As Saudi Arabia spins from crisis to crisis, U. S. oil hasn’t missed a beat. It’s stronger and more resilient than ever – and it has nothing to do with OPEC oil production cuts. In this war, U. S. oil wins, and the recent purge of billionaire princes in Saudi Arabia is icing on the cake. But when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested key members of the royal family on corruption charges two weeks ago all of them his rivals – oil shot up. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spiked more than $2 a barrel, closing around $57 a barrel – a nearly two-year high. OPEC cuts have done little to boost oil prices, and Royal Family arrests are welcome news for oil tycoons the world over, but it’s still not what’s kept the U. S. on the winning side in this war: Fracking bust the U. S. through the front line, and major advancements in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) are cementing the victory.
What’s next? A unicorn captured in Tennessee? The world I grew up in has changed. American Universities are handing out Play-Doh to comfort distraught liberals and ‘Never Trump’ students. Protestors defaced a Thomas Jefferson statueat the University of Virginia due to his slave ownership. Race baiters attacked Hobby Lobby for displaying raw cotton in vases. The P. C. Police have continually demonstrated their desire to attack the America many of us love. Now, the snowflake class is writing articles stating Ron Paul – the former Texas congressman that made a career out of criticizing bloated defense budgets and hawkish foreign policy decisions – is shilling for the defense industry. Their ‘evidence’ is that he received five-year-old campaign contributions from some employees of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which they falsely credited with coming directly from the companies themselves. Dr. Paul’s alleged wrongdoing was writing an op-ed mildly critical of Elon Musk, a government subsidy-eating machine and poster boy for left-wing environmental causes. In the article, Paul, an Air Force veteran, expressed his opposition to Section 1615 of the National Defense Authorization Agreement (NDAA), which many speculate was written with the congressional intent of quietly extinguishing all serious competition to Musk’s SpaceX.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 18, 2017.
Gary North published members-only articles recently (here and here) discussing how Hurricane Harvey has affected economic life in Houston. He makes an important point about prices and customers that I have not seen elsewhere. Other things equal we know scarcity or high demand will drive prices higher. Sellers of diamonds are rarely accused of price gouging but when prices for everyday commodities take a big leap in a crisis almost everyone calls it price gouging. It’s an easy call: People are in desperate need of critical commodities, while certain suppliers are charging scalper prices. Conclusion: The suppliers are craven profiteers. Wikipedia defines price gouging as ‘a pejorative term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent.’ Merriam-Webster says price gouging is ‘charging customers too much money.’ How much is ‘too much’? What is ‘reasonable or fair’? People don’t know, exactly, but they pass laws against it anyway. The fine for gouging a senior citizen in Texas is $250,000; gouging someone younger is only $20,000. Amazon has algorithms that suspend the accounts of sellers charging high prices relative to other sellers. During Harvey’s onslaught in Houston, a photo on gritpost showed a Best Buy store posting $42.96 for a case of bottled water; Best Buy later issued an apology on behalf of the store.
This post was published at GoldSeek on Sunday, 10 September 2017.
It’s not just the mainstream media that’s been quiet about the murder of Seth Rich. Members of Congress are remaining tight-lipped as well, leading more to believe that his death is not the bold conspiracy the left is painting it as. WND reported that they recently asked 125 members of Congress to weigh in about the murder of DNC staffer, Seth Rich. All the while, the media is largely silent about his death while at the same time labeling anyone concerned as a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ But those slinging around the term should remember that it’s only a conspiracy until it’s proven as fact, and things will unravel sooner or later. Out of 125, only five members of Congress even replied to WND’s request for an interview and all five declined to participate. In fact, the only member of Congress who has even gone on the record about the slain DNC staffer is Representative Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas. Farenthold was then attacked by the mainstream media for speaking out. That is a large group of powerful people remaining silent about the murder of one of their own. Yet those who question this whole narrative are the conspiracy theorists? Things are beginning to go south quickly for the DNC and democrats all over the country. The lies and corruption are finally coming to a head, and people are taking notice. Silence speaks often just as much as words do. Wouldn’t one think that the left-leaning media would want answers to the murder of one of their own? No wonder so many people are questioning Rich’s murder. Those who even mention it are attacked and those who try to cover it are those who should be on the murdered man’s side.
