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Things That Make You Go Hmmm… Like Being Completely Out Of Touch With Reality | Zero Hedge

Things That Make You Go Hmmm… Like Being Completely Out Of Touch With Reality | Zero Hedge.

On January 29, 1845, the New York Evening Mirror published a poem that would go on to be one of the most celebrated narrative poems ever penned. It depicted a tragic romantic’s desperate descent into madness over the loss of his love; and it made its author, Edgar Allan Poe, one of the most feted poets of his time.

The poem was entitled “The Raven,” and its star was an ominous black bird that visits an unnamed narrator who is lamenting the loss of his true love

So, with the vision firmly planted in your mind’s eye of a man completely out of touch with reality, seeking wisdom from a mysterious talking bird — knowing that there is only one response, no matter the question — Dear Reader, allow me to present to you a chart. It is one I have used before, but its importance is enormous, and it will form the foundation of this week’s discussion (alongside a few others that break it down into its constituent parts).

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (drumroll please) total outstanding credit versus GDP in the United States from 1929 to 2012:

This one chart shows exactly WHY we are where we are, folks.

From the moment Richard Nixon toppled the US dollar from its golden foundation and ushered in the era of pure fiat money (oxymoron though that may be) on August 15, 1971, there has been a ubiquitous and dangerous synonym for “growth”: credit.

The world embarked upon a multi-decade credit-fueled binge and claimed the results as growth.

Fanciful.

Floated ever higher on a cushion of credit that has expanded exponentially, as you can see. (The expansion of true growth would have been largely linear — though one can only speculate as to the trajectory of that GDP line had so much credit NOT been extended.) The world has congratulated itself on its “outperformance,” when the truth is that bills have been run up relentlessly, with only the occasional hiccup along the way (each of which has manifested itself as a violent reaction to the over-extension of cheap money).

Folks, rates WILL have to go up again. They cannot stay at zero forever. We all know that. When they DO, because of all the additional debt that has been ladled atop the existing pile, the whole thing will come tumbling down.

All of it.

There is simply no way out, I am afraid. But that is clearly a problem for another day. Right now, everything is fine, so we can all go on pretending it will continue that way.

Evermore.

So now, if you’ll indulge me in a little poetic license (not to mention there being not one but four mysterious strangers in my offering), I give you, “The Maven” (abridged version):

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of financial lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door 
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — for the world had sought to borrow
From both friend and foe and neighbour — borrow, borrow, borrow more
For the cheap and easy money which the bankers forth did pour
Shall be paid back nevermore.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered words, “Some More?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the words, “Some More”
Merely this and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped four stately Mavens from the Central Banks of yore;
Not the least obeisance made they; not a minute stopped or stayed they;
But, with air of lord or lady, stood inside my chamber door —
Standing by a mug from Dallas just inside my chamber door —
Stood, and stared, and nothing more.

Then these tired-looking men beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance they wore,
“Though thy faces look unshaven, thou,” I said, “art sure enslaven’d,
Ghastly grim and ancient Mavens wandering from the Nightly shore —
To free money ever after lest the markets pitch and yaw.”
Quoth the Mavens, “Evermore.”

While I marvelled this ungainly bearded man explained so plainly,
Though his answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;
For he cannot help a-printing, brand new currency a-minting
Ever yet was blessed with seeing nothing wrong in doing more
Mortgage bonds upon his balance sheet he’ll place, then markets jaw
With the promise “Evermore.”

“You there” said I, “standing muted — what is there to do aboot it?”
In a heavy accent quoth he — that by God he was quite sure
That more money being printed and, new measures being hinted
At would quell all fear of meltdown and the markets all would soar
Would this mean the printing presses would forever roar?
Quoth the Maven, “Evermore.”

Lastly to the fore there strode a small and bookish man, Kuroda,
Who with glint of eye did warn that he was happy to explore
Measures once thought so outrageous as to never mark the pages
In the history of finance — but those times were days of yore
Drastic printing was required, this was tantamount to war
Quoth the Maven, “Evermore.”

And the Mavens, never blinking, only sitting, only thinking
By the Cowboys mug from Dallas just inside my chamber door;
Really do believe their action has created decent traction,
And that freshly printed money can spew forth for evermore;
But the truth about the ending shall be seen when markets, bending
Shall be lifted — nevermore!

The full must-read Grant Williams letter is below:

Ttmygh Dec 09 2013

 

Weekly Update: Say No To Stolen Elections | Judicial Watch

Weekly Update: Say No To Stolen Elections | Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch Defends North Carolina Voter ID Law, Election Integrity

Wouldn’t it be nice if American citizens could depend on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to actually enforce the law? It really doesn’t seem like much to ask of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. And yet, when it comes to a wide range of issues, perhaps most notably election integrity, the DOJ is much worse than a bystander. Under this president, the DOJ has become a partisan tool to undermine the rule of law.

