Break Up the USA

Some of our assumptions are so deeply embedded that we cannot perceive them ourselves.
Case in point: everyone takes for granted that it’s normal for a country of 320 million to be dictated to by a single central authority. The only debate we’re permitted to have is who should be selected to carry out this grotesque and inhumane function.
Here’s the debate we should be having instead: what if we simply abandoned this quixotic mission, and went our separate ways? It’s an idea that’s gaining traction – much too late, to be sure, but better late than never.
For a long time it seemed as if the idea of secession was unlikely to take hold in modern America. Schoolchildren, after all, are told to associate secession with slavery and treason. American journalists treat the idea as if it were self-evidently ridiculous and contemptible (an attitude they curiously do not adopt when faced with US war propaganda, I might add).
And yet all it took was the election of Donald Trump for the alleged toxicity of secession to vanish entirely. The left’s principled opposition to secession and devotion to the holy Union went promptly out the window on November 8, 2016. Today, about one in three Californians polled favors the Golden State’s secession from the Union.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on February 21, 2017.

“I Will Not Cover Myself Up”: Le Pen Refuses To Wear Headscarf, Cancels Meeting With Lebanese Cleric

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, and leader of the National Front, canceled a Tuesday meeting with Lebanon’s grand mufti, its top cleric for Sunni Muslims, after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter. After meeting Christian President Michel Aoun, her first public handshake with a head of state, and Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Monday, she had been scheduled to meet the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian. He heads the Dar al-Fatwa, the top religious authority for Sunni Muslims in the multireligious country.
Officials at the Dar al-Fatwa said Le Pen had been told in advance she’d need to put on a headscarf before meeting the Grand Mufti. Reminded again on arriving at his Beirut headquarters, she refused and left. ‘Dar al-Fatwa regrets this inappropriate behavior,’ the council said in a statement
“I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar,” she told reporters, referring to a visit in 2015 to Cairo’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning. “The highest Sunni authority didn’t have this requirement, but it doesn’t matter. You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” she said.
Le Pen disputed she broke a prior agreement. ‘I told them Monday that I wasn’t going to wear a headscarf. They didn’t cancel the meeting and so I therefore assumed that they had then accepted that I wouldn’t be wearing a headscarf,’ she told reporters after the incident, according to Agence France-Presse.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 21, 2017.

London bullion banks will pretend to be transparent next week

Some banks will start testing a new bullion-trading platform next week as part of the London Bullion Market Association’s push to make the city’s over-the-counter market more modern and transparent.
Several banks will be asked to input mock trades into the platform built by Autilla Inc. which will then feed into a new trade data repository developed by Boat Services Ltd., Autilla Chief Executive Officer Mike Greenacre said. Testing may take up to four weeks and the platform may start around late March.
The two London-based startups last year won a contract with the LBMA to help improve how precious metals are traded in London, where about $5 trillion of gold changes hands annually. The OTC market has come under increased scrutiny from regulators pushing for tighter commodity-trading controls, while also facing competition from new products listed by exchanges.
‘Autilla is the connection system many of the banks will use to feed into the trade-reporting platform,’ Greenacre said by phone on Friday. ‘The main challenge will be getting it to connect with individual banks’ systems.’
All of the LBMA’s trading members will be required to use Boat’s reporting system, known as LBMA-i. Using Autilla’s trading platform will be optional, but all transactions on it will be reported directly to the trade repository.

This post was published at bloomberg

The real sultans of Istanbul: cats

Istanbul’s love of cats is world-famous. From tributes to Tombili, the late feline phenomenon, to social media photos and short clips, cat lovers can find their fill of cat accolades posted from the streets of Istanbul. And now that love has been documented in a new film.
The cats are strays but have names. Their favorite hangouts and foods are well-known to locals. Kids grow up hearing the warning, ‘If you kill a cat, you have to build a mosque to receive God’s forgiveness.’
The neighborhoods take care of them, yet they have no official owners.
So how would you like to see a cat’s daily life on the streets of Istanbul? The movie “Kedi” (Turkish for “cat”) will show you. It’s not animated, as some might expect. Ceyda Torun, the director of “Kedi,” was six months pregnant when she and her crew started shooting in the streets and alleys of the megalopolis in April 2014. The actors in the documentary are peculiar: seven cats, each with a unique character.

