Thursday, December 19, 2013

The most beautiful cars ever made

What makes a car beautiful? Without getting into the philosophy of what makes one car more beautiful than another, here are 10 cars, in no particular order, that would turn heads anywhere for their outstanding looks. We couldn't put every car that we would have liked so if a car is not on the list, it doesn't mean we didn't think it was beautiful.
Jaguar E-type
Timeless elegance is what has made the Jaguar E-type a poll topper in votes for 'the most beautiful car' since it was first launched in 1961. Fifty over years on, it's smooth flowing lines still make it a head turner. Designed by Malcolm Sayer, Enzo Ferrari himself called it "The most beautiful car ever made".

Alfa Romeo Spider
The roadster produced by Alfa Romeo from 1966 to 1993 only underwent minor aesthetic and mechanical changes throughout its three decades. It was designed by Battista Pininfarina and Franco Martinengo at Pininfarina. Personally, we like the 1970 version best for the cut-off tail.

Aston Martin DB9
The aluminium bodied Aston Martin DB9 was designed by Ian Callum and Henrik Fisker. The V12 engined super luxury sports car is just plain gorgeous.

Lotus Turbo Esprit
Even if this car hadn't appeared in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, it would have been a head turner. Even though it has been 38 years since it was launched at the 1975 Paris Motor Show, the car still attracts attention with its long, angular lines.

Mercedes-Benz SL
The first in the long line of SL-Class grand tourer convertibles and the fastest production car of its day, the gull-wing doors are the most distinctive feature of the car. This is the car that changed the image of Mercedes-Benz from manufacturer of solid but staid cars to producer of stylish, sporty cars.

Aston Martin DB5
One of the most recognised cars in the world, largely due to its appearance in the James Bond film, Goldfinger, the DB5 was designed by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera.  Besides the James Bond films, DB5 has also appeared in movies like The Cannonball Run, an episode of "The Saint" TV series, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Porsche 911 series
It doesn't really matter which series, the Porsche 911's design has been distinctive and durable since it was penned by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche and Erwin Komenda.

It doesn't really matter which Ferrari, they're all gorgeous super sportscars which were the pinnacle of pioneering sports car design in their day. Here we're decided to feature the Ferrari 308 GTS which was the model driven by Tom Selleck in his role as Thomas Magnum in the TV series, Magnum PI.
Jaguar XJ220
The fastest production car in 1992 before it was toppled from its roost by the McLaren F1, the XJ220 was a collaboration between Jaguar and specialist automotive and race engineering company Ton Walkinshaw Racing. Designed by Jim Randle and Keith Helfet, just 275 cars were produced.
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class W113
Designed by Paul Bracq and Bela Barenyi, the W113 SL was also known as the Pagoda top for its distinctive, patented, slightly concave hardtop.

'Virgin Births' Reveal Problems with Health Surveys

At this time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of a human baby to a virgin mother, an impossible event without artificial reproduction (or, perhaps, divine intervention). However, in the modern day, too, a number of women report having given birth as virgins, researchers have found incidentally.
During a study of American teenagers' health from 1995 to 2009, the researchers were surprised to discover that a number of women who reported being virgins also reported being pregnant.
Of the nearly 8,000 women in the study who were interviewed confidentially and multiple times for 14 years, 5,340 women reported a pregnancy, and 45 (0.8 percent) of those who reported pregnancies also reported being a virgin. These women had not used assisted reproductive techniques that can artificially induce pregnancy.
"Our first thought was that we had made a programming error," said study researcher Amy Herring, a professor of biostatistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But the researchers hadn't made an error. A number of participants had indicated the date of their first sexual intercourse and the date of their pregnancy in a way that it meant they had given birth before having had sex.
"We didn't ask the participants, specifically, if they gave birth as a virgin. Instead, they answered a series of questions on pregnancy history and a separate series of questions on vaginal intercourse," Herring said. "Based on [these] two sets of questions, we derived the virginity status at the time of pregnancy." [10 Surprising Sex Statistics]
The researchers then wanted to find the factors involved in this response pattern, Herring said.
The analysis showed that women who reported virgin births were more likely to have signed chastity pledges, which are often used by people who plan to remain chaste until marriage.
More than 30 percent of the women reporting apparent virgin births in this study had signed chastity pledges, compared with 15 percent of non-virgins who reported pregnancies and 20 percent of the other virgins.
The researchers also found that parents of women who reported virgin births were more likely to indicate lower levels of communication with their children about sex and birth control. The women, however, were not particularly more religious than the rest of the participants, according to the study published today (Dec. 17) in the medical journal BMJ.
Virgin births can happen in certain animals, including certain fish, snakes, lizards and birds, by asexual reproduction, which doesn't exist in humans.
In the religious context, however, virgin birth can have a slightly different meaning from asexual reproduction. Births without a human father still involve a non-mortal father; for example, the gospel of Matthew reports that Mary was found to be "with child" from the Holy Spirit, the researchers wrote in their study.
One source of inaccuracy in self-reports about virginity can be different definitions of sexual intercourse and virginity, the researchers said. To avoid any confusion, the questions in the survey were very explicit and precise regarding sexual intercourse that can lead to pregnancy, Herring said.
Generally, in studies regarding potentially sensitive topics, the participants may choose not to report certain experiences during in-person interviews. In the new study, the surveys were carried out using audio computer-assisted self-interview to enhance the candor of the respondents.
"Still, it's possible that some women may have discounted certain experiences or have chosen not to report certain experiences," Herring said.
This means that despite the enhancements and safeguards used in these surveys to optimize reporting accuracy, scientists may still face challenges when collecting self-reported data on sensitive topics, the researchers said. Such self-reports are still subject to some degree of respondent bias and misclassification, they said.
"This type of reporting wasn't limited to women in the study. In fact, there were a few virgin fathers lurking around in the data as well," Herring said. "That's little harder to wrap my head around."
Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.
Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