And that’s why Judicial Watch is now in court in North Carolina. We are defending a client who has a very simple mission: to ensure that every vote cast is legitimate. (Unfortunately this mission is at odds with the DOJ’s seeming mandate to ensure that the electoral process remains mired in fraud and chaos.)

JW recently filed a Motion for Intervention with our client Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill to defend North Carolina against a DOJ lawsuit. The DOJ seeks to prevent enforcement of HB 589, which requires, among other election integrity measures, that voters present a photo ID before casting a ballot. (Yes, the DOJ is actively fighting in court to “prevent enforcement” of the law.)

In addition to representing Judicial Watch members in North Carolina, the Intervention seeks to protect the interests of Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, a former Republican candidate for local office in North Carolina who likely lost her race because of voting irregularities that would be addressed by the HB 589.

Here’Here’s a squib from Judicial Watch’s motion, which argues that by failing to enforce Voter ID laws and other election integrity measures “impairs or impedes” fair elections:

In 2012, [Gallegos-Merrill] ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots…. Merrill has made concrete plans to run again for that office in 2014 and has taken steps to make that happen…. Any ruling from this Court reversing the repeal of same-day registration during early voting or enjoining the enforcement of North Carolina’s photo ID law, would “impair or impede” Merrill’s interests including her immediate electoral prospects for 2014.

Let’s review the timeline of how we ended up in court on behalf of both our members and Ms. Gallegos-Merrill.

On July 25, 2013, both houses of the North Carolina Legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act (HB 589), popularly known as the “voter ID law,” overhauling the state’s election laws. The bill’s provisions require photo identification for in-person voting; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; reduce the number of days of early voting; and require provisional ballots to be cast in the proper precinct.

All sensible election integrity measures, wouldn’t you say? Not to Attorney General Holder and his DOJ.

On the day the bill passed, Holder said in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder, which effectively eliminated a major barrier for election integrity measures in the state, that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas, “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.”

This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its new photo ID law. Indeed, former Holder spokesman, Matt Miller, said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”

On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists were granted an audience at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (and former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights) Tom Perez, and President Obama. The meeting attendance list represented a “who’s who” of voter fraud apologists and unofficial Obama administration “policy consultants,” including the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.” And he was right.

When HB 589 was signed into law on August 12, 2013, two private lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court. A complaint by the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) alleged violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). A complaint by the League of Women Voters also alleged violations of the 14th Amendment and the VRA. On September 30, the DOJ filed its complaint, asking the court to require federal pre-clearance before the state could enforce the HB 589 provisions. On November 26, the DOJ moved to consolidate all three cases.

In our Motion for Interventionwe argue that the negative impact of voter fraud extends beyond the candidates themselves to the voters of North Carolina:

The photo ID law at issue seeks, among other things, to prevent voter fraud. Where there is such fraud, North Carolina voters are harmed by having their votes diluted. In considering Indiana’s photo ID law, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted that “[t]he purpose of the Indiana law is to reduce voting fraud, and voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes – dilution being recognized to be an impairment of the right to vote.”… North Carolina’s voters, including Merrill, are threatened with the same kind of injury.

You’ll note we reference Indiana in our motion. As I mentioned to you in October, JW and its client True the Vote are in court to force Indiana to clean up its dirty voter registration rolls. Our efforts there and in North Carolina are part of our continuing Election Integrity Project, which got a huge boost last month when former DOJ Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division Robert Popper joined the team. (Popper is the lead attorney in the North Carolina case, assisted by Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Rights Section of the DOJ and local counsel Gene Johnson.  As one election law observer noted, we brought the big guns to this legal fight.)

Our election integrity team certain has its work cut out. As JW has shown through a comprehensive nationwide investigation, many states appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. We’ve told election officials in no uncertain terms that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law. In addition to North Carolina and Indiana, we’ve already taken legal action in Ohio and Florida.

And rather than getting assistance from the nation’s top law enforcement agency, what do we get instead? Obstruction, interference and outright undermining of the law.

The Obama DOJ is clearly hostile to the idea of one person, one vote, one time. It is shameful that the DOJ is now in court trying to stop North Carolina from fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent ineligible voters from committing voter fraud. Candidates, such as our client Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, have a right to expect to compete in clean elections. And we look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters in North Carolina and throughout the nation.  Our work is essential as the rule of law and election integrity are under unprecedented attack from this highly politicized Justice Department and its liberal allies (such as the ACLU).

New Records Show: Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” Information to Hollywood Filmmaker

The Obama administration has a very simple flow chart for the release of government information. Does the information make the administration look good? If “yes,” then release. If “no” then keep secret and stonewall. This policy – certainly not Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the president’s many promises of transparency – provides the guiding principle for government bureaucrats responding to open records requests.

And this is why we are in federal court so often.

Take, for example, the Obama administration’s “role” in producing the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” This movie, directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, glowingly showed Obama as an in-command president during the bin Laden raid. The film was originally set to hit theaters just prior to the 2012 elections, ostensibly to aid the Obama re-election efforts, but the premiere was delayed after the filmmakers sustained heavy criticism for the apparent political timing of the film’s release.

