Monday, January 26, 2015

(Lying About Leftism)  The Truth About the Progressive Dim Plutocrats' TPP Love   (Germany Reduces Bond Yield to Zero - Bad Times Ahead)   Billionaires Shocked So Poor  (Oceans On Verge of Mass Extinction)  Training for Pax Americana

Really bad times coming?

Much worse it seems than the U.S.-media-numbed might have been led to expect:

"World Running Out of Positive-Yield Bonds" -  In the wake of ECB's €60 billion a month QE madness, one might be wondering what it may do to European bond yields. Since September of 2013, yield on the German 10-year bond has plunged from around 2% to 0.367%. With €720 billion annual asset purchases, a huge portion of the bonds the ECB buys will be German.  Bloomberg explains ECB Risks German Bonds Mismatch Exceeding 100 Billion Euros. [Of the 60 billion monthly asset purchases], about 45 billion euros probably would be sovereign debt, according to a central bank official, equating to more than 100 billion euros of German securities this year, based on purchases being conducted in proportion to euro-zone members’ contributions to the ECB’s capital. That would shrink the tradable market for German bonds in a year when the debt agency already planned to reduce the amount of conventional bonds outstanding by 8 billion euros. “It’s going to cause a huge shock to the supply-demand balance in the European government-debt market” .

We might not be too far off the German bund market looking like the Swiss one, with a negative yield out to 10 years. It’s pretty crazy.” The difficulty for the ECB may be flushing out sellers and getting them to buy other assets instead. Banks and insurers need Germany’s AAA securities to bolster their balance sheets and pension funds mop up bunds to match their liabilities. In a low-growth environment with scant inflation, investors are sticking with bonds, particularly when the ECB is levying charges on its overnight deposit facility.

Germany to offer no return on its five-year bonds — Germany is preparing to offer investors a return of nothing to buy its five-year bonds, for the first time on record.

The country’s central bank said Tuesday it would auction €5 billion ($5.79 billion) of five-year government bonds  Wednesday with an annual coupon of 0%.

The willingness of investors to buy ultrasafe German bonds on such terms is another sign of how markets are bracing for the European Central Bank’s likely announcement Thursday of a mass government bond-buying program, also known as quantitative easing. (See:  What happens if the ECB pulls a Swiss-style surprise.)

It's just a game, folks.

And we're losing bigtime.

Forever, it seems.

My trusted correspondent RJ Sigmund just sent me the above newsy item as well as a few below in his latest highlighted lowdown on the state of our (and others') economy.

Looks like it's finally worthwhile digging that fall-out shelter (if you missed the 60's rush).

The Key to $10 Billion in U.S. Human Smuggling:   Big Banks - Dionisio Diaz takes a seat inside the Evangelical Christian Assembly Church at an office park in Doraville, an Atlanta suburb. It’s been another six-day week working for a landscaping crew, mowing lawns and pruning shrubs. The 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala clutches a Bible and joins dozens of worshipers belting out a hymn in Spanish.  Diaz has also been helped on his journey to the U.S. by more earthly powers:  He hired a gang of human smugglers, or coyotes, who got him across the U.S. border to a stash house in Mesa, Arizona, and then on to Georgia, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its February issue.

Diaz paid for part of the trip using one of America’s biggest banks, Wells Fargo & Co. It’s a story repeated over and over as waves of illegal immigrants stream into the U.S. from Latin America. Gangs reap $10 billion a year from about 3 million illegal border crossings from Mexico, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Major banks, including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo, have been used as financial conduits for the smuggling industry, according to evidence in a federal criminal case against a gang of 15 human smugglers and warrants from prosecutors in Arizona, Maryland and Texas.

Billionaires Shocked To Learn They Only Control Half The World's Wealth - A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world’s wealth has left the richest people in the world “reeling with disappointment,” a leading billionaire said on Tuesday.  Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-find owner Harland Dorrinson said, “I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.” Calling the Oxfam findings “sobering,” he said that he hoped they would serve “as a wake-up call to billionaires everywhere that it’s time to up our game.”

