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Dear Readers,

the following post has been published on the 3rd of March 2014. Due to the recent historical events we are reposting it, conscient of the prescience of the meanwhile passed author, Pater Tenebrarum.

Michael, Editor

 

Russian Troops in the Crimea

John Kerry is appropriately aghast at the “incredible act of aggression” by Russia in the Ukraine:

 

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” Kerry told the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

 

This new-found respect for the sovereignty of foreign nations represents a laudable 180 degree change in US foreign policy. You just don’t do that in the 21st century! Like e.g. invading Iraq by making up tall stories about “weapons of mass destruction” hidden there. It’s just not done. As an aside to this: in February, the civil war currently raging in Iraq has cost yet another 1,705 lives, with 2,045 wounded. The death toll is a considerable increase from January’s 1,284 dead and 2,088 wounded. Perhaps you weren’t aware there is a civil war raging in Iraq? If so, that is no surprise. The Western media have fallen almost completely silent on the topic. Yet, this is what the famous ‘mission’ has actually ‘accomplished’.

As Jason Ditz reports regarding the recent escalation in the Crimea:

 

“While US politicians have also ratcheted up the rhetoric, US officials concede that Russia’s troops in Crimea are setting up defensive positions and are in a “self-defense posture only.”

Reports from Crimea’s government say they’ve got Russian troops helping them protect government buildings in anticipation of the referendum, and with a sense that will easily back secession and re-accession into the Russian federation, it seems that Russia doesn’t need to “invade” at all, but simply needs to keep the interim government at bay until Crimean voters affirm the switch.”

(emphasis added)

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I write this with sadness, still, at the news of the death of my friend Heinz Blasnik. He is better known by his nom de plume, Pater Tenebrarum, who published the economics blog Acting Man and wrote for many other financial sites.

I met Heinz twice, at his home in Vienna. He was a kind and gracious host, sending his driver to pick me up and serving Austrian delicacies for lunch. When I met him, he was struggling near the end of a long illness which was the result of a youthful adventure. Even so, he retained a benevolent sense of life, and a positive spirit.

But this is not why I wanted to write this. We were friends because we shared some ideas. Important ideas. Ideas about the nature of the world, and mankind, and how man can work together and coordinate their productive activities. Economics and business are my life, and Heinz was the same way.

What better basis for a friendship than sharing important values?

Heinz was deeply, passionately interested in helping people understand economics. I know not how much time he gave to this cause—unpaid, as blogs do not make money—but it was surely more than I spend. He engaged with those who were interested. Sadly, Austrian economics is not mainstream, though there are more than enough people to keep a teacher—or sensei—busy. He was willing to correspond with me, and I credit his articles and emails for helping shape my own views.

We did not always agree. If you put 3 economists in a room then you have at least 4 opinions. But even when not, he listened with benevolent intention and did not make it personal. It was always about the ideas. I think this is an important and uncommon virtue.

On one of my visits, we discussed life, the universe, and everything. And he told me a bit about the Austrian welfare state. Which led me to write The Service Economy. I have traveled around the world, and I have shared food and drink with friends in many countries. Yet that one conversation with Heinz stands out as interesting and important. I can only recall one other discussion with one other friend that led directly to me writing an essay.

I don’t think Heinz believed in Heaven, but I hope everyone will understand when I say this. I would look forward to a day—many years in the future, I hope—when I could meet Heinz for beers in Heaven, and continue our conversation where it left off in 2021.

Adieu Heinz.

 

Dr. Keith Weiner is the president of the Gold Standard Institute USA, and CEO of Monetary Metals. Keith is a leading authority in the areas of gold, money, and credit and has made important contributions to the development of trading techniques founded upon the analysis of bid-ask spreads. Keith is a sought after speaker and regularly writes on economics. He is an Objectivist, and has his PhD from the New Austrian School of Economics. He lives with his wife near Phoenix, Arizona.

 

     

 

 

The Gloves are Coming Off

First a little bit of recent history. Readers are probably aware that some questions about the occasionally malfunctioning Deep State android… no, wait, we’ll start again. Questions have recently been raised about the health of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by various “alt-right” tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, such as this one.

 

hillary_boogeyman_cartoon1The monsters are normally hiding under Hillary’s bed, but lately they have come out into the open and are getting way too many you-tube hits.

 

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Dark Social Mood Tsunami Washes Ashore

Early this morning one might have been forgiven for thinking that Japan had probably just been hit by another tsunami. The Nikkei was down 1,300 points, the yen briefly soared above par. Gold had intermittently gained 100 smackers – if memory serves, the biggest nominal intra-day gain ever recorded (with the possible exception of one or two days in early 1980). Here is a picture of Haruhiko Kuroda in front of his Bloomberg monitor this morning:

 

kuroda headThis can’t be happening… please… let me wake up and realize that it was all just a bad dream…

Photo credit: Reuters

 

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Another Vega Crush Target

Macy’s (M) may not be anyone’s favorite place to shop these days, but its volatility curve is set up nicely for a vega crush campaign.  We’re going to look at two different ways to take advantage of M’s volatility term structure ahead of earnings (tomorrow morning before open).

