Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Limousine Government: Number of Government Limos Has Exploded in Obama Administration

The number of limos owned by the Unites States government has increased by 73 percent during the first two years of the Obama administration, according to an analysis of records by iWatch News.

The State Department, with 259, had more limos than any other agency in 2010 and has gained 194 limos just since fiscal 2008. The explanation by the by the State Dept is that of those limos 98 were defined as “law enforcement,” which the GSA said means they are equipped with sirens or lights, high-performance drivetrains, or are used for surveillance or undercover operations. Surveillance limos? Have you been tailed by a State Dept. limo lately?


Whoa, Weiner Is Dodging Big Time

Oh boy, here we go.

Rep. Anthony Weiner says he will no longer discuss a controversy surrounding a lewd photo sent from his Twitter account. But Andrew Breitbart is still discussing the matter.

Here's Weiner dodging.

Here's Breitbart hinting there is more.

My view:  This Weiner looks cooked.

It'll be Back to the Slammer for Conrad Black

Supreme Court has rejected Conrad Black’s appeal of fraud convictions. The neocon faces a June 24 hearing on the resentencing. One wonders who Black pissed off that he can't even get a fix at the Supreme Court level.


Palin and Trump to Meet for Dinner.

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump will meet tonight for dinner, reports WSJ's Washington Wire.

Michael Cohen,Trump’s special counsel, said his boss received the dinner invitation over the last 24 hours, according to the Wire. “The governor’s office reached out to Mr. Trump,” he said. “They are friends, and they have spoken for a long time about getting together when the governor was in New York, and she happens to be in New York.”

The Palin family will meet with Trump and his wife, Melania, in the Trump apartment in Manhattan, and then head out to an undisclosed restaurant nearby.

With these two at dinner, it is safe to keep in mind what they say in Chicago, "If you are not at the dinner table, you are on the menu."

The Government's Problem with Dancers


If you are wondering what this is all about, a small group of anti-war protesters, over Memorial Day weekend, held a silent dance protest at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.

The People Who Do Everything Right Are the Ones That Really Get Screwed by the Federal Reserve

LaTi has a story out today about homeowners stuck in Las Vegas because of the collapse of the housing market:
Charles Mills can barely afford to stay here. But he also can't afford to move.

That's why the 44-year-old heavy-equipment operator was preparing to leave his wife and young daughter here and go where he could find work — the Oklahoma oil fields. Mills has a mortgage to pay, even if its size pains him.

He purchased his house in 2006 for $308,500. Current value: $105,797.

"We talked about it: What can we do with the house?" Mills said. "Nobody's going to buy it. Nobody's going to rent it. If we walk away, my credit's shot. We're stuck."
In some parts of North Las Vegas, more than 80% of homeowners have plunged "underwater," meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth — a stunning concentration of aborted plans and upended lives.
I have an ex-girlfriend in the same position. Last I talked to her, I think she was underwater on a house to the tune of $150,000. (Hey, don't blame me. I warned her.) She won't walk away from the property because just like the Las Vegas homeowners, she doesn't want her credit ruined.

These are the people that do everything right. They don't lie, cheat or steal. They aren't Austrian economists, so they don't understand the business cycle. When house prices were going up, the conservative thing, in their eyes, was to buy a house, since houses "always go up in value." They didn't understand it was a Federal Reserve manipulated scam.

And now, when the mantra, "houses always go up in value", sounds like a bad scratchy record, played on an old Victrola, they are stuck because they don't want their credit ruined. They won't just walk away from an obligation they took on.

Thanks to the Federal Reserve and their mad manipulations of the money supply, it is very difficult to make long-term plans the way conservative people would like to do. They are the ones that get screwed.

Instead of long-term conservative planners ruling the roost, it is the Age of the Hustlers.

An acquaintance of mine, a lawyer, with some friends, doctors and such, put together some money during the boom and bought huge vacation properties on the coastline of South Carolina. The properties are mostly intended as investment properties that are rented out by the week. After the real estate market crashed, this lawyer, though all the investors in his group had plenty of cash, decided it was time to spin the banksters for a major reduction in the mortgage payment. So he called a meeting of the partners and advised them that they should stop making the mortgage payments. Some raised concerns about damage to their credit ratings but the lawyer explained how he would handle the negotiations and why it wouldn't damage their credit ratings and so the group stopped paying the mortgage. After some months of this, the bank finally agreed to a major reduction in the mortgage payment. The hustlers won. They pulled a mini-Goldman Sachs play, of a sort, and came out on top.

The world is becoming much more of this hustlers game. The conservative folk, who survive by playing it straight, see rules change and bend before their eyes. They are the ones that get stuck. It is almost impossible to make sound long-term plans when Fed Chairman Bernanke plays the long-term like a fiddle, sometimes hitting high notes by lowering interest rates and at other times low notes by raising interest rates.

But, there is one investment that is currently real tough for the Fed to manipulate, the good old nickel.  The nickel has roughly 6.3 cents of metal, if it were to be melted down (25% nickel and 75% copper). If Bernanke continues to print dollars like a Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe once did, the value of the nickel will keep pace with the inflation and possibly even exceed it. At some point, if the value of the metal climbs high enough the nickel will disappear from general circulation just like the old silver dimes and quarters have. The old  1946-1964 Roosevelt dime now has $2.77 worth of silver metal value, the 1932-1964 Washington quarter has  $6.99 worth of silver value in it. Kitco offers a $100 bag of silver coins for $ 2,800.

Admittedly, because of the bulkiness of handling nickels you will need a strong back to accumulate a sizable investment, but it can be done. One investor is known to have purchased a million dollars worth of nickels.

When gold was trading around $250 an ounce, gold was my top investment recommendation, because I felt there was little downside. It's different at $1,500 an ounce. I still think it is a great investment, but there can from time-to-time be short-term downside, especially if Bernanke slams on the money printing brakes short-term, at some point. However, it is hard to find a better investment than nickles. Literally, if we somehow end up in a period of price deflation instead of inflation, your nickels will still be worth 5 cents, and, if there is deflation, your buying power will have increased. No downside! Go out and spend them at any time.

The one thing that those, who do everything right, do wrong is put their faith in government and all government's mad schemes. The right thing to do is bet that those schemes will go very wrong. Gold and silver are ways to make such a bet, but also nickels. And not because government says the nickel is worth five cents, but because the government is screwing this up already, with the value of the metal at six cents,and someday, likely a lot more, just like the old silver dimes and quarters.

Regulator: Fannie and Freddie Shouldn't Be Subject to Freedom of Information Act

Government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of $160 billion plus, but their regulator opposes making them being subject to the Freedom of Information Act,  reports Marian Wang.

Edward DeMarco, acting director of the companies’ now-regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, told lawmakers last week that Fannie and Freddie “did not cease to be private legal entities when they were placed into conservatorship,” according to MarketWatch.

Note to DeMarco: They never were private entities, even before the bailout they were quasi-government agencies taht always had the implicit guarantee that they would be bailed out by the federal government, as they were.

A Call for Elizabeth Warren to Resign Her Temporary CFPB Poistion

William D. Cohan, Bloomberg columnist and the author of the recently released Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, though generally favorable to the horrific Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which is just another power center for finance elitists to capture and turn to their advantage, is calling for the resignation of the power hungry Elizabeth Warren. Cohan writes:
Surely Professor Warren is clever enough to see the proverbial writing on the wall. The inconvenient truth facing Elizabeth Warren, the controversial Harvard Law School professor President Obama would like to run the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is that she has made herself so bloody disagreeable on Capitol Hill that she has obliterated her chance of winning the Senate votes she needs to be confirmed.

Accordingly, for the good of the country, she should stop the charade now and resign her temporary post at the new agency...Warren’s personal style has angered many congressmen.
Warren resigning would be a good start, but the entire CFPB should be scuttled. It may happen. Cohan writes:

Meanwhile, over in the Senate -- the body that actually confirms appointees -- Warren is faring little better. In early May, 44 Republican senators sent the president a letter saying they would oppose any nominee of either party to head the bureau until “the lack of accountability in the structure” of it is “reformed.”

