He Said That? 2/24/17

From Mahatma Ghandi (1869–1948), preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.

Advertisements

Believing That War Has Consequences, by Lucy Steigerwald

Violence begets violence and evil begets evil. From Lucy Steigerwald at antiwar.com:

A February NBC news poll reveals some dramatic diversity within the minds of Donald Trump’s America. The topics covered are varied, and include Americans’ current feelings about Russia, and their worries over a future major war (56 percent are very or somewhat worried). One other question caught my eye, however, and that was a choice of two statements, asking respondents to pick the one closer to what they believe. They were “using overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism” or “relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism.” Surprisingly, the split was nearly even, but the latter won out 49 percent to 47.

Depending how a poll is phrased, you can get a large number of people to agree to all sorts of things, some of which are awful. However, that NBC bothered to ask about this, and that it rang true for so many people feels new and strange for those of us who grew up with the war on terror, and who have been accused more than once of condoning terrorism because we wished to explain its motivations.

Blowback is a CIA term that former Rep. Ron Paul tried his best to popularize as an explanation for terrorist attacks, and other forms of violence. Fittingly, it was first used in a 1954 CIA document about the consequences of the British and US-backed 1953 Iranian coup (the consequences being, well, everything that happened in Iran after 1953).

Outside of certain circles, “blowback” and Paul himself were relatively unknown until, during the 2008 presidential campaign, the Texas Congressman went up against former New York Mayor and 9/11-panderer Rudy Giuliani over why those attacks happened.

To continue reading: Believing That War Has Consequences

How Much Money Laundering is Going On in the Housing Market? A Lot, by Wolf Richter

Dirty people with dirty money have propped up high end housing markets. Who knew? Well, just about anyone with half a brain who was paying attention. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Answers trickle in. Tough luck for New York, San Francisco, Miami…

“I am shocked – shocked – to find that money laundering is going on in here!” – Borrowed and twisted from Casablanca.

The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced on Thursday that it would extend for another 180 days a “temporary” program that was due to expire on Thursday, and that it had originally kicked off in January 2016 and expanded in July, to identify and track secret homebuyers who hide behind shell companies and “other opaque structures” for the purpose of money laundering.

And it has already gleaned some insights.

The US housing market has been a perfect platform to launder large amounts of money, no questions asked. Brokers, banks, and other industry professionals played along. There were no reporting requirements. Everyone in the world knew it. And they came to launder their cash by buying expensive homes.

But FinCEN, via its evocatively named Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO), wants to know who these opaque homebuyers are. To find out, the GTOs “temporarily require US title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used to pay ‘all cash’ [i.e. without bank financing] for high-end residential real estate in six major metropolitan areas.”

FinCEN is soliciting the help of title insurance companies “because title insurance is a common feature in the vast majority of real estate transactions,” and these companies can provide “valuable information about real estate transactions of concern.”

In its July announcement, when the program was expanded from two metros – Manhattan and Miami Data – to six metros, FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi wouldn’t say to what extent money laundering was involved, but he did throw in a tantalizing tidbit: “The information we have obtained from our initial GTOs suggests that we are on the right track.”

This time around, FinCEN gave a number, a percentage of “suspicious activity”:

FinCEN has found that about 30% of the transactions covered by the GTOs involve a beneficial owner or purchaser representative that is also the subject of a previous suspicious activity report. This corroborates FinCEN’s concerns about the use of shell companies to buy luxury real estate in “all-cash” transactions.

30%!

To continue reading: How Much Money Laundering is Going On in the Housing Market? A Lot

Former IMF Chief and Dozens of Former Bank Execs Just Got Sentenced to Jail, by Don Quinines

Here’s a heartwarming tale, but we don’t know if the parties involved will actually go to prison and the rest of us will all live happily ever after. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

But will they actually warm a bench in a Spanish prison?

The unimaginable just happened in Spain: two former bank CEOs, Miguel Blesa (CEO of Caja Madrid) and Rodrigo Rato (CEO of Bankia) were just awarded prison sentences of six years and four-and-a-half years, respectively, for misappropriation of company funds.

Rato was also Managing Director of the IMF from 2004 to 2007. He was succeeded by another luminary, Dominique Strauss Kahn.

Now, the question on everyone’s mind is will Blesa and Rato actually serve the sentence (more on that later).

Dozens more former Caja Madrid senior executives, most of whom are closely connected to either, or both, of the country’s two main political parties and/or unions also face three to six years in prison. They were found guilty by Spain’s National High Court of misusing company credit cards. Those cards drained money directly from the scarce funds of Caja Madrid, which at the height of Spain’s banking crisis was merged with six other failed savings banks into Bankia, which shortly thereafter collapsed and ended up receiving the biggest bail out in Spanish history, costing taxpayers over €20 billion, to date.

Between 2003 and 2012 Caja Madrid (and its later incarnation, Bankia) paid out over €15 million to its senior management and executive directors through its “tarjeta negra” (black card) scheme. According to accounts released by Spain’s bad bank, FROB, much of that money went on restaurants, cash withdrawals, travel and holidays, and the like.

The amounts – which did not show up on any bank documents, job contracts, or tax returns – may be small, given the magnitude of the misdeeds that led to the Spanish bank fiasco, but it’s the principle that counts.

Only 4 out of 90 Caja Madrid senior managers, executives, and board members had the basic decency to turn down the offer of undeclared expenses. For the rest, it was an offer they could not refuse.

