Why Does The New $1 Billion US Embassy In London Need The First Moat Since Medieval Times

If you google ‘London moats’, you’ll probably alight on a link which will take you to ‘London’s Top 10 Moats: A Spotter’s Guide’. We had no idea there were so many and could only think of the ‘obvious’ one surrounding the Tower of London, even if it’s waterless these days. According to the guide, a defensive ditch has surrounded the Tower since its origins in the eleventh century. The moat, which contained water from the thirteenth century until the 1840s, helps to protect the roughly cuboid ‘White Tower’ keep, which gives the Tower of London its name. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, the White Tower was resented as a symbol of oppression inflicted on London by the new ruling elite.
Yesterday saw the press launch for the new US embassy in London which is situated on the south bank of the River Thames in the re-developed – albeit unattractively – part of the city near to Battersea Power Station. During the ‘celebrations’, architect James Timberlake, of Philadelphia-based firm Kieran Timberlake, described the new building as ‘the embodiment of peace and security’. The Daily Mailreported a spokesperson saying the glass structure ‘gives form to the core democratic values of transparency’. The lobby looks a bit ‘imperial’ to us, but we’re probably mistaken.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2017.

Good Riddance!

CNBC’s Fed fanboy, Steve Liesman, accidentally knocked one out of the park yeserday when he lured Janet Yellen into a quip that will surely go down as the signature insanity of her baleful tenure. Liesman thus queried:
“Every day it seems the stock market goes up triple digits… is it now, or will it soon become a worry for the central bank that valuations are this high?”
After a bit of double talk interspersed with gobbledygook, Yellen uttered the money quote:
”There is nothing flashing red there or possibly even orange,” on asset valuations…
Holy cow!
Surely our soon to be pensioned-off Keynesian School Marm was not thinking about the fact that the S&P 500 stood at 2662 as she spoke, which amounts to 24.9X the $107 per share of earnings posted by America’s leading companies for the LTM period ending in September 2017.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Thursday, December 14th, 2017.

MONSANTO IS PAYING FARMERS TO USE ITS CONTROVERSIAL PESTICIDE

Corporate pesticide maker Monsanto, which has faced several recent lawsuits against its products, is paying farmers to use its controversial weedkiller XtendiMax with VaporGrip, an herbicide based on a chemical known as dicamba, Yahoo News reported.
The incentive to use XtendiMax aims to refund farmers over half the sticker price of the product in 2018 if they spray it on soybeans that Monsanto engineered to resist it, according to company data.
‘We believe cash-back incentives for using XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology better enable growers to use a management system that represents the next level of weed control,’ said Ryan Rubischko, Monsanto product manager.
Monsanto faces bans and restrictions of its pesticides in several states due to damaged crops from its product which affected 3.1 million acres in nearly two dozen states, according to Reuters.
Reuters reported:
XtendiMax costs about $11 per acre to buy, and Monsanto is offering an extra $6 per acre in cash back to farmers when they apply it on Xtend soybeans, rather than using another seed-and-chemical combination to control weeds.
The rebate means farmers can receive up to $11.50 per acre in cash back next year when they use XtendiMax along with other approved chemicals, such as one called Intact that aims to prevent drift and costs $2.40 per acre, according to Monsanto.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on DECEMBER 14, 2017.

Bubble Finance And The Era of No-See-Um Recessions

Today’s single most dangerous Wall Street meme is that there is no risk of a stock market crash because there is no recession in sight. But that proposition is dead wrong because it’s a relic of your grandfather’s economy. That is, a reasonably functioning capitalist order in which the stock market priced-out company earnings and the underlying macroeconomic substrate from which they arose.
Back then, Economy drove Finance: You therefore needed a main street contraction to trigger tumbling profits, which, in turn, caused Wall Street to mark-down the NPV (net present value) of future company earnings streams and the stock prices which embodied them.
No longer. After three decades of monetary central planning and heavy-handed falsification of financial asset prices, causation has been reversed.
Finance now drives Economy: Recessions happen when central bank fostered financial bubbles reach an asymptotic peak and then crash under their own weight, triggering desperate restructuring actions in the corporate C-suites designed to prop up stock prices and preserve the collapsing value of executive stock options.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017.

