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Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge.

Of the 25 companies with the largest corporate profits in the world; banking, energy and technology firms are absolutely raking it in. Despite stagnating incomes, these companies made $567,856,000,000 in 2012 alone… here’s the subsidies, tax breaks, and offshoring that helped them do it

 

Green Giants

Source: AccountingSchoolGuide.com

 

The Black Death Is Back…?! | Zero Hedge

The Black Death Is Back…?! | Zero Hedge.

Not since the Middle Ages has the bubonic plagues taken so many lives in a year. Having wiped out 25 million people in Europe, appearances of the Black Death since have been rare but the Red Cross is reporting a new outbreak has killed more than 20 people on the island of Madagascar. Living standards in the nation have collapsed since 2009 (what else happened in 2009?) and the prevalence of rats has helped spread the disease easily. While China claims to have the bird flu under control (despite some rumors out of Hong Kong), the Red Cross warns there is a risk of a Black Death epidemic.

 

Via BBC,

A village in Madagascar has been hit by a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague, medical experts on the island have confirmed.

 

Test were carried out after at least 20 people in the village, near the north-western town of Mandritsara, were reported to have died last week.

 

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in October that Madagascar was at risk of a plague epidemic.

 

The disease is transmitted to humans via fleas, usually from rats.

 

 

Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.

 

 

The prevalence of rats in Madagascar’s prisons means the plague can spread easily.

 

The Pasteur Institute said there were concerns that the disease could spread to towns and cities where living standards have declined since a coup in 2009 and the ensuing political crisis.

 

Are The Markets Rigged? | Zero Hedge

Are The Markets Rigged? | Zero Hedge.

Despite being found guilty of and fined for manipulations of every other market in the world (from FX to rates to energy), investors small and large continue to play the markets on the basis that they are fair and balanced. Aside from high-profile insider trades; day after day, the oddly high correlations, the obvious spikes, blips, and front-running are ignored… until now. In this brief documentary,CBC asks the critical question “are the world’s stock markets rigged?” Amanda Lang concludes “there’s a sense among the general public that nobody seems to be maintaining the integrity of the system.” as she highlights case after case “as though everything is rigged!” Conspiracy theory evolves once again into conspiracy fact as the system that’s supposed to benefit many, but actually enriches a few.

 

“Historically, the system works because people have confidence in the rules and believe they are treated the same as anybody else.

 

But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the stories of powerful people cheating the system for their own gain. As the bad apples add up, it gets harder and harder to ignore a troubling realization — “everything is rigged.””

 

 

 

As we’ve noted before:

Courtesy of the revelations over the past year, one thing has been settled: the statement “Wall Street Manipulated Everything” is no longer in the conspiracy theorist’s arsenal: it is now part of the factually accepted vernacular. And to summarize just how, who and where this manipulation takes places is the following series of charts from Bloomberg demonstrating Wall Street at its best – breaking the rules and making a killing.

Foreign Exchanges

Regulators are looking into whether currency traders have conspired through instant messages to manipulate foreign exchange rates. The currency rates are used to calculate the value of stock and bond indexes.

 

Energy Trading

Banks have been accused of manipulating energy markets in California and other states.

 

Libor

Since early 2008 banks have been caught up in investigations and litigation over alleged manipulations of Libor.

 

Mortgages

Banks have been accused of improper foreclosure practices, selling bonds backed by shoddy mortgages, and misleading investors about the quality of the loans.

 

Is War With China Inevitable?

Is War With China Inevitable?.

As a general rule, extreme economic decline is almost always followed by extreme international conflict. Sometimes, these disasters can be attributed to the human survival imperative and the desire to accumulate resources during crisis. But most often, war amid fiscal distress is usually a means for the political and financial elite to distract the masses away from their empty wallets and empty stomachs.

War galvanizes societies, usually under false pretenses. I’m not talking about superficial “police actions” or absurd crusades to “spread democracy” to Third World enclaves that don’t want it. No, I’m talking about REAL war: war that threatens the fabric of a culture, war that tumbles violently across people’s doorsteps. The reality of near-total annihilation is what oligarchs use to avoid blame for economic distress while molding nations and populations.

Because of the very predictable correlation between financial catastrophe and military conflagration, it makes quite a bit of sense for Americans today to be concerned. Never before in history has our country been so close to full-spectrum economic collapse, the kind that kills currencies and simultaneously plunges hundreds of millions of people into poverty. It is a collapse that has progressed thanks to the deliberate efforts of international financiers and central banks. It only follows that the mind-boggling scale of the situation would “require” a grand distraction to match.

It is difficult to predict what form this distraction will take and where it will begin, primarily because the elites have so many options. The Mideast is certainly an ever-looming possibility. Iran is a viable catalyst. Syria is not entirely off the table. Saudi Arabia and Israel are now essentially working together, forming a strange alliance that could promise considerable turmoil — even without the aid of the United States. Plenty of Americans still fear the Al Qaeda bogeyman, and a terrorist attack is not hard to fabricate. However, when I look at the shift of economic power and military deployment, the potential danger areas appear to be growing not only in the dry deserts of Syria and Iran, but also in the politically volatile waters of the East China Sea.

China is THE key to any outright implosion of the U.S. monetary system. Other countries, like Saudi Arabia, may play a part; but ultimately it will be China that deals the decisive blow against the dollar’s world reserve status. China’s dollar and Treasury bond holdings could be used as a weapon to trigger a global sell-off of dollar-denominated assets. China has stopped future increases of dollar forex holdings, and has cut the use of the dollar in bilateral trade agreements with multiple countries.  Oil-producing nations are shifting alliances to China because it is now the world’s largest consumer of petroleum. And, China has clearly been preparing for this eventuality for years. So, given these circumstances, how can the U.S. government conceive of confrontation with the East? Challenging one’s creditors to a duel does not usually end well. At the very least, it would be economic suicide. But perhaps that is the point. Perhaps America is meant to make this seemingly idiotic leap.

Here are just some of the signs of a buildup to conflict…

Currency Wars And Shooting Wars

In March 2009, U.S. military and intelligence officials gathered to participate in a simulated war game, a hypothetical economic struggle between the United States and China.

