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© 2008 – 2013 John T. Burke, Jr.

Crazy Time Returns

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It’s time once again from the politicians and other attention-seekers from the lunatic fringe to return to the spotlight.  Politicians who Wingnutintend on running for the Presidency in 2016 are already preparing to launch their primary campaigns.  Because 2014 is a “midterm” year, the only voters who can be expected to vote in November will be the political zealots.  Despite the fact that Congressional terms last only two years, the cretins in Congress are confident that the only people who will bother to vote in their gerrymandered districts will be the dependable hard core.

Unfortunately, we cannot assume that Americans will wise-up and respond to the recent plea from Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher, by going to their local polling places to address the problem.

Meanwhile those intent on becoming the Republican Party’s 2016 Presidential nominee are busy currying favor with the two men who dictate the party’s agenda:  Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh.  As a result, there is no such thing as too extreme in crafting a campaign message to voters.  With the midterms’ bringing increased attention to the lunatic fringe voters, politicians who are posturing themselves as Presidential candidates are busy preaching to the crazy choir.  This effort usually involves making personal appearances with the most polarizing, controversial individuals who haunt the airwaves with outrageous statements.  The logical consequence of this practice brought the Republicans their “Ted Nugent Moment” this past week.

In their desperation to find a “rock star” who could serve as a dependable spokesperson for Republican political candidates, somebody came up with the idea of appointing Ted Nugent to that role.  Nugent has “jammed” with fellow quasi-musician, Mike Huckabee and he has taken the stage with countless politicians from the far-right.

During the past week, a good deal of attention was focused on some choice remarks made by Nugent during a January 18 interview with guns.com.  During the course of the interview, Nugent infamously said:

I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever-vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the Acorn community organizer – gangster Barack Hussein Obama – to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.

Given the fact that Nugent himself bears a rather close physical resemblance to our simian ancestors, there was more than a little irony here.

After a number of news outlets seized upon Nugent’s remarks, those Republicans who know that support from the lunatic fringe is no guaranteed ticket to the White House were quick to put some distance between themselves and Nugent.

Nevertheless, as I pointed out on October 16, because Roger Ailes has made it the mission of Fox News to promote the wingnuts of the GOP, is the party becoming marginalized?  Will we soon hear from Nugent apologists who believe that there are elections to be won by speaking out in favor of some patriot who was forced to apologize for speaking his mind?

On the other hand, will the Republican Party’s “Ted Nugent Moment” be the first in a series of such events which motivate would-be Republican Presidential candidates to distance themselves from extermists?

Meanwhile, the Democrats appear resigned to accepting Hillary Clinton as their 2016 Presidential nominee.  We can assume that Hillary’s sycophants in the news media will attempt to portray anyone who dares to oppose her as some sort of “extremist”.  The cult of people I referred to in 2008 as the Hillarologists – those who believe that Hillary Clinton offers them the only hope of  seeing a woman in the White House during their lifetimes – will be ready for a fight.

Will another women rise up to challenge Hillary for the Democratic nomination?  I hope so.



Fifty Years of Lies

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On November 22, a large number of tools within the mainstream media will be congratulating themselves for “successfully” covering-up the conspiracy involving the assassination of President Kennedy.  Although many people accept the Warren Commission’s “single bullet theory” version of the tragedy – during this long stretch of time, an entire library full of books refuting different aspects of the “official” explanation has been published.

If you read only one book about the Kennedy assassination (or if you already have but all this anniversary stuff has aroused your interest in getting the true story) I recommend Lamar Waldron’s new book, The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination.  I’m on chapter 8 right now and I have to stop writing, so I can get back to it.  Warner Brothers will be releasing a new film, Legacy of Secrecy, (the title of Waldron’s previous book on this subject) which includes some of the new book’s revelations.  The film features performances by Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Rather than presenting the sort of Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory which we saw in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK, Waldron presents a more simple conspiracy:  New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello and his Tampa associate, Santo Trafficante, Jr. wanted JFK dead because he and Bobby Kennedy had been riding roughshod over the Mafia.

