There Is One Way Out of Debt-Serfdom: Fanatic Frugality

Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom.
If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it?
The typical answer seems to be: deny it, ignore it, get distracted by carefully choreographed culture wars or shrug fatalistically and put one’s shoulder to the debt-serf grindstone.
There is another response, one that very few pursue: fanatic frugality in service of financial-political independence. Debt-serfs and dependents of the state have no effective political power, as noted yesterday in It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income.
There are only three ways to accumulate productive capital/assets: marry someone with money, inherit money or accumulate capital/savings and invest it in productive assets. (We’ll leave out lobbying the Federal government for a fat contract or tax break, selling derivatives designed to default and the rest of the criminal financial skims and scams used so effectively by the New Nobility financial elites.)

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, MAY 04, 2017.

Och-Ziff Suffers Record Redemptions In First 4 Months Of 2017 As AUM Plunges

One year after Och-Ziff Capital settled a bribery case that led to jump in redemption requests and an exodus in high profile executives, on Tuesday the hedge fund reported that it suffered record net withdrawals in the first four months of the year, extending several straight quarters of outflows.
The firm reported net redemptions of $4.8 billion in the first quarter and an additional $2.1 billion from April 1 and May 1. At the same time, assets under management declined from $37.9 billion as of December 31, 2016 to $32 billion as of the beginning of May, a record $5.9 billion decline, and a 24% drop from a year earlier.
As discussed at the time, and as Bloomberg reminds this morning, the redemption wave started when the hedge fund settled a five-year bribery probe and saw founder Dan Och singled out by regulators for ignoring red flags and corruption risks. Och-Ziff agreed to pay more than $400 million in September to settle U. S. charges that it paid bribes to gain business in Africa. Its OZ Africa Management GP unit pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 2, 2017.

‘Fragile’ US Economy Hammered In Q1 By Election-Spending Hangover

Growth in U. S. personal consumption expenditures in the first quarter of 2017 was slowest since 2009, according to data released Friday by the Commerce Department.
A big reason for that was the second-largest contraction in spending by non-profits (i.e. election-related lobbying/spending) in 57 years of data.
As Bloomberg details, according to monthly consumption data through February, the drag seems to owe to a sharp decline in spending by professional advocacy groups, which always surges during U. S. presidential elections, and hit a record high in November.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 1, 2017.

House Oversight Committee Confirms Flynn Likely Broke Law On Overseas Payments

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday.
As The Washington Post reports, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance, after viewing two classified memos and Flynn’s disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 25, 2017.

How Did NY Gov. Cuomo Make $783,000 From A Book That Sold Only 3,200 Copies?

Fox News Channel parent News Corporation may be wrapped up in the sexual harassment accusations surrounding host Bill O’Reilly, but, as International Business Times’ Lydia O’Neal reports, the company is facing another long-running scandal involving what appear to be exuberant payments to a Democrat – payments that occurred even as News Corp. was lobbying the New York State executive branch, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversees.
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The New York governor, whose memoir was published by the News Corp.-owned HarperCollins in 2014, saw his gross income more than double last year, to $417,748 for 2016 (from $196,243 the year before), the Buffalo News reported Tuesday. Cuomo attributed $218,100 of that increase to sales of his memoir, ‘All Things Possible: Setbacks and Successes in Politics and Life.’
In 2015, the governor reportedly earned zero income from book sales and in the nearly three years that it’s been on the market, it has sold just 3,200 copies. But Cuomo, the Buffalo News found, reported that he received a total of $783,000 from HarperCollins in book sales over the past three years, a number that would translate to royalty payments of nearly $244.69 per copy.
Today, the book was selling on Amazon for $8.45.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 23, 2017.

Central Banks Have a $13 Trillion Problem

Paycheck to Paycheck
GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – The Dow was down 118 points on Wednesday. It should have been down a lot more. Of course, markets know more than we do. And maybe this market knows something that makes sense of these high prices. What we see are reasons to sell, not reasons to buy.
Nearly half of all American families live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ say researchers. Without borrowing, 46% couldn’t raise $400 to cover an emergency. This is at least part of the reason why retail sales dropped for the second month in a row in March. Despite seven years of economic ‘recovery,’ millions of Americans don’t have much money.
According to Census Bureau figures, 110 million Americans receive benefits from means-tested federal programs – food stamps, disability, and the like. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 125 million Americans have full-time work (with another roughly 112 million without jobs).
That means there are only 125 million people in full-time jobs supporting the whole kit and caboodle of the U. S. economy, with a total population of 323 million. At that rate, each full-time worker supports about 2.6 people… including almost one person receiving money from the feds.
They are also supporting a government debt of $20 trillion and private debt of another $40 trillion or so. That puts the debt-to-full-time-worker ratio at $480,000. The average salary for a full-time worker is just $48,000. At a modest 5% interest, his share of the debt cost would set him back $24,000 each year.
He’d have only the remaining $24,000 to support (1) his own family… and (2) all the malingerers, cronies, and zombies who are drawing government benefits. Obviously, those numbers don’t work. But they explain much of the weakness in the U. S. economy.
The feds’ cheap credit keeps moving money (mostly in the form of asset price increases) to the wealthiest ZIP codes… while the average person’s budget gets tighter and tighter.

