Wednesday, September 30, 2015

(Vacuousness A Winner?)  Trump's Base  (NC Horror Show)  Yellen's and Pope's Words Changed?  (Both Siderism Means Nowhere To Hide? (Go Bernie and Jill!))  Stock Markets of Ten Largest Global Economies Are Crashing  (Wal-Mart Flinches?)  Casino Cooling Off?  (Water On Mars But Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?)

(Updated 9/30/2015)

Wait, wait.

Didn't I already write this column?

Did the nonstop obstructionism disappoint the GOP'ers more than it did the rest of us?

I'm going out on a ledge here . . . .

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009 . . .
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The Incredible Vacuousness of the Race for the Republican Presidential Nomination

Sixteen candidates, after inexplicably excluding Mark Everson, the former IRS commissioner under George W. Bush and the first to announce, are hurling epithets, war-mongering bravados, and assorted boasts against one another. After their so-called debates, the media emphasize the insults of Trump and others against one-another. Reading the coverage and watching the TV clips, one comes away with the impression that snarls, quips, ripostes, and gaffes, now pass for news.

How rancid! How demeaning to our country and its people! It is bad enough that voters have been reduced to spectators watching a reality show with the candidates, bidding to become the most powerful person on Earth, with a finger on the button. It is bad enough that the ever-hovering Super PACs and their indentured candidates . . . don’t seem to want to be serious, knowledgeable, or at all compassionate toward the powerless and deprived.

This potpourri of poseurs made it possible for Carly Fiorina to rise to the “top tier” on the basis of a few statements that exude the feigned confidence of the failed corporate CEO she once was.

First off, I have to give my buddy at Rectification of Names cred for today's best Trump outing. You win, sweetie!

September 29, 2015

Trump's Base

Something that struck me over the weekend, and I found a picture to go along with it:  Trump's supporters are Beavis and Butt-head, 15-20 years later. They don't think he would be a good president, or even that that's an interesting or important question. They think, with their special pop aesthetic sensibility, that he's cool, heh-heh, which does not mean the same thing as good, and that everybody else sucks, which does not mean they're bad. To Beavis and Butt-head, a Trump presidency could be well-produced but authentic and gross, and possibly with a lot of disturbing violence, like maybe a Guns 'n' Roses album? What's not to appreciate?

Image by MTVHive.

That's not to suggest that Trump is in any sense less serious as a candidate than Carson or Fiorina, Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, for example, because I don't think he is; just that he's better than they are, rather, at meeting these kinds of expectations.
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The Senator added:  “And I think that we will be amazed that when this goes into effect, and I don’t know the exact number of people that this can ultimately effect, but I think you are going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour a week job or they’re going to enroll in some kind of higher education to improve their job skills. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get here.”

NC Senate Votes to Cut Food Stamps After GOP'er Promises It Will Make Lazy People Go to College

I went to school with Angela Bryant. Granted we were only in junior high and in the first integrated classroom in NC (I smiled at her when the new group of students was ushered into my classroom and she came over immediately to sit with me), but we made a true connection, an intellectual connection, and thus I wasn't surprised when I first read of her later triumphs in the NC Legislature.

I've never heard of the loud-mouthed, myopic Sanderson before, but that's probably explained by the Koch-funded Republican sweep of the NC General Assembly in the last election.

Democratic State Sen. Angela Bryant offered an amendment on Thursday to overturn the food stamp cuts, saying that there are not enough jobs to go around in rural counties.
“Over several sessions here we have reduced funding for job training and education,” Bryant pointed out during floor debate. “So we are basically relegating them, I guess, to steal for food.”

Bryant asserted that there were better ways to police the abuse of SNAP benefits, but her amendment was dead in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I think that everybody in this chamber would agree that one of the best things we can do for anyone who has found themselves caught up in the — whether it’s the SNAP program or unemployment or any other of the program that we offer to people who are in emergency situations — one of the best things that we can do is to help them find a job,” Sanderson said.

The Senator added:  “And I think that we will be amazed that when this goes into effect, and I don’t know the exact number of people that this can ultimately effect, but I think you are going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour a week job or they’re going to enroll in some kind of higher education to improve their job skills. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get here.”

