Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today's links

 Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war.- William Shakespeare: "Julius Caesar" 

Today's quote:   "Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force - military force - in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. ...   As a result, no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this - no one feels safe!"   Russian President Vladimir Putin, Munich Conference on Security Policy, February 2007

Moscow is preparing a bill that would freeze the assets of European and American companies operating in Russia in response to potential Western sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine’s Republic of Crimea.”

A large number of corporations would be impacted by the measure, including but hardly limited to PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford, Caterpillar, IBM, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, ExxonMobil, Chevorn, Boeing, ConocoPhillips, and many others doing business in Russia.

If Russia imposes retaliatory measures, you can bet sanctions cooked by the West will fizzle in short order. Obama and Congress may rant about the evil Vladimir Putin and the aggressive Russian bear, but that’s all hot air and rhetoric.

Transnational corporations and international banks own Congress. They get Congress critters elected and re-elected and write Obama’s teleprompter script. They are not about to let billions of dollars slide down the tubes because of troubles in Russia’s backyard.

3--Tatar jihad in Crimea?, Pepe Escobar

The Tatars in Crimea are Muslims. They are about to ‘celebrate’ the 70th anniversary of their mass deportation by Stalin. They were back to Crimea by the end of the 1980s, and now number roughly 250,000 in Crimea; 13 percent of a largely Russian population, with an unemployment rate of at least 50 percent.

Refat Chubarov, the president of the Majlis, the National Assembly of Crimean Tatars, considers the Crimean referendum on March 16 a “threat” to the Ukraine. He is not promoting a jihad, but as many Tatar representatives, already forecasts “serious consequences” if Crimea’s statute is changed. There is certified Tatar backing to the neo-Nazis/fascists of the Svoboda and Right Sector kind in Kiev. From this ‘alliance’ to jihad, it’s just a suicide bombing away.

Whatever happens in Crimea, the House of Saud is up to something. Bandar Bush had boasted to President Putin that he controlled Caucasus jihadists and could turn them on and off at will. His successor might as well be tempted to turn them on not in the Caucasus, but in establishing a shuttle from the Syrian desert to Simferopol. What a spectacular favor to his American masters. The emperor, after all, is soon to visit Riyadh.

4---What Caused The Glorious Jump In Household Wealth (In One Insanely Good Chart) And Who Will Blow It Up Again?, Testosterone Pit

Even the Fed is getting scared. The stock market has soared for five years – gains built on quicksand, a mix of endless liquidity and a lackluster economy. The sudden home price gains have been built on the same quicksand....

So when the Fed handed its report on household wealth to the fawning media, it clarified what had happened last year: The value of household real estate jumped 11.7% to $22.0 trillion. And stocks held by households skyrocketed 34.6% to $13.9 trillion. And the net worth of households and non-profits (lumped ingeniously together) ballooned by $9.8 trillion, or 14%, to an all-time record of $80.7 trillion, “driven largely” by soaring stocks and home values. In an economy that barely budged....

Lee explains:
Prior to 2007, the Fed had steadily grown its holdings at the rate of about 4-5% per year. Household wealth grew at almost double that rate beginning in 1994, prompting Alan Greenspan to proclaim “irrational exuberance” in 1996. Greenspan was particularly concerned that the prices of stocks were growing faster than the Fed’s balance sheet. That was something new. Historically they had grown at more or less the same rate.
Ah yes, the by now quaint concept of “irrational exuberance.” It’ll pop back up below, spoken by a current Fed head. So Lee concludes:
We have seen that three prior surges in household net worth driven by cheap and easy central bank credit have crashed back to earth after about 5 years of extreme bubble gains. The current surge is now in its fifth year. What’s that ticking sound I hear?
Fed heads have been jostling for position to warn investors they’re dead-serious about stopping the money printing binge.
Last week, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher trampled on any hopes bandied about that QE would somehow go on. He saw “increasing signs” that QE “has overstayed its welcome” and that “market distortions and acting on bad incentives are becoming more pervasive” – Fed-speak for pandemic. Stock market metrics were “at eye-popping levels” with valuations that relied ‘on belief in a financial fairy.’” Record margin debt was a problem. And in the bond market, “narrow spreads between corporate and Treasury debt reflect lower risk premia on top of already abnormally low nominal yields.” Things would have to be monitored “very carefully so as to ensure that the ghost of ‘irrational exuberance’ does not haunt us again.”