This post was published at Acting-Man on April 21, 2017.

Marx, Orwell and State-Cartel Socialism

When “socialist” states have to impose finance-capital extremes that even exceed the financialization of nominally capitalist economies, it gives the lie to their claims of “socialism.” OK, so our collective eyes start glazing over when we see Marx and Orwell in the subject line, but refill your beverage and stay with me on this. We’re going to explore the premise that what’s called “socialism”–yes, Scandinavian-style socialism and its variants–is really nothing more than finance-capital state-cartel elitism that has done a better job of co-opting its debt-serfs than its state-cartel “capitalist” cronies. We have to start with the question “what is socialism”? The standard definition is: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. In practice, the community as a whole is the state. Either the state owns a controlling interest in the enterprise, or it controls the surplus (profits), labor rules, etc. via taxation and regulation.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2017.

TAXPAYERS FUND LAWYERS TO DEFEND HIGHLY PAID FEDERAL MANAGERS UNDER FIRE

Taxpayers are forced to cover much of the costs of defense attorneys for highly-paid federal managers facing termination or criminal charges, thanks to a cozy deal engineered in part by a law firm whose lobbyists helped draft and gain passage of legislation requiring it, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group (TheDCNF) has found.
Lobbyists for the Washington, D. C., law firm Shaw, Bransford & Roth (Roth) – which earns its money representing federal employees who are being disciplined – ‘proposed’ and secured passage of the obscure bill Congress passed in 1996, according to the website of a group connected to the firm. That bill requires taxpayers to pay for legal insurance for management-level employees.
Roth lawyer Anthony Vergnetti then left the firm to launch the Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS), just such a legal insurance business that, Vergnetti acknowledges, primarily steers clients to Roth when they have insurance claims, and profits off their premiums when they don’t.
Roth got its legislative sway by operating through the Senior Executives Association (SEA), which is ostensibly an organic group representing managers, but which is actually founded and run by the law firm’s partners and employees, as TheDCNF showed last year. SEA collects dues from members and pays lobbyists from Roth to conduct legislative advocacy, according to lobbying disclosures.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on APRIL 17, 2017.

$43 Million In Cash Found In Empty Nigerian Apartment

It appears that at least one “Nigerian prince” had the cash to back his claims.
Nigeria’s anti-corruption unit discovered more than $43 million in US dollars at an upscale apartment in Lagos, after receiving an anonymous tip. As CTV News reports, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission received a tip from a whistleblower who reported suspicious activity when they noticed someone moving bags in and out of the apartment, according to a Facebook post.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 16, 2017.

Venezuela Is The Wild Card In The OPEC Deal Extension

News coming out of Venezuela over the past two years has reeked of corruption and failed political leadership: a long list of shortages, rampant poverty, incrimination of the opposition, and a recent move that puts the regime of Nicolas Maduro one step closer to a dictatorship. And these are only the developments that are recorded, with a recent LA Times Op-Ed suggesting that a Venezuelan homicide epidemic rages ‘unreported’ due to the country’s scrapping of crime statistics reporting over a decade ago.
Despite all of this, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) expects Venezuela, endowed with the world’s largest oil reserves (depending on who you ask), to play a major role in the cartel’s plan to curb global supply. In OPEC’s November agreement, Venezuela accounted for almost 10 percent of the net supply cut from member nations (calculated as cuts minus allotted increases)

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

NOT JUST SYRIA: 5 HUGE NEWS STORIES TO KEEP AN EYE ON AMID THE MADNESS

The world’s eyes and ears have once again turned toward Syria following last week’s chemical weapons attack and U. S. President Donald Trump’s subsequent air strikes on the Assad government. Mainstream media, independent media, and social media platforms are fixing fierce attention on the ongoing developments.
These events undoubtedly deserve widespread, ongoing scrutiny. From the United States government’s lack of evidence that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack to the media’s complicity in driving a pro-war narrative and president Trump’s hypocrisy in bombing Syria – after criticizing former president Barack Obama for doing the same thing – further critical analysis of the recent airstrikes is vital.
But even as skepticism toward these events should remain heightened, so should awareness of countless other major developments. Here are five to follow:
1. Trump Appoints Pharmaceutical Consultant to Head the FDA – This week, the president appointed Scott Gottlieb, a pharmaceutical industry insider who has served the boards of multiple pharmaceutical companies, to chair the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb currently still works as a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline. He has received $414,000 from GSK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He has also received tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Mikart, as well as other corporations – including Goldman Sachs. He has taken several trips through Washington’s revolving door, with brief stints at the FDA mixed in with multiple positions consulting pharmaceutical companies. Trump’s pick follows in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who also appointed a pharmaceutical industry insider to chair the FDA.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on APRIL 11, 2017.