Trump’s string of ‘anti’-status quo appointments continues with his selection of former Texas governor Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department, which it is worth noting he wanted to do away with in 2011. Perry twice ran for his party’s presidential nomination, including against Trump, presenting himself as pro-business candidate. Perry’s selection is amusingly ironic, because five years ago, Perry wanted to eliminate the Energy Department: in an infamous 2011 Republican primary debate, Perry forgot that the Energy Department was one of the three federal government agencies he wanted to do away with. The other two were the Commerce and Education Departments. According to some pundits, the gaffe may have cost him a shot at the party’s 2012 nomination. Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor, was indicted in 2014 for abuse of power and coercion after threatening to veto funds for a Travis County office that investigates corruption unless the district attorney, who had pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, resigned. Another potential conflict of interest: Perry serves on the board of Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company whose pipeline project has drawn opposition in North Dakota and has become a rallying cry from environmentalists. While the Obama administration has stalled the project, Trump has said federal approvals for energy infrastructure need to come quicker.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 13, 2016.
With many of the key cabinet positions in Trump’s administration having been filled, one major post remained open: that of Energy Secretary. However according to Bloomberg, the mystery is almost over as Donald Trump has narrowed his search for energy secretary to four people. Which is amusingly ironic, because five years ago, Perry wanted to eliminate the Energy Department: in an infamous 2011 Republican primary debate, Perry forgot that the Energy Department was one of the three federal government agencies he wanted to do away with. The other two were the Commerce and Education Departments. According to some pundits, the gaffe may have cost him a shot at the party’s 2012 nomination. Texas’ longest-serving governor Gary was indicted in 2014 for abuse of power and coercion after threatening to veto funds for a Travis County office that investigates corruption unless the district attorney, who had pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, resigned. Another potential conflict of interest: Perry serves on the board of Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company whose pipeline project has drawn opposition in North Dakota and has become a rallying cry from environmentalists. While the Obama administration has stalled the project, Trump has said federal approvals for energy infrastructure need to come quicker.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 11, 2016.
In a move that is certain to infuriate those who see Trump as nothing more than a puppet of the Kremlin, moments ago NBC reported that Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil and late entrant into the SecState race after his first meeting with the president elect this past Tuesday at the Trump Tower, has been picked by Trump to serve as his next Secretary of State. As NBC adds, Tillerson met Saturday with Trump at Trump Tower in New York, the president-elect’s spokesperson confirmed. The selection of Tillerson comes after Trump and his transition team spent weeks searching for someone to fill the post of the top U. S. diplomat. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were reportedly in the running. Giuliani said Friday he had taken his name out of consideration. The 64-year-old Texas oilman, whose friends describe as a staunch conservative, emerged as a Secretary of State contender only last week following a meeting with Trump, when it was speculated that he would consider the offer “due to his sense of patriotic duty and because he is set to retire from the company next year.” Tillerson’s appointment would introduce the potential for sticky conflicts of interest because of his financial stake in Exxon: he owns Exxon shares worth $151 million, according to recent securities filings.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2016.
A Republican member of the Electoral College, Christopher Suprun, has published an op-ed in the NYT explaining on Monday explaining why he will not be casting his vote for Donald Trump. ‘The election of the next president is not yet a done deal,’ Texas elector Suprun writes the New York Times article. ‘Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.’ If Suprun follows through on his promise next month, he would become the first ‘faithless elector’ since 2004. “Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief”, writes Suprun, taking particular issue with the president-elect’s pick of retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn as his national security adviser. Trump’s business dealings might pose unacceptable conflicts of interest, Suprun adds — a problem that could seem him ‘impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses.” The Electoral College is constitutionally required to convene before the results of the Nov. 8 presidential election are official. Usually these gatherings amount to nothing more than a rubber stamp, but this year electors have threatened to flee in record numbers. Twenty-six states, a group that does not include Texas, bind their electors to select the winner of the popular vote.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2016.
