Archive for August 2011
by Tyler Durden
Posted Zero Hedge
August 8, 2011
EVERY TIME WE DISCUSS THE FUTILITY of the nth bailout of [Greece\PIIGS\Europe\the Euro] we make it all too clear that the trade off between Germany taking on board ever more peripheral financial risk in one after another all too brief attempt to prevent the implosion of European capital markets and its currency, is not only a relentless creep higher in German default risk (and lower in the German stock market, as August has so violently demonstrated) but increasing political discontent, which after claiming countless political regimes across the world, has finally settled down on one that truly matters: that of German chancellor Angela Merkel.
And as Reuters reports, Merkel’s disappointing response to an ever escalating set of crises, both domestic and international, means that the beginning of her end (and by implication of the Eurozone, and of the Euro) may be as soon as September 23, when the vote over the expansion of the latest and greatest European bailout lynchpin, EFSF, will take place.
To wit: “Germany’s Angela Merkel faces the biggest challenge to her leadership since coming to power in 2005, with traditionally loyal conservative allies openly criticizing her approach to the euro zone crisis and her hands-off Libya policy in shambles….it is Merkel’s piecemeal approach to the euro zone’s worsening debt crisis that has come under fire over the past week and now threatens her iron grip on power in Germany.” The biggest problem for Merkel is that she has gone “Japanese” in the opinion of the public: doing neither nothing, nor enough, to halt the European crisis in its tracks: “For some in Germany, she has gone too far by bailing out stricken euro zone members and agreeing to intervention in the bond markets to prop them up. For others at home and abroad, she has not done enough, shirking bold steps that might solve the debt crisis because they would be unpopular at home.” This latest attempt to placate everyone, while achieving precisely the opposite, will come to a head on September 23 when the vote to expand the EFSF takes place: she is for the time being expected to have a sufficient number of votes to pass the critical for the eurozone proposal. “If it’s not enough, Merkel would be forced to resign. It would lead to a crisis.” And should there be a crisis, it will be the end for the European experiment as well, since with the political situation at the Euro’s biggest financial backer in flux, the free fall in European risk will be one that no one, certainly not the ECB, will be able to arrest. Cue even more improvised bailouts by the central banker oligarchy, yet without Germany, the credibility of any and all such deseprate measures will be nil. This incremental political uncertainty will likely make the life of the FOMC’s Sept 20-21 meeting slightly easier, as an adverse monetary announcement by the Fed, contrary to that priced in, coupled with the risk of a full blown European crisis, will be very frowned upon by the Status QuoTM.
Seen for much of the past six years as a reliable, steady leader whose competence and knack for brokering deals made up for a lack of bold vision, Merkel’s image has taken a beating over the past months and polls show an increasing number of Germans view her government as directionless.
The chancellor’s troubles can be traced back to two decisions taken in March, when she abruptly dropped her long-standing support for nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, and days later backed Germany’s abstention from a U.N. vote authorising military action in Libya.
Coming shortly before a crucial state election, which her conservatives subsequently lost, the steps looked to many in Germany and abroad like cynical political ploys to placate domestic opinion.
For some in Germany, she has gone too far by bailing out stricken euro zone members and agreeing to intervention in the bond markets to prop them up. For others at home and abroad, she has not done enough, shirking bold steps that might solve the debt crisis because they would be unpopular at home. This conflict will come to a head next month. Merkel’s coalition has a comfortable 20-seat majority in the lower house of parliament. But if she is hit with dissent in her own ranks, and is forced to rely on opposition parties to pass legislation to expand the single currency bloc’s rescue mechanism – the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – then her coalition could collapse, sparking early elections.
“The euro crisis entered a new phase over the past week,” influential German weekly Der Spiegel said on Sunday. “Before the main question had been how the common currency could be saved. Now it is also about saving Merkel’s chancellorship. If her coalition does not deliver a majority for the enhanced euro rescue mechanism in the autumn, people close to the chancellor say, the coalition is all but finished.”
On the significance of September 23: The chances of Merkel failing to secure her own majority in the EFSF vote, which is likely to take place on Sept. 23, still seem slim.
Her Christian Democrats (CDU), hovering at a weak 30 percent in opinion polls, have little incentive right now to bring forward an election that is not scheduled to take place until the autumn of 2013. Merkel’s conservative bloc — composed of the CDU, Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and Free Democrats (FDP) — has shown discipline in previous euro zone aid votes, with only a handful of lawmakers rebelling.