The conclusions of the war game were ominous. The participants determined that there was no way for the United States to win in an economic battle with China. The Chinese had a counterstrategy to every U.S. effort and an ace up their sleeve – namely, their U.S. dollar reserves, which they could use as a monetary neutron bomb, a chain reaction that would result in the abandonment of the dollar by exporters around the world . They also found that China has been quietly accumulating hard assets (including land and gold) across globe, using sovereign wealth funds, government-controlled front companies, and private equity funds to make the purchases. China could use these tangible assets as a hedge to protect against the eventual devaluation of its U.S. dollar and Treasury holdings, meaning the losses on its remaining U.S. financial investments was acceptable should it decide to crush the dollar.

The natural response of those skeptical of the war game and its findings is to claim that the American military would be the ultimate trump card and probable response to a Chinese economic threat. Of course, China’s relationship with Russia suggests a possible alliance against such an action and would definitely negate the use of nuclear weapons (unless the elites plan nuclear Armageddon). That said, it is highly likely that the U.S. government would respond with military action to a Chinese dollar dump, not unlike Germany’s rise to militarization and totalitarianism after the hyperinflationary implosion of the mark. The idea that anyone except the internationalists could “win” such a venture, though, is foolish.

I would suggest that this may actually be the plan of globalists in the United States and their counterparts in Asia and Europe. China’s rise to financial prominence is not due to its economic prowess. In fact, China is ripe with poor fiscal judgment calls and infrastructure projects that have gone nowhere. But what China does have on its side are massive capital inflows from global banks and corporations, mainly based in the United States and the European Union. And, it has help in the spread of its currency (the Yuan) from entities like JPMorgan Chase and Co. The International Monetary Fund is seeking to include China in its global basket currency, the SDR, which would give China even more leverage to use in breaking the dollar’s reserve status. Corporate financiers and central bankers have made it more than possible for China to kill the dollar, which they openly suggest is a “good thing.”

Is it possible that the war game scenarios carried out by the Pentagon and elitist think-tanks like the RAND Corporation were not meant to prevent a war with China, but to ensure one takes place?

The Senkaku Islands

Every terrible war has a trigger point, an event that history books later claim “started it all.” For the Spanish-American War, it was the bombing of the USS Maine. For World War I it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. For U.S. involvement in World War I, it was the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat. For U.S. involvement in World War II, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. For Vietnam, it was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (I recommend readers look into the hidden history behind all of these events). While the initial outbreak of war always appears to be spontaneous, the reality is that most wars are planned far in advance.

As evidence indicates, China has been deliberately positioned to levy an economic blow against the United States. Our government is fully aware what the results of that attack will be, considering they have gamed the scenario multiple times. And, by RAND Corporation’s own admission, China and the United States have been preparing for physical confrontation for some time, centered on the concept of pre-emptive strikes.  Meaning, the response both sides have exclusively trained for in the event of confrontation is to attack the other first!

The seemingly simple and petty dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea actually provides a perfect environment for the pre-emptive powder keg to explode.

China has recently declared an “air defense zone” that extends over the islands, which Japan has already claimed as its own. China, South Korea and the United States have all moved to defy this defense zone. South Korea has even extended its own air defense zone to overlap China’s.

China has responded with warnings that its military aircraft will now monitor the region and demands that other nations provide it with civilian airline flight paths.  China has also stated that it plans to create MORE arbitrary defense zones in the near future.

The U.S. government under Barack Obama has long planned a military shift into the Pacific, which is meant specifically to counter China’s increased presence. It’s almost as if the White House knew a confrontation was coming.

The shift is now accelerating due to the Senkaku situation, as the U.S. transfers submarine-hunting jets to Japan while pledging full support for Japan should war ignite.

And most recently, the Japanese press has suggested that war between the two countries could erupt as early as January.

China, with its limited navy, has focused more of its energy and funding into advanced missile technologies — including “ship killers,” which fly too low and fast to be detected with current radar.  This is the same strategy of cheap compact precision warfare being adopted by countries like Syria and Iran, and it is designed specifically to disrupt tradition American military tactics.

Currently, very little diplomatic headway has been made or attempted in regards to the Senkaku Islands. The culmination of various ingredients so far makes for a sour stew.

All that is required now is that one trigger event — that one ironic “twist of fate” that mainstream historians love so much, the spark that lights the fuse. China could suddenly sell a mass quantity of U.S. Treasuries, perhaps in response to the renewed debt debate next spring. The United States could use pre-emption to take down a Chinese military plane or submarine.  A random missile could destroy a passenger airliner traveling through the defense zone, and both sides could blame each other. The point is nothing good could come from the escalation over Senkaku.

Why Is War Useful?

What could possibly be gained by fomenting a war between the United States and China?  What could possibly be gained by throwing America’s economy, the supposed “goose that lays the golden eggs”, to the fiscal wolves?  As stated earlier, distraction is paramount, and fear is valuable political and social capital.

Global financiers created the circumstances that have led to America’s probable economic demise, but they don’t want to be blamed for it. War provides the perfect cover for monetary collapse, and a war with China might become the cover to end all covers. The resulting fiscal damage and the terror Americans would face could be overwhelming. Activists who question the legitimacy of the U.S. government and its actions, once considered champions of free speech, could easily be labeled “treasonous” during wartime by authorities and the frightened masses. (If the government is willing to use the Internal Revenue Service against us today, just think about who it will send after us during the chaos of a losing war tomorrow.) A lockdown of civil liberties could be instituted behind the fog of this national panic.

Primarily, war tends to influence the masses to agree to more centralization, to relinquish their rights in the name of the “greater good”, and to accept less transparency in government and more power in the hands of fewer people. Most important, though, is war’s usefulness as a philosophical manipulation after the dust has settled.

After nearly every war of the 20th and 21st century, the subsequent propaganda implies one message in particular: National sovereignty, or nationalism, is the cause of all our problems. The establishment then claims that there is only one solution that will solve these problems: globalization. This article by Andrew Hunter, the chairman of the Australian Fabian Society, is exactly the kind of narrative I expect to hear if conflict arises between the United States and China.