Of course, the timing of the film aside, there was another key question that dogged the film. Just how did the filmmakers get “top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration”?

This question became the focal point of a JW investigation and was partially answered this week, when we released records from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including a previously unreleased CIA internal report confirming that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed classified information at a June 24, 2011, bin Laden assault awards ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.

The documents were produced in response to a June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit against the CIA.

Significantly, the entire transcript of the Panetta speech provided to Judicial Watch by the CIA is classified “Top Secret.” More than 90 lines are redacted for security reasons, further confirming that significant portions of the speech should not have been made in front of the filmmaker who lacked top security clearance.

At the conclusion his speech, the transcript shows Panetta told the audience at the ceremony, “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”

Now, during the speech, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report released earlier this year, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.” Subsequent to the ceremony, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said, “CIA was very sloppy and the administration was very sloppy in enforcing security procedures when it came to Hollywood. It almost seems as if they were star-struck.” Significantly, for some reason, the final IG report omitted any reference to Panetta’s disclosure of “TOP SECRET” and other sensitive information at an event.

Also, included in the documents provided to Judicial Watch is an October 22, 2012, internal “Review of UBL Awards Ceremony Attendance” written by the CIA Office of Security (OS) concluding that, “The Agency’s security policy and administrative procedures were not followed in allowing Mr. Boal, a member of the media, access to the classified bin Ladin Operation Award Ceremony.” The three-page review also states, “The review conducted by OS leads to the conclusion that the failure to follow stipulations in ARs [redacted] resulted in the disclosure of classified information to a member of the media, without benefit of any documentation to reflect a waiver to the above policies.”

Here are some other highlights from the records:

  • A letter from the Director of Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Department of Defense Inspector General stating: “It is my determination, as the Original Classification Authority, that both of these transcripts [from the ceremony] contain SECRET / [REDACTED] information. The information in each transcript was classified at the time each incident occurred.”
  • Information revealing that there were actually two classification reviews conducted by the Original Classification Authority (OCA) because the original transcript of Panetta’s speech provided by the CIA to the DOD Inspector General was inaccurate and incomplete: “ISPA [Intelligence and Special Program Assessments] discovered proof of inconsistencies and lack of information on the original transcript received by the CIA in comparison to the video recording. As a result of the inaccurate transcript, OGC determined the OCAs determination are not valid and must been resubmitted for another OCA determination to include the verbatim information.”
  • A CIA Review reference suggesting that former CIA Chief of Staff (then DOD Chief of Staff) Jeremy Bash as the individual responsible for directing the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs to allow Boal to attend the ceremony: “… OS [Office of Security] did speak with an OPA [Office of Public Affairs] representative who was involved in the ceremony, who advised that the ODCIA [Office of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] directed Mr. Boal to attend the ceremony.”  This appears to confirm information provided in the DOD IG report: “[T]he CIA PAO contacted the DOD PAO to state that efforts failed and the ‘Chief of Staff’ directed that the Hollywood executive be given access to the event.”

The inclusion of Boal at the CIA ceremony was not the only instance of the Obama administration apparently attempting to influence the production of the “Zero Dark Thirty” movie.

You may recall, in August 2012, Judicial Watch released records it obtained from the CIA and the Department of Defense pursuant to a FOIA lawsuit regarding meetings and communications between government agencies, Boal, and Bigelow, as they prepared to shoot “Zero Dark Thirty.” According to a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, the Obama White House was intent on “trying to have visibility into the UBL [Usama bin Laden] projects and this is likely a high profile one.”

Mission accomplished there.

Back to that flow chart. The Obama administration obviously thought that the bin Laden raid details – secret or not – would make them look good, so they released them. Clearly these new internal CIA documents show that CIA Director Panetta breeched national security in order to curry favor with Hollywood filmmakers who the Obama administration hoped would make a pro-Obama film.

And what is particularly infuriating is that, at the same time the administration was releasing these classified secrets to Hollywood, it was stonewalling a JW request for details regarding bin Laden’s burial at sea, as well as images of the raid. Obviously there is something in those records – which do not carry with them the same sensitivity as the identities of those who conducted the raid – that is embarrassing to the president. So “do not release” remains the official Obama policy. (The courts have thus far acquiesced to the administration with the Supreme Court mulling over our petition to hear the case.)

In our view, this new information we uncovered should provide the impetus for a criminal probe of this dangerous leak. But we’re not holding our breath. Our investigation continues, as well as our pursuit of the bin Laden raid records at the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Americans might wonder why some leakers, such as Edward Snowden, are aggressively pursued for leaks by Obama’s Justice Department while high level political hacks such as Panetta skate by free and clear.

JW Report: ‘U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed “Offensive” to Muslims’

One of the great things about our work at Judicial Watch is that virtually everything we say is backed up by documents and facts.  DC is full of fact-free opinion, but our analysis is backed up by documents from the government and other verifiable sources.  Judicial Watch has produced a number of special reports over the years that add educational context to our investigations and litigation.

