Goldman Sachs

Notes from the Locked Ward

rubiogc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 8, 2016

 


The remaining Americans sound-of-mind must view the primary election spectacle with mounting sensations of wonder, nausea, and panic. It’s one thing for the financial system to crack up, and another thing for social norms to disintegrate, and still another for the political system to become a locked ward of obvious psychopathology. Even the neurosurgeon on duty went narcoleptic the other night when his name was called to take the stage.

Last week’s candidate “debates” (or boasting contests) only underscored the human frailty on display. Marco Rubio was unmasked as an android with a broken flash drive. For a few moments I thought I was seeing an clip from the old movie Alien. In fact, the Republican melodrama more and more echoes the tone and plot of that story: a hapless, bumbling crew lost in space. One of these nights, something unspeakable is going to shoot out of Donald Trump’s mouth and there will be blood all over the podiums.

The Democratic boasting contest was not more reassuring. Bernie blew his biggest chance yet to harpoon the white whale known as Hillary when he cast some glancing aspersions on Mz It’s-My-Turn’s special side-job as errand girl of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. Together, Bill and Hillary racked up $7.7 million on 39 speaking gigs to that gang, with Hillary clocking $1.8 million of the total for eight blabs. When Bernie alluded to this raft of grift, MzIMT retorted, “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.”

There was a lot Bernie could have said, but didn’t. Such as: what did you tell them that was worth over $200,000 a pop? Whatever it was, it must have made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Did it occur to you that this might look bad sometime in the near future? Is there any way that this might not be construed as bribery? And how is some formerly middle-class out-of-work average voter supposed to feel about you getting paid more for 45 minutes of flapping your gums than he or she has earned in the past five years?

Bernie could have found a gentlemanly way to say that directly, but perhaps he experienced a sickening precognitive vision of his jibes being used against the party establishment’s candidate in the fall general election. Of course, if it looked like Hillary was going to get elected, the remaining sound-of-mind in this country might be falling over each other to apply for citizenship in Uruguay.

Beyond all the political histrionics, is there not some broad recognition that whoever occupies the White House in 2017 will preside over a financial debacle like unto nothing in scale that the world has ever seen before? With all the reverberating side effects imaginable among the traumatized nations? Something wicked has been creeping through the stock markets since the year began. The velocity and damage are amping up. Credit default swap spreads are yawning like fault lines in a ‘quake. Bankers are watching their share prices collapse. It’s a wonder that panic has not already broken out.

This is not just about Wall Street and its counterparts in London, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Frankfurt. This is the financial world (and underworld) catching up with the Economy of Actual Stuff. In the USA, that economy has bled out like a hapless bystander with a sucking chest wound for the last eight years. Despite all the patriotic sanctimony on view at the Superbowl, the nation appears to be visibly cracking up, along with the fantasy of a permanent global economy.

None of the desperate work-arounds since 2008 have worked around the predicaments of our time. Politics will not abide a rational journey out of our fatal hyper-complexity to something simpler and more consistent with the realities at hand. Expect more and greater craziness as the year lurches on.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Anti-Empire Report #137

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Illustration for Trends Journal by Anthony Freda

Illustration for Trends Journal by Anthony Freda

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report February 23, 2015

The Greek Tragedy: Some things not to forget, which the new Greek leaders have not.

American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

Andreas Papandreou was arrested at the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou later related the following:

I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret asked a critical question: What if the coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup.

Another charming chapter in US-Greek relations occurred in 2001, when Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Goliath Lowlife, secretly helped Greece keep billions of dollars of debt off their balance sheet through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also helped create a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis that’s drowning the entire continent. Goldman Sachs, however, using its insider knowledge of its Greek client, protected itself from this debt bubble by betting against Greek bonds, expecting that they would eventually fail.

Will the United States, Germany, the rest of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – collectively constituting the International Mafia – allow the new Greek leaders of the Syriza party to dictate the conditions of Greece’s rescue and salvation? The answer at the moment is a decided “No”. The fact that Syriza leaders, for some time, have made no secret of their affinity for Russia is reason enough to seal their fate. They should have known how the Cold War works.

I believe Syriza is sincere, and I’m rooting for them, but they may have overestimated their own strength, while forgetting how the Mafia came to occupy its position; it didn’t derive from a lot of compromise with left-wing upstarts. Greece may have no choice, eventually, but to default on its debts and leave the Eurozone. The hunger and unemployment of the Greek people may leave them no alternative.

The Twilight Zone of the US State Department

“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop … the Twilight Zone.” (American Television series, 1959-1965)

State Department Daily Press Briefing, February 13, 2015. Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, questioned by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.

Lee: President Maduro [of Venezuela] last night went on the air and said that they had arrested multiple people who were allegedly behind a coup that was backed by the United States. What is your response?

Psaki: These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous. As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We have seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan Government to deal with the grave situation it faces.

Lee: Sorry. The US has – whoa, whoa, whoa – the US has a longstanding practice of not promoting – What did you say? How longstanding is that? I would – in particular in South and Latin America, that is not a longstanding practice.

Psaki: Well, my point here, Matt, without getting into history –

Lee: Not in this case.

Psaki: – is that we do not support, we have no involvement with, and these are ludicrous accusations.

Lee: In this specific case.

Psaki: Correct.

Lee: But if you go back not that long ago, during your lifetime, even – (laughter)

Psaki: The last 21 years. (Laughter.)

Lee: Well done. Touché. But I mean, does “longstanding” mean 10 years in this case? I mean, what is –

Psaki: Matt, my intention was to speak to the specific reports.

Lee: I understand, but you said it’s a longstanding US practice, and I’m not so sure – it depends on what your definition of “longstanding” is.

Psaki: We will – okay.

Lee: Recently in Kyiv, whatever we say about Ukraine, whatever, the change of government at the beginning of last year was unconstitutional, and you supported it. The constitution was –

Psaki: That is also ludicrous, I would say.

Lee: – not observed.

Psaki: That is not accurate, nor is it with the history of the facts that happened at the time.

Lee: The history of the facts. How was it constitutional?

Psaki: Well, I don’t think I need to go through the history here, but since you gave me the opportunity –- as you know, the former leader of Ukraine left of his own accord.

………………..

Leaving the Twilight Zone … The former Ukrainian leader ran for his life from those who had staged the coup, including a mob of vicious US-supported neo-Nazis.

If you know how to contact Ms. Psaki, tell her to have a look at my list of more than 50 governments the United States has attempted to overthrow since the end of the Second World War. None of the attempts were democratic, constitutional, peaceful, or legal; well, a few were non-violent.

The ideology of the American media is that it believes that it doesn’t have any ideology

So NBC’s evening news anchor, Brian Williams, has been caught telling untruths about various events in recent years. What could be worse for a reporter? How about not knowing what’s going on in the world? In your own country? At your own employer? As a case in point I give you Williams’ rival, Scott Pelley, evening news anchor at CBS.

In August 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told American newscaster Dan Rather on CBS: “We do not possess any nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.”

In December, Aziz stated to Ted Koppel on ABC: “The fact is that we don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry.”

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein himself told CBS’s Rather in February 2003: “These missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations [as to range] in Iraq. They are no longer there.”

Moreover, Gen. Hussein Kamel, former head of Iraq’s secret weapons program, and a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, told the UN in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its banned missiles and chemical and biological weapons soon after the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

There are yet other examples of Iraqi officials telling the world, before the 2003 American invasion, that the WMD were non-existent.