“I expect she will get majority backing from her own coalition,” said Gerd Langguth, a political scientist at Bonn University and biographer of Merkel, putting the number of dissenters at around fifteen. “If it’s not enough, Merkel would be forced to resign. It would lead to a crisis. No one is interested in an early election.”
Slim… but getting bigger:
Federal Reserve policy mixed with extreme weather has put the world on a fast track to revolution and war
by David DeGraw
Posted August 25, 2011
THERE ARE MANY FACTORS THAT CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE WHY IT WOULD BE DISASTROUS for the Federal Reserve to repeat their vicious Quantitative Easing (QE) policy. If you want to know a significant reason why they cannot get away with another round of QE, here is an equation for you:
(Quantitative Easing + Extreme Weather = Revolution + World War III)
From the very beginning we knew that the Federal Reserve’s QE program was going to cause the cost of food to rise and the dollar to decline in value, and that these intended results would lead to an increase in poverty and civil unrest.
A provocative new study suggests the timing of the Arab uprisings is linked to global food price spikes, and that prices will soon permanently be above the level which sparks conflicts. There is a specific food price level above which riots and unrest become far more likely. That figure is 210 on the UN FAO’s price index: the index is currently at 234, due to the most recent spike in prices which started in the middle of 2010 [coinciding with QE2].
Lastly, the researchers argue that current underlying food price trends – excluding the spikes – mean the index will be permanently over the 210 threshold within a year or two. The paper concludes: “The current [food price] problem transcends the specific national political crises to represent a global concern about vulnerable populations and social order.” Big trouble, in other words. The next part of the study identifies that the serious unrest in North Africa and the Middle East also correlates very closely with [the QE2] food price spike. Bar-Yam also notes: “Several of the initial riots in North Africa were identified in news stories as food riots.” From there, the researchers make their prediction of permanently passing the 210 threshold in 12-24 months.
In other words, if the Fed engages in another round of QE, the global unrest that they have already ignited will go hyperbolic. Before getting into the details on how the Fed deliberately made these food prices spike, let’s look at another new study, which also helps demonstrate the obvious, extreme weather is linked to war:
Climate cycles linked to civil war, analysis shows
Changes in the global climate that cut food production triggered one-fifth of civil conflicts between 1950 and 2004. Cyclical climatic changes double the risk of civil wars, with analysis showing that 50 of 250 conflicts between 1950 and 2004 were triggered by the El Niño cycle, according to scientists. El Niño brings hot and dry conditions to tropical nations and cuts food production, to outbreaks of violence in countries from southern Sudan to Indonesia and Peru.
Solomon Hsiang, who led the research at Columbia University, New York, said: “We can speculate that a long-ago Egyptian dynasty was overthrown during a drought. This study shows a systematic pattern of global climate affecting conflict right now. We are still dependent on climate to a very large extent.” Mark Cane, a member of the team, said global warming would have greater climatic impacts than El Niño, making it “hard to imagine” it would not provoke conflicts. [read full report]
Put all these factors together and you have, “The Road Through 2012: Revolution [and/or] World War III.”
In summation, Ben Bernanke and the Fed’s economic central planners were clearly aware of the hostile climate and weather patterns when they engaged in QE2. The Fed’s infamous policy, as I said before, “deliberately threw gasoline all over those brush fires. QE2 was another economic napalm bomb from the global banking cartel.” They knew that they were deliberately attacking (sacrificing) tens of millions of people, but that was secondary to keeping their global Ponzi scheme going by pumping another $2.1 trillion into their fraudulent, insolvent banking system through both QE programs. This is why Ben Bernanke is guilty of crimes against humanity. Now, let’s revisit what I’ve been reporting on for the past year:
Centrally Planned Economic Repression
The IMF has a well-worn strategy that they use to conquer national economies. As I warned four months ago, we have now progressed into Step 3.5: World Wide IMF Riots. Back in October, in a TV interview with Max Keiser, we discussed leaked World Bank documents that revealed the IMF’s strategy. I stated the following:
“They have a four-step strategy for destroying national economies. We are about to enter what they would call Step Three. Step Three is when you’ve looted the economy and now food and basic necessities all of a sudden become more expensive, harder to get to. And then, Step 3.5 is when you get the riots. We are headed to, as the IMF said, and as they plan, Step 3.5: IMF Riots. That’s what’s coming…”
Fast-forward four months to today, and now we see country after country rebelling against high food prices. Since our October interview, food prices have spiked 15%. According to new World Bank data, since June 2010, “Rising food have pushed about 44 million people into poverty in developing countries.”