National identity and sovereignty are the scapegoats, and the Fabians (globalist propagandists) are quick to point a finger. Their assertion is that nation states should no longer exist, borders should be erased and a one-world economic system and government should be founded. Only then will war and financial strife end. Who will be in charge of this interdependent one world utopia? I’ll give you three guesses…

The Fabians, of course, make no mention of global bankers and their instigation of nearly every war and depression for the past 100 years; and these are invariably the same people that will end up in positions of authority if globalization comes to fruition. What the majority of people do not yet understand is that globalists have no loyalties to any particular country, and they are perfectly willing to sacrifice governments, economies, even entire cultures, in the pursuit of their “ideal society”.  “Order out of chaos” is their motto, after all.  The bottom line is that a war between China and the United States will not be caused by national sovereignty. Rather, it will be caused by elitists looking for a way to END national sovereignty. That’s why such a hypothetical conflict, a conflict that has been gamed by think tanks for years, is likely to be forced into reality.

 

General Electric Knew Its Reactor Design Was Unsafe … So Why Isn’t GE Getting Any Heat for Fukushima? Washington’s Blog

General Electric Knew Its Reactor Design Was Unsafe … So Why Isn’t GE Getting Any Heat for Fukushima? Washington’s Blog.

GE Engineers and American Government Officials Warned of Dangerous Nuclear Design

5 of the 6 nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors.

GE knew decades ago that the design was faulty.

ABC News reported in 2011:

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing — the Mark 1 — was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday’s earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s.

“The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. “The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release.”

***

Still, concerns about the Mark 1 design have resurfaced occasionally in the years since Bridenbaugh came forward. In 1986, for instance, Harold Denton, then the director of NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, spoke critically about the design during an industry conference.

“I don’t have the same warm feeling about GE containment that I do about the larger dry containments,” he said, according to a report at the time that was referenced Tuesday in The Washington Post.

“There is a wide spectrum of ability to cope with severe accidents at GE plants,” Denton said. “And I urge you to think seriously about the ability to cope with such an event if it occurred at your plant.”

***

When asked if [the remedial measures performed on the Fukushima reactors by GE before 2011] was sufficient, he paused. “What I would say is, the Mark 1 is still a littlemore susceptible to an accident that would result in a loss of containment.”

The New York Times reported that other government officials warned about the dangers inherent in GE’s Mark 1 design:

In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.”

This faulty design has made the Fukushima disaster much worse.

Specifically, the several reactors exploded … scattering clumps of radioactive fuel far and wide.

In addition, the Mark 1 included an absolutely insane design element: storing huge quantities of radioactive fuel rods 100 feet up in the air.

The Christian Science Monitor noted:

A particular feature of the 40-year old General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor model – such as the six reactors at the Fukushima site – is that each reactor has a separate spent-fuel pool. These sit near the top of each reactor and adjacent to it ….

Indeed, the fuel pools have caught fires several times, and now constitute an enormous danger.

As we noted last year, the spent fuel pool at Fukushima reactor number 3 is in a heap of rubble (spent fuel pool designated as “SFP”  in the lower left):

Nuclear fuel rod expert Gundersen says the pool at unit 3 is in much worse shape than at 4:

Unit 3 is worse [than No. 4]. Mechanically its rubble, the pool is rubble. It’s got less fuel in it [than unit 4, but] structurally the pool has been dramatically weakened. And, god nobody has even gotten near it yet.

He’s right. It’s too radioactive for Tepco to even get a look at what’s going on in the reactor pools at units 1 through 3, and they have no idea how to do it. Indeed, the technology does not even exist to approach those reactors, as the high radiation levels quickly destroy even robots.

Heck of a job, GE …

Postscript:  Unfortunately, there are 23 virtually-identical GE Mark 1 reactors in the U.S.

This is not to say that Tepco and the Japanese government are not to blame also.  They are.

But GE and the American government are largely responsible as well.

 

Canadian Job Growth In 2013 Worst In A Decade, Outside Recession

Canadian Job Growth In 2013 Worst In A Decade, Outside Recession.

Job creation in Canada this year has been the weakest in a non-recession year in more than a decade, and the low quality of the jobs being created is causing some economists to raise concerns about the country’s economy.

Looking at StatsCan’s latest job numbers, released last week, BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes notes that Canada created fewer than 175,000 net jobs in the year to date (meaning all of 2013 except December).

Compared to November 2012, employment is up a meagre one per cent, with both the goods and services sectors clocking in at that pace,” Reitzes wrote, adding that “this is hardly the stuff of a firm underlying economy.”

Job gains this year have averaged 13,400 a month, the Globe and Mail reports, slightly more than half the rate in 2012 (25,400 jobs per month), and below theestimated 17,000 jobs per month needed to keep up with population growth.

Even the latest numbers for November look negative when digging into the details. While the jobless rate held steady at 6.9 per cent and Canada registered 22,000 new jobs during the month, 20,000 of those were part-time, notes Erin Weir, an economist for the United Steelworkers.

Broken down another way, 19,000 of the employment increase were people reporting themselves as self-employed,” Weir writes. “Canadian employers actually hired fewer than 3,000 [net] additional employees last month.”

In an analysis put out last week, before the latest StatsCan data, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argued Canada’s job market hasn’t actually recovered from the last recession.

Although the total number of jobs returned to pre-recession levels in 2011, the rate of growth hasn’t been keeping up with population growth, the CCPA said.

Canada’s economy created slightly more than one million jobs since the recession ended in 2009 (very few of them this year), but in order to keep up with population growth it would have had to create about 1.3 million of them. The CCPA calculates that another 280,000 jobs would be needed to really recover from the recession.

The think tank also notes that what jobs do exist are more precarious than they used to be. It says the proportion of people working in temporary jobs has increased, though only slightly, since the recession. Canada already had a high rate of temp work when compared to other countries, the CCPA noted.

With 13.7 per cent of Canadians in temp jobs, Canada ranks 17th out of 28 OECD countries when it comes to the proportion of people in precarious jobs, the CCPA said.

BMO’s Reitzes notes that governments have been a drag on employment growth. With the federal government and some provincial governments in the midst of budget-fighting austerity measures, Canada has lost 5.3 per cent of all its government jobs since the start of the year, about 51,600 jobs.

“With the federal government and most provinces still looking to balance the books, don’t expect a comeback anytime soon,” Reitzes writes.

He estimates that job growth in Canada would have amounted to 1.4 per cent this year, instead of one per cent, had governments not cut back on employment.

 

Is Your Job About To Be Outsourced By A Computer (The Probability Is 47%) | Zero Hedge

Is Your Job About To Be Outsourced By A Computer (The Probability Is 47%) | Zero Hedge.