Enter Scott Pelley. In January 2008, as a CBS reporter, Pelley interviewed FBI agent George Piro, who had interviewed Saddam Hussein before he was executed:

PELLEY: And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?

PIRO: He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the ’90s, and those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.

PELLEY: He had ordered them destroyed?

PIRO: Yes.

PELLEY: So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk? Why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?

For a journalist there might actually be something as bad as not knowing what’s going on in his area of news coverage, even on his own station. After Brian Williams’ fall from grace, his former boss at NBC, Bob Wright, defended Williams by pointing to his favorable coverage of the military, saying: “He has been the strongest supporter of the military of any of the news players. He never comes back with negative stories, he wouldn’t question if we’re spending too much.”

I think it’s safe to say that members of the American mainstream media are not embarrassed by such a “compliment”.

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter made the following observation:

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Cuba made simple

“The trade embargo can be fully lifted only through legislation – unless Cuba forms a democracy, in which case the president can lift it.”

Aha! So that’s the problem, according to a Washington Post columnist – Cuba is not a democracy! That would explain why the United States does not maintain an embargo against Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt and other distinguished pillars of freedom. The mainstream media routinely refer to Cuba as a dictatorship. Why is it not uncommon even for people on the left to do the same? I think that many of the latter do so in the belief that to say otherwise runs the risk of not being taken seriously, largely a vestige of the Cold War when Communists all over the world were ridiculed for blindly following Moscow’s party line. But what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is, if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. (They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries). Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have the Koch Brothers to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba not a democracy because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement two years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

The Ministry of Propaganda has a new Commissar

Last month Andrew Lack became chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US government-supported international news media such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Asia. In a New York Times interview, Mr. Lack was moved to allow the following to escape his mouth: “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.”

So … this former president of NBC News conflates Russia Today (RT) with the two most despicable groups of “human beings” on the planet. Do mainstream media executives sometimes wonder why so many of their audience has drifted to alternative media, like, for example, RT?

Those of you who have not yet discovered RT, I suggest you go to RT.com to see whether it’s available in your city. And there are no commercials.

It should be noted that the Times interviewer, Ron Nixon, expressed no surprise at Lack’s remark.

 

Notes

  1. William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, chapters 3 and 35
  2. Greek Debt Crisis: How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt”, Spiegel Online(Germany), February 8, 2010. Google “Goldman Sachs” Greece for other references.
  3. U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, February 13, 2015
  4. Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List
  5. CBS Evening News, August 20, 2002
  6. ABC Nightline, December 4, 2002
  7. “60 Minutes II”, February 26, 2003
  8. Washington Post, March 1, 2003
  9. “60 Minutes”, January 27, 2008
  10. Democracy Now!, February 12, 2015, Wright statement made February 10
  11. Al Kamen, Washington Post, February 18, 2015
  12. Huffington Post, May 3, 2012
  13. New York Times, January 21, 2015

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

Greece & the Eurozone Crisis

Off the keyboard of Brian Davey

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Published on FEASTA on February 17, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

Note: this is an update to my shortly-to-be-published book Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis.

The Syriza government has been elected to power in Greece with an electoral mandate to end the austerity policies imposed on Greece by the European Union, the IMF and the European Central Bank.

The first point to make about this is the obvious one that a government that has power to issue a national currency of its own can always cover a deficit – an excess of spending over tax revenues. This is because, in the end, it can print money to make up the difference. (Or, if you like the government can issue bonds and the central bank can create money to buy them). Countries entering the Eurozone lost this power and with the replacement of the Greek Drachma with the Euro so did Greek governments. The Maastricht Treaty is explicit on this – Eurozone governments cannot be funded by money creation by their own central banks. Money creation is a prerogative of the private banks in Europe, and of the European central bank . If states get into financial difficulties they can get loans, but on conditions. The conditions are taking steps to balance tax revenues and government expenditure.

With the benefit of hindsight it seems almost inevitable that Greece would fall foul of Eurozone financial rules because it had been running a government deficit since 1973 and very high deficits since the early 1980s. Much of government expenditure was used to pay for a very large military budget. After the USA, Greece spent a higher % of its GDP on the military than any other country in NATO. This is partly because of enmity with Turkey but it might also have something to do with keeping the military types happy given that Greece had emerged from a military dictatorship – so the soldiers were given lots of high tech toys to keep them sweet. A lot of these toys were bought from German arms companies who did not complain.

At the same time economic development in Greece was limited mainly to tourism and shipping. Against larger northern European nations, particularly Germany, there was little chance of competing in most forms of industrial production. Instead Greek governments used money to provide public sector jobs, generous pensions and social benefits in a form of “development” that, with hindsight, was never going to be long run sustainable. At the same time many of Greek people, like many the populations in other countries absorbed the idea that the good life was all about self-display, leisure and consumption – an idea that they might have got partly from the stream of tourists from northern Europe to whom they catered.

One commentator has described how the development model was “underpinned by a historically influenced mentality in which property counted for more than work and people admired people who possessed wealth for which they had not had to work”.[1]

In other words the inflated state was associated with a system of patronage – not unlike the systems of well connectedness between business and state that characterise most other “developed countries” – the USA, UK, Germany.

However, all clubs of power not only have insiders but they are formed over and against everyone else – and in Greece the young people excluded by this corrupt club of power organised in resistance against it. It is this that explains the rise of Syriza as a new political force. What we are witnessing with the new government in Greece is a political transformation that is also a generational change.

What has brought this about has been the radicalisation of the population as a result of a humanitarian crisis in which the old “development model” collapsed.

When they entered the Eurozone Greek governments could not continue as before. By joining the Eurozone at the rate of exchange that they did the Greek people got a lot of Euros for their converted drachma and thus plenty of purchasing power to buy lots of imported consumption goods from abroad at very favourable prices. Interest rates were also low.

Times were good – but not for long. The short Euro honeymoon prepared the collapse. The excess of imports over exports can be thought of as an “export of their purchasing power” to northern Europe and a corresponding worsening of the competition situation of the Greek economy. This made the government deficit even worse too – while Greek purchasing power was helping to boost the German economy, it was not flowing back into the Greek economy, and not flowing into domestic tax payments.

The solution which governments used was to disguise what was going on was fiddling the statistics. They fell into a deadly embrace with international financial sharks like Goldman Sachs which, with other banksters, received generous fees for disguising the true extent of the borrowing. Loans were disguised as swaps.

The global financial crisis of 2007/2008 brought the real situation out into the open with the inevitable crisis and recession. With falling tax revenues and rising government expenditure the state financial crisis got worse. The extent of the fiscal fraud was revealed. Nevertheless it was still possible in 2010 for the Greek government to refinance their deficit by again borrowing mainly from European and international banks – albeit at much increased rates of interest. Paying these very high rates of interest then made the government deficit even worse. As so often happens in economics a self reinforcing vicious spiral was occurring.

The subsequent bail out loans made available to Greece by the European Union were mainly used to pay off these bank loans – with only a part going to cover an underlying deficit (ie the part that did not include servicing and repaying bank debt). It was thus not  “Lazy greeks” who were being bailed out  but the banks of Germany, France and Holland. However the ordinary people of Greece were now on the hook to pay back European taxpayers whose governments had made available taxpayer money so that European banks did not make a loss.

The austerity policies imposed in Greece have, in turn, produced a humanitarian crisis and a collapse in its national income. Unsurprisingly, a country whose national income has fallen by 25% is even less able to pay its taxes and its debts and a new political force has been elected to reject a policy direction that is both futile and creating massive distress.