As the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, put it, the “deeply-flawed” Dodd-Frank law granted the bureau’s director “unprecedented authority over financial institutions and main street businesses” and has given him or her “vast rulemaking, supervisory, investigative and enforcement powers and the authority to regulate … not just traditional financial institutions, but also potentially thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

A Political Ploy

This reeks of a political ploy by the Republican senators to gut an agency despised by their financial backers on Wall Street.

Oddly, a number of political analysts viewed the Republicans’ letter as tantamount to a “retreat” from fighting Obama on Warren and predicted it would make a recess appointment all but inevitable. Yet, having succeeded in averting that scenario last weekend, Republicans are trying to thwart the possibility of another attempt by refusing to recess over the July 4 holiday. (Something about having one or two senators stick around Washington over the holiday.) 
The Republicans are, as Cohan states, likely doing this at the behest of Wall Street, but the gutting of any government power center is always a good thing, regardless of who is instigating the move.

Putin Wins Over Khodorkovsky in European Court

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky's claim that he was prosecuted for political reasons.

The seven-judge panel, including one Russian justice, said in its 46-page ruling, "Khodorkovsky's case might raise some suspicion as to what the real intent of the Russian authorities might have been for prosecuting him, (but) claims of political motivation behind prosecution required incontestable proof, which had not been presented."

Obama to Nominate John Bryson for Secretary of Commerce

President Barack Obama will nominate John Bryson as his pick for Commerce secretary,  AP is reporting. Bryson is the former chairman and chief executive of Edison International.

This will get a thumbs up from Globalists, greens and the military-industrial complex a/k/a save trees kill people group.

Bryson is a director of The Boeing Company ans also KKR.  He also serves on the Secretary-General’s United Nations Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, and the Electric Drive Transportation Association. He is on the Advisory Board of Deutsche Bank Americas.  He was a co-founder and attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national and international environmental organization.

Explosives Detonate in 3 Ikea Stores Across Europe


UPDATE: Small explosives concealed in alarm clocks detonated at Ikea furniture stores in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, Belgian authorities said, according to AFP.

"The information we have is that the explosions happened the same way in all locations, with booby-trapped alarm clocks that had been hidden exploding," An Schoonjans, spokeswoman for Ghent prosecutors, told AFP.

No injuries have been reported other than that of security agent complained of ear aches after two small explosions, which detonated almost simultaneously in the Belgian city of Ghent.

They Don't Charge You More to Fly, They Charge Your Baggage

On stealth inflation (Airline Baggage Edition)..

Airline revenue from add-ons to ticket sales jumped to almost $22 billion last year and continues to soar as more carriers chase extra sources of income, according to a joint study by Amadeus and  IdeaWorks Co.

According to the study, 47 of the world's biggest airlines, which together account for almost half of all airline revenue, last year reported ancillary sales of €15.11 billion, up 38% from 2009. In dollar terms, according to WSJ, the increase last year was about 60% amid the dollar's devaluation from 2009, when the figure was $13.47 billion.

In 2007, only 23 airlines reported ancillary revenues and the total was less than $2.5 billion, according to the study.

Steve Jobs to Deliver Apple Keynote

The annual Worldwide Developers Conference starts next week Monday in San Francisco.

Apple has just announced that Steve Jobs, who is out medical leave, will deliver the keynote speech. According to the firm, the speech will focus on Apple’s new Mac software, Lion, the next version of Apple’s iPhone and iPad software, and a new service called the iCloud.

Case-Schiller House Price Index Hits a New Low

The impact of last year's government manipulation of the housing market continues as the Case-Shiller house price index, on a seasonally adjusted basis, fell in March 2011 by 0.2% versus February 2011  and declined by 3.6% versus March 2010 The level of the index fell to a new cycle low, and now indicates a peak-to-trough decline in house prices of at least 33.1%. A large factor in the overall decline at the present time continues to be the large inventory of foreclosed homes that overhang the market. These houses should have been cleared out over a year ago, but attempts by the government to prop up the market kept bankers much more hopeful about housing prices than they should have been.

Not surprisingly, as government plays a larger role in the economy ,Washington DC moved against the downward trend and remained the top gainer, with a price increase  of 1.2% versus February 2011 and an 8.1% increase versus March 2010.
San Francisco (+0.5%), Miami (+0.3%), Seattle (+0.2%) and Los Angeles (+0.1%) also saw month-over-month gains in prices. On the downside, Charlotte (-2.6%), Minneapolis (-2.5%), Cleveland(1.3%) and Atlanta (-1.2%) prices fell significantly.

DSK Hires All-Male Maids

From NyPo:
Macho maids dutifully swept litter off DSKs sidewalk - looking as alluring as your average building super...
And, of course, what's house confinement without a visit from a Federal Reserve connected brother. More from NyPo:

Adding to the festive vibe at the home jail, Strauss-Kahn's brother, Marc-Olivier set up camp there for the weekend.

The younger Strauss-Kahn, director at Banque de France and is a visiting senior adviser to the US Federal Reserve, was spotted going in and out but left yesterday with a suitcase.

An Important Sign Berlusconi is Toast

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been charged with having sex with an under-age girl, is also facing problems on the electoral front. In local Italian local elections, his coalition has lost Milan, his home town.

But the real death pronouncement comes from the ultimate insider, economist Nouriel Roubini. If Roubini declares a global politician dead, he's dead.

Here are Roubini tweets this morning:
Voters Give Berlusconi Bloody Nose. Time for him to resign & rescue Italy from the global embarrassment of his farce
I am in Venice now. Italy cannot afford any longer a BBB rating: Berlusconi Bunga Bunga. It's high time for a change as his farce gotta
No one senses political death better than Roubini. Roubini's tweets are not a good sign for Berlusconi.

Is Krugman Turning Austrian?

This morning Paul Krugman tells us that the housing bubble was partly political but what I find most interesting is his use of the word, "misalignment":
I I think, is part of the explanation of how the mother of all bubbles, the most obvious misalignment I’ve ever seen, was denied and ignored: it was partly political.
This is a downright Austrian school use of the word. Austrian economists call the business cycle a misallocation of resources. Keynesians think of the business cycle as an aggregate demand problem (too much or too little). A "misalignment" sounds to me pretty close to an Austrian view. I guess he could say he was referring to a misalignment of overall demand, because he is a bit unclear. But it sure sounds more like he is thinking about distortions in the housing sector, which would be more of an Austrian concept.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Sanity in the White House?

In an insane column, even by Paul Krugman standards, Krugman calls for responding to the high unemployment in the country by implementing:
...W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads.
As per usual, he does not explain where the money will come from for such make-work projects. Since the money will come as a result of taxes, increased debt or money printing, it means those taxed will have less of their own money to spend (or invest), borrowing will crowd out the private sector and inflation will hurt those that are last in line to get the money. It is hard to understand how Krugman doesn't understand that a WPA-program is just wealth transfer via theft.

Curiously though, it does not appear that this Krugman prescription will have any traction in the Obama Administration.  Jared Bernstein, who until recently was Vice-President Biden's top economic adviser, responds to Krugman:
There will be no WPA-type programs in our near future. There was no appetite for them in the Obama admin in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and there’s a lot less now. The reasons for that are interesting and I’ll speak to them another day. But it ain’t happening.
Could there be some voices of sanity at the White House? Let's hope Bernstein follows through on his promise to lift the curtain a bit more and fill us in on the great impediment blocking a WPA-economic distortion type program.

But, don't think for a minute that Bernstein is one of those voices of sanity. Here's Bernstein on Krugman:
Don’t you get a little bummed out when you open the paper on a Krugman day and he’s not there, or when he says he won’t be adding to his blog for a few days because of travel? What’s more, I could be wrong, but seems to me that when Paul is away, the Very Serious People he worries about say crazier stuff. It’s as if up on Capitol Hill, they’re going, “Krugman’s on vacation! It’s the perfect time to launch our bill to do away with social insurance once and for all!! Mwahahaha!!!”

Russia Unexpectedly Raises Interest Rate

In an unexpected move, the Bank of Russia raised its overnight deposit rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent.

“The decision was made taking into account still-high inflation expectations and risks to steady economic growth,” the central bank said in a statement.

