Raiders Move to Vegas Gives Tax Payers Reason to Boo, Players Reason to Cheer

Yesterday the NFL granted Mark Davis his request to move the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas. The move creates multiple losers: Las Vegas hotel customers who will see room taxes rise to pay for the $750 million in subsidies for the new stadium, the city of Oakland who still carries debt from the Raiders old venue, and the infamous fans that made up the Raiders’ iconic ‘Black Hole’ who are losing their football team just after witnessing their first playoff performance in almost 15 years.
Beyond the blatant crony capitalism of government-financed stadiums, there are many reasons to doubt the wisdom of the team’s decision. After all, unlike the Rams and Chargers move to Los Angeles, Las Vegas has no history of supporting professional football. The most significant attempt, the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, only averaged 22,619 fans, ranking 5th out of the league’s 8 teams. Other attempts, including multiple Arena League teams and the short lived UFL, were financial flops. Of course, none of these products have the power of the National Football League, so perhaps this time will be different.
At league meetings, a key part to selling relocation was the idea that fans of other teams would travel to Las Vegas to enjoy the city’s attractions along with the game. Of course, if the market had faith in this business model, investment wouldn’t have needed politicians to find investment. It is worth noting that the new Las Vegas NHL team will be playing at a facility backed entirely by private investment. Maxing out at 20,000 seats, it has one-third of the capacity of the Raiders venue – but cost less than a quarter of the projected costs of the Raiders’ future facility.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on March 29, 2017.

“It’s Corruption On Steroids” – A Look Inside The El Monte, California Public Employee Pension

El Monte, California is a city of roughly 100,000 residents in East Los Angeles, many of whom struggle to make ends meet with a median household income of ~$39,000 and nearly 25% of people living below the poverty line. But while most of the people of El Monte struggle to meet monthly expenses, the city’s public employees are living the high life courtesy of one of the most egregious taxpayer funded pension plans in the country. Just ask the retired City Manager, James Mussenden, who told the LA Times that he gets paid $216,000 per year in retirement to tour the world on extravagant golf trips.
The retired city manager of El Monte collects more than $216,000 a year, plus cost-of-living increases and fully paid health insurance. ‘It’s giving me an opportunity to do a number of things I didn’t get to do when I was younger, like travel to Europe, take some things off my bucket list,’ Mussenden, 66, said recently. He even flew to Scotland to play the famed Old Course at St. Andrews, a mecca for golf enthusiasts.
Mussenden recognizes that few Americans have pensions anymore – least of all the El Monte taxpayers who are funding his retirement. So while he enjoys his monthly retirement check, he’s discreet about it.
‘The guys I play golf with, they get very angry about my pension because they don’t have anything like it,’ he said.

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

Clinton Investigation Back On: FBI Agents In NY Ordered To Continue Foundation Probe

After the election, many speculated that the probe of the Clinton Foundation would be laid to rest. But now, according to an exclusive report from the Daily Caller, senior officials at FBI headquarters in Washington DC have apparently instructed agents in the New York field office to continue their investigation of the Clinton Foundation. According to the source, the instructions were passed on to the NYC field office last week and involves operations in at least five cities, including: New York, Little Rock, Washington, D. C., Los Angeles and Miami.
Officials at FBI headquarters instructed its New York field office to continue its corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation following the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump, according to a former senior law enforcement official.
The instructions ordered agents to ‘go forward’ with their ongoing inquiry into the Clinton Foundation which is focusing on issues of corruption and money laundering, according to the source.
‘There were no instructions to shut it down, to discontinue or to stand down on the investigation, but to continue its work,’ the former official told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 15, 2016.

Seven Suggestions for President-Elect Trump

President-Elect Trump, more policy tweaks, more promises of more government free money and more symbolic gestures won’t fix anything. Though I am just another powerless peon, I’d like to offer seven suggestions to President-Elect Trump and his transition team: 1. Make sure your administration is as diverse as America. No single act will give your enemies more ammo than populating your cabinet and administration with the Usual Suspects: Caucasian elites from Ivy League universities. These privileged “experts” have bankrupted the nation financially, morally and spiritually while enriching themselves and their privileged cronies. Populate your cabinet and administration with entrepreneurially minded, honest, hard working, forward-looking people who just happen to be African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, female, gay, mixed-race, etc. Having a cabinet that reflects the diversity of America (or just the diversity of New York City or Los Angeles County, for goodness sakes) will send a powerful message not just to the nation but to the world: America’s diversity is America’s strength. If you want an example of how to do this, follow in the footsteps of the U. S. military. Yes, it’s imperfect, but for a large-scale voluntary institution, it’s done a lot better than most to promote a diverse spectrum of Americans.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2016.

