Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Nation of Deadbeat Bankers and Politicians.

I can picture it right now. The President, Wall Street, the Central bankers and the politicians are salivating looking at the private pension funds. The zombie bankers and the Federal government  need the money to stay solvent to fund the wars and the bloated Federal Government.. They need to steal people’s houses, sometime owned free and clear to fix the balance sheets. Politicians for the right price will look the other way when the  bankers illegally foreclose on a home the banks do not own or hold the note. If the politicians upheld the law, they would not have a campaign war chest financed by the money junkies to get reelected with flashy ads on radio and TV, nor would it be necessary to rig the electronic voting machines to steal an election to stay in power..
The bankers owe 1.5 quadrillion in derivative debt. This is the scam selling credit default swaps and the mortgage backed securities that is a fraud and useless paper.. Before the Glass Steagle Act. The selling of these types of financial instruments were illegal to do. The TARP bailout was not only a bailout to the Bankers. They singed the taxpayer  on to their derivative debt they owe, not us. If TARP was not passed in 2008, the Central Bankers would die and paupers because they could not make good on all this useless paper called derivatives. There is one example of deadbeat bankers who will demand we pay back our loans with crushing usury added on. But when they are in debt they demand we subsidize  their bad debts.
Before the Glass Steagle Act was repealed in the late 1990s passed by a republican House and Senate singed by President Clinton .Commercial banks and investment banks were kept separate for this reason to prevent the bankers from going wild. Has Washington hold these bankers accountable like Iceland did? No, both political parties are on the same page when it come to financial crimes against the American people. There is you deadbeat politicians who do the will of Wall Street and foreign banks, never standing for the Constitution and the American people who are now hurting because they passed the bad law repealing the Glass Steagle act.
We have deadbeat Bankers and Politicians. We have deadbeat bankers because they want it all by fraud and deceit. They want the American people pay for their derivative debt. The Bankers threatened congress with Martial law unless the 750 billion TARP bailout was passed which actually is a blank check where the bankers have stolen 43 trillion from the US treasury since 2008 and signed on the taxpayers onto this massive derivative debt that is impossible to pay off because there is more money owed then is in circulation. What does it tell us about the sad state of affairs we are in and those in power? We are ruled by deadbeats.
The truth is we have deadbeat bankers because they will never pay their debts. They will always find a sucker politician to use our money to pay for their bad choices.  We have politicians who do not uphold their oath of office. The political class is beholden to the donors who want to undermine the economy and our form of government for more money and power. The political class paid for the by the bankers bails out the oligarchs when they make bad choices and on the other hand will allow them to keep their profits when they do well. Congress has the audacity to give themselves a pay raise.
We are ruled by deadbeats who could care less who they hurt or make homeless. They are dead weight that needs to be tossed out like yesterdays garbage. Wall Street oligarchs get bonuses for running their companies into the ground. Politicians give themselves pay raises they think they are entitled to even though they have not done their jobs or fulfilled their constitutional obligations.
Our system is full of deadbeats who are dead weight on us. The burdensome taxes and unnecessary regulations are a ball and chain on the economy. It is obvious we need to get rid of these people in power. We cannot afford deadbeat bankers and politicians.

Restore America with the United Front Against Austerity

Grow the economy with interest free federal credit for infrastructure and manufacturing

Paul Adams, J.D.
Activist Post

Those that wish to defeat globalism (slave labor and wages), improve the U.S. economy by creating 30-40 million living wage jobs, and return to a productive economy should strongly consider supporting the United Front Against Austerity (UFAA).

The United Front provides only proven policy solutions based on the traditional American System of Economics and is endorsed by author and Scholar, Webster Griffin Tarpley. It does not support either side of the international banksters’ Hegelian Dialectic false left vs. right divide and conquer scheme. Instead, the UFAA is a mass movement built on the most basic issues of economic survival.

The role of the UFAA is like that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery Improvement Association, which guided the Montgomery bus boycott, a successful campaign that focused national attention on ending racial segregation in the South and providing Constitutional rights to all. “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Contrary to what many popular and pessimist economists say, the U.S. and world economies can return to booming economic growth within two or three months. Contrary to what the Malthusian global elites espouse, there can be plenty of food, clothing and shelter for everyone once we support skilled labor and the production of real goods rather than cancerous financial speculation.

Proven Policies to Save Lives and the Economy

Seize and Nationalize the Federal Reserve System

The obvious source of financing for the US economic recovery is to Nationalize the private Federal Reserve System of usury. In the 2008 financial panic, the Federal Reserve made available approximately $27 trillion in credit to bail out its bankrupt member zombie-banks. Yes, only financial institutions were eligible for these loans as they foreclosed on millions of home owners (productive working people enslaved by mortgage debt). To get a 0% loan from the private Fed, you had to be a bank, a money market fund, a credit card company, or some other kind of non-productive financial service provider.

These policies have failed to create a recovery. It is now time for the private Fed to be nationalized so that it stops serving the banks, and begins serving the needs of the US economy as a whole. This would take the form of a Main Street Credit Facility and a Rebuild America’s Infrastructure Facility.

By law, the newly nationalized Federal Reserve must be forced to put out a tender offer to states and regional authorities stating the Fed’s willingness to buy an initial $1 trillion of state bonds with the proceeds devoted exclusively to rebuilding the infrastructure of the United States. These must be century bonds, with 100 year maturities and the coupon rate must be set at 0% (interest free). Once the first tranche of $1 trillion is expended, another tranche should be offered, until the point at which full employment is reached.

These state and authority bonds will make possible the long overdue rebuilding of the entire US Interstate Highway System, including its bridges; the national passenger, freight, and commuter rail using the technology of the 21st century; the national electricity production and transmission grid; canals, ports, sewage and water systems; telecommunications; public housing; schools, hospitals, libraries, public buildings, etc.

0% Federal Credit for Real Production

Once the private Fed is nationalized, the Main Street Credit Facility will offer 0% federal credit to manufacturers, technology companies, farmers, and any and all companies active in manufacturing, construction, mining, scientific research, energy production, and other forms of tangible, physical, commodity production. Cheap credit for productive activity must be available all the way down to the local auto repair shop, dry cleaner, plumber, electrician, or restaurant, since all of these represent tangible physical production. Financial services will no longer be eligible to be subsidized by cheap federal credit.

Low or no interest federal lending to private enterprises must replace corrupt federal spending, which is nothing more than giveaways to the Elite and their cronies. The cost of capital can be radically lowered, and a competitive advantage of the United States in world markets can be secured. The overriding goal is the creation of at least 30 million new jobs quickly.