With the ECB maintaining a fairly tight monetary policy, and  Russia and China slowing their money printing, expect more pressure on the dollar in foreign exchange markets, since the Fed appears to be one of the most accomodative, money printing central banks at present.

Why Mother Jones is Nervous About Ron Paul

How do you know Mother Jones is putting out a hit piece? They put in a negative light a libertarian who on Constitutional grounds calls for the legalization of cocaine.

Yup, good old Mother Jones, which in its April issue reviewed a book titled, I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons, is on the attack against libertarian Ron Paul.

The April review tells us:
The.... [book] teaches you...how to transport a couple of kilos hidden up your ass, woven into your dreadlocks, or molded into shirt buttons. The second details how to secrete tons of white powder inside shipments of marble, granite, and copper cables so the corporations transporting it don't realize it. There isn't a moral here, just an astonishing inside look at a business like any other: "What is a drug smuggler, technically speaking? A service provider. Nothing else."
But, in their June issue, they are no longer highlighting a book that tells you how "to transport a couple of kilos hidden up your ass."

They instead list Ron Paul's call for the federal government to get out of the drug prohibition business as extreme. Of course, Dr. Paul's call is based on the Constitution, which was signed by, among others, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, so extreme is certainly in the eye of the beholder. For some, ignoring the Constitution and creating a "war on drugs" might be a bit extreme.

Mother Jones, cleverly, in listing  the so-called extreme views of Dr. Paul, does not outright state the views are wrong, that would be difficult for the pro-drug regressives that run the magazine. But they get their point across about Dr. Paul by calling Ron Paul supporters, "cult followers" and accompanying the article with an uncomplimentary photo of Dr. Paul.
Mother Jones also lists as extreme Ron Paul's call to end the Fed, close down various government agencies etc.  And that is at the core of the regressive magazine's problem with Dr. Paul. Ron Paul is starting to make an impact with the rank and file Left that are beginning to understand that government intrusion into everyday life is the real problem. The regressive leaders can't have that, since they don't come anywhere close to the consistent view of Ron Paul that the government should stay out of people's private lives---across the board.

Mother Jones has all sorts of projects that it would like to see the government run. Thus, they will sacrifice a fellow traveler on the road to the legalization of cocaine, if that also means they have to be consistent on freedom and the elimination of government intrusiveness. But the fact that they have to pay attention to Ron Paul at all indicates that Dr. Paul is winning. They are real nervous that some of their readers may turn to the consistent freedom view offered by Ron Paul, and dump the regressive, interventionist views of Mother Jones. And so the line is clearly drawn for the Mother Jones readers, total freedom versus regressive interventionists.

ECB Official: Orderly Greek Restructuring is a Fairy Tale

Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an ECB executive board member tells FT that a Greek "soft" restructuring is a "fairy tale":
There is no such thing as an “orderly” debt restructuring in the current circumstances. It would be a mess. And I haven’t mentioned contagion – which would come on top.

If you look at financial markets, every time there is mention of word like restructuring or “soft restructuring,” they go crazy ... “soft restructurings” “re-profilings” do not exist. They are catchwords that politicians have tried to use, but without any content.
Translation: Smaghi is talking real ugly, and correctly so. The only thing I am not sure of is whether Smaghi has wandered off the reservation and speaking truth to power, or whether the banksters have unloaded their PIIGS debt and are moving into a new phase of global plotting. Don't forget, we are only 10 days away from the next Bilderberg meeting.

Who in Boston Gamed the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting?

The Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting was on April 30, but Jeff Matthews seems to have only gotten around to blogging some important side notes now. He writes:
....once again, three reporters—Fortune’s Carol Loomis, The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, and CNBC’s Becky Quick—are alternating [questions] with shareholders. Altogether, this has kept the “What Would Warren Do?”-type questions to a minimum, and put the spotlight on Berkshire and its businesses, which is where it belongs.

(Side note: an unusually high number of excellent questions are being posed by bright young financial analysts from the Greater Boston Area, which suggests somebody figured out how to game the “lottery” system anyway. Who says America has lost its competitive edge?)
One commenter at Matthews site suggested it was Fidelity. But there are a lot of smart people in the surrounding Boston area. It's only a short T-ride across the Charles River to Cambridge, home of MIT and Harvard. Some of whose graduates are likely to become economic hitmen if not worse, rigging all kinds of things. Gaming a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting might be good practice.

Maybe the scheme was cooked up by a Harvard grad, who now works at Fidelity. That would really fit.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Rothschild Comes to the Defense of Rand Paul

Matt Rothschild (a disowned heir of the New York branch of the Rothschild family)  writes in The Progressive:
I don’t agree with a lot of what Rand Paul stands for, but he was absolutely right to be objecting to the extension of some of the most noxious aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act this week.

One of those allows roving wiretaps. Another allows the FBI to essentially write its own subpoenas to any business in the country demanding its records. This includes libraries and bookstores, which have to cough up the names of their customers and the books they were checking out or buying.

These provisions were set to expire on Thursday, and on Wednesday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid went after Rand Paul in the most outrageous manner. Sounding like Dick Cheney himself, Reid said that if these provisions aren’t extended, there will be “dire consequences” and “terrorists” will be able “to plot against our country undetected.”

Rand Paul called Reid’s charges “scurrilous,” which they were. He said he just wanted to debate the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, adding, “We threw out the Constitution with the Patriot Act.”

Beyond LaGarde

France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, appears to be the most likely to succeed DSK as head of the IMF. Though there is some opposition.

Economist magazine is against the choice.

The magazine lists these potential candidates as strong choices:

Stanley Fischer, the governor of Israel’s central bank and former number two at the IMF.

Agustín Carstens, head of Mexico’s central bank and also a former official at the fund.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s finance minister and head of the IMF’s policy advisory committee.

Mark Carney is head of the Bank of Canada.

Arminio Fraga formerly president of Brazil’s central bank.

What do all these choices have in common? Like Lagarde, they are all total insiders.

Fischer was Ben Bernanke's and Greg Mankiw's Ph.D. thesis advisor. He has also served as Vice Chairman of Citigroup and President of Citigroup International.

Carney spent thirteen years with Goldman Sachs in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices. He was involved in Goldman's work with the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Goldman while advising Russia was simultaneously betting against the country's ability to repay its debt.

You get the picture, it's a total insider game. With different factions fighting for control of this powerful position.

UPDATE: The  United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European members of the G-8 -- France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany -- are all firmly in favour of Lagarde, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

Strauss-Kahn Brings in CIA Connected Heavy Attack Team

This is beyond OJ's Dream Team, this is the DSK's Super Spooks Team.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is pulling together a crack team of investigators, former spies and media advisers to fight back against charges he sexually assaulted a hotel chambermaid, reports Reuters.

In Washington, according to Reuters, the team is in the process of signing up TD International, a "strategic advisory" firm which offers both public relations and investigative services and is staffed and run by former CIA operations officers and U.S. diplomats.

In New York, the DSK team has hired a private investigations firm experienced in criminal cases. The firm, Guidepost Solutions, describes itself as a "full-service investigations and security consulting firm."

Here's what Reuters has to say about TD:
TD International's website says it offers clients such services as "strategic consulting", "commercial intelligence," "due diligence" and "security services."

Justice Department filings by TD International give a peek into some of its activities. One set of filings shows that beginning in late 2006, TD acted as a U.S. representative for Yulia Tymoshenko, who was a leader of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" and later served as prime minister

Other Justice Department filings show that in 2007, TD International was hired by Strauss-Kahn to act as his "U.S.-based communications resource." A contract between TD International and Strauss-Kahn, dated July 18, 2007, shows he hired the firm to "conduct a specific public relations campaign" and "work is to begin immediately and continue until ascendancy of client to head of IMF."
Keep in mind that the "color revolutions" like the one in Ukraine is a sure sign of a CIA operation.

Guidepost Solutions describes itself as a "global investigations and security company" which specializes both in physical security systems and "expert investigative and security consulting services and advice..."

The company's chairman, Bart Schwartz, is a former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan.