Mind The Incomings – – Port of LA/Long Beach Import Containers Down 4.3% Y/Y, Implying Weak Holiday Outlook Among Retailers

Imports slumped at the nation’s largest port complex in August, a sign that retailers remain cautious in their outlook for holiday sales amid changing patterns in consumer spending.
The nation’s two largest container ports, in neighboring Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., imported a combined 732,992 20-foot equivalent units, a standard measure for container cargo, in the month of August. That was down 4.3% from the same month last year. Long Beach’s import volume declined 10.2% while inbound loads in Los Angeles rose less than 1%.
Retailers usually step up imports from Asia in late summer and early fall to prepare for the annual surge in holiday consumer spending. This year’s peak shipping season was expected to be weak as retailers focused on slimming store inventories as more of their customers shop online. U. S. retail sales declined in August, raising concerns about how much consumers would spend for the remainder of the year.
But the volumes coming through Southern California were worse than anticipated. The National Retail Federation and research firm Hackett Associates predicted nationwide imports through major ports would slip 0.4% in August.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By ERICA E. PHILLIPS, Wall Street Journal ‘ September 19, 2016.

Hanjin Shipping Co. Collapse Leaves $14 billion Worth of Goods Adrift

Hanjin’s Ghost Ships Seek Haven
Suppliers to companies such as Nike Inc. and Hugo Boss AG are scrambling to ensure their T-shirts and sneakers reach buyers in time for the year-end holiday season after the collapse of Hanjin Shipping Co. left an estimated $14 billion worth of goods adrift.
Esquel Group, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer for fashion brands including Nike, Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren, is hiring truckers to move four stranded containers of raw materials to its factories near Ho Chi Minh City as soon as they can be retrieved from ports in China. Liaoning Shidai Wanheng Co., a Chinese fabrics importer and a supplier to Marks & Spencer Group Plc, has made alternative arrangements for shipments that were scheduled with Hanjin.
‘Our production lines are waiting,’ said Kent Teh, who runs Esquel’s Vietnam business. ‘We potentially have to take airfreight to deliver the garment items to clients in the U. S. and U. K.’
Apparel, handbags, televisions and microwave ovens are among goods stranded at sea after Korea’s largest shipping company filed for bankruptcy protection last week, setting off a series of events that roiled the global supply chain. A U. S. Court on Tuesday provided a temporary reprieve, which may help vessels call on ports such as Los Angeles without the fear of getting impounded. Any major bottlenecks ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas could put a dent in the two-month shopping season, which netted some $626 billion of sales last year in the U. S.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Kyunghee Park and Mai Ngoc Chau, Bloomberg Business ‘ September 8, 2016.

Another Obamacare Fiasco – -Largest US Insurer Heading For The Exit

President Obama claimed credit at a Los Angeles fundraiser last week for ‘the steady progress that happens when people who love this country decide to change it,’ and reality is unlikely to darken his farewell tour. But for everyone else, note that the largest U. S. health insurer is quitting ObamaCare.
On Tuesday UnitedHealth Group reported a terrific first quarter, with strong performance across nearly all business lines. There was one exception: The conglomerate’s insurance exchange unit raised its projected Affordable Care Act losses for 2016 to $650 million from $525 million, after booking $475 million in red ink last year.
CEO Stephen Hemsley said ObamaCare’s instability, small market size and costly patient population ‘continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis.’ He said UnitedHealth will withdraw to ‘only a handful of states’ in 2017.
Liberals claim this doesn’t matter because UnitedHealth was insufficiently committed to ObamaCare, as if it preferred to leave money on the table. The insurer didn’t plunge head-first into the exchanges in year one of the law like the larger industry, but the latecomer expanded to 34 states in 2016 from 23 in 2015 and four in 2014. Mr. Hemsley has been more vocal than most insurance CEOs about the long-term importance of retail, customer-facing coverage outside of the employer business. He told an investors conference last year that he decided to ramp up because he couldn’t believe the ObamaCare market ‘would form this slowly, be this porous, or become this severe.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner by Wall Street Journal ‘ April 20, 2016.

