Please pardon this interruption as we bring you a very important update from Hawaii, courtesy of the Associated Press.
As a new year begins, it is easy to consider that the prospects for freedom in America and in many other parts of the world to seem dim. After all, government continues to grow bigger and more intrusive, along with tax burdens that siphon off vast amounts of private wealth. Extrapolating these trends out for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the chances for winning liberty are highly unlikely. There is only one problem with this pessimistic forecast: the future is unpredictable and apparent trends do change.
The American people are feeling really good right about now. For example, Gallup’s economic confidence index has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last recession. In addition, nearly half of all Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, and only about 10 percent believe that it will be a worse year. And a lot of people are generally feeling quite good about the people that have been leading our nation. Unfortunately, when things seem to be going well common sense tends to go out the window. Sadly, what we are experiencing right now is so similar to what we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008. The stock market had been on a great run, people were flipping houses like crazy and most people were convinced that the party would never end. But then it did end – very painfully.
Since June, the U.S. military has been slowly stockpiling massive amounts of its gear coming out of Afghanistan at a depot in Kuwait adjacent to a bustling commercial port, in preparation for ultimately shipping it across the border into Iraq for an allied offensive against the Islamic State group, US News reports. Air Force Maj. Gen. Rowayne “Wayne” Schatz admitted, "from June to December, we’ve worked a lot on moving items into Kuwait," including 3,100 vehicles, most of them MRAPs. While the military stands by President Barack Obama’s repeated pledge that he will not put U.S. combat forces on the ground, an increasing number of U.S. troops has slowly trickled back into Iraq.
"where are the opponents to the ethos that anything goes and nothing matters? Where are the political figures who can sustain a complaint long enough, and loudly enough, to keep it in the public consciousness clearly enough to make a difference? The more conspiracy-minded might say that the security apparatus (the NSA and its servelings) or Wall Street actually run the country and somehow suppress opposition. I don’t believe that. I do believe that cultures go through tragic periods when they lose their bearings and the will to be truthful to themselves."
While North Korea had made it very clear that it had nothing to do with the Sony hack, it did demand a full UN-backed investigation, a proposal quickly shot down by none other than the US which always demands full "transparency" of all actions except when actions are its own, or when the resulting transparency would shine an unwanted light on the hypocrisy behind US national interests. Furthermore, in its first statements regarding The Interview, North Korea was actually quite cordial, and said nothing offensive regarding Obama. All that changed overnight when in its first official statement since its Internet went dark - something which if indeed North Korea did not hack Sony, as it claims, would be seen as a clear act of war if it were to happen to any other "developed" country - North Korea finally lost it and decided that the time to troll the US president has finally arrived, when, as the TV anchor says beginning 1:10 minutes in the clip blow, "Obama always goes reckless in speech and action like a monkey in a tropical jungle."
As Politico's Michael Grunwald writes below (we believe non-satirically), the midterm election’s discontent was illegitimate. The point is that Americans should cheer up! And whose fault is all the collective doom? Well, Bill De Blasio already explained that, as Grunwald confirms, the press has a problem reporting good news. So sit back, grab a drink (though swallow it first) and enjoy reading why "everything is awesome" in America (apart from a record 101.5 million Americans not working, record numbers on foodstamps, record numbers on disability, a record wealth divide, a record - and deadly - racial divide, record poverty, and record child homelessness).
2014 was quite a bizarre year. The past 12 months brought us MH370, Ebola, civil war in Ukraine, civil unrest in Ferguson, the rise of ISIS and the fall of the Democrats in the midterm elections. Our world is becoming crazier and more unstable with each passing day, and we have a feeling that things are going to accelerate greatly in 2015... despite record-er-est US stock prices.
The oil price drop that has dominated the headlines in recent weeks has been framed almost exclusively in terms of oil market economics, with most media outlets blaming Saudi Arabia, through its OPEC Trojan horse, for driving down the price, thus causing serious damage to the world's major oil exporters – most notably Russia. While the market explanation is partially true, it is simplistic, and fails to address key geopolitical pressure points in the Middle East.
A form of society could undoubtedly exist powered by nuclear, wind and shale gas. But it would be a society supported by the state with far larger numbers working in the energy industries than now, producing lower surpluses, the energy production part perhaps running at a perennial loss. Those losses have to be covered by either higher price or via the taxation system. Either way, the brave new world that awaits us will be characterized as the time of less that will be in stark contrast to the time of plenty many of us enjoyed during the 20th Century.
North Korea Warns Of Attacks Against White House, Pentagon And Entire "Cesspool Of Terrorism" That Is AmericaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/22/2014 10:07 -0400
The whole "North Korea hacking Sony" story had gotten so bizarre over the past week, there was nothing stopping it from jumping fully into the rabit hole. Which it did overnight when as the FT reported, North Korea warned of strikes against key sites in the US in retaliation for Washington blaming Pyongyang for the recent Sony cyber attack, saying any US punishment over the incident would lead to damage “thousands of times greater”. The NDC said its 1.2m-member army was ready to use all types of warfare against the US. “Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon, and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” said the NDC statement, carried by official news agency KCNA.
- Police officers' slaying raises pressure on New York mayor (Reuters)
- People Call for Cooling of Racial Tensions After Murder of NYPD Officers (BBG)
- The $6.3 Trillion Frenzy That Vanquished Treasury Bears (BBG)
- China Investigates Possible Stock-Price Manipulation (WSJ)
- Citigroup Was Wary of Metals-Backed Loans (WSJ)
- UPS Turns Parking Lots Into Sorting Centers to Add Speed (BBG)
- U.S. Move to Normalize Cuba Ties Boosts Firms’ Asset Claims (WSJ)
- Meredith Whitney’s Fund Said to Drop 11% as Office Put on Market (BBG)
- Railcar Bottleneck Looms for Oil (WSJ)
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
Defiant North Korea Says Can Prove It Is Not Behind Hack "Without Resorting To Torture Like The CIA"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/20/2014 12:01 -0400
Surely, the punchline is that even a tiny backwater, dictatorship can now make fun of US "moral high ground" courtesy of the recent CIA torture disclosure. “We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as what the C.I.A. does,” the North Korea statement said. Oops.
"Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder." So as the year draws to a close, it may be helpful if we recap the main questions confronting investors and the themes we strongly believe in, region by region.