Ron Paul Challenges His Followers: Break Romney's $10 Million Money Raise

Ron Paul has sent out a letter to his supporters:

Are you up to the challenge?

Ten Million Dollars.

That’s how much establishment candidate Mitt Romney raised in one day a couple of weeks ago from well-heeled party bigwigs for his 2012 White House bid.

So today, I’m writing to personally ask if you are up for a challenge.

My campaign’s grassroots supporters are holding another Money Bomb next Sunday, June 5th, and I believe it offers us an excellent chance to make some headlines of our own.

You see, the Romney campaign thinks no one else can touch their accomplishment.

But honestly, I don’t need 10 million dollars to match Mitt Romney.

After all, I don’t have to defend a liberal record as governor of Massachusetts.

I don’t have to defend against passing a bill just as bad as ObamaCare. Mitt Romney does. So it’s ok if he has a bit more money than we do.

He’s going to need it!

But it is absolutely critical I have the financial backing to build a first-class operation in early caucus and primary states and show the pundits and press that I am a serious candidate.

I know these so-called “gate keepers” are part of the Washington problem, but the fact is their either dismissing of candidates or praising them makes a difference to many undecided voters.

An overwhelming showing on June 5th would force the establishment pundits to realize you and I are in this to win it!

So please, visit http://www.ronpaul2012.com/ on June 5th and contribute whatever you are able. I know times are tough, but each and every dollar will go toward implementing our plans to run a first-class, winning campaign to restore America now.
I have no idea if Congressman Paul can raise that kind of money in a one day money bomb, but he is correct, people would take notice.


Braney Frank is Suddenly Concerned about the Constitution

In an age where the President ignores the Constitution by sending troops to fight in far off places, where the Privacy Act ignores the rights that prevent illegal searches, and the Federal Reserve pumps money at will, even Barney Frank has drawn a line beyond which he believes Congress should  not go when it comes to ignoring the Constitution.

It's not illegal wars that Frank is upset about, it is not privacy abuses that Frank is upset about, when it comes to others walking all over the Constitution, Frank has another concern.

Republicans are attempting to block recess appointments as a way to prevent the President from making Elizabeth Warren the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And, Frank has suddenly brought out the Constitution in an attempt to block this move by the Republicans.

Frank says it is an "outrageous abuse of the Constitution.”  "It’s an incredible spectacle," Frank told Firedoglake.

Frank even decries the media focus, “The media has been focused on the international situation and debt,” Frank said. “If the public fully understood what these guys [the Republicans] are doing they wouldn’t stand for it.”

Funny Barney, but that's what many are saying about the unconstitutional wars and invasions of privacy. But, oh yeah, too much focus on that, let's get to the real important stuff like getting Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB, who during the height of the financial crisis started studying how the financial sector could be nationalized, a move that is certainly beyond any right granted to the Federal government in the Constitution. With the incredible contradictoty arguments Frank makes, it's clear he has no respect for the public. How this guy gets elected year-over-year is amazing.

The New Texas Oil Rush

So much for peak oil.

NyTi reports:
....the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.

The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade — without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.

The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas....

The oil industry says any environmental concerns are far outweighed by the economic benefits of pumping previously inaccessible oil from fields that could collectively hold two or three times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan field that was the last great onshore discovery...

“This is very big and it’s coming on very fast,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of IHS CERA. “This is like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Inspectors Say Greece Missed All Fiscal Targets

Well, the Greeks are taking bankster austerity plans seriously.

Greece has missed all fiscal targets agreed under its bailout plan, a mission from an international inspection team found, putting further funding for Athens at risk, according to the German magazine, Spiegel, reports Reuters.

Greece will likely go into default at some point. It is going to be near impossible for politicos in Euro countries like Germany to support sending more bailout money to Greece, when the Greeks can't significantly slow government spending. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely under extreme pressure from banksters to keep the money flowing, but it is political suicide if she continues to do so.

Members of Congress Are Exempt from Insider Trading Laws and Make 9% Per Year Trading on Inside Information

I wasn't aware of this, but apparently the damn hypocrite members of Congress are exempt from insider trading laws, when they vote on legislation that will impact their portfolio and as a result of knowledge they gain from their Congressional activities. Nice that the bastards have exempted themselves.

Valerie Richardson at the Washington Times reports:
Strict laws ban corporate executives from trading on their insider knowledge, but no restrictions exist for members of Congress. Lawmakers are permitted to keep their holdings and trade shares on the market, as well as vote on legislation that could affect their portfolio values.
Not surprisingly, the data suggest that Congressmen are using this insider edge to profit. Here's Richardson again:
It’s no secret that members of Congress qualify as political insiders, but a new report strongly suggests that they also may be insiders when it comes to trading stocks.

An extensive study released Wednesday in the journal Business and Politics found that the investments of members of the House of Representatives outperformed those of the average investor by 55 basis points per month, or 6 [sic] percent annually, suggesting that lawmakers are taking advantage of inside information to fatten their stock portfolios.

“We find strong evidence that members of the House have some type of non-public information which they use for personal gain,” according to four academics who authored the study, “Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

To the frustration of open-government advocates, lawmakers and their staff members largely have immunity from laws barring trading on insider knowledge that have sent many a private corporate chieftain to prison.
It should be noted that this study only took into account trading that has been disclosed. I suspect that the more egregious trading is done in a manner which is not reported.

In general, there is nothing wrong with insider trading, but when it comes to Congressmen personally benefiting as a result of legislation they shape and vote on, there is a clear conflict of interest. Thus, while insider trading laws should be eliminated for the general public, it is a pretty good idea to shackle Congressmen with insider trading regulations, so that the conflicts they face are eliminated, and also on the general principle that Congressmen should be tied up in bureaucratic red tape as much as possible, so that they have less time to harass the rest of us with new legislation.

One bill prohibiting insider trading by members of Congress has been written. Richardson reports:
...concerns about members of Congress enriching themselves based on inside information has prompted at least one House bill, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which would limit the ability of lawmakers to buy and sell stock shares.

First introduced in 2006, the bill has yet to reach the House floor. Its sponsors, Reps. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, New York Democrat, and Timothy J. Walz, Minnesota Democrat, reintroduced the bill in March.
Slaughter and Walz are two of the most aggressive interventionists in Congress, it's good to see them baring their fangs inward against their fellow congressmen. I fully support the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Bill.

The Inside World of an Economic Hitman

Below are clips from a speech given by John Perkins author of, Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

Although the speech was delivered in 2006, it is as relevant today as it was 5 years ago. It is an insider's account of how the IMF, World Bank and similar organizations muscle small countries for the benefit of the power elite. You have never heard a speech like this before. The full first clip, along with roughly the first 15 minutes of the second clip, are most informative. Perkins continues on after that, but at that point he calls for a new central type plan to organize the world. In other words, he doesn't get that it is central power that is the problem.

If his central power plan were to be implemented, the elitist bad guys would capture that power structure, just like they have captured the current power structure.

Amazingly, after Perkins describes in detail how the power structure he saw up close was an instrument of evil, he doesn't get what Hayek warned about, that the worst always get to the top. The real solution is free markets, where no one lords over another.

That said, the first clip, and half of the second, are awesome in describing how the power elite operate.


FINRA Harasses Small Brokerage Firms

This comes as no surprise. As the elitist brokerage firms are bailed out by the Fed, the quasi-government organization FINRA harasses small firms, who don't have the heft to buy access to the inner power circle.

NyPo's John Crudele reports:

Small stock brokerage firms say regulators are trying to kill them.

And they think the largest independent regulator of the securities industry -- the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, for short -- is nothing more than the hit man for large brokerage firms.

"I've been fighting with Finra for years. In some ways it's like an organized crime group," said John Busacca, founder of the Securities Industry Professional Association. "It's like paying protection money in Bensonhurst."

Busacca, who aired his grievances to me in a phone interview, complains that Finra won't take legal action against large firms but has become extremely picky when dealing with small broker/dealers.

Representatives of the small firms who sit on Finra's 22-member board are outgunned by those that represent big- and medium-sized operations as well as the 11 appointed public members.