This Monday we released a new special report on a dangerous campaign of political correctness that is ongoing within the federal government that threatens our safety and national security. This report is entitled:  “U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed ‘Offensive’ to Muslims: Documentation and Analysis of Islamist Active Measures and Influence Operations Targeting Anti-terrorism Training.”

At 26 pages, this special report includes a detailed chronology; identifies specific Islamic propaganda organizations; and identifies the five top “Islamist influence operators” associated with the Obama administration. More than 12 years of Judicial Watch work on national security issues is featured in the report, highlighting information from government documents exclusively obtained by JW.

In other words, you will not find this information anywhere else.

The report centers on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) purge of anti-terrorism training material and curricula deemed “offensive” to Muslims. The curricula purge – documented through a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2013 – occurred following a February 8, 2012, meeting between FBI Director Robert Mueller and various Islamic organizations.

The purge was part of a “broader Islamist influence operation” designed to “influence the opinions and actions of persons, institutions, governments and the public at-large.” The report also documents incidents of “Islamic influence operations” at the Departments of Justice and State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Obama White House.

Check out some of the material deemed “offensive” and the reasons given by the FBI for purging the information:

  • “Article is highly inflammatory and inaccurately argues the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.” [Editor’s Note: The Special Report reveals that in 2011, Mueller had described the Muslim Brotherhood as a group that supports terrorism in the U.S. and overseas.]
  • “The Qur’an is not the teachings of the Prophet, but the revealed word of God.”
  • “Remove sweeping generality of ‘Those who fit the terrorist profile best (for the present at least) are young male immigrants of Middle Eastern appearance.’”
  • “[A]uthor seems to conflate ‘Islamic Militancy’ with ‘terrorism’ and needs to define the difference and use it in their analysis.”

So now our government is supposed to endorse the idea that the Qur’an is the “revealed word of God?” (This at a time when the U.S. military is banning Bibles and persecuting Christians for their beliefs.)

With respect to the “Chronology of Recent Developments in Influence Operations” the report details the following incidents, among others:

  • October 2011: 57 Muslim groups send a letter to White House demanding “purge” of all counterterrorism training materials and “re-education” of all FBI agents exposed to “Islamophobic” training.
  • October 2011: DOJ Civil Rights Division meeting with Islamic groups to discuss criminalizing criticism of Islam as “discrimination.”
  • November 2011: White House responds to Muslim groups’ “purge” demand letter, agrees to set up inter-agency task force, including extremist Muslim groups, to oversee FBI counterterrorism training development.
  • February 2012: Islamic groups meet with FBI to ensure compliance with demanded “Islamophobia” purge.

The report also shows how this purge campaign is possible: “The Obama administration has been penetrated by Islamist influence operators, seeking to advance an ideological agenda completely at odds with our constitutional system. The penetration is, in many cases, by the Obama administration’s invitation.”  Some of the more public and controversial figures associated with the Obama administration have included:

  • “Rashad Hussain – U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC … has a history of participating in events connected with the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • “Huma Abedin – Long-time personal aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [whose] late-father, mother and brother are all connected to Muslim Brotherhood organizations or operatives.
  • “Daliah Mogahed – An advisor to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Mogahed’s 2009 book Who Speaks for Islam? is viewed by many as an apologia for the growing power and influence of radical Islamists.  Mogahed is an unapologetic defender of unindicted terrorist conspirator organizations such as CAIR and ISNA.
  • “Momamed Elibiary – A Texas-based security consultant and Islamic cleric who was named to President Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2010.  He has close ties to a convicted Hamas fundraiser and other radical Islamist causes ….
  • “Mohamed Magid – … President of the ISNA, an unindicted terrorist conspirator organization. Magid was appointed by President Obama to the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. From that position, Magid was key in influencing and directing the purge of training materials and policies in the FBI and other federal agencies.”

The Report includes a riveting section on Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and militant imam who has been described as the “spiritual leader” and inspiration of the 9/11 hijackers; the Fort Hood murderer, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan; and the 2009 Christmas Day (attempted) airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abudulmutallab of Nigeria, and others. Killed by a U.S. drone strike in September 2011, al-Aulaqi had been the subject of Judicial Watch litigation resulting in the release of more than 1,800 pages of records revealing a highly questionable relationship between the terrorist leader and the U.S. government.

Our report hit a nerve and your Judicial Watch was called a “hate group” by a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is one of the terrorist-front groups we further expose in our new report.

Rest assured we will continue to investigate, analyze and pursue additional lines of inquiry concerning Islamist influence operations targeting the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the Defense Department and the media. This Report is a steppingstone for further inquiries by Congress, government watchdogs, and the media. The American people deserve complete, accurate, factual information concerning the threats of subversion and terror posed to our country. And that’s what we intend to provide.

In the meantime, please get the word out about this report and demand from your elected representatives that our federal national security establishment start dealing with the truth rather than politically-correct fantasies about the Islamic basis for the terrorist threat.