Nevertheless, the book presents other related facts which the reader can put together to conclude that there were many related criminal acts which facilitated and helped cover-up the conspiracy.  Most notable among them was that the hypocritical, crooked, closet queen – Gay Edgar Hoover – obviously had known about it in advance but did nothing to stop the plot because he hated the Kennedys.  After reading seven chapters of this book, I have already learned about two documented cases wherein informants had notified the FBI about Marcello and Trafficante’s plot to kill JFK approximately one year before the hit took place.

The cover-up was facilitated by the fact that Kennedy had been orchestrating the overthrow of Fidel Castro, with the help of Cuba’s number three man:  Commander Juan Almeida.  The Warren Commission and others attempted to cover-up the conspiracy because a revelation of the truth would have exposed the plot against Castro while jeopardizing Almeida, who remained in power until 1990.  Marcello and Trafficante had their men infiltrate the Cuban coup attempt so that any revelation of their involvement in Kennedy’s killing would expose Almeida and the coup plot, potentially setting off World War III.  The Mafiosi also had a sub-plot arranged to make it appear as though Oswald was just one of many people working for Castro to kill Kennedy.  This added more pressure for a cover-up among those who were actually oblivious to what really happened.  The need to prevent World War III was paramount, since the assassination took place only one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is plenty of other good stuff in the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.  The “big picture” which becomes very clear is that delving into the ugly truth behind the JFK assassination conspiracy is like turning over a rock – you learn all sorts of other grim facts about those vested with the power of running this country, the dishonesty of the mainstream news media and the out-of-control hubris of the National Security Gestapo, which we are reading about on a more frequent basis these days.


 

Has Fox News Destroyed the Republican Party?

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It was more than two years ago when ABC News televised Terry Moran’s interview with David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush.  On March 23, 2010 – the day after the interview – the ABC News website ran this piece by David Schoetz, which included an embedded video of the interview.  As we can see from the article, Moran’s interview with Frum was right on target:

Among the comments Frum made to “Nightline” was the assertion that “nobody ever won an election by spitting at his political opponents” and that “anger trapped the [Republican] leadership.”  But it was this exchange, which you can see starting at the 2:20 mark, that is generating some buzz today: Moran: “It sounds like you’re saying that the Glenn Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, hijacked the Republican party and drove it to a defeat?”  Frum: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.  And this balance here has been completely reversed. The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party.”  Our report posed the question: Will Democrats pay a price for pushing through health care at any cost? Or are Republicans the ones in trouble for the way they chose to fight?  We know where Frum stands.

As the battle over Obamacare began to reach a boiling point, Fox News televised a discussion between Bill O’Reilly and Charles Krauthammer on September 26 entitled, “Is Ted Cruz the new leader of the Republican Party?”  Krauthammer was less enthusiastic about Cruz than the fawning O’Reilly.  Krauthammer pointed out that the battle Cruz was waging against Obamacare was doomed and that Cruz was simply attempting to position himself as the next GOP Presidential candidate.  As an aside, I find it curious that those who tout the sanctity of the Constitution are so willing to ignore Article Two, Section 1, which states (in part):

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Here is what Wikipedia provides concerning the controversy over this issue:

As Cruz was born in Canada, various commentators from the Austin American-Statesman[97] and the Los Angeles Times,[98] discussed Cruz’s legal status as a natural-born citizen. Because he was a U.S. citizen at birth (since his mother was a U.S. citizen who lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years as required by the Nationality Act of 1940), most commentators believe Cruz is eligible to serve as President of the United States.[10][99][10][100] After hearing that according to legal experts he is a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., Cruz announced on August 19, 2013 that he would renounce his Canadian citizenship.[101]

I enjoyed the last sentence, which stated, “After hearing that according to legal experts he is a dual citizen …”  One would have thought that Cruz might be a legal expert himself, since he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.  In any event, any plans Cruz had made for the Presidency were certainly destroyed by the government shutdown fiasco.  Of course, Cruz will always remain popular with his hard core supporters, despite the fact that he has alienated the Republican Party itself, and he has no chance of getting elected – even in the unlikely event that he should become the GOP nominee.