Just a couple of years ago there were more than 6,000 small independents in the brokerage industry, providing thousands of jobs. That number is now down to around 4,100 and there's been a big drop-off in just the last few months.

Critics say Finra and other government agencies appear determined to force... [consolidation in] the industry , with the bigger firms gobbling up weaker, smaller ones.

The owner of one independent broker says he's been harassed by Finra for months and is often made to comply with regulations over which Finra has no authority. (Finra, mind you, failed to spot Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff despite regularly examining his broker-dealer operations.)
This elitist control of enforcement agencies occurs in many industries, but securities industry regulations are particularly onerous.The Goldman Sachs' and JPMorgan's of the industry are allowed to skate on all kinds of infractions, but the small brokerage firms are cracked down upon for real and imagined infractions.

This ultimately results in difficulty for small firms to raise capital. The major brokerage firms aren't interested in small deals and the small brokerage firms have their hands tied which pretty much makes it impossible for them to raise IPO type money for small firms in need of capital.

I shudder to think about the small firms that would be creative and innovative, but never go beyond the planning stage because the money raising markets are cut off to them because of FINRA harassment of small broker-dealers.

U.S. to Auction Madoff Belongings in Two-Day Auction

Bernard and Ruth Madoff’s last possessions confiscated in criminal cases will be auctioned over two days staring on June 3 in Miami Beach, and simulcast online, the U.S. Marshals Service said, according to Bloomberg.

The auction will begin with 345 lots of jewelry, watches, coins and currency and conclude with 275 lots from the Madoff residences in New York and Palm Beach, according to a statement today.

More details here (PdF)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Indications from Banana Repubic that the U.S. Is Turning Into a Banana Republic

Lauren Capra reports:
$60 flip flops & "Select Hobo Pants Now Only $98"

There is an opposing view provided earlier this year by Paul Krugman:

....there’s nothing here to suggest any reason to consider inflation a problem.

Another Reason to Hate the Washington Redskins

Current Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and former defensive end Dexter Manley went to Reagan National Airport this week in a show of solidarity with TSA workers, reports HuffPo via The Hill.  There is a TSA union runoff election going on.

"With the lockout going on, it's good to come out and support a fellow union, even though we're not recognized anymore," said Alexander.

Alexander told the HuffPo that TSA workers "have a hard job as it is."

"They get a lot of flack for just doing their job because people feel they're being violated," he said. "I can understand why they feel unappreciated."

Clearly, Alexander has been playing without his helmet.

The National Treasury Employees Union and American Federation of Government Employees  competed in an April election to represent TSA employees after TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to allow employees to decide if they wanted a union. Neither union won 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, so a runoff began this week.

Be prepared, next we will have crotch groping specialists, who will be different from breast grabbers.

The Republican Nomination is a Neck and Neck and Neck and Neck Thing

The latest CNN poll shows four potential Republican presidential candidates within in 4 percentage points of each other:

Giuliani 16%

Romney 15%

Palin 13%

Paul 12%

Cain 10%

Gingrich 8%

Bachmann 7%

Pawlenty 5%

Santorum 2%

Huntsman 1%

Johnson 1%

Roemer *

What's most interesting about this new data is that with Mitt Romney's name recognition and establishment backing, he is doing nothing to distance himself from the pack. I don't think he has enough fire in the belly to go all the way. If he drops out at some point, Ron Paul has a chance to pick up a huge chunk of those votes. If Romney is out, Paul will be especially strong in heavily Mormon states such as Nevada and Utah. In many ways, on principle, Ron Paul is more Mormon than Romney. If Mormons start to look for an alternative to Romney, Paul is going to look very favorable. With Mormons at 3% of the population that puts that 3% from Romney's column into Paul's, and with the other 12% of Romney's vote split amongst all the candidates, it puts Ron Paul close to the top.  Then if Gary Johnson does the decent thing for liberty and drops out, Paul picks up that vote. Things could really start to get interesting

The Goldman Sachs-Government Revolving Door Spins Again

Goldman Sachs has announced that Judd Gregg, a former three-term U.S. Senator from New Hampshire has been named an international advisor to the firm.

Lloyd Blankfein is ecstatic:
Judd Gregg's experience and insight will contribute significantly to our firm and our continuing focus on supporting economic growth.


Thanks for the tip.

Barbecue Prices This Year versus Last Year +29%

Prices for a barbecue this year vs last year: +29%

Ground beef: +14%

Lettuce +28%

Tomatoes: +86%

Potato Salad: +27%

Corn on the Cob: +150%

Coffee: +20 %

This is really sad. Watch this CNBC video and see what $100 buys you.

But, you know there is an opposing view, provided earlier this year by Paul Krugman:

....there’s nothing here to suggest any reason to consider inflation a problem.

It's Time to Privatize the Post Office

And by that I mean sell it off and also allow anyone else to compete in the delivery of mail, who wants to.

The Postal Service can't even survive on its own with its monopoly privilege. According to NPR, it has borrowed $12 billion from the Treasury to stay afloat.

According to Bloomberg, the USPS has 31,871 post offices, more than the domestic retail outlets of Wal-Mart, Starbucks and McDonald's, combined.

Not surprisingly, there are no calls for privatization and the move toward free markets. NPR and Bloomberg even hoist out the idea of a European model where different governments compete in the delivery of mail, but they won't go as far as allowing anyone else who wants to from the private sector, to compete.

More on CFTC Harassment of Arcadia Oil Traders

As reported previously,  the CFTC has charged Parnon Energy Inc., Arcadia Petroleum Ltd., Arcadia Energy Suisse SA, Nicholas J. Wildgoose and James T. Dyer with the absurdity of manipulating the oil market. This is a big case in an apparently new aggressive CFTC.

Here's John Kingston at Platts Oil with his take on the charges. First how big is this case?
The CFTC this week did something big. Very big [bringing this case]...This is one of the biggest actions the CFTC has taken in the crude market in recent years. When traders dismiss these allegations as nothing more than normal trading activity, they're ignoring a simple fact: the CFTC apparently doesn't think so.

Based on the defiant media statement that Arcadia released after the suit was filed, this dispute is either going to go to trial--"Rather than consent to the resolution of the matter based on allegations that are unjustified and untrue, we accepted that the matter would be adjudicated in the courts," Arcadia said--or it's going to be settled for a lot of money. This won't be a repeat of the $1 million fine that Marathon paid to the CFTC in 2007 on charges of manipulating the market (in a year it made close to $4 billion), accusations that appeared flimsy at the time.
Among many problems with the CFTC case, Kingston points out one potential major problem for the CFTC:
Based on one passage, it seems that the traders did not use the NYMEX as their means to acquire the oil. The acquisition was done in a fairly short period, between Jan. 8 and Jan. 16 of 2008. "Can we get this issue resolved pls. time is of the essence here, we need to trade cash with 3rd parties tomorrow as part of the feb/mar wti strategy," Wildgoose writes in an email to an Arcadia officer, according to the lawsuit. The reference to "cash" can be interpreted to mean the trades went on in the OTC market.

One question, and this is sheer speculation: did Arcadia/Parnon want the industry to know it was acquiring such a large position? Based on the lawsuit, it wanted the market to think the tanks were drying up, so maybe not. But if you want to take a large position and do it anonymously, the place to do it is on the NYMEX. In the "old days," when trading was done by open outcry, floor brokers could see that broker A was buying a lot of oil, and since broker A usually handles the needs of oil company B, that meant oil company B had a play on. Since that trading is now almost completely virtual, that market intelligence is no longer available. But if the company bought a lot of February oil in the cash market, its activities might have been noticed, which would have undercut trying to persuade that there was growing tightness in Cushing.

Enjoy Your Mermorial Day Drive with Gas Prices....

....nationally averaging $3.81 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline, more than $1.00 higher than a year ago.


Serious Koch Bashing by T. Boone Pickens

The oligarch slamdown battle for an edge continues. It's Boone Pickens' turn to slam the Kochs. 

If the money for all this wasn't coming out of our pockets, this could be pretty entertaining. The CNBC slamdown video clip is here.

Ford Raises Car Prices for Third Time This Year


The opposing view was provided earlier this year by Paul Krugman:

....there’s nothing here to suggest any reason to consider inflation a problem.