“Quite frankly, a lot of us thought that by buying politicians, rewriting tax laws, and hiding money overseas, we were getting it done,” said Dorrinson, who owns the hedge fund Garrote Capital. “If, at the end of the day, all we control is a measly half of the world’s wealth, clearly we need to do more — much more.” In Davos, Dorrinson is huddling with other billionaires in the hopes of setting an ambitious goal for the top one per cent:  to own the other half of the world’s wealth by 2025.

“Getting that other half is not going to be a walk in the park,” he said. “But ten years from now, when Oxfam says that the top one per cent owns everything in the world, it’ll all have been worth it.”

 A Billionaire Lectures Serfs In Davos: "America's Lifestyle Expectations Are Far Too High" - Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. Enter billionaire Jeff Greene, who(se) comments at Davos make Sam Zell look enlightened.

From "Bloomberg":  Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Wait a minute, “we” need to reinvent our whole system of life? I’m curious, Mr. Greene, how specifically will YOU be adjusting your lifestyle expectations? I didn’t think so. Kindly shut the fuck up.

Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week, said he’s planning a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Tideline Hotel called “Closing the Gap.” The event, which he said is scheduled for December, will feature speakers such as economist Nouriel Roubini.

Apologies, it appears when it comes to Jeff Greene, he is adjusting his expectations in the opposite direction, upward.

From Karen Garcia, one of the finest reporters I read regularly, comes the following brilliant dissection of where we live now.

January 24, 2015

Progressive Plutocrats, Inc.

Whether you're a Godzillionaire or just a Godzillionaire's toady, whether you're spewing your monster fire at Davos and or whether you're enviously live-chatting the annual capitalist prom from afar, the talk of the global town these days is the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And since it's been such a hard sell - what with such awfulness as trying to establish corporate sovereignty over national governments and judiciaries, and keeping life-saving drugs out of the reach of the poorest countries on earth -- the neoliberal marketers of "free trade" are out in full force, with all the gaslighting techniques they can muster.

The message is that if you're against global fascism, then there is something mentally wrong with you. Or, as President Obama told it to the plutocrats-errant of the Business Roundtable recently, opponents of TPP are "barking up the wrong tree" and quixotically trying to fight the "last battle" (over NAFTA), which is silly, because globalization is already a fait accompli anyway.

So what better way to herd the recalcitrants into the veal pen than to propagandize the job-killing, environment-polluting TPP as a "progressive" initiative -- and then recruit man o' the people/ "New York Times" columnist Joe Nocera to peddle it as such to the liberal readership?

Nocera quotes a so-called expert from a "left-leaning" think tank called "Progressive Economy" as saying that the American job losses of the late 20th century had nothing to do with the passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).

He wants us to believe that globalization is just a natural phenomenon, not the work of greedy men. The passage of NAFTA was all just a serendipitous coincidence, Nocera claims, as he snidely portrays New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as a "well-meaning" (subtext: aging and therefore somewhat ditzy) dame for opposing the TPP. He slyly gets her to admit that even though the Rochester Kodak factory closed and jobs went to Mexico, a new breed of entrepreneurs is now taking over those abandoned spaces as part of the New Normal Economy! And isn't that what globalization is all about?

To answer that Godzillion-dollar question, he shamelessly quotes experts without even bothering to inform his readers that they are lobbyists:

Edward Gresser, the executive director of Progressive Economy, a left-leaning think tank, noted that other factors were taking place at the same time as Nafta:  the growth of container ships, the lowering cost of communications, the rise of global industries. With or without trade deals, globalization is an unstoppable force. What Nafta really is, Gresser told me, is a proxy for globalization.
That's just what Obama told his confab of plutocrats at the BRT. It's the talking point of the Democratic Leadership Council, the right-of-center think tank co-founded by none other than Mister NAFTA himself, Bill Clinton. (It is now more popularly known as the New Democrat Coalition.)

Edward Gresser comes to his current stint as "scholar in residence" (TPP marketer) direct from the DLC, as a matter of fact. Nocera doesn't share this detail, either because he doesn't know, he doesn't want to know, or he knows but doesn't care.