Until next week…

 

Pipeline Decisions Based on Short-Term Payoffs Are Dangerously Irrational | David R. Miller

Pipeline Decisions Based on Short-Term Payoffs Are Dangerously Irrational | David R. Miller.

Last week, Lorraine Mitchelmore, the top Canadian executive for Royal Dutch Shell, broke with industry narrative, stating that “the argument for environmentalism is not an emotional argument. It is just as rational as the argument for growing our energy industry.”

There is an important underlying realization in Mitchelmore’s statement that some conservative pundits, as well as our own government, seem to willfully miss. Sustainability — smart environmental decision-making — has everything to do with prosperity. It has everything to do with people’s jobs and their quality of life, with the opportunities they want for their kids. It is, in fact, the rational decision to carefully steward, protect, and invest in the natural capital on which our communities and future livelihoods depend.

What is dangerously irrational is making decisions based on short-term economic pay-offs that we know will undermine our future prosperity, perhaps catastrophically.

This is exactly what the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline threatens to do. Our government is apparently determined to move unprocessed diluted bitumen by tanker through the Great Bear Sea, which by Environment Canada’s own assessment, is one of the most treacherous sea passages in the world. No one can guarantee that there will not be an accident. Indeed, given the extremely dangerous waters of the Hecate Strait, it is rational to argue that an accident is simply a matter of time. And as two recent reports point out — one commissioned by the Province of B.C. and the other by the Federal government — Canada is woefully ill-prepared to deal with an oil spill in these waters.

What is at risk is very clear. Just talk to the people who live in this region, and they will tell you. It’s their jobs — the fishing and tourism industries — and their cultural identity. And it’s the spectacular ecosystem upon which all of that depends. A place that is as unique a global treasure as the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon rainforest. It is no wonder that so many Canadians exercised their democratic rights by participating in the review process for this project. More than 9,500 people wrote to the Joint Review Panel, 96 per cent against the pipeline. The overwhelming majority of the 1,000+ people who provided oral testimony were also opposed. There is no question that the concerns raised by this project are the legitimate concerns of Canadians who value their livelihoods.

The real question is why we would take such a huge risk in such a special place.

If the answer is “to defend jobs”, it is misguided and misleading. More jobs will be destroyed by an oil spill than will be created by Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Coastal First Nations’ traditional territories and coastal communities depend economically on the Great Bear Sea. Marine-dependent activities in these territories represent significant economic value. B.C. seafood and tidal recreational fishing generate $2.5 billion per year – and support more than 30,000 jobs. Exporting raw, unprocessed bitumen creates far more jobs outside Canada than it does here.

It is also irrational to repeat mistakes that we now have the knowledge and ability to avoid.

A generation ago, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and foundered, off the coast of Alaska. The resulting oil spill was an ecological, economic and social disaster that crippled coastal communities and deprived a generation of its livelihoods. The loss of the herring fishery alone cost the economy $400 million. Many communities have not yet fully recovered. In fact, some never will.

It’s a fate that we have the power to prevent in the Great Bear region, by pragmatically acknowledging that the risks of this proposed oil pipeline outweigh the benefits.

Yes, the argument for environmentalism is a rational one. For the people whose lives would be destroyed by an oil spill, it is also an emotional one. And for Canada, particularly at this moment, it is the one that will determine our future as global leader or laggard.

This article originally appeared in the Financial Post on Dec. 17, 2013

 

India-US row escalates over diplomat’s arrest – News – Al Jazeera English

India-US row escalates over diplomat’s arrest – News – Al Jazeera English.

Devyani Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed over an alleged visa fraud [Facebook]
The simmering tension between New Delhi and Washington over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York has escalated into a major row with the boycott of a visiting US Congressional delegation by India’s political leaders.India has also asked all US diplomats stationed in India to turn in their identity cards. Police barricades outside the US embassy in New Delhi have been removed and access for US diplomatic staff to airports curtailed. More retaliatory measures are expected, reports said.

Spotlight

Follow our special India coverage

On Tuesday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and federal home minister Sushilkumar Shinde refused to meet the visiting delegation in protest against the “despicable and barbaric” treatment meted to the arrested diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York.

The five-member delegation to New Delhi, facing a general boycott, is led by Congressman George Holding, representative for North Carolina’s 13th congressional district, who serves on the foreign affairs committee and judiciary committee. The four other Congressmen are Pete Olson, David Schweikert, Robert Woodall and Madeliene Bordallo.

News of Khobragade being lodged in a prison cell in the company of drug addicts and being subject to a strip search have angered India’s mandarins and political bosses. The diplomat was also subject to a DNA swab.

The spat between the United States and India strikes a discordant note at a time when relationship between the two countries is otherwise on a high, especially in the last one decade which has seen unprecedented cooperation in various areas of civilian and defence sectors.

Reacting to the Khobragade’s incarceration, India’s national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon described the treatment as “despicable and barbaric.”