EU technocrats reach sovereignty crushing banking union deal

Brussels (AFP) Thursday, December 19, 2013 7:06:10 AM
France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier prior to the EU Economic and Finance Council of Ministers held in Brussels on December 18, 2013.
Thierry Charlier/AFP
France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier prior to the EU Economic and Finance Council of Ministers held in Brussels on December 18, 2013.
"Agreement by (member states)...for single resolution mechanism. Negotiations with (European Parliament) can now start," Barnier said.
The new framework means a big pooling of sovereignty and would mark a big step towards EU cross-border authority, explaining in large part why the talks have taken over a year to get this far.
France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem prior to the European Union Economic and Finance Council of Ministers held at the Lex building in Brussels on December 18, 2013.
Thierry Charlier/AFP
France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici (L) speaks with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem prior to the European Union Economic and Finance Council of Ministers held at the Lex building in Brussels on December 18, 2013.
The plan is for the banks to contribute to a special fund for this purpose, phased in over 10 years, so that the taxpayer will no longer have to foot the bill.
However, the fund is unlikely to be enough in the interim period and there have been tortuous discussions over how it could find additional or "backstop" financing.
According to a draft document seen by AFP, bridge financing could come either from the member states or from the eurozone's own rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism.
The final winding up fund -- estimated at 55 billion euros -- will also have a backstop to provide additional finance if needed, with the banking sector ultimately liable for it.
Finance ministers from the 28-country bloc were under pressure to produce a deal which EU leaders could then approve at a summit Thursday and Friday.

Italy’s president fears violent insurrection in 2014

Source: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph

Hundreds of students wrap themselves in an Italian tricolour during a Pitchforks Movement protest in Turin on Wednesday
Events in Italy are turning serious. President Giorgio Napolitano has warned of “widespread social tension and unrest” in 2014 as the Long Slump drags on.
Those living on the margins are being drawn into “indiscriminate and violent protest, a sterile lurch towards total opposition”.
His latest speech is a veritable Jeremiad. Thousands of companies are on the “brink of collapse”. Great masses of the working people are on the dole or at risk of losing their jobs. Very high rates of youth unemployment (41pc) are leading to dangerous alienation.
“The recession is still biting hard, and there is a pervasive sense that it will be difficult to escape, to find a way back to full growth,” he said.
Now why might that be? Might it not have something to do with the central overriding fact that Italy has a currency overvalued by 20pc or more within EMU: that it is trapped in a 1930s fixed-exchange system run a 1930s central bank that is standing idly by...

Demand for Weed in Washington State Doubles Previous Estimates

Activist Post

Marijuana consumption in Washington state is about twice as large as previously estimated, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Using federal data and information from a new survey of marijuana users in Washington state, researchers say marijuana consumption likely will range from 135 metric tons to 225 metric tons during 2013, with 175 metric tons as the median estimate.

The analysis was done as a part of efforts to help the Washington State Liquor Control Board prepare for commercial sales of marijuana, which will begin in 2014 as a result of Washington's Initiative 502 that legalized the commercial production and sales of marijuana for recreational use.

The Washington Office of Financial Management previously had estimated that marijuana consumption in Washington would be 85 metric tons in 2013. That estimate was based on federal data from 2008 and 2009, which estimated there were 363,000 past-month marijuana users in Washington. The figure for 2010 and 2011 was 556,000.

RAND researchers say understanding the size and composition of the current marijuana market is important to help state policymakers make decisions about the number of marijuana sales licenses to issue, to accurately project tax revenues and provide a foundation for evaluations of the state's legalization of recreational marijuana.

"Updated federal data and information we collected from marijuana users in Washington prompted us to conclude that consumption is significantly larger than previously estimated," said Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding marijuana market estimates, but our work used new insights and novel data collection tools to improve upon previous efforts."

Randy Simmons, the Initiative 502 implementation project manager with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said researchers shared their insights about marijuana consumption in June and the information was "very useful" as state officials made decisions about production and licenses.