1% Wall Street Sales Tax

A 1% Wall Street Sales Tax must be imposed to curb financial speculation from institutional investors while preserving public services and the social safety net. 

The fiscal problems of the United States are largely due to the fact that Wall Street moneychangers pay no taxes. The total turnover in terms of buying and selling of securities, including stocks, bonds, and derivatives on US exchanges is surely in excess of five quadrillion dollars (5,000 trillion dollars). A 1% tax on this turnover, equally divided between the federal government and the states, largely solves the budget deficit at all levels of government. It also discourages the most dangerous forms of speculation, especially derivatives speculation, and helps to level the playing field between financial services – which are now in effect subsidized because they are not taxed – and the tangible, physical production of manufactured goods on which our economic survival depends.

Laborers (workers that produce real goods) need the Wall Street sales tax as a principal weapon to put the pro-austerity union-busting forces on the defensive. When the average person realizes that individuals pay sales tax on necessities like clothing and often even food, while Wall Street pays nothing on flash trading and high frequency trading, the result is a powerful indignation which can be the key to the large-scale political transformation we need.

Student Loan Amnesty

Students and young people are being crushed by a burden of $1 trillion in student loan debt. This debt is illegitimate because it enslaves young adults with usury interest by falsely promising them a good paying job due to their education.  Universities have been sued many times in recent years for providing their students with falsified job placement statistics. Student loan debt is now interfering with the normal progression of human life itself. This makes it less and less possible for young people to secure a home of their own, to get married, have children, and to pursue advanced degrees or professional training.

We demand an immediate comprehensive student loan freeze, meaning a total halt to all payments on interest and principal for at least five years or for the duration of the world economic depression, whichever lasts longer. At the end of this time, the issue of his student loan debt can be re-examined, with a view to instituting a complete amnesty or cancellation. A provision of this type should have been instituted in the Bush-Obama TARP legislation, and should have been made a precondition for zombie bankster institutions drawing on the $27 trillion at 0% interest given away by private Fed. The student loan amnesty can therefore be considered as Wall Street’s apology to the younger generation.

Stop All Foreclosures

Three to four million American families are being kicked out of their homes each year by the zombie bankers as a result of a financial panic created not by subprime mortgages, but rather by the Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps which were permitted on top of these mortgages by the banksters themselves. These subprime mortgages with a result of fraudulent marketing, and the foreclosures frequently involve robo-signers, robo-judges, and other obvious political corruption, which the Justice Department is eager to ignore.

The only answer to this chaotic situation is an immediate and uniform federal law outlawing all foreclosures on primary residences for five years or the duration of the depression, which ever lasts longer. The model should be the Frazier-Lemke Act of 1934, which prevented banks from foreclosing on homes and farms if the owner could get a payment plan agreed to by any court at any level. This is another requirement which should have been built into the TARP, and which also should have been attached to the cheap federal credit made available by the private Fed to financial institutions. As for the Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps, there is a growing consensus that these extremely dangerous forms of derivatives need to be outlawed.

Medicare for All

About 50 million Americans currently have no health insurance, and many of them have no access to medical care. All Americans must immediately be given access to the Medicare program.  Those who can afford to pay can contribute $100 a month towards this coverage, which is comparable to the current fee. Those who are unemployed or destitute must be given free access, with no person turned away.

Obamacare is largely concerned with bailing out insurance companies bankrupted by their own derivative speculation through ensuring them a permanent cash flow. The most sinister feature of Obamacare is the 10 member rationing board (death panel) which decides which life-saving technologies can be used and who is to be excluded. Medicare for all will not have rationing boards as all human life is precious.

In order to guarantee that medical care will be available, the United States will need to train approximately 250,000 doctors and specialists over the next few years. We will also need to build about 1,000 modern hospitals to replace the ones shut down by privatizers and looters over the last quarter-century.  This can be accomplished with by nationalizing the private Fed and providing 0% federal credit as discussed above.

Jobless Benefits

Wall Street is responsible for this depression, not American working people. Unemployment benefits represent an economic right, and must not be reduced in the way that Obama and the puppet Republicans have been colluding to do. Those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, including the so-called 99ers, must be given immediate assistance. Unemployment benefits must be made open ended, for the duration of the current depression, which will end quickly when 0% federal credit becomes available for infrastructure and manufacturing.

10% National Usury Law

American working families are currently crushed by over $1 trillion of high interest consumer and credit card debt. Before the tenure of Paul Adolf Volcker at the Federal Reserve during the Carter and Reagan administrations, most states had usury laws which limited interest payments to 10% per year. Those laws were phased out because of Volcker’s 21% prime rate. This has resulted in the current plague of high interest payday lenders who prey upon the most vulnerable working people. We urgently require a federal law to put a 10% ceiling on all interest rates. If necessary, this can be implemented under the Defense Production Act and motivated by the current multiple national emergencies.

Minimum Wage and Living Wage

By reducing the amount of national income absorbed by high-interest speculation, resources will become available to begin raising the standard of living of the American people. The federal minimum wage, at its highest point in 1968, reached the equivalent of about $11 in today’s money. Accordingly, it is time to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $11, as a first step towards further increases in the near future.

Restore Food Stamp Benefits

The 50 million Americans who currently survive on food stamps (SNAP) generally have no jobs, no unemployment benefits, no healthcare, and no welfare payments, and are entirely dependent on this program. With increases in food prices due to financial speculation, the food stamp benefits have been increasingly eroded.

The food stamp program must include a cost-of-living escalator to allow these payments to offset the effects of price inflation. In addition, the food stamp benefits must be increased to a level adequate for the well-being of recipients, as determined by the most modern nutritional science. The measures detailed so far represent the urgent defense of our greatest national resource, the qualified labor power of the US workforce. Beyond this, we must demand policies which can set in motion an economic recovery with the creation of at least 30 million new productive jobs.

No Cuts for the American People

The most basic anti-austerity demand which must be advanced everywhere is that there must be no cuts in wages, benefits, social services, public services the social safety net, and related payments to working people. There must be no layoffs, no firings, no downsizing, no outsourcing, and no off-shoring. There must be no tax increases or user fees for working people. None of these horrible things are necessary with 0% federal credit to revive the productive economy.

Civil Rights

We must immediately roll back all post 9/11 policies on warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, drones, TSA naked body scanning and frisking, illegal checkpoints and other seeds of a domestic police state. Rather, we need to confront Wall Street and rid the intelligence agencies and military of false flag operatives, and limiting the scope of the military-industrial complex to wage undeclared wars at home and abroad.

Foreign Policy

The war on terror is a fraud designed to destabilize and fracture the Middle East, preventing national development of these oil-rich regions, and cooperation with and between Russia, China and other great powers. The US military-industrial complex has not only committed genocide for the benefit of Wall Street – it has put us on a path that ends in another world war.

