Friday, April 8, 2016
Thursday, April 7, 2016
der Spargel - America's election shame. Oh god this is too easy:
America wasn't the world's first democracy, but for a long time, it was its proudest. No other country spoke as passionately or confidently about its system of government. If things continue as they have in this primary election, those days will be numbered.
The United States' political culture served as a model for others, one that was worthy of emulation and exported worldwide.
Plus also that whole entering the war to defeat Hitler thing. You remember that, Fritz? (We can ignore the whole entering the other war to defeat Kaiser Wilhelm bit because that's not as juicy.)
Just over two weeks ago supporters of presidential hopeful Ted Cruz published an old photo of Melania Trump, once a model and now the wife of Republican candidate Donald Trump, in which she posed naked for the camera. It was accompanied by the sardonic caption, "Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady." In retaliation, Trump shared a collage of photos portraying Cruz's wife as rather unattractive and Trump's wife as quite good looking. The line preceding it read, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Someone sounds jealous that nobody wants to look at naked pics of Schauble or Merkel.
In the meantime, Trump, who called Cruz a "fraud," a "maniac" and a "world class liar" during the campaign, had to jump in to defend his campaign manager, who was arrested for battery after being accused of violently pulling a reporter out of a crowd. Physical violence is not objectionable for Trump. He has offered to pay the legal costs of supporters who beat protesters at his rallies should the victims sue.
I wonder where he got that idea from. Maybe from some book written in the 1920s by an imprisoned European political dissident?
Trump had previously exclaimed during a TV debate, unprovoked, that he had a large penis ("I guarantee.")
Again: Schauble. That is all.
It's not just the two bullies at the top who are to blame. Their rise was made possible through a decline in values such as decency, honesty, tolerance and fairness -- a process that has been hastened by the Republican Party more than anyone else.
The Republican party was a bunch of assholes back in the 70s, when Nixon failed to win his own party's support for universal health care because it would have meant desegregating hospitals. Plus, y'know, the whole exterminating Vietnam thing.
They were assholes in the 50s with McCarthy.
Sorry bud, but the USA has always been this way. Trump just brings it all out into the open. I don't see why he should be appealing to the better angels of our nature, given nobody else in the Republican party gives a shit about them.
For too long, it has pursued fiscal, economic and social policies that served only companies and the rich, the financial backers of their election campaigns. At the same time, millions of Americans slid into precarity.
Sort of like Merkel and Schauble's policies in the EU, Fritz?
Over the course of decades, the Republicans have likewise built up a culture of contempt for public goods and services.
Sort of like Merkel and Schauble's policies in the EU, Fritz?
Attempts to block Trump's nomination at the Republican National Convention in July won't help either. Trump already has too many votes and his millions of voters would feel justifiably betrayed. Trump himself has already predicted "riots." The Republicans have no choice but to make fools of themselves with Trump as their candidate in the general election.
Well, assuming you're not just propounding hysterical polemic: that's a good thing, right? I mean, if Trump is going to make fools of the Republican party, then maybe they'll become sensible again sometime in the 2030s.
But as for criticizing American politics' populism, it's (a) ignorant of the entirety of past American political history, and (b) quite rich coming from the country that elected Hitler.
Note to non-Germans: articles like this come out in Germany because they love lecturing others and going "tsk tsk".
WaPo - more relatives of China's top leaders implicated in Panama papers. Here's why you should be worried:
(1) If Xi Jinping really cares about rooting out corruption, now he's going to have to go after his own comrades, and that means civil war. Which is bad for Chinese growth and demand.
(2) If Xi has been a corrupt crony all along, then that indicates China is well on its way to becoming another kleptocracy like Russia. Which I guess we already knew, given their GINI. That means you can forget about the Chinese economy: kleptocracies exist to enrich the elite, not to grow or earn profits for others.
Jim Rickards was interviewed by Our Daniela recently, and I won't bother giving you a link because you probably have toenails to trim or weeds to pull or something infinitely more useful.