One of the themes of my book is that of bias – economic textbooks claim that economists describe the world as it is rather than describing the world as it should be. There is a claim that economists are aware of the “fact” – “Value” distinction and that they stick to the facts rather than express their values.

Unfortunately, “bias” is not so easily banished as that. When you try to explain the world it involves a choice of where to look for explanations, as well as a choice of the directions and issues you do not to look at. In a political-economic crisis there are conflicts and thus at least two points of view. There are at least two ways of explaining things. Typically the two explanatory narratives have little in common and are about different things. What then happens is that people are pressured to take sides and exposed to arguments where protagonists reduce the complexity of the situation dramatically – this is particularly the case when the public relations industry and the popular press seek to simplify. Then it becomes “Lazy Greeks who will not pay their debts” versus “Greedy bullying Germans”.

If it is almost impossible to avoid “bias” one can at least be explicit about where one is coming from. What interests me, since economics is supposed to be about wellbeing, is the measurement of wellbeing through public health data. When we use public health data to look at the Greek situation what is immediately clear is that there is a “humanitarian crisis”. Instead of measuring wellbeing with a nebulous idea of “happiness” we can use instead use actual mental health data – with statistics for suicides and depression telling us what is going on in .

In this regard firstly, the prevalence of major depressive disorders in Greece has more than doubled from 2008 to 2011, with people facing serious economic problems being most at risk [2]

Secondly increasing numbers of people are killing themselves. A study published in the British Medical Journal tells us that:.

“In 30 years, the highest months of suicide in Greece occurred in 2012. The passage of new austerity measures in June 2011 marked the beginning of significant, abrupt and sustained increases in total suicides (+35.7%, p<0.001) and male suicides (+18.5%, p<0.01). Sensitivity analyses that figured in undercounting of suicides also found a significant, abrupt and sustained increase in June 2011 (+20.5%, p<0.001). Suicides by men in Greece also underwent a significant, abrupt and sustained increase in October 2008 when the Greek recession began (+13.1%, p<0.01), and an abrupt but temporary increase in April 2012 following a public suicide committed in response to austerity conditions (+29.7%, p<0.05). Suicides by women in Greece also underwent an abrupt and sustained increase in May 2011 following austerity-related events (+35.8%, p<0.05). One prosperity-related event, the January 2002 launch of the Euro in Greece, marked an abrupt but temporary decrease in male suicides (−27.1%, p<0.05).”[3]

So let’s be clear on that. Suicides went down when the euro was introduced and went up – not only when the recession started (suicide rates went up all over the world during the recession) but also particularly when the austerity policies were introduced.

In a recession all sorts of people suffer – including some of the rich. Austerity policy induced poverty is, however, particularly directed at those who are most vulnerable. It is those who are most vulnerable that are reliant on others and on the state, so their needs are downgraded. The attack on vulnerable people is to find the resources to save those who are “too big to fail” – particularly the banks.

Austerity policies are also an attack on ordinary people because austerity is not just about economic resources, it is also an exercise in social psychology. Austerity also has elements of scapegoating. In an economic crisis a society is undergoing an immense amount of anger, fear, tension and distress. This is dangerous for the elite that has taken the society into this crisis and the emotions from the crisis must be re-directed away from them. A lot of those negative feelings are thus directed downwards, on more vulnerable people in a process of emotional displacement – in a word in scapegoating.

We have seen similar things in the UK and many countries – groups like disabled people, migrants become targets for the hatred and distress generated as people seek to manage the practicalities of their lives and relationships under more difficult conditions. Powerful emotions are generated and people wonder “who is to blame?”. Governments keen to divert discontent away from themselves work with the media to fix on groups who cannot fight back.

In my book I also described the way in which particular groups of people are pre-disposed to see “the solution” to economic problems as being in pushing around more vulnerable people – “loyal bullies” I call them. Loyal bullies get a chance to persecute people through austerity policies which appear to be exercising greater control, for example over benefit “scroungers and cheats”. An explicit ideology emerges that sees the problems of society in a lack of discipline and cheating and finds the apparent solutions in bullying, bureaucratic harassment and forms of violence. It creates growing fascist tendencies among people, petty autocrats in state bureaucracies and in the police and armed forces. In Greece this has led to the development of groups like “Golden Dawn”.

It is thus no wonder in circumstances like this that mental health problems are on the rise.

Another indicator of the crisis in Greece has been a rising trend in infant mortality which increased by 43% between 2008 and 2012.

One of the main themes of my book is that those who bear the worst consequences of economic crises are rarely the people responsible for bringing that the crisis about. The most powerful people are protected by their wel- connectedness, their favoured client status and access to friends in high places – whether in political office at home (in Greece) and abroad (in international political and financial centres) . They can get themselves bailed out or protected. That’s why responses to economic crises are all about shifting burdens downwards onto more vulnerable people.

You could not get more dramatic evidence in the Greek case than rising infant mortality – obviously infants and children have no role in economic policy formation yet in increasing numbers they pay for austerity with their lives. “Sustainability”, of course, is supposed to be about the rights of future generations – but the evidence shows that the policies increase the chance of children dying before you reach adulthood. Of course most children do survive but when they try to enter the labour market in Greece young people have found that there are no jobs for them. In 2014 youth unemployment was averaging over 50%.

When the IMF and financial technocrats visit a country you can expect a number of things – income will fall, unemployment will rise and the local healthcare system will be attacked.[4]

As a matter of fact, as a proponent of degrowth I actually do see a need for economic contraction – but austerity has a number of features that make it very different from degrowth. Austerity is about attacking the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable – as well as asset stripping publically owned assets by forcing privatisation on governments in crisis. In Degrowth it would be those who can afford to bear the cuts who would do so while attempts are made to help the most vulnerable cope with the economic contraction. However, this is difficult to achieve in today’s globalised world since, if governments take steps against the rich and well-connected, this elite group have a large number of ways to put their money out of reach.

At the same time as the crisis in Greece was back into the news it was being revealed how the HSBC bank had been helping rich people all over the world avoid tax by setting up swiss bank accounts to put their money in them. Places like the city of London and its associated network of tax havens are all about helping rich people put their money out of reach. That means that when the Greek ruling elite felt threatened they took their money abroad. The technical term is “capital flight”.

Just how huge the sums of money involved are can be seen graphically. A look at this graph reveals that in just a few months in 2010 capital flows out of Greece were roughly of 60% of the 2014 GDP while another 30% was taken out the country in 2011. In the last 5 months of 2014 money was again leaving the country at the rate of 12% of GDP.

If you want to balance a state budget then who exactly is it that has the pockets deep enough to pay taxes with? It is the people responsible for this kind of capital flight. It is that money, shifted out of the country, that needs to be targeted. Successive Greek governments had no intention of doing that – it would have involved taking action against their cronies. In any case they did not have an administrative machinery to do it with. This is what they lost when Greece joined the euro since there can be no exchange control between countries to prevent money moving from one part of the Eurozone to another. Successive governments squeezed ordinary people and the Greek welfare state instead – and were put under pressure to put publically owned assets for sale to global financiers at a knock down price.

The results of this are entirely predictable. When people are impoverished – in the case of Greece losing 25% of GDP – they are less able to pay their debts and their taxes, not more. The debt situation has spiralled out of control and a humanitarian crisis was created. However the next act in this drama has been the election of a government of outsiders who are not part of the crony circle – with a mandate to oppose austerity in order to end the humanitarian crisis.

What happens next?