Taibbi Decides to Take Saudi Oil Sheiks at Their Word

In one of the strangest blog posts that I have come across in a long-time, Matt Taibbi, who is known for not taking anybody's word (well he does take words of others, but that's another story), ignores basic economics and decides instead to take the word of, hang on to your seat, Saudi oil sheiks.

He does this so that he can prove that it is evil speculators who have been driving up the price of oil.

He writes:
Well, thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that when the Bush administration reached out to the Saudis in the summer of '08 to ask them to increase oil production to lower prices, the Saudis responded by saying they were having a hard time finding buyers for their oil as it was, and instead asked the Bush administration to rein in Wall Street speculators.

According to the McClatchy report, the Wiki cables show that Saudi ministers repeatedly told Bush administration officials that increasing production might be counterproductive.

The cables show that at the height of the bubble, in May 2008, U.S. officials met in Riyadh with the Saudi assistant petroleum minister, Prince Abdulazziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who told the U.S. he was "extremely worried" that high prices would destroy the demand for crude.

"Aramco is trying to sell more, but frankly there are no buyers," he reportedly said, referring to the Saudi state oil company. "We are discounting buyers."
Does Taibbi have any frickin clue as to what he is quoting? The Saudi's are saying that the price of oil is too high and they are having trouble selling oil. Duh. In the real world, outside the world where Taibbi sits and madly scribbles notes at the feet of Saudi oil sheiks, if a price is going up that means there is more demand for a product. It means that it is an easier market to sell a product in. For a Saudi sheik to say that a high price is a problem for them because they can't sell any oil at that price, is totally absurd. If they can't sell oil at a given high price, how is oil at that price?

In other words, why the hell is Taibbi buying this absurd economic analysis from a Saudi oil sheik?

The answer is because he wants to blame the climb in oil prices on speculators:
The Wiki documents show that the Saudis had long ago concluded that this increased investor flow was a threat to disrupt the markets. An embassy cable from 2007 recounted a meeting U.S. officials had with Yasser Mufti, an Aramco planner. "The Saudi analysts indicated a link between higher oil prices and the influx of investor funds into the oil markets," it read.

The cables also show that the Saudis urged the Americans to enact reforms to rein in Wall Street, calling for speculative limits and other changes. It also showed that some Saudi officials believed that speculation added as much as $40 to the oil price during the height of the bubble.
Duh, wouldn't you want investor money to flow into a sector where prices are going up, so that more research and development goes on in the sector? But instead of making a basic Econ 101 analysis, Taibbi takes us on a merry road where somehow higher prices are seen as a problem for oil sheiks because there is no demand at the higher prices. Yet somehow, these sheiks can't sell into the higher prices. What the hell kind of logic is that?

Bottom line: Taibbi continues to be an apologist for government intervention (this time to limit commodity traders) and will even go as far as spouting nonsense from Saudi oil sheiks to justify his absurd position. At the same time, he fails to examine the link between Fed monetary policy and price inflation. Is Taibbi clueless or is there an agenda here?

The Total Keynesian: Jared Bernstein

It is really amazing how these guys look at only one side of an equation. If you cut government spending that means there is more money available for spending in the private sector.

Do they really think money disappears from the system if the government doesn't spend it? Do they not realize that money not spent by the government might be used in the private sector to use in the investment arena, which means an increasing standard of living?

Bernstein served as chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden until two weeks ago, and now works as a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Fitch Lowers Outlook on Japan

 Standard & Poor's and Moody's have both already put Japanese government debt on negative outlook.

 Fitch cited the risks associated with the nuclear power plant crisis and noted that the country's gross debt ratio is already the highest of any country it tracks, at 210% of GDP by the end of 2010.

Fitch said that the reconstruction spending after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were not the primary drivers of its ratings action. But it said that the still-unknown cost of cleaning up the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and ongoing problems in finding alternate sources of power could force a downward revision in the 2011 growth forecast, currently at 0.5%.

"Failure to strengthen the commitment to fiscal consolidation, or the emergence of substantial additional fiscal or economic costs from the process of reconstruction post-disaster, could trigger a downgrade," Fitch said in its release.

How Tyler Cowen Reads 10,000 Books a Week

Brenda Greely at Business Week explains:
Tyler Cowen sits with a cranberry juice and a pile of books he no longer intends to read. He's at Harry's Tap Room, near the Air France ticket counter in the main terminal of Dulles International Airport, on his way to São Paulo. Two days ago he e-mailed me his reading list for the trip—27 books—and I vowed to keep up with it. Already, before he boards, he has assembled a pile of discards. "Unger. I'd say I browsed it. I looked at every page," he says. "There's nothing wrong with the book. It's a good book to stir up leftists." Roberto Mangabeira Unger's The Left Alternative falls with a thud to the table.

Cowen, 49, has round features, a hesitant posture, and an unconcerned haircut. He handles each book as he ticks it off his list. "This I discarded. It appeared to get a good review, but there's no framework, just scattered vignettes. I looked at 20, 30 pages." Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes, thud. Cowen's first rule of reading is as follows: You need not finish. He takes up books with great hope and no mercy, and when he is done—sometimes after five minutes—he abandons them in public, an act he calls a "liberation." ...

Tyler Cowen has read what's listed in Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, though not, he concedes, every single last one of the Icelandic sagas. He rereads what you probably haven't heard of, like Anton Chekhov's Sakhalin Island. For the Brazil trip, in case he runs out of new books, he has also brought Neal Stephenson's 1,100-page Cryptonomicon, which he has already read. Fiction slows him down, he says, which makes packing easier. He carries a Kindle but reads paper when he can; he says he's invested too much time on the rhythm of how the eye tracks the page. Several people have told me the same story about Cowen: They have watched him read, and he scans a page as others might scan a headline...

At the bar at Dulles, he produces David Goldfield's America Aflame, a three-inch-thick hardback on the Civil War. He pats it like an obedient dog and urges me to open a page at random and read a paragraph. "It's clear," he says, "it's about stuff." When we're done eating, he offers me a plastic bag filled with the books he's liberated, tells me that reading is the handmaiden of travel, and heads for security.

Why the First Lady Didn't Go to Poland with the President

According to Gawker, First Lady Michelle Obama has returned home early from the President's European trip because of a problem she has with the president of Poland

According to the Polish paper Nasz Dziennik, the First Lady did not travel to Poland  because of  a translation of what President Bronislaw Komorowski said during his last visit to the US and which the First Lady took as an insult. The translation went this way: "You see, Mr President, the US and Poland have a relationship that is like a marriage. You should trust your wife, but you should also check whether she is faithful."  The translation is a distorted version of an old Polish saying. The Polish president meant no insult. But the First Lady stayed stubborn about the perceived insult.

In any event, the President seems to be doing just fine in Poland without the First Lady.


Never Invest Money with a Guy Hooked Up to a Ventilator and Other Success Tips

By James Altucher

I really blew it and everyone knows it. I was even asked to speak at some conference about Failure on I think June 13. I might’ve deluded myself into thinking I’m the keynote speaker. But I might just be on a panel. I don’t know. Hopefullly I won’t fail at it. But if I do I hope you can all come and watch it happen in slow motion. By the way, my favorite technique in public speaking is to slightly slur my words but that’s another post.

I’m like Dr. Failure. I know exactly what you need to do if you want your wife to hate you, if you want to get thrown out of school, if you want to lose your investors $100 million. If you want to lose your home, and so on.

1/16 of the time people are happy. The rest of the time they are unhappy. So you if you start to avoid all the things that cause unhappiness then maybe there’s a small chance you can improve the ratios in your favor

Claudia says “why are you writing about failure? Think positive!” What? Avoiding every possible way to fail is the most positive thing you can do to be happy and successful.

