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Geopolitical Tensions Are Designed To Distract The Public From Economic Decline

Geopolitical Tensions Are Designed To Distract The Public From Economic Decline

Tracking geopolitical and fiscal developments over the past several years is a bit like watching a slow motion train wreck; you know exactly what the consequences of the events will be, you try to warn people as much as possible, but, ultimately, you cannot reverse the disaster. The disaster has for all intents and purposes already happened. What we are witnessing is the aftermath as a forgone conclusion.

This is why whenever someone asks me as an economic and political analyst “when the collapse is going to happen,” I have to shake my head in bewilderment. The “collapse” is here now. It is done. It is a historical fact. It’s just that not many people have the eyes to see it yet, primarily because they are hyper-focused on all the wrong things.

For many centuries now, elitists in power have understood the value of geopolitical distraction as a tool for controlling the masses. If you examine the underlying motivations behind the majority of wars between nations regardless of the era, you will in most cases discover that the power brokers on both sides tend to be rather friendly with each other. In fact, monarchies and oligarchies are historically notorious for fabricating diplomatic tensions and conflicts in order to force populations back under their control.  That is to say, wars and other man-made conflicts give the citizenry something to react to, instead of hunting down the establishment cabal like they should.

One of the greatest illusions of human progress is the notion that most conflicts happen at random; that there are two sides and that those sides are fighting over ideological differences. In truth, most conflicts have nothing to do with ideological differences between governments and financial oligarchs.

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

Alberta and oil prices: How Middle East geopolitics and religion affect our future

Alberta and oil prices: How Middle East geopolitics and religion affect our future

Calgary’s economic fortunes enmeshed in decisions made on the other side of the globe

Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi at a news conference following a meeting in Doha, Qatar February 16, 2016.

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi at a news conference following a meeting in Doha, Qatar February 16, 2016. (Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters)

Calgary at a Crossroads

Calgary is unlike most other cities.

It is a city of 1.2 million people separated from its two nearest urban neighbours by 300 kilometres of prairie and 1,000 kilometres of mountains.

Yet as a city Calgary’s economic fortunes are affected less by the surrounding landscapes and neighbouring cities, and more by difficult-to-comprehend and impossible-to-influence decisions made on the other side of the planet.

For better or for worse Calgary’s well-being and prospects hinge on the world price of oil.

Here is a look at the escalating rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and what its impact might be on Calgary.

The history of the rivalry

We have visited and worked in both countries.

To Alberta eyes there are many similarities between the two Middle Eastern countries ruled by adherents of Islam.

But that only makes the rivalry more difficult to understand.

So, what are the differences between the two countries? What is the historical basis of this national rivalry?

Why is it heightened today?

And does all this have any implications for Calgary’s economic fortunes as a city tied in to the global oil market?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are the largest and most powerful countries in the Middle East.

Ethnically Saudi Arabia is Arab while Iran is predominantly Persian.

Saudis speak Arabic, while Iranians speak Farsi.

SAUDI-IRAN

Shi’ite Muslims try to cross a barricade during a protest against the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed along with others in Saudi Arabia, in front of Saudi Arabia embassy in New Delhi, India, January 4, 2016. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

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

 

Plunging Commodities Interfere With The New World Order

Anglo American, a British company, and one of the world’s biggest miners, and a ‘producer’ (actually just a miner, how did those two terms ever get mixed up?!) of platinum (world no. 1), diamonds, copper, nickel, iron ore and coal, said today it would scrap dividends AND fire 85,000 of it 135,000 global workforce (that’s 63%!). 
Anglo is just the first in a long litany line we’ll see going forward. Commodities ‘producers’ are being completely wiped out, hammered, killed, murdered. They’ve been able to hedge their downside risks so far, but now find they can’t even afford the price of the hedges (insurance) anymore. And then there’s all the banks and funds that financed them.

And they’ve all been gearing up for production increases too, with grandiose plans and -leveraged- investments aiming for infinity and beyond. You know, it’s the business model. 2016 will be a year for the record books.

Just check this Bloomberg graph for copper supply and demand as an example. How ugly would you like it today?