The 28 Blank Pages And The 9/11 Cover-up – -All Roads Point To The Saudis And Bush Buddy Bandar

In its report on the still-censored ’28 pages’ implicating the Saudi government in 9/11, ’60 Minutes’ last weekend said the Saudi role in the attacks has been ‘soft-pedaled’ to protect America’s delicate alliance with the oil-rich kingdom.
That’s quite an understatement.
Actually, the kingdom’s involvement was deliberately covered up at the highest levels of our government. And the coverup goes beyond locking up 28 pages of the Saudi report in a vault in the US Capitol basement. Investigations were throttled. Co-conspirators were let off the hook.
Case agents I’ve interviewed at the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Washington and San Diego, the forward operating base for some of the Saudi hijackers, as well as detectives at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department who also investigated several 9/11 leads, say virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.
Yet time and time again, they were called off from pursuing leads. A common excuse was ‘diplomatic immunity.’
Those sources say the pages missing from the 9/11 congressional inquiry report – which comprise the entire final chapter dealing with ‘foreign support for the September 11 hijackers’ – details ‘incontrovertible evidence’ gathered from both CIA and FBI case files of official Saudi assistance for at least two of the Saudi hijackers who settled in San Diego.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on April 18, 2016.

Stuffing The Dealer Lots – -Used Car Inventories to Soar

Aspiring Lexus owners may have a hard time refusing Brendan Harrington’s latest offer: Get a lightly used version of one of the hottest luxury SUVs in America for as little as $370 a month.
The terms – offered by Mr. Harrington’s Longo Lexus dealership near Los Angeles – come as part of a lease deal on a three-year-old RX 350 with 35,700 miles on the odometer. Spanning 36 months and 45,000 miles of use, the lease requires little money up front and is potentially hundreds of dollars less than a comparatively equipped new model sold at similar terms.
Inventories of used cars in good condition are soaring in the U. S., and finance companies and dealers are scrambling to offer leases as a way to make payments affordable for people who don’t qualify for cheap deals on new cars or those looking to save cash.
New-car sales gained steam in recent years, creating a glut of used vehicles. Those inventories are problematic for auto makers hoping to maintain a record sales pace on fresh sheet metal and remain profitable in the process.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Gautham Nagesh the Wall Street Journal.

Red Suzerains Plugging The Leaks – -Beijing Closes ‘WeChat’ Channel To Foreign Luxury Goods Purchase

A new Chinese fee on packages purchased abroad may bring down a multibillion-dollar ‘gray market’ for luxury goods in the country.
The market is called ‘daigou.’ Basically, sellers based overseas buy goods from luxury brands for Chinese buyers at a markup, but for less than it would cost the Chinese buyer to purchase the goods at home.
Chinese buyers not only like that these products are cheaper, but also trust their authenticity more than they do products in China.
In January, consulting firm Bain & Co. estimated that the daigou purchases totaled $7.6 billion in 2015. People in the US who send goods back to friends and family in China are making a killing, and all they need are ‘WeChat and people to sell to,’ one seller told the Los Angeles Times.
It should be noted that 80% of the shoppers Bain polled said that they got their luxury-retail news from social media.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on April 7, 2016.

The Folly Of American Exceptionalism – -Why Hillary Must Be Stopped At All Hazards

American exceptionalism presents an election made in hell
If the American presidential election winds up with Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, and my passport is confiscated, and I’m somehow FORCED to choose one or the other, or I’m PAID to do so, paid well … I would vote for Trump.
My main concern is foreign policy. American foreign policy is the greatest threat to world peace, prosperity, and the environment. And when it comes to foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is an unholy disaster. From Iraq and Syria to Libya and Honduras the world is a much worse place because of her; so much so that I’d call her a war criminal who should be prosecuted. And not much better can be expected on domestic issues from this woman who was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs – one of the most reactionary, anti-social corporations in this sad world – for four speeches and even more than that in political donations in recent years. Add to that Hillary’s willingness to serve for six years on the board of Walmart while her husband was governor of Arkansas. Can we expect to change corporate behavior by taking their money?
The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial the day after the multiple primary elections of March 1 which began: ‘Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States,’ and then declared: ‘The reality is that Trump has no experience whatsoever in government.’
When I need to have my car fixed I look for a mechanic with experience with my type of auto. When I have a medical problem I prefer a doctor who specializes in the part of my body that’s ill. But when it comes to politicians, experience means nothing. The only thing that counts is the person’s ideology. Who would you sooner vote for, a person with 30 years in Congress who doesn’t share your political and social views at all, is even hostile to them, or someone who has never held public office before but is an ideological comrade on every important issue? Clinton’s 12 years in high government positions carries no weight with me.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on March 15, 2016.