Rather than bombing children with drones, we must promote a world Marshall Plan of great projects of world infrastructure that will boost the quality of life and provide meaningful employment for everyone.  We must abolish the private International Monetary Fund and create a new international bank publicly owned by the citizens of all nations to provide 0% credit for infrastructure and development of productive manufacturing and agriculture.


The United Front Against Austerity, a wide variety of individuals joining together with political and economic demands, is the greatest fear of the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, private banking/usury system and all agents of darkness striving to enslave mankind.  Those organizations of tyranny, bloodshed and inequity currently control the false left vs. right political Hegelian system.  However, in the near future, their power will be a distant memory as billions of people join together to reclaim their individual and economic rights.

Please visit the United Front Against Austerity at http://againstausterity.org/

Paul Adams is your humble servant and a follower of Jesus Christ. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11.

Empire Over Economy 'US may Follow in USSR Footsteps'


What Spending Problem?? Pelosi: Says U.S. Isn't Facing A Crisis


The Number One Reason to Invest in Gold…

With the the U.S. economy having once again dropped into negative recessionary growth, currency wars around the world heating up through direct and indirect devaluations, and trillion dollar fiscal deficits piling on, how is it possible that the stock market, a key measure of economic health for many Americans, is touching near all time highs?
Marin Katusa, Chief Strategist at Casey Research, suggests that this effect can be traced to monetary machinations that are happening behind the scenes, where few people are willing to look.
“Because they’re printing and making the availability of money so easy, the market is really confused right now,” says Katusa.
The reality is that literally trillions of dollars have been borrowed and printed to bail out the United States and Europe, and much of that money has been injected into stock markets to give the appearance of recovery.
It is, at best, an illusory effect.
Given that more people than ever before are out of work, over half of American households are dependent on some form of government disbursement to survive, and prices for essential goods like food and energy are consistently rising, it’s only a matter of time before confusion in financial markets turns to panic.
And when it does, just as we’ve seen throughout history, only real, tangible assets will be of value.
One such asset that has always maintained real value in times of calamity is gold.
Despite arguments that gold doesn’t grow like typical modern day investments and simply sits in a vault gathering dust, according to Marin Katusa in a recent interview with Future Money Trends, there is one key reason for why it should be in your diversified basket of goods.
The number one reason to invest in gold is insurance.
Because of the massive liquidity and the dilution of, not just the US and not just Bernanke, but all of the major countries – they are a printing press… The main reason to invest is because gold is money.

Before they had fiat currencies – that’s the currencies like today… there was gold.
The Romans. The Egyptians. The Babylonians.
For thousands of years they used gold before they used these fiat currencies.
And, every time in history a fiat currency ends in disaster.
We have recent examples. If you look at what happened to Yugoslavia, or Zimbabwe, or even Germany with their fiat currencies… gold always holds true value.
That’s why we believe gold is a true, original money.

I think at least you can see with gold, it is the insurance policy to bet against the bankers.

Watch at Youtube
With all of this money – literally hundreds of billions of dollars – being thrown into stock markets by leading financial institutions that were just a few years ago on the brink of insolvency, there are massive price distortions happening across the board. This includes rising stock markets, one of the key benefactors of the Federal Reserve’s printing press.
Another not so positive effect (at least not for the American people) are ever increasing prices in the free market, something that Katusa says is going to continue:
[There is a] One hundred percent [chance of inflation].
You can guarantee these three things in life: Taxes, Death, and Inflation.
Inflation is coming… I just don’t know if it’s next week, or in six months, or twelve months.
But the reality is, it’s coming.
That’s why if you have a percentage in gold, you’re covered.
It’s an insurance policy.
When all fiat monetary exchange mechanisms fail, only one asset has stood the test of time as a store of wealth.
Gold is and always has been an insurance policy.
It will be the only thing left standing when the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Yen, and other paper currencies are inflated to oblivion by their respective governments.
Make sure you have some when that happens.

FTC says 5.2% of consumers had significant errors on credit reports

WASHINGTON -- About one in 20 consumers had significant errors on their credit reports that could cause them to pay more for auto loans and other financial products, according to a Federal Trade Commission report released Monday.
The study also found that about 26% of the approximately 200 million people covered by the U.S. credit reporting industry had at least one "potentially material error" on one of their three credit reports.
And four out of five people who took steps to fix errors with one of the three major credit reporting companies -- Experian Information Solutions Inc., Equifax Inc. and TransUnion -- got their credit report changed.
The findings show that consumers need to closely monitor their credit reports, the agency said.
QUIZ: Test your knowledge about the debt limit
“These are eye-opening numbers for American consumers,” said Howard Shelanski, director of the agency's economics bureau.  “The results of this first-of-its-kind study make it clear that consumers should check their credit reports regularly. If they don’t, they are potentially putting their pocketbooks at risk.”
Agency officials noted that federal law allows consumers to get a free credit report once every year from the three major firms. The website to obtain the reports is www.annualcreditreport.com.
“Your credit report has information about your finances and your bill-paying history, so it’s important to make sure it’s accurate,” said Charles Harwood, acting director of the agency's consumer protection bureau.
This study was the first time the agency has taken a comprehensive look at all aspects of the credit-reporting process, including consumers, lenders and large credit reporting companies. It studied 1,001 randomly selected consumers and their credit reports and helped them identify potential errors.
While the 26% error rate was high, not all of the errors resulted in changes in credit scores that would cost consumers money, the study said. Of the 2,968 credit reports studied -- about three for each consumer -- about 2.2% had errors that were likely to change their credit score enough to cause them to pay higher rates for loans and other products.
The Consumer Data Industry Assn., a trade group representing credit reporting companies, cited that 2.2% figure in touting the accuracy of credit reports.
"Confirmation that credit reports are accurate is a good thing, but all consumers should be aware that checking credit reports every year is fundamental to accuracy," said Stuart Pratt, the group's president.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which shares oversight of the industry with the Federal Trade Commission, reported in December that less than one in five consumers obtain copies of their credit reports each year.

Come on, Ireland

patcondell May 20 2011

A nation once again?