 

macys1900-1000x740Macy’s store of yore

Image via Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

 

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Bizarre Monetary Experiment Expanded

As is well known by now, the ECB Council has decided to expand its bizarre monetary experiment further. All users of the euro are to be subjected to additional impoverishment, by means of the ECB lengthening the duration of its outright money printing scheme (while keeping its level steady at what is an already stunning €60 billion per month) and the even more absurd decision to lower its deposit facility interest rate further, to minus 30 basis points.

 

larry-summers-i-only-like-mario-draghi-right-nowECB chief Mario Draghi, who increasingly looks like something that has risen from the Crypt. US high IQ moron export Larry Summers likes his policies. Any more questions?

Photo credit: Michael Probst / AP

 

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A Strange Event

The topic of the SU-24 Russian plane shot down by Turkey over the weekend in Syria has been discussed all over the media ad nauseam by now, but we want to add a few observations and suggestions of our own. Some have perhaps not received the attention they possibly deserve.

 

Downed-Russian-Jet-1200Image of Russian jet shortly after it was hit by a Turkish missile. Luckily someone was promptly at hand to make a qualitatively acceptable video of the incident. As is well known, cameramen just waiting to film every remotely interesting activity are standing by all over Syria, which is why we get so much material about what is really happening there.

Photo credit: DPA

 

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The Successes of the Global War on Terror

One would think that the so-called “Global War on Terror”, which has been given fresh impetus by the Paris attacks, must be going swimmingly. What else could explain the great enthusiasm with which it is pursued? It may be recalled that it started in earnest after the WTC attack – also a declaration of war, as it was put at the time.

As is often the case when Islamist fundamentalists strike, the actual attackers immolated themselves on occasion of the attack itself, making it impossible to exact retribution. Except by proxy, that is. This was playing right into the hands of those who had planned the attacks. It seems to us that they have ultimately succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Not to put too fine a point to it, our wise political leaders have evidently been outfoxed by a bunch of turbaned cave dwellers and goat buggerers in the Hindu Kush.

 

bomb somethingSteve Bell on the reaction to the Paris attacks.

 

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Venezuela: Real Wages Collapse amid Continuing Crack-Up Boom

While the crack-up boom in Venezuela continues, real wages in the country have have utterly collapsed. The bolivar is still trading close to 700 to the US dollar on the black market, and the Caracas stock index keeps making new all time highs in nominal terms almost every day. Ironically, Venezuela’s currency is called the “bolivar fuerte” (VEF), i.e. “the strong bolivar” ever since it has been “reverse split” 1 for 1,000 in January 2008.

 

brain-drainImage via designlimbo.com

 

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Latest Developments

Alexis Tsipras has sent a letter to Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the euro-group (you can download the letter here, pdf), in which he requests a separate bailout from the ESM, essentially proposing that the ESM take over Greece’s liabilities for a period of two years. Unsaid, but implied, is that this would result in the referendum being recalled. More likely it is just a ploy to enhance Syriza’s chances of obtaining a “no” vote in the referendum.

 

Image via dreamstime.com

 

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Tsipras Takes Door Number Three

Late last week, Greece’s creditors offered a bailout extension of several months, in the course of which Greece would have received sufficient funding to make all payments due during this time period. In order to receive this package the Greek government would have had to sign a final offer made by the creditors. If one looks at the details of the negotiations, only a tiny difference remained between the Greek offer and the offer made by the creditors in the end, reportedly amounting to approximately €100 million. This makes the Mr. Tsipras’ assertion that the final offer tabled by the creditors was an “affront to Greek dignity” not especially credible. It should be noted in this context that these arithmetic games are complete nonsense anyway. In light of €360 billion of public debt, does anyone really believe it will make an iota of difference whether the retirement age in Greece is increased in 2022 or 2025, or whether the small VAT exception for the tourism industry is revoked or not? We believe there are far more important reforms Greece needs to implement.

 

image1In the meanwhile, somewhere in Athens …

Photo via allaksogolies.gr

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GDP Now in Dangerous Waters

The Atlanta Fed has posted today that its GDP Now measure has reached exactly the same level as a certain Mr. John Blutarsky’s mid-term grade average. This is to say, it has declined to 0.0%.

 

gdpnow-forecast-evolutionGDP Now goes Blutarsky – via Atlanta FED

 

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