The Washington state marijuana consumption estimates were compiled using information from the federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health, as well as a web-based survey of marijuana users in Washington state compiled by the research team. The online survey included novel approaches such as showing participants photos of marijuana to help them better report the actual quantity that they use.

"The federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides useful information about marijuana users, but it does not account for all of them," said Jonathan Caulkins, a study co-author and the Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. "We devoted serious attention to this undercounting issue in the report."

The RAND report estimates marijuana consumption in each of Washington's 39 counties, showing that the state's three most-populous counties (King, Snohomish and Pierce) account for about half of all use.

Support for the study was provided by the state of Washington as part of a contract with BOTEC Analysis Corporation, which advised the state on technical issues related to implementation of legal marijuana in the state.

Voters in Washington approved Initiative 502 in November 2012 that legalized recreational use of marijuana for those aged 21 and older, and requires the state to regulate and tax a new marijuana market. Commercial marijuana stores and associated supply chains are scheduled to begin operating in 2014.

The RAND report, "Before the Grand Opening: Measuring Washington State's Marijuana Market in the Last Year Before Legalized Commercial Sales," is available at


Gregor Peter ‏@L0gg0l 4 min
BERNANKE: Fed will keep rates low well after unemployment rate falls below 6.5%
Citi currency analyst Steven Englander explains why the market surged on the news that the Fed will scale back its pace of asset purchases. Here’s the sentence, and then below, the explanation:
The Fed Statement is being viewed as a very dovish tapering – small reduction in purchases, indication weakening of unemployment trigger, UR trigger now conditional on inflation, no date for end.
Read more:
Gregor Peter ‏@L0gg0l 1 min
Gregor Peter ‏@L0gg0l 1 min
Alert – Bernanke says “will take what ever action needed” #Draghi #Disinflation
Bernanke: Fed takes low inflation very seriously
zerohedge ‏@zerohedge 39 s
BERNANKE REITERATES QE TAPER ISN’T A TIGHTENING. Translation: Bernanke still hoping it is stock not flow
zerohedge ‏@zerohedge 1 min
zerohedge ‏@zerohedge 3 min
Gregor Peter ‏@L0gg0l 28 s 
Whole Fed strategy now dangerously exposed to external shocks #Inflation

The FOMC also announced it would lower its monthly long-term Treasury
bond purchases to $40 billion and mortgage-backed securities to $35
billion a month, both reductions of $5 billion.
“The Fed is finally signifying to us the economy is doing better,” he
said. “2014, the economy will be a bit stronger, a bit broader and this
is just confirmation of it.”

FED Cuts The Greatest Subsidy To The Rich by Just $10 Billion A Month, U.S. 10yr 2.922%! Clearly The Fed Is Trying Not To Upset The Markets And Wants The Bubble To Build

QE: The greatest subsidy to the rich ever?
Every Ferrari dealership in the country should have a framed picture of Ben Bernanke in their lobby. It should read: “Our #1 Salesman.”
The largesse of the Federal Reserve over the past five years has amounted to one of the largest ever subsidies to the American wealthy—fueling record fortunes, record numbers of new millionaires and billionaires, and an unprecedented shopping spree for everything from Ferraris to Francis Bacon paintings. The prices of the assets owned by the wealthy, and the things they buy, have gone parabolic, bearing little relationship to the weak, broader economy.
Yes, the Fed has helped the overall economy as well, especially through gains in home prices. But on this deciding day for the Fed’s quantitative easing program, it’s strikingly clear that most of the gains from the program have flowed to the top 1 percent.
More millionaires have been created over the past five years than during the entire eight years of the Bush administration. According to Spectrem Group, there were 2.3 million new millionaires created between 2008 and 2012. This year, the number will likely grow by at least 200,000, which would bring the millionaire population past its previous record in 2007.
Gregor Peter ‏@L0gg0l 1 min 
Fed Tapers $10 Billion with Cornucopia of Dovish Statements; You Talk Too Much!
Clearly the Fed is trying not to upset the markets and wants the bubble to build. All the Fed can really do is talk.
Will it work? The answer is “not forever”. Of course bubble expansion is never in the best general interests of anyone but the banks and already wealthy.
I offer this musical tribute.
The Fed Just Began The Taper — Here’s What That Actually Means
So let’s break down what that means:
– The reduction in purchases is very small.
– The Fed has said in the past that it would not consider raising rates until the unemployment rate fell to 6.5% but today the language is indicating that they’ll wait until unemployment falls significantly below that before they consider raising rates.
– The Fed will not raise rates as long as inflation is super-low.
– There’s no target date to ending QE, even though the taper has begun.
That’s why the Dow is up 200.
Fed’s low rates may be juicing stock buybacks at the expense of jobs
From BTIG’s Dan Greenhaus comes the idea that the Fed’s policy of ultra-low interest rates  has had an unintended consequence for the economy — less job growth.
In his Bedtime with BTIG note late Tuesday, Greenhauspoints to news earlier this week that Boeing BA -0.39% raised its dividend by 50% and lifted its stock buyback plan. On Tuesday, 3M MMM +2.44% followed suit with a hike in its own dividend rate by 35%.
In the third quarter of this year, as Greenhaus points out, the percentage of S&P 500SPX +0.98% companies paying dividends — 84% — reached a 17-year high, while the number of companies lifting their year-on-year dividends per share hit the highest in nearly 20 years. As a result, says Greenhaus, the trailing twelve month amount of dividends, at $339 billion, has jumped to 40% above the ten-year average.
Housing Market Setting Up for Another Crash
All that Glitters, is not Gold
Affordability Issues
The other problem is that property prices in several parts of the country are too high relative to incomes, think in terms of the two coasts, but there are many other areas as well. This means consumers are paying too high a percentage of their disposable income on housing.
This always means that the market will eventually have to reset, or be forced to reset because any small change in the local labor market causes disproportionate reverberations in the real estate values, and substantially increases the likelihood of add-on contagion which severally makes these markets susceptible to large price drops in value for these expensive real estate markets. In short, you get a market crash in real estate values like we had in 2007.
Why investors aren’t the only ones who will feel the pinch
The Federal Reserve’s funneling of trillions of dollars into the economy over the past five years has provided a shot in America’s arm. The stimulus has affected consumers more than they realize, experts say, as will the tapering.
On Wednesday, the Fed announced it would begin to wind down the quantitative easing program known as QE3. Analysts say consumers should start to prepare now — especially those who are planning to buy a car or home within the next three to six months. “The stimulus program was supposed to boost spending going in, so it’s going to reduce spending going out,” says Peter Morici, economist and professor at the University of Maryland’s R.H. Smith School of Business.
Tapering may increase the cost of financing big-ticket items and rates on student loans. “If your furnace goes out and you only have $700 in the bank, you will either have to freeze or buy it in installments,” Morici says. “The same goes for any emergency repairs on your home.” Similarly, college students struggling under the weight of rising tuition fees may face a new challenge in 2014: rising interest rates on loans. “Colleges are already seeing concerns about this reflected in their applications,” Morici says. Law schools are facing a fall in admissions due to rising costs: 54% have reported cutting their entry law school classes for the 2013-14 academic year, according to the 2013 Kaplan Test Prep law school survey.
Post-FOMC – Bonds, Gold, & Stocks Bid; And 5th Hindenburg Omen Appears