How’s That Working For you? Six Cities Which Hiked Minimum Wage Experience Sharp Jobs Slowdown

February 5, 2016
Hiring at restaurants, hotels and other leisure and hospitality sector venues slowed markedly last year in metro areas that saw big minimum-wage hikes, new Labor Department data show.
Wherever cities implemented big minimum-wage hikes to $10 an hour or more last year, the latest data through December show that job creation downshifted to the slowest pace in at least five years.

Liberals fighting for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage have insisted that there would be a negligible impact on job creation. Though the data are preliminary and overly broad, Washington D. C., Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago seem to be finding out that the reality isn’t so benign.
A slowdown in job growth can fly below the radar, at least for those who aren’t seeking low-wage work. But the risk of raising the minimum wage too high became fairly obvious last month, whenWal-Mart (WMT) bolted from Oakland and Los Angeles and scrapped plans for two stores in low-income areas of D. C.
The big shortcoming in the available data for 5 of the 6 cities is that they cover broad metro areas, far beyond the city limits where wage hikes took effect. Still, the uniform result of much slower job growth in the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector, even as the pace of job gains held steady in surrounding areas, sends a pretty powerful signal.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Jed Graham Investor’s Business Daily /.

The $29 Trillion Corporate Debt Hangover That Could Spark a Global Recession

There’s been endless speculation in recent weeks about whether the U. S., and the whole world for that matter, are about to sink into recession. Underpinning much of the angst is an unprecedented $29 trillion corporate bond binge that has left many companies more indebted than ever.
Whether this debt overhang proves to be a catalyst for recession or not, one thing is clear in talking to credit-market observers: It’s a problem that won’t go away any time soon.
Strains are emerging in just about every corner of the global credit market. Credit-rating downgrades account for the biggest chunk of ratings actions since 2009; corporate leverage is at a 12-year high; and perhaps most worrisome, growing numbers of companies – one third globally – are failing to generate high enough returns on investments to cover their cost of funding. Pooled together into a single snapshot, the data points show how the seven-year-old global growth model based on cheap credit from central banks is running out of steam.
‘We’ve never been in a cycle quite like this,’ said Bonnie Baha, a money manager at DoubleLine Capital in Los Angeles, which oversees more than $80 billion. ‘It’s setting up for an unhappy turn.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on January 29, 2016.

Liberty Imperiled – – -The Emerging Police State Of Mind

Sometime in late November, after the Paris terror attacks but before the one in San Bernardino, I was walking to New York’s Grand Central Station to catch the subway home. In front of one of its main entrances, the police had set up shop, blocking off part of an avenue. The crew I stumbled upon may, in fact, have been part of the new counterterrorism unit that the New York Police Department had just rolled out. Whatever the case, the cops were up-armored in a purely military fashion (even if their togs were fashionably black and blue) and carrying weaponry the likes of which I had never seen before on the streets of my hometown. Amid flashing lights, they stood there with dogs on leashes looking not like ‘the police’ but figures from some dystopian, futuristic sci-fi flick. Nothing in particular seemed to be happening so, after a few minutes, I entered the vast terminal, passing scattered pistol-packing soldiers in camo, evidently guarding the just-before-rush-hour crowds. It was certainly a spectacle, but also just part of the new American normal.
So consider what I’m about to mention less than newsworthy amid all the reports on the militarization of the country’s police and their brutal behavior. And yet it’s the sort of tiny news story that once upon a time would have been striking. Now, few will even notice. Policing headlines these days, after all, gravitate to graphic videos of cold-blooded police killings in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. (There were 70 fatal shootings by the Chicago Police Department alone between 2010 and 2014. As Margaret Talbot pointed out in the New Yorker, only Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Dallas ‘had a higher number per capita.’)
When it comes to the arming of the police in a country in which rural sheriffs proudly sport battlefield-grade mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and new militarized urban police units like that one in New York City are being outfitted with Colt M4 semiautomatic assault rifles and machine guns, a report that 20 campus cops at Boston’s Northeastern University are going to be armed with semiautomatic rifles qualifies as distinctly ho-hum news. Or thought of another way, it catches the everyday reality of a country whose police have been up-arming with a kind of passion since 9/11. I can, of course, remember the unarmed campus cops of my own college days and, believe me, we’ve traveled a long road from policing ‘panty raids’ to facing on-campus mass shootings in a country now so over-weaponized that it seems as if both the police and the citizenry are in an undeclared arms race.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner by TomDispatch.com ‘ December 20, 2015.

