The states of America are, truly, children of the Constitution. The legal framework that is the foundation of state sovereignty and internal administration is unique for perhaps any country in history up to the moment the U.S. won its independence. States were designed to decentralize and keep in check the power of a subservient Federal Government. They were meant to be the guardians at the gate, the barrier to the formation of oligarchy or outright dictatorship. This, of course, has changed drastically. The battle over centralized verses decentralized authority and economy has been going on for quite some time, and is undeniably critical in our climate of crisis now, under a government which is bankrupt in every sense and a currency which is on the verge of calamity... The following is a step by step method that states could use to accomplish the task of insulation from financial crisis and federal control. Much of it hinges on a willingness by state governments to actually pursue independence, which might seem like a naïve dream to most of us. But, in the wake of a major breakdown, and the fall of the greenback, I believe many states will be seeking a way to weather the storm, if only out of a desire to survive, and this includes walking away from their ties to Washington.
No, it’s not Greece Prime Minister and bankster puppet Lucas Papadermos who serves his former masters at Goldman Sachs rather than the people of the country he was “appointed” to lead. No, it’s not German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is putting the interests of the banks and bailout recipients above her fellow Germans at the risk of a continually devaluing euro. And no, it’s not European Central Bank president Mario Draghi whose cheap euro policies are propping up both the banking sector and governments of the periphery at the expense of capital investment in sectors that would result in actual wealth creation rather than sustaining a clearly unsustainable status quo. Meet Ed Houben. He is not solely responsible for the slow implosion of the poster boy of New World Order also known as the Eurozone, but the results of his career certainly play a part. So who is Ed Houben? Well, he is not a politician buying votes with stolen funds. Nor is he a banker looking to use taxpayers to cover his poor investments. Mr. Houben is just a lowly entrepreneur. His business just happens to be in putting a strain on the various welfare states which permeate throughout the Eurozone. Ed Houben is a sperm donor; but he is not just any sperm donor. The “fruits of his labor,” pardon the phrase, have thus far granted him 82 children; with at least 10 more on the way.
Decades of manipulation by the Federal Reserve (through its creation of paper money) and by Congress (through its taxing and spending) have pushed the US economy into a circumstance that can't be sustained but from which there is no graceful exit. With few exceptions, all of the noble souls who chose a career in "public service" and who've advanced to be voting members of Congress are committed to chronic deficits, though they deny it. For political purposes, deficits work. The people whose wishes come true through the spending side of the deficit are happy and vote to reelect. The people on the borrowing side of the deficit aren't complaining, since they willingly buy the Treasury bonds and Treasury bills that fund the deficit. And taxpayers generally tolerate deficits as a lesser evil than a tax hike. So stay up as late as you like on election night to see who wins, but the deficits aren't going to stop anytime soon. The debt mountain will keep growing. The part of it the government acknowledges is now approaching $16 trillion, which is more than the country's gross domestic product for a year. Obviously, the debt can't keep growing faster than the economy forever, but the people in charge do seem determined to find out just how far they can push things.
Crony capitalism arises when an expansive Central State dominates the economy. The Central State can then protect crony-capitalist perquisites, cartels, quasi-monopolies and financialization skimming operations of the sort which now dominate the U.S. economy's primary profit centers. If we step back, the larger context is the purpose and role of establishing a State to protect its citizens from foreign and domestic predation and exploition. The Central State is granted the sole power of coercion by its membership (citizenry) to protect the membership from the predation of individuals, concentrations of wealth and other subgroups seeking monopoly. They grant the State this extraordinary power to insure that no subgroup or individual can gain enough power to dominate the entire membership for their private gain and to protect freedom of faith, movement, expression, enterprise and association. Granting this power to the State creates a risk that the State itself may become predatory, supplanting the parasitic elements it was designed to limit.
The campaign of Barack Obama in 2008 was a perfect example of the propaganda pageant, complete with visceral slogans like “Hope” and “Change”. After eight years of the clownish George Bush Jr., when our country spiraled down into a state of disturbed and vicious adolescence, people were looking for a renewal. They were looking for a path away from the edge of the abyss. Instead, they were given a better liar, with a brand new costume. The American Dream has become harder to sustain since…to say the least. In 2012, what I see is like a lightning bolt in slow motion. I can sense it branching out across the sky towards the ground and tearing through our surroundings, upending everything we know. Both the President and Congress have some of the lowest approval ratings in history. The question of whether anything can be accomplished through government has been answered for most people with a resounding “no”. The citizenry is on the verge of total fury. I wish I could say that most have abandoned the fleeting hollow satisfaction of choosing the “lesser of two evils”, but that would not be accurate.
The U.S. Department of Homeland security is working on a project called FAST, the Future Attribute Screening Technology. FAST will remotely monitor physiological and behavioural signals like elevated heart rate, eye movement, body temperature, facial patterns, and body language, and analyse these signals algorithmically for statistical aberrance in an attempt to identify people with criminal or terroristic intentions. It’s useful to briefly talk about a few of the practical problems that such a system would face.
Ten more years of low returns in the stock market. If you are one of the millions of baby boomers headed into retirement - start saving more and spending less because the stock market won't bail you out. Now that I have your attention I will explain why this is the likely future ahead for investors. In this past weekend's newsletter I wrote that “If you put all of your money into cash today and don’t look at the market for another decade – you will be better off..." I realize that this statement is equivalent to heresy where Wall Street is concerned but there is one simple reason behind my apparent madness - the power of "reversion". This is not a new concept by any means as witnessed by Bob Farrell's rule #1 - "Markets tend to return to the mean over time." However, the reality of what "reversion" means is grossly misunderstood by Wall Street, and the mainstream media, as witnessed by the many valuation calls that "stocks are now cheap because the market is now trading in line with its long term average."