One thing we can be sure about – neo-liberal politicians in the financial centres over the world want to see Syriza fail. If Syriza are successful they will inspire people throughout southern Europe and Ireland – not to mention any other government under the thumb of the IMF. They will also want to see Syriza fail because Syriza have only one option for reform – to clean up the old corrupt elite and tax where the resources really are. There are policies that could be deployed – like land valuation taxation which would be hard to evade. But policies have to be set up. Administrative machinery has to be created and corruption rooted out. This takes time – and the new Greek government does not have time. Money is being withdrawn from the banks and from the country. To prevent that requires capital controls that the government does not have access to under European union rules. The government will run out of money shortly – and again it cannot create money under European Union rules. The kind of action that the Greek government has to take will be opposed by financial and political elites the whole world over – a new generation of outsiders, who are not compromised and co-opted, is a genuine nightmare and they must be shown to fail.

That is why I find it difficult to believe that European politicians will give any leeway or support to Greece. If Greece were now to exit the Eurozone the process would be chaotic so if I were a politician in Greece I would be playing for time and doing what Argentinian local authorities did – paying the bills with low denomination IOUs which can effectively function as a currency alongside the Euro (Patacones).Then, if the eurozone authorities rule against the Greek government’s actions it would be the European authorities that have slung Greece out and, further, an alternative quasi currency would already be in circulation.

Greek exit from the eurozone would not be painless for the Greeks because it would probably mean a devaluation of the new currency of perhaps 40%. Imported goods would be 40% more expensive. However, the experience of other countries like Argentina is that a devaluation of this sort can lead to an economic recovery. This would give the Greek government time to start working on cleaning up the corruption of the old elite. The new generation could settle in to do their job properly.

In the rest of Europe this would set a number of processes running. It is being said that Grexit would not now lead to a financial crisis as the larger European banks and financiers are no longer so exposed and Greece is, after all, one of the smaller countries in Europe.

Perhaps – however they underestimated the impact of letting Lehman Brothers go bankrupt badly. Even if the financial repercussions are small – the political repercussions in other countries in a similar situation to Greece would be huge.

Endnotes

1.

http://www.taz.de/Neue-Regierung-in-Griechenland/!154307/

2. http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7988/rr/694119
3. Branas et al “The impact of economic austerity and prosperity events on suicide in Greece: a 30-year interrupted time-series analysis” 2nd February 2015
http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/1/e005619.full?sid=2cfe20f5-31b3-4ea5-9ca5-d85645fa4ecf
4. http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7988/rr/694119

Featured image: money in sock. Source: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1433053. Author: Uros Kotnik

Fed Gate, PIMPCO & Oil Prices

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on October 1, 2014

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Financial WWIII: Secessions, Sanctions & Anti-Dollars

Snippet:

…The fact those revelations have produced basically ZERO in the way of prosecutions and perp walks has led to an even greater sense of invulnerability, so what do they care if they are recorded? “ You suckas are fucked and we are Masters of the Universe! Muuuhhhaahaaa!”

Why is nobody getting prosecuted here? Because EVERYBODY, and I mean EVERYBODY in the top echelon levels of Goobermint and Banking is FUCKING GUILTY! Everybody in the Department of Justice supposed to control criminal behavior is a fucking criminal. Everybody in Congress is a flunky criminal marionette or ventriloquist dummy with a Bankster behind him telling him how to vote and what to say. The fucking POTUS Obama-sama is a Rubber Stamp who signs whatever executive order his Caddy hands to him while out on the Back Nine to make certain your Pension Fund belongs to Goldman, not you.

Besides the fact that everybody in charge of running this Racket is a Criminal, the other main reason that nobody gets prosecuted is that the whole monetary system is a Criminal Racket, and has been so since the founding of the FSoA, and going well back before that too. If anybody really started to enforce laws against the main Racketeers in charge of the TBTF Banks and major Energy and Defense Corporations, the entire monetary system would collapse in a heartbeat. The only thing that keeps it running is Theft and Military Enforcers running the Protection Racket through the CIA…

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SMOKING GUN: Da Fed PWNED by Da Squid

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on September 28, 2014

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Smoking Gun Evidence That The New York Fed Serves The Interests Of Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs And The New York Fed - Public DomainFor years, many people have suspected that the New York Fed is more or less controlled by the “too big to fail” banks.  Well, now we have smoking gun evidence that this is indeed the case.  A very brave lawyer named Carmen Segarra made a series of audio recordings while she was working for the New York Fed.  The 46 hours of meetings and conversations that she recorded are being called “the Ray Rice video for the financial sector” because of the explosive content that they contain.  What these recordings reveal are regulators that are deeply afraid to do anything that may harm or embarrass Goldman Sachs.  And it is quite understandable why Segarra’s colleagues at the New York Fed would feel this way.  As a recent Bloomberg article explained, it has become “common practice” for regulators to leave “their government jobs for much higher paying jobs at the very banks they were once meant to regulate.”  If you think that there is going to be a cushy, high paying banking job for you at the end of the rainbow, you are unlikely to do anything that will mess that up.

To say that the culture at the New York Fed is “deferential” to big banks such as Goldman Sachs would be a massive understatement.

When Carmen Segarra was first embedded at Goldman Sachs, she was absolutely horrified by what she was seeing and hearing.  But her superiors were so obsessed with covering up for Goldman that they actually pressured her to alter the notes that she took during meetings

The job right from the start seems to have been different from what she had imagined: In meetings, Fed employees would defer to the Goldman people; if one of the Goldman people said something revealing or even alarming, the other Fed employees in the meeting would either ignore or downplay it. For instance, in one meeting a Goldman employee expressed the view that “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.” After that meeting, Segarra turned to a fellow Fed regulator and said how surprised she was by that statement — to which the regulator replied, “You didn’t hear that.”

This sort of thing occurred often enough — Fed regulators denying what had been said in meetings, Fed managers asking her to alter minutes of meetings after the fact — that Segarra decided she needed to record what actually had been said.

Needless to say, someone like Segarra that did not “go along with the program” was not going to last long at the New York Fed.

After only seven months, she was fired

In 2012, Goldman was rebuked by a Delaware judge for its behaviour during a corporate acquisition. Goldman had advised one energy company, El Paso Corp., as it sold itself to another energy company, Kinder Morgan, in which Goldman actually owned a $4-billion stake. Segarrra asked questions and was told by a Goldman executive that the bank did not have a conflict of interest policy. The Fed found some divisions of the bank did have a policy, though not a comprehensive one. The Fed pressured Segarra not to mention the inadequate conflict of interest policy at Goldman in her reports and, she alleges, fired her after she refused to recant.

If Segarra had not made the recordings that she did, we would have probably never heard much from her ever again.

After all, who is going to believe her over Goldman Sachs and the New York Fed?  A minority would, of course, but the general public would have probably dismissed her accusations as the bitter ramblings of an ex-employee.

But she did make those recordings, and they are causing chaos on Wall Street right now.

The following is how Michael Lewis summarized the importance of this audio…

But once you have listened to it — as when you were faced with the newly unignorable truth of what actually happened to that NFL running back’s fiancee in that elevator — consider the following:

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

The New York Fed says that it “categorically rejects” all of the allegations made by Carmen Segarra.

Of course they do.

But what is there to deny?  The evidence is right there in the audio recordings.

The New York Fed has been caught red-handed serving the interests of Goldman Sachs, and no number of strongly-worded denials is going to change that.

Sadly, this is not likely to change any time soon.  Employees of the New York Fed are going to continue to want to get hired by the big banks, and the big banks are going to continue to hire them.  So the incestuous relationship between the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs is probably not going to change in any meaningful way despite this bad publicity.