Productivity. Every employer loves it, and every employee is fascinated by it, especially if it comes in cute colors, a retina screen, and weighs under a pound… at least until such time as “productivity” results in the loss of the employee’s job, which in turn makes the employer love it even more as it results in even higher profits, even if it means one more pink slip and a 91 million people outside the labor force.

With a labor force already in turmoil as millions drop out every year never to be heard from again, made obscolete by the latest technological and computerized innovation, and students stuck in college where they pile up record amounts of student loans (at last check well over $1 trillion) hoping form some job, any job, upon graduation, unfortunately the future is not bright at all.

In a recently published paper, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation,” Oxford researchers Frey and Osborne, look at the probability of computerization by occuption. What they find is shocking for nearly half of the US labor force, and especially those in the transportation, production, office support, sales, service and extraction professions.

JPM’s Michael Cembalest summarizes it as follows:

Life after college: be prepared for technology to continue changing the job landscape

There’s plenty of data on unemployment rates and salaries by undergraduate major (the majors with the lowest unemployment rates and highest salaries: computer, chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical engineering; math/physics; and economics. Drama and film majors are a recipe for living at home). A more important long-run issue to think about may be how technology affects your career. Researchers at Oxford just published an analysis assessing what jobs might be computerized in the future. Their conclusion: a staggering 47% of the US workforce, spanning a range of career types. There are vigorous debates about outsourcing, but increasingly, computerization may grow as a factor affecting employment conditions.

 

 

In The Man in the White Suit, Alec Guinness invents a suit that never has to be cleaned or replaced. London’s tailors and dry cleaners angrily chase him down in the street  to destroy his invention. They are relieved when the suit finally starts to unravel, since the fiber’s design is flawed. Productivity improvements are great things, but there might be a point at which too much power shifts to capital over labor. Anyway, when you think about a career, remember that in some professions, eventually a computer might be able to do it too, or reduce the economic value of you doing it (e.g., the impact of the internet on print journalism).

The good news: those iPad apps are cheap, and most unemployed workers – who were put out of a job thanks to one – can afford them. The bad news: anyone lamenting the return of America’s employment golden age, is kindly encouraged to exhale.

 

MAY THE ODDS EVER BE IN YOUR FAVOR – HOPE & DEFIANCE « The Burning Platform

MAY THE ODDS EVER BE IN YOUR FAVOR – HOPE & DEFIANCE « The Burning Platform.

In the 1st installment of this article – May the Odds Ever Be in Your Favor – The Reaping, I addressed how wealth inequality created by men rigging the system and utilizing media propaganda ultimately leads to rebellion. In Part 2, I will show how hope and defiance can ignite the flame of liberty in the minds of men. Edward Snowden has ignited that flame.

A Lot of Hope is Dangerous

 

President Snow: Seneca… why do you think we have a winner?

Seneca Crane: [frowns] What do you mean?

President Snow: I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at once? It would be a lot faster. [Seneca just stares, confused]

President Snow: Hope.

Seneca Crane: Hope?

President Snow: Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.

Seneca Crane: So…?

President Snow: So, contain it.

 

 

President Snow and his chief propagandist, Seneca Crane, have a discussion that could be taking place between president Obama and chairman Bernanke today. Hope is a funny thing. If the ruling class removes all hope, then the masses begin to feel they have nothing to lose and revolution becomes a foregone conclusion. For the elites of Panem, hope is used as a method of control.President Snow understood the danger of allowing the downtrodden multitudes too much hope. The Hunger Games allows one child to survive out of 24. The districts are forced to remember the iron grip of the Capitol every year, while rooting for an unlikely hollow victory of one child surviving.

The parents of children in the districts hope their children aren’t chosen. They hope they’ll scrounge up enough food to survive another day. They hope they don’t get killed in a mine explosion. They hope the peacekeepers don’t break down their doors and imprison them for illegal hunting. They hope they can endure another week. Snow knows that as long as they have only a faint hope to maintain their subsistence level lifestyle, they are unlikely to rebel. Seeing a sixteen year old girl openly defying the Capitol and awakening a spirit of humanity and courage in the subjugated masses is a huge threat to the ruling class.

Katniss Everdeen ignited the flash of hope in the districts when she befriended a young girl from District 11 named Rue. The contestants are supposed to kill each other, but Katniss protects the young girl. When Rue is killed, Katniss decorates her body with flowers as a means of memorializing Rue, which the television audience in the districts views as defying the Capitol. As she walks away from Rue’s memorial and back into the fight, she turns to the cameras and gives a three finger salute. The three fingered salute of District 12, a gesture rarely used, means thanks, admiration, and good-bye to a loved one. Her message to the people watching is they have a common enemy. They don’t have to fight each other because a tyrannical government commands them to do so. Once the beaten down and subjugated masses began to understand the other districts were not the true enemy, the flame of liberty was kindled.         

Katniss had experienced an act of kindness and mercy earlier in the novel when she had reached the end of her rope and had failed to scavenge any food for her helpless mother and sister after her father’s death in a mine explosion. Her thoughts were dark and dire.

“I couldn’t go home. Because at home was my mother with her dead eyes and my little sister, with her hollow cheeks and cracked lips. I couldn’t walk into that room with the smoky fire from the damp branches I had scavenged at the edge of the woods after the coal had run out, my hands empty of anyhope.”

In the world of District 12 bread signifies hope. Food symbolizes hope as freedom from hunger. When Peeta sees Katniss and her anguish, he shows compassion for her. He purposely burns some bread from his parents’ bakery and throws the bread to Katniss, who is huddled outside in the rain. Later on, as Katniss thinks about the meaning of this interaction with Peeta, she says,

“To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope.”

One of the key undercurrents of the Hunger Game trilogy is what happens in a world where all hope seems to be lost. Through small acts of kindness, like providing a few loaves of bread or honoring a departed contestant, hope can be sparked, and a spark can turn into a flame, a “girl on fire.” In this way, Katniss comes to embody the hope of a better future, a liberated and free Panem. When an authoritarian regime can no longer keep the populace sedated with bread and circuses, they turn to oppression and force.

With 47 million people wallowing in poverty and real median household income lower than it was in 1999 a pallor of hopelessness has descended upon our land. Banking and corporate interests have captured the economic, financial and political systems to such an extent the people no longer have any say in how this country is governed. The people are given a choice of flavors in what passes for elections by the corporate interests that choose the candidates. Once a politician attains office and does what they are instructed by the financial interests that fund their campaigns, they become rich and powerful. This is why 90% of incumbents are re-elected despite Congress having a 12% approval rating in polls.