Irish election: all the main parties vow to carry on with current disastrous strategy

Trapped inside an economic prison

EU accounts not signed off for the sixteenth consecutive year

European parliament bans opposition

Barroso - The EU is an antidote to democracy

Ireland's future depends on breaking free from bailout

EU 'partners' make E1.3 billion yearly profit at Ireland's expense

EU loan is no bailout, it's financial bullying

Barroso - Ireland entirely to blame for its own woes

UKIP leader Nigel Farage speaking in Germany

A European's warning to America

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Eureka! The Postal Service finds gold in California

The Postal Service has been actively selling off historic post office buildings for over a year now.  About forty have been sold or put up for sale.  They’re scattered around the country, but for some reason more than a third of them are in California.
Last week news came out that one of the most beautiful post offices in the country would be sold, the 1915 post office in Berkeley.  The protest is already beginning (SF Gate and Daily Californian).
The Berkeley post office was built during a period when many believed architectural beautification could bring harmony to urban living, explains Gray Brechin, UC-Berkeley geography professor and founder of the Living New Deal.  “The federal government went to special lengths to give Berkeley one of the handsomest postal facilities in the state and possibly the nation,” says Brechin. “It represents the high idealism of the City Beautiful Movement.”

Apparently the country is done with that kind of idealism, and rather than building beautiful public places, the federal government is selling them off.  What’s going on in California is one of the main reasons the National Trust named the Historic Post Office to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places of 2012.
Historic post offices are highly prized by their communities.  They anchor the downtown area, help local businesses, enable people to walk to the post office, and elicit pride of place.  People may complain about the long lines, but they love their grand old post office.  
If something doesn’t stop the sell-off, it looks as though the Postal Service is prepared to dispose of all 2,200 of the country’s historic post offices.  Postal officials seem to think that this legacy belongs to them, to do with as they please.  They forget that these post offices are the property of the American people.  They seem unaware of the magnitude of the crime they're committing.
The Postal Service says it needs the money these sales bring in, and the old buildings cost too much to maintain, especially when a lot of space is underutilized.  But the sales bring in a relatively small amount of money in the context of the USPS budget, the maintenance costs are less than the rent the Postal Service pays on the replacement post office, and the underused space is the Postal Service's own fault.  Rather than making the most of the downtown location, the Postal Service moves letter carriers to other locations (which also cost money to lease or maintain), so that the mail processing that used to go on in the back now goes on somewhere else, leaving just the retail services in the building.
The explanations offered by the Postal Service disguise what's really going on.  The Postal Service is selling off its properties because divestiture of assets, along with outsourcing, is one of the main steps in the process of privatization.  The plans have been in the works for a long time.  Back in 1998, President Reagan's Commission on Privatization recommended selling off "obsolete buildings in central business districts" — historic downtown post offices — to help move the Postal Service toward privatization.  You can read all about it in the Commission's report, "Privatization: Toward More Effective Government" (pp. 122-125).

Why California?

California has fourteen historic post offices that have been sold, put on the market, or planned for sale — the most of any state in the country.  Connecticut is number two, with five (most of them in the “Gold Coast” area around Westport).  Several other states have one or two.
One might assume that so many historic post offices are being sold in California because the state has an unusual number of them, but that explanation doesn't hold up.  California ranks fifth in terms of how many historic posts offices it possesses, 106.  New York is number one (with 238); Pennsylvania, second (182); then come Illinois (170) and Ohio (126).    Yet these states have only one or two historic post offices for sale.
Of California's approximately 1,800 post offices, the Postal Service owns around 600.   Using fifty years old as a rule of thumb for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, over a hundred California post offices are eligible and 24 are currently on the Register.  (A list of California’s historic post offices is here, a map here, and a spreadsheet showing how post offices and historic buildings break down state-by-state, here.)

Percentage-wise, California is not at all unusual in the number of historic post offices it possesses.  About 6 percent of the state’s post offices are historic, which ranks California 29th.   By contrast, in the New England states, about 13 percent of the post offices are historic.
There must be another reason why the state is seeing so many sales compared to other states. One possible explanation is that postal management in the Pacific District is simply being more aggressive about selling post offices than other districts, perhaps to please postal headquarters back east.  It’s also possible that the California post offices are among the country’s most valuable, and the Postal Service wants to work on the big-ticket items first.  That would also explain why it sold off the post offices in Connecticut’s Gold Coast and Palm Beach, Florida.  Or maybe the Postal Service is just starting the divestiture process on the West Coast, intending to work its way east, so it’s only a matter of time before other states suffer their share of the damage.

The California Connection

Whatever the explanation, there’s another interesting angle to the California story.  Last year, the Postal Service signed a contract with the CBRE Group (aka CB Richard Ellis), the world’s largest commercial real estate company, to handle sales and leases.  The partnership has not pleased postal lessors, and the USPS OIG has been looking into the problems, though its report seems stalled.
The Postal Service and CBRE soon set up a website advertising many of the USPS properties for sale.  But overall, the company seems to be taking a low profile.  Some properties have been put up for sale without appearing on the website, and CBRE rarely gets mentioned in news articles about pending or completed sales.
 The California connection is that CBRE is headquartered in Los Angeles, and the Chairman of the Board is Richard C. Blum — a native of San Francisco, a graduate of UC-Berkeley, and a Regent of the University of California.  He also happens to be the husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Mr. Blum has been on the board of CBRE since 1993, and he's been Chair since 2011.  In 2001, Mr. Blum's company, Blum Capital Partners, an equity investment management firm, did a leveraged buyout of CBRE for $800 million.  In other words, Mr. Blum basically owns and runs CBRE.
The Blum-Feinstein relationship has received scrutiny because of Mr. Blum’s government contracts as well as his dealings with China, which raise conflict-of-interest issues with his wife’s official duties.  For example, in 2009 the senator introduced legislation to provide $25 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, a government agency that had recently awarded CBRE a contract to sell foreclosed properties.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) urged the Inspector General of the FDIC to investigate the CBRE contract, but apparently that didn’t happen.  (More on the web of connections, here and here, and more allegations, here.)
Mr. Blum's CBRE isn't a stranger to helping the government sell off assets.  In October 2009, CBRE won a con­tract with the California Department of General Services to broker over $2 billion in office buildings the state wanted to privatize because of its financial problems.
No one has had much to say about the USPS-CBRE-Blum-Feinstein connection.  The media have ignored it, and no watchdogs have seized upon it.  There may be nothing to it.  If there is anything amiss, don’t worry about rectifying matters in this lifetime.  Mr. Blum is a self-professed Buddhist, so you can leave it to karma and reincarnation to take care of things.

The same story, over and over again

When the Postal Service sells one of its historic post offices, the storyline is always the same.  The process begins with the Postal Service shifting letters carriers from the post office to an annex outside the downtown area.  That leaves the retail end of the operations alone in the building, occupying a small part of the total square footage.  A few months later, maybe a year or two, the Postal Service says that it can’t afford to maintain all the wasted space, so it would be better to move the retail activity to another location.
In some cases, the Postal Service waits to move the carriers until the building is under contract, but either way, the carriers and the processing work they do are always bifurcated from the retail end of things.  The carriers go to one location, the retail clerks to another.  (Decoupling mail processing and retail is another part of the privatization process.)