What this means is that Goldman Sachs is going to continue to do pretty much whatever it wants to do, and nobody is going to stop them.

But someone should be doing something.

As I wrote about the other day, Goldman Sachs has less than a trillion dollars in total assets, but it has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.

When the derivatives crisis strikes, some of these “too big to fail” banks are going to go down very hard.

Goldman might be one of them.

And when Wall Street starts collapsing, it is going to plunge the entire U.S. economy into a complete and utter nightmare.

Much of this could have been avoided if we had good rules in place and we had regulators that were honestly trying to enforce those good rules.

But instead, the wolves are guarding the hen house and the big banks are going absolutely wild.

Ultimately, this is all going to end very, very badly.

Wall Street has Always Been Corrupt…

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 14, 2014

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Upton Sinclair – I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

“The U.S. financial markets had always been either corrupt or about to be corrupted.” Michael Lewis, Flash Boys

I finished reading Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys take-down of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, government regulators and high frequency traders last week when I had spare time created by a weeklong denial of service attack on my website. It appears to me technology is being utilized more frequently as a mechanism for malevolence rather than a mechanism for good. The smartest guys in the room are figuring out ways to steal you blind in the financial markets, pilfer your personal information, spy on your electronic communications, and censor your right to free speech by taking away your ability to communicate freely on the internet. After reading Lewis’ maddening tome and experiencing the frustration of an attack that reached 50 million hits per day on my website, I’m reminded of two quotes from the brilliant dystopian visionary Aldous Huxley.

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” ― Aldous Huxley – Ends and Means

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” Aldous Huxley

Technology has been pushed on the masses like a drug by the mega-corporation and mega-media dealers. Just walk down any city street and observe the technologically entranced zombies shuffling along the sidewalks staring blankly at a tiny screen, tapping away on an itsy bitsy keypad as if whatever they are conveying is of vital importance to the future of mankind. # Give me a break. God forbid if we had to go out in public without our iGadget attached to an appendage. We might actually have to use our brain to think. We might be able to look someone in the eye and smile. We might be able to say hello to a stranger. We might have to act like a human being.

Being connected electronically 24 hours per day is not progress. The technology being peddled to the masses by mega-corporations is designed to keep people amused, apathetic, distracted and uninterested in thinking critically. Our society has devolved into a technologically narcissistic, ego driven, submissive, trivial culture, asphyxiating in a sea of irrelevance and driven by greed and need to fulfill our every desire, rather than a technologically proficient, selfless, humble, critical thinking, civil minded society of self-reliant human beings who take responsibility for their own lives and refuse to saddle future generations with the financial consequences of living beyond their means. Our willful ignorance, misuse of technology, and inability to control our impulses and desires will be the ruin of our perverted civilization.

If the masses were capable of critical thinking and questioned the existing paradigm, they would conclude a small cadre of evil men has colluded to hijack the financial, political, and social systems in order to syphon off the nation’s wealth, while controlling the serfs through propaganda and luring them into debt servitude. Those who haven’t been brainwashed by media propaganda or amused to death by technology, are kept in check by thousands of laws, statutes, and regulations, enforced by millions of government bureaucrats and police state thugs. Technology is used by the state as a means of control, surveillance, censorship, and bilking the populace of their wealth. And if you don’t like it, the IRS, DHS, FBI, CIA, BLM, HHS, or some other three letter government agency will harass, arrest, fine, or kill you for not “cooperating”. And while the government is keeping you under their thumb, Wall Street shysters are stealing you blind.

The Truth Shall Make You Mad

“As soon as you realize that you are not able to execute your orders because someone else is able to identify what you are trying to do and race ahead of you to the other exchanges, it’s over. It really just pissed me off that people set out this way to make money from everyone else’s retirement account. I knew who was being screwed, people like my mom and pop, and I became hell-bent on figuring out who was doing the screwing.” – John Schwall – Flash Boys

As I continued reading Flash Boys I got progressively madder as more truth was revealed about the inner workings of Wall Street, the wasting of human intelligence on technological schemes to defraud the public, and the utter level of corruptness in the government agencies supposed to protect the public from the vultures in the financial industry feasting on the carcasses of dupes who still believe the “stocks for the long run” drivel regurgitated incessantly by the bimbos and slime balls on CNBC. The concepts of right and wrong, moral and immoral, honesty and dishonesty, and truth and lies are all purposefully blurred in shades of grey by those in power, in a blatant attempt to maintain and expand their vast wealth, immense power and complete governing control.

Michael Lewis focuses on our warped, rigged financial system, but his insights apply across the board to our entire society. Our economic, financial, political, regulatory, and judicial systems are all rigged. This serves the interests of the Deep State, Invisible Government, Oligarchs, Owners, or whatever other term you choose to describe the obscenely wealthy minority controlling this country. The existing establishment will never willingly change the system because it serves their myopic gluttonous interests.

“The deep problem with the system was a kind of moral inertia. So long as it served the narrow self-interests of everyone inside it, no one on the inside would ever seek to change it, no matter how corrupt or sinister it became.” Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

Flash Boys is the fourth Michael Lewis book I’ve read. I had previously read Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, and Boomerang. He is a masterful storyteller. He has the ability to humanize complicated financial concepts and cut through the purposeful complexity built into the financial system to reveal the corruption, criminality and moral degradation of Wall Street bankers and Washington DC politicians. He slices through all the spin, misinformation, and mistruths flogged by Wall Street and their paid-off media mouthpieces to reveal everyone on Wall Street to be in on the action when it comes to fleecing their customers (muppets). The stench emanating from the bowels of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and high frequency trading bucket shops hangs like toxic smog over our bloated fetid crony capitalist corpse of a country. This cast of despicable felonious characters, scalps investors day after day, with the insiders pretending all is well and the man on the street is being protected.

“The reason is that everyone is a bad actor. There’s an ecosystem that has risen up around a broken pipe on Wall Street. You have high-frequency traders who are scalping the market. They pay exchanges for the tools they need to scalp investors; the exchanges pay banks to essentially mishandle the stock orders so high-frequency traders can maximize the take. It’s a system designed to extract taxes from investors.” – Michael Lewis –Wired

The average person believes the stock market is run on free market principles, with willing buyers and sellers paying and receiving the most efficient price with regards to their transactions. The American people have put their trust in gargantuan bureaucratic government agencies, funded with their tax dollars, to protect their interests and fight for their rights in the financial marketplace. They innocently believe a private bank – The Federal Reserve – owned and controlled by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street Mega-Banks, is actually enforcing regulations and looking out for the best interest of the small investor. They evidently haven’t been paying attention for the last fourteen years, as the Federal Reserve has purposefully created bubble after bubble with ridiculously low interest rates, money printing on an epic scale, encouraging complete deregulation of banks, inciting speculation, and ignoring criminal behavior by their Wall Street owners.

After reading Lewis’ exposes about these Wall Street scumbags, you realize Scorsese’s seemingly over the top portrayal of these people in Wolves of Wall Street is accurate. Nothing has changed since Lewis worked at Salomon Brothers in the 1980’s. The people inhabiting that culture are unscrupulous, greedy, obtuse, ignorant, and intent upon preying on the weaknesses of their “clients”, who they hold in contempt. They are the wolves and you are sheep. The comforting picture of a stock broker representing your interests on a small commission basis has been replaced by stock exchanges colluding with Wall Street banks, hedge funds and high frequency traders to fleece mom and pop out of hundreds of billions on an annual basis using their super-fast computers located within the stock exchanges. The people who know the truth have no interest in drawing the new picture because their massive paychecks depend upon not drawing the picture.

