfurt am Main as the starting point for numerous hacking attacks on Europe, China and the Middle East.

WikiLeaks reported that the group developed trojans and other malicious software in the American Consulate General Office, the largest US consulate in the world. The programs focused on targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

 The documents revealed that CIA experts worked in the building under cover and included advice for life in Germany.

“Do not leave anything electronic or sensitive unattended in your room,” it told employees, also advising them to enjoy Lufthansa’s free alcohol “in moderation.”

The Frankfurt hackers, part of the Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe, were said to be given diplomatic passports and a State Department identity. It instructed employees how to safely enter Germany. A WikiLeaks tweet published an section of the Frankfurt information.

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

Democrat v Republican

Party Politics

We are perhaps witnessing the political crisis of a life time. Our model has been projecting this crisis and I warned more than 20 years ago that the Democratic Party was in serious decline. Keep in mind that Trump effectively became a third party candidate within the Republican Party. So by no means is this a major victory for Republicans. We are witnessing the collapse of government from internal corruption gone wild. Both parties have sold their souls to the elite. Why would all the bankers and hedge funds donate to Hillary if she REALLY cared about the middle class? Politicians have lied constantly from both parties. This crisis of abuse of power trying to link Trump to Russia was a desperate attempt to win. There was no proof and that is the only reason Obama had to accept the vote.

Where we go from here is nothing but chaos. We are witnessing the meltdown of the European Parliament structure as well. This is the self-destruction of the West and the necessary element that will shift the financial capital of the world to China. So buckle up. This is by no means Democrat v Republican. This is game over. The sooner we all realize that both sides are really against the people, the better off we will be in the long-run. To save something of what we have DEMANDS we stop the partisan bickering. If you see yourself as a Democrat or Republican BEFORE being an American, you are going to end up on the short-end of the stick.

The Dutch love affair with natural gas: A cautionary tale for the United States?

The Dutch love affair with natural gas: A cautionary tale for the United States?

The story sounds familiar. For decades oil and natural gas drilling have been proceeding and creating prosperity for those involved. At some point significant earthquakes occur in areas where they were formerly very rare or nonexistent. Those quakes are linked to oil and gas drilling and production. The industry denies the link.

The quakes continue, get worse and finally get strong enough to do damage.

To those living in the United States, this reads like stories coming out of the fracking boom in states that include Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, Kansas and Arkansas. To those living in Europe, it’s the story coming out of The Netherlands, home to the Groningen Gas Field, one of the largest natural gas finds ever.

The Groningen field has been both a blessing and a curse for the Dutch. Since its discovery in 1959 the Dutch have reaped huge financial benefits from having their own secure and abundant source of natural gas. Beyond that, the country has until recently been a major exporter of natural gas to its European neighbors.

But the field has also proven to be a drag on the rest of the economy, inflicting what has been dubbed the “Dutch disease.” In short, the Dutch disease refers to negative effects that a huge natural resource find can visit upon a society. These include a decline in other sectors of the economy and a strong currency which makes exports less affordable to foreign buyers. The moniker “Dutch disease” results from the fact that The Netherlands was the first place such effects were studied in detail.

What has caught the Dutch by surprise–and may someday soon catch America by surprise–is the speed with which its decades-long reliance on a large initial endowment of natural gas has turned into a liability.

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

Olduvai II: Exodus
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