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Amazon Chaos: “BlackRock Is Literally Reaping Profits As The World’s Jungles Burn”

Amazon Chaos: “BlackRock Is Literally Reaping Profits As The World’s Jungles Burn”

According to a new report from the Friends of the Earth U.S.; Amazon Watch; and Profundo, Larry Fink’s BlackRock Inc is one of the top investors in companies “responsible for tropical forest destruction in the Amazon and around the world.”

The report called BlackRock’s Big Deforestation Problem, published on Amazon Watch’s website, claims BlackRock is the top three shareholders in 25 of the world’s biggest publicly traded deforestation-risk companies; these companies are known for producing soya, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber, but also have a long track record in burning down forests to clear land for agriculture purposes. The New York-based investment bank is also a top ten shareholder in another 50 of the world’s top deforestation-risk companies, the report added.

“The data is clear: from the Amazon to the great forests of Africa and Southeast Asia, BlackRock is a global leader in financing forest destruction,” said Jeff Conant, senior international forest program manager with Friends of the Earth U.S., the report’s lead author.

“As long as this financial behemoth continues to unconditionally back the world’s most destructive agribusiness companies, the forests of the world, and consequently the climate and the rights of forest-dwelling people, will continue to go up in flames. BlackRock is literally reaping profits as the world’s jungles burn.”

BlackRock: Leveraged Loan, High-Yield Markets ‘Increasingly Converging’

BlackRock’s investment in deforestation-risk companies has been increasing in the last half-decade. In 4Q14, BlackRock owned roughly $1 billion in deforestation-risk investments. By 4Q18, the value of these investments jumped to $1.6 billion. 

The report said the investment firm’s deforestation-linked commodity holdings are comprised mainly of index funds. In 2014, 80% of BlackRock’s deforestation-linked commodity holdings were through index funds; by 2018, it had jumped to 94%. 

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

Climate Crisis Means the Ruling Class has Failed. Can the Working Class Inherit the Earth?

Climate Crisis Means the Ruling Class has Failed. Can the Working Class Inherit the Earth?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The climate crisis is proof positive that the ruling class is an utter failure — but it will not fall on its own. Can the working class rise to the challenge? It sure will help if we understand that our class interests are not merely the economic needs of working people — no matter how important that is — but the universal interests of a healthy planet for all the people. Let’s start acting like it.

The corporate solutions to the climate crisis must dodge the causes of the crisis. The ruling class uses deception and secrecy to limit public debate. When the facts become obvious and overwhelming corporate politicians simply refuse to debate it. Gag rules are back in fashion. When the people demand a Green New Deal the same politicians water it down and disarm it.

Power For Profit is Still the Prime Directive

Meanwhile, the Corporate State pursues the only agenda it has ever known: power and profit. If we accept corporate empire as normal, natural or eternal there is nothing left but better management, technical fixes, adaptation, and illusions of endless growth.

Since corporate capitalism is a “grow or die” system, it cannot consider limits even at a time when planetary limits are on display for all to see and verified by our best science. For example, there is no place in corporate plans for the conservation of energy despite the fact that energy not used is the truest form of clean energy. Instead of keeping in the ground, it’s always more and more.

Former Trump Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobile CEO, Rex Tillerson repeats the managerial view.

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

Bizarro World: The Herd Has Truly Gone MadYou’re not crazy. The world we now live in is

Bizarro World: The Herd Has Truly Gone MadYou’re not crazy. The world we now live in is

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

~ Charles Mackay (1841)

Like me, you may often feel gobsmacked when looking at the world around you.

How did things get so screwed up?

The simple summary is: the world has gone mad.

It’s not the first time.

History is peppered with periods when the minds of men (and women) deviated far from the common good. The Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the rise of the Third Reich, Stalin’s Great Purge, McCarthy’s Red Scares — to name just a few.

Like it or not, we are now living during a similar era of self-destructive mass delusion. When the majority is pursuing — even cheering on — behaviors that undermine its well-being. Except this time, the stakes are higher than ever; our species’ very existence is at risk.

Bizarro Economics

Evidence that the economy is sliding into recession continues to mount.

GDP is slowing. Earnings warnings issued by publicly-traded companies are at a 13-year high. The most reliable recession predictor of the past 50 years, an inverted US Treasury curve, has been in place for the past quarter.

Yet the major stock indices hit all-time highs earlier this week. And every one of the 38 assets in the broad-based asset basket tracked by Deutsche Bank was up for the month of June — something that has never happened in the 150 years prior to 2019.

