Thursday, April 17, 2014

Today's links

1---U.S. States Revive Debtors’ Prisons, firedog lake


More and more states have revived the debtors prison, albeit in a specific form, locking people up for failure to pay court costs and fees. Like so many other things in America, shortfalls in budgets are made up not by raising taxes (or heaven forbid, fiscal prudence) but by new arrays of costs and fees paid by people in the criminal justice system. We are not referring to fine or penalty (ex. speeding ticket=$250) here, but to that thing the judges say on TV– “Guilty, with a fine of $300 and court costs. Next case please.”
The new costs can be dizzying...


The reality in America is that far too many people go to jail as punishment for not paying the fees and court costs incurred finding them already guilty of something else. One is left with a tough conclusion: we are more and more a crude, course society on path towards some sort of feudalism, where the rich (if ever brought to court at all) pay their money and walk out, while poor people are punished for no valid reason. We as a society want to set examples, clear the streets of our lowers, punish those who aren’t able to pay the government for giving them their day in court. That’s who we are now. And you better pay your bills.


2---Housing bubble bursts, Testosterone Pit


“Lately on Saturdays and Sundays, you see open house signs everywhere,” Carey Chenoski, a real estate agent in Redlands, told the LA Times. “The houses that last spring would be gone in the first day are sitting maybe 60 days.” That’s at the low end. At the high end, at prime beachfront locations in Manhattan Beach, the wealth effect runs the show. Agents are getting “multiple offers on just about everything,” said Barry Sulpor, with Shorewood Realtors. “The market is really on fire.”


In the nine-county Bay Area, the median price paid for a home in March jumped  to $579,000, up a bubblelicious 23.2% from a year ago, the highest since December 2007, according to DataQuick. In my beloved San Francisco, the median price jumped 14.6% to $937,500. In Solano County, the “cheapest” county in the Bay Area, the median price soared 30.4% to $300,000.


Alas, sales plummeted 12.9% to 6,308 houses and condos in the Bay Area, the worst March since 2008, and the second-worst in the history of the data series going back to 1988. And the debacle was concentrated at the lower end: while sales of homes over $500,000 rose 5.2%, sales of those under $500,000 collapsed by 32.9%
....
Some analysts, tired of looking silly blaming the weather, started blaming low inventories. So inventories were flat in the 19 markets overall compared to March last year; no reason for plunging sales. In Boston, Portland, and Austin inventories dropped. But in the cities where the sales plunge has been particularly nasty, inventories skyrocketed: up 41.9% in Phoenix, 28.9% in Ventura, 25.7% in Riverside, 24.8% in Los Angeles, 23.1% in Sacramento, 21.3% in San Diego.
And the number of new listings across the 19 markets rose by 6.3%, the first year-over-year growth in March in three years. The usual suspects in California saw the largest jump, with listings in Ventura up 13.1%. But they were up elsewhere too: in Long Island 12.7%, in Las Vegas 11.9%, in Chicago 10.6%, in Phoenix 7.8%, etc.
You get the idea: rising inventories, rising new listings, soaring prices, and plunging sales. Something has to give.


3---Putin Says Russia Will Respond To NATO Moves, Accuses Kiev Of Plunging Ukraine Into "Abyss, zero hedge


Russia must respond when NATO moves closer to country’s border, President Vladimir Putin says during annual televised call-in show.....


"Instead of realizing that there is something wrong with the Ukrainian government and attempting dialogue, they made more threats of force ... This is another very grave crime by Kiev's current leaders," Putin said in a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian public that has become an annual event.


"I hope that they are able to realize what a pit, what an abyss the current authorities are in and dragging the country into," said Putin, who dismissed as "rubbish" accusations that Russian agents were acting in east Ukraine
...
Russia must respond when NATO moves closer to country’s border
  • U.S. anti-missile system isn’t defensive, Putin says


  • 4---'Secular Stagnation or Secular Boom?', economists view


    Antonio Fatás:
    Secular stagnation or secular boom?: The notion that some countries are caught in a long and protracted period of low growth ... has been labeled "secular stagnation". The pessimism that the idea of secular stagnation has created has been reinforced by the notion the potential for emerging markets to grow is becoming weaker. ...
    Let's start with a simple chart that summarizes the pattern of annual growth in ... advanced and emerging markets...

    ... So stagnation might be the right label for 50% of the world, but accelerating growth is the right label for the other half.
    And if we look at the engines of growth, in particular investment rates (in physical capital) we can see again the divergence in performance.