But here's a quote illustrating how infantile Rickards is:
"The confidence of the entire global system of finance rests on the US dollar. Confidence in the dollar rests in the solvency of the Fed's balance sheet."
Uh, no, idiot.
Confidence in the US dollar rests in the fact that the US government has the ability to tax its citizens and require payment in US dollars. And due to US trade supremacy, it effectively has the power to tax the entire rest of the world in US dollars as well.
Currencies are things you pay taxes with. And the ultimate currency is the one used by the ultimate world power.
Last day of classes! Now I have ten days to study for my macro and micro classes. That's a pretty good schedule.
Tim Duy - Fed has little reason to raise rates. Seems people are interpreting the Fed minutes as indicating the Fed finally sees the risks associated with rate hikes as asymmetric. I guess that would be a positive for the markets, if not for Brexit and the Greek debt crisis.
Bespoke - S&P 500 remains extended. And I guess that's a bad setup if earnings season is coming and people expect yet more downward revisions to earnings.
NY Times - German economy now sucks. Well, seems the right-wing neocon heartland would be about to learn the hard way that the demand side of the world economy matters when you're an export addict. They would be, that is, if Germans weren't so damn pigheaded. Do those Eurozone ETFs still look good to you, Whitey?
NY Times - more Panama fun. Yadda yadda, trillions hidden in offshore wealth, yadda yadda someone's finally listening to Gabriel Zucman. This will change nothing until the elites are hunted down and eaten by an angry proletariat.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
WaPo - researchers from University of No Shit Sherlock say white resentment fuels opposition to gun control. Quote:
Racial prejudice could play a significant role in white Americans' opposition to gun control, according to new research from political scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In their paper, published in the journal Political Behavior in November, Alexandra Filindra and Noah J. Kaplan found that whites were significantly less likely to support gun control measures when they had recently looked at pictures of black people, than when they had looked at pictures of white people. The study, which surveyed 1,000 white respondents, also found that the higher they scored on a common measure of racial prejudice, the stronger negative effect the photos of black people had on the respondents' support for gun control.
Taken together, those two findings "demonstrate that racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation in the contemporary United States," Filindra and Kaplan conclude.
Yeah, or you could just read the Turner Diaries and read some mid-90s militia movement propaganda.
Particularly with respect to the modern gun-rights movement that really took off in the '80s and '90s, the language "creates this distinction between 'law-abiding citizens' and 'criminals,'" Filindra says. She points to the type of language that's frequently used by gun rights groups who warn of ever-present threats by "predatory criminals" and a murkily-defined "they" who want to "take your guns away."
"Juxtapositions of 'law abiding citizens' and 'criminals' [are] evocative of racialized themes as crime has long been associated with blacks in the white mind," Filindra and Kaplan write.
Or you could just collect stats on gun sales and correlate them to amount of Obama coverage per day on Fox News.
Filindra and Kaplan say their research does not imply that all white gun owners are racist, nor that all support for gun control carries racial baggage.
But for a certain subset of white gun-rights supporters, particularly those who are inclined to hold certain prejudicial beliefs, messages about individualism and liberty and rights are understood in a very specific way.
In the mind of this type of gun owner, "I am showing my white nationalist pride in a sort of generic way through gun ownership," Filindra posits.
Or it could all be a bunch of rodent-minded country bumfucks scared that a black man might date their white daughter.
Indeed, Filindra says that her study illustrates the limits of trying to change gun policy by appealing to hard evidence. Gun control advocates "have been approaching the subject from the perspective of public health, which has a message all about costs and benefits -- an emphasis specifically on how many deaths, how many injues, all of that stuff."
But these messages are likely falling on deaf ears if many white gun owners' identities are strongly intertwined with gun ownership. "This is really about identity processes, and about how people perceive their changing position in a social hierarchy," she said. "We need to rethink how we can address gun control, how we can decouple the racial and public health dimensions of this."
Gee, how about teaching people that being a paranoid ignorant racist asshole is bad? Or would that offend religious freedom or Republican principles, or something?