To continue reading: Former IMF Chief and Dozens of Former Bank Execs Just Got Sentenced to Jail

Is Secession a Solution to Cultural War? by Patrick J. Buchanan

Don’t let the title fool you. Patrick Buchanan comments favorably on devolution, moving some things the federal government handles now down to the states, but aside from mentioning the California secession movement, he doesn’t really advocate for it. Brexit and Trump are on the front end of a tidal wave of what will be not just devolution, but secession, if the decentralizing impulse can be so contained, or revolution, if it can’t. From Buchanan a buchanan.org:

As the culture war is about irreconcilable beliefs about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, and is at root a religious war, it will be with us so long as men are free to act on their beliefs.

Yet, given the divisions among us, deeper and wider than ever, it is an open question as to how, and how long, we will endure as one people.

After World War II, our judicial dictatorship began a purge of public manifestations of the “Christian nation” that Harry Truman said we were.

In 2009, Barack Obama retorted, “We do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation.” Secularism had been enthroned as our established religion, with only the most feeble of protests.

One can only imagine how Iranians or Afghans would deal with unelected judges moving to de-Islamicize their nations. Heads would roll, literally.

Which bring us to the first culture war skirmish of the Trump era.

Taking sides with Attorney General Jeff Sessions against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the president rescinded the Obama directive that gave transgender students the right to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. President Donald Trump sent the issue back to the states and locales to decide.

While treated by the media and left as the civil rights cause of our era, the “bathroom debate” calls to mind Marx’s observation, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Can anyone seriously contend that whether a 14-year-old boy, who thinks he is a girl, gets to use the girls’ bathroom is a civil rights issue comparable to whether African-Americans get the right to vote?

To continue reading: Is Secession a Solution to Cultural War?

 

In A Battle Between Trump And The Federal Reserve, Who Really Wins? by Brandon Smith

At this point, one needn’t be particularly astute to see a mammoth financial and economic crash coming; that’s what happens to systems that are as indebted as the global system is. Brandon Smith thinks the ensuing blame game will allow the globalists to take control. SLL thinks devolution and chaos will be the orders of the day, and good luck to the globalists or anybody else trying to assert control. However, SLL airs alternative hypotheses. From Smith at alt-market.com:

As a part of the increasingly obvious set-up of conservative movements by international banking interests and globalist think-tanks, I have noticed an expanding disinformation campaign which appears to be designed to wash the Federal Reserve of culpability for the crash of 2008 that has continued to fester to this day despite the many claims of economic “recovery.” I believe this program is meant to set the stage for a coming conflict between the Trump Administration and the Fed, but what would be the ultimate consequences of such an event?

In my article ‘The False Economic Recovery Narrative Will Die In 2017‘, I outlined the propaganda trap being established by globalist owned and operated media outlets like Bloomberg, in which they consistently claim that Donald Trump has “inherited” an economy in recovery and ascendancy from the Obama administration. I thoroughly debunked their positions and “evidence” by showing how each of their fundamental indicators has actually been in steady decline since 2008, even in the face of massive monetary intervention and fiat printing by the Fed.

My greatest concern leading up to the 2016 election was that Trump would be allowed to win because he represents the perfect scapegoat for an economic crisis that central banks have been brewing for years. Whether or not Trump is aware of this plan cannot yet be proven, but as I have mentioned in the past, his cabinet of Goldman Sachs alumni and neo-con veterans hardly gives me confidence. In the best case scenario, Trump is surrounded by enemies; in the worst case scenario, he is surrounded by friends.

To continue reading: In A Battle Between Trump And The Federal Reserve, Who Really Wins?

 

Move over Greece, Italy’s Crisis Will Be Worse, by Daniel J. Mitchell

Greece is garnering headlines again as it moves towards another crisis, but the Italian economy is much larger, the third largest in Europe, and its banking system is on the verge of a crisis that would be much more severe than the Greek soap opera. From Daniel J. Mitchell at the Foundation for Econonomic Education, fee.org:

Early last month, in a column on my hopes and fears for 2017, I fretted about fiscal chaos in Italy leading to default and bailouts.

Simply stated, I fear that Italy, along with certain other “Club Med” nations, has passed the point of no return in terms of big government, demographic decline, and societal dependency.

And this means that, sooner or later, the proverbial wheels are going to fall off the bus. And it might be sooner.

On Shaky Ground

I don’t always agree with his policy recommendations, but I regularly read Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute because he is one of the best-informed people in Washington on the fiscal and economic mess in Europe.

And Italy, to be blunt, is in a mess.

Here’s what Desmond just wrote about the country’s economy.

…while the euro could very well survive a Greek exit, it certainly could not survive in anything like its present form were Italy to have a full-blown economic and financial crisis that forced it to default on its public debt mountain. …Among the reasons that there should be greater concern about an Italian, rather than a Greek, economic crisis is that Italy has a very much larger economy than Greece. Being the third-largest economy in the eurozone, Italy’s economy is around 10 times the size of that of Greece. Equally troubling is the fact that Italy has the world’s third-largest sovereign bond market with public debt of more than $2.5 trillion. Much of this debt is held by Europe’s shaky banking system, which heightens the risk that an Italian sovereign debt default could shake the global financial system to its core. …the country’s economic performance since 2008 has been abysmal. Indeed, Italian living standards today are around 10 percent below where they were 10 years ago. Meanwhile, Italy’s banking system has become highly troubled and its public sector debt as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) is now the second highest in the eurozone.”

To continue reading: Move over Greece, Italy’s Crisis Will Be Worse