    ... Looking at the above charts... Could it be that investment opportunities in emerging markets moved capital away from advanced economies? Not obvious because we know that the explosion in investment rates in emerging markets came in many cases with even larger increases in saving rates and (financial) capital flew away from these countries. In fact, interest rates in the world were trending downwards during this period. And this makes the performance of advanced economies even more surprising: despite a favorable environment in terms of low interest rates, investment and growth declined.


    5---The impending housing collapse, alhambra


    I speculated in May last year that the introduction of the taper concept was in large part due to what Jeremy Stein articulated in February 2013, namely the idea that certain “markets” were becoming overheated in the “reach for yield.” In essence, it amounted to an attempt to “talk down” assets, chief among them the raging price appreciation once again in housing. The inflation of home prices in 2012 and to that point in 2013 actually worked out to be at a faster pace, more importantly without interruption, than anything we saw during the main housing bubble in the middle of the last decade, so that certainly provides some solid context if indeed the FOMC discussions tended in that direction.
    ABOOK Feb 2014 Home Sales Prices Y-Y
    I’m sure some will make the argument that was simply markets recognizing “value” after the bust, but you would expect a far more widespread participation if that was actually the case


    In any event, the future path of housing in the US is not bright, intent or not:
    ABOOK Apr 2014 RE Constr Bank Originations
    LA Times:
    “Prices have gotten to the stage where we cannot buy a house, renovate it, rent it and still make a reasonable return,” said Peter Rose, a spokesman for Blackstone, which owns roughly 41,000 rental houses nationwide. “There was a moment in time where it made sense.”
    Among the 20 firms buying the most California real estate since January 2012, purchases are down more than 70% compared with last year in each of the last four months, according to DataQuick. At the 20 biggest foreclosure buyers, including arms of Blackstone and Colony American Holdings, purchases have fallen at about the same rate.
    Bloomberg:
    Blackstone’s acquisition pace has declined 70 percent from its peak last year, when the private equity firm was spending more than $100 million a week on properties, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the New York-based firm.
    American Homes 4 Rent and Colony American Homes, the second- and third-largest single-family landlords, also have been scaling back as bargains dry up. Home prices have risen 24 percent since a post-bubble low in March 2012, which was about when corporate buyers started their buying spree, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. 


    6---Putin on Kiev op: 'Tanks, jets against own people?! Are they nuts?!, RT


    7---'How can I trust him?' Putin reveals NATO chief secretly recorded their talk, leaked to media, RT


    8--Mass spying on citizens in Russia impossible unlike in US — Snowden-Putin, itar tass


    9---Four-party meeting approves document on deescalation of tensions in Ukraine, Itar Tass


    Four-party meeting has approved a document on deescalation of tension in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The Geneva statement calls for national dialogue in Ukraine, Lavrov emphasized.
    Russia, US, EU urge all sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence, the Russian foreign minister stressed.


    Russia will support OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission in Ukraine towards dialogue, Lavrov noted.
    All illegal armed groups in Ukraine must be disarmed, he added. “The steps that must be taken include the following: all illegal armed groups must be disarmed, all administrative buildings must be returned to their legitimate owners,” Lavrov said after four-party talks on Ukraine in Geneva. “All protesters must be amnestied except for those who committed grave crimes,” he stressed.
    A four-party meeting on Ukraine with Russia, the United States and the European Union was held in Geneva on April 17.


    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the parliament-appointed Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia took part in the meeting.


    10--Are We Headed for a Credit Market Crash?, House of Debt


     11--Kiev's grip on eastern Ukraine weakens as pro-Russians seize army vehicles, Guardian
    He added: "I'm against America. But I have to say they make good guns."


    What was meant to be a show of strength by Ukraine's army has instead shown how the country is unraveling

    For Kiev's beleaguered army it was meant to be a display of strength. Early on Wednesday a column of six armoured personnel carriers trundled through the town of Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine. Some 24 hours earlier Ukrainian soldiers had recaptured a small disused aerodrome. Their next target appeared to be Slavyansk, the neighbouring town, occupied by a shadowy Russian militia. Was victory close?
    The column didn't get far. At Kramatorsk's railway junction, next to an open-air market and a shop selling building materials, an angry crowd caught up with it. Next armed separatists dressed in military fatigues turned up too. Within minutes the Ukrainian soldiers gave up. Without a shot being fired they abandoned their vehicles. The pro-Russian gunmen grabbed them. They raised a Russian tricolour. They sat on top and went for a victory spin....