Cruz will always be haunted by his recitation of Green Eggs and Ham during his pseudo-filibuster, which Krauthammer aptly pointed out was simply an attempt to upstage the filibuster conducted by Rand Paul over the use of drones.

The bigger question concerns the devastation this fiasco has caused for the Republican Party.  As David Frum pointed out, the hero worship Fox News brings to the wingnuts of the GOP empowers those characters, making the GOP a party of extremists.  Although a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 74 percent of Americans disapproved of the way Congressional Republicans handled the budget crisis, the more important issue concerns the extent to which the GOP has sustained long-term damage as a result of this episode.  If it causes Republicans to become unelectable, they will have Fox News to blame.


 

More Ugly Truth about Fukushima

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As radioactive water continues to leak out of containment tanks and into the Pacific Ocean, more truth is leaking out concerning the efforts to cover-up the significance of the Fukushima disaster from the very beginning.

Immediately after the disaster was first reported, I recognized the familiar smell of a cover-up.  Here is some of what I wrote on March 14, 2011, just three days after the event:

Since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began, we were given spotty, uninformative reports about the extent of the damage to the critical equipment, despite assurances that the “reactor vessels remain intact”.

*   *   *

A good deal of the frustration experienced by those attempting to ascertain the status of the potential nuclear hazards at Fukushima, was obviously due to the control over information flow exercised by the Japanese government.  I began to suspect that President Obama might have dispatched a team of Truth Suppressors from the Gulf of Corexit to assist the Japanese government with spin control.

During the subsequent weeks and months,  I found it necessary to express my disgust over the cover-up of the hazard’s severity on more than a few occasions, such as here, here, here and here.  Despite the fact that the first three of those four pieces were written in 2011, a good deal of the information contained therein would come as a surprise to most Americans.

Not included in the foregoing list of links was what I had to discuss about contamination of the Pacific Ocean back on May 12, 2011 – just two months after the earthquake and tsunami:

In the United States, the EPA has apparently become so concerned that the plume of radioactivity may have contaminated fish, which are being caught off the Pacific coast and served-up at our fine restaurants – that the agency has decided to cut back on radiation monitoring.  That’s right.  Thorough radiation testing of water and fish causes too much transparency – and that’s bad for business.  Susanne Rust of California Watch discussed the reaction this news elicited from a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Public Employees – uh-oh!):

The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration increased their radiation monitoring efforts after a massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

But on May 3, the EPA announced [PDF] in a press release that it was falling back to a business-as-usual schedule of radiation monitoring, citing “consistently decreasing radiation levels.”

*   *   *

“With the Japanese nuclear situation still out of control and expected to continue that way for months and with elevated radioactivity continuing to show up in the U.S., it is inexplicable that EPA would shut down its Fukushima radiation monitoring effort,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group, in a statement.

*   *   *

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the EPA has proposed raising their guideline radiation limits, or Protection Action Guides.  These values are used to guide decision makers about when a clean up is needed after a nuclear incident.

According to Ruch, the new clean up standards are “thousands of times more lax than anything the EPA has ever before accepted.”

Documents obtained by the watchdog group [PDF] via the Freedom of Information Act indicate the EPA made a decision to approve the revised guidelines months ago, but has yet to make a formal announcement.

The latest disclosures concerning the magnitude of the hazards involved – as well as the efforts by TEPCO and the Japanese government to cover-up such information – have sparked widespread outrage.  With a plume of radioactive water on its way to the West Coast, an assortment of experts – none of whom have any credentials to support a claim of expertise on the subject of the bio-effects of ionizing radiation – are busy telling people not to worry.  They want us to believe that the radioactive water in the plume will be harmless.