It has become all-too clear that markets today are no longer driven by business fundamentals. Only central bank-provided liquidity matters. As long as the flood of cheap credit continues to flow (via rock-bottom/negative interest rates and purchase programs), keeping cash-destroying companies alive and enabling record share buybacks, all boats will rise.

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

‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit

‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit

Parts of the documentary Modified are spent at the kitchen table. But it’s not really a tale about wonderful recipes or the preparation of food. Ultimately, it’s a story of capitalism, money and power and how our most basic rights are being eroded by unscrupulous commercial interests.

The film centres on its maker, Aube Giroux, who resides in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her interest in food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was inspired by her mother, Jali, who also appears throughout. Aube says that when her parents bought their first house her mother immediately got rid of the lawn and planted a huge garden where she grew all kinds of heirloom vegetables, berries, flowers, legumes and garlic.

“She wanted me and my sister to grow up knowing the story behind the food that we ate, so our backyard was basically our grocery store,” says Aube.

During the film, we are treated not only to various outdoor scenes of the Giroux’s food garden (their ‘grocery store’) but also to Aube and her mother’s passion for preparing homemade culinary delights. The ‘backyard’ is the grocery store and much of Giroux family life revolves around the kitchen and the joy of healthy, nutritious food.

When GMOs first began appearing in food, Aube says that what bothered her mother was that some of the world’s largest chemical companies were patenting these new genetically engineered seeds and controlling the seed market.

In the film, Aube explains, “Farmers who grow GMOs have to sign technology license agreements promising never to save or replant the patented seeds. My mom didn’t think it was a good idea to allow corporations to engineer and then patent the seeds that we rely on for food. She believed that seeds belong in the hands of people.”

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

Equality: A Beneficial Alternative to Collapse

Equality: A Beneficial Alternative to Collapse

What future shall we choose? Equality or inequality? Deep democracy or more limited forms? Sustainability and wise stewardship of resources, or exploitation for profit? You have a good idea of where current systems are taking us. A viable alternative path exists, and that path is science based.

InMarch 2018, Bloomberg news reported that income inequality in the United States had hit a disturbing new high. Not unlike atmospheric carbon dioxide, income and wealth inequality in the United States have been rising since at least the 1980s, under Democratic and Republican presidents, and Democratic and Republican Congresses. The Occupy Wall Street movement crystallized public attention on inequality in 2011 with its slogan “We are the 99 percent.” In 2014 the French economist Thomas Piketty wrote a masterful book on the subject that became a global best seller. His take-home message? Capitalism itself produces severe income inequality.

Yet with all the written words and public discourse on inequality, very little attention has been paid to its complement, income and wealth equality (or near-equality, essential equality). That discussion is long overdue.

Obviously, severe inequality of income and wealth benefits those at the top. But what about everyone else? Pick any dividing line, say the 70th, 80th, 90th, or even 99th percentile of family income or wealth. It’s difficult to argue that inequality helps those below the line as much as those above it. If it benefits everyone evenly, there would be little reason to prefer the 60th over the 40th percentile, for example, or the 90th over the 60th.

But we do have preferences. We toil and sweat, even sometimes step on each other’s heads, in hopes of climbing one rung higher. Higher is almost always preferred to lower, all else being equal. That’s because wealth has real benefits.

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

Flip This Well: How Fracking Company CEOs Get Rich While Losing Billions

Flip This Well: How Fracking Company CEOs Get Rich While Losing Billions

Last year the fracking company Halcón Resources announced a new strategy that was sold as the path to profits for the previously troubled shale oil and gas firm. The company had sold its stake in the Bakken oil fields in order to double down on the Permian shale in Texas. At the time, Reuters touted the deal as a “stunning turnaround” for CEO Floyd Wilson, and the good news immediately drove up the Halcón stock price by 35 percent.

“The sale of our Williston Basin operated assets transforms Halcón into a single-basin company focused on the Delaware Basin where we have more than 41,000 net acres,” Wilson said in a statement. He was making his pitch and investors responded.

However, the move was part of a familiar formula for those in the shale industry, which uses horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to release oil and gas from shale formations: Borrow lots of money, drill lots of fossil fuels at a loss, flip the company for a profit.

As the Reuters article points out, Wilson’s ultimate goal is to create excitement about the potential of its Permian basin wells and then flip Halcón, just as he’s flipped other shale firms: “Focusing on the Permian could help Wilson achieve his long-held dream of selling Halcón to the highest bidder.”