When it first informs postal workers and customers of its intention to sell the building, a USPS spokesperson inevitably tells the media that the Postal Service is only "considering" the building for sale, and a decision is months away.  A few weeks later, there’s a community meeting, and the USPS spokesperson says the same thing: “No decisions have been made.  We’re just looking into it.”  That’s just a way to placate people and to make it seem as if they have plenty of time to persuade the Postal Service to change its mind.
The USPS spokesperson will also offer the boilerplate explanation for why the post office needs to be sold: The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year, and it has to look everywhere it can to cut costs.  The downtown post office is much bigger than they need (the carriers have been moved away), so a small retail space would be more economical.
The news item about the pending sale will repeat this explanation as gospel, and the reporter will never look at the USPS financial reports, which show quite clearly that were it not for the Congressional mandate to prefund the retiree health fund at $5.6 billion a year (a totally unnecessary expenditure that's designed to help the federal budget more than postal workers), the Postal Service would be practically breaking even.

When a closing is not a closing

Once the decision to move forward with the sale has been made, the Postal Service starts looking for a new location for retail services.  Because the retail is just moving and not closing down completely, the Postal Service considers the closing of the post office as merely a “relocation,” not an actual “discontinuance.”
For a community watching its historic post office being closed and sold, the distinction is meaningless, but for the Postal Service, there’s a big difference.  A discontinuance occurs when a town’s post office is closed completely and people need to go to another town to do their postal business.  There are laws and regulations that govern exactly how this process is to be conducted.  It involves advance notification, community meetings, surveys, and a particular timeline.  Plus, a community can appeal the Postal Service’s decision to the Postal Regulatory Commission.  The PRC can’t overturn a discontinuance decision, but it can remand the final determination to close the office back to the Postal Service for further consideration.
When it closes one of these historic downtown post offices, however, the Postal Service always sets up a small retail operation in a new location.  The post office hasn’t “closed” — it’s just been “relocated.”  Hence, there’s no need to go through a formal discontinuance process, and the community has no right to appeal.  Actually, it can still file an appeal, but it won’t do any good.  When the community in Venice appealed to the PRC a few months ago, the PRC dismissed the appeal on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction over relocations.  The same thing happened in Ukiah.
A small rural post office that serves a very small town and just leases a few hundred square feet in a ramshackle building turns out to be more protected by the law than a large, historic downtown post office serving an entire city.  But that’s the way it is.  Perhaps it’s a testimony to how much power rural communities have in Congress, or perhaps legislators never envisioned the Postal Service selling off its legacy of historic post offices.

Repurposing the public realm

While the Postal Service doesn’t have to follow discontinuance regulations when it relocates a historic post office, it does have to deal with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties.  But the Postal Service knows all about following the rules of Section 106, and the Act has not turned out to be a tool for preventing the sale of post offices.  It can ensure some protections, however, like making sure that a famous New Deal mural remains accessible to the public.
Once the Postal Service has a buyer, it sometimes tries to lease space in the same building so that the post office can remain open without a relocation.  That keeps people in the community happy, but it usually turns out to be a temporary arrangement.  The new owner has paid too much money for the building to worry about providing space for a post office.  He has big plans, and a post office isn’t part of them.

After the new owner takes possession and gets all the permits in order, the building is repurposed.  Old post offices have been turned into everything from a police station to a restaurant.  Real estate magnate Peter Malkin, owner of the Empire State Building, bought the historic post office in Greenwich, Connecticut, and rumors say it will be turned into a Bergdorf-Goodman or some other high-end retailer.  The post office in Palm Beach was purchased by a billionaire who made his fortune in credit default swaps; it's now Sunshine Reality.  The post office in Bethesda, Maryland, is being eyed for a condo development.  The potential buyer for the post office in Venice, California, wants to convert it to a film production studio.
As for the economics, these historic properties are fetching two or three million dollars, sometimes more.  The Postal Service saves some maintenance costs, but it has to start paying to rent space in another location.  The Postal Service won't share much information about these arrangements, but the average rent for a post office is about $2,000 a month, and in affluent places like the Connecticut Gold Coast and most of the locations in California, rents can run several times that amount.  In Palm Beach, Florida, rumor has it that the Postal Service is paying $10,000 at month for the retail outlet that replaced the New Deal post office, which it owned outright.  The economics of selling historic post offices only make sense if the long-term goal is complete divestiture.

California status report

Here’s a list of the fourteen historic post offices sold or for sale in California.  For more on the history of these post offices and the famous murals and other artworks many of them contain, check out the Living New Deal website.

BERKELEY: Sale planned.
The most recent addition to the list of endangered post offices in California is Berkeley’s 98-year-old landmark building designed by architect Oscar Wendorth, in the style of a famous Renaissance hospital in Florence, designed by Brunelleschi.  The Postal Service announced last week that it was planning to sell the Berkeley post office and to open another storefront in the neighborhood.  No buyer or a price has been named.  The Berkeley post office is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Postal Service announced in February its plan to sell the 1942 Burlingame post office.  “Nothing is being taken away. We’re simply looking at relocating retail services,” said U.S. Postal Service spokesman James Wigdel.  “The facility is three times the space we need. It’s literally a waste of space,” said Jeff Suess, real estate specialist in the Pacific Facilities Service Office for the U.S. Postal Service.  Suess shared photos of post offices that had been turned into office space with cafes, a museum or, Suess’ favorite, a bed and breakfast.  A public meeting was held in April, but no news since then.

FULLERTON: For sale.  
There doesn’t seem to be much in the news about the Fullerton post office, but it’s listed on the USPS-CBRE website as “Coming Soon,” with “List price to be determined.”   The building was constructed in 1938, for $56,000, in less than seven months.  It has a 1936 mural by Paul Julian, depicting idealized images of Fullerton citrus, oil, and aviation industries.  Julian worked as a cartoon background painter and Roadrunner voice artist for Warner Brothers.

The Postal Service announced in February that it planned to sell the 1935 Huntington Beach post office, but according to USPS spokesman Richard Maher, “No decisions have been made.  We're not sure if this would be able to be accomplished."  The building is a local landmark, and a few months ago, comedian Betty White used it as the backdrop for a scene of the TV show, "Off Their Rockers."

LA JOLLA: Sale planned.
The Postal Service announced in January that intended to sell the building and relocate postal services to a smaller location.  There’s a Save the La Jolla Post Office Community Task Force, and Save Our Heritage Organisation has also taken up the fight.  USPS spokesperson Eva Jackson told the media, "A recommendation has not been finalized.  Once a recommendation is made, it will be made public and there will be a 15 day appeal period."  The La Jolla post office was singled out by the National Trust when it declared the historic post office building to its list of endangered places.