And what’s true for copper goes for the whole range of raw materials. Because China went from double-digit growth to shrinking imports and exports in pretty much no time flat. And China was all they had left.

Iron ore is dropping below $40, and that’s about the break-even point. Of course, oil has done that quite a while ago already. It’s just that we like to think oil’s some kind of stand-alone freak incident. It is not. With oil today plunging below $37 (down some 15% since the OPEC meeting last week), it doesn’t matter anymore how much more efficient shale companies can get.

They’re toast. They’re done. And with them are their lenders. Who have hedged their bets too, obviously, but hedging has a price. Or else you could throw money at any losing enterprise.

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

World War III Draws Closer As Russia Accuses Turkey Of Being ‘Secret Allies’ With ISIS

World War III Draws Closer As Russia Accuses Turkey Of Being ‘Secret Allies’ With ISIS

2S19 Msta-S - Photo from Wikimedia CommonsAre Russia and Turkey on the verge of going to war?  In remarks that were almost entirely ignored by the western media, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the Turkish government of being “secret allies” with ISIS on Friday.  And on Monday, the Russians announced that they would be attempting to seal the border between Syria and Turkey, and we also learned that the Russians have been rushing heavy artillery units into Syria.  As tensions between Russia and Turkey continue to escalate, could we be in danger of seeing World War III erupt in the Middle East?

The Russians have clearly become convinced that Turkey is at the core of the problems in Syria, and that is why the Russians now plan to completely seal Syria’s border with Turkey.  Lavrov seems to think that this will represent a giant step toward defeating terror groups such as ISIS…

“We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil.”

And the Russians are right about this.  ISIS militants use Turkey as a home base, and it has been documented that Turkey has been “training ISIS militants, funneling weapons to them, buying their oil, and tending to their wounded in Turkish hospitals”.

It was already common knowledge that Turkey was doing all of these things, but now the Russian government is publicly accusing the Turkish government of being “secret allies” with ISIS.  When Lavrov chose to use these words on Friday, he knew exactly what he was saying…

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

This Week In Energy: Geopolitical Triggers Could Spur More Price Volatility

This Week In Energy: Geopolitical Triggers Could Spur More Price Volatility

Tensions heated up in the Persian Gulf this week after Iran fired upon and seized a cargo ship near the Straits of Hormuz. Considered to be the most strategic and vital chokepoint for global oil trade, the narrow stretch of water is regularly patrolled by the U.S. Navy. Oil prices briefly surged before it was known who was on board the ship. Once it became known that the ship was carrying a Marshall Islands flag and had no Americans on board, tensions calmed a bit. Still, the U.S. Navy sent a destroyer to the Straits in order to try to force the Iranians to back down. “At first appearance, this does seem to be provocative behavior, but we don’t have all the facts yet,” Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said amid all the confusion. Iran insists the incident was a commercial dispute over unpaid debt, but there are fears that Iran thought it was targeting a U.S. ship. In any case, the incident will surely not be welcomed by U.S. President Barack Obama, who is seeking to reach a historic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

In another maritime dispute, the war of words between China and its neighbors over sovereignty in the South China Sea heated up this week as well. First came a statement from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which said that China’s reclamation work in the South China Sea “eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.” China’s Foreign Ministry followed up with a terse response, saying it was “extremely concerned” over ASEAN’s statement because the conflict was not one between China and ASEAN, but rather a dispute that should be resolved between China and individual nations.

 

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

Recovery, Geopolitics and Detergents

Recovery, Geopolitics and Detergents

Increasingly over the past year or so, when people ask me what I do, and that happens a lot on a trip like the one I’m currently on in the world of down under, I find myself not just stating the usual ‘I write about finance and energy’, but adding: ‘it seems to become more and more about geopolitics too’. And it’s by no means just me: a large part of the ‘alternative finance blogosphere’, or whatever you wish to call it, is shifting towards that same orientation.

Not that no-one ever wrote about geopolitics before, but it used to be far less prevalent. Much of that, I think, has to do with a growing feeling of discontent with the manner in which a number of topics are handled by the major media and the political world. Moreover, as would seem obvious, certain topics lay bare in very transparent ways how finance and geopolitics are intertwined.