The last 13 years has confirmed the country is run by one party, as the Republican figurehead rolled out new trillion dollar entitlement programs, fought undeclared wars, created an Orwellian organization to spy on Americans, and drove deficits to staggering levels. Now the current Democrat figurehead has rolled out a disastrous new trillion dollar entitlement program, continues to fight undeclared wars, drones innocent people in foreign countries, secretly collects data on every American, and has driven deficits to epic heights.

The Crisis began in 2008 with the Wall Street created worldwide financial implosion, spurred by the greatest control fraud in history. The bankers and politicians have implemented “solutions” that have further enriched the kleptocratic parasite class, while impoverishing savers, seniors, and the working middle class who played by the rules. The temperament of the country has continued to darken and societal trust is imploding, just as Strauss & Howe predicted in 2007.     

“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust.” –  The Fourth Turning

When a tyrannical privileged class has taken their greed and avarice too far, reaped the remaining spoils of a declining empire and the exploited hordes begin to grow restless, the oligarchs will always utilize their mercenaries to retain control and keep the multitudes cowering and fearful. Even though the financial elite have been harvesting the riches of our bountiful land for decades, it only started to become apparent to a few aware critical thinkers in the late 1990’s. It is no coincidence the War on Terror has been used as an excuse to pass the Patriot Act, unleash the NSA to gather every piece of electronic data generated by all American citizens, militarize local law enforcement agencies, conduct military “training exercises” in major cities, roll out drones to monitor the activities of the people, subject citizens to degrading body searches in airports and train stations, install surveillance cameras throughout the land to monitor our every move, use Bernaysian propaganda techniques and create fake terrorist plots to keep the masses trembling and terrified.

The ruling class leeches lost their blood sucking grip on the financial markets in 2000 and again in 2008. As the common people have lost their trust in the financial and political leaders and their propaganda techniques wear thin, truncheons, guns and a vast treasure trove of weapons and surveillance equipment are being prepared for use against the people.

The Party put forth an unknown hope and change teleprompter flim-flam man in 2008 in a last ditch attempt to sooth the masses and allow the fat cats to continue feasting, with the periodic purging in the vomitorium when their gullets were stuffed. The proof of a single ruling party has never been clearer, as a supposedly liberal populist democrat has fallen into line and followed the orders of the Financial Industrial Complex, Military Industrial Complex, and Sickcare Industrial Complex by not prosecuting one criminal banker, letting Wall Street write the 800 page Dodd Frank bill, ramping up our wars in the Middle East while spending more on Defense than Bush, and gladly allowing the insurance and drug industry to write the 1,000 page Obamacare abortion of a law. At the same time he has taken the Orwellian surveillance state to levels that would have been considered criminal and impeachable in 1990. The two heads of the ruling party play their parts to keep the masses distracted, believing voting actually matters, while fighting the wrong enemy.

The parallels between the Hunger Games novels and our current situation are innumerable. But the dehumanization of a society is the most significant analogy between the dystopian culture of Panem and the greed and materialism of our late stage declining empire. It will not be war, plague or famine that sets the stage for our collapse. A moral sickness has engulfed the soul of our civilization, spread by the dark forces of wickedness occupying the throne of power on Wall Street, Washington DC, and in the boardrooms of mega-corporations across the land.

“It neither kills outright nor inflicts apparent physical harm, yet the extent of its destructive toll is already greater than that of any war, plague, famine, or natural calamity on record — and its potential damage to the quality of human life and the fabric of civilized society is beyond calculation. For that reason this sickness of the soul might well be called the ‘Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse’. Its more conventional name, of course, is dehumanization.” – Ashley Montagu

The financial elite have used the power of mass media propaganda and jurisdiction over the public educational system to turn accountable thinking citizens into irresponsible irrational consumers. The ultra-rich men, constituting the invisible government described by Edward Bernanys, have used their control of the currency and monetary system to create a plantation society of enslaved debtors who have been trained like monkeys to consume when they are not facebooking, twittering or twerking. This dehumanization is in full display on Thanksgiving/Black Friday as the corporate fascists stir the masses into a frenzied materialistic orgy of pandemonium for cheap electronics produced by slaves in China, doing jobs formerly performed by Americans. Corporate profits have reached all-time record highs as the Ivy League MBA CEOs have used global wage arbitrage to de-Americanize their work force, convinced the lowly wilfully ignorant American serfs to spend money they no longer have on crap they certainly don’t need, and paid themselves billions in bonuses for successfully destroying the former middle class by the book.

The Party has utilized the cudgel of Federal Reserve created inflation to fleece the math challenged masses for the last 100 years. The modern day financial mad scientists use inflation, consumerism, debt, and media propaganda to keep the rats in their grand experiment running faster and faster around the maze, seeking an ever dwindling hunk of cheese. The rats are trapped in this experiment and have not the time, energy, resolve or enough cheese to escape. The rats will never breakout and their progeny are born into the maze, also with no hope of getting out alive. The mad scientists periodically reorient the maze, adjust the stimuli to elicit new behavior, and increase or decrease the rewards as they deem appropriate. Through their control of the financial, political and media centers, the ruling class not only manipulates society, they convince the rats they are really free and not confined in a maze, with no possibility of escape. The ruling class has succeeded in capturing the system to such an extent that they are syphoning off the income of the nation at a rate only seen prior to the Great Depression.

 

The real median household income of the bottom 90% is lower than it was in 1968, as inflation has destroyed the purchasing power of the proletariat. While wages have stagnated due to mega-corporations off-shoring American jobs for the sake of quarterly profits and stock price performance, the price of middle class essentials like food, energy, shelter, tuition and medical care have skyrocketed. The demented American nobility have disregarded centuries of history with regards to inequality borne of corruption and unfettered greed. When mild deflation reigns, as it did for most of the 19th century, goods and trade are plentiful, prosperity is ample and broadly spread to the working classes. When banker created inflation causes prices to rise, trade plummets, living standards deteriorate, and extreme wealth inequality accelerates. Once poverty reaches a tipping point, unrest and discontent lead to revolution and rebellion.