This post was published at ALMONITOR

Vladimir Putin’s statement at the annual meeting of the Federal Security Service

These annual FSB Board meetings give us a chance to meet and not only thoroughly analyse and review the results of the agency’s work over the period, but also to discuss at length all important national security issues in general and outline the priorities for the immediate future and the longer-term. The FSB plays a key part in protecting our constitutional order and our country’s sovereignty, and in protecting our people from threats at home and abroad. Let me say from the start that last year’s results were positive and show good development. This concerns your work to counter terrorism and extremism, a series of successful counterintelligence operations, your efforts to combat economic crime, and other areas.
At the same time, demands on the quality and results of your work grow constantly. The global situation has not become any more stable or better over the past year. On the contrary, many existing threats and challenges have only become more acute.

This post was published at The Saker

Expert: What You Need To Know About The Oroville Dam Crisis — Chris Martenson

To make sense of the fast-developing situation at California’s Oroville Dam, Chris spoke with Scott Cahill, an expert with 40 years of experience on large construction and development projects on hundreds of dams, many of them earthen embankment ones like the dam at Oroville.
Scott has authored numerous white papers on dam management, he’s a FEMA trainer for dam safety, and is the current owner of Watershed Services of Ohio which specializes in dam projects across the eastern U.S. Suffice it to say, he knows his “dam” stuff.
Scott and Chris talk about the physics behind the failing spillways at Oroville, as well as the probability of a wider-scale failure from here as days of rain return to California.
Sadly, Scott explains how this crisis was easily avoidable. The points of failure in Oroville’s infrastructure were identified many years ago, and the cost of making the needed repairs was quite small — around $6 million. But for short-sighted reasons, the repairs were not funded; and now the bill to fix the resultant damage will likely be on the order of magnitude of over $200 million. Which does not factor in the environmental carnage being caused by flooding downstream ecosystems with high-sediment water or the costs involved with evacuating the 200,000 residents living nearby the dam.
Oh, and of course, these projected costs will skyrocket higher should a catastrophic failure occur; which can’t be lightly dismissed at this point.
Scott explains to Chris how this crisis is indicative of the neglect rampant across the entire US national dam system. Oroville is one of the best-managed and maintained dams in the country. If it still suffered from too much deferred maintenance, imagine how vulnerable the country’s thousands and thousands of smaller dams are. Trillions of dollars are needed to bring our national dams up to satisfactory status. How much else is needed for the country’s roads, railsystems, waterworks, power grids, etc?

This post was published at Peak Prosperity

Gold: The Protector and Creator of Jobs

Thanks to Hugo Salinas Price Some readers may ask themselves; ‘What has gold to do with protecting jobs? Gold hoarders are certainly not creating jobs, and hoarding more gold will not help at all.’
Gold has everything to do with the loss of jobs in the US, and gold has everything to do with recovering jobs for the US economy.
Let me go back to the 60?s. During those years, the US and the world were on a Gold-and-Dollar Standard.
Back in the 60?s, countries were very careful about maintaining a constant monetary balance between their exports and their imports. They all wanted to be in a situation where they would export more than they imported, so that they would have increasing balances of gold or dollars in their Treasuries.
To state this more correctly, they all wanted to export more than they imported, except the United States.

This post was published at Deviant Investor on February 21, 2017.

Google Nation – Visualizing The World’s Most Valuable Brands

The world’s most valuable brand is owned by a company that you likely interact with every day. In fact, you may have even gotten to this web page using it.
That brand is Google – and it dominates the internet with a 64% market share in search, while generating 41% of all digital advertising revenue globally. As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, according to Brand Finance’s most recent 2017 list, Google’s brand value has recently increased to $109.5 billion, which is just enough to supplant Apple’s $107.1 billion brand from the top of the list.
THE MOST VALUABLE BRAND IN EACH COUNTRY
Today’s infographic comes from HowMuch.net, a cost information site, and it breaks down Brand Finance’s list of the top 500 brands in a different way. It shows the most valuable brand for each country, and has each country sized accordingly to the dollar value of that company.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 21, 2017.