The Kidnapper wears Prada: Why the rich are getting much, much richer, why the Fed is in a corner and what it means for you!

The Kidnapper wears Prada: Why the rich are getting much, much richer, why the Fed is in a corner and what it means for you!As the Federal Reserve gets a new chair and decides what to do next, whether to print $85 billion a month more or not, we examine the heist, who gets all the loot, why today’s kidnappers wear Prada. Wake up. See what happens when financial kidnappers dress up as loyal patriots and extort money in the name of the common good.

The Taper Is On – 8 Ways That This Is Going To Affect You And Your Family

Janet Yellen Ben Bernanke Swearing In
The unelected central planners at the Federal Reserve have decided that the time has come to slightly taper the amount of quantitative easing that it has been doing.  On Wednesday, the Fed announced that monthly purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds will be reduced from $45 billion to $40 billion, and monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities will be reduced from $35 billion to $30 billion.  When this news came out, it sent shockwaves through financial markets all over the planet.  But the truth is that not that much has really changed.  The Federal Reserve will still be recklessly creating gigantic mountains of new money out of thin air and massively intervening in the financial marketplace.  It will just be slightly less than before.  However, this very well could represent a very important psychological turning point for investors.  It is a signal that “the party is starting to end” and that the great bull market of the past four years is drawing to a close.  So what is all of this going to mean for average Americans?  The following are 8 ways that “the taper” is going to affect you and your family…
1. Interest Rates Are Going To Go Up
Following the announcement on Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries went up to 2.89% and even CNBC admitted that the taper is a “bad omen for bonds“.  Thousands of other interest rates in our economy are directly affected by the 10 year rate, and so if that number climbs above 3 percent and stays there, that is going to be a sign that a significant slowdown of economic activity is ahead.
2. Home Sales Are Likely Going To Go Down
Mortgage rates are heavily influenced by the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  Because the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is now substantially higher than it was earlier this year, mortgage rates have also gone up.  That is one of the reasons why the number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low.  And now if rates go even higher that is going to tighten things up even more.  If your job is related to the housing industry in any way, you should be extremely concerned about what is coming in 2014.
3. Your Stocks Are Going To Go Down
Yes, I know that stocks skyrocketed today.  The Dow closed at a new all-time record high, and I can’t really provide any rational explanation for why that happened.  When the announcement was originally made, stocks initially sold off.  But then they rebounded in a huge way and the Dow ended up close to 300 points.
A few months ago, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just hinted that a taper might be coming soon, stocks fell like a rock.  I have a feeling that the Fed orchestrated things this time around to make sure that the stock market would have a positive reaction to their news.  But of course I absolutely cannot prove this at all.  I hope someday we learn the truth about what actually happened on Wednesday afternoon.  I have a feeling that there was some direct intervention in the markets shortly after the announcement was made and then the momentum algorithms took over from there.
In any event, what we do know is that when QE1 ended stocks fell dramatically and the same thing happened when QE2 ended.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.
Of course QE3 is not being ended, but this tapering sends a signal to investors that the days of “easy money” are over and that we have reached the peak of the market.
And if you are at the peak of the market, what is the logical thing to do?
Sell, sell, sell.
But in order to sell, you are going to need to have buyers.
And who is going to want to buy stocks when there is no upside left?
4. The Money In Your Bank Account Is Constantly Being Devalued
When a new dollar is created, the value of each existing dollar that you hold goes down.  And thanks to the Federal Reserve, the pace of money creation in this country has gone exponential in recent years.  Just check out what has been happening to M1.  It has nearly doubled since the financial crisis of 2008…
M1 Money Supply 2013
The Federal Reserve has been behaving like the Weimar Republic, and this tapering does not change that very much.  Even with this tapering, the Fed is still going to be creating money out of thin air at an absolutely insane rate.
And for those that insist that what the Federal Reserve is doing is “working”, it is important to remember that the crazy money printing that the Weimar Republic did worked for them for a little while too before ending in complete and utter disaster.
5. Quantitative Easing Has Been Causing The Cost Of Living To Rise
The Federal Reserve insists that we are in a time of “low inflation”, but anyone that goes to the grocery store or that pays bills on a regular basis knows what a lie that is.  The truth is that if the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.
Most of the new money created by quantitative easing has ended up in the hands of the very wealthy, and it is in the things that the very wealthy buy that we are seeing the most inflation.  As one CNBC article recently stated, we are seeing absolutely rampant inflation in “stocks and bonds and art and Ferraris and farmland“.