On Monday, "The Charlotte Observer"'s editorial board blasted Republican lawmakers as “heartless.”
“Then there are the occasions when such decisions are just mean,” the paper noted. “Keep in mind that the food stamps are issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is paid for with federal dollars. That means HB 318, if it passes, won’t save North Carolina money. In fact, the bill’s passage could be costly to retailers that sell food, especially in the rural areas that see SNAP dollars because of double-digit unemployment.”

“If Republicans have some new information about widespread SNAP fraud in North Carolina, we’d sure like to see it. But in their endless hunt for people who might possibly be taking advantage of government programs, they continue to needlessly hurt people who truly could use some help.”

Thanks, R.J., every time you send me more NC news my chest just bursts with pride.

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Yellen's words were changed as well as the Pope's?

Any guess at who would have benefitted from changing them?

We should have been listening more attentively, perhaps, to the rightwing's prior teleprompter rants.

Of course, we know clearly from the research done by the Office of Financial Research and the unprecedented felony counts handed out in May against the largest banks that it’s far too late to be wondering if “inappropriate risk-taking” could undermine financial stability. That horse kicked down the barn door long ago and is running wild.

Who Messed With Janet Yellen’s and the Pope’s Speeches Last Week?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
September 28, 2015
Both Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Pope Francis delivered speeches on Thursday of last week that took an odd turn of events. A section of the Pope’s official speech transcript that slammed the finance industry was gutted before the Pope delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. In the case of Yellen, evidence strongly suggests that egregiously bad event planning sabotaged her speech at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, triggering media hysteria and prognostications of how fast Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s Vice Chairman, would slide into Yellen’s seat as Chair of the Fed.

The official transcript of the Pope’s speech to Congress appears here. It contains the following passage:

“Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

The C-Span video of the Pope’s address, available here, shows the above section was gutted from the address when the Pope spoke to Congress.

Apparently, someone did not want finance, as in Wall Street, to be slammed by the Pope. Of course, the Pope is correct — the United States and its people are now enslaved to Wall Street — with no relief in sight from the body the Pope was addressing. So out of touch is Congress with the needs of the “human person” that a Gallup poll taken last month showed just 14 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. That fact no longer needs to trouble members of Congress since “human persons” no longer elect them. They are now elected by multi-million-dollar attack ad campaigns filling the airwaves against their opponents, funded by corporations, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

What happened to Janet Yellen, the chair of the most powerful central bank in the world, was more nuanced. Yellen’s speech last Thursday evening on inflation and monetary policy had been heralded for days by the media as potentially providing clues into what the Fed might do with interest rates before year end. After the Fed had held rates steady exactly one week prior on September 17, Yellen’s upcoming talk at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on September 24 was creating major media buzz.

One would think that such a widely anticipated speech would be available in full in video form on the Internet. The official text is readily available at the Federal Reserve’s web site, but the video of the actual speech as delivered is non-functioning on the Fed’s web site (as of this morning, at least). The video is also non-functioning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where the event was held.

"Bloomberg News" says this is the “full speech” on video but it is decidedly not. The video cuts off the last portion of the talk where Yellen has difficulty figuring out how the text is supposed to read. That last, long paragraph of the speech, which Yellen effectively rewrote from the lectern, with awkward pauses, can be viewed here.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Speaking at University of Massachusetts-Amherst on September 24, 2015

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Speaking at University of Massachusetts-Amherst on September 24, 2015

If you watch the first video, it is clear that for 48 minutes, Yellen read from the official text as written, delivering a flawless presentation. She glanced up regularly at the audience, seamlessly returned to the text on the page, and even operated a remote control to show the audience a series of slides that buttressed her comments on inflation. But if you focus on the last few minutes of this video, Yellen places her hand on the lectern as if to steady herself, then touches her forehead just before the video cuts off. What is left is the final paragraph of her speech, which runs in the second video.

What Fed Chair Yellen is talking about just prior to her difficulties is enough to make anyone dizzy or provoke an anxiety attack. Yellen says:

“…continuing to hold short-term interest rates near zero well after real activity has returned to normal and headwinds have faded could encourage excessive leverage and other forms of inappropriate risk-taking that might undermine financial stability. For these reasons, the more prudent strategy is to begin tightening in a timely fashion and at a gradual pace, adjusting policy as needed in light of incoming data.”