Here’s the REAL reasons entrepreneurs fail. Its not because of a bad programmer. Fire him and get a new one. Its not because a client pulled out at the last minute. Get a new client, or anticipate. It not because your girlfriend cheated on you. Kick her to the curb. Its not because some guy sued you or your employees delivered an unfinished product. We already know its your fault. Every failure (EVERY) failure boils down to these core reasons that come from the INSIDE. Some might seem obvious but they really are the ONLY reasons for failure. They are the CORE FOUNDATIONS of every failure. Pay attention to them please:

A) Sickness. This is obvious. If you are sick all the time, you won’t be successful at a business. When I was a venture capitalist I would never invest money to a guy hooked up to a ventilator. Or even if I supect they are clinically deprssed. Many people avoid second dates if they find out on the first date the girl has late-stage terminal cancer. This is sad but reality.

What does it mean for an enterpreneur? Put good things in your body. Exercise. Don’t drink. Sleep 8 hours a day. That’s it. Then you probably won’t get sick as much and you’ll have a lot of energy to do your business. If you’re sick in bed all the time, your business will fail.

B) Inertia. I went out for dinner the other night with people who couldn’t stop talking, eating, and drinking. One person had business ideas. The other person wanted to write a novel. All night long drinking, eating, talking about business ideas, talking about writing novels. Talking, eating, drinking, talking, walking, drinking again, talking more. Then you sleep. Wake up at eight. Bloated, sick, heavy.

Wake up at eight — then you are too late. If you want to succeed you first have to get up and start. You can’t watch SharkTank, you have to be the shark. Don’t waste time. Start NOW.

Read the rest here.

A Confused Carl Ichan Warns about Financial Leverage

Legendary investor Carl Ichan correctly warns in the interview with CNBC below that leverage is building up on Wall Street again and that this likely means trouble down the road.

But Ichan, in the same breath, goes on to say that Wall Street should be more regulated because of the aggressive risk taking that is going on.
What Ichan fails to recognize is that the current structure of Wall Street only exists because of current government regulation. Small investors don't care what bank they put their money in because they know the FDIC will bail them out. This removes this check on conservative banking--if depositors new their money was at risk, they would pay a lot more attention to how conservative its bank was.

The huge risk-taking banks don't care about the leverage they are taking on because they know the Fed will absorb huge their losses, if they become out of control. So the answer is not more regulation, which will further distort the system in favor of those connected to government, but less regulation and less government interference, which will result in proper risk analysis being put back into the system, and thus a more conservative financial structure, since people will watch their money a lot more carefully if they know it is at risk.

Further, in addition to the distorted risk structure created by government meddling, Ichan also fails to recognize the big elephant in the room, the Fed money pumping, which is the enabler of out-of-control leveraged risk taking.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bill Clinton Is Now Concerned About Short-Term Default After First Not Having Concern

More evidence that the so-called calamitous consequences of even a short-term default are being used for political reasons to scare the public.

Former President Bill Clinton retracted comments that the U.S. government could default on its debt for a few days without "calamitous" consequences, after being urged to do so by top White House officials, people familiar with the events said Thursday, WSJ is reporting.

After hearing Clinton's comments on Wednesday, WSJ reports that White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, spoke with aides to Mr. Clinton and advised that he clarify his thinking, two people said. The former president did so that afternoon.

The real solution is, of course, not to raise the debt ceiling, but to cut spending in the here and now.

Schiff: National Inflation Association is a Fraud

Whoa! Last week,the National Inflation Association put out an email that contained blatant untruths about Peter Schiff.

Schiff is back with guns blazing. Do not mess with Peter Schiff.

Schiff has posted an interview with NIA co-founder George Hemminger, who discloses that he was directed to attack Schiff in videos and documentaries.

Henmminger also disclosed a program whereby investors paid NIA $1,000 to get advance word on stock promotions.  Henmminger stated that on one day they took in $250,000 from the program. It's clear from the interview that Schiff suspects that NIA is somehow getting paid to promote certain stocks. It's also clear from the interview that Jonathan Lebed and Gerard Adams, the current operators behind NIA, are taking in big dollars in ways that Schiff considers fraudulent. This is a must listen to interview.

UPDATE: Sources advise that the SEC and DOJ are actively examining National Inflation Association activities.


Where Was Elizabeth Warren In Such a Hurry to Get to on Tuesday?

On Tuesday, Professor (Apparently that is how she prefers to be addressed) Warren told  Chairman Patrick McHenry of the House Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs that she could not provide ten additional minutes of testimony because of conflicting meetings.

I contacted Prof. Warren's spokesperson to find out just exactly what meeting the Professor was so anxious to get to that she couldn't give the subcommittee an additional ten minutes.

According to an email from the spokesperson:
Elizabeth Warren had meetings with senior government officials related to standing up the consumer bureau.
The senior officials were not identified. I'm not exactly sure this justifies not giving a congressional subcommittee an additional ten minutes, but the Professor clearly thought differently.

Feldstein: Greek Default Inevitable

Harvard University George F. Baker Professor of Economics and National Bureau of Economic Research President Emeritus, Martin Feldstein, explains in a new paper why a Greek default is inevitable:
The Greek government, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund are all denying what markets perceive clearly: Greece will eventually default on its debts to its private and public creditors. The politicians prefer to postpone the inevitable by putting public money where private money will no longer go, because doing so allows creditors to maintain the fiction that the accounting value of the Greek bonds that they hold need not be reduced. That, in turn, avoids triggering requirements of more bank capital.

But, even though the additional loans that Greece will soon receive from the European Union and the IMF carry low interest rates, the level of Greek debt will rise rapidly to unsustainable levels. That’s why market interest rates on privately held Greek bonds and prices for credit-default swaps indicate that a massive default is coming.
Feldstein nails the problem, but he then goes on to raise concern about a supposed trade-deficit Greece would face:
But fiscal sustainability is no cure for Greece’s chronically large trade deficit. Greece’s imports now exceed its exports by more than 4% of its GDP, the largest trade deficit among eurozone member countries. If that trade gap persists, Greece will have to borrow the full amount from foreign lenders every year in the future, even if the post-default budget deficits could be financed by borrowing at home.
Feldstein here takes the view (implied) that government must have a major role in the Greek economy. Without this implication, there would be no problem. Since any financing by foreigners would have to be at the corporate or individual level, where a foreigner is likely to look at the creditor much more closely than if the creditor is the government (aside from the issue of the willingness, or unwillingness, of foreigners to buy Greek government debt, just after a default).

The key to a successful Greek government default rests on the relationship of the government to the economy. If the government continues to play a major role in the economy, supporting huge sectors of the economy, then the default will only result in a further crisis down the road.

A successful default must include a change in the relationship between the government and the economy, whereby the role of government is extremely limited and the Greeks simply find their own way via the free market. It is the only way to create a prosperous country with a growing standard of living.

Feldstein recognizes (again implied) that a large role for the government can not go on after a default, with the current structure of the economy. But amazingly instead of calling for a move toward free markets. He calls for:
A temporary leave of absence from the eurozone would allow Greece to achieve a price-level decline relative to other eurozone countries, and would make it easier to adjust the relative price level if Greek wages cannot be limited. The Maastricht treaty explicitly prohibits a eurozone country from leaving the euro, but says nothing about a temporary leave of absence (and therefore doesn’t prohibit one). It is time for Greece, other eurozone members, and the European Commission to start thinking seriously about that option
I have no objection to the Greeks leaving the eurozone, but Feldstein is not showing all his cards in his call for a Greek move out of the zone. The key to Feldstein's thinking is his discussion of relative prices. What he wants the Greeks to do is return to the drachma and then destroy the value of the drachma via money printing, as a way to improve the trade balance. This is simply mad mercantilist thinking, that will ultimately lead to further destruction, through currency depreciation, of the Greek economy.

The degree that elitists hate free markets is astonishing. They will call for almost any destructive scheme rather letting markets work. Feldstein displays that attitude in his refusal to consider a move toward free markets as an option for the Greeks.

Barney Frank Admits Setting Up His Former-Lover in a Fannie Position

Rep. Barney Frank has admitted that he helped his ex-lover, Herb Moses, land a lucrative post with Fannie Mae in the early 1990s. Frank was, and still is, on a committee that regulated Fannie — but he called questions of a potential ethical conflict “nonsense, ” reports the Boston Herald.

If it is [a conflict of interest], then much of Washington is involved [in conflicts],” Frank told the Herald last night. “It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government. There is no rule against it at all.”