You can tell how accurate a portrayal is by the reaction of those being portrayed. Flash Boys and the subsequent interview of Lewis by 60 Minutes resulted in a broad based assault by Wall Street bankers, HFT dirt bags, corrupt stock exchange CEOs, SEC lackeys, Federal Reserve Chairwomen, bought off politicians, faux financial journalists, sellouts like Buffett, and of course the mouthpieces of Wall Street on CNBC. The oligarchs benefitting immensely from the HFT scams, Dark Pool schemes, and Stock Exchange pay to play swindles, attempted to ambush the good guys (Brad Katsuyama and Michael Lewis) on CNBC, the captured media pawn of the Wall Street ruling elite.

CNBC stacked the deck against the good guys with the President of the BATS exchange, William O’Brien, given the task of shouting the loudest in an attempt to discredit the factual assertions made in the book. The BATS exchange was founded by high frequency traders and designed to foster the predatory schemes of high frequency trading firms who paid the exchange for the privilege of swindling investors. He went berserk on-air, accusing Brad Katsuyama of lying and denying that his firm purposefully allowed high frequency traders to front run slower orders from regular investors. I guess he thought rage, fury, screaming and false accusations would convince the hoi polloi of his innocence. He was wrong. The traders on the NYSE and in trading firms across Wall Street stopped trading to watch the contest on their screens. They would cheer every time Brad Katsuyama calmly responded with truth based facts.

Michael Lewis described the encounter shortly thereafter in an interview:

“The substantial shocker from this encounter is that Katsuyama tried to get O’Brien to admit that the BATS Exchange uses one very slow data feed to give investors the prices in the market, while selling, for vast sums of money, a faster feed to high-frequency traders, the effect being that the high-frequency trader knows the prices in the exchange before your order. So he has the privilege of trading against you at an old price if he wants to. And O’Brien says no that’s not true. He lied, on national television, about a central fact about his business.” Michael Lewis –Wired

Under threat of prosecution, the BATS exchange had to admit its esteemed President blatantly lied on national TV. That seems par for the course when it comes to Wall Street executives. Deceitfulness, duplicity, and evasiveness are crucial requirements for the psychopaths occupying the corner offices in this warped world of high finance. The Wall Street Journal reluctantly revealed the truth:

BATS Global Markets Inc., under pressure from the New York Attorney General’s office, corrected statements made by a senior executive during a televised interview this week about how its exchanges work.

BATS President William O’Brien, during a CNBC interview Tuesday, said BATS’s Direct Edge exchanges use high-speed data feeds to price stock trades. Thursday, the exchange operator said two of its exchanges, EDGA and EGX, use a slower feed, known as the Securities Information Processor, to price trades.

 The distinction matters because high-speed traders can use powerful computers and superfast links between markets to outpace traders and trading venues that rely on slower market data, such as the SIP.

Would the BATS Exchange have revealed the truth if they had not been pressured by the New York Attorney General to do so? Not bloody likely. Wall Street never admits guilt for any of its crimes, wrongdoings, misconduct, deceit or deceptions. They pay $1 billion in fines to their government co-conspirators as a public relations ploy, without admitting guilt and after reaping $10 billion of criminally generated profits. Not a bad ROI. The principles of right versus wrong, moral versus immoral, honesty versus dishonesty, and clarity versus opacity are willfully evaded by the titans of Wall Street and create no dilemmas for these greed driven psychopaths. Money and power are their drugs and the Federal Reserve is their dealer.

Michael Lewis books strike a chord with the public because he chooses a good guy hero his audience can empathize with. He played the sympathetic character in Liar’sPoker. Michael Burry, the brilliant Asperger’s Syndrome suffering investment genius, plays the role in The Big Short. And Brad Katsuyama, the mild mannered good hearted hobbit-like Canadian, takes on the evil forces of Mordor in Flash Boys. These characters all have something in common. They don’t fit in. They question the existing paradigm. They refuse to give in to the depraved culture permeating Wall Street. They exhibit an inner moral strength that enables them to resist the temptation of ill-gotten riches. And they don’t surrender their principles for a buck. This passage gives you a glimpse into the soul of Brad Katsuyama:

“In America, even the homeless were profligate. Back in Toronto, after a big bank dinner, Brad would gather the leftovers into covered tin trays and carry them out to a homeless guy he saw every day on his way to work. The guy was always appreciative. When the bank moved him to New York, he saw more homeless people in a day than he saw back home in a year. When no one was watching, he’d pack up the king’s banquet of untouched leftovers after the NY lunches and walk it down to the people on the streets. “They just looked at me like, ‘What the fuck is this guy doing?’” he said. “I stopped doing it because it didn’t feel like anyone gave a shit.” –  Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

The apologists for the corrupt establishment attempted to trash Lewis and Katsuyama by contending the market has always been rigged and manipulated, therefore, the HFT embezzlement is just business as usual. Warren Buffett, king of oligarchs and apologist for the Wall Street billionaire club, assures the peasants the financial markets are fairer than ever. If Uncle Warren says it’s so to his girl Becky Quick on CNBC, how can anyone doubt him? It’s as if the supposedly mathematical genius billionaire forgot everything he learned in business school.

There is $21 trillion worth of U.S. stocks traded every year. Based upon Katsuyama’s analysis of how much high frequency traders, Wall Street dark pools, and the stock exchanges selling access were skimming on virtually every transaction, he estimated at least $160 million per day was being stolen from stock investors. That comes to a cool $40 billion per year, at a minimum. High frequency trading accounted for 25% of all stock trades in 2005. By 2008 high frequency traders accounted for 65% of all trades. They now account for in excess of 80% of all trading. The Ivy League educated Wall Street elite insist this extreme level of computer generated trading provides liquidity and efficiency for the markets. In reality, the actual trading results of the HFT firms, hedge funds and Wall Street TBTF banks prove the game is rigged. JP Morgan experienced ZERO trading loss days in 2013. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and most of the mega-banks have had virtually perfect daily trading results since 2010. If they are all winning, who is losing? Guess. Lewis provides further evidence of “investing” perfection:

“In early 2013, one of the largest high-frequency traders, Virtu Financial, publicly boasted that in five and a half years of trading it had experienced just one day when it hadn’t made money, and that the loss was caused by “human error.” In 2008, Dave Cummings, the CEO of a high-frequency trading firm called Tradebot, told university students that his firm had gone four years without a single day of trading losses. This sort of performance is possible only if you have a huge informational advantage.” – Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

Buffett, the financial “journalists” on CNBC, and all of the defenders of the Wall Street criminal cabal must have been asleep during their Stat class in college. The statistical probability of going four years or even four weeks without a losing trading day is as close to zero as you can get, unless the game is rigged and you are cheating. These results were not accomplished due to the brilliance of Wall Street big hanging dicks and their oversized brains. They were accomplished by front running stock market orders, bribing stock exchanges for first access, gaming the system with more powerful computers, ripping off clients in shadowy dark pools, and keeping the SEC at bay with promises of jobs and riches if they look the other way. This was all done under the veil of hyper-complexity designed to obscure, confuse, and cover-up the truth from unsuspecting investors.

And it is all done “legally” under the auspices of Regulation NMS, established by the SEC in 2007, to foster both competition among individual markets and competition among individual orders, in order to promote efficient and fair price formation across securities markets. As with almost every government regulation, law, or diktat, the new method of “protecting” the sheeple created fresh ways to fleece the sheeple by those who wrote the regulation. See Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act. I don’t need a law or regulation to tell me the difference between right and wrong.