Not only are such claims unscientific (no current data, no readings on radiation levels) they are obviously being made to convince the public of something that will, more than likely, be proven as untrue.

As I have said at least five times before:  If you are in search of honest information about the hazards resulting from this disaster, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates, provides regular updates on Fukushima.  For more specific information on the latest radiation hazards affecting the West Coast, be sure to visit the site run by Michael Collins: EnviroReporter.com, where you can also find links for obtaining radiation measurement devices.


Smelling Even Worse

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When I first heard about the fatal car crash which killed Michael Hastings, I immediately became suspicious.  A brand-new Mercedes involved in a single-vehicle accident blew up and burned in an unusually-devastating fire.  A Mercedes Benz?  Not likely.  This case smells.

Since that time, much has been written and uploaded to the web, including this surveillance video of the crash actually taking place.  Unfortunately, it is of marginal quality, although it could be useful if an expert would enhance the image to verify or refute the eyewitness account of an explosion (or fire) in the vehicle before it struck the post.

A video blogger operating from Japan named James Corbett prepared a very thorough video presentation of some of the more useful information on this case.  The video runs for 45 minutes and includes several interviews of Hastings himself, conducted by Cenk Uygur and others.

What becomes immediately apparent is that Hastings was not only pushing back against the corporatist, mainstream media – he was confronting and busting the chops of the tools who feed America the bullshit most people accept as “news”.  The video presented by Corbett, entitled Crashes of Convenience: Michael Hastings includes a number of these confrontations.

It’s no wonder this guy got whacked.  He was really rocking the boat.

Since the incident first happened, reporter Kimberly Dvorak of San Diego 6 has been turning over all the right rocks, exposing what the mainstream media would rather ignore.  This July 8 broadcast clip and article contain some very revealing information.  Although the LAPD was quick to announce “no foul play”, Mercedes Benz representatives informed Ms. Dvorak that the LAPD never found it necessary to seek their assistance in their investigation of this event.

Although a toxicology investigation is under way, Ms. Dvorak reported that Los Angeles officials took it upon themselves to cremate Michael Hastings’ body against the wishes of his family, before sending it to his parents in Vermont.  In other words, just in case the convenient conclusion might happen to be reached – that Hastings was drunk at the time of the crash – nobody will ever be able to refute it.  The fact that the body was cremated sends a big hint that driver intoxication will be used as the official explanation for this event.

A number of reports have disclosed that Hastings was working on a story about the CIA and NSA at the time of his death.  He expressed concern that the spooks were onto him.  Ms. Dvorak reported that this story did not die with Hastings.  He deliberately kept his wife in the dark about it to protect her safety.  Smart move.  Nevertheless, some of the information Hastings uncovered is apparently “out there”.  If Hastings’ killers were trying to kill that story, it’s a bit early to claim victory.


 

Don’t Fear the Taper

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You can’t avoid reading about it.  The stock market is sinking  . . .  Treasury bond yields are spiking   .  .  .  The TAPER is coming!

The panic began in the wake of Jon Hilsenrath’s May 10 Wall Street Journal  report (after the markets closed on that Friday afternoon) concerning a new strategy by the Federal Reserve to “wind down” its quantitative easing program.  The disclosure was carefully timed to give investors an opportunity to process the information and get used to the idea before the next opening bell of the stock market.

By the time the stock market reopened on Monday, May 13 – the first trading day after Jon Hilsenrath’s article – there was a surprising report on April Retail Sales from the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau.  The report disclosed that retail sales had unexpectedly increased by 0.1 percent in April, despite economists’ expectations of a 0.3 percent decline.  As a result, the Taper report had no significant impact on stock prices – at least on that day.

The Wall Street Journal report carried plenty of weight because of Jon Hilsenrath’s role as de facto “press secretary” for Ben Bernanke, as I discussed in my last posting.  Since the WSJ article’s publication, there has been a steady stream of commentary about the threats posed by the Taper.  Nevertheless, the word “taper” was never used in Hilsenrath’s article.  In fact, the article included an explanation by Philly FedHead (and FOMC member) Charles Plosser, that the Fed has “a dial that can move either way”.  The dial could be set to a particular level with either an increase or a decrease.