According to Frank, Moses "was hired to an entry-level position.”

Frank’s assistance in helping Moses land the Fannie position was first reported in a new book, Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by NyTi reporter Gretchen Morgensen.

In an interview Tuesday on WBUR’s “Fresh Air,” Morgensen said Frank “was very aggressive and really tough on those who were testifying in Congress about reining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac” during hearings after Moses was hired. She said Fannie Mae “rolled out the red carpet” for Moses as part of a strategy to curry favor with Frank and other members of the Financial Services Committee, according to the Herald.


Simon Johnson: Lagarde at the Head of the IMF Means Another Trillion in Loans to the PIIGS

As I have pointed out, the lead candidate to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, is a total insider, hardline bankster. She will protect every pound of flesh owed to the banksters.

Simon Johnson explains what this means:
If Ms. Lagarde becomes head of the IMF, she will most likely continue to throw loans at the eurozone problems – if there are even preventive programs for Spain, Italy, or Belgium, the IMF will need to tap its shareholders for at least another $1 trillion in credit lines.

Ms. Lagarde personifies the strategy of gambling for eurozone resurrection with other people’s money. Why would taxpayers in US and elsewhere want to support her on this basis?
Why, indeed? If taxpayers understood her position, they would be calling for her to be confined with DSK. Lagarde, pure and simple, is the banksters choice.

Bofinger: Greek Creditors Need to Take a 40% Haircut

 Greece needs creditors to take a haircut of 40 percent and swap the remainder of their debt for some form of jointly-issued euro zone bonds as part of an overall package encompassing other struggling states says Peter Bofinger, an economist and adviser to the German government who sits on a five-person advisory panel known as the "wisemen".

"One needs a comprehensive concept that decides just how much debt states like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy can sustainably bear," said Bofinger.

Notice Bofinger's call for jointly-issued euro zone bonds, that won't happen without further Euro control of the PIIGS economies. Enter the globalists: The IMF and World Bank. The PIIGS are really better off just defaulting now and using the default as an opportunity to cut government control over the economy so that free markets and growth can then flourish.

Bofinger is an evil globalist in line with his James Bond sounding evil name.

DSK Lawyers: We Have Dirt on the Maid

Lawyers for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn say they have information that could “gravely undermine the credibility” of the hotel maid who has accused him of trying to rape her, reports NyPo.

In a letter to Manhattan prosecutors, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers William Taylor and Ben Brafman complained about New York police leaking information about the case to the media and expressed concern about his right to a fair trial.

“Indeed, were we intent on improperly feeding the media frenzy, we could now release substantial information that in our view would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case,” Taylor and Brafman wrote

Harvard Prof Warns Pension Funds Will Take Hits on PIIGS Debt

Harvard's Gita Gopinath,  at a Dublin-based forum -- titled Adjusting to New Realities, warned that (mostly European) pensions -- who are large holders of PIIGS debt -- may be forced to take a loss on their investments as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis. Gopinath stated that the solution to the crisis would likely be for bondholders, including pension funds, to take some form of a loss on their investments, "given the sheer scale of the debt amounts involved."

In attendance at the forum were Europe's largest institutional investors and asset managers responsible for the investment of more than €1 trillion of funds. In a poll, 75% of those in attendance saw a high likelihood of default in the Eurozone within three years.

Duh, CFTC Charges Traders with Trading

I am hearing from a variety of sources that the CFTC is becoming extremely aggressive over a broad spectrum of issues. Expect exponential growth in headline grabbing charges from this agency.

The most recent example, announced earlier this week, comes in the form of CFTC charges that a trading house and two individuals with manipulating oil prices in 2008. The charge is  the second oil manipulation case the CFTC has filed since launching a “nationwide crude oil investigation” three years ago.

Specifically, the CFTC alleges that Parnon Energy, a US oil trader, together with its Swiss and UK affiliates Arcadia Energy and Arcadia Petroleum, made more than $50m from oil trading in January and March 2008.

The CFTC alleged that two traders at the company amassed large positions in the physical market at Cushing, the pipeline hub in Oklahoma that serves as the delivery point for the WTI futures contract.

The CFTC complaint alleges that by mid-January the traders had accumulated 4.6m barrels of physical oil, or two-thirds of oil available for delivery against the February WTI futures contract. In March they bought 6.3m barrels, equal to 84 per cent of oil available for delivery against the April contract.

The buying created the impression of a shortage and pushed up the price of WTI futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The traders also bought large amounts of futures that would profit from a price rise.

“They wanted to lull market participants into believing that supply would remain tight,” the CFTC said. “They knew that as long as the market believed that supply was tight and getting even tighter, there would be upward pressure on the prices of WTI for February delivery relative to March delivery, which was their goal.”

So what was the supposed impact of this "manipulation", according to the CFTC the traders were able to move the price by $1.  Some manipulation. During the same period the market price for oil rose $20  per barrel.

Earth to CFTC, the oil market is a huge market, there are traders globally attempting to position trades in all sorts of ways. There is no way this trade would have worked without a strong oil market. These guys would have been crushed. Bottom line, they got in ahead of a major move. Beginning and end of story.

Here's a tip for the CFTC. There's huge market manipulation going on from the guys working out of 20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW in Washington DC.

Another Federal Reserve $80 Billion Secret Bailout for Goldman Sachs and other Banksters

Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Royal Bank of Scotland each borrowed at least $30 billion in 2008 from a Federal Reserve emergency lending program whose details weren’t revealed to shareholders, members of Congress or the public.

No wonder Goldman was able to withstand the panic period that took Lehman Brothers down. They were being propped up by the Fed.

The $80 billion initiative, called single-tranche open- market operations, or ST OMO, made 28-day loans from March through December 2008, a period in which confidence in global credit markets collapsed after the Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, reports Bloomberg.

Units of 20 banks were required to bid at auctions for the cash. They incredibly paid interest rates as low as 0.01 percent that December, when the Fed’s main lending facility charged 0.5 percent. For a large portion of that period, the Fed Funds rate was over 2.00% Got that? Goldman and the other banksters could borrow at 0.01% and loan out in the Fed Funds market at over 2.00%. ---all in secret.

Here's more from Bloomberg:
“This was a pure subsidy,” said Robert A. Eisenbeis, former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and now chief monetary economist at Sarasota, Florida-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. “The Fed hasn’t been forthcoming with disclosures overall. Why should this be any different?”

Congress didn't even know about this $80 billion dollar bailout of the banksters:
Congress overlooked ST OMO when lawmakers required the central bank to publish its emergency lending data last year under the Dodd-Frank law.

“I wasn’t aware of this program until now,” said U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chaired the House Financial Services Committee in 2008 and co- authored the legislation overhauling financial regulation.
Just something else for Ron Paul to put on his list, when he holds this hearing.

Police Clash with Doctors and What It Means for U.S. Doctors (and Money Managers)

Police in central Athens have used pepper spray to disperse protesting doctors and state hospital staff, in the latest protest against public spending cuts.

Riot police briefly clashed with scores of doctors and other demonstrators who tried to force their way into the Health Ministry, reports AP.

Who would ever think doctors would be protesting in the streets?

There is a lesson here for U.S. doctors. Since healthcare is a major focus of governments including here in the U.S., it's only a matter of time before more regulations and some type of price controls are imposed on the services of medical doctors in this country.

I am often asked, if it is time to leave the country. My reply has consistently been that there is no blanket advice I can give to everyone. A surfer dude, who is only concerned with how big the next wave is, could conceivably live in a totalitarian state that would be difficult for others to live in. There is likely to be very little regulation of his life, and if he stays on the beach and doesn't go too far inland, he may come across authorities in only rare instances---enough to make such encounters just a minor hassle.

On the other end, medical doctors and money managers need to start thinking about packing their bags now. The regulations for both these professions continue to grow. If I am a medical doctor who plans to be practicing for 5 years plus, I would be thinking about the Caribbean Islands or somewhere in South America as alternative places to practice. For a money manager Hong Kong or Switzerland might be the best place to hang your shingle.

By the time doctors are protesting in the streets here, you need your plan complete and you need to be gone.