Do Graduate Degrees Produce Value?

One of the more contentious aspects of the tax reform bill currently going through Congress is a proposal to treat the value of graduate-student tuition waivers as taxable income. In the US most PhD programs charge tuition, like undergraduate programs, but PhD students are typically granted a waiver of tuition along with a modest stipend to cover living expenses. In the early versions of the tax bill, the value of this waiver — which could be $50,000 to $60,000 at a private university — would be classified as taxable income. University officials, graduate student associations, academics, and most journalists have condemned this aspect of the tax plan. As a university professor I have received multiple communications urging me to write my Congressional representatives, speak out publicly, and otherwise fight to defeat this legislation.
As of this writing, it appears the tuition-waiver piece will not be in the final bill, so university officials, the AAUP, the grad student unions, and other graduate-education supporters can rest easy. Maybe all that lobbying paid off.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 13, 2017.

Look, Mom, No Hands!

Wall Street’s manic melt-up is pushing stock prices ever deeper into the realm of insanity, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Russell 2000 (RUT). At today’s level of 1525, it is now up by 312% from the post-crisis bottom and nearly 80% from the prior tippy-top peak in May 2007.
More significantly, the RUT has risen by 6.8% per year since January 2000 while domestic final sales have increased from $10.6 trillion to $20.0 trillion or by just 3.8% per annum. That is, the RUT index has gained at nearly twice the growth rate of nominal domestic final sales.
Surely it doesn’t take an MBA from Harvard to recognize that a gap that wide stretching over 17 years is deeply suspect. For instance, had this broad-based basket of domestic stocks risen in parallel with domestic sales, which over time they must, the index would today stand at 935 or nearly 40% below the current price level.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017.

The 30-Years Bubble—Why America Ain’t That Rich

The entire financial and economic narrative in today’s Bubble Finance world is virtually context- and history-free; it’s all about the short-term deltas and therefore exceedingly misleading and dangerous.
So when a big trend or condition is negative and unsustainable, you generally can’t even get a glimpse of it from the so-called “high-frequency” weekly, monthly and even quarterly data on which the financial press and its casino patrons thrive. And that’s not merely because most of the data from the government statistical mills is heavily massaged and modeled and often “adjusted” beyond recognition over 3-5 year intervals of statistical revision.
Beyond that, however, even medium term trends get largely ignored. That’s because the purpose of economic and financial data today is to facilitate daily (and hourly) trading in the casino—not inform long-term investors about underlying trends, conditions and prospects.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Monday, December 11th, 2017.

America’s Decline And The Neglect Of Luther’s Principles Of Liberty

Authored by S. T. Karnick via Specator.org,
Freedom requires a sense of personal responsibility if it is to survive.
***
With the nation’s news dominated by reports of political corruption (most recently, the Clintons’ apparent use of ‘pay to play’ schemes during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as U. S. secretary of state), sexual harassment scandals pandemic among the nation’s elites, extreme vulgarization of political speech and the common culture, riots against freedom of speech on the nation’s college campuses, paralyzing partisanship in Congress, death threats and open assassination attempts against government leaders and police officers, and the rest of the dismaying parade of moral shortcomings on display among the nation’s leaders in all walks of life, it appears that we are in the midst of a war not just between political and cultural factions, but over the very definition of our civilization.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2017.