Regardless of whatever the Fed may have planned, the flow of commentary has focused on the notion that the Fed is about to taper back on its bond buying.  The current incarnation of quantitative easing (QE 4) involves the Fed’s purchase of $45 billion in bonds and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities every month.  We are supposed to believe that the Fed will gradually ease back on the bond purchases – whether it might begin with a reduction to $40 billion or $35 billion in monthly purchases  . . .  the Fed will gradually taper the amount down to zero.

Despite what you may have read or heard about the taper, it’s not going to work that way.  Beyond that, taper is not really an appropriate way to describe the Fed’s plan.  In other words:

Don’t fear the taper.

Josh Brown interviewed Jon Hilsenrath for CNBC on May 22.  Here is what Josh Brown had to say about the interview:

There was one thing Jon Hilsenrath did say in my interview with him on TV last night that I think is very important and clears up a big misconception. He explained that Bernanke himself will not be using the term “taper” that everyone else is bandying about. The reason why is that the Fed does not want to create the impression that one policy move will necessarily be attached to three or four others. In other words, suppose the Fed were to drop its rate of monthly asset purchases from $85 billion to some less number in one of the next meetings. This could be a one-off action with nothing else behind it, designed to temper the market’s expectations and gauge the effects.

I’d remind you that what Bernanke, as a self-styled “student of the Depression” fears the most, is a premature tightening a la FDR in 1937-1938, just as the nation was finally on the mend. If you think that this central bank, which has just spent the last six years patiently reflating the economy, is about to yank the rug out from under it at the last moment, then you haven’t been paying attention.

The wave of panic which followed Jon Hilsenrath’s May 10 article about the Fed’s plans for its quantitative easing program has yet to be calmed by Hilsenrath’s clarification about how the Fed’s new strategy is likely to proceed.  As Napoleon once said:

“Men are Moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”


 

Bernanke Taper Caper

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On May 11, Bruce Krasting expressed outrage about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s use of The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath as his “point man” for leaking out the latest news from the Fed.  Hilsenrath’s Friday afternoon report (after the markets closed) that the Federal Reserve is working on a strategy to taper back its quantitative easing program was carefully orchestrated to avoid roiling the stock market.

We recently saw a demonstration of how important the quantitative easing program has been to investors.  On Thursday, May 9, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 fell from intraday record highs during the last 90 minutes of the session.  Philadelphia Federal Reserve president Charles Plosser announced that he would join forces with Kansas City FedHead Esther George to advocate attenuation of the quantitative easing program at the June 18 FOMC meeting.  The news definitely spooked the stock market.

Friday’s report from Hilsenrath/Bernanke gave investors a chance to process what was being disclosed and to get comfortable with the idea that quantitative easing will not go on forever.  The leak was obviously timed to provide a decent interval before the stock market opened again.  There is no definite plan in place to end the quantitative easing program by any particular date, nor is there a planned date for the inception of the wind-down being discussed.  Here is a bit of how Hilsenrath explained what is taking place:

Officials are focusing on clarifying the strategy so markets don’t overreact about their next moves.  For example, officials want to avoid creating expectations that their retreat will be a steady, uniform process like their approach from 2003 to 2006, when they raised short-term interest rates in a series of quarter-percentage-point increments over 17 straight policy meetings.

Hilsenrath’s quote of Dallas FedHead Richard Fisher’s explanation of the plan was beautiful:  “I don’t want to go from wild turkey to cold turkey“.

Bruce Krasting was the first to begin spreading panic and misinformation about Hilsenrath’s report.  Here’s an example:

The Fed’s new plan is to taper off QE over the balance of the year.