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

Propaganda, Confrontation and Profit

Propaganda, Confrontation and Profit

Propaganda, Confrontation and Profit

The waves, the artificial tides of anti-Russian propaganda continue to beat upon the ears and eyes of Western citizens, spurred by Washington politicians and bureaucrats whose motives vary from deviously duplicitous to blatantly commercial. It is no coincidence that there has been vastly increased expenditure on US weaponry by Eastern European countries.

Complementing the weapons’ build-up, which is so sustaining and lucrative for the US industrial-military complex, the naval, air and ground forces of the US-NATO military alliance continue operations ever closer to Russia’s borders.

Shares and dividends in US arms manufacturing companies have rocketed, in a most satisfactory spinoff from Washington’s policy of global confrontation, and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) records that “arms sales are recognized widely as an important instrument of state power. States have many incentives to export arms. These include enhancing the security of allies or partners; constraining the behaviour of adversaries; using the prospect of arms transfers as leverage on governments’ internal or external behaviour; and creating the economics of scale necessary to support a domestic arms industry.”

The CRS notes that arms deals “are often a key component in Congress’s approach to advancing US foreign policy objectives,” which is especially notable around the Baltic and throughout the Middle East, where US wars have created a bonanza for US weapons makers — and for the politicians whom the manufacturers reward so generously for their support. (Additionally, in 2017 arms manufacturers spent $93,937,493 on lobbying Congress.)

Some countries, however, do not wish to purchase US weaponry, and they are automatically categorised as being influenced by Russia, which is blamed for all that has gone wrong in America over the past couple of years. This classification is especially notable in the Central Asian Republics.

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

US Companies Are More Indebted, More Leveraged, Less Profitable, And More Richly Valued Than Ever

US Companies Are More Indebted, More Leveraged, Less Profitable, And More Richly Valued Than Ever

Via MauldinEconomics.com,

Once again I start with a warning: A recession is eventually coming and a financial crisis with it. There is a real potential for it to come soon, although serious tax reform could delay it.

But sooner or later, the pressures of too much government debt and too many government promises, plus growth that is continually grinding slower, will break out into a recession.

There is always another recession.

You can’t run your life and business as if you expect one to happen tomorrow, but you can make contingency plans. With each passing day, recession gets closer, but that’s no reason to be fearful if you’re prepared.

Troublesome Facts

Most have helpful source links, too. Here’s a short recap:

  • The S&P 500 cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) valuation has only been higher on one occasion, in the late 1990s. It is currently on par with levels preceding the Great Depression.
  • Total domestic corporate profits (w/o IVA/CCAdj) have grown at an annualized rate of just .097% over the last five years. Prior to this period and since 2000, five-year annualized profit growth was 7.95%. (Note: Period included two recessions.)
  • Over the last 10 years, S&P 500 corporations have returned more money to shareholders via share buybacks and dividends than they have earned.
  • At $8.6 trillion, corporate debt levels are 30% higher today than at their prior peak in September 2008.
  • At 45.3%, the ratio of corporate debt to GDP is at historical highs, having recently surpassed levels preceding the last two recessions.

In short, US corporations are simultaneously more indebted, less profitable, and more highly valued than they have been in a long time.

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

Heal the Planet for Profit


Parisians duck down to evade German sniper fire following Nazi surrender of Paris, 1945
If you ever wondered what the odds are of mankind surviving, let alone ‘defeating’, climate change, look no further than the essay the Guardian published this week, written by Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney. It proves beyond a moonlight shadow of a doubt that the odds are infinitesimally close to absolute zero (Kelvin, no Hobbes).

Yes, Bloomberg is the media tycoon and former mayor of New York (which he famously turned into a 100% clean and recyclable city). And since central bankers are as we all know without exception experts on climate change, as much as they are on full-contact crochet, it makes perfect sense that Bank of England governor Carney adds his two -trillion- cents.

Conveniently, you don’t even have to read the piece, the headline tells you all you need and then some: “How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change” really nails it. The entire mindset on display in just a few words. If that’s what they went for, kudo’s are due.

These fine gents probably actually believe that this is perfectly in line with our knowledge of, say, human history, of evolution, of the laws of physics, and of -mass- psychology. All of which undoubtedly indicate to them that we can and will defeat the problems we have created -and still are-, literally with the same tools and ideas -money and profit- that we use to create them with. Nothing ever made more sense.

That these problems originated in the same relentless quest for profit that they now claim will help us get rid of them, is likely a step too far for them; must have been a class they missed. “We destroyed it for profit” apparently does not in their eyes contradict “we’ll fix it for profit too”. Not one bit. It does, though. It’s indeed the very core of what is going wrong.