The Fed might be “feeding imbalances similar to those that played a role in the run-up to the financial crisis,” he said. It “is distorting financial markets and creating incentives for managers and market players to take increasing risk, some of which may result in tears. And all this is happening in uncharted territory.” So the money printing binge “should” end “as soon as is practicable.”

On Monday, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser chimed in. He called for speeding up the process of ending the printing binge: Tapering “in measured steps” was a move “in the right direction, but the pace may leave us well behind the curve....” Even super-dove Chicago Fed President Charles Evans barked up the same tree: “The last two meetings we reduced the purchase flow rate by $10 billion and we’re going to continue to do that...

5---The executives and directors...are once again quietly dumping the shares of their companies.... before the markets swoon, TP

Seyhun figured out that if you remove the largest shareholders – the dumb money with big wallets – from the pool of insiders, you end up mostly with executives and directors – the people who really know. And he consolidated their behavior into his adjusted sell-to-buy ratio. “In the summer of 2007, for example, his adjusted insider sell-to-buy ratio was more bearish than at any time since 1990” when the data series began, Hulbert points out. True insiders – the executives and directors – were quietly dumping their company’s shares during the last months of the bubble while spouting off hype for public consumption.

And once again, we’re inundated with hype. Obama’s forecast of an economy that’ll grow a glorious 3.1% this year is part of it, but served up on an official, gleaming White House platter. And Wall Street screams buy, buy, buy [read.... NASDAQ 10,000 – Or Something].

But Seyhun’s adjusted sell-to-buy ratio is now once again at the same extreme bearish level as in the summer of 2007, and as in 2011 just before the 20% market plunge, Hulbert reported. The executives and directors as a group knew when to get out back then. And they’re once again quietly dumping the shares of their companies, acting on their boots-on-the-ground knowledge of things to come, and trying to get out before the shares of their companies – and the markets overall – once again swoon.

Meanwhile, small investors are finally having fun in the stock market again, after years of sitting out the most phenomenal rally. They’re leveraging up their portfolios. Margin debt is spiking beautifully. Alas, spiking margin debt has a nasty habit of ending in a crash

6---(archive) Putin's censored press conference, Info Clearinghouse

The meeting gave Putin a chance to give his side of the story in the growing debate over missile defense in Eastern Europe. He offered a brief account of the deteriorating state of US-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War, and particularly from 9-11 to present. Since September 11, the Bush administration has carried out an aggressive strategy to surround Russia with military bases, install missiles on its borders, topple allied regimes in Central Asia, and incite political upheaval in Moscow through US-backed “pro-democracy” groups. These openly hostile actions have convinced many Russian hard-liners that the administration is going forward with the neocon plan for “regime change” in Moscow and fragmentation of the Russian Federation. Putin’s testimony suggests that the hardliners are probably right. ...

As Putin said at the press conference, “Once the missile defense system is put in place IT WILL WORK AUTOMATICALLY WITH THE ENTIRE NUCLEAR CAPABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES. It will be an integral part of the US nuclear capability.
“For the first time in history---and I want to emphasize this---there are elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security…..Of course, we have to respond to that.”
Putin is right. The “so-called” defense system is actually an expansion (and integration) of America’s existing nuclear weapons system which will now function as one unit. The dangers of this should be obvious.

 The Bush administration is maneuvering in a way that will allow it to achieve what Nuclear weapons specialist, Francis A. Boyle, calls the “longstanding US policy of nuclear first-strike against Russia”.

In Boyle’s article “US Missiles in Europe: Beyond Deterrence to First Strike Threat” he states:
“By means of a US first strike about 99%+ of Russian nuclear forces would be taken out. Namely, the United States Government believes that with the deployment of a facially successful first strike capability, they can move beyond deterrence and into "compellence."… This has been analyzed ad nauseam in the professional literature. But especially by one of Harvard's premier warmongers in chief, Thomas Schelling --winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics granted by the Bank of Sweden-- who developed the term "compellence" and distinguished it from "deterrence." …The USG is breaking out of a "deterrence" posture and moving into a "compellence" posture. (Global Research 6-6-07)

7---Putin's press conference: Ukraine, Info clearinghouse

Putin:  What is our biggest concern? We see the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev. I am sure you, members of the media, saw how one of the governors was chained and handcuffed to something and they poured water over him, in the cold of winter. After that, by the way, he was locked up in a cellar and tortured.  Is this democracy?