Media reports quoting Indian government sources said New Delhi is considering “reciprocal steps” later on Tuesday so as to “convey a clear message that this treatment of the diplomat is unacceptable.”

On Monday, speaker of the lower house (Lok Sabha) of India’s parliament Meira Kumar declined to meet the visiting US congressional delegation.

Handcuffed in public

The Indian diplomat, aged 39, was arrested on Thursday as she was dropping her daughter to school. She was handcuffed in public and later freed on bail worth $250,000.

US police accuse Khobragade of lying in her visa application for the purposes of recruiting an Indian national who was employed as housekeeper at her home and was paid less than $ 4 an hour, which is lower than US minimum wages.

Her father Uttam Khobragade, a former IAS officer, was quoted by the NDTV news channel as saying, “My daughter is brave, but I’m worried. There’s more than what meets the eye.”

After her arrest, India’s foreign secretary Sujatha Singh summoned the US envoy in New Delhi, Nancy Powell, and protested over the “unacceptable treatment” meted out to Khobragade, a senior consular officer.

The US has defended its actions saying its Marshals followed standard procedures. Countering India’s stand that the arrest flouted the Vienna convention governing diplomatic immunity, the US said diplomats enjoyed immunity from their courts only in the exercise of their consular functions.

“We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India,” said Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokeswoman. “Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended.”

India has said even if a diplomat is arrested for a purported serious crime, all courtesies must be extended to the diplomat and not be treated like a common criminal.

 

Marc Faber Warns The Fed “Will Never End Its Insane Policies” | Zero Hedge

Marc Faber Warns The Fed “Will Never End Its Insane Policies” | Zero Hedge.

“The Fed will never end QE for good…” blasts Marc Faber, “they may do some cosmetic adjustments, but within a few years, [Fed] asset purchases will be substantially higher than they are today.” There will be another weakening in the US economy, Faber warns, and “the Fed will argue it hasn’t done enough and will do more… they have been irresponsible for 20 years.”

Noting that investors should “not buy stocks but be in cash”, the stunned CNBC anchor exclaims “How could you sit in cash when th emarket is on fire and interest rates are so low?” to which Faber blasts, “The market is not on fire, look at IBM, Cisco, and Intel – all lower than 2011; it’s on fire if you are in Facebook or Twitter and not everyone owns them.”

Use rallies to reduce exposure, he warns, “we will go up until it is over; and when it is over the drop will be larger than 20%”

Statoil may choose between Alberta, N.L. oil projects – Business – CBC News

Statoil may choose between Alberta, N.L. oil projects – Business – CBC News.

Statoil's Leismer project began producing in 2011 and the Norwegian company has plans to expand it, but may have to prioritize Canadian projects.Statoil’s Leismer project began producing in 2011 and the Norwegian company has plans to expand it, but may have to prioritize Canadian projects. (YouTube)

Statoil might have to choose between developing properties in the Alberta oilsands and an offshore find off Newfoundland because of rising costs in the industry.

Stale Tungesvik, president of Statoil Canada, says its Norwegian parent company will decide in February which of the Canadian projects will go ahead.

“We invest more than ever, but we see that it’s much more costly to develop one barrel of oil today than it was earlier,” Tungesvik said in a briefing with reporters Monday.

He said Statoil has to prioritize which projects to develop, because the oil available is more difficult to extract.

Crude oil prices are sitting at about $100 US a barrel, but that’s the equivalent to $30 several years ago, he said.

“Today, $100 a barrel is the same as $30,” he said, adding “the easy barrels” are gone.

Tungesvik said he would prefer to go ahead with projects in bothAlberta’s oilsands and off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, but that may not happen.

“When that will hit us some place in Canada, I’m not sure yet. I’m still fighting for doing both, so that’s my kind of position.But there is the bigger picture. There has to be some changes,” he said.

In August, Statoil and partner Husky Energy Inc. announced a huge offshore oil discovery about 500 kilometres northeast of St. John’s.

It’s the company’s third find in the Flemish Pass Basin in the North Atlantic and promises between 300 million and 600 million barrels of recoverable oil.

It also has plans to develop the Corner oilsands in Alberta and is mulling an expansion to its Leismer property, which began production in January 2011. Both Corner and Leismer have regulatory approval to produce up to 40,000 barrels per day.

 

Ron Paul’s Texas Straight Talk

Ron Paul’s Texas Straight Talk.

After 100 Years Of Failure, It’s Time To End The Fed!

 

A week from now, the Federal Reserve System will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Resulting from secret negotiations between bankers and politicians at Jekyll Island, the Fed’s creation established a banking cartel and a board of government overseers that has grown ever stronger through the years. One would think this anniversary would elicit some sort of public recognition of the Fed’s growth from a quasi-agent of the Treasury Department intended to provide an elastic currency, to a de facto independent institution that has taken complete control of the economy through its central monetary planning. But just like the Fed’s creation, its 100th anniversary may come and go with only a few passing mentions.

