We knew the blowback from western sanctions against Russia would get serious - and Europe is already finding that out the hard way - but Vladmimir Putin appears to have gone 'cruel-and-unusual' in his latest step. As ITAR-TASS reports, Russian consumer-protection agency Rospotrebnadzor will decide in next few days whether to seize Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Honey Liqueur after 'reportedly' finding "suspicious" chemicals in batch of flavored whiskey on sale in Sverdlovsk stores. Luckily Jack Lew has told us this will not impact the US economy (unless of course, you are Jack Daniels).
The humanitarian situation was cynically manipulated by the Obama administration -- and echoed by the US media -- to provide a reason for the president to attack Iraq again. This time it was about yet another regime change, breaking Kurdistan away from Iraq and protection of the rich oil reserves there, and acceptance of a new US military presence on the ground in the country. President Obama has started another war in Iraq and Congress is completely silent. No declaration, no authorization, not even a debate. After 24 years we are back where we started. Isn’t it about time to re-think this failed interventionist policy? Isn’t it time to stop trusting the government and its war propaganda? Isn’t it time to leave Iraq alone?
Qatar, the world's richest nation per capita (and awkward home of US central command in The Middle East), has used its wealth to fund Hamas in the Gaza Strip, bankrolls (as we detailed here) Islamists fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, and backed the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt - before he was deposed. As Bloomberg reports, they have additionally let other extremist groups raise money in Qatar, according to the U.S. Treasury Department - all in an effort to 'support' the gas pipelines that the tiny nation needs to maintain its uber-wealth. Qatar’s support for militants has angered its neighboring conservative monarchies... so, it is an intriguing shift that now, as Bloomberg reports, finds the terrorist-funding-nation mediating between Israel and Hamas to end the Gaza conflict.
If a trader knew nothing about the growth, the debt, the inflation, the exporters vs. importers, the serial defaulters, currency manipulators, hot-money or conversely deflation fighters; simply grouping the nations of the world on whether they were 'friend' or 'foe' to the US would provide an odd highly correlated value perspective on the interest rates paid on 1yr and 10yr sovereign debt... It appears your status with the central bank cabal was more important than your ability to repay the loaned money?
While the conflict in Ukraine rages on, EU member states havedecided to impose (not so much more stringent)economic sanctions against Russia, which was predictably followed by Russian counter-measures. The question which isn't being asked often enough, is whether these sanctions will actually improve the situation. Here's an analysis following four concrete questions:
1. Can things get even worse in Russia?
2. Is the West able to guide Russia and Ukraine down the right path?
3. Can the West contribute to a sharpening of the crisis?
4. How can the West protect itself against this conflict?
... Who America and Her Close Allies SUPPORT (the Terrorists, That Is) ...
- Maliki digs in as U.S. pushes for new Iraq government (Reuters)
- Ukraine's forces say close to taking rebel-held Donetsk (Reuters)
- Anger Over Michael Brown Shooting Leads to Looting (WSJ)
- German Economy Backbone Bending From Lost Russia Sales (BBG)
- Kinder Morgan to Consolidate Empire (WSJ)
- Early Failure to Detect Gaza Tunnel Network Triggers Recriminations in Israel (WSJ)
- You’ll never guess how much BuzzFeed raised from Horowitz (FT)
- The dumb money is now chasing Chinese oligarchs: Norway’s Wealth Fund Buys $576 Million of Mayfair Area (BBG)
- Clinical trial to start soon on GSK Ebola vaccine (Reuters)
- No drone skeet shooting any time soon (WSJ)
Although the US seems intent in playing the drums of war, perhaps realizing that its economic power is slowly headed for oblivion, to join the likes of Japan and the UK, American firms waving international flags don’t have the appetite for war that neocon elitists in the State Department or star-studded bellicosarians in the halls of the Pentagon have. Not at all! And here is where the feared industrial-military complex hopefully falls apart as globalist firms give their overall support to peace as a preferred alternative to the specter of a nuclear holocaust. Russia doesn’t want any military confrontation, nor does China, nor do American and European corporate entities that see no future in suicide. Americans need not drink the kool-aid offered by John McCain and his ilk in the Pentagon, Congress or the State Department; nor should they listen to the sad sack windmill-mouthpiece they have enlisted in the White House: Barack Obama.