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

QE/ZIRP Is Crushing the Global Supply Chain, Product Quality and Profits

QE/ZIRP Is Crushing the Global Supply Chain, Product Quality and Profits

We will soon wish we were allowed an honest business cycle recession once the current overcapacity implodes the global economy.

We all know the quality of many globally sourced products has nosedived in the past few years. I addressed this in Inflation Hidden in Plain Sight (August 2, 2016): not only is inflation (i.e. getting less quantity for your money compared to a few years ago) visible in shrinking packages, it’s present but largely invisible in declining quality.

When products fail in a matter of months, we’re definitely getting less for our money, as what we’re buying is a product cycle, not just the product itself. We buy a product expecting it to last a certain number of years, and when it fails in a matter of weeks or months, this failure amounts to theft and/or fraud.

When a costly repair is required in a relatively new product, we’re getting less for our money, and when the repair itself fails (often as a result of a sub-$10 or even sub-$1 part), we end up paying twice for the inferior product.

Why has the quality globally sourced products nosedived? The obvious response is corner-cutting to lower costs to maintain profit margins, but this simply poses the next question: what’s changed in the past eight years that’s made corner-cutting essential to maintaining profit margins?

The answer may surprise you: central bank stimulus: QE (quantitative easing) and ZIRP (zero interest rate policy. Gordon Long and I discuss this dynamic inBankers Crippling the Global Supply Chain (34:50).

Nearly free money was intended to bring demand forward as a means of boosting a stagnant global economy. But there are unintended consequences of this policy: nearly free money doesn’t just distort demand–it also distorts supply.

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

Recycling Societies for Power and Profit

Recycling Societies for Power and Profit

A curious diplomatic spectacle is playing out, as the imperial senate tussles over how hot to make it for the Saudis, and how close to hold the vassal sheikhs’ feet to the fire.

Once again we are shown how weak and vulnerable is the position of terrorist patsy, whether it be an individual or a nation state.

The Saudis clearly had no real, operative connection to 9/11. Bandar Bush merely obliged the real plotters by providing patsies, or at least identity thefts of alleged hijacker identities.1

Saudi Arabia is also being strung up now for helping finance the founding of Al Qaeda to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Of course they were invited to do this by the US, and being staunchly anti-communist, and eager to spread their doctrine, they obliged whole-heartedly.

Interestingly, the Saudi retort was about money, about dumping $750 of US assets so they can’t be frozen.

The whole argument is presumably about money. The empire may be trying to twist arms to get a better deal to prop up the petrodollar economy. Another dream scenario for Wall Street would be a color revolution overthrowing the Saudi princes, and installing the usual post-revolutionary kleptocracy to privatize the oil wells and anything else of value on the Arabian peninsula.

Now this got me thinking about a recurring pattern: How the New World Order has supplanted older orders throughout modern history.

By an “old order” I visualize a stable society, with a coherent ethical or religious foundation, including a mission to advance the interests of the individual society, and maintain its independence. It is strongest and most stable when it has progressive leaders who invest in social capital. When good leaders are lacking, societies decline, leaving them weak and susceptible to revolutionary overthrow.

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

Profits for the Economic Club: How US Military Spending Benefits the Few

Profits for the Economic Club: How US Military Spending Benefits the Few

In his January 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama smugly declared that “We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined,” which was a startling and repulsive boast.  What is less surprising is the Pentagon’s decision to refocus military spending, thus boosting profits for military industry companies.

Then on February 2 Obama’s Defence Secretary Ashton Carter gave a speech on defense affairs at the Economic Club in Washington, which is proud of the fact that it provides “a forum for prominent business and government leaders who have influenced economic and public policy both here and abroad. Members represent over 600 businesses and organizations [in Washington, DC] that are at the forefront of the private sector economy.”

Having no sense of humor, Mr Carter would fail to see the wonderful irony in choosing that location to define his priorities in national military affairs,  but its significance didn’t escape the financial market’s wheeler dealers, and values of defense industry corporations received a hike all round.

In his speech Carter said that “the Pentagon plans to spend about $2 billion over the next five years to buy more Raytheon Company Tomahawk missiles and upgrade their capabilities, bringing the inventory of the missiles to above 4,000.”  At midday on February 2, Raytheon shares stood at 123.47.  By 4 p.m. next day they had increased to 128.07.

After his comforting chat to the Club of “prominent leaders” of military-focused commercial enterprises, Reuters reported that Mr Carter “flew to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California to get updates on new high-end weapons being developed and tested there, including precision Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles built by Lockheed Martin Corp. He said the [defense] department would spend nearly $1 billion over the next five years to buy the new missiles.”