Like many other horrible and unconstitutional pieces of legislation, the bill which created the Fed, the Federal Reserve Act, was passed under great pressure on December 23, 1913, in the waning moments before Congress recessed for Christmas with many Members already absent from those final votes. This underhanded method of pressuring Congress with such a deadline to pass the Federal Reserve Act would provide a foreshadowing of the Fed’s insidious effects on the US economy—with actions performed without transparency.

Ostensibly formed with the goal of preventing financial crises such as the Panic of 1907, the Fed has become increasingly powerful over the years. Rather than preventing financial crises, however, the Fed has constantly caused new ones. Barely a few years after its inception, the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy to help fund World War I led to the Depression of 1920. After the economy bounced back from that episode, a further injection of easy money and credit by the Fed led to the Roaring Twenties and to the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history.

But even though the Fed continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, no one in Washington ever questioned the wisdom of having a central bank. Instead, after each episode the Fed was given more and more power over the economy. Even though the Fed had brought about the stagflation of the 1970s, Congress decided to formally task the Federal Reserve in 1978 with maintaining full employment and stable prices, combined with constantly adding horrendously harmful regulations. Talk about putting the inmates in charge of the asylum!

Now we are reaping the noxious effects of a century of loose monetary policy, as our economy remains mired in mediocrity and utterly dependent on a stream of easy money from the central bank. A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. The government’s growing monopoly on money creation, high barriers to entry into banking to protect politically favored incumbents, and favored treatment for government debt combined to create a rickety, panic-prone banking system. Had legislators known then what we know now, we could hope that they never would have established the Federal Reserve System.

Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.

 

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

 

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian.

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding

Critics say Conservative anti-EU ideology being put ahead of needs of the poor after UK officials turn down subsidy
food banks

The economic downturn has seen use of food banks in Britain increase dramatically in recent months. Photograph: Mercury Press & Media Ltd

The government has been accused of putting “anti-European ideology” before the needs of the most deprived people in society after Britain rejected help from a European Union fund to help subsidise the costs offood banks.

David Cameron, who was heavily criticised recently after Michael Gove blamed the rise in food banks on financial mismanagement by families, faced pressure to embark on a U-turn to allow EU funds to be spent on feeding the poor.

The government came under fire after British officials in Brussels said that the UK did not want to use money from a new £2.5bn fund – European Aid to the Most Deprived – to be used to help with the costs of running food banks. The use of food banks has increased dramatically in recent months, prompting Sir John Major to warn that the poor face a stark choice between paying for heating or food.

But British officials rejected EU funding for food banks, which could have reached £22m for Britain, on the grounds that individual member states are best placed to take charge of such funding.

A document from the Department of Work and Pensions explaining Britain’s position, which has been leaked to the Guardian, says: “The UK government does not support the proposal for a regulation on the fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived. It believes that measures of this type are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes, and their regional and local authorities, who are best placed to identify and meet the needs of deprived people in their countries and communities. It therefore questions whether the commission’s proposal is justified in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.”

Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP who helped negotiate the new fund, accused the government of neglecting the needs of the poor. “It is very sad that our government is opposing this much-needed help for foodbanks on the basis that it is a national responsibility, when in reality it has no intention of providing the help itself. The only conclusion is that Conservative anti-European ideology is being put before the needs of the most destitute and deprived in our society.”

Howitt added that he hoped that a Westminster parliamentary debate on Wednesday would prompt a government U-turn. He said the debate “should be used to shame a government, which is taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, into a U-turn in time for Christmas”.

It is understood that in “trilogue” negotiations – between the European commission, the council of ministers and the European Parliament – British officials formed a blocking minority with three other EU member states to water down the fund which will run from 2014-2020. Under the original plans there would have been just one funding strand for the “distribution of material assistance” – sleeping bags and food. But Britain prompted the creation of a second funding strand known as “immaterial assistance” to cover counselling and budget maintenance but not food banks.

The position taken by UK officials means that Britain will draw down just €3.5m (£2.9m) from the fund compared with €443m for France which is around the same size as the UK. Britain is taking the same amount as Malta, the smallest EU member state with a population of 450,000.

The department for work and pensions said that Britain has not lost any money because the £22m would have come out of the UK’s EU structural fund pot. It said that ministers have not decided how to allocate the £2.9m earmarked for Britain from the fund, though this is expected to be spent on helping unemployed people find work.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation. Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of Britain’s largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, told the Guardian: “We would welcome an opportunity to have discussions with DWP about how we could use that €3.5m to good effect. If the EU made a decision in the European Parliament that this money should be used for the assistance of people in severe need – and it has got a food aid tag on it – then we hope they will talk to us.”

On the signs that the government would like to spend the money in helping people into work, rather than on food aid, Mould said: “It is the decision of government at all times what its priorities are for the money it has available. But it does need to spend money in several places not in one place. The Trussell Trust has provided through its network of food banks emergency assistance for over 500,000 people since 2013 who are in financial crisis, who are going hungry who have been referred by more than 23,000 different professionals holding vouchers.