In the terminal collapse of the Roman Empire, there was perhaps no greater burden to the average citizen than the extreme taxes they were forced to pay. The tax 'reforms' of Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century were so rigid and unwavering that many people were driven to starvation and bankruptcy. The state went so far as to chase around widows and children to collect taxes owed. By the 4th century, the Roman economy and tax structure were so dismal that many farmers abandoned their lands in order to receive public entitlements. At this point, the imperial government was spending the majority of the funds it collected on either the military or public entitlements. For a time, according to historian Joseph Tainter, "those who lived off the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it." Sound familiar?
The Fed and the Administration should be on their knees and giving thanks for the blessings they have received for the economy over the past 9 months. First, falling oil prices last summer gave individuals an effective $60 billion tax cut. Then during the winter where normally heaters are turned up to stave off the wintery blasts the balmy winter added roughly $30 billion to consumer's wallets due to decreased utility costs. Those impacts gave individuals more dollars to spend and when combined with seasonal adjustments it gave the illusion of a strongly recovering economy. With "Operation Twist" now rapidly coming to an end and the Fed apparently in a trap of rising inflation I am not sure what the next "support" for the economy will be. My expectation continues to be that the economy will continue to run at a sub-par growth rate though the end of 2012 and that we could see a recession by the end of 2012 or by mid-2013. Of course, that is assuming we are boosted by further rounds of artificial intervention by the Fed or Mother Nature.
The Federal government is supporting its dependents and its crony-capitalist Elites with borrowed money: $1.5 trillion every year, fully 40% of the Federal budget. It is in effect filling the gap between exploding costs and declining income, just like the middle class did until they ran out of collateral to leverage. The dwindling middle class, now at best perhaps 25% of the workforce, has been reduced to tax donkeys supporting those above and below who are dependent on Federal largesse. Fisher found that this cycle ends in transformational political upheaval. No wonder; even as the class paying most of the taxes shrinks and is pressured by higher costs, the class of dependents expands as the economy deteriorates and the super-wealthy Power Elites continue to control the levers of Central State power.
The extent of Obama’s duplicity continues to grow apace. And yes — it’s duplicity. If you can’t or won’t fulfil a promise, don’t make it. From Bloomberg: "Two years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming “too big to fail,” the nation’s largest banks are bigger than they were before the credit crisis." And the hilarious (or perhaps soul-destroying) thing? The size of the banks isn’t even the major issue. AIG didn’t have to be bailed out because of its size; AIG was bailed out because of its interconnectivity. If AIG went down, it would have taken down assets on balance sheets of a great deal more firms, thus perhaps triggering even more failures. So the issue is not size, but systemic interconnectivity. And yes — that too is rising, measured in terms of gross OTC derivatives exposure, as well as the size of the shadow banking system (i.e. pseudo-money created not by lending but by securitisation) — which sits, slumbering, a $35 trillion wall of inflationary liquidity ready to crash down on the global dollar economy.
We all know the Status Quo's response to the global financial meltdown of 2008 has been a travesty of a mockery of a sham--smoke and mirrors, flimsy facades of "recovery," simulacrum "reforms," and serial can-kicking, all based on borrowing and printing trillions of dollars, yen, euros and yuan, quatloos, etc. So when will the travesty of a mockery of a sham finally come to an end? Probably around 2021-22, with a few global crises and "saves" along the way to break up the monotony of devolution.
The question most asked by clients is why, with all that is going on in Europe, is the currency not much lower as nearly every analysts has a target of between parity and 1.2000? It is a very good question but way back at the start of 2011 I suggested that I felt some accord had been reached by the G20 to hold the EUR stable and this I still believe. The issue is that the EU leadership and indeed all those that trade with the zone, realize that equity markets would be held up by QE and that bond yields could be kept down (wrong) using the same method but the whole house of cards could be brought down if there was a run on the currency and a general loss of confidence in the currency. It would simply be a disaster and to me it is central bank manipulation that is keeping the EUR so ridiculously strong so selling breaks to the downside has seen many karted out on a stretcher and sent to the asylum.
A peaceful and stable Pakistan is integral to western efforts to pacify Afghanistan, but Islamabad’s obsessions with its giant eastern neighbor may render such issues moot.
Since partition in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought four armed conflicts, in 1947, 1965, 1971 (which led to the establishment of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan) and the 1999 Kargil clash. With the exception of the 1971 conflict, which involved rising tensions in East Pakistan, the others have all involved issues arising from control of Kashmir. But now a rising new element of discord threatens to precipitate a new armed clash between southern Asia’s two nuclear powers – water.
My most recent trip to Calgary gave me a welcome chance to catch up with friends and colleagues in Cow Town's oil and gas sector. I found out about new projects, investigated companies of interest, and came away with an improved feel for the current state of affairs – what's hot, what's not, and why. The outlook from here is not great. When markets turn bearish, investment strategies often turn toward income stocks, and rightly so: if market malaise is expected to keep share prices in check, dividends become a very good place to look for profits. But whenever a particular characteristic – such as a good dividend yield – becomes desirable, it also becomes dangerous. The sad truth is that scammers and profiteers jump aboard the bandwagon and start making offers that seem too good to refuse. It was just such an offer that reminded me of this danger. In the question-and-answer period following my talk in Calgary at the Cambridge House Resource Conference, an audience member asked my opinion of a new, private company that was offering a 14.7% monthly dividend yield.