6. Quantitative Easing Did Not Reduce Unemployment And Tapering Won’t Either
The Federal Reserve actually first began engaging in quantitative easing back in late 2008.  As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is lower today than it was back then…
Employment-Population Ratio 2013
The mainstream media continues to insist that quantitative easing was all about “stimulating the economy” and that it is now okay to cut back on quantitative easing because “unemployment has gone down”.  Hopefully you can see that what the mainstream media has been telling you has been a massive lie.  According to the government’s own numbers, the percentage of Americans with a job has stayed at a remarkably depressed level since the end of 2010.  Anyone that tries to tell you that we have had an “employment recovery” is either very ignorant or is flat out lying to you.
7. The Rest Of The World Is Going To Continue To Lose Faith In Our Financial System
Everyone else around the world has been watching the Federal Reserve recklessly create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and use it to monetize staggering amounts of government debt.  They have been warning us to stop doing this, but the Fed has been slow to listen.
The greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy does not involve the short-term effects that most people focus on.  Rather, the greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy is the fact that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. debt.
Right now, far more U.S. dollars are used outside the country than inside the country.  The rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, and major exporting nations stockpile massive amounts of our dollars and our debt.
We desperately need the rest of the world to keep playing our game, because we have become very dependent on getting super cheap exports from them and we have become very dependent on them lending us trillions of our own dollars back to us.
If the rest of the world decides to move away from the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt because of the incredibly reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble.  Our current economic prosperity greatly depends upon everyone else using our dollars as the reserve currency of the world and lending trillions of dollars back to us at ultra-low interest rates.
And there are signs that this is already starting to happen.  In fact, China recently announced that they are going to quit stockpiling more U.S. dollars.  This is one of the reasons why the Fed felt forced to do something on Wednesday.
But what the Fed did was not nearly enough.  It is still going to be creating $75 billion out of thin air every single month, and the rest of the world is going to continue to lose more faith in our system the longer this continues.
8. The Economy As A Whole Is Going To Continue To Get Even Worse
Despite more than four years of unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, the overall U.S. economy has continued to decline.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “37 Reasons Why ‘The Economic Recovery Of 2013′ Is A Giant Lie“.
And no matter what the Fed does now, our decline will continue.  The tragic downfall of small cities such as Salisbury, North Carolina are perfect examples of what is happening to our country as a whole…
During the three-year period ending in 2009, Salisbury’s poverty rate of 16% was about 3% higher than the national rate. In the following three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the city’s poverty rate was approaching 30%. Salisbury has traditionally relied heavily on the manufacturing sector, particularly textiles and fabrics. In recent decades, however, manufacturing activity has declined significantly and continues to do so. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs in Salisbury — as a percent of the workforce — shrank from 15.5% to 8.3%.
But the truth is that you don’t have to travel far to see evidence of our economic demise for yourself.  All you have to do is to go down to the local shopping mall.  Sears has experienced sales declines for 27 quarters in a row, and at this point Sears is a dead man walking.  The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter
The market share of Sears – including K-Mart – has dropped to 2% in 2013 from 2.9% in 2005. Sales have declined for years. The company lost money in fiscal 2012 and 2013. Unless a miracle happens, and they don’t happen very often in retail, it will lose a ton in fiscal 2014, ending in January: for the first three quarters, it’s $1 billion in the hole.
Despite that glorious track record, and no discernible turnaround, the junk-rated company has had no trouble hoodwinking lenders into handing it a $1 billion loan that matures in 2018, to pay off an older loan that would have matured two years earlier.
And J.C. Penney is suffering a similar fate.  According to Richter, the company has lost a staggering 1.6 billion dollars over the course of the last year…
Then there’s J.C. Penney. Sales plunged 27% over the last three years. It lost over $1.6 billion over the last four quarters. It installed a revolving door for CEOs. It desperately needed to raise capital; it was bleeding cash, and its suppliers and landlords had already bitten their fingernails to the quick. So the latest new CEO, namely its former old CEO Myron Ullman, set out to extract more money from the system, borrowing $1.75 billion and raising $785 million in a stock sale at the end of September that became infamous the day he pulled it off.
So don’t believe the hype.
The economy is getting worse, not better.
Quantitative easing did not “rescue the economy”, but it sure has made our long-term problems a whole lot worse.
And this “tapering” is not a sign of better things to come.  Rather, it is a sign that the bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the past few years is beginning to end.