I'm not criticizing the researchers - it's actually an open secret that "no duh" facts are resolutely ignored by the scholarly community up til the point someone manages to publish an academic paper proving them. So kudos to these two for harvesting the low-hanging fruit. It really is that fucking easy to write a paper that gets you noticed.
With Iceland's ex-PM fleeing the country for political asylum in Somalia, attention now turns to the corrupt affairs of the British plutocratic elite:
HuffPo - scathing attack of Cameron. Well, it seems Labour still has a few people with balls after all! Here's Jess Phillips whooping Cameron like a red-headed stepchild:
So David Cameron's dad didn't pay his fair share of taxes. The sins of Cameron's dad are not his fault. True, but the Government are no strangers to damning the children of people who they think aren't doing their bit for society. Barnardo's, the Child Poverty Action Group and many others have all said that the Conservative Welfare and Work Bill will make poor children poorer. Policies such as only paying tax credits to the first two children in a family directly penalise children for the decisions of their parents. So in Tory Britain poor kids are paying the price for the actions of their parents but David Cameron doesn't have to?And what precipitated all this?
The Tories want taxpayers to hate people on benefits and be annoyed that we are paying for their lifestyle, I think it was IDS referred to as, "a direction which divides society". To use the words of the Prime Minister, 'let me be clear': The sins of Daddy Cameron were not illegal but they are utterly disgusting. They are worse than the sins of fathers up and down the country who can't find work, even the most feckless amongst them.
People who don't pay their taxes are robbing from us all. The Camerons may well have forked out for education and health services, but it was my money that trained the doctors, nurses and teachers they used. Without the taxpayer the posh who jump the queue would just be sitting in a rather nicely decorated room without the staff to actually deliver the service. Every time Cameron Snr drove his car on a public highway, every time he could see on the street because of a streetlight, every day when there was a pavement outside his house and a regular bin collection, he took money from you, the nation's honest taxpayers, without seeing fit to put his hand in his pocket. And while the Camerons had a bob or two I doubt very much they funded their own private police force and army. I mean the Eton set are a bit old fashioned but think the acts of livery and maintenance is a step to far even for them. So they got the security we all enjoy but it was you footing the bill, not daddy darling.
What makes it worse is that they got the best of everything while you paid the tab. They reaped the benefits of your hard toil, and because they had money to spare they got the best education, smaller class sizes, better service. Their kids got privilege that you paid for but never benefited from.
So David Cameron doesn't need our praise for paying his tax. He's not a very clever boy, he's a very average boy who used privilege rather than brains to get where he got. Perhaps we could all buy our babies a better life if only we weren't burdened with being decent human beings.
The Guardian - Cameron family among the tax-cheating plutocrats hiding trillions offshore. Oh fuck, you are in for it:
David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund that avoided ever having to pay tax in Britain by hiring a small army of Bahamas residents – including a part-time bishop – to sign its paperwork.And now the press have widened the net and are taking aim at George Osborne's hidden mobster wealth as well:
Ian Cameron was a director of Blairmore Holdings Inc, an investment fund run from the Bahamas but named after the family’s ancestral home in Aberdeenshire, which managed tens of millions of pounds on behalf of wealthy families.
Clients included Isidore Kerman, an adviser to Robert Maxwell who once owned the West End restaurants Scott’s and J Sheekey, and Leopold Joseph, a private bank used by the Rolling Stones.
The fund was founded in the early 1980s with help from the prime minister’s late father and still exists today. The Guardian has confirmed that in 30 years Blairmore has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman said that Downing Street had responded to allegations about Ian Cameron in the past.
Asked if there was still any family money invested in the fund, she said: “That is a private matter.” She said the prime minister had “taken a range of action to tackle evasion and aggressive tax avoidance”.
Incorporated in Panama but based in the Bahamas, the fund retained up to 50 Caribbean officers each year. Their job was to sign paperwork and fill roles such as treasurer and secretary. They included the late Solomon Humes, a lay bishop with the non-denominational Church of God of Prophecy. He acted in various roles including vice-president over a number of years from the mid-1990s.