Oops! The Economy Is Like A Self-Driving Car

Back in 1776, Adam Smith talked about the ‘invisible hand’ of the economy. Investopedia explains how the invisible hand works as, ‘In a free market economy, self-interested individuals operate through a system of mutual interdependence to promote the general benefit of society at large.’
We talk and act today as if governments and economic policy are what make the economy behave as it does. Unfortunately, Adam Smith was right; there is an invisible hand guiding the economy. Today we know that there is a physics reason for why the economy acts as it does: the economy is a dissipative structure – something we will talk more about later. First, let’s talk about how the economy really operates.
Our Economy Is Like a Self-Driving Car: Wages of Non-Elite Workers Are the Engine
Workers make goods and provide services. Non-elite workers – that is, workers without advanced education or supervisory responsibilities – play a special role, because there are so many of them. The economy can grow (just like a self-driving car can move forward) (1) if workers can make an increasing quantity of goods and services each year, and (2) if non-elite workers can afford to buy the goods that are being produced. If these workers find fewer jobs available, or if they don’t pay sufficiently well, it is as if the engine of the self-driving car is no longer working. The car could just as well fall apart into 1,000 pieces in the driveway.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 21, 2017.

Gold’s Fundamentals Strengthen

The January headline consumer price index (CPI) came in at 2.5%, which is near a 5-year high. What happened to deflation? As a result, real interest rates declined deeper into negative territory or in the case of the 10-year yield, went from positive to negative. No this isn’t a commodity-driven story. The core CPI (ex food and energy) has been above 2% since the end of 2015 when commodities were in the dumps. Inflation is perking up and couple that with a Fed that pursues rate hikes at a glacial speed and that is very bullish for precious metals.
The chart below is what I refer to as our master fundamental chart for Gold. It plots Gold along with the real fed funds rate and the real 5-year yield. In short, negative and/or declining real interest rates drive bull markets in Gold while rising real rates or strongly positive real rates (like in the 1980s and 1990s) drive bear markets in Gold. Since the middle of 2015 both the real fed funds rate and the real 5-year yield have declined by 2%. The real fed funds rate has declined from a fraction above 0% to now almost -2% (-1.88%). Meanwhile, the real 5-year yield has declined by roughly 2.5% in the past two years from nearly 2% to now -0.60%.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Tuesday, 21 February 2017.

Why the “Experts” Can’t Agree About Fed Rate Hikes

It’s amazing how the same set of economic data can create two very different opinions on the overrated Fed Funds hike issue. In two Bloomberg opinion pieces last week, we see the stark difference:
Tim Duy: It’s Way Too Early for the Fed to Consider a March Rate Increase
Charles Lieberman: The Fed is Behind the Curve
To make their cases, both cite the employment numbers and the consumer price inflation rate. Duy states that the Fed wanted the unemployment rate to be around 4.5 percent, but it’s still at 4.8 percent. So allegedly, it’s got “room to run.” Lieberman looks at the unemployment on a broader timeframe and concludes that the current levels have “historically been universally regarded as full employment.”
On price inflation, here is Duy: “Core inflation, as measured by the Fed’s preferred price index, was running at just 1 percent on an annualized basis in the final three months of 2016.”
And then Lieberman states that price inflation is already above 2 percent “for all the primary inflation measures, except the Fed’s preferred measure, the core personal consumption deflator, which may also soon rise above 2 percent.”

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on February 21, 2017.

The Death Of Venture Capital?

Few business communities swing from boom to bust as reliably as Silicon Valley, but detecting shifts in this opaque world can be challenging. To help illuminate the field, Bloomberg created the U. S. Startups Barometer, a new weekly indicator that tracks the overall health of the business environment for private technology companies based in the U. S.
So how ‘healthy’ is the American Venture Capital business?

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 21, 2017.