The U. S. aluminum industry’s anti-China drumbeat is gaining volume in Washington this week. A group that represents aluminum companies is calling for a ‘meaningful dialogue’ with Chinese authorities in a bid to end what they say are incentives and subsidies that are fueling a global glut and squeezing U. S. producers out of the market. The Aluminum Association is pressing for a deeper investigation by the U. S. International Trade Commission into Chinese policies to save what’s left of the domestic industry, the group’s chief executive officer Heidi Brock and chairman Garney Scott said in Washington on Wednesday. They are scheduled to give testimony Thursday at a Commission hearing. Primary aluminum production in the U. S. faces the possibility of having to shutter if prices fall below $1,528 a metric ton, according to Austin, Texas-based researcher Harbor Intelligence. Aluminum for delivery in three months settled at $1,665 on Wednesday, down about 50 percent from a 2008 high.
An ISIS operative arrested and criminally charged in Ohio this month has confirmed that the terrorist group has cells in Mexico, according to federal authorities. Judicial Watch has reported this for years, documenting it in a series of articles as part of an ongoing investigation on the connection between drug cartels, corruption and terrorism on the southern border. In fact, last spring Judicial Watch broke a story about an ISIS camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas in an area known as ‘Anapra’ situated just west of Ciudad Jurez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Though a number of high-level law enforcement, intelligence and military sources on both sides of the border have provided Judicial Watch with evidence that Islamic terrorist cells are operating in Mexico, the Obama administration has publicly denied it, both to Judicial Watch and in mainstream media outlets.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 14, 2016.
August 2016 – MEXICO – Earlier this year a top ranking Homeland Security official acknowledged that Mexican drug cartels were helping ISIS sneak across the southern border to scope out targets for terrorist attacks. ISIS operative Shaykh Mahmood Omar Khabir has reportedly been training militants near the US border near Ciudad Juarez for the past year. Khabir actually brags in an Italian newspaper article published last week that the border region is so open that he ‘could get in with a handful of men, and kill thousands of people in Texas or in Arizona in the space of a few hours.’ Today Judicial Watch confirmed reports that ISIS is operating in Mexico. Judicial Watch reported, via Free Republic: An ISIS operative arrested and criminally charged in Ohio this month has confirmed that the terrorist group has cells in Mexico, according to federal authorities. Judicial Watch has reported this for years, documenting it in a series of articles as part of an ongoing investigation on the connection between drug cartels, corruption and terrorism on the southern border. In fact, last spring Judicial Watch broke a story about an ISIS camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas in an area known as ‘Anapra’ situated just west of Ciudad Jurez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
At a quarry in Bridgeport, Texas, where rock is crushed, sorted and cleaned, it’s hard to tell that the nation’s construction boom may be hitting a wall. Workers maneuver front-end loaders to fill a long line of rail cars and trucks with up to 25 tons of washed stone each. The destination: one of many construction projects that dot the Dallas-Fort Worth area 70 miles away. ‘We’re moving a lot of rock,’ said Dean Gatzemeier, who runs quarries in North Texas and Oklahoma for Martin Marietta Materials Inc. Construction has been one of the few pockets of strength in the U. S. economy – until recently. Construction payrollshave declined since March and spending in May rose less than 3 percent from a year earlier, the lowest rate since 2011. Coming after super-charged growth of 10 percent last year, the question now is whether the sputtering is just a blip or something more lasting that portends a significant drag on the economy. ‘It’s a deceleration process after two years of fairly decent growth,’ said Robert Murray, chief economist of Dodge Data & Analytics, which gathers data on construction.