  And do you know what happened when they seized the Party of Regions building? There were no party members there at all at the time. Some two-three employees came out, one was an engineer, and he said to the attackers: "Could you let us go, and let the women out, please. I'm an engineer, I have nothing to do with politics." He was shot right there in front of the crowd. Another employee was led to a cellar and then they threw Molotov cocktails at him and burned him alive. Is this also a manifestation of democracy?...

Putin---my assessment of what happened in Kiev and in Ukraine in general is this: This was an anti-constitutional takeover, an armed seizure of power. Does anyone question this? Nobody does.
Putin---Are the current authorities legitimate? The current Acting President is definitely not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal standpoint....Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate President....Regarding the deployment of troops, the use of armed forces. So far, there is no need for it, but the possibility remains. ...

Putin---We are often told our actions are illegitimate, but when I ask, “Do you think everything you do is legitimate?” they say “yes”. Then, I have to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where they either acted without any UN sanctions or completely distorted the content of such resolutions, as was the case with Libya. There, as you may know, the resolution only spoke of closing the airspace for government aircraft, while it all ended with bomb attacks and special forces land operations.

 Our partners, especially in the United Sates, always clearly formulate their own geopolitical and state interests and follow them with persistence. Then, using the principle “You’re either with us or against us” they draw the whole world in. And those who do not join in get ‘beaten’ until they do....

Let me say again that in situations when people call for fundamental political reform and new faces at the top, and with full justification too – and in this I agree with the Maidan – there is a risk too that you’ll suddenly get some upstart nationalist or semi-fascist lot sprout up, like the genie suddenly let out of the bottle – and we see them today, people wearing armbands with something resembling swastikas, still roaming around Kiev at this moment – or some anti-Semite or other. This danger is there too.
 PUTIN: As I said before, I think this was a well-prepared action. Of course there were combat detachments. They are still there, and we all saw how efficiently they worked. Their Western instructors tried hard of course. But this is not the real problem. If the Ukrainian government had been strong, confident, and had built a stable system, no nationalists would have been able to carry out those programs and achieve the results that we see now.
8---"Off topic"---TV announcer Howard Beale's (Peter Finch) "mad as hell" speech to his viewers:

 I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'

Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. (shouting) You've got to say: 'I'm a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!'

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!'
Network (1976)
Screenwriter(s): Paddy Chayefsky
 Board Chair's Description of the Corporate "New World"
Play clip (excerpt): Network
Angered UBS Chairman of the Board, corporate pitchman and business magnate Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) summoned Beale into his imposing conference room ("Valhalla"):

 You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?! Do you think you've merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and You Will Atone!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state - Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel. (Beale: "Why me?") Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday. (Beale: "I have seen the face of God.") You just might be right, Mr. Beale
 "It's the Single, Solitary Human Being That's Finished"Terrified, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) was pressured and forced by Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) to start preaching about dehumanization and the death of democracy. He returned to the airwaves to preach Jensen's corporate truth, championing corporate rather than individual human rights. The announcer stated: "That evening, Howard Beale went on the air to preach the corporate cosmology of Arthur Jensen":

Last night I got up here and asked you people to stand up and fight for your heritage, and you did, and it was beautiful. Six million telegrams were received at the White House. The Arab takeover of CCA has been stopped. The people spoke, the people won. It was a radiant eruption of democracy. But I think that was it, fellas. That sort of thing is not likely to happen again. Because at the bottom of all our terrified souls, we know that democracy is a dying giant, a sick, sick dying, decaying political concept, writhing in its final pain. I don't mean that the United States is finished as a world power. The United States is the richest, the most powerful, the most advanced country in the world, light-years ahead of any other country. And I don't mean the Communists are gonna take over the world, because the Communists are deader than we are.

What is finished is the idea that this great country is dedicated to the freedom and flourishing of every individual in it. It's the individual that's finished. It's the single, solitary human being that's finished. It's every single one of you out there that's finished. Because this is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It's a nation of some two hundred odd million transistorized, deodorized, whiter-than-white, steel-belted bodies, totally unnecessary as human beings and as replaceable as piston rods.

Well, the time has come to say is 'dehumanization' such a bad word?' Whether it's good or bad, that's what is so. The whole world is becoming humanoid, creatures that look human but aren't. The whole world, not just us. We're just the most advanced country, so we're getting there first. The whole world's people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things... 

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