When obnoxiously wealthy pricks with the ability to bribe stock exchanges to place their trading computers on the floor of the exchange and financially induce the Wall Street banks to funnel trades through their dark pools in order to know what is happening a nanosecond before everyone else, and use this information to front run unknowing investors to generate risk free profits, it’s wrong. It really is black and white. I don’t care that it is supposedly “legal”.  By complying with Regulation NMS the smart order routers of institutional investor firms like Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab simply funneled naïve investors into various snares laid for them by the unscrupulous high frequency traders. The bad guys always win and the good guys always lose on Wall Street. And no one does anything because they are all on the take. Lewis puts it in terms the average person can understand.

“It was riskless, larcenous, and legal – made so by Reg NMS. The way Brad had described it, it was as if only one gambler were permitted to know the scores of last week’s NFL games, with no one else aware of his knowledge. He places bets in the casino on every game and waits for other gamblers to take the other side of those bets. There’s no guarantee that anyone will do so; but if they do, he’s certain to win.” – Michael Lewis – Flash Boys

If you aren’t mad yet, you will be after I go into the details of the regulatory capture, obscure deep pools within the bowels of the Too Big To Trust Banks, misuse of technology to defraud the public, and purposeful complexity built into the financial system to confuse and mislead the investing populace. I’ll tackle that in Part Two of this article.

Not Looking Good…

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on Economic Collapse on March 10, 2014

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We Are In FAR Worse Shape Than We Were Just Prior To The Last Great Financial Crisis

None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.  In fact, they have all gotten worse.  The total amount of debt in the world has grown by more than 40 percent since 2007, the too big to fail banks have gotten 37 percent larger, and the colossal derivatives bubble has spiraled so far out of control that the only thing left to do is to watch the spectacular crash landing that is inevitably coming.  Unfortunately, most people do not know the information that I am about to share with you in this article.  Most people just assume that the politicians and the central banks have fixed the issues that caused the last great financial crisis.  But the truth is that we are in far worse shape than we were back then.  When this financial bubble finally bursts, the devastation that we will witness is likely to be absolutely catastrophic.

Too Much Debt

One of the biggest financial problems that the world is facing is that there is simply way too much debt.  Never before in world history has there ever been a debt binge anything like this.

You would have thought that we would have learned our lesson from 2008 and would have started to reduce debt levels.

Instead, we pushed the accelerator to the floor.

It is hard to believe that this could possibly be true, but according to the Bank for International Settlements the total amount of debt in the world has increased by more than 40 percent since 2007…

The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’s gross domestic product.

That is a recipe for utter disaster, and yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.

And of course the U.S. government is the largest offender.

Back in September 2008, the U.S. national debt was sitting at a total of 10.02 trillion dollars.

As I write this, it is now sitting at a total of 17.49 trillion dollars.

Is there anyone out there that can possibly conceive of a way that this ends other than badly?

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever

During the last great financial crisis we were also told that one of our biggest problems was the fact that we had banks that were “too big to fail”.

Well, guess what?

Those banks are now much larger than they were back then.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last financial crisis.

Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have gone out of business during that time frame, and only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the problem of “too big to fail” is now much worse than it was back in 2008.

The following are some more statistics about our “too big to fail” problem that come from a previous article

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

The Derivatives Bubble

Most people simply do not understand that over the past couple of decades Wall Street has been transformed into the largest and wildest casino on the entire planet.

Nobody knows for sure how large the global derivatives bubble is at this point, because derivatives trading is lightly regulated compared to other types of trading.  But everyone agrees that it is absolutely massive.  Estimates range from $600 trillion to $1.5 quadrillion.

And what we do know is that four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is in excess of $40 trillion.

The numbers posted below may look similar to numbers that I have included in articles in the past, but for this article I have updated them with the very latest numbers from the U.S. government.  Since the last time that I wrote about this, these numbers have gotten even worse…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,989,875,000,000 (nearly 2 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,810,058,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,344,751,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $62,963,116,000,000 (more than 62 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,438,859,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,386,713,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $111,117,000,000 (just a shade over 111 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $47,467,154,000,000 (more than 47 trillion dollars)

During the coming derivatives crisis, several of those banks could fail simultaneously.

If that happened, it would be an understatement to say that we would be facing an “economic collapse”.

Credit would totally freeze up, nobody would be able to get loans, and economic activity would grind to a standstill.

It is absolutely inexcusable how reckless these big banks have been.

Just look at those numbers for Goldman Sachs again.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 111 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 47 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 427 times greater than their total assets.

I don’t know why more people aren’t writing about this.

This is utter insanity.

During the next great financial crisis, it is very likely that the rest of the planet is going to lose faith in the current global financial system that is based on the U.S. dollar and on U.S. debt.

When that day arrives, and the U.S. dollar loses reserve currency status, the shift in our standard of living is going to be dramatic.  Just consider what Marin Katusa of Casey Research had to say the other day

It will be shocking for the average American… if the petro dollar dies and the U.S. loses its reserve currency status in the world there will be no middle class.

The middle class and the low class… wow… what a game changer. Your cost of living will quadruple.

The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying now will not last forever.  A day of reckoning is fast approaching, and most Americans will not be able to handle the very difficult adjustments that they will be forced to make.  Here is some more from Marin Katusa…

Imagine this… take a country like Croatia… the average worker with a university degree makes about 1200 Euros a month. He spends a third of that, after tax, on keeping his house warm and filling up his gas tank to get to work and get back from work.

In North America, we don’t make $1200 a month, and we don’t spend a third of our paycheck on keeping our house warm and driving to work… so, the cost of living… food will triple… heat, electricity, everything subsidized by the government will triple overnight… and it will only get worse even if you can get the services.

All of this could have been prevented if we had done things the right way.

Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned from the last financial crisis, and our politicians and the central banks have just continued to do the same things that they have always done.

So now we all get to pay the price.

TBTF Banks Take Over

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published on The Economic Collapse on December 3, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

Too Big To Fail Banks Are Taking Over As Number Of U.S. Banks Falls To All-Time Record Low

Lower East Manhattan - Photo by Eric KilbyThe too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before.  So if having banks that were too big to fail was a “problem” back in 2008, what is it today?  As you will read about below, the total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever.  In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States.  Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year.  That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985.  Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  If even one of those banks collapses, it would be absolutely crippling to the U.S. economy.  If several of them were to collapse at the same time, it could potentially plunge us into an economic depression unlike anything that this nation has ever seen before.

Incredibly, there were actually more banks in existence back during the days of the Great Depression than there is today.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has been keeping track of the number of banks since 1934 and this year is the very first time that the number has fallen below 7,000…

The number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

And the number of active bank branches all across America is falling too.  In fact, according to the FDIC the total number of bank branches in the United States fell by 3.2 percent between the end of 2009 and June 30th of this year.

Unfortunately, the closing of bank branches appears to be accelerating.  The number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 390 during the third quarter of 2013 alone, and it is being projected that the number of bank branches in the U.S. could fall by as much as 40 percent over the next decade.

Can you guess where most of the bank branches are being closed?

If you guessed “poor neighborhoods” you would be correct.

According to Bloomberg, an astounding 93 percent of all bank branch closings since late 2008 have been in neighborhoods where incomes are below the national median household income…

Banks have shut 1,826 branches since late 2008, and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to census and federal banking data compiled by Bloomberg.