Senior DOJ Official’s Wife Worked At Oppo Research Firm That Produced “Trump Dossier”

In what looks to be another embarrassing blow to the FBI’s (already dubious) credibility, Fox News reported Monday night that the senior DOJ official who was demoted last week after allegedly trying to conceal his contacts with the firm that compiled the infamous ‘Trump dossier’ has deep ties to the firm through his wife.
As it turns out, Nellie Ohr, the wife of disgraced DOJ official Bruce Ohr, was employed at Fusion GPS last year. Her term of employment overlapped with the period when the Trump dossier was being compiled. Though Fox was unable to discern the exact nature of her role at the firm, its reporters discovered that she has done extensive research on Russia-related topics for think tanks based in the Washington, DC area.
***
Ohr is the second senior DOJ official involved in the DOJ’s probe into Trump’s Russia ties to be demoted this year for suspected bias pertaining to the investigation. The other official, Peter Strzok, allegedly exchanged text messages expressing anti-Trump sentiments with another DOJ official with whom he was having an affair. And as if that weren’t enough to signal a conflict of interest, Strzok, it was revealed, possibly saved then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from prosecution by making a crucial change to the language in the now-infamous letter excusing Clinton for her suspected crimes. Specifically, Strzok changed language in Comey’s letter to “extremely careless” from the original language of “grossly negligent.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2017.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT JUST ADMITTED IT WILL CONTINUE WARRANTLESS SPYING – EVEN IF CONGRESS VOTES TO STOP IT

Bypass the Fourth Amendment With One Weird Trick — Edward Snowden (@Snowden) December 6, 2017

U. S. officials admit they are not planning on shutting down the government’s warrantless spying program, even if it is not reauthorized by 2018.
As the United States Congress runs out of time to vote on a bill that would reauthorize one of the government’s most egregious warrantless spying programs, officials are claiming that those programs won’t end anytime soon – even if they are not reauthorized by the end of the year.
The USA Liberty Act will reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017. While the bill’s proponents have claimed it will help ensure ‘security’ in the United States, privacy advocates have warned that will provide additional loopholes for the government to continue conducting warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans.
The assumption may be that if the USA Liberty Act is not signed into law, then the provisions from Section 702 will no longer be legal and the U. S. government will stop collecting data from innocent Americans without warrants – but intelligence officials do not see it that way.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on DECEMBER 8, 2017.

Peak Fantasy Time

If you want to know why both Wall Street and Washington are so delusional about America’s baleful economic predicament, just consider this morsel from today’s Wall Street Journal on the purportedly awesome November jobs report.
Wages rose just 2.5% from a year earlier in November – near the same lackluster pace maintained since late 2015, despite a much lower unemployment rate. But in a positive signfor Americans’ incomes, the average work week increased by about 6 minutes to 34.5 hours in November…. November marked the 86th straight month employers added to payrolls.
Whoopee!
Six whole minutes added to a work week that has been shrinking for decades owing to the relentlessly deteriorating quality mix of the “jobs” counted by the BLS establishment survey. In fact, even by that dubious measure, the work week is still shorter than it was at the December 2007 pre-crisis peak (33.8) and well below its 2000 peak level.
The reason isn’t hard to figure: The US economy is generating fewer and fewer goods producing jobs where the work week averages 40.5 hours and weekly pay equates to $58,400 annually and far more bar, hotel and restaurant jobs, where the work week averages just 26.1 hours and weekly pay equates to only $21,000 annually.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Friday, December 8th, 2017.

Bulgaria Government Shocked To Discover It Owns $3 Billion In Bitcoin

Bulgaria’s GDP is about $52.4 billion (2016), so it is quite a shock that the Bulgarian Government is sitting on an approximate $3 billion worth of Bitcoins seized in an anti-corruption operation back in May.
Putting this into a little more glaring context, Bulgaria is holding 18% of the national debt in bitcoins…
Fun fact: today's bitcoin prices have been interesting enough that there was a significant difference in how much Bulgaria had in USD between me writing this story and my editor editing it.
— Nikhilesh De (@nikhileshde) December 7, 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 9, 2017.

