The ragged Keynesian excuse that all will be well in Japan once the jump in the consumption tax from 5% to 8% is fully digested is false. Here’s the problem: this is just the beginning of an endless march upwards of Japan’s tax burden to close the yawning fiscal gap left after the current round of tax increases, and to finance its growing retirement colony. There is no possibility that Abenomics will result in “escape velocity” Japan style and that Japan can grow its way out of it enormous fiscal trap. Instead, nominal and real growth will remain pinned to the flatline owing to peak debt, soaring retirements, a shrinking tax base and a tax burden which will rise as far as the eye can see. Call that a Keynesian dystopia. It is a cautionary tale for our times. And Japan, unfortunately, is just patient zero.
Financially speaking, Japan is fast becoming a Keynesian dystopia. Its entire economy is now hostage to a fiscal time bomb. Namely, government debt which already exceeds 240% of GDP and which is growing rapidly because even the recent traumatic increase in the sales tax from 5% to 8% does not come close to filling the fiscal gap. Moreover, even at today’s absurdly low and BOJ rigged bond rate of 0.6% nearly 25% of government revenue is absorbed by interest payments. Now comes the coup de grace, as Kyle Bass predicted, Japan’s savings rate has collapsed and its vaunted current account surplus is about ready to disappear.
It is somewhat ironic, actually make that criminal, that two days after new SEC head Mary Jo White (whose conflict of interest list is so vast courtesy of her prior position as defending every Wall Street from their criminal acts she now has to recuse herself from virtually every enforcement action) solemnly promised Congress under oath that the "markets are not rigged", the SEC comes out swinging and slaps the wrist of the NYSE with an intolerable $4.5 million fine for allowing market rigging "for a period of time from 2008 to 2012."
No tree grows to the sky. Once extremes are reached, trends reverse, often with symmetry: the decline often matches the ascent. Which leads to an interesting question: have we reached Peak Putin? The capture of a few pawns has cleared the chessboard, but the strategic choices already made have greatly reduced Putin's room to maneuver.
The reaction of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to last week’s revelations that the CIA secretly searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers reveals much about what the elites in government think about the rest of us. “Spy on thee, but not on me!” The hypocrisy of Sen. Feinstein is astounding. She is the biggest backer of the NSA spying on the rest of us, but when the tables are turned and her staff is the target she becomes irate. But there is more to it than that. There is an attitude in Washington that the laws Congress passes do not apply to Members. They can trample our civil liberties, they believe, but it should never affect their own freedom. The essence of this problem has to do with the difficulty in managing the US empire. Let’s hope that Sen. Feinstein has had her wake-up call and will now finally start defending the rest of us against a government that increasingly sees us as the enemy.
The Fed and the other major central banks have been planting time bombs all over the global financial system for years, but especially since their post-crisis money printing spree incepted in the fall of 2008. Now comes a new leader to the Eccles Building who is not only bubble-blind like her two predecessors, but is also apparently bubble-mute. Janet Yellen is pleased to speak of financial bubbles as a “misalignment of asset prices,” and professes not to espy any on the horizon. Actually, the Fed’s bubble blindness stems from even worse than servility. The problem is an irredeemably flawed monetary doctrine that tracks, targets and aims to goose Keynesian GDP flows using the crude tools of central banking. Not surprisingly, therefore, our monetary central planners are always, well, surprised, when financial fire storms break-out. Even now, after more than a half-dozen collapses since the Greenspan era of Bubble Finance incepted in 1987, they don’t recognize that it is they who are carrying what amounts to monetary gas cans.
The Chinese military, especially the navy, made great strides last year in improving its combat capabilities, enabling it to better defend the nation against threats to its sovereignty, according to analysts. As China Daily reports, less than a month after being named the head of China's Central Military Commission, President Xi Jinping asked PLA officers to adopt realistic combat criteria in military training. "It is the top priority for the military to be able to fight and win battles," he said during an inspection to the Guangzhou military theater of operations in December 2012. While some have suggested the rapidly expanding PLA navy is driving a seismic shift in Asia's military balance, Chinese experts have refuted such rhetoric, saying military moves by China are only aimed at creating improved self-defense by providing capabilities to match the other parties in the region.