MODESTO: Closed, sold.
The Postal Service can share the blame for the sale of the historic El Viejo post office with the GSA, which owned the building.  The Postal Service closed the post office in April, then in September the building was sold for $1.02 million to developer Peter Janopaul III.  He plans to convert the post office into ten, three-level residential lofts and a 4,000-square-foot penthouse, complete with a private pool, which will go for $1.6 million.  Development may be hampered somewhat by the fact that the building is on the National Register.  The Depression-era murals must remain available for public viewing, and the bronze postal boxes and the lobby's ornate metal writing table will stay with the building as well.

PALO ALTO: For sale.  
The Postal Service announced in December that the Palo Alto post office would be put up for sale.  "We're not closing any of these post offices, but we are relocating them," said James Wigdel, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. "It'll be the same amount of retail when it's all said and done."  The iconic building was designed by prominent local architect Birge Clark, whose other buildings include the Lucie Stern Community Center and various buildings on the Ramona Street Historic District.  The building is probably worth about $6 million. In March, city officials submitted a letter of interest to the Postal Service, but no word yet on the response.  In the meantime, the building is listed on the USPS-CBRE website as “Coming Soon.”

REDLANDS: For sale.  
The folks in Redlands are lucky to have local resident Karlie Miller fighting to save the post office.  She has singlehandedly taken on the Postal Service — and more besides.  In March, when news came out that the post office would be closed and services relocated about three-quarters of a mile away to the New York station on Redlands’ west side, Miller went to work gathering signatures to save the post office.  But she’s not only up against the Postal Service.  The Redlands Historic Museum Association has set its sights on the building as a location for a city museum, and the City Council supports the idea.  The downtown building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.  No closure date has been announced, but the building is listed on the USPS-CBRE website as “Coming Soon.”

SAN RAFAEL: For sale.  
The 75-year-old post office on D Street is slated to be closed and moved to a new downtown location.  It contains a New Deal mural entitled "San Rafael Creek – 1851” by Oscar Galgiani, a life-long resident of Stockton and a founder of the Stockton Art League.  The post office is listed on the USPS-CBRE website as “Coming Soon.”

SANTA BARBARA: Sale planned.
Residents learned in late April that the post office in Santa Barbara would soon be put up for sale, with retail services moving to a new, smaller location.  The Postal Service says that since the carriers have been moved out, it only needs 6,000 square feet of the 50,000-square-foot property.  The building is on the National Register, so no alterations can be made to its façade.  A news report says that last year city officials toured the building and considered purchasing it for a police headquarters, but parking was somewhat limited.  It’s possible a successful corporation may want the building as a “trophy headquarters.”

SANTA MONICA: Sale planned.
Citizens in Santa Monica learned in March that their historic post office would be closed and retail services relocated to a carrier annex about a mile away.  USPS spokesman Richard Maher said an internal study had been completed on the financial benefits of consolidating in Santa Monica, but he would not release any information.  “The plan has yet to be finalized,” says Mahler, and the financial information is irrelevant anyway.  "We have to look at the bigger picture.  In order to provide service to every community in the country, there will be facilities that may be consolidated that are actually operating at a profit, but for the good of the entire system, they will be consolidated."  Built by the Work Projects Administration during the Depression, the building is on the National Register.  There will be a public meeting about the pending sale on July 17th.

SOUTH GATE: For sale.  
After learning that the Postal Service intended to sell the Firestone Station, the South Gate City Council passed a preservation ordinance limiting future exterior alteration to buildings so designated.   From now on, property owners must get a city permit for changes to the façade or architectural styling.  The ordinance passed 3-0 with Vice Mayor Gil Hurtado, a postal employee, abstaining.  The South Gate post office was dedicated in 1936, under Supervising Architect Louis Simon.

UKIAH: Closed, for sale.
When it learned in early 2011 of the Postal Service’s plan to close and sell the post office in Ukiah, the community did everything it could to save the post office.  As usual, the Postal Service didn’t bother with a full discontinuance process, since retail services were relocated to a carrier annex on the edge of town.  When the town appealed to the PRC, the case was dismissed, since the Commission can’t do anything about relocations.  The post office closed in January, and the building was put in escrow, according to a broker handling the sale to some unnamed buyer.  In May, the building was named to the National Register, but it doesn’t look like that will affect the sale.  The building is currently listed on the USPS-CBRE website for $675,000.  "It's despicable," said attorney Barry Vogel, who worked with a group of citizens to fight the sale of the Ukiah post office.  “These closures take the guts out of local communities, subjugating us so that we become less free.  We have fewer services and it makes life more difficult for hard-working people who have used this post office for 75 years.”  (There’s more on Ukiah here.)

VENICE: Closed, sale pending:
The people in Venice put up a great fight to save their post office, but as in Ukiah, to no avail.  An appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission was dismissed, and while a legal suit is still pending, the Postal Service has already closed the post office and it’s proceeding with the sale.  The retail services have been relocated to a carrier annex, and the building is in contract with film producer Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Matrix), who’s also the co-inventor of Ultimate Frisbee.  The post office is listed on the USPS-CBRE website, for $7.5 million. There’s a great story about the efforts to save the Venice post office here, and there’s more here.  The post office contains artist Edward Biberman’s 1941 mural, 'Story of Venice,' which depicts Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice.

What's to be done?

Many of the communities facing the loss of their historic post office have formed “save the post office” groups, created Facebook pages, done petition drives, and lobbied their elected officials.  Nothing seems to be able to stop the Postal Service.  As we've seen with Venice and Ukiah, appeals to the PRC and lawsuits don’t seem to work either.
The one thing that hasn’t happened yet is forging a unified front against the Postal Service.  Perhaps if all the communities in California faced with losing their post office got organized, they might have more success than fighting the Postal Service alone.  Perhaps they could appeal directly to Senator Feinstein, who might have a word with her husband over dinner one evening.  You can contact the senator here.
Another approach would be to contact the Postal Service officials who are responsible for the sales.  They'll be happy to hear from concerned citizens — the more the better.  Here’s the contact info for a few of the postal executives who have may some influence:
Tom Samra
Vice President, Facilities
United States Postal Service

475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20260-0004
Tel: (800) 275-8777; 703-526-2727
Fax: 703-526-2740
Email: tomasamra@usps.gov
Jane E. Bjork
Manager, Facilities, Real Estate and Assets

United States Postal Service Headquarters

475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Room 6670

Washington, DC 20260-1862
Tel.: 202-268-8463  Fax: 202-268-6305
Diana K. Alvarado
Manager, Property Management
395 Oyster Point Boulevard, Suite 225

South San Francisco, CA 94080-0300 
Tel.: 415-550-5112  Fax: 415-550-5207
Email: diana.alvarado@usps.gov

South America Goes Critical: Now Chavez Devalues Currency: “This May Well Be the Lighting of the Proverbial Fuse… Everywhere.”