Opec’s worst fears are coming true. Twenty months after Saudi Arabia took the fateful decision to flood world markets with oil, it has still failed to break the back of the US shale industry. The Saudi-led Gulf states have certainly succeeded in killing off a string of global mega-projects in deep waters. Investment in upstream exploration from 2014 to 2020 will be $1.8 trillion less than previously assumed, according to consultants IHS. But this is a bitter victory at best. North America’s hydraulic frackers are cutting costs so fast that most can now produce at prices far below levels needed to fund the Saudi welfare state and its military machine, or to cover Opec budget deficits.
Money managers have never been more certain that oil prices will drop. They increased bets on falling crude by the most ever as stockpiles climbed to the highest seasonal levels in at least two decades, nudging prices toward a bear market. The excess supply hammered the second-quarter earnings ofExxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. Inventories are near the 97-year high reached in April as oil drillers boosted rigs for a fifth consecutive week. ‘The rise in supplies will add more downward pressure,’ said Michael Corcelli, chief investment officer at Alexander Alternative Capital LLC, a Miami-based hedge fund. ‘It will be a long time before we can drain the excess.’ Hedge funds pushed up their short position in West Texas Intermediate crude by 38,897 futures and options combined during the week ended July 26, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It was the biggest increase in data going back to 2006. WTI dropped 3.9 percent to $42.92 a barrel in the report week, and traded at $41.19 at 8:23 a.m. WTI fell by 14 percent in July, the biggest monthly decline in a year. It’s down by 19 percent since early June, bringing it close to the 20 percent drop that would characterize a bear market.
Gary Johnson believes the tensions between police and minorities that led to two high-profile police shootings and the deaths of five Dallas police officers has a root cause: The long-running war on drugs. The libertarian nominee for president did not directly tie the drug war to the shooting deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana by police or the sniper killings of five officers in Texas this week. But poor relations between police and African-Americans stems from the criminalization of drug use, he said. ‘The root is the war on drugs, I believe. Police knocking down doors, shooting first,’ Johnson said in an interview Friday in Washington. ‘If you are (black and) arrested in a drug-related crime, there is four times more likelihood of going to prison than if you are white. And shooting is part of the same phenomenon.’ ‘That’s the common thread. Shootings are occurring with black people, black people are dying,’ he added. ‘This is an escalation.’
Back in February 2015, the price of West Texas Intermediate stood at about $52 per barrel, half of its 2014 peak. I argued then that a renewed decline was coming that could drive it below $20, a scenario regarded by oil bulls as unthinkable. But prices did fall further, dropping all the way to a low of $26 in February. Since then, crude rallied to spend several weeks flirting with $50 per barrel, a level not seen since last year. But it won’t last; I’m sticking to my call for prices to decline anew to $10 to $20 per barrel. Recent gains have little to do with the fundamentals that led to the collapse in the first place. Wildfires in the oil-sands region in Canada, output cuts in Nigeria and Venezuela due to political unrest, and hopes that American hydraulic fracturing would run out of steam are the primary causes of the recent spurt. But the world continues to be awash in crude, and American frackers have replaced the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as the world’s swing producers. The once-feared oil cartel is, to my mind, pretty much finished as an effective price enforcer. Even OPEC’s leader, Saudi Arabia, is acknowledging the new reality by quashing recent attempts to freeze output, borrowing from banks and preparing to sell a stake in its Aramco oil company as it tries to find new sources of non-oil revenue.
Just over a month ago, we reported that in addition to Georgie, Arkansas, Michigan and Oklahoma, the largest US health insurer UnitedHealthcare announced it would also depart the following “Affordable” Care Act state exchanges: Connecticut, North Carolina; Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Texas. That, however, was just a preview of what’s to come, because on April 19, UnitedHealthcare made its divorce with Obamacare complete when it announced plans to exit most of the Affordable Care Act state exchanges where it currently operates by 2017. And earlier today, United continued executing on this warning, when it first announced that it would stop offering Affordable Care Act plans in Illinois in 2017 followed promptly by news UnitedHealthcare was abandoning California at the end of the year as well. As PBS reports, while United announced in April it was dropping out of all but a handful of 34 health insurance marketplaces it participated in, the company had not discussed its plans in California. UnitedHealth’s pullout also affects individual policies sold outside the Covered California exchange, which will remain in effect until the end of December. ‘United is pulling out of California’s individual market including Covered California in 2017,’ said Amy Palmer, a spokeswoman for the state exchange. It’s expected that UnitedHealth will continue offering coverage to employers in California and to government workers and their families through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Amy Palmer, a spokeswoman for the state exchange said UnitedHealthcare policyholders will know their options for 2017 coverage when health plans and rates for next year are announced in July. It is safe to say any “options” will not be cheap.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 31, 2016.