As reported yesterday, Typhoon Haiyan - potentially the strongest storm to ever make landfall, and stronger than Katrina and Sandy combined - has come and left the Philippines (currently heading for Vietnam), and now the time has come to evaluate the damage and count the dead. Sadly, as Reuters reports, the devastation is absolutely massive and especially in the hardest hit city of Tacloban in the central Leyte province, may match the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami: "This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris." Airport manager Efren Nagrama, 47, said water levels rose up to four metres (13 ft) in the airport. "It was like a tsunami. We escaped through the windows and I held on to a pole for about an hour as rain, seawater and wind swept through the airport. Some of my staff survived by clinging to trees. I prayed hard all throughout until the water subsided."
While it took Japan over two years to admit the Fukushima situation on the ground is "out of control", a development many had predicted for years, a just as important topic is what are the implications of this uncontrolled radioactive disaster on not only the local environment and society but also globally, particularly Japan's neighbor across the Pacific - the US. To be sure, there has been much speculation, much of it unjustified, in the past two years debating when, how substantial and how acute any potential debris from Fukushima would be on the US. Which is why it was somewhat surprising to see the NOAA come out with its own modeling effort, which shows that not only "some buoyant items first reached the Pacific Northwest coast during winter 2011-2012" but to openly confirm that a debris field weighing over 1 million tons, and larger than Texas is now on the verge of hitting the American coastline, just west off the state of California.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces were on a high state of alert on September 9 ahead of the first anniversary of Japan’s controversial purchase of islets in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu archipelago, particularly after a pair of Chinese bombers flew near Okinawa the previous day. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has ordered military personnel to strengthen their surveillance around the Senkakus, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan. A source in the Japanese government indicated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese maritime enforcement could take “outstanding” action in the area on September 11, the first anniversary of the purchase.
As Boston and U.S. security agencies congratulate themselves over the apparent neutralization of a pair of Chechens that bombed the Boston Marathon, troubling questions are beginning to arise. First and foremost is, why a pair of Chechens, born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, apparently committed the attack? For possible answers, one must looks beyond the present and delve into Russia’s and the USSR’s past policies towards Chechnya, and since 1991, U.S. policy in the Caucasus, which since the 1991 implosion of the USSR had a single focus – the exploitation of the Caspian’s massive energy reserves. It is a history that makes for deeply uncomfortable reading, but one that may eventually provide some answers to seemingly intractable questions. The history below, virtually unknown in the US, is deeply known to the Chechens; and while nothing excuses the terrible actions, the US is hardly blameless about the carnage visited on the Tsarnaev's ancestral homeland.
The partisan politics of this country is simply insane.
Any contrition on the part of Weill for his role in repealing Glass-Steagall might as well be an attempt to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. It’s like trying to uninvent the atom bomb after Hiroshima. Weill was the guy who — above anyone else — was responsible for the damage done. Coming out and claiming that reimposing Glass-Steagall would fix the problem is inadequate. If he wants to be taken seriously he should match every dollar he spent trying to get Glass-Steagall repealed with new lobbying funds to reimpose a separation between banks that accept deposits and the shadow banking and derivatives casinos.
In 10 Years, Peak Cesium Levels Off West Coast Could Be 10 Times Higher Than at Coast of Japan
High-frequency trading became so competitive that on a truly level playing field no one could make money operating at high volumes. Starting in 2008, there had been a frantic rush into the high-frequency gold mine at a time when nearly every other investment strategy on Wall Street was imploding. That competition was making it very hard for the firms to make a profit without using methods that Bodek viewed as seedy at best. And so a complex system evolved to pick winners and losers. It was done through speed and exotic order types. If you didn’t know which orders to use, and when to use them, you lost nearly every time. To Bodek, it was fundamentally unfair—it was rigged. There were too many conflicts of interest, too many shared benefits between exchanges and the traders they catered to. Only the biggest, most sophisticated, connected firms in the world could win this race.