A Fed Policy Change That Will Increase the Gold Price

Doug French
Casey Research

For investors having a rooting interest in the price of gold, the catalyst for a recovery may be in sight. "Buy gold if you believe in math," Brent Johnson, CEO of Santiago Capital, recently told CNBC viewers.

Johnson says central banks are printing money faster than gold is being pulled from the ground, so the gold price must go up. Johnson is on the right track, but central banks have partners in the money creation business—commercial banks. And while the Fed has been huffing and puffing and blowing up its balance sheet, banks have been licking their wounds and laying low. Money has been cheap on Wall Street the last five years, but hard to find on Main Street.

Professor Steve Hanke, professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University, explains that the Fed creates roughly 15% of the money supply (what he calls "state money"), while the banks create "bank money," which is the remaining 85% of the money supply.

Higher interest rates actually provide banks the incentive to lend. So while investors worry about a Fed taper and higher rates, it is exactly what is needed to spur lending, employment, and money creation.

The Fed has pumped itself up, but not much has happened outside of Wall Street. However, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), during their October meeting, talked of making a significant policy change that might unleash a torrent of liquidity through the commercial banking system.

Alan Blinder pointed out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the meeting minutes included a discussion of excess reserves and "[M]ost participants thought that a reduction by the Board of Governors in the interest rate paid on excess reserves could be worth considering at some stage."

Blinder was once the vice chairman at the Fed, so when he interprets the minutes' tea leaves to mean the voting members "love the idea," he's probably right. Of course "at some stage" could mean anytime, and there's plenty of room in the word "reduction"—25 basis points worth anyway. Maybe more if you subscribe to Blinder's idea of banks paying a fee to keep excess reserves at the central bank.

Commercial banks are required a keep a certain amount of money on deposit at the Fed based upon how much they hold in customer deposits. Banking being a leveraged business, bankers don't normally keep any more money than they have to at the Fed so they can use the money to make loans or buy securities and earn interest. Anything extra they keep at the Fed is called excess reserves.

Up until when Lehman Brothers failed in September of 2008, excess reserves were essentially zero. A month later, the central bank began paying banks 25 basis points on these reserves and five years later banks—mostly the huge mega-banks—have $2.5 trillion parked in excess reserves.

I heard a bank stock analyst tell an investment crowd this past summer the banks don't really benefit from the 25 basis points, but we're talking $6.25 billion a year in income the banks have been receiving courtesy of a change made during the panicked heart of bailout season 2008. This has been a pure government subsidy to the banking industry, and one the public has been blissfully ignorant of.

But now everything looks rosy in Bankland again. The banks collectively made $36 billion in the third quarter after earning over $42 billion the previous quarter—showing big profits by reserving a fraction of what they had previously for loan losses.

The primary regulator for many banks—the FDIC—is even cutting its operating budget 11%, citing the recovery of the industry. The deposit insurer will have one short of 7,200 employees on the job in 2014.

That's a third of the number it had in 1991 after the S&L crisis, but almost 3,000 more than it had in 2007 just before the financial crisis.

So with all of this good news, the Fed may indeed be thinking they can pull out the 25bp lifeline and the banks will be just fine. What Blinder thinks and hopes is the banks will use that $2.5 trillion to make loans. After all, one-year Treasury notes yield just 13 basis points, while the two-year only kicks off 31bps. Institutional money market rates are even lower.

Up until recently, banks haven't been active lenders. The industry loan-to-deposit ratio reflects a tepid loan environment. During the boom, this ratio was over 100%. Now it hovers near 75%. It turns out that what the Fed has been paying—25 basis points—has been the best source of income for that $2.5 trillion.

However, banks won't be able to cut their loan loss reserves to significant profits for much longer. Loan balances have grown at the nation's banks the last two quarters and this will have to continue. If the Fed stopped paying interest on excess reserves and bank lending continues to increase, those $2.5 trillion in excess reserves could turn into multiples of that in money creation.