But wait. It gets even worse. The "Progressive Economy" front group, it turns out, is a wholly-owned lobbying subsidiary of yet another lobby shop called the "GlobalWorks Foundation," itself the front group for the Fontheim International multinational lobbying enterprise.

There is nothing even remotely left-leaning about this Big Fat GlobalWorks Foundation Daddy, given that its executive director is National Association of Manufacturers consultant Wayne Palmer. The NAM is notorious as one of the most powerful anti-regulatory lobbyists in Washington.

And why not? It's heavily funded by the Koch Brothers, who'd love the TPP to pass so they can spread their pollution at no cost to themselves and for much obscene profit.

Before that, Palmer lobbied for Astra Zeneca. Before that, he was chief of staff to former GOP Senator Rick Santorum, one of the more notorious right wing politicians of the American oligarchy.

Of course, you wouldn't know about Palmer's ulterior motives by casually glancing at his website, which vaguely gushes that:

Our work supports the elimination of poverty through support for practical policies and innovative programs addressing conditions related to globalization. Since 2001, GlobalWorks has been bringing together leaders from nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions, governments, the business community, and grassroots organizations to identify and promote such policies and initiatives.
Note the carefully worded neoliberal dog whistle, replete with such standard buzzwords as "practical" and "innovative." Translation of this mission statement would go something like this:   Our plunder supports the elimination of poverty by eliminating poor people from the equation. Since 9/11, we've used fear and terror to get rich beyond our wildest dreams. Government and corporations transformed the world into their own militarized public-private partnership with a vested interest in identifying everybody and every thing ripe for extraction, at their cost and for our profit.

A look at the Board of Directors of GlobalWorks is interesting, to say the least. In charge of public relations is its co-founder, corporate reputation-salvager Claude Fontheim, a former State Department trade negotiator and another DLC Clinton alum.

Among the services provided to his oligarchic clients are a parade of Thought Leaders - neoliberal-speak for tycoons posing as social service concern trolls at Clinton Global Initiative and Davos confabs, as well as columnists and other self-proclaimed experts willing to shill for trade deals. I imagine he's got Tom Friedman all lined up for another friendly "New York Times" column in the very near future.

Except for their Republican executive director, Wayne Palmer, the other board members are all Clintonistas - and all are affiliated with Fontheim International. Ben Kobren, chief counsel at Fontheim, worked for Hillary Clinton both at State and as her press secretary in the Senate.

As Joe Nocera might say, what a coincidence. As Joe Nocera does say, since the TPP is bipartisan, then it's got to be good and naysayers like Bernie Sanders have to be marginalized. And we can't ever forget that this is good for Obama's legacy, and especially good for the legacies of his heirs and heiresses.

If you want to know the truth, Public Citizen is one of the best places to go for factual info on the TPP. It's the perfect antidote for capitalism on crack.

Speaking of the unplanned but rapidly approaching end-point (End Times) of our physical world, compliments of the neoliberal entrepreneurial devastators . . . .

The Oceans Are On the Verge of Mass Extinction. Here's How to Avoid It.

By Tom Philpott

Jan. 23, 2015

We land-based creatures live in the midst of a massive extinction crisis, just the sixth one over the past half billion years. What about the oceans? A much-discussed, wide-ranging recent Science study (paywalled) has good news: Sea critters are currently faring much better than their land counterparts, which are going extinct at a rate 36 times higher. (That number is likely exaggerated, the authors note, because scientists have done a much better job of cataloging land critters than sea critters.)

Tackling the over-fishing problem will be no mean feat, given the expected rise of the human population to 9 billion by 2050, but it's probably doable.

But the report also brings horrible news: Between over-fishing and habitat destruction (think acidification, coastal development, warming, coral destruction, dead zones from fertilizer runoff, etc.), the oceans may be on the brink of their own extinction catastrophe. (The "New York Times"' Carl Zimmer has more details here; Vox's Brad Plumer has a good analysis here.) Today's marine extinction rates look eerily similar to the "moderate" land-based ones just before the Industrial Revolution, the authors warn. "Rates of extinction on land increased dramatically after this period, and we may now be sitting at the precipice of a similar extinction transition in the oceans."