More than a quarter of a million active and retired truckers and their families could soon see their pension benefits severely cut – even though their pension fund is still years away from running out of money. Within the next few weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to announce a crucial decision on whether it will approve reductions to one of the country’s largest multi-employer pension plans. The potential cuts are possible under legislation passed by Congressin 2014 that for the first time allowed financially distressed multi-employer plans to reduce benefits for retirees if it would improve the solvency of the fund. The law weakened federal protections that for more than 40 years shielded one of the last remaining pillars that workers could rely on for financial security in retirement. For many workers, the promise of a guaranteed income stream for life – a benefit now nearly extinct for younger generations – was at times strong enough to convince them to sacrifice pay raises or other job opportunities. But after decades of challenges that left many pension funds in tough financial straits, some people are learning in retirement that the promises made to them may have to be broken. The Central States Pension Fund, which handles the retirement benefits for current and former Teamster union truck drivers across various states including Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York and Minnesota, was the first plan to apply for reductions under the new law.
As conclusion to our article yesterday reporting on the largest U. S. health insurer’s accelerating exodus from various Obamacare markets (it had already announced it was out of Georgie, Arkansas, Michigan and Oklahoma) we said that UnitedHealth “will likely announce more defections in the coming days.” We didn’t have long to wait, and moments ago Bloomberg reported that in addition to the four states listed above, UnitedHealth has just announced it is departing the following “Affordable” Care Act state exchanges: Connecticut, North Carolina; Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Texas. That, too, however, is just a preview of what’s to come, because earlier today UnitedHealth made its divorce with Obamacare complete when it announed plans to exit most of the Affordable Care Act state exchanges where it currently operates by 2017. During a conference call with analysts Tuesday, CEO Stephen Hemsley noted that “next year we will remain in only a handful of states.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 04/19/2016.
Do we have a more unattractive ‘ally’ than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? In order to find one, we have to go all the way back to World War II, when the US was allied with the Soviet Union while ‘Uncle’ Joe Stalin was murdering millions in the gulag. The big difference, however, is that the national security propaganda machine isn’t trying to glorify the head-chopping barbarians of Riyadh as they prettified the Soviets: Hollywood isn’t cranking out pro-Saudi movies as they did with the ‘workers’ paradise’ in Song of Russia. Imagine a screenwriter scratching his head over Song of the Saudis! Op ed writers employed by the Saudi lobby aren’t excusing the execution of ‘heretics’ as Popular Front propagandists once praised the Moscow Trials. Not even the Washington ‘experts’ would fall for it. Saudi lobbying is more subtle, with pressure exerted on lawmakers and lots of cash being handed out – e.g. the Saudi ‘donations’ to the Clinton Foundation. This stealth strategy has been largely successful. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz and cemented the US-Saudi relationship as the linchpin of our Middle Eastern policy, our government’s collusion with one of the worst tyrannies on earth has gone largely unexamined – until now. The New York Times reports that the Kingdom is telling the Obama administration that they would be ‘forced’ to sell some $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes a bill that would give a green light to lawsuits alleging that the Saudis played a key role in facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The families of the 9/11 victims have been pursuing the Kingdom in the courts for years, with judges routinely dismissing financial claims by the families on the grounds of ‘sovereign immunity,’ i.e. the ‘legal’ doctrine that governments cannot be held accountable for their actions. However, a little noticed Supreme Court decision reinstated the Saudis as defendants. The bill, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), has broad support: if passed, it would pave the way for a close examination of the evidence that the Saudi government had a hand in 9/11.