Of course, we know clearly from the research done by the Office of Financial Research and the unprecedented felony counts handed out in May against the largest banks that it’s far too late to be wondering if “inappropriate risk-taking” could undermine financial stability. That horse kicked down the barn door long ago and is running wild.

The final words in Yellen’s speech were delivered by her as follows:

“Some slack in labor markets remains and the effects of this labor market slack and the influence [pauses and says “uhm” and begins to read ahead in the typed speech, apparently sensing that words are wrong. After reading ahead, she picks up with:] “ So some labor market, some slack remains in labor markets and the effect of this slack and the influence of lower energy prices and past dollar appreciation have been significant factors, uh, keeping inflation below our goal. But I expect that inflation will return and the influence of lower energy prices and inflation below our goal” [Those last three words are clearly wrong and Yellen stops speaking and can be seen to be reading ahead in the typed speech; she then says] “I expect this to occur as the temporary factors that are currently weighing on inflation wane, provided that economic growth continues to be strong enough to complete the return of the economy to full employment [brief pause] “and to” [Yellen stops again and continues to read ahead in the speech; then she says] “to return to full employment and long-run expectations remain well anchored.” [Now Yellen begins reading crisply again from the typed text, reading as it is written, even glancing up once at the audience and again finding her place in the typed text without pause.]

It’s not abundantly clear if Yellen was having health difficulties, if the last paragraph of the speech was typed incorrectly on her paper, or if a combination of both were at work. What is abundantly clear is that Yellen’s handlers packed her agenda that day, then put her on a darkened stage with a hot spotlight beaming down on her, no glass of water visible on the lectern to deliver an hour-long speech, and a massive spray of pollen spewing flowers directly in front of her lectern.

According to the University of Massachusetts’ Facebook page, Yellen started her day at the University in the morning with a “welcome breakfast” attended by faculty from the Economics department and graduate students. According to the "Wall Street Journal," Yellen also met during the day with graduate students, visited an undergraduate class and lunched with more economics professors at the University. The speech didn’t begin until 5 p.m. so she may not have had any food since lunch. Yellen is 69 years old.

The official spokeswoman for the Fed, Michelle Smith, told the media that Yellen had “felt dehydrated at the end of a long speech under bright lights.”

"Reuters"’ reporters Jonathan Spicer and Ann Saphir felt compelled to bring a neurologist into the conversation and were reviewing contingency plans for Fed Vice Chairman, Stanley Fischer, to take over. The "Reuters" report stated:

“ ‘If you ask me, is it concerning, I think it is concerning,’ said Dr. Andrew Stemer, an assistant professor of neurology and radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. 

“But he added it was hard to offer a diagnosis without lab tests, an exam or medical history:  ‘I want to be cautious about speculating on things that I can’t know…I’m sure she’s getting excellent care and that her physicians are working this up.’

“Fed chairs typically do not travel with medical staff. Instead they are accompanied by a security detail and at least one public relations handler, as Yellen did in Amherst on Thursday and Friday. Security officials conducted a 20-minute sweep of the university auditorium before the event, and they were on hand as she departed later.

Were a Fed chair to become incapacitated, the vice chair — former Bank of Israel chief Stanley Fischer — would take over the Board of Governors. Depending on how long the Fed chair was away, William Dudley, head of the New York Fed and vice chair of the Federal Open Market Committee, would temporarily chair the policy-setting committee pending a vote of the committee.

“ ‘It might be a little nerve-wracking for financial markets if that were to occur, but I think the fact that Fischer is well-known and well-respected could limit how much volatility a succession event would cause,’ said Michael Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief U.S. economist and a former Fed staffer.”

Citigroup would love nothing better than to see its former executive, Stanley Fischer, elevated to the throne. JPMorgan and the rest of Wall Street would love nothing better than to see an unrestrained Bill Dudley running the New York Fed.

What words of advice do we have for Janet Yellen? Replace your handlers.
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Boehner goes.

Crazies now take over U.S. House of Representatives completely?