Spend, Cut And Borrow—-How The GOP Is Heading For Fiscal Calamity, Part 1

Ain’t them Republicans something?
They just gifted to American businesses (corporate and pass-thrus) a $1.8 trillion tax cut over the next decade—most of it permanent.
And, seemingly, it was as easy as pie to accomplish. That’s because beforehand they had written themselves the equivalent of a parental note to the teacher saying it was OK to borrow $1.5 trillionof the cost.
This meant, in turn, they didn’t have to squeeze K-Street too hard for offsetting “payfors”. And off-setting spending cuts weren’t even on the table.
Moreover, the fiscal ease of it was aided immensely by the fact that they wrote the big revenue-loss hogs on the individual income tax side in disappearing ink—otherwise known as a “sunset”.
For instance, the GOP pols have been talking up a storm about doubling the standard deduction to $24,000 per family and raising the child credit from $1,000 to $2,000. Absolutely pro working family, that. Woo-woo!

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on December 5th, 2017.

What Went Wrong In Charlottesville: At All Levels, Government Is Still The Problem

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,
Corruption. Graft. Intolerance. Greed. Incompetence. Ineptitude. Militarism. Lawlessness. Ignorance. Brutality. Deceit. Collusion. Corpulence. Bureaucracy. Immorality. Depravity. Censorship. Cruelty. Violence. Mediocrity. Tyranny.
These are the hallmarks of an institution that is rotten through and through.
We have been saddled with the wreckage of a government at all levels that no longer represents the citizenry, serves the citizenry, or is accountable to the citizenry.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the federal government, state governments, or local governing bodies: at all ends of the spectrum and every point in between, a shift has taken place.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 6, 2017.

FORMER REP. DAVID STOCKMAN ON FLYNN: FBI INTERVIEW WAS ‘BLATANT ENTRAPMENT’

David Stockman, former Michigan representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, destroyed the Russian collusion hoax with incredible clarity in his latest column on Tuesday.
From Antiwar.com, ‘The FBI’s Perjury Trap of the Century’:
If you were a Martian visitor just disembarked from of one of Elon Musk’s rocket ships and were therefore uninfected by earth-based fake news, the culprits in Washington’s witch-hunt de jure would be damn obvious.
They include John Brennan, Jim Comey, Sally Yates, Peter Strzok and a passel of deep state operatives – all of whom baldly abused their offices. After Brennan had concocted the whole Russian election meddling meme to sully the Donald’s shocking election win, the latter three holdovers – functioning as a political fifth column in the new Administration – set a perjury trap designed to snare Mike Flynn as a first step in relitigating and reversing the voters’ verdict.
The smoking gun on their guilt is so flamingly obvious that the ability of the Trump-hating media to ignore it is itself a wonder to behold.
After all, anyone fresh off Elon’s rocket ship would learn upon even cursory investigation of the matter that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts electronically every single communication of the Russian Ambassador with any person on US soil – whether by email, text or phone call.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on DECEMBER 6, 2017.

The FBI’s Perjury Trap Of The Century

If you were a Martian visitor just disembarked from of one of Elon Musk’s rocket ships and were therefore uninfected by earth-based fake news, the culprits in Washington’s witch-hunt de jure would be damn obvious.
They include John Brennan, Jim Comey, Sally Yates, Peter Strzok and a passel of deep state operatives—-all of whom baldly abused their offices. After Brennan had concocted the whole Russian election meddling meme to sully the Donald’s shocking election win, the latter three holdovers—-functioning as a political fifth column in the new Administration—-set a perjury trap designed to snare Mike Flynn as a first step in relitigating and reversing the voters’ verdict.
The smoking gun on their guilt is so flamingly obvious that the ability of the Trump-hating media to ignore it is itself a wonder to behold.
After all, anyone fresh off Elon’s rocket ship would learn upon even cursory investigation of the matter that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts electronically every single communication of the Russian Ambassador with any person on US soil—-whether by email, text or phone call.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on Monday, December 4th, 2017.