It turns out that opening up checking accounts and running ATM machines for poor people just isn’t that profitable.  The executives at these big banks are very open about the fact that they “love affluent customers“, and there is never a shortage of bank branches in wealthy neighborhoods.  But in many poor neighborhoods it is a very different story

About 10 million U.S. households lack bank accounts, according to a study released in September by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. An additional 24 million are “underbanked,” using check-cashing services and other storefront businesses for financial transactions. The Bronx in New York City is the nation’s second most underbanked large county—behind Hidalgo County in Texas—with 48 percent of households either not having an account or relying on alternative financial providers, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an advocacy organization for lower-​income Americans.

And if you are waiting for a whole bunch of new banks to start up to serve these poor neighborhoods, you can just forget about it.  Because of a whole host of new rules and regulations that have been put on the backs of small banks over the past several years, it has become nearly impossible to start up a new bank in the United States.  In fact, only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the number of banks is going to continue to decline.  1,400 smaller banks have quietly disappeared from the U.S. banking industry over the past five years alone.  We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry in America that is absolutely unprecedented.

Just consider the following statistics.  These numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

As you can see, without those banks we do not have a financial system.

Our entire economy is based on debt, and if those banks were to disappear the flow of credit would dry up almost completely.  Without those banks, we would rapidly enter an economic depression unlike anything that the United States has seen before.

It is kind of like a patient that has such an advanced case of cancer that if you try to kill the cancer you will inevitably also kill the patient.  That is essentially what our relationship with these big banks is like at this point.

Unfortunately, since the last financial crisis the too big to fail banks have become even more reckless.  Right now, four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 TRILLION dollars.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2012 was just 15.7 trillion dollars and the U.S. national debt is just 17 trillion dollars.

So when you are talking about four banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives you are talking about an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.

Posted below are the figures for the four banks that I am talking about.  I have written about this in the past, but in this article I have included the very latest updated numbers from the U.S. government.  I think that you will agree that these numbers are absolutely staggering…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,947,794,000,000 (nearly 1.95 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,289,673,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,319,359,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $60,398,289,000,000 (more than 60 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,429,737,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,670,269,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,064,000,000 (just a shade over 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $43,135,021,000,000 (more than 43 trillion dollars)

Please don’t just gloss over those huge numbers.

Let them sink in for a moment.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 113 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 43 TRILLON dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

Most Americans do not understand that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  The big banks are being incredibly reckless with our money, and if they fail it will bring down the entire economy.

The biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts that Wall Street banks are gambling on is made up of interest rate derivatives.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global financial system has a total of 441 TRILLION dollars worth of exposure to interest rate derivatives.

When that Ponzi scheme finally comes crumbling down, there won’t be enough money on the entire planet to fix it.

We had our warning back in 2008.

The too big to fail banks were in the headlines every single day and our politicians promised to fix the problem.

But instead of fixing it, the too big to fail banks are now 37 percent larger and our economy is more dependent on them than ever before.

And in their endless greed for even larger paychecks, they have become insanely reckless with all of our money.

Mark my words – there is going to be a derivatives crisis.

When it happens, we are going to see some of these too big to fail banks actually fail.

At that point, there will be absolutely no hope for the U.S. economy.

We willingly allowed the too big to fail banks to become the core of our economic system, and now we are all going to pay the price.

Crash 2: Draghi Implicated

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on June 24, 2013

dragrakept

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

CRASH 2: DRAGHI IMPLICATED AS ITALY FACES CYPRUS TEMPLATE

Snake hit by rake: Draghi rumours of malpractice in 1990s and 2012 resurface…looking more solid

A report submitted earlier this year to the Corte dei Conti, Italy’s state auditors, suggests not only that Italy faces a potentially massive derivatives hit, but also that Mario Draghi may be personally implicated in those and other frauds. In particular, several appear to have been central to Italy gaining entry to the eurozone in 1999….based on clearly falsified data.

Allegations being made against Signor Draghi insist that he ‘cooked’ Italy’s debt picture when seeming to reduce Italy’s budget deficit from 7.7 % in 1995 to 2.7% by the crucial entry-qualification year, 1998. It was, by a country kilometre, the steepest debt reduction among any of the (then) eleven eurozone applicants. Draghi went on to join Goldman Sachs in 2002, and by then accusations of book-cooking were already starting to emerge. In 2005, the Bank of Italy was forced to issue a denial, but several eminent commentators found it unconvincing. In 2006, news agency Bloomberg  applied to Draghi’s mentor Jean-Claude ‘Tricky’ Trichet for the release of further information, which Trichet refused to give…again, to the consternation of a number of mainstream financial journalists.

Author Simon Johnson, for example, not only found the answers given by Draghi “unpersuasive”, he also pointed out how unlikely it was that, as a Goldman employee, the Italian had “known nothing” about the fraudulent marketing of debt cover-up assistance to the Greek Government. Pascal Canfin, Member of the Italian Parliament and former chairman of the ECON committee, grilled Draghi on how he could have known about these transactions and allowed them to go through. He was not satisfied with the answers. The New York Times reported, after Draghi’s nomination for the ECB was approved, that Supermario had marketed similar transactions to other European governments. So it’s pretty clear there have been clouds above Il Draghi’s head for some time.

Meanwhile, the present Italian Government faces  billions of euros in derivatives contract losses that it restructured at the height of the eurozone crisis, according to the Corte dei Conti report. Those having had sight of it say the document ‘sheds more light on the financial tactics that enabled the debt-laden country to enter the euro in 1999′ (linking straight back to Draghi’s time at the Italian Bank) while in turn – according to the FT – it ‘details Italy’s debt transactions and exposure in the first half of 2012, including the restructuring of eight derivatives contracts with foreign banks with a total notional value of €31.7bn’. There was a suggestion from one US source last night that Draghi is also implicated in these.

Meanwhile, new information received at The Slog suggests the Knights Template may be at it again.

Another source emailed The Slog yesterday to point out that a US banking major (unidentified as yet) has told all its staff, on Fed Treasury orders, ‘to inform the US government about all deposits emanating from Italy, from any entity, company, individual or institution, with full and complete comprehensive details of any account opening or transfer or balance in excess of $100,000′.

There is only one reason for such an order: to trace any and all bailin escapees. Yesterday, The Slog posted in Smoke Signals that Italy’s second biggest financial institution, Mediobanca, ‘has overtly warned that the country is going to need a further rescue-cum-bailin within six months at the most. “Time is running out fast,” said Mediobanca analyst, Antonio Guglielmi, “The Italian macro situation has not improved over the last quarter, rather the contrary. Some 160 large corporates in Italy are now in special crisis administration.”’

Last Saturday’s Slogpost  on Draghi’s financial power in the EU accused the EC the previous Thursday of ‘having handed absolute power to the unelected [Draghi]….at the expense of the citizen.’ I went on to accuse the ECB boss of being ‘completely unaccountable to any body or institution – elected or otherwise. Under the ECB’s Constitution guaranteed by the European Commission he is totally immune from prosecution. He cannot be removed from his position. He is obviously censoring any and all information that might reveal the true situation in the eurozone. He illegally subordinated an entire class of bondholders over the second Greek bailout. He managed and spearheaded an overt heist to steal the banking expertise and economic wellbeing of Cyprus, and in so doing committed an act of grand larceny against innocent depositors in the Island’s banks.

It looks suspiciously like Italy is heading for a Cyprus, and pretty soon. I can only repeat the bold type warning I gave then:

This is not a queue for the showers, European nations. It is the line heading directly to the extermination of your democratic rights, individual liberties, and personal wealth. There may be 27 of you and only one Draghi; but your divisions just make his job far easier. Step in the way of the Beasts now, or you will have a jackboot stepping on your face forever. 

Stay tuned.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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