In the past year, we’ve seen the crash of the oil price, which will have – financial and political – effects in the future that dwarf what we’ve seen thus far. We’ve seen Europe and its banks stepping up their efforts to wrestle Greece into – financial and political – submission. And then there’s the nigh unparalleled propaganda machine that envelops the Ukraine-Crimea-Russia issue, which has bankrupted the economy of the first and imposed heavy economic sanctions on the latter, for political reasons.

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

 

 

Lord Rothschild Warns Investors: “Geopolitical Situation Most Dangerous Since WWII”

Lord Rothschild Warns Investors: “Geopolitical Situation Most Dangerous Since WWII”

For Lord Rothschild, preserving wealth has “become increasingly difficult,” recently, as he warns, rather ominously, “we are faced with a geopolitical situation as dangerous as any we have faced since World War II.” Furthermore Lord Rothschild summarizes his thoughts briefly, eloquently, and ominously… as he touches on the global debasement of fiat currencies, disappointing growth (in light of massive monetary stimulus), and extreme stock market valuations. As Rothschild Wealth Management noted last year, equities are not well supported by current valuations, while monetary policy is limited by high debt levels and interest rates that are already close to zero… exposing equities to a potentially sharp correction.

Lord Rothschild summarizes his thoughts briefly, eloquently, and ominously…

Our policy has been clearly expressed over the years. Simply put, it is to deliver long-term capital growthwhile preserving shareholders’ capital; the realisation of this policy comes at a time of heightened risk, complexity and uncertainty. The economic and geopolitical environment therefore becomes increasingly difficult to predict.

The world economy grew at a disappointing and uneven rate in 2014 after six years of monetary stimulus and extraordinarily low interest rates.

Stock market valuations however, are near an all-time high with equities benefiting from quantitative easing.

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

 

Is the US Overplaying Its Energy Hand?

Is the US Overplaying Its Energy Hand?

In the grand poker game of geopolitics, energy is often the wild card. That’s why the Middle East is such a mess: Great Powers (first Britain, more recently the United States) have been installing, propping up, toppling, threatening, or bribing regimes in that region — almost always to the detriment of indigenous populations — ever since the first oil discovery there prior to World War I.

Oil and natural gas interests are clearly implicated in current turmoil in or around Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Iran—and also Ukraine. In each instance it requires some historical context to understand the peculiarities of the situation; let’s focus for a moment on the last of these countries.

Ukraine has long been a transit route for Russian gas destined for Europe. The fact that Russia is an energy superpower is frustrating to Anglo-American geopolitical strategists, who see Eurasia as the key square on the “grand chessboard” (to use Zbigniew Brzezinski’s phrase) for maintaining global dominance. Hence their strategy of hemming Russia’s western flank with NATO bases, and their more recent tactic of subverting the constitutional (although thoroughly corrupt) Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych (via injections of CIA cash to foment violent demonstrations) and immediately legitimizing the coup that overthrew him. Washington evidently would like either to control or to destabilize and weaken Russia; this, after all, is the way the West has dealt for decades with energy exporters in the Middle East. If Moscow won’t be the next Riyadh or Kuwait City, then let it become the next Tehran. This strategy makes many people in Europe nervous: they don’t much like dependency on Russia for energy imports, but they positively dread the prospect of being somehow cut off from needed supplies of natural gas.

 

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

12 Reasons Why Ritholtz and Many Experts Are Mistaken On Gold

12 Reasons Why Ritholtz and Many Experts Are Mistaken On Gold

This lack of understanding is not confined to the public but also prevalent with some financial experts. One example of this is one of the more vocal anti gold experts in recent months – leading Bloomberg columnist Barry Ritholtz.

This lack of understanding results in many investors being very exposed and at risk of financial losses due to their significant over exposure to paper assets and fiat digital currencies and complete lack of any allocation to gold whatsoever.

These experts are highly intelligent people. As are many in the public and yet the concept of diversifying and having an allocation to gold is utterly foreign to them.