Of course, the foregoing statement is completely untrue.  Hilsenrath never said that.  Does Bruce Krasting have his own source on the Federal Reserve Board, who is leaking secret information to him? 

Perhaps we might see some of Bernanke’s foes initiate a Congressional inquiry into the “Tapergate scandal”.  What did Jon Hilsenrath know and when did he know it?

For a long time, Hilsenrath’s role as Ben Bernanke’s de facto press secretary has been a subject of cynical commentary.  Many have joked that Hilsenrath will replace Bernanke when he retires.  At Bernanke’s press conferences which follow the FOMC meetings, I keep expecting to hear the moderator announce that the next question will come from Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal  .   .   .   Hilsenrath would then take the microphone and say:

You know, Ben – that last question just reminded me of another matter which would be really important to these people   .  .  .

Meanwhile, back in the real world, stock market investors are being confronted with the challenge of taking baby steps toward the idea of life without quantitative easing.  At the same time – as Jon Hilsenrath explained – the Fed is attempting to reach a decision on when to begin such a tapering effort.


 

Seeing Through Obama

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Obama is back giving Centrism a bad name.  His budget proposal has drawn criticism because it incorporates a mechanism for reducing Social Security Cost-of-Living benefits called the “chained CPI”, which ties those adjustments to the inflation rate.  Obama’s inclusion of the chained CPI has drawn harsh criticism from Progressives as well as the Liberal base of the Democratic Party.  Although the President and his sycophants characterize this proposal as an example of “Centrist” politics, it is actually an example of the economic neoliberalism which the Disappointer-in-Chief has advanced since taking office in 2009.

Despite its liberal slant, the FiredogLake blog has been critical of Obama since the beginning of his first term.  A recent article by Jon Walker at FDL presents an unvarnished look at Obama’s motives for including the chained CPI in his budget:

Obama didn’t put chained-CPI in for Republicans, regardless what he may claim.  While Republicans like to talk a big game on entitlements they have shown no real interest in cutting benefits for current retirees, who are the most important part of their base.

The comments to Walker’s piece give us a look at how a good number of liberals are finally seeing through the man who was advertised as an agent of Hope and Change.  I was particularly impressed by the following comment from a reader identified as “coloradoblue”:

War criminal
Mass murderer
Crimes against humanity
Crimes against the American people
Crimes against the constitution he swore to uphold
Failure to investigate, prosecute and punish the war criminals of the last administration
Failure to investigate, prosecute and punish the crimes of wall street
Destroyer of the legacy of FDR and LBJ and the dem party
Liar
Failure

Hell of legacy you’ve got there Barry. Hell of a legacy.

Oh, Snap!

Lest I repeat the entire batch of comments, I’ll include just one more. Reading through them provides one with the opportunity to understand the extent of disappointment in Obama, as expressed by those who voted for him.  This comment was from an individual using the name, “BearCountry”:

o was never really the “capitulator in chief.”  He has worked to destroy the safety net since he became pres.  When I voted for him in ’08 I knew he was not going to be a savior for the nation, but I didn’t realize how bad he would be.  He is worse than w because he knows full well what he is doing.  Those that defend him or blame the repugs are simply deluding themselves.

Progressive Democrats chose Obama over Hillary Clinton because they wanted to avoid electing a President who would advance the same neoliberalism we saw from Bill Clinton, the man who signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 into law.  Bill Clinton’s enactment of that legislation completely deregulated derivatives trading, eventually giving rise to such “financial weapons of mass destruction” as naked credit default swaps, which brought us the 2008 financial crisis.

When Hillary begins her run for the 2016 Democratic Nomination, it will be interesting to see whether any of her opponents exploit the photo of Bubba and Blankfein in Boca.  On February 19 of 2012, The Business Insider published this photo of Bill Clinton having lunch with Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein at the Boca Raton Resort and Country Club.  Obama’s function as a tool of the Wall Street megabanks will provide an ongoing reminder to anyone entertaining the thought of supporting Hillary, as to what they could expect from another Clinton administration.