The Corruption Just Never Stops

Who believes that the cops follow the rules? Still?
More than three dozen legal experts and ex-prosecutors on Wednesday called for a federal investigation into allegations that Orange County prosecutors and sheriff’s officials improperly used jailhouse informants and withheld evidence from defense attorneys.
The group, including former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti and former Chief Assistant United States Attorney Richard Drooyan, penned a letter to U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling attention to a ‘crisis’ in the county’s justice system.
‘Compelling evidence of pervasive police and prosecutorial misconduct in Orange County … has caused us grave concern,’ they wrote in the 25-page letter. (You can read the letter here.)

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2015-11-22.

Meet Helios Hernandez – – – Wiretap Crazed Judge Who Issued 963 Snooping Orders In Two Years

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Federal drug agents have built a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs, secretly intercepting tens of thousands of Americans’ phone calls and text messages to monitor drug traffickers across the United States despite objections from Justice Department lawyers who fear the practice may not be legal.
Nearly all of that surveillance was authorized by a single state court judge in Riverside County, who last year signed off on almost five times as many wiretaps as any other judge in the United States. The judge’s orders allowed investigators – usually from the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration – to intercept more than 2 million conversations involving 44,000 people, federal court records show.
The eavesdropping is aimed at dismantling the drug rings that have turned Los Angeles’ eastern suburbs into what the DEA says is the nation’s busiest shipping corridor for heroin and methamphetamine. Riverside wiretaps are supposed to be tied to crime within the county, but investigators have relied on them to make arrests and seize shipments of cash and drugs as far away as New York and Virginia, sometimes concealing the surveillance in the process.
The surveillance has raised concerns among Justice Department lawyers in Los Angeles, who have mostly refused to use the results in federal court because they have concluded the state court’s eavesdropping orders are unlikely to withstand a legal challenge, current and former Justice officials said.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on November 12, 2015.

Police Departments Across the US Can’t Find Enough Recruits

There once was a time in America, when law enforcement was a very admirable field. The police were viewed as pillars of their community, and kids looked up to them, and wanted to be them when they grew up. They were almost always the good guys in the movies, and they maintained a reputation for being honorable, ethical, and disciplined. Or at least they did on the surface.
While Americans are coming to grips with the corruption and cruelty found in many of our police departments, many have wondered if law enforcement has only recently turned to the dark side, or if modern technologies like cell phones and cameras are pulling the veil off of a problem that has existed for decades. In either case, it’s obvious that public opinion is slowly turning against this profession, which may be contributing to a major crisis in hundreds of police departments across America.
Apparently, nobody wants to be a cop anymore.
Police departments in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are all working harder at recruitment and drawing fewer applicants. But it is also the same story in smaller cities such as Leesburg, Va., where the number of applicants to the police department has dropped 90 percent over the past five years, and Reno, Nev., which reports a decline of 50 percent since 1997.
A decade ago, there were 3,000 applicants for 10 openings with the Seattle police, the department says. Now there are 1,000 applicants for 70 positions – a drop of more than 90 percent.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on September 2nd, 2015.

Global Cooling Beginning To Hit In High Places – – That Is, The Luxury Condo Market

Manhattan real estate agent Lisa Gustin listed a four-bedroom Tribeca loft for $7.45 million in October, expecting a quick sale. Instead, she cut the price this month by $550,000.
‘I thought for sure a foreign buyer would come in,’ said Gustin, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens who is still marketing the 3,800-square-foot (353-square-meter) apartment at 195 Hudson St. ‘So many new condos are coming up right now. They’ve been building them for the past few years and now they’re really hurting the resales.’
A flood of new high-priced condominiums and mansions are coming to market in New York, Miami and Los Angeles just as international buyers, who helped fuel demand in the three cities, are seeing their purchasing power wane with the strengthening dollar. Signs of a pullback may already be showing in Manhattan, where luxury-home sales have slowed amid a surge in construction of towers aimed at U. S. millionaires and foreign investors.
This year, 2,386 newly built Manhattan luxury condos will be listed for sale, the most on record, data compiled by Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group show. The brokerage defines luxury as units priced at more than $2,300 a square foot.
‘We’re building a very narrowly defined super-luxury product with a fairly deep pool of buyers, but the challenge is going to be the mere fact that it’s all coming at the same time,’ said Jonathan Miller, president of New York-based appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and a Bloomberg View contributor.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on January 22, 2015.