“If people don’t get help when they are in financial crisis they lose their home, their families break down, they suffer anxiety and depression. All these things have a significant financial cost to the state. It is very important that the government looks beyond the narrow single issue argument of spending all the money into employment. Of course that is important but they are spending massive of money on that which is good. But this EU money is extra and originally intended to be for food assistance.”

Russia and Ukraine strike $15bn deal – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Russia and Ukraine strike $15bn deal – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Russia and Ukraine strike $15bn deal

Moscow says agreement comes without conditions but there are fears it may inflame of pro-Europe protesters in Kiev.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2013 19:30
Russia threw Ukraine an economic lifeline on Tuesday, agreeing to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian bonds and to reduce the price its cash-strapped neighbour pays for vital Russian gas supplies by about one-third.

The deal, reached at talks in Moscow between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, is intended to help Ukraine stave off economic crisis though Moscow will hope it keeps Kiev in its political and economic orbit.

The agreement could also fuel protests in Kiev against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who faces accusations of “selling” Ukraine to the highest bidder after spurning a trade deal with the European Union and turning to Moscow for help.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia would tap a National Welfare Fund – a rainy day fund – and use the $15 billion to buy Ukrainian eurobonds.

Announcing the deal after talks with Yanukovich, President Valdimir Putin said Russia would help Ukraine through its problems as big debt repayments loom but that there had been no discussion of Kiev joining a Russia-led customs union.

“The Russian government has made the decision to convert part of its reserves from the National Welfare Fund into Ukrainian securities. The volume is $15 billion,” Putin said in the Kremlin, with Yanukovich beside him.

“I want to draw your attention to the fact that this is not tied to any conditions … I want to calm you down – we have not discussed the issue of Ukraine’s accession to the customs union at all today.”

Ukraine’s Naftogaz energy company will pay Russia’s Gazprom $268.5 per 1,000 cubic metres of natural gas, on which it is heavily dependent. The previous price had been about $400 per 1,000 cubic metres.

The new price will take effect at the start of next month, Ukraine’s energy minister said.

Yanukovich’s visit to Moscow came as thousands of people continued to brave snow and freezing temperatures to call for his removal.

‘Blood on his hands’

Opponents are demanding greater EU integration and are angry about the country’s propinquity to the Kremlin.

They are also unhappy with his decision to keep opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in jail – a move also condemned by European leaders.

Yanukovich’s move to spurn Brussels sparked the fiercest anti-government rallies since the 2004 Orange Revolution that first nudged Ukraine on a westward path.

Mass protests have been met with accusations of police brutality. A protest on Saturday saw seven people hospitalised and dozens under arrest.

One opposition leader, Arseni Yatsenyuk, said the president had “the blood of our children, the blood of students, the blood of youth on his hands.”

The unrest has exposed fault lines between the nationalist and Ukrainian-speaking west of the country and the more Russified east aligned with Moscow.

The Ukrainian government has attempted to organise counter-rallies in Kiev but those have been dwarfed by the pro-EU protests.

 

Change In US Net Worth – By Age Group | Zero Hedge

Change In US Net Worth – By Age Group | Zero Hedge.

By now it is a well-known fact that the Fed’s monetary policies over the past 5 years (and really ever since Greenspan unleashed the Great Moderation) have been very successful at one thing: transferring wealth from the US (and global) middle class and handing it over to the already wealthiest strata of society, either through financial repression, zero savings rates, or generally boosting financial asset values, which as we showed hit a record $63.9 trillion in Q3, or over 70% of total. However, just like the general public’s attention is focused on the quantitative components of the monthly payroll number and completely ignores the qualitative gains or losses in the US labor force, so the broad definition of “middle class” leaves quite a bit to be desired. So what happens if one quantizes society instead of by class with wealth of income cutoff ranges but instead by age? In that case, one gets the following chart prepared by the Urban Institute showing the change in net worth in the period 1983-2010 by age group.

The discrepancy summarized:

Young adults’ ability to grow their personal assets over the past 30 years has decreased considerably. Average wealth for individuals in their 20s and 30s dropped 7 percent from 1983 to 2010, while those 74 and over have seen wealth increase by 149 percent in the same time period. Figure 7 highlights the substantial changes in net worth by age, showing that Millennials today are financially worse off than their parents were at the same age

It is meaningless to make ethical judgments based on the above chart, however the data does confirm one of the most troubling hurdles before any dreams of a virtuous economic recovery can be realized: because it is the younger age groups that drive household formation, and are responsible for the bulk of organic demand for homes – that so critical, missing variable in what would be a true housing recovery (instead of merely using houses as flippable hot potato assets whereby one investor sells homes to another investor with no intention of occupying, in the process making that entry-level home ever more unaffordable for the average young American).

And a question: in a society increasingly torn by conflicts (some of which as if created on purpose): by social status, by race, by ethnicity, by gender, and so many more, how long until one can add age as an ever growing source of social discontent?

 

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