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced another round of Quantitative Easing (QE2), those of us paying attention knew that the trigger had been pulled and Step Three had been executed. It was a declaration of economic war, an economic death sentence for tens of millions of people – deliberately devaluing the dollar and sparking inflation in commodities/basic necessities. It was a vicious policy that would impact people from Boston to Cairo.
When QE2 was announced, I warned: “Food and Gas Prices Will Skyrocket, The Federal Reserve Just Dropped An Economic Nuclear Bomb On Us.” I also wrote: “The Federal Reserve is deliberately devaluing the dollar to enrich a small group of a global bankers, which will cause significant harm to the people of the United States and severe ramifications throughout the world. The Federal Reserve’s actions are already causing the price of food and gas to increase and will cause hyperinflation on most basic necessities.”
To be clear, there are several significant factors contributing to rising food prices, such as extreme weather conditions, biofuel production and Wall Street speculation; but the Federal Reserve’s policies deliberately threw gasoline all over those brush fires. QE2 was another economic napalm bomb from the global banking cartel.
In a recent McClathy news article entitled, “Egypt’s unrest may have roots in food prices, US Fed policy”, Kevin Hall reports:
“‘The truth of the matter is that when the Federal Reserve moved on the quantitative easing, it did export inflation to a lot of these emerging markets. There’s no doubt that one of the side effects of the weak dollar and quantitative easing has been rising commodity prices. It helped create this bullish environment for commodities. This is a very delicate balancing act.’
It’s a view shared by Ed Yardeni, a veteran financial market analyst, who reached a similar conclusion in a research note to investors. He joked that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should be added to a list of revolutionaries, since his quantitative easing policy, unveiled last year in Wyoming, has provoked unrest and change in the developing world
‘Since he first indicated his support for such a revolutionary monetary change, the prices of corn, soybeans and wheat have risen 53 percent, 37 percent and 24.4 percent through Friday’s close,’ Yardeni noted. ‘The price of crude oil rose 19.8 percent over this period from $75.17 to $90.09 this (Monday) morning. Soaring food and fuel prices are compounding anger attributable to widespread unemployment in the countries currently experiencing riots.’”
The people throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, on the fringe of the Neo-Liberal economic empire and most vulnerable to the Fed’s inflationary policies, are the first to rebel. The conclusion that we reach, the unfortunate reality of our current crisis: the Federal Reserve and global economic central planners have declared war on us. We are under attack. We must remove Ben Bernanke from power and hold him and the rest of the global banking cartel accountable. We must also break up the “too big to fail” banks. This a message I, along with many others who have analyzed our economic situation, have been repeating over and over for the past three years.
Hopefully, a critical mass of people will soon understand this reality and back it up with non-violent civil disobedience before riots and violence rip our society apart. For these reasons, let’s all go to Wall Street on September 17th and show these tyrants that we’ve had enough.
by Jim Quinn
The Burning Platform
Posted August 23, 2011
“LENIN IS SAID TO HAVE DECLARED THAT THE BEST WAY TO DESTROY THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.” – John Maynard Keynes – The Economic Consequences of the Peace
While Barack Obama vacations on Martha’s Vineyard this week he’ll be thinking about his grand vision to save America – again. There is one thing you can say about Obama – he’s predictable. He promises to unveil his “new” plan for America in early September. The White House said Obama will give a speech after the September 5 Labor Day holiday to outline measures to boost hiring and find budget savings that surpass the $1.5 trillion goal of a new congressional deficit-cutting committee. It is heartening to see that Barack has turned into a cost cutter extraordinaire. He should be an inspiration to the Tea Party, except for one little problem. The plan he unveils in a few weeks will increase spending now and fret about spending cuts at some future unspecified date.
I can reveal his plan today because the White House has already leaked the major aspects of his plan. He will call for an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut of 2% for all working Americans. This was supposed to give a dramatic boost to GDP in 2011. Maybe it will work next time. He will demand that extended unemployment benefits be renewed. Somehow providing 99 weeks of unemployment benefits is supposed to create jobs. It’s done wonders thus far. He will propose some semblance of an infrastructure bank or tax cuts to spur infrastructure spending. It will include a proposal for training and education to help unemployed people switch careers. He will attempt to steal the thunder from the SUPER COMMITTEE of twelve by coming up with $2 trillion of budget savings by insisting the Lear jet flying rich fork over an extra $500 billion.