What to do? Tackling the over-fishing problem will be no mean feat, given the expected rise of the human population to 9 billion by 2050, but it's probably doable. One place to start is smarter fish farming. Globally, about half of seafood consumed comes from farms, but much of it actually harms the oceans. Salmon farms, for example, rely on sucking up mass quantities of wild fish for feed—it takes at least three pounds of anchovies, sardines, menhaden, and other "forage fish" to deliver a pound of farmed salmon (not to mention the waste problem created when you confine thousands of big fish loose together).

And Asian shrimp farms—source of nearly 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US — have been plunked down atop what had been highly productive coastal ecosystems called mangrove forests. According to the United Nations, as much as a third of the globe's mangroves have been destroyed since 1980 — and shrimp and other forms of aquaculture account for more than half that loss.

But there are ways to improve fish farming. Filter-feeding species like oysters and clams — which get their nutrients by filtering out plankton and other stuff suspended in the water — require no feed and can enhance coastal ecosystems. And there are farming systems (both ancient and new-fangled) that combine several species and even land-based crops to generate lots of high-quality food with few inputs and little waste. Finally, my colleagues Maddie Oatman and Brent Brownell have documented a successful effort to farm top-quality trout — normally a fish-eating fish — with vegetarian feed made mainly of (non-gross) food waste. Maddie's article here.

Then there's that oft-repeated, little-heeded advice to choose seafood low on the trophic scare — that is, fish and other sea critters that eat plants and plankton, not other fish. Oysters, clams, and mussels are all good examples. And instead of choosing farmed salmon, go with the little fish that gets fed to them. To that end, here are two recipes for sardines—trust me, they're delicious.

Now, as tricky as it will be to cut back on overfishing by convincing fish farmers to mend their ways and consumers to change their habits, the even bigger challenge will be to stop trashing the place all of these critters call home. Habitat degradation, according to the Science authors, is the main trigger for the extinction wave we're now seeing on land, and is probably the biggest threat to cause a similar catastrophe at sea.

"If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy," Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and an author of the report, told "The Times"' Zimmer. "In effect, that's what we’re doing to the oceans." Of course, both warming and acidification are the direct result of our fossil fuel habit — the same force that's generating potentially catastrophic climate change up here on land. There's no saving the oceans without solving that problem.

Tom Philpott

Food and Ag Correspondent Tom Philpott is the food and ag correspondent for "Mother Jones." For more of his stories, click here.

American Snipers Bravura?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to watch stupid Hollywood movies about it.

“Thus the white men and Native Americans were able, through the spirit of goodwill and compromise, to reach the first in what would become a long series of mutually beneficial, breached agreements that enabled the two cultures to coexist peacefully for stretches of twenty and sometimes even thirty days, after which it was usually necessary to negotiate new agreements that would be even more mutual and beneficial, until eventually the Native Americans were able to perceive the vast mutual benefits of living in rock-strewn sectors of South Dakota.”

Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States

US Army Trains World Army To Fight the War for “Pax America”

Posted on January 25, 2015


–The Pentagon Trains the World Armies To Fight the Phantom Threats

–Which we create.


ukraine trainingUS Trainers To Deploy To Ukraine

Also Will Begin Shipment of US-funded Armored Vehicles


U.S. Army Africa sponsors African Deployment Partnership Training in Benin

(Jan. 15, 2015) Marine Maj. Christopher Ross, an infantry officer with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, looks on as Iraqi army soldiers practice maneuver techniques at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Ross is working with Iraq Army officers and noncommisioned officers to develop advanced training for Iraqi army recruits. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William White) 

U.S. Troops headed to Syria to aid fight against ISIS

97814 full

US military returns to Iraq 3 years after withdrawing

brits training peshmerga 

British Army Training The Peshmerga In Northern Iraq

Sweden is home to some 100,000 Kurdish immigrants

Sweden to send military trainers to Kurdistan

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