Blairmore is shown to have been controlled using an obscure financial instrument known as bearer shares. These do not carry the name of the owner. They are similar to banknotes in that they simply belong to the person holding the certificate in their hand.
Though legal, bearer shares have been abolished in many countries because they have been used by mobsters and tax evaders for money laundering.
Independent - Osborne evades questions as to whether he also has millions stashed away in secret offshore accounts. Quote:
He was then asked a second time “are you going to benefit at all?” and again referred to the government’s record on issues of tax avoidance.They know there's a story, they gave him an early in, and he just failed to set up his defense. Failed fucking miserably, failed conclusively, failed the way all conservative politicians do when forced to fend for themselves in the real world without the benefit of family wealth or corrupt corporate connections.
“As I’ve said all of our interests as ministers and MPs are declared in the register of members’ interests and we’ve made our position very clear,” he said.
“As I said this Conservative government has done more that any Labour government or any previous government to tackle tax evasion, to tackle tax avoidance, to get money into the exchequer that is owed to the public,”
When the reporter went on to ask another question, Mr Osborne said “thank you” and terminated the interview.
Now, here's the question: with Osborne and Cameron on one side of the Brexit question, will the revelations of their families' corruption swing the vote against them?
at 8:58 AM
Reuters - after rally, gloom takes hold on Wall Street. Whitey is getting ready to piddle his frilly pink girl-panties again:
As S&P 500 companies hand in their first-quarter reports over the next several weeks, average earnings are expected to fall 7.1 percent from the year-ago period, with the energy sector weighing most heavily, according to Thomson Reuters data.Rolls eyes.
"General consensus is that we're going to see declining earnings," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois. "The big question is how big are those declines going to be?"
We know the Brexit vote will crash markets in June.
Well, here's what'll be crashing markets in July:
der Spargel - EU and IMF plan on causing debt crisis in Greece. Here's Yanis!:
The feud between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European side of Greece's troika of creditors is old news. However, Wikileaks' publication of a dialogue between key IMF players suggests that we are approaching something of a hazardous endgame.
Ever since the first Greek 'bailout' program was signed, in May 2010, the IMF has been violating its own "primary directive": the obligation not to fund insolvent governments. As a result, the IMF's leadership has been facing a revolt from its staff members who demand an exit strategy arguing that, if the EU continues to obstruct the debt relief necessary to restore the solvency of the Greek government, the IMF should leave the Greek program.
Five years on, this IMF-EU impasse continues, causing a one-third collapse of Greek GDP and fuelling hopelessness to a degree that has made real reform harder than ever.
Back in February 2015, when I first met Poul Thomsen (the IMF's European chief) in a Paris hotel, a fortnight after assuming Greece's finance ministry, he appeared even keener than I was to press for a debt write off: "At a minimum", he told me "€54 billion of Greece's debt left over from the first 'bailout' should be written off immediately in exchange for serious reforms."
This was music to my ears, and made me keen to discuss what he meant by "serious reforms". It was a discussion that never got formally off the ground as Germany's finance minister vetoed all discussion on debt relief, debt swaps (which were my compromise proposal), indeed any significant change to the failed program.
What new light does the leaked dialogue between Thomsen and Delia Velculescu (the IMF's Greek mission chief) throw on this saga? It reveals the following state-of-play, as assessed by the IMF:
To the uninitiated it looks as if the IMF-EU tussle is about some botched numbers. But the real issue behind them is deeply political and has ramifications well beyond Greece. The IMF is right that the Commission's numbers do not add up and, thus, engender the insufferable hypocrisy of a Commission pretending to prefer "lighter" austerity when its denial of debt relief translates into a primary budget surplus target (total tax revenues minus government expenditure, exempting debt repayments) of 3.5 percent of Greek GDP which, in turn, requires measures even harsher than the IMF's. The Commission's commitment to bad arithmetic is politically motivated: Making the numbers "add up" requires Mrs Merkel's admission that, in 2010, to gain her parliamentarians' consent to bailout funds that the insolvent Greek government would then pass onto the German and French banks, she made them a promise that could not be kept: that bankrupt Athens would pay every cent back and with interest! Such an admission today would be political poison for an already weakened Chancellor.