I'm Surprised Boehner Lasted This Long

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

25 September 15

ctually I’m amazed John Boehner survived as long as he has. His one virtue as Speaker of the House has been his total lack of principle, which has enabled him to cobble together majorities or pluralities out of a Party that’s gone off the rails, becoming increasingly misogynist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim; filled with paranoid whackos, voodoo economists, anti-science half-brains, creationists, and white supremists; while being financed by billionaires, Wall Street, and big business.

The problem for the rest of us right now is they’re still a majority in Congress, and many are aiming to close down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded and then to default on the nation’s debt rather than lift the debt limit.

John Boehner will not go down in history as one of America's greatest Speakers of the House, but at least he served as something of a buffer between the Republican crazies and the rest of America. (This morning when Marco Rubio announced Boehner's plan to retire, attendees at the Values Voter Summit in Washington roared their approval and then rose in a standing ovation.) After the end of October, that buffer is gone.


# Vegan_Girl 2015-09-26 06:40

I really like the picture. It kinda sums it all up.
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Noam finalizes the analysis.

oam Chomsky weighed in on U.S. presidential politics in a speech Saturday at The New School in New York. In addressing a question about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Chomsky assessed the political landscape:  "Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes ... So what has happened is that they’ve mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time.

It is a pretty exceptional country in many ways. One is it’s extremely religious. It’s one of the most extreme fundamentalist countries in the world. And by now, I suspect the majority of the base of the Republican Party is evangelical Christians, extremists, not — they’re a mixture, but these are the extremist ones, nativists who are afraid that, you know, "they are taking our white Anglo-Saxon country away from us," people who have to have guns when they go into Starbucks because, who knows, they might get killed by an Islamic terrorist and so on. 

I mean, all of that is part of the country, and it goes back to colonial days. There are real roots to it. But these have not been an organized political force in the past. They are now. That’s the base of the Republican Party. And you see it in the primaries. So, yeah, Trump is maybe comic relief, but it’s not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important."

I think we should recognize that the other candidates are not that different. I mean, if you take a look at — just take a look at their views. You know, they tell you their views, and they’re astonishing. So just to keep to Iran, a couple of weeks ago, the two front-runners — they’re not the front-runners any longer — were Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. And they differed on Iran. 

Walker said we have to bomb Iran; when he gets elected, they’re going to bomb Iran immediately, the day he’s elected. Bush was a little — you know, he’s more serious:  He said he’s going to wait 'til the first Cabinet meeting, and then they'll bomb Iran. I mean, this is just off the spectrum of not only international opinion, but even relative sanity.

This is — I think Ornstein and Mann are correct:  It’s a radical insurgency; it’s not a political party. You can tell that even by the votes. I mean, any issue of any complexity is going to have some diversity of opinion. But when you get a unanimous vote to kill the Iranian deal or the Affordable Care Act or whatever the next thing may be, you know you’re not dealing with a political party.
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The Stock Markets Of The Ten Largest Global Economies Are All Crashing

By Michael Snyder
September 24th, 2015

You would think that the simultaneous crashing of all of the largest stock markets around the world would be very big news.  But so far the mainstream media in the United States is treating it like it isn’t really a big deal. Over the last sixty days, we have witnessed the most significant global stock market decline since the fall of 2008, and yet most people still seem to think that this is just a temporary “bump in the road” and that the bull market will soon resume.

Hopefully they are right. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 777 points on September 29th, 2008 everyone freaked out and rightly so.  But a stock market crash doesn’t have to be limited to a single day.  Since the peak of the market earlier this year, the Dow is down almost three times as much as that 777 point crash back in 2008. Over the last sixty days, we have seen the 8th largest single day stock market crash in U.S. history on a point basis and the 10th largest single day stock market crash in U.S. history on a point basis.

You would think that this would be enough to wake people up, but most Americans still don’t seem very alarmed. And of course what has happened to U.S. stocks so far is quite mild compared to what has been going on in the rest of the world.

Right now, stock market wealth is being wiped out all over the planet, and none of the largest global economies have been exempt from this. The following is a summary of what we have seen in recent days…

#1 The United States – The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down more than 2000 points since the peak of the market.  Last month we saw stocks decline by more than 500 points on consecutive trading days for the first time ever, and there has not been this much turmoil in U.S. markets since the fall of 2008.