While Europe’s fiscal woes seem to be on everyone’s financial radar recently, and rightfully so, there is instability everywhere.
This is a global economic crisis and it’s affecting hundreds of millions of people all over the world.
Earlier this week Argentine President Cristina Kirchner responded to her country’s sky-rocketing inflation rates by freezing prices on food, a move Forbes magazine says will soon lead to widespread corruption in the business community and government.
In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has attempted to control all aspects of his country’s economy, price freezes instituted on essential goods like diapers and cleaning products over a year ago failed to curb soaring inflation which registered at over 22% last year. In response, with their quiver out of arrows, the Venezuelan government announced today that they are devaluing their national currency, the Bolivar, by over a third. The announcement had the immediate impact of increasing the price for a US dollar in Bolivar by nearly 50%.
By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela’s dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help ease a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations.
But analysts said the move would not be sufficient to end the government’s budget woes or balance the exchange rate with an overvalued currency. Economists predicted higher inflation and a likely continuation of shortages of some staple foods, such as cornmeal, chicken and sugar.

Venezuela’s government has had strict currency exchange controls since 2003 and maintains a fixed, government-set exchange rate. Under the controls, people and businesses must apply to a government currency agency to receive dollars at the official rate to import goods, pay for travel or cover other obligations.
While those controls have restricted the amounts of dollars available at the official rate, an illegal black market has flourished and the value of the bolivar has recently been eroding. In black market street trading, dollars have recently been selling for more than four times the official exchange rate of 4.30 bolivars to the dollar.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.
Source: USA Today
The free market cannot be controlled in the way politicians and central bankers would like you to believe. Any action to restrict access will lead to an opposite reaction that often involves black markets and panic buying.
Case in point: Americans bought a gun every 1.5 seconds in the last year. Why do you think that is?
Chavez, like the brilliant politicians, economists and financial wizards at the helm of U.S. recovery efforts, has tried to control his economy through central governance for ten years. It has failed on all counts. Inflation has continued unabated. Price controls have led to black markets in everything from goods to currencies. Despite promises to the contrary, people continue to suffer without respite.
But the implications for Venezuela’s latest move could be even more serious than just internal Venezuelan shortages.
Perhaps the Black Swan event that no one saw coming just happened.
One of our insightful readers, Just One Guy, explains:
This is a REALLY big devaluation.
The implications here are really not GOOD.
Venezuela is a smidgen on the map, but as a major OPEC nation, it will have – in short order – BIG implications in the global oil price, say 60 days… no more until the effect hits. In the meanwhile the Venezuelan government will enforce price controls internally while trying to skim the differential off it’s oil sales into the government’s coffers.
The net effect of this will be a stall in the consumer goods imports since the peoples wages will NOT increase…
A very short clock is now ticking since this will ripple through ALL of South America in VERY short order…
This may well be the lighting of the proverbial fuse… everywhere.
Further ‘Nationalizations’ will begin happening and will spread rapidly throughout the continent… as that happens Europe’s life-blood will trickle to a halt.
Our investors will be affected too, but Europe’s sole profitable business’s are overseas…many in South America.
So it begins…
Argentina and Venezuela, two of the region’s largest commodity exporters, just went critical. It will spread. As we noted previously, nationalization efforts were already under way before this week’s developments.
And, in Chile, businesses are already feeling the impact of Argentina’s price freeze:
The Chilean companies Falabella, Sodimac, and Cencosud complying with the freeze do millions of dollars of business in the country.
Some critics of Kirchner’s economic policy say the freeze could lead to food shortages in Argentina and even black market sales of products.
“Price freezes mean no profits for sellers or even losses. Who will import food under these conditions?” said Paul Gregory, an economics professor at the University of Houston.
The freeze is bad for Argentina and bad for Chile, he added.
Source: Santiago Times
Similar side effects will be felt by anyone who does business in Venezuela.
The interdependence of global monetary, financial and economic systems cannot be underestimated in this context.
With Europe in shambles, Chinese growth collapsing, South America in panic, and the US now in recession, the potential for a catalyst that will set off another financial meltdown and full-blown economic collapse has increased exponentially.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong here.
One thing you can be sure of is, just as the people of Venezuela had no forewarning about the devaluation of their currency, we won’t be told until it’s already too late.

Citigroup hasn’t paid taxes in 4 years, got $2.5 trillion from feds

Chris has gone on at length about the corporate “welfare queens” on Wall Street and the right (they’re almost always Republican) who took billions in federal bail out money in late 2008 and early 2009, and now turn around and tell the rest of us that we need to tighten our belts by cutting Medicare and Social Security, and increasing the age of eligibility for each program.
Just like the Republican wars, there’s always money to be found when corporations need a bailout.  But when American citizens need the support of their government, such as when they reach 65 and (hopefully) are able to retire, suddenly the money’s all gone (until the next war).
Citigroup is a perfect example.  Remember how shortly after the bailout Citi wanted to raise salaries as the entire country was losing jobs?  And how Citi wanted to pay one energy trader $100 million in 2009, in the midst of the crisis? And how later in 2009, Citigroup increased the salaries of its executives?  At the same time Citigroup just couldn’t say “no” to its employees, it jacked up interest rates exorbitantly on its own credit card customers.  See, it’s never a problem asking you to pay more.
From Senator Bernie Sanders, writing in the Huffington Post, we learn that Citigroup hasn’t paid federal taxes in four years.
In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.
I love the Senator’s next point about these companies being American in name only:
Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.
It’s a point we’ve raised before.  If these companies, like Mitt Romney, want to pay foreign taxes – which often are no taxes at all – then why turn to the US government when they’re in trouble and need to be bailed out? Are they American or aren’t they?
Reuters notes that in 2011, Citigroup didn’t get any less generous with its own senior employees as it was in 2009 and 2010.   Citigroup was one of 26 companies that paid its CEO more in 2011 than it paid in taxes that year:
* Citigroup, the financial services giant, with a tax refund of $144 million based on prior losses, paid CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million in 2011, despite an advisory vote against it by 55 percent of shareholders.
* Telecoms group AT&T paid CEO Randall Stephenson $18.7 million, but was entitled to a $420 million tax refund thanks to billions in tax savings from recent rules accelerating depreciation of assets.
* Drugmaker Abbott Laboratories paid CEO Miles White $19 million, while garnering a $586 million refund. Abbott has 64 subsidiaries in 16 countries considered by authorities to be tax havens, the institute said.
It Mitt Romney is correct that corporations are people.  Then they’re clearly very greedy people.
And now we get to the fun stuff. Who used to work at Citigroup?  Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew.  And what did he do to avoid taxes?  Lew had up to $100,000 invested in the Cayman Islands, in order to save on taxes.  From Chris writing the other day:
220px-Jacob_LewSurprise! President Obama’s new Treasury Secretary nominee, Jack Lew, had up to $100,000 in investment in an offshore tax haven in the Cayman Islands.  The investment fund “home” was a PO Box.
As I said when President Obama first nominated Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary, Lew is part of the banking problem, not the solution. Jack Lew may not have dumped as much money into offshore locations as, say, Mitt Romney, but like many others from the banking world, he was using the tax-avoidance tools mostly available to only 1% types.
Lew didn’t create the offshore fund, but you have to love thatonce again, Citi – the bank that loves taxpayer money so much it’s practically addicted to it – offers easy ways for employees to once again avoid paying their fair share to the country that kept them alive to the tune of $336.1 billion.
Who did have to pay taxes the past four years?  You and me.  Who didn’t get a bailout?  You and me.