Banks create money when they lend. As Blinder explains, Fed-injected reserves are lent "creating multiple expansions of the money supply and credit. Bank reserves were called 'high-powered money' because each new dollar of reserves led to several additional dollars of money and credit."

Fans of the yellow metal, like Mr. Johnson who sees the price going to $5,000 per ounce, have likely been too focused on the Fed's balance sheet when it's the banks that create most of the money.

When the Fed announces it won't pay any more interest on excess reserves, and banks start lending in earnest again, the price of gold will be very interesting to watch.

And when that happens, you'll want to be prepared. Find out all you need to know about the best ways to invest in gold—in the FREE 2014 Gold Investor's Guide. Click here to read it

Google Seeks Internet Surveillance of the Smart Grid

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

The “Internet of Things” just wouldn’t be “Internet” enough if Google was not involved in a major way. Fortunately for those who have designed the gadget spy system, however, Google is attempting to become heavily involved in the implementation of yet another piece of the technological control grid.

According to the The Information and The Verge, Google is now testing thermostats connected to the Internet that would allow users to view the amount of energy being consumed in their homes as well as be able to make adjustments to that level of consumption. At least that is the justification used to sell the technology to the public. The real reasons behind both Google’s foray into the relatively new field and those of other tech firms, governments, and “sustainability”-related organizations are somewhat less interested in consumer satisfaction, environmental health, and lower energy bills.

Google’s latest foray into the control grid, a wide open country for the corporate giant which never seems tired of pioneering new marketable technological control products, is called EnergySense. This new program is round two for Google, which attempted something similar a few years ago named Powermeter, although this program was terminated in mid-2011 due to “difficulties scaling it up.” The mission statement for Powermeter, similar to that of EnergySense “was that people could trim energy use by 15 percent if they could see what was happening.”

Things are looking up for Google in this regard, however, as Josh Lowensohn of The Verge writes that “This might be a better time for such a service, as indicated by a rising wave of connected home appliances. That includes Nest, which began with thermostats and has since moved onto smoke detectors. It's joined by a host of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected appliances that can pipe information to the cloud, from refrigerators to web cameras.”

Interestingly enough, Google Ventures already invested in Nest in 2012.

Of course, if one is better able to monitor and observe the amount of energy being used by a household or appliance, it stands to reason that one would be better able to reduce and conserve the amount of energy he uses. However, are we really expected to believe that Google simply wants consumers to be better able to monitor their energy use to save money and the environment? Or is Google interested in something else entirely?

The Verge’s Josh Lowensohn may be on to more than he knows when he writes that “For Google, and others, those devices represent a possible wealth of data.”

Data, indeed. Google’s latest “new” venture is but one more step in the merger between the “Internet of Things” and the “Smart Grid,” the solidification of the surveillance state and eco-fascism into one entity that itself is only part of a much larger agenda.

For those who are unaware of what the term “Smart Grid” means, the Smart Grid is essentially a computerized system that allows the monitoring and control over energy use from power at the plant source to every appliance in the home. Smart Grid technology is a major part of UN Agenda 21, the United Nations' plan to herd a drastically reduced population into “human habitat areas,” meaning ultra-modern super cities with stack em’ and pack em’ dwelling structures and zero contact with nature and the outside world.

The “Internet of Things,” of course, is the term used by disgraced former General and CIA Director David Petraeus to describe the rise of gadgets which are connected and controlled by apps. Petreaus himself discussed the fact that, because of this new technology, intelligence agencies will no longer need to place spy devices inside your home – you will do it for them.

As I wrote in my article, “New Report: ‘Recording Everything’ Details How Governments Can Shape The Dynamics Of Dissent,” within the next few years, it will be possible for the intelligence wing of the U.S. government to collect, store, and centralize every type of data in existence on every human being in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for one year for a total cost ranging in the few hundred thousands. And this is only what has been announced. It doesn’t include the secret black projects that currently remain under wraps or the fact that these programs have been ongoing for years.

Not only that, but with the open desire by the U.S. government to create a Total Information Awareness network, as well as the legal infrastructure such as the Patriot Act and other Big Brother legislation, a climate has been created where all of the data acquired by “Smart” appliances will inevitably be soaked into this government network. Not only that, the snooping infrastructure is such that one can assume that every piece of information that finds its way into the Cloud will not eventually find its way to a centralized government database, but will do so immediately.

The fact is, while even those few individuals who are still concerned with their privacy complain about their constant loss of it, the all-too-familiar warning of our descent into a world spoken of in George Orwell’s 1984 is often repeated ad nauseum. However, one need only look around to understand that we are not in danger of turning into the Orwellian surveillance state in the near future. We are already in it.

Recently from Brandon Turbeville:
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at)

Profits Über Alles?

Source: Guest Post, Gonzalo Lira

Neoliberal economics has been a wonderful driving force for progress and material prosperity—but it cannot be the single ruling principle of our lives, of our government, or of our society.