#2 China – The Shanghai Composite Index has plummeted nearly 40 percent since hitting a peak earlier this year.  The Chinese economy is steadily slowing down, and we just learned that China’s manufacturing index has hit a 78 month low.

#3 Japan – The Nikkei has experienced extremely violent moves recently, and it is now down more than 3000 points from the peak that was hit earlier in 2015.  The Japanese economy and the Japanese financial system are both basket cases at this point, and it isn’t going to take much to push Japan into a full-blown financial collapse.

#4 Germany – Almost one-fourth of the value of German stocks has already been wiped out, and this crash threatens to get much worse.  The Volkswagen emissions scandal is making headlines all over the globe, and don’t forget to watch for massive trouble at Germany’s biggest bank. *

#5 The United Kingdom – British stocks are down about 16 percent from the peak of the market, and the UK economy is definitely on shaky ground.

#6 France – French stocks have declined nearly 18 percent, and it has become exceedingly apparent that France is on the exact same path that Greece has already gone down.

#7 Brazil – Brazil is the epicenter of the South American financial crisis of 2015.  Stocks in Brazil have plunged more than 12,000 points since the peak, and the nation has already officially entered a new recession.

#8 Italy – Watch Italy.  Italian stocks are already down 15 percent, and look for the Italian economy to make very big headlines in the months ahead.

#9 India – Stocks in India have now dropped close to 4000 points, and analysts are deeply concerned about this major exporting nation as global trade continues to contract.

#10 Russia – Even though the price of oil has crashed, Russia is actually doing better than almost everyone else on this list.  Russian stocks have fallen by about 10 percent so far, and if the price of oil stays this low the Russian financial system will continue to suffer.

What we are witnessing now is the continuation of a cycle of financial downturns that has happened every seven years.  The following is a summary of how this cycle has played out over the past 50 years

  • It started in 1966 with a 20 percent stock market crash.
  • Seven years later, the market lost another 45 percent (1973-74).
  • Seven years later was the beginning of the “hard recession” (1980).
  • Seven years later was the Black Monday crash of 1987.
  • Seven years later was the bond market crash of 1994.
  • Seven years later was 9/11 and the 2001 tech bubble collapse.
  • Seven years later was the 2008 global financial collapse.
  • 2015:  What’s next?

A lot of people were expecting something “big” to happen on September 14th and were disappointed when nothing happened.

But the truth is that it has never been about looking at any one particular day.  Over the past sixty days we have seen absolutely extraordinary things happen all over the planet, and yet some people are not even paying attention because they did not meet their preconceived notions of how events should play out.

And this is just the beginning.  We haven’t even gotten to the great derivatives crisis that is coming yet.  All of these things are going to take time to fully unfold.

A lot of people that write about “economic collapse” talk about it like it will be some type of “event” that will happen on a day or a week and then we will recover.

Well, that is not what it is going to be like.

You need to be ready to endure a very, very long crisis.  The suffering that is coming to this nation is beyond what most of us could even imagine.

Even now we are seeing early signs of it.  For instance, the mayor of Los Angeles says that the growth of homelessness in his city has gotten so bad that it is now “an emergency”
On Tuesday, Los Angeles officials announced the city’s homelessness problem has become an emergency, and proposed allotting $100 million to help shelter the city’s massive and growing indigent population.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti also issued a directive on Monday evening for the city to free up $13 million to help house the estimated 26,000 people who are living on the city’s streets.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the number of encampments and people living in vehicles has increased by 85% over the last two years alone.

And in recent years we have seen poverty absolutely explode all over the nation. The “bread lines” of the Great Depression have been replaced with EBT cards, and there is a possibility that a government shutdown in October could “suspend or delay food stamp payments”

A government shutdown Oct. 1 could immediately suspend or delay food stamp payments to some of the 46 million Americans who receive the food aid.

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday that it will stop providing benefits at the beginning of October if Congress does not pass legislation to keep government agencies open.

“If Congress does not act to avert a lapse in appropriations, then USDA will not have the funding necessary for SNAP benefits in October and will be forced to stop providing benefits within the first several days of October,” said Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman for USDA. “Once that occurs, families won’t be able to use these benefits at grocery stores to buy the food their families need.”
In the U.S. alone, there are tens of millions of people that could not survive without the help of the federal government, and more people are falling out of the middle class every single day.