Ron Paul: “6,000 Years of History, Gold Is Always Money, Paper Money Fails”

by GoldCore
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,663.50, EUR 1,242.16 and GBP 1,057.94 per ounce.
Friday’s AM fix was USD 1,669.75, EUR 1,245.15 and GBP 1,059.55 per ounce.
Silver is trading at $31.24/oz, €23.40/oz and £19.99/oz. Platinum is trading at $1,720.75/oz, palladium at $748.00/oz and rhodium at $1,220/oz.

Cross Currency and Precious Metal Table – (Bloomberg)

Gold fell $3.20 or 0.19% on Friday closing at $1,668.60/oz. Silver edged down to $31.31 in early New York trade, but it then climbed higher and finished unchanged on the day.
Spot gold was up 0.05% for the week while silver was off 1.13%.

Gold Spot $/oz, Daily, 03JAN2010-11FEB2013 – (Bloomberg) 

Gold is slightly weaker in dollar and euro terms today but higher in pounds and yen.
Volumes are light in thin trade as most of Asia is closed for the week long Lunar New Year holiday.
Palladium and platinum remain just shy of their strongest levels in almost a year and a half.
Europe’s finance ministers are meeting to discuss aid to Greece and Cyprus. They aim to tidy the sea of debt before the Italian elections on February 24-25 and a political scandal in Spain – both of which could quickly destroy the market calm.
Pro-independence parties in Scotland and Catalonia are preparing for referendums next year that they hope could see their regions as independent free countries.  A few analysts feel the freedom of seceding may incite others in Europe to follow suit.
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez announced a surprise devaluation of the bolivar by 36% over the carnival weekend.
Some analysts say that although the exchange rate adjustment was necessary to correct growing distortions in the economy, it did not go far enough as they feel the currency is still overvalued.
The moved shows the importance of gold as a diversification to protect against currency devaluations.
U.S. economic highlights this week follow: The Treasury Budget on Tuesday, Retail Sales, Export and Import Prices, and Business Inventories on Wednesday, Initial Jobless Claims on Thursday, and Empire Manufacturing, Net Long-Term TIC Flows, Industrial Production, Capacity Utilization and Michigan Sentiment on Friday.

Silver Spot $/oz, 13FEB2010-11FEB2013 – (Bloomberg)

Ron Paul spoke with Bloomberg television (see video in Commentary) and said that we are in a currency war and we have been for decades. He noted that governments have always competed against each other’s currencies even under Bretton Woods. It has always been a form or protectionism and will make people want to export more.
Dr. Paul said don’t blame countries like China and Japan just look at the debt the U.S. is buying. There will always be currency wars. The Bank of Japan claims it has to defend itself against deflation and decades of slow growth.
Ron Paul noted that the Bank of Japan’s yen devaluations will eventually lead to further price inflations that are to come. Investors and citizens will eventually reject the yen and switch to other currencies like dollars or Swiss francs.  Then eventually people will move to hard assets altogether as they are losing confidence in paper assets.
Dr. Paul was asked, “Do you think protectionism will lead to a crash in the international monetary system? He replied, “Nothing good can come of it. Even short run trade benefits leads to a weaker economy and higher prices. It doesn’t solve the problem they won’t face the truth. That is that all governments spend too much money, there is too much debt and they get away with it by taxing people”.
“It seems that all we have is more debt, more printing money, and more government interventions. Governments won’t even talk cutting things. They only want to make slight decreases of proposed increases in their budgets!”

On the next U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, Paul says, “We don’t need an intervener.  He should have a strong dollar policy by defining it, and not by propping up the market. Don’t devalue a currency. It is then that you hurt savers and cost of living goes up. This only damages the middle class and the poor no matter what welfare programmes you have because they lose purchasing power.”
Dr. Paul says that he feels the Obama administration is trying to devalue the dollar, they are very different then sound people and different then the Austrian economists. They feel debt is ok.
The interviewer noted that the gold standard has not immunized us from financial crisis.
Dr. Paul retorts, “If you look at it over several years it does maintain money. There were flaws with the gold standard, during wars, there were problems in the past and we understand so much more today and we could do better.”
“If you think we need a wiser Federal Reserve, central economic planning for the manipulation of credit, or a better Treasury Secretary, I reject that. “
After all, Ron Paul says for over 6000 years of history gold is always money and paper money fails.

IMF Russia Gold in Million Fine Troy Oz, Monthly – (Bloomberg)

Russia buys gold to protect against “cataclysm with the dollar, euro, pound or any other reserve currency”
Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty.
“The more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there’s a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency,” Evgeny Fedorov, a lawmaker for Putin’s United Russia party in the lower house of parliament, said in a telephone interview in Moscow.
Gold, coveted by Russian rulers including Tsar Nicholas II and the Bolshevik leader whose forces assassinated him, Vladimir Lenin, has soared almost 400% in the period of Putin’s purchases. Central banks around the world have printed money to escape the global financial crisis, sapping investor appetite for dollars and euros and setting off a scramble for safety.
In 1998, the year Russia defaulted on $40 billion of domestic debt, it took as many as 28 barrels of crude to buy an ounce of gold, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That ratio tumbled to 11.5 by the time Putin first came to power a year later and in 2005, after it touched 6.5 — less than half what it is now — the president told the central bank to buy.