The public have little terms of reference except for movies such as Goldfinger and fairytales about Leprechauns and crocks of gold. Indeed, their primary reference point is often jewellery, wedding rings and of course the recent ‘cash for gold’ phenomenon.

They have no understanding of the central role gold plays in macro-economics, geopolitics and of course monetarily.

They have no knowledge of the fact that gold has protected people throughout historyfrom financial and economic crashes and from currency devaluations. The significant body of academic research on gold showing it to be a hedging instrument and a safe haven asset is ignored and unknown.

We find ourselves constantly confronted by the same set of ill-informed opinions on gold.

Many of these misconceptions were encapsulated in a 2013 article by  Barry Ritholtz, with the peculiar title “12 Rules of Goldbuggery”.

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

 

 

U.S. Navy Considers Setting Up Ship Base in Australia

U.S. Navy Considers Setting Up Ship Base in Australia

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is in talks with Australia about “basing” Navy vessels in its main South Pacific ally, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said, a move that would risk inflaming tensions with China.

“We’re doing a study together with the Australia Defence Force to see what might be feasible for naval cooperation in and around Australia, which might include basing ships,” Admiral Greenert said during a speech Tuesday at a university in Canberra. It was unclear if Greenert was referring to permanent basing or rotational placement of ships.

U.S. is in the midst of a “pivot-to-Asia” that will see 60 percent of its naval forces deployed in the region by 2020, a response to its growing strategic importance. It’s a policy China claims is an attempt to contain its own military expansion into the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

“Increasingly the Indian Ocean is becoming a geostrategic hot spot,” said Rosita Dellios, an associate professor of international relations at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast. “Africa, India, the Gulf states all share the Indian Ocean and Australia is an important player.”

China sent submarines into the India Ocean last year, with one visiting a Sri Lankan port near India’s coast in a show of power that unsettled Indian leaders. China is also promoting a “Maritime Silk Road” that would see it developing ports and infrastructure in Indian Ocean countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan.

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

 

Global Conflict Intensity Spikes To 7-Year High

Global Conflict Intensity Spikes To 7-Year High

If it’s not one geopolitical concern these days it’s invariably another. If today’s story isn’t weak-handed Greece escalating the rhetoric in its hopeless game of chicken with eurozone creditors, it’s ISIS ratcheting up the shock factor in a campaign to scare U.S. coalition partners away from an increasingly ineffectual bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. If it’s not an escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, it’s logrollingbetween the U.S. and Saudi Arabia with the fate of the Assad regime, Gazprom, and the Russian economy at stake. As we’ve seen over the past several months (e.g. crude in a veritable tailspin) and over the past several days (e.g. hourly news out of Greece raining on the BLS’s non-farm revision parade), markets are becoming increasingly tethered to the vagaries of geopolitics — and don’t expect that trend to abate any time soon.

Fortunately, BBVA is on the case, noting that “geopolitical analysis is becoming a key element on the agenda for 2015.” Indeed. That’s why the bank has just launched their first ever “BBVA Research conflict & social unrest monthly update.”

From BBVA, on conflict:

During January, the presence of ISIS in the Middle East continued to be a threat while the Russian-Ukrainian crisis escalated, increasing geopolitical worries in the region. In contrast, territorial disputes and geopolitical tensions eased in South-Eastern Asia. Social unrest related to demands for democracy (North Africa), together with terrorism and economic demands (Europe), have also increased…

…key hot spots continued to be the Russia-Ukraine and ISIS conflictThe Russian-Ukraine crisis escalated again in January (see our previous hot topic) after a relatively calmer period during October-November. This triggered a new meeting in the EU level to discuss new sanctions. The situation in neighbouring countries (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia…) also remained tense.  In the Middle East, the International coalition forces regained some ground in Northern Syria (Kobane) and were able to stop the advance of ISIS in Iraq. However, it will take more time to secure peace in the region. Tensions also increased in Western Europe after the attacks in Paris and in Belgium.