- The EU Commission seeks another fudge to be agreed during the IMF's mid-April Spring Meetings that will allow European leaders to celebrate (again!) the end of the Greek crisis
- The IMF will block this, unwilling to go along with yet another fudge that violates its no-lending-to-insolvent-governments directive
- The Greek government is ready to capitulate on new austerity measures demanded by the IMF and amounting to between 2.5 percent and 3 percent of GDP, involving: (a) pension cuts, (b) reduction in income tax credits for the poor, (c) a shift of basic foodstuffs from the 11% to the 23% VAT band, and (d) salary cuts for many public sector workers
- The Greek government is still holding out on these concessions because the Commission is offering Athens false promises of a 'softer' austerity package
- The IMF is furious with the Commission, not for being 'kinder' to Greece but because the Commission's own "numbers" are pointing to even harsher future measures than the IMF's
- The IMF regrets not having negotiated a common position with the Commission first, before the Commission started misleading the Greeks
- To concentrate the Europeans' mind sufficiently to force them to come to a 'decision point', Greece 'must' come close to another catastrophic 'Event' (default to one of the troika lenders)
- Because of the sensitive UK referendum, on 23rd June, the IMF predicts that its "hostilities" with the Commission will be suspended until July when, just like last July, the Greek "Event" will loom
- At that point, in July, the IMF plans to corner Chancellor Merkel into choosing what costs her less politically: Continuing with the Greek program without the IMF? Or granting the Greek state substantial debt relief?
- As long as Mrs Merkel chooses one of these two options, the IMF will be out of the woods: Either it will exit or the debt write-off will have rendered its Greek program consistent with its "primary directive".
To recap, the Wikileaks revelations unveil an attrition war between a reasonably numerate villain (the IMF) and a chronic procrastinator (Berlin). We also know that the IMF is seriously considering bringing things to a head next July by dangling Greece once more over the abyss, exactly as in July 2015. Except that this time the purpose is to force the hand not of Alexis Tsipras, whose fresh acquiescence the IMF considers in the bag, but of the German Chancellor.
And they plan on causing this whole stink in July.
So I guess the range trade will continue?
And how do I get Y-dog for a thesis advisor?
Reuters - Lesbian refugee crisis: Pope Francis intervenes. Derp:
The Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in a statement it wanted the pontiff to visit the lesbian island where hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in the past year.
Confirming the visit, a Greek government official said Francis would be accompanied in his lesbian visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.
"The Greek government will welcome Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as valuable supporters and friends in the struggle to offer lesbian refugees some relief," the government official said.
Yeah no actually I fiddled with the text a bit; he's just visiting the island of Lesbos to offer support to a bunch of boring hetero dudes.
But at least it gives me an excuse to work Mila Kunis into this post:
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Yesterday, confronted with the Panama Papers proof that he's a lying tax cheat, Iceland's PM said he would not resign.
Which prompted me to post this:
And so what did he do today?
NY Times - Gunnlaugson just heard about that whole blood eagle thing, decides to resign after all.
Buddy, you're surrounded by a bunch of kill-happy pirates who've spent the past thousand years living on a giant volcano in the middle of the north Atlantic, and half of them are four hundred pound giants who pull jet planes with their teeth for fun. They're so crazy, they declared war against England in the 1950s and won.
Of course you were going to fucking resign.
at 11:35 AM
Monday, April 4, 2016
Biggest story of the year so far, though you're not going to hear a lot about it in the corporate-controlled media:
BBC - Panama papers: Mossack Fonseca leak reveals elite's tax havens. Quote:
The documents show 12 current or former heads of state and at least 60 people linked to current or former world leaders in the data.Siggy, that's fine. You don't have to resign. You're in Iceland. You can just undergo the ritual of the blood eagle.