It is not a coincidence the rebellion in the Hunger Games begins in the two poorest districts. District 12 is inhabited by mostly white people in the Appalachia region of the former United States. District 11 is inhabited by mostly black people in the Southern region of the former United States. The symbolism of black people picking crops and being publicly whipped if they steal any of the food for their own survival is reflective of the plantation economy we have today. Miners getting killed in mine explosions due to unsafe conditions are reflective of the corporate greed that permeates our culture. The masters of this human tragedy attempt to keep the plebs in one district angry and mistrustful of the plebs in the other districts so they don’t focus on the real enemy. It has worked for decades, but as the workers see their lots in life descend to bare subsistence levels they have nothing to lose by resisting and rebelling. The privileged ruling plutocrats have the power to lessen the burden on the slaves, diminishing the chances of revolution, but in their sociopathic gluttonous hunger for ever more riches and supremacy they seal their fate of ultimate destruction, as John Kenneth Galbraith aptly described.

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”

A simple act of human kindness by a young girl is what ignited a rebellion in Panem. The power of hope and courage, once unleashed, can overwhelm the wickedness of evil men. But, those men will not be defeated without an epic struggle requiring much sacrifice, suffering, death and destruction. Katniss did not realize the impact she had until on her victory tour when during her speech an old man gives her the three finger salute, leading the crowd to follow his lead and defy the peacekeepers. She had inspired the oppressed to resist their bondage.

 

In the most disturbing scene of the movie, the old man is grabbed by the police thugs, dragged to the podium and shot in the head, while the other thugs beat and pummel the crowd into submission. Shades of the OWS beatings by the NYPD are clear.

 

This is how an Orwellian surveillance state reacts to the discontent caused by the appalling treatment of their subjects. Every district is kept under the thumb of the ironically named peacekeepers. They enforce the dictatorial mandates of the Capitol at the point of a gun and threats of imprisonment, or public beatings. The technologically advanced Capitol uses surveillance cameras and spy aircraft to monitor the districts and enforce their dictates. Since the passage of the paradoxically named Patriot Act, the American surveillance state has been perfected to a level that would impress Orwell.

With the NSA gathering every piece of electronic data generated by every citizen, surveillance cameras monitoring our every movement in major cities, spy drones patrolling the skies, fascists attempting to disarm the public, and police state thugs roaming the countryside enforcing the dictates of the oligarchy, we’ve descended into authoritarian rule. The Constitution is no longer a valid document. The President is free to send boys to their death in foreign countries without the approval of Congress. He is free to ignore laws and use executive orders to implement his agenda. Any doubt regarding whether we are still free was obliterated by the police state crushing of the OWS protests and more recently the door to door illegal searches conducted by heavily armed American “peacekeeper” thugs in Watertown, Massachusetts searching for a wounded 17 year old kid.

 

The courageous actions of Katniss in the Hunger Games ignited a rebellion and the ultimate demise of President Snow and his evil empire. Edward Snowden’s audaciously brilliant take down of the NSA and Obama’s growing surveillance empire has awakened a slumbering public and hopefully kindled the flame of freedom in enough patriots to instigate the revolution which will drive the next stage of this Fourth Turning.

 

 

“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.” – Strauss & Howe –The Fourth Turning

 

 

Defiance – Catching Fire

“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.” –Katniss Everdeen – Catching Fire

 

“The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.” – Edward Snowden

Now we get to the most important theme of the Hunger Games trilogy and a theme that will drive the regeneracy stage of this Fourth Turning – Defiance. There can be no change unless someone has the courage to make a stand. Generational archetypes will need to play their assigned roles, just as they did in the Hunger Games novels. The Boomers should be seeking a new vision of a better future; Gen-X should be seeking realism and implementable solutions; and the Millennials should be seeking the power to change the course of a terribly misguided country.

It will not take a majority to prevail during this Fourth Turning, just an inspired courageous minority willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Suzanne Collins may not have meant to place her characters into their proper generational roles, but they played their parts as would be expected during a Crisis. Plutarch Heavensbee, a 50 something Prophet Generation visionary, is the leader of the rebellion who exploits the power and courage of Katniss Everdeen, from the Hero Generation, to inspire and lead the rebellion. Haymitch Abernathy, the 40 year old drunk from the Nomad Generation, is the brains behind the plan to spur rebellion and defeat the Capitol. He made it his purpose in life to protect and support the young heroes who were required to do the heavy lifting during the Crisis.

The theme of defiance and its ability to undermine an evil, yet fragile, authoritarian regime is portrayed through the symbol of the mockingjay in the novels.  The mockingjay is a surveillance state blunder, accidently fashioned by the hubristic Capitol. After the first rebellion, the Capitol left the jabberjays, a bird they created to spy on the districts and relay whole conversations to the Capitol, in the wilderness to die off. Instead, the jabberjays mated with mockingbirds and a species called the mockingjay was born. The mockingjay was a signal of weakness in the armor of the Capitol.Mockingjays had the talent of being able to relay any song or tune they hear to any species. Katniss’ father used to love to sing songs in the woods while hunting and loved to hear the mockingjays repeat his tune back to him. Katniss and Rue used the mockingjays to communicate during the Games. Mockingjays were a hardy resilient species that could survive in the harshest of environments.

The mockingjay becomes a symbol of defiance, rebellion and hope among the districts. Before the Games, a friend of Katniss’ from school gave her a gold mockingjay pin as a token from home. The television audience sees the pin on Katniss’ clothes during the Games. After the Games, the symbolism of the mockingjay becomes a rallying point for the subjugated masses in the districts. As the rebellion gathers steam, the rebelling districts use the mockingjay symbol as a primary method of communication. The rebels bake the bird symbol into breads, crackers, and other things that could easily be eaten or hidden quickly. The mockingjay becomes sign of resistance, a sign of uprising, and a sign of hope. The brush fires of rebellion are glimpsed by Katniss during the victory tour and celebration before the 75th anniversary Games. Plutarch Heavensbee, supposedly a high level Capitol apparatchik, attempted to win Katniss’ trust by showing her his watch, which viewed in the right position you could see the symbol of the rebellion – the mockingjay.

The defiance of a young girl versus the façade of an all-powerful state, through her humanity, the mockingjay symbol, and the willingness to eat poison berries as the ultimate act of rebellion against the rulers of the game, is the defining motif of our time.    