And on protests:

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

 

2015: Grounds for Optimism

2015: Grounds for Optimism

This may seem like an odd line of reasoning to pursue given what everyone else seems to be saying. Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes (always a safe bet, but makes for boring reading) while others are warning of the potential for a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia (always a possibility, on par with an asteroid strike or a supernova in our galactic vicinity). But this is all more of the same. The interesting question to ask is, How has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has?

To my mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. It is now very commonly and completely understood that:

1. The United States is an evil empire, attempting not so much to rule the world as to disrupt it to its short-term advantage.

2. The United States is failing, as an empire and as a country, and no amount of fraud, mayhem, torture and murder is going to save it.

3. The United States is still quite powerful and can cause massive damage on its way down. This damage must be contained, while plans are drawn up for an international arrangement that will arise upon its demise.

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

New questions raised about U.S.-Saudi relationship

New questions raised about U.S.-Saudi relationship

Just before the holidays, Barack Obama signed a new law punishing Venezuela’s leaders for human rights violations — for persecution and imprisonment of union leaders, journalists and protesters, and for a general disregard for the law.

“The United States,” proclaimed the sanctions, “supports the people of Venezuela in their efforts to … advance representative democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Also, the State Department says, Venezuela is far too cozy with terrorists, maintaining a “permissive environment” for, among other villains, agents of Iran and Hezbollah.

Nasty, nasty Venezuela. How could Obama allow such sins to go unpunished?

Now, at about the same time as Obama was sanctioning Venezuela’s terrorist-coddling human rights violators, Loujain al Hathloul and Maysa al Hathmoudi were arrested at the border of Saudi Arabia, a close and loyal ally of the U.S. in its struggle against global terror.

Their crime was an act that’s actually encouraged in Venezuela; more on that in a minute.

 

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

Jeff Gundlach: “If Oil Drops To $40 The Geopolitical Consequences Could Be Terrifying”

Jeff Gundlach: “If Oil Drops To $40 The Geopolitical Consequences Could Be Terrifying”

In a recent interview with FuW, DoubleLine’s Jeff Gundlach explained his concerns about the oil market not being “unequivocally good” for everyone…

 Question: The crash in the oil market is already causing jitters in the financial markets around the globe. What is your take on that?

Gundlach: Oil is incredibly important right now. If oil falls to around $40 a barrel then I think the yield on ten year treasury note is going to 1%. I hope it does not go to $40 because then something is very, very wrong with the world, not just the economy. The geopolitical consequences could be – to put it bluntly – terrifying.

What would that mean for stocks?

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

 

The Outlook for the New Year — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org

The Outlook for the New Year — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org.

The Outlook for the New Year

Dear Readers: The conflict that Washington has initiated between the West and Russia/China is reckless and irresponsible. Nuclear war could be the outcome. Indeed, Washington has been preparing for nuclear war since the George W. Bush regime.
Washington has revised US war doctrine in order to initiate conflict with a first strike nuclear attack.
Washington has discarded the ABM treaty in order to build and deploy anti-ballistic missiles that are intended to prevent a retaliatory strike against the US. Washington is engaged in a buildup of military forces on Russia’s borders, and Washington is demonizing Russia’s government with false charges.
As the Bush/Obama regimes dismantled the safeguards put in place in order to minimize the risk of nuclear war, no protests came from the American public or the media. Washington’s European vassal states have also been silent.
Washington’s drive for hegemony has brought nuclear insanity to the world.
Moscow and Beijing understand that they are Washington’s targets. As Larchmonter explains, Russia and China are conjoining their economic and military capabilities in order to protect against Washington’s attack. Read what Larchmonter reports. Open the URL in my column below and run your cursor over the bottom of the page and click “page fit.” Choose 50% and readable text will fill your screen.
Washington’s demonization of Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad were preludes to military attacks on Iraq, Libya, and Syria. In view of these precedents, it is reasonable to regard Washington’s demonization of Vladimir Putin as a prelude to military action.
Russia is not Iraq, Libya, or Syria. Russian war doctrine states that Russia can use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear or conventional attack on Russia. For the world to sit silent while Washington’s arrogance provokes armageddon telegraphs total political failure. Where are the voices in behalf of humanity?

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


Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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