    Within minutes, the captured APCs had become the town's newest, most extraordinary tourist attraction. Teenage girls posed coquettishly with the men in balaclavas. Small children lined up too. Someone put a cuddly toy next to a gun barrel. "We were very afraid. Now we are reassured. The tanks are here to protect us," Olga Yuriyevna said. She added: "I'm Russian-speaking. We have relatives in Russia. My husband fought in the Afghan war."...


    This febrile anti-Kiev mood has acquired a momentum that increasingly seems unstoppable. A vocal section of the population appears to support the protesters' key demand for a referendum on Ukraine's federalisation. A "people's governor" has been appointed – though it is not clear by whom. Many local politicians, the security services in key eastern towns and the police appear to have gone over to the anti-government side. Kiev's powerlessness in this fast-moving drama seems absolute.
    On Wednesday another gang of armed youths seized control of the city hall in Donetsk. Other pro-Russian activists have occupied Donetsk's regional administration building since 6 April. (They have fortified it with a thicket of tyres. On one wall someone had scrawled in Cyrillic script: "Fuck America".)


    12--America the corrupt, counterpunch


    All US financial markets are rigged for the benefit of a few. We have had the exposure of high frequency trading front-running buy and sell orders. We have had the exposure of the big banks rigging the LIBOR interest rate and the London gold price fix. We have had the exposure of the Federal Reserve rigging via its dependent bullion banks the price of gold in the futures market. We have had the exposure in Congressional hearings of the rigging of metal and commodity prices. The dollar’s exchange value is rigged.  And so forth.  Yet no heads have rolled. Recently a SEC prosecuting attorney, James Kidney, retired. Upon his retirement, he proclaimed that his cases against the criminal big banks have been suppressed by SEC higher ups who have their eyes fixed on big jobs with the banks they are protecting while in government service.
    So there you have it. The United States government is so overwhelmingly corrupt that even the financial regulatory agencies have been corrupted by the money of the private capitalists they are supposed to regulate.
    America the corrupted.  That is what we have become....


    How much longer will dumbshit americans fall for the flag-waving deception?


    The Republicans used the wars in order to create huge budget deficits and national debt that are now being used to dismantle the social safety net, including Social Security and Medicare. There’s talk of privatizing Social Security and Medicare. More profits for Oligarchs in the offering. The gullibility of the American population is really without compare.


    The gullibility of the American public will doom the world to extinction


    15--Ukraine: OSCE - Right Sector Fascists Deploy To Donetsk, Moon of Alabama


    There was some conflict in Mariupol with three Ukrainians ending up dead after protesters went to a military base. There are some videos but it is unclear what actually happened. There is a chance that provocateurs were involved.
    The OSCE has an observer mission in Ukraine. From their latest (April 15) report:
    The Lviv Team was told by Right Sector activists that they had begun recruiting for their paramilitary structure on 14 April. They said that approximately 100 paramilitaries had already been deployed to Donetsk region and were being trained in the eastern part of the country. One of the paramilitaries seen in Lviv was wearing a new military uniform, including a flak jacket, but carried no weapons. There was a demonstration in Kyiv in support of Ukraine’s unity, attended by approximately 400people, about two thirds of whom were members of the Self-Defence force. The Team observed around 50 people armed with iron bars, baseball bats or makeshift clubs. Some protesters demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Avakov and more decisive action by the Kyiv authorities in Eastern Ukraine.
    Lviv is in west Ukraine and the center of the Ukrainian fascists. That these deploy to Donetsk is a real concern that could lead to serious escalations...


    Oh, and there are the real poll numbers now in the new narrative. From the link above.
    It is thus not surprising that, when questioned about the Soviet past or about support for European or Russian alignment in the present, the country cleaves sharply, and consistently, along regional lines. According to a recent poll, the idea of joining NATO is popular only in western Ukraine (64 percent in favor). It is deeply unpopular in the south (11 percent in favor) and the east (14 percent in favor). Much the same is true for membership in the European Union. If the matter were up for a referendum, which it will not be anytime soon, 90 percent would vote yes in the west, 29 percent would vote yes in the south, and 22 percent would vote yes in the east. Perhaps looking for a silver lining to the Russian invasion, some observers maintained that the Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea would change those attitudes -- after all, the stability and protection that Europe would offer starts to look better when your neighbor invades -- but the regional divides are remarkably durable. Even surrounded by battle-ready Russian forces and at risk of annexation, southerners and easterners seem more interested in having the Russian military protect them from NATO than they are in having NATO protect them from Russia.

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