“Gnomes Of Zurich” In Panic As Saudi Corruption Crackdown Sparks Flood Of Money Laundering Inquiries

There are two divergent views on the crackdown on corruption by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), which led to the arrest and detention of 200 princes, ministers and former ministers.
On one hand, it was a masterstroke which will earn political capital with the Saudi people and catalyse an Arab Spring in which MBS is a modernizing reformer who will liberalise Islam.
On the other, it was nothing other than a cynical and desperate attempt to tighten his grip on power and weaken competing clans within the ruling family (especially sons of former King Abdullah) as the nation risks splitting apart due to political and economic fissures. Last week, we noted that former head of the National Guard and senior member of the Abdullah clan, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, purchased his freedom for a cool $1 billion.
If you put yourself in the position of being a Saudi prince or wealthy Saudi official, whatever your opinion of MBS’s motivation, you would be forgiven for taking additional measures to make it harder for his henchmen to seize your wealth if you found yourself in the crosshairs.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2017.

Obama DOJ Didn’t Bother To Interview FBI Informant Before Filing Charges In Uranium One Scandal

Do you ever get the sense that with certain investigations, primarily those targeting conservatives, the FBI has a tendency to dot every ‘i’, cross every ‘t’ and pursue charges at all costs, no matter how minor, but with others (think Hillary’s email scandal) even the most glaring violations of federal law seem to go unpunished?
For example, compare and contrast the Flynn charges versus how the Hillary email investigation was conducted by the Comey-led FBI. On the one hand, Flynn held perfectly legal conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States AFTER the U. S. presidential election, a common practice for presidential transition teams, yet for some inexplicable reason, probably having something to do with fears of being charged with a bogus ‘Logan Act’ violation in Mueller’s Russian collusion witch hunt, decided to lie about them during interviews with the FBI. As a result of his lies, Flynn has now plead guilty to two counts of false statements, has been ruined financially by mounting legal bills and could end up serving jail time.
On the other hand, compare that outcome to the Hillary email scandal where there is tangible evidence and first-hand testimony that Hillary and her team knowingly violated a Congressional subpoena by deleting 33,000 emails, habitually destroyed evidence with hammers so it could never be recovered and routinely compromised American national security interests by sending “Top Secret” communications via unsecured channels…something that Comey originally defined at “gross negligence” even though he later changed his language to “extreme carelessness” to assure that Hillary could never be pursued with criminal charges. So what were the punishments for all those federal crimes? Well, rather than pursue charges against Hillary and/or various members of her staff the FBI decided to “hand out immunity deals like candy.”
Now, in just the latest bit of evidence that the Justice department has been politically compromised, we learn from John Solomon of The Hill that the DOJ didn’t even bother to interview a key FBI informant before filing criminal charges in the Uranium One scandal back in 2014.
While he was Maryland’s chief federal prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office failed to interview the undercover informant in the FBI’s Russian nuclear bribery case before it filed criminal charges in the case in 2014, officials told The Hill. And the prosecutors did not let a grand jury hear from the paid informant before it handed up an indictment portraying him as a ‘victim’ of the Russian corruption scheme or fully review his extensive trove of documents until months later, the officials confirmed.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 4, 2017.

Debt, Taxes, Growth And The GOP Con Job

During more than four decades in Washington and on Wall Street it is quite possible that we never picked up any useful skills. But along the way we did unavoidably acquire what amounts to a survival tool in those fair precincts—-namely, a nose for the con job.
And what a doozy we have going now as a desperate mob of Capitol Hill Republicans attempts to enact something—anything— that can be vaguely labeled tax reform/tax cut. And for a reason that lies only slightly below the surface.
In a word, they are scared to death that the political train wreck in the Oval Office will put them out of business for years to come. So they are attempting to erect a shield of legislative accomplishment that can be sold in 2018 as the work of the GOP Congress, not the unhinged tweet-storm in the White House.
To be sure, some element of political calculus always lies behind legislation. For instance, the Dems didn’t pass the Wagner Act in 1935, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as an exercise in pure civic virtue—-these measures targeted huge constituencies with tens of millions of votes at stake.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on November 30th, 2017.