Our economy is already falling apart all around us, and now another great financial crisis has begun.

When will the “nothing is happening” crowd finally wake up?

Hopefully it will be before they are sitting out on the street begging for spare change to feed their family.
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It's a clusterfuck all right.

All around the world.

And even Wal-Mart is starting to feel the heat.

Fed Cred Dead

The economy is a two-headed monster. One head is the trade in real goods and real services. The other head is the financialized traffic in swindles and frauds that surrounds banking. There is some deception and overlap about which is which. For instance so-called health care might be perceived as a real service. In fact, it’s a hostage racket, designed to victimize “patients” at their weakest, with a “protection” premium that easily runs to $12,000-a-year for a married couple, even when they aren’t sick, and vulnerable. Just see what happens if you go to an emergency room with an injury that requires six stitches. Next stop:  re-po land.

Most of the remaining on-the-ground economy consists of people merely driving their cars absurd distances, burning gasoline, between exquisitely-tuned giant warehouse store operations that were designed to destroy local Main Street trade — and accomplished that, by the way, to the applause of the local citizens whose towns were destroyed (“We want bargain shopping!”).

Now, of course, even WalMart is looking over its shoulder at the collapse of the complex arrangements that allowed it to metastasize across North America like some cancerous fungus. Globalism is winding down as the gargantuan matrix of Ponzi schemes based on owed money dissolves debt by debt. It isn’t long before nobody is a credit-worthy borrower, and no transaction in real goods can be risked unless cash hits the barrelhead — which turns out to be a very awkward way of doing business.

It’s especially like this these days in the so-called “emerging markets” — e.g. places in the world with large populations of willing factory slaves. The traffic in shipping-out containers full of flat screen TVs (or shipping-in the raw materials to make them) won’t work very well without letters-of-credit, which are promises between banks to make sure that the stuff on the receiving end gets paid for. That becomes difficult when national currencies drop 3.5 percent in value one day and then 4 percent another day, and so on. An eight-year-old can figure out how that math works.

My new theory of history applies well to the macro situation:  people do what they do because it seems like a good idea at the time.

For instance, a few decades ago, the suburban / “consumer” arrangement of daily life seemed like a good idea. You buy cheap land twenty-seven miles outside what used to be a functioning (now obsolete) city. Build lots and lots of houses out of cheap, shitty materials such as strand-board and vinyl, pave a lot of new roads, line many of them with even shittier strip-mall buildings and Big Box “power centers,” and there you have a wonderful basis for an economy. That was more or less the Ronald Reagan Utopia.

Now it’s all aging badly, fraying, too costly to fix and, increasingly, not worth scraping off the land and replacing with a new cheap, shitty building. The younger generation doesn’t even want to live in that suburban dystopia. They run shrieking from it to Brooklyn, or even downtown Troy, New York, up the Hudson River Valley. Alas, this younger generation has also been broadly victimized by the college loan racket — reinforced by the revised bankruptcy laws that make it impossible to ever write-off this sort of debt. When will they get political about it? Their debt loads will disfigure their lives as surely as a tour of duty in Vietnam would have forty years ago. Perhaps Siri has not informed them about this.

Last week was the watershed for central banking and for the illusion that the current disposition of things has a future. The Federal Reserve blinked on its long-touted Fed funds interest rate hike and chairperson Janet Yellen was left standing naked in the hot glare of her own carbonizing credibility, a pitiful larval creature, still maundering about “the data,” and “the median growth projection,” and other previously-owned figments spun out of the great PhD wonk machine in the Eccles Building.

The Federal Reserve itself is the victim du jour of its own grandiose fatuous fecklessness, in particular the idea that it could play a national economy like a three-button flugelhorn. What seemed like a good idea at the time when Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke stepped into the pilot house now just looks like the fraud of frauds:  enabling corporations to borrow ever more money from the future to pretend that their balance sheets are sound. That scam has nowhere left to go, except into the black hole that has been waiting for it. All the Fed really has left is to destroy the value of the dollar (to save it! Just like Vietnam!).