Trump Sued For Not Releasing White House Visitor Logs

Three organizations have filed lawsuits against President Trump’s administration for not publicly disclosing White House visitor logs.
According to The Hill, the lawsuits were filed against the Department of Homeland Security by The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University after the administration failed to release the records pursuant to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
‘We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not.’ CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
‘Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.’
‘President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege, and this information is central to the Secret Service mission and thus clearly agency records subject to FOIA,’ Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.

SEC Targets Seeking Alpha, Benzinga In Crack Down On “Fake News” Pump And Dumps

With the recent crackdown on political “fake news”, where a handful of media mega-corporations such as Facebook and Google have emerged as the ultimate arbiter of what is real or isn’t, in the process unleashing allegations of conflicts of interest, it was only a matter of time before the SEC got the hint and brought the hammer down. That time is now, because as Reuters reports, the SEC on Monday announced a crackdown against “pump and dump” stock promotion schemes in which writers were secretly paid to post hundreds of bullish articles about public companies on financial websites.
Some 27 individuals and entities, including a Hollywood actress (shown below), were charged with misleading investors into believing they were reading “independent, unbiased analyses” on websites such as Seeking Alpha, Benzinga and Wall Street Cheat Sheet.
The SEC said many writers used pseudonyms such as Equity Options Guru, The Swiss Trader, Trading Maven and Wonderful Wizard to hype stocks. It was not immediately clear if bearish “pseudonymous characters” were also responsible for talking down stocks.
While not as pervasive as alleged “fake news” in the political realm, the SEC said had it identified more than 450 problem articles, of which more than 250 falsely said the writers were not being paid.
Unlike traditional cases where the SEC alleges fraud, usually involving trading on inside information, in this case the crackdown is not against improper market information but misrepresentation of conflicts of interest and marketing.
“This is different from the fraud cases that you usually see us bring,” Stephanie Avakian, acting director of the SEC enforcement division, said on the conference call. “Here, we allege that the fraud was in presenting the analysis as impartial,” she said. “It was bought and paid for.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.

Has Middle Class America Been Fleeced?

Noah Smith, writing in Bloomberg, says that middle class America has indeed been fleeced by our national economic policies. We agree. But which policies have been responsible?
Smith mentions and immediately dismisses trade, immigration, economic regulation, and welfare policies. The real villain in his view is an alleged turn toward managing the economy on free market lines: ‘Your prosperity was taken by the very people who promised to ensure and enhance it. The decades from 1980 through 2008 were the age of neoliberalism — the ideology of the free market.’
This is a story that we hear more and more. Neoliberals, the favorite new epithet on the left for free market exponents, have ruled the roost for decades ( note how the Obama administration is simply ignored in the preceding quote), and have left the poor and middle class far worse off than they were.
The truth is that the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era had much in common, and it was not free market principles. It was an era of unrestrained crony capitalism, in which special interests formed stronger and stronger alliances with government in order to secure economic monopolies and other privileges.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on April 8, 2017.

Is The U.S. Forcing Egypt Toward A Russian Alliance?

Submitted by James Durso
‘The lion is back in his den!’
Hosni Mubarak, former President of Egypt, walked free last week after six years in detention on charges of murder and corruption. What does the U. S. have to show for it? Nothing.
In January 2011, Egyptian activists planned protests against corruption, lack of economic growth, and the heavy-handed police tactics of the recent years. The protests were scheduled for 25 January in Cairo and across Egypt. A broad swath of Egyptian activist groups participated, including the Islamists. The protests quickly escalated and became increasingly violent to the extent that the police were replaced by the military. At the end of two weeks, Mubarak had dissolved his government, appointed an interim leader, and announced he would not seek re-election in the September 2011 elections.
In early February 2011, on the same day that Vice President, and former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak would resign as President, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces suspended the constitution and dissolved both houses of Parliament for six months until elections could be held. In May 2011, Mubarak was charged with the murder of protesters and ordered to stand trial. The elections of June 2012 handed power to the only organized opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood and its leader, Mohammed Morsi, who promptly tried to install an Islamist constitution and grant himself broader power than had Mubarak. The secular opposition was upset that the Islamist opposition they helped usher into power would be so… Islamist. More violent protests ensued. The whole sorry mess came to an end in July 2013, when the military seized power and Morsi’s hand-picked minister of defense, General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, became Egypt’s leader and was elected President in May 2014 with a Chicago-like 93 percent of the vote.

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