“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.” – Katniss Everdeen –Catching Fire

What is not immediately apparent to the vassals of a totalitarian regime is the internal rot, infighting among the lieutenants, and superficial level of support among the citizenry. A government racked by corruption, dependent upon financial gimmickry and massive levels of debt to give the appearance of solvency, only able to preserve domination through brutal police state thug tactics, monitoring its subjects with intrusive surveillance machines, and led by sociopathic paranoid egomaniacal men, is sickly and rotting on the inside. President Snow spitting up blood throughout the novels is symbolic of this disease. Like a gigantic 224 year old oak tree that appears imposing, robust and indestructible, but has been decaying within, a strategically placed lightning strike or sudden gust of wind is capable of toppling the once mighty tree.

 

Sometimes all it takes is for one person of good conscience, with the courage to accept the consequences of revealing the truth, to strike down the mighty oak and ignite brush fires of freedom in the minds of men. Edward Snowden is that person.

“I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly buildingI do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.” – Edward Snowden

In the Hunger Games trilogy Katniss Everdeen created a problem for President Snow when she pulled out the poisonous berries and foiled the game being orchestrated by the cruel sovereigns of Panem. She refused to be a pawn in their game. She had the courageousness of spirit to illustrate to the suppressed citizens in the locked down prison-like districts that she was not owned and enslaved by the state. She was a human being who deserved to be treated with respect, not like an animal or a specimen in their malicious man made game.

“I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.” – Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Edward Snowden has created a problem for President Obama, his surveillance state apparatus, and the banking cabal that pull the strings in this empire of consumerism, by revealing the dirty secrets of a paranoid tyrannical ruling party. We are late in the game and pleading ignorance regarding how technology is being used by evil men for evil purposes is inexcusable. Snowden refused to remain a pawn in the NSA game and decided his fellow citizens needed to be warned about the dangers of an omniscient, secretive, malevolent state whose powers were unchecked and whose motives were geared towards oppression and coercion. He was a brilliant young cog within the government machinery, making good money, with a bright future if he conformed and obeyed, but he chose to be free. A free man can’t be bought, controlled or conquered. Edward Snowden decided someone needed to make a stand and that someone was him.

“Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free.  No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”– Robert Heinlein

The explosive disclosures of government criminality, mass spying, cover-ups, lying to Congress by government apparatchiks, and conclusive evidence of a surveillance state completely out of control confirmed another truth for those not captured by the red/blue party propaganda. Snowden was declared a traitor by Obama, Romney, Schumer, McCain, Pelosi, Boehner, Reid, McConnell, Feinstein, Rove, and of course, the blood thirsty, hate spewing, dark-lord of the neo-cons – Dick Cheney. The immediate and united venomous response from the slimy politician snakes should have removed all doubt there is really one ruling party and the rest of us are nothing but pawns in their game. We live in a corporate fascist warfare/welfare surveillance state run by ultra-wealthy unelected men with evil intentions.

“We’ve slipped away from a true republicNow we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government, big business and authoritarian rule, and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen. When it comes to any significant differences on foreign policy, economic intervention, the Federal Reserve, a strong executive branch, a welfarism mixed with corporatism, both parties are very much alike.  The major arguments in hotly contested presidential races are mostly for public consumption to convince the people they actually have a choice.” – Ron Paul

Snowden’s response to the murdering thug Cheney calling him a traitor makes me proud to call him a hero and a patriot, on par with George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine.

“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give to an American.”  Edward Snowden

Obama and the Party are continuously being made fools of by a 30 year old Millennial, as he periodically releases information damaging to the government’s surveillance efforts on the American people and foreign leaders. Each revelation further erodes the trust people and countries once had in the moral leadership of the United States. Snowden is our mockingjay, a creature the NSA never intended to create. The predator drone happy Obama would like nothing better than to have Snowden eliminated, but he is faced with the same dilemma as President Snow in the fictional world of Panem, captured in this dialogue:

President Snow: I have a problem, Miss Everdeen. A problem that began the moment you pulled out those poisonous berries in the arena. If a girl from District Twelve of all places can defy the Capitol and walk away unharmed, what is to stop them from doing the same? 

Katniss Everdeen: It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down. 

If the mighty American empire can be embarrassed by a sole young patriot, proving to the world they are in decline financially, morally, and militarily, it must be very fragile. Snowden’s revelations did not immediately spark rebellion, but an attitude of defiance is gaining traction, as the mood in the country darkens like the sky before a blizzard whose full fury will strike with a vengeance lasting for several years. Since our entry into this Fourth Turning in 2008 there have been sparks of rebellion (OWS & the original Tea Party movement) but they were immediately subverted, discredited and crushed by the Party and their propaganda media machines. The attitude of defiance can be seen in the rise of Bitcoin, citizens buying physical gold and silver despite the Federal Reserve/Wall Street efforts to discredit it, the efforts of hackers like Anonymous to disrupt the corporate fascist state, the tireless efforts of websites like Zero Hedge, Washington’s Blog, Charles Hugh Smith, and Mike Krieger to uncover the truth, and the relentless pursuit of liberty and freedom by Ron Paul and his army of patriots. It is time for more leaders and heroes to step up and act.

“I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act. I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.” – Edward Snowden

Despite the monetary manipulations of the Federal Reserve arm of the Party, supported by the propaganda efforts of the corporate media arm of the Party, the extreme level of criminally induced wealth inequality will ultimately result in a second far worse financial crash that will topple this teetering edifice of corruption. The violent stage of this Crisis will then erupt.

“But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on a teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how their government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners who owns their mortgages, and shareholders who runs their equities – and vice versa.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

The first American Fourth Turning was a rebellion against a foreign empire. The second American Fourth Turning was an internal rebellion that killed 700,000 young men. The third American Fourth Turning resulted in a foreign conflict that resulted in the deaths of 65 million people. Do these once every 80 year turnings alternate between external and internal conflict? If so, we are on the verge of events that will tear the fabric of this nation apart. The debt, civic decay, and heinousness of those in power will lead to the disintegration of our existing social order and sheer chaos, as forces battle for the soul of the nation. What it is replaced by is unknown at this time. It could be something far worse, or it could be a rekindling of our nation’s founding heritage of liberty, freedom and civic duty.