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

Coal Mining’s Financial Failures: Two Thirds of World’s Production Now Unprofitable

Coal Mining’s Financial Failures: Two Thirds of World’s Production Now Unprofitable

Both major types of coal — the coking coal used for making steel and the thermal coal burned in coal-fired electrical power plants — were included in Wood Mackenzie’s analysis. The estimate may be conservative, as the group excluded some costs incurred during mining, and focused primarily on the sharp drop in the price of coal.

Demand for thermal coal is also expected to slump further, in part because coal-fired power plants are expected to be required to meet increasingly strict standards for their emissions of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gasses.

And coking coal, which often sells for more than thermal coal, has been hard hit by the sudden downturn of China’s steel industry, which makes roughly half of the world’s steel.

A recovery for the steel industry may not come for years, analysts say. “It doesn’t help that Chinese steel production is about to see the most dramatic decline to the lowest in 20 years,” Herman Hildan, an Oslo-based analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities, told Bloomberg News about the steel industry’s prospects. “Demand growth is collapsing.”

Prices for some types of coking coal have already plunged more than 75 percent since 2011.

The Wood Mackenzie analysts concluded that now, “more than 65 per cent of world coal production operates at a loss.”

The situation is even more grim for some American coal mining regions, like Central Appalachia, where Wood Mackenzie concluded in March that 72 percent of the coal produced was being sold at a loss.

The firm does not expect a turnaround for the coal industry anytime soon.

“We’re bearish on 2016,” Matt Preston, who manages North American coal research at Wood Mackenzie, told The Billings Gazette.

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

Con 21

Con 21


Nickolay Lamm Jefferson Memorial under 25 feet of water 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius just announced, in Paris, a “legally binding agreement” that no-one has agreed the financing for. We can hear a couple thousand lawyers across the globe snicker. But it’s all the COP21 ‘oh-so-important’ climate conference managed to come up with. No surprises there. They couldn’t make the 2ºC former goal stick, so they go for 1.5ºC this time. All on red, double or nothing. Because who really cares among the leadership, just as long as the ‘targets’ are far enough away that they can’t be held accountable.

I’ve been writing the following through the past days, and wondering if I should post it, because I know so many readers of the Automatic Earth have so much emotion invested in these things, and they’re good and fine emotions. But some things must still be said regardless of consequences. Precisely because of that kind of reaction. No contract is legally binding if there’s no agreement on payment. Nobody has a legal claim on your home without it being specified that, if, when and how they’re going to pay for it.

I understand some people may get offended by some of the things I have to say about this – though not all for the same reasons either-, but please try and understand that and why the entire CON21 conference has offended me. After watching the horse and pony show just now, I thought I’d let ‘er rip:

I don’t know what makes me lose faith in mankind faster, the way we destroy our habitat through wanton random killing of everything alive, plants, animals and people, through pollution and climate change and blood-thirsty sheer stupidity, or if it is the way these things are being ‘protested’.

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

Food Sovereignty: This is What Anarchy Looks Like

Food Sovereignty: This is What Anarchy Looks Like

“This is what democracy looks like” goes the popular protest chant.  However, it’s not democracy that captures the imagination, provides answers, and drives today’s resistance  movement.  Something much more interesting has been taking place during protests, forums and intentional communities. In his book The New Left the anthropologist David Graeber states that anarchy has become the logical and probably last hope of the international resistance to capitalism.  Mondeggi, an agricultural squat in the Tuscan countryside celebrating its first year this summer demonstrates how that might just be the case.

Anarchy is completely misunderstood amongst the larger public. The word in modern vocabulary has come to mean chaos. This is ironically the opposite of Anarchy, which could be described  as organic order of horizontal self-governance. The misunderstanding comes partly due to political theory ignorance, propaganda from the right, and due to some of the “violent” acts of some historical anarchists such as blowing up bridges and factories in the context of oppressive monarchies, world wars, and Fascist regimes. These extreme strategies are ironically much less drastic that the systematic widespread organized violence of the various state regimes through history.

Chomsky argues that Anarchism is based on the assumption that any structure of authority and domination has to justify itself. All such structures have a burden of proof to bear and if they can’t bear that burden they’re illegitimate.  If they are illegitimate they should be dismantled and replaced by alternative structures which are free and participatory and are not based on authoritarian systems.

Democracy allows for the exploitation and destruction of the environment that is taking place today because of the financial interests of a few organizing the nations states according to the bottom line of international profit. Direct democracy does allow for taking some of the responsibility and control of affairs yet it still maintains the existence of the state.

…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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