You may have noticed that followers of Keynesian dogma like Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Brad Delong, Richard Koo, John Galbraith, every Democrat in Congress, and every liberal pundit and columnist have been shrieking about the Tea Party terrorists and their ghastly budget cuts that are destroying our economy. They contend the stock market is tanking and the economy is heading into recession due to the brutal austerity measures being imposed by the extremists in the Republican Party. There is just one small issue with their argument. It is completely false. It is a bold faced lie. This is 2011. The economy has been in freefall since January 1. No spending cuts have occurred. Nada!!! As the CBO chart below reveals, the horrendous slashing of government will amount to $21 billion in 2012 and $42 billion in 2013. Of course, those aren’t even cuts in spending. They are reductions in the projected increases in spending. Politicians must be very secure in the knowledge that Americans are completely ignorant when it comes to anything other than the details of Kim Kardashian’s wedding and who Snooki is banging on Jersey Shore.
I’d like to remind the Harvard educated Keynesian economists that Federal government spending is currently chiming in at $3.8 trillion per year. Federal spending was $2.7 trillion in 2007 and $3.0 trillion in 2008. Keynesians believe government spending fills the gap when private companies are contracting. Obama has taken Keynesianism to a new level. Federal spending will total $10.8 trillion in Obama’s first three years, versus $8.4 trillion in the previous three years. Even a Harvard economist can figure out this is a 29% increase in Federal spending. What has it accomplished? We are back in recession, unemployment is rising, forty six million Americans are on food stamps, food and energy prices are soaring, and the middle class is being annihilated. The standard Keynesian response is we would have lost 3 million more jobs, we were saved from a 2nd Great Depression and the stimulus was too little. It would have worked if it had just been twice as large.
The 2nd Great Depression was not avoided, it was delayed. Our two decade long delusional credit boom could have been voluntarily abandoned in 2008. The banks at fault could have been liquidated in an orderly bankruptcy with stockholders and bondholders accepting the consequences of their foolishness. Unemployment would have soared to 12%, GDP would have collapsed, and the stock market would have fallen to 5,000. The bad debt would have been flushed from the system. Instead our Wall Street beholden leaders chose to save their banker friends, cover-up the bad debt, shift private debt to taxpayer debt, print trillions of new dollars in an effort to inflate away the debt, and implemented every wacky Keynesian stimulus idea Larry Summers could dream up. These strokes of genius have failed miserably. Bernanke, Paulson, Geithner and Obama have set in motion a series of events that will ultimately lead to a catastrophic currency collapse. We have entered the second phase of the Greater Depression and there are no monetary or fiscal bullets left in the gun. Further expansion of debt will lead to a hyperinflationary collapse as the remaining confidence in the U.S. dollar is exhausted. We are one failed Treasury auction away from a currency crisis.
John Maynard Keynes argued the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy through some combination of two approaches: a reduction in interest rates and government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.
It sounds so good in theory, but it didn’t work in the Depression and it hasn’t worked today. It is a doctrine taught in every business school in America with no actual results to support it. Who needs facts and actual results when a good story believed and perpetuated by non-thinking pundits will do? Every Keynesian play in the playbook has been used since 2008. The American people were told by Obama and his Keynesian trained advisors that if we implemented his $862 billion shovel ready stimulus package, unemployment would peak at 7.9% and would decline to 6.5% by today. The cascade of recovery was going to be jump started by a stimulus package that equaled 27% of the previous year’s entire spending. Obama’s complete package was implemented. The outcome was an eye opener.
by Arnie Gundersen
Posted August 24th, 2011
New data supports previous Fairewinds analysis, as contamination spreads in Japan and worldwide
NEWLY RELEASED NEUTRON DATA FROM THREE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA San Diego scientists confirms Fairewinds’ April analysis that the nuclear core at Fukushima Daiichi turned on and off after TEPCO claimed its reactors had been shutdown. This periodic nuclear chain reaction (inadvertent criticality) continued to contaminate the surrounding environment and upper atmosphere with large doses of radioactivity.
In a second area of concern, Fairewinds disagrees with the NRC’s latest report claiming that all Fukushima spent fuel pools had no problems following the earthquake. In a new revelation, the NRC claims that the plutonium found more than one mile offsite actually came from inside the nuclear reactors. If such a statement were true, it indicates that the nuclear power plant containments failed and were breached with debris landing far from the power plants themselves. Such a failure of the containment system certainly necessitates a complete review of all US reactor containment design and industry assurances that containments will hold in radioactivity in the event of a nuclear accident. The evidence Fairewinds reviewed to date continues to support its April analysis that the detonation in the Unit 3 Spent Fuel pool was the cause of plutonium found off site.