Meanwhile Barry O. Tool is gonna’ have some ’splianin’ to do about his chained CPI proposal.  His angry former supporters will want some answers.


 

Why I Avoid Using Stop-Loss Orders

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I haven’t been posting here for a while because I have been busy writing about the stock market at the Wall Street Sector Selector website.

Within three months after I first started this blog, I began criticizing the permissive attitude taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission toward predatory securities trading tactics.

Since that time absolutely nothing has changed.  In fact, the SEC has allowed the stock market to become an even more dangerous place for “retail investors” (mom and pop) to keep their life savings.

The use of “limit orders” has become a joke.  The only reason for using a limit order is to let your enemies (the predatory traders) know the maximum extent to which you will allow yourself to be screwed on a trade.  Since July of 2009, I have discussed the threat posed to retail investors by the use of High-Frequency Trading (HFT) systems.  Computers – programmed with predatory algorithms – can engage in “computerized front-running” through the use of “flash orders” to force your own limit order to be executed at its most extreme expense to you.  I discussed this situation in more detail on May 18, 2010.

I rarely use “stop loss” orders.  They are used by investors to limit their loss if a stock price sinks.  The investor specifies a stop price (based on a percentage of the purchase price which is the maximum amount the investor is willing to lose on the stock).  If the stock eventually drops to the price in the stop order, the transaction is initiated and the order goes out to the exchange as a market order – to be filled at the best available price at the time.  In other words, there is no guarantee that the order will be filled at the price specified in the stop order.  In the “flash crash” on May 6 of 2010, many investors lost their shirts because their stop orders were executed and by the time the investors tried to repurchase the stocks, the prices rebounded to where they were before the flash crash.  Worse yet, by the time their stop orders were actually filled, the stock prices had dropped tremendously.  Not only did those investors lose money on the stop orders for no good reason – but many chose to buy back their stocks at the pre-crash prices.  As a result, they lost twice as much money just because of an emotional attachment to the stock.  (Emotional attachment to a particular stock is a bad investment habit.)  Since that time, a number of “mini flash crashes” have been engineered by predatory traders on particular stocks, forcing investors off their positions to take losses, which ultimately benefit the predators, who use stealthy tactics to reap those profits without being caught.

Maureen Farrell recently wrote an interesting piece for CNNMoney about the consequences of  “mini flash crashes”.  Here is some of what she had to say:

Stock exchanges have explicit rules for canceling “clearly erroneous trades” and for triggering so-called circuit breakers that halt trading.  None of the trades mentioned in this story met that criteria.

Generally, trades can be canceled if they fall 5% to 10% from the last trade, but the rules vary, depending on the market cap of a company and its trading volume.

Investors still have to notify the exchange within 30 minutes if they want their trade to be canceled.

And because many of the wild swings aren’t extreme enough to be considered “clearly erroneous,” individual investors may not even be aware that certain trades are being executed.

Although the article noted that “(t)he SEC continues to make changes to try to combat the frequency and impact of the mini flash crashes”, there is apparently nothing being done by the SEC to prevent the predatory engineering of those crashes.  The SEC is apparently doing nothing to allow investors to unwind trades triggered by those crashes.  More important, the SEC is doing nothing to track down and prosecute the culprits responsible for engineering and profiteering from these events.

Wall Street needs a new Sheriff.


 

Davos X Factors

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On January 23-27 the World Economic Forum held its tres chic annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.  Admission was by invitation only.  Nick Paumgarten of The New Yorker offered the following explanation of how different segments of society view the annual Davos event:

People like to project onto Davos their fears and fantasies about the way the world works. Right-wingers see insidious, delusional liberalism, in its stakeholder ethos and its pretense of world improvement.  They picture a bunch of Keynesians, Continentals, and self-dealing do-gooders participating in some kind of off-the-books top-down command-control charade.  Left-wingers conjure a plutocratic cabal, a Star Chamber of master puppeteers, the one per cent – or .01 per cent, really – deciding the world’s fate behind a curtain of heavy security and utopian doublespeak.  The uninvited, the refuseniks, and even many of the participants see a colossal discharge of hot air, a peacock strut.  They all deploy, with a sneer, the term Davos Man, coined by the late political scientist Samuel Huntington, who decried a post-national wealthy globe-trotting élite.  Davos Man can be either a capitalist oppressor or a Commie conspirator.  Either way, he is a windbag, a pedant, and a hypocrite. Businesspeople who have never been to Davos find many ways to be dismissive of it: “I can’t do business there.”  “It’s too political.”  “It’s not what it used to be.”  The translation may be that that person has not been invited.

The World Economic Forum’s website explained the role of its official communities:

A key part of the Forum’s activities is the creation of distinctive communities of Member and Partner companies as well as leaders from civil society for more informal opportunities for interaction.

I would assume that at this year’s meeting, one of the most popular topics must have been risk management – including risk aversion.  Ever since the financial crisis, the world has been on the verge of economic chaos.  The possibility that Silvio Berlusconi could return to power in Italy has heightened concerns that the European sovereign debt crisis could reverse course from its current recovery trajectory and head into oblivion.

One of the World Economic Forum’s communities is the Risk Response Network.  The RRN “was launched to provide private and public sector leaders with an independent, impartial platform to map, monitor and mitigate global risks.”  It is comprised of individual representatives of leading global corporations, research institutions, media outlets, governments and NGOs.  The Risk Response Network released a 78-page report for this year’s annual meeting entitled, Global Risks 2013 — Eighth Edition.  The report’s topics included:  Testing Economic and Environmental Resilience, Digital Wildfires in a Hyperconnected World, The Dangers of Hubris on Human Health and Building National Resilience to Global Risks.

I found Section 5 of Global Risks 2013 to be particularly interesting.  It begins on page 55 of the report and is entitled, “X Factors”.  The report described this section in the following terms:

In this section, developed in collaboration with Nature, a leading science journal, the Risk Response Network asks readers to look beyond our high-risk concerns of the moment to consider a set of five X factors and reflect on what countries or companies should be doing to anticipate them.

*   *   *

X factors are serious issues, grounded in the latest scientific findings, but somewhat remote from what are generally seen as more immediate concerns such as failed states, extreme weather events, famine, macroeconomic instability or armed conflict. They capture broad and vaguely understood issues that could be hatching grounds for potential future risks (or opportunities).

The five X Factors discussed in the report were these:

- Runaway climate change:  Is it possible that we have already passed a point of no return and that Earth’s atmosphere is tipping rapidly into an inhospitable state?

- Significant cognitive enhancement:  Ethical dilemmas akin to doping in sports could start to extend into daily working life; an arms race in the neural “enhancement” of combat troops could also ensue.

- Rogue deployment of geoengineering:  Technology is now being developed to manipulate the climate; a state or private individual could use it unilaterally.

- Costs of living longer:  Medical advances are prolonging life, but long-term palliative care is expensive.  Covering the costs associated with old age could be a struggle.

- Discovery of alien life:  Proof of life’s existence elsewhere in the universe could have profound psychological implications for human belief systems.

My favorite was the last X Factor:  Discovery of alien life.  Although the report focused on the notion that astronomers involved in the study of exoplanets could find spectral information revealing chemical signs of life, the last paragraph of the section provided some insights on the fear which has been keeping this subject under wraps for years:

Through basic education and awareness campaigns the general public can achieve a higher science and space literacy and cognitive resilience that would prepare them and prevent undesired social consequences of such a profound discovery and paradigm shift concerning mankind’s position in the universe.

So The Powers That Be are worried about “undesired social consequences” and “paradigm shift”.  Why is that not a surprise?

Those in search of “the right stuff” on this subject might be interested in what the late astronaut, Gordon Cooper had to say about it.

A good “basic education and awareness campaign” should begin with that video clip.