Linear thinking old timers are likely to scoff at the notion that some trilogy of novels for teenagers could capture the mood of the time in a way that explains how the people of this country will respond to the current worsening Crisis. I’m sure the works of Steinbeck and Tolkien were scoffed at during the last Fourth Turning. History is cyclical and we’ve returned to a time where leaders step forward to lead and brave heroes step forward to fight. The future of the country hangs in the balance.

“The original American patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism as that effort to resist oppressive state power. The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state.” – Ron Paul

Do you reject the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state? Know your enemy.

“Remember who the real enemy is.” – Haymitch Abernathy – Catching Fire

 

ECB Admits Sovereign Bonds Are Not Riskless | Zero Hedge

ECB Admits Sovereign Bonds Are Not Riskless | Zero Hedge.

For the last year or two, European banks have engaged in the ultimate of self-referential M.A.D. trades – buying the sovereign debt of their own nation in inordinate size to maintain the ECB’s illusion of control (even as their economies collapse and stagnate) while referentially obtaining the funding for said purchase from the ECB by repoing the purchase back to the central bank, usually with no haircut to mention. Today though, as The FT reports, a top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.

This is a problem as banks assume zero risk-weights (under BIS III) to these “assets” as they swap them for cash with the ECB and, as Praet notes, if sovereign bonds were treated “according to the risk that they pose to banks’ capital” during the health check, then lenders would be less likely to use central bank liquidity to buy yet more government debt.

Via The FT,

A top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.

 

 

the central bank could combine its new powers as chief banking regulator with its existing role as currency issuer to toughen up the requirements on sovereign bonds, which have been traditionally classed as risk-free.

 

 

Mr Praet said if sovereign bonds were treated “according to the risk that they pose to banks’ capital” during the health check, then lenders would be less likely to use central bank liquidity to buy yet more government debt.

 

The vicious cycle that has seen banks use central bank cash to buy government bonds has been partly blamed for prolonging the eurozone financial crisis.

But do not worry – should this decision to force banks to hold more capital against their massive sovereign bond books backfire (though credit creation is already dismal), the ECB will save the day…

If the health check were to choke off lending to eurozone households and businesses then the ECB would provide another round of cheap loans, Mr Praet said.

 

He said monetary policy would be used “without hesitation” if the ECB’s data on money and credit showed banks were continuing to shrink their loan books. The ECB would ensure any liquidity was used to spur lending to the real economy by attaching tougher requirements to banks’ holdings of sovereign debt.

And ever the optimist,

“Perhaps paradoxically, a rigorous AQR and stress test helps monetary policy [function],” Mr Praet said.

but the kicker is…

Should the procyclical impact of the AQR be significant, then monetary policy would be able to act – without hesitation and being reassured that the side effects of a liquidity injection that we have seen for the 2011-2012 [three-year long term refinancing operations] would be minimised.”

Though it appears to us that the “side effects” of massive liquidity-driven demand for the bonds of the distressed nations smashing their risk to record lows while the economies of those nations languishes – is exactly what they wanted…

So again – it comes back to their reliance on the ECB’s “we’ll collateralize any-old-shit at Par” programs, its unintended consequence of driving the banks and the sovereigns even more symbiotically intertwined, and its inept belief that the stress tests to be undertaken next year will solve all the problems…

And Italy may be screwed…

Wondering why the Italian bond market has been stable and “improving” in recent months, with yields relentlessly dropping as a mysterious bidder keeps waving it all in despite the complete political void in the government and what may be months of uncertainty for the country, and despite both PIMCO and BlackRock recently announcing they are taking a pass on the blue light special offered by BTPs? Simple. As the Bank of Italy reported earlier today, total holdings of Italian bonds by Italian banks hit an all time record of €351.6 billion in February.

 

 

Why are local banks loaded to the gills in the very security that may and will blow up their balance sheets when the ECB loses control of the European sovereign risk scene as it tends to do every year? Because courtesy of ECB generosity, Italian debt continues to be “cash good collateral” with the ECB, and as a result Italian banks can’t wait to pledge and repo it with Mario Draghi in exchange for virtually full cash allottment.

In other words, the more debt the Italian Tesoro issues, the more fungible cash the Italian banks have to spend on such things as padding up their cap ratios and making their balance sheets appear like medieval (any refernce to Feudal Europe is purely accidental) fortresses.

Until – the ECB changes the rules…

 

Meanwhile, Russia Casually Announces It Will Use Nukes If Attacked | Zero Hedge

Meanwhile, Russia Casually Announces It Will Use Nukes If Attacked | Zero Hedge.

With the Ukraine situation increasingly precarious, and now even the US state department getting involved with the occasional unexpected harsh warning…

  • U.S. MAY CONSIDER SANCTIONS ON UKRAINE: STATE DEPT

… into what Putin has made very clear is his brand new sphere of influence (it is unclear just why the US is responding in such a way: did the pro-Europe protesters not use Made in the US tear gas or chemical weapons?), Russia casually threw it out there earlier today that it would use nuclear weapons if it comes under an attack. As vice prime minister and defense industry chief made clear, “One can experiment as long as one wishes by deploying non-nuclear warheads on strategic missile carriers. But one should keep in mind that if there is an attack against us, we will certainly resort to using nuclear weapons in certain situations to defend our territory and state interests.” Just in case it wasn’t quite clear…

Rogozin pointed out that this principle is enshrined in Russia’s military doctrine. Any aggressor or group of aggressors should be aware of that, he said. “We have never diminished the importance of nuclear weapons – the weapon of requital – as the great balancer of chances,” Rogozin said.

More from RT:

Russia’s Fund of Perspective Researches (FPI) will develop a military response to the American Conventional Prompt Global Strike (PGS) strategy, Dmitry Rogozin told the State Duma.

 

So far, the FPI has already looked at over a thousand proposed ideas and plans to work on 60 projects, eight of which are top priority, the politician said. He refused to disclose any details, but said that one of those projects is focused on preparing a response to the PGS, which is the “main strategy” that the Pentagon is nurturing.

 

PGS would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on the planet, with conventional weapons in as little as an hour.

 

As Rogozin explained earlier, the strategy would give America an advantage over a nuclear state, thanks to their better technical capabilities with weaponry, including the speed, RIA Novosti cited.

So if nothing else, at least the primary deterrence strategy of the cold war has just made a roaring comeback. We can only hope that with such skilled heads of the State Department as John Kerry, that the nuclear exchange that was avoided for the duration of the first cold war doesn’t somehow become a GDP-boosting reality.

 

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