This ought to be an interesting week in the financial markets as the players have had a long, anxious weekend to absorb the death of Fed cred. And October, too. Expect dramatic re-pricing. Sometime a few months down the line, financial markets will present a “relief rally.” Don’t get suckered on that one.

Meanwhile, what remains on the other head of this two-headed economy besides driving to-and-from the Walmart? Pornography? The tattoo industry? Meth and narcotics? Prostitution? Professional sports on the flat screen? Kim and Kanye? Grand theft auto? Do you really think Donald Trump can fix this?
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Feeling lucky?

The casino is just starting to get H O T.

Chart-Watchers Zero In on More Warning Signals for U.S. Equities

New Book:   Financial Markets “Contribute Little, If Anything, to the Betterment of Lives and the Efficiency of Business”

If you want to engage in a serious effort to reform Wall Street, buy two copies of economist and financial writer John Kay’s book coming out in the U.S. on Tuesday. Keep one copy of the book for yourself (share it with family and friends) and send the other copy to a member of the Senate Banking committee. That committee is highly likely to be looking at reforming Wall Street again in the near future, given the convulsions in equity, credit and commodity markets of late and an endless stream of ongoing charges of corruption against the mega banks.
In his book, Other People’s Money:  The Real Business of Finance, Kay demonstrates not only a sagacious understanding of the grotesque underpinnings of financial markets but he maps out a series of common sense, structural reforms to bring the financial industry back to its key mandates:  efficient allocation of capital and honest handling of other people’s money.

From beginning to end, Kay peels back the crass hypocrisy of the market overseers, writing that much of what the financial sector does “contributes little, if anything, to the betterment of lives and the efficiency of business. And yet many things that finance could do to advance these social and economic goals are not done well – or in some cases at all.”

What the financial sector has ably done, says Kay, is brainwash politicians and a chunk of society to the idea that it is “special.” “But,” says Kay, “finance is not special, and our willingness to accept uncritically the proposition that finance has a unique status has done much damage…The industry mostly trades with itself, talks to itself and judges itself by reference to performance criteria that it has itself generated.”

Political leaders, funded in their campaigns by the financial sector, have been major purveyors of the propaganda that Wall Street is a unique industry that must be protected at all costs.
The Chair of the U.S. Central Bank admitting that she can’t completely rule out that the U.S. may never escape from its zero bound range of interest rates is very likely the most unnerving utterance to escape the tongue of a Central Banker since time immemorial.
. . . The market turmoil stems from the reporter’s inclusion of the word “never” – that the United States “may never escape from this zero lower bound situation.” While Janet Yellen may have thought she cushioned her remarks by calling it “an extreme downside risk,” Americans today fully grasp that Wall Street blowing itself up in 2008 was also an extreme downside risk but it happened, triggering a series of other highly unlikely extreme downside risks:  the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the biggest housing rout in seven decades, a global banking crisis that is still not fully under control, and the fastest expansion of the national debt in history. Since the repeal of the banking protections in the Glass-Steagall Act, 100-year financial floods are coming as frequently as afternoon showers in the tropics.

The saga of global deflation took on more urgent overtones in overnight trading as commodity prices slumped further. Industrial metals took hits ranging from one percent to almost three percent with copper down 2.8 percent in early morning trade. At 10:22 a.m., West Texas Intermediate crude oil is down more than 2.36 percent at $45.58. European coal prices slumped to a record low according to a report from Bloomberg Business.

All of this is consistent with a global economy battling deflation and not consistent with a roster of Federal Reserve presidents filling the airwaves with chatter about when the Fed’s rate hike is coming. The gap between “never” and next month is simply laughable.

 Nope. It was not the secret that the mainstream media would like you to think it was.
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There May Be Water Flowing on Mars. But Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?

Evidence for flowing water on Mars:  this opens up the possibility of life, of wonders we cannot begin to imagine. Its discovery is an astonishing achievement. Meanwhile, Martian scientists continue their search for intelligent life on Earth.

We may be captivated by the thought of organisms on another planet, but we seem to have lost interest in our own. The Oxford Junior Dictionary has been excising the waymarks of the living world. Adders, blackberries, bluebells, conkers, holly, magpies, minnows, otters, primroses, thrushes, weasels and wrens are now surplus to requirements.