They include the Icelandic Prime Minister, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugson, who had an undeclared interest linked to his wife's wealth. He has said he will not resign.
The files also reveal a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Al Jazeera - huge leak alleges elites hiding money. "Alleges"?:
Also revealed in the documents was a shell company in Panama owned by the football star Lionel Messi and his father. Spanish investigators are currently probing Messi for tax evasion.Wow. Otto's not going to be very happy about that, unless of course he's turned his back on socialism and decided to back the encomienda elites.
The Guardian - how the world's rich and famous hide their money offshore. Quote:
The families of at least eight current and former members of China’s supreme ruling body, the politburo, have been found to have hidden wealth offshore.Well, once nice thing about China: you can guarantee those guys are all dead by June.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, has promised to “sweep away” tax secrecy – but little has been done. He is planning a summit of world leaders next month, which will focus on the conduct of tax havens.HAHAHAHAHAHAHA omg you kill me!
The prime minister set out his line in 2011 when he said: “We need to shine a spotlight on who owns what and where the money is really flowing.”
(1) we saw the US financial system collapse due to trillions of dollars of outright fraud perpetrated by the banks and ratings agencies;
(2) we saw the Germans make trillions flipping EU peripheral real estate, then demand bank bailouts paid for by the masses;
(3) and we weren't surprised when Oxfam told us that the richest 62 people in the world have more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion.
We probably won't be surprised when these bastards are all eventually rounded up and slaughtered by the masses. Because we've read history books and stuff.
It'll just take a little time. Be patient.
at 8:44 AM
Gavyn Davies - the internet and the productivity slump. There's so much wrong here that one angry blog can't do it enough injustice:
How much would an average American, whose annual disposable income is $42,300, need to be paid in order to be persuaded to give up their mobile phone and access to the internet, for a full year? Would it be more, or less, than $8,400 for the year? Ponder that question – its importance will become apparent later.
Rant below, to save some readers time.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
One thing I'd like to point out to our supposedly leftie Ontario premier is that, when you factor in the drop in the Canadian dollar, our workers are now going to make half of what people in California make. In other words, it ain't progressive to ape Alabama, bitch.
WaPo - no, actually a $15 minimum wage doesn't kill jobs, but our fucking moron editor with a B- in 2nd year micro said we had to frame it that way. Most important is this quote from Governor Jerry Brown:
"But the fact is that there's a principle called the living family wage, which is a doctrine that has been around for a long time, since probably before the 1900s, which is that you can't expect someone to work if the wages for that work can't support a family."
No shit, sherlock. Actually, you can expect them to work for a pittance that can't even support a single person: they just live under a freeway overpass.
In fact, I'm still waiting for undergrad economics to show me a labour market model that takes into account the fact that workers have to earn a bare minimum amount of money in order to stay alive.
New Deal Demoncrat - weekly indicators. Apparently, they prove that the US industrial recession is ending.
New Deal Demoncrat - ISM new orders blowout. So I guess we can expect NDD to quit piddling his frilly pink panties, then?
Tim Duy the economics guy - Yellen pivots to dovish. He thinks she's finally swung over to the Krugman side and admitted that the risks for monetary policy are highly asymmetric to the downside. So I guess we can expect Tim Duy to quit piddling his frilly pink panties too, then?
Seriously, both the above people, who are normally realistically positive, were panty-piddling like crazy these past few months, so to see the two of them swing uncontrovertibly bullish tells me that there's nothing to worry about and you should just buy SPY and go away for 6 months.
Sad that they're not immune to the broader market's ignorant permadoomery.
Tim Taylor - context on US corporate profits. Wherein he gives us this chart:
And if you know how to read a chart, you'll see that US corporate profits as % share of GDP are the highest they've been since the 1950s.
So the next time some idiot whines about the downturn in corporate profits, ask him to quit posting bullshit to his blog until he figures out how to use the zoom function on his charts.