Third, the burning of radioactive materials (building materials, trees, lawn grass, rice straw) by the Japanese government will cause radioactive Cesium to spread even further into areas within Japan that have been previously clean, and across the Pacific Ocean to North America.
And finally, the Japanese government has yet to grasp the severity of the contamination within Japan, and therefore has not developed a coherent plan mitigate the accident and remediate the environment. Without a cohesive plan to deal with this ongoing problem of large scale radioactive contamination, the radioactivity will continue to spread throughout Japan and around the globe further exacerbating the problem and raising costs astronomically.
US Government makes Strategic Decision to DOWNPLAY Fukushima (Arnie Gundersen) 8/14/11
Agenda 21, Read it.
*Note: Single radiation dose of 2,000 millisieverts (200,000 millirems) and above causes serious illness.
by Matthew K
Posted 23 August 2011
on Le Café Américain
IT’S BEEN A ROUGH FEW WEEKS FOR THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM, WHICH BESTRIDES THE GLOBE like a teetering colossus. Not only has there been stock market turmoil worldwide, and the temporary threat of a US default on its debts, but an esteemed, mainstream economist suggested that Karl Marx was right. In the Wall Street Journal, no less! Karl Marx Was Right
That would be Nouriel Roubini, whose claim to fame came from timely warnings about the US housing bubble and subsequent US stock market collapse. It is important to note that he only said that Marx was right in that capitalism could collapse on itself, not that it actually would.
Most people are familiar with the spectacular failures of central planning in the Communist regimes. According to the resurgently fashionable Austrian school of economics, an economy is too complex to be managed by one expert, or even one committee of experts, regardless whether the clubhouse door reads “Politburo” or “Shark Tank.”
According to the Austrians, society’s fastest path to prosperity consists of allowing every person to decide freely what is in their best interest, with the emphasis on individual transactions.
A biological analogy comes from flocks of birds, schools of fish, and ant colonies, among others. These swarms function extremely well, despite being composed of simple creatures following simple rules, and despite the anarchic lack of a leader directing things. Our own “simple critter rules” in modern society are probably along the lines of “try to get a higher paying job, and pay lower prices for stuff, within the laws of the land, and without making too many enemies.”
A business analogy comes from Toyota. Their quality went from hopeless to fearsome by training every employee to be competent enough to figure out how to do their own job better, and then allowing them to do so. If their management tried to dictate how each task was to be done, they might have peaked at early-80’s American car maker quality levels.
In a similar way, they decided not to try to predict the right production levels for each model, colour, and trim. Instead they pre-built enough cars to fill dealership inventory, and each time a customer purchased a vehicle, they would build one more of that same model, colour, and features. In economic nerd speak, they responded to that “market signal”. So if 5% of Corolla drivers wanted a green car with deluxe extras, in the long run 5% of Corolla production would consist of deluxe green vehicles.
Since the flaws of central planning and benefits of distributed decision-making occur in the public sector, the private sector, and even in biology, we can generalize that the USSR’s economic problem was ultimately that a small group of people would decide how to (mis)allocate most of the country’s resources.
In the past thirty years, there’s been an immense concentration of wealth — particularly in Anglo-American countries (the US, UK, us, the Aussies). The US is at the leading edge of this trend, with the top 1% owning 42% of the wealth, or about six times as much as the bottom four fifths of the population, and a significant portion of the means of production and public information (media) and influence over the course of society.
In recent decades Western capitalism has moved towards the central planning model of a relatively small number of people in charge of directing the allocation of resources. This narrowing of perspective has in turn led to policies progressively more disastrous for the moved and the shaken… which was the Soviet denouement.
I have to credit the influence of the thoughtful blog of a well-to-do American entrepreneur and military strategist, and especially this particular posting: Central Planning and the Fall of US Empire
Capitalism’s path back from the self-perpetuating central planning will require a more equitable, or at least a less inequitable, distribution of wealth and power, by which to rebuild the middle class and promote decision making based on individual choice and a more widely based entrepreneurial meritocracy. Which is what Roubini was complaining about, in saying that too much wealth was being redistributed from labour to capital.
It would be a terrible irony if Marx was proven correct, and unchecked capitalism destroyed itself by evolving the self-crippling features of a centrally planned communist economy. One can only hope that we can reform our current market systems before things get worse.