In the past four decades, the world has lost 50% of its vertebrate wildlife. But across the latter half of this period, there has been a steep decline in media coverage. . .

Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we value the possibility of water on Mars. Only 3% of the water on this planet is fresh; and of that, two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to the accessible portion. Sixty per cent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it. . .

Every year, clever new ways of wasting stuff are devised, and every year we become more inured to the pointless consumption of the world’s precious resources. With each subtle intensification, the baseline of normality shifts. It should not be surprising to discover that the richer a country becomes, the less its people care about their impacts on the living planet.

Our alienation from the world of wonders, with which we evolved, has only intensified since David Bowie described a girl stumbling through a “sunken dream”, on her way to be “hooked to the silver screen”, where a long series of distractions diverts her from life’s great questions. The song, of course, was Life on Mars.

So there!

Ground control.
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  *Is something about to happen in Germany that will shake the entire world? According to disturbing new intel that I have received, a major financial event in Germany could be imminent. Now when I say imminent, I do not mean to suggest that it will happen tomorrow. But I do believe that we have entered a season of time when another “Lehman Brothers moment” may occur.

Most observers tend to regard Germany as the strong hub that is holding the rest of Europe together economically, but the truth is that serious trouble is brewing under the surface. As I write this, the German DAX stock index is down close to 20 percent from the all-time high that was set back in April, and there are lots of signs of turmoil at Germany’s largest bank. There are very few banks in the world that are more prestigious or more influential than Deutsche Bank, and it has been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons recently.

Just like we saw with Lehman Brothers, banks that are “too big to fail” don’t suddenly collapse overnight. The truth is that there are always warning signs in advance if you look closely enough.

In early 2014, shares of Deutsche Bank were trading above 50 dollars a share. Since that time, they have fallen by more than 40 percent, and they are now trading below 29 dollars a share.

It is common knowledge that the corporate culture at Deutsche Bank is deeply corrupt, and the bank has been exceedingly reckless in recent years.

If you are exceedingly reckless and you win all the time, that is okay. Unfortunately for Deutsche Bank, they have increasingly been on the losing end of things.

Prior to the “sudden collapse” of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008, there had been media reports of mass layoffs at the firm. To give you just a couple of examples, CNBC reported on this on March 10th, 2008 and the New York Times reported on this on August 28th, 2008.

When big banks start getting into serious trouble, this is what they do. They start getting rid of staff. That is why the massive job cuts that Deutsche Bank just announced are so troubling

Deutsche Bank aims to cut roughly 23,000 jobs, or about one quarter of total staff, through layoffs mainly in technology activities and by spinning off its PostBank division, financial sources said on Monday.

That would bring the group’s workforce down to around 75,000 full-time positions under a reorganization being finalised by new Chief Executive John Cryan, who took control of Germany’s biggest bank in July with the promise to cut costs.

Cryan presented preliminary details of the plan to members of the supervisory board at the weekend. A spokesman for the bank declined comment.
Deutsche Bank has also been facing mounting legal troubles. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent "Zero Hedge" article

The bank, which has paid out more than $9 billion over the past three years alone to settle legacy litigation, has become something of a poster child for corrupt corporate culture.

In April, Deutsche settled rate rigging charges with the DoJ for $2.5 billion (or about $25,474 per employee) and subsequently paid $55 million to the SEC (an agency that’s been run by former Deutsche Bank employees and their close associates for years) in connection with allegations it deliberately mismarked its crisis-era LSS book to the tune of at least $5 billion.

But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire so to speak, because early last month, the DoJ announced it would seek to extract a fresh round of MBS-related settlements from banks that knowingly packaged and sold shoddy CDOs in the lead up to the crisis. JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citi settled MBS probes when the DoJ was operating under the incomparable (and we mean that in a derisive way) Eric Holder but now, emboldened by her pyrrhic victory over Wall Street’s FX manipulators, new Attorney General Loretta Lynch is set to go after Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC,UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co.
Of course the legal troubles are just the tip of the iceberg of what has been going on over at Deutsche Bank over the past couple of years. The following is a pretty good timeline of some of the major events that have hit Deutsche Bank since the beginning of last year. It comes from a "NotQuant" article that was published back in June entitled “Is Deutsche Bank the next Lehman?“…

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