The last 3 months have seen Russia's "de-dollarization" plans accelerate. First Gazprom clients shift to Euros and Renminbi, then the UK signs currency swap agreements with China, then NATO ally Turkey cuts ties and mulls de-dollarization, Switzerland jumps in the currency swap agreements, and BRICS create their own non-US-based funding vehicle, and then finally this week, Russia's oligarchs have shifted cash holdings to Hong Kong. But this week, as RT reports, Russian and Chinese central banks have agreed a draft currency swap agreement, which will allow them to increase trade in domestic currencies and cut the dependence on the US dollar in bilateral payments. “"The agreement will stimulate further development of direct trade in yuan and rubles on the domestic foreign exchange markets of Russia and China," the Russian regulator said.
Despite President Obama's dictating that Russia is increasingly "isolated," it appears they have found a whole new set of friends to play with in the global trade sandpit. In retaliation to Western sanctions, Putin yesterday unveiled a total food import ban from all sanctioning nations, and, just as the BRICS created their own 'IMF-lite' away from Washington's prying eyes, Russia plans to substitute banned goods with not just domestic supplies but imports from Latin America, China, and several other nations. Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fedorov said "no food shortages are expected," but more isolation for the West...
With all eyes focused on Ukraine's border with Russia, it is hardly surprising that the 'other' dispute has fallen off the front pages. However, as Stratfor notes, there has been a burst of diplomatic activity in recent months over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have disputed for decades. Russia, the strongest power in the Caucasus, has become more engaged in the issue as Azerbaijan's leverage in the region grows. Russia's involvement could herald a change in this longstanding conflict.
Unlike last week's economic report deluge, this week has virtually no A-grade updates of note, with the key events being Factory Orders (exp. 0.6%), ISM non-mfg (exp. 56.5), Trade balance (Exp. -$44.9 bn), Unit Labor Costs (1.2%) and Wholesale Inventories (0.7%).
Having publicly shunned President Obama, it appears Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has no problem upsetting the status quo. As Reuters reports, the fifth cargo of crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan was loading at Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan on Thursday and was scheduled to set sail on Friday, Turkish energy officials said. Baghdad is unhappy - missing out on the oil revenues. We are sure US is unhappy - oil being sold out of its control. And OPEC may be getting upset as it appears an 'anonymous' buyer is more than willing to buy the oil from the 'not sovereign status' seller militia at a healthy discount. De-petrodollarization?
If you're a woman looking for some fun... we strongly urge you to avoid Turkey. Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has some strong opinions on the female of the species. First, on Monday, he exclaimed women needed to be "morally upright" and "not laugh out loud in public." And now, the senior Turkish minister, that some women "don’t have self control and can’t stop themselves from climbing up a pole." Of course his actions sparked an avalanche of social media posts of women laughing-out-loud and on-the-pole... which is ironic given that Twitter reports that Turkey accounts for 43% of all global requests for content removal.
Huxley’s Brave New World dystopian America had a good run from 1950 until 2000. Our keepers kept us fat, dumb, distracted, and in debt up to our eyeballs. Since 2000 Orwell’s 1984 dystopian Surveillance States of America seems to be taking shape, under the watchful eye of our very own Big Brother, the NSA. Fear, punishment, slogans (See Something Say Something) and appeals to non-thinking patriotism have replaced freedom, liberty, individual rights, the Constitution, personal responsibility for our own lives and questioning authority. Are you a believer? “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Or a truth seeker? “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” – Aldous Huxley