As the finances of Venezuela continue to deteriorate under the collapse of crude oil prices, the government of President Nicolas Maduro is becoming more paranoid and vindictive. However, the utter bust in oil markets pulled the rug out from beneath the Venezuelan economy. Maduro is cracking down on political opponents as the country deals with the economic crisis, and his pronouncements have become more paranoid as the economy has worsened. The economic situation may only grow worse. The government’s budget breaks even with oil prices at an estimated $117.50 per barrel. With no imminent rebound in sight for oil prices, Maduro is resorting to state-sponsored repression to quell growing opposition.
"An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life," according to President Obama and it appears his perspective on the heavy hand of government regulation inserting itself into the last bastion of freedom and dynamism in the US economy, is how best to achieve "openness." Having pressured FCC's Tom Wheeler, the vote just came down: U.S. FCC APPROVES NET NEUTRALITY INTERNET RULES IN 3-2 VOTE. While potentially good for a consumer's pocketbook, the handing over of "fair-use" decision to the government, as we previously noted, could be the first step on a slippery slope to increased censorship. Welcome to "internet of political things."
Using the subject heading “you should definitely check this out,” Thomas A. Kennedy, CEO of the defense contractor Raytheon, reportedly emailed President Obama today with yet another link to an article detailing mounting tensions in Libya...
Learning the Facts Will Help Protect You From Heart Disease, Stroke ... And Stupid Trades
- Invade Syria already, we know you will: Islamic State in Syria abducts at least 150 Christians (Reuters)
- Greece Struggles to Get Citizens to Pay Their Taxes (WSJ)
- Doubts Shadow Deal to Extend Greek Bailout (WSJ)
- In surprise result, Chicago's Mayor Emanuel faces election run-off (Reuters)
- Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill (Reuters)
- Another sign of the top: Cushman & Wakefield Going Up for Sale (WSJ)
- Lure of Wall Street Cash Said to Skew Credit Ratings (BBG) ... and threat of DOJ lawsuits also
- Oil rises to $59 as Saudis say demand growing (Reuters)
Speaking at AARP headqusrters in Washington, President Obama will announce orders to the Labor Department to write new rules for financial managers who handle retirement accounts for working Americans. As USA Today reports, The White House says the goal is to end "hidden fees that hurt consumers and back-door payments that help Wall Street brokers," deals that costs retirees billions of dollars in savings. White House officials said they want new fiduciary standards that would require financial advisers to put clients' interests ahead of their own... and "buy our bonds."
- Tsipras Tamed as Economists Declare Greece Loses Austerity Fight (BBG)
- Greece readies reform plans to first sign of leftist unrest (Reuters)
- Yellen Faces Congress Amid Direst Threat to Fed Since Dodd-Frank (BBG)
- The war must go on: Kiev says cannot withdraw heavy weapons as attacks persist (Reuters)
- Ukraine fears spread of war after blast in eastern city (Reuters)
- Denmark Dismisses Report It Could Consider Capital Controls (BBG)
- Deadline Nears on Homeland Security Funding Impasse (WSJ)
- Gross Fund Hurt by Oil’s Plunge Amid Bets on Energy Bonds (BBG)
None of us are perfect. All of us bend the rules occasionally. Indeed, there was a time when most Americans thought nothing of driving a few miles over the speed limit, pausing (rather than coming to a full stop) at a red light when making a right-hand turn if no one was around, or jaywalking across the street. My, how times have changed. Today, there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence. In such an environment, you’re either a paragon of virtue, or you’re a criminal. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re all criminals. This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.
This militarism will end one way or the other. Either enough Americans will wake up and demand an end to Washington’s foreign adventurism, or we will go broke and be unable to spend another fiat dollar on maintaining the global US empire.
Looking at a map of current American military engagements overseas, one cannot help but notice their wide geographical spread and their seemingly interminable nature. Battles have raged in Europe (Yugoslavia and Ukraine), in Africa, in the Middle East, and in central Asia. The American Empire has launched this country into a series of battles that have no end in sight and no location that may not become a focal point of military force. Upon close inspection, however, all of their rationales fall apart. None is satisfactory. The interventions are too widespread, too long-lasting and too unsuccessful at what they supposedly accomplish to lend support to any of the common justifications.
With the global economy sinking, and worries about it beginning to resound beyond just inconvenient bears, Paul Krugman has been leading the critique against what he sees is a disastrous and ignorant deformation against debt. Krugman is trying to argue that because government debt did not hinder private wealth creation we should use government debt to create private wealth. The cart is not even before the horse using this “logic”, as the cart and horse aren’t even on the same road. Paper wealth isn’t wealth, and government debt isn’t “free money.” There are consequences to both which their proponents never include in the “prospectus.”
Ukraine is back in the news cycle and for good reason as shelling continues even after the Minsk 'truce' deal. So what? The average American might ask. Ukraine is half a world away. Who cares what happens there? Putting aside the humanitarian reasons for not prolonging or intensifying a regional conflict, we risk not just only America's century-long ties with western Europe, but possibly the next world war. We are pushing our agenda and armaments right up against the Russian border -- for reasons that are still completely opaque at this time -- and Russia, understandably, will simply not stand for that.
While military officials have stated that their "advisers" are not involved in the fighting, WaPo reports that ISIS militants have seized an Iraqi town within two miles of the Ayn al-Asad base where 300 US military advisers are stationed. The region remains under "severe threat" and the local council has called for "immediate and urgent military reinforcements” after the attack on the town of al-Baghdadi, which began in the early morning." It seems those non-boots-on-the-ground advisers are about to get a taste of what President Obama promised they would not...