If we allow the profit motive to be the only motive, then we and our society are doomed.

We are already seeing the shape of that doom, in our health care, our government, and our industry.

Isn’t this blasphemous?
Dear God, is this
So this morning, I woke up to a piece by Michael “Mish” Shedlock—a piece that, being a fellow middle-aged man, scared the ever-living shit out of me.

Mish opens his piece describing how last October 2012, he took a standard prostate cancer test and came up positive. What follows is his no-nonsense journey of beating his cancer. The whole piece is a must-read; here is the link.

(Refreshingly, Mish doesn’t inflict the needless emotional bullshit on us. I’m sure he felt scared out of his wits, and I’m sure he had quite a few dark-nights-of-the-soul, especially as he had only recently lost his wife. I have nothing but compassion for him as a human being—but as a reader, I’m so glad he didn’t roll around in the emotional muck, which is such the fashion today.)

The thing that struck me about Mish’s piece was how one of his doctors, the surgeon who performed the initial biopsy, wanted to do surgery right away. Mish adopted a wait-and-see approach, coupled with a cocktail of drugs, to see if this counteracted the cancer. And rather than another biopsy, Mish wanted more and more-frequent blood tests. The surgeon, “Dr. G.”, insisted on biopsies instead of blood tests—he wanted to perform surgery so badly that he effectively gave Mish an ultimatum: My way (biopsies/surgery) or the highway.

Mish walked on Dr. G., concluding that Dr. G. was interested in the fat fees he would receive for performing biopsies and eventual surgery.

Mish was right—but then again, Dr. G. was being exceptionally rational, according to our current Neoliberal paradigm: It paid him (and rather well at that) to perform surgery, regardless of whether there were other options for his patients. And it was a drain on his resources to have a patient such as Mish on his client list: Mish was wary of losing his prostate, which well might mean losing his ability to perform sexually, as well as possible urinary incontinence. Hence Mish’s reluctance to dive right into surgery without exploring all the other options. Such a patient, for Dr. G., was a waste of time, and time is his main resource.

So his ultimatum to Mish was ruthlessly “efficient” in the paradigm of Neoliberal economics: If Mish stayed with Dr. G., then Dr. G. would make money through the surgery. If Mish walked, Dr. G. would be unburdened from having to spend time on a non-performing patient; “non-performing” in the sense of not being a billable client.

Of course, this flies in the face of what a doctor ought to be: A healer. A professional whose interest is to cure his patients of their disease, howsoever that cure may come about, be it surgery, drug cocktails, or whatever other treatment is available and scientifically reasonable.

Yet Dr. G., far from being a weird outlier of a greedy surgeon hungry for fees, was being the ultimate Neoliberal Man: Rationally prioritizing profits over care. He is in fact a common exemplar of the medical-insurance business. He’s the norm, not the exception.

Now for something completely different:

Newsweek magazine ran a piece a few days ago, where it reported a study carried out by Paul C. Light and others, which concluded that the Federal government overspends $300 billion a year on private contractors. The money-quote:
In theory, these contractors are supposed to save taxpayer money, as efficient, bottom-line-oriented corporate behemoths. In reality, they end up costing twice as much as civil servants[.]
According to the Neoliberal paradigm, the private sector is supposed to be ruthlessly efficient—yet this “ruthless efficiency” was bilking the government—ultimately bilking us, the taxpayers—of $300 billion a year: Roughly $1,000 a year for every man, woman, and child in America.

Could you have used an extra $1,000 last year? Me, I wouldn’t have minded getting an extra grand. But I didn’t get this extra money. It went instead to an “efficient” private contractor that bilked the government.

The Neoliberal paradigm might sell the illusion that it’s all about “ruthless efficiency”—but it’s not. Neoliberal economics is in fact all about the pursuit of Return On Investment (ROI): Profits as a ratio of income to capital. That’s it. That’s all Neoliberal economics really is, at its core: Maximizing ROI, and creating the social conditions where that maximization might occur with the least amount of societal or governmental interference.

There are essentially three ways to improve ROI:
  • Sell more units than previously.
  • Sell each unit at a higher price (or lower cost) than previously.
  • Reduce your capital while maintaining your sales.
Neoliberal economics—and its cheerleaders—claim as a matter of faith that it is “ruthlessly efficient”. But it’s not. Its efficiency comes as a very welcome byproduct of its pursuit of profits—but Neoliberalism is not inherently more efficient.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing profits. Quite the contrary, our very modern existence is a byproduct of this relentless pursuit of ROI. Think of the computer you are using to read this very essay—infinitesimally cheap and light-years better than the computer made a mere twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. The second way of improving ROI—lowering the cost of each unit sold—is in fact the great efficiency engine of Neoliberalism from which we have all benefitted. Efficiency and progress is a byproduct of Neoliberalism’s pursuit of ROI—and a very welcome one at that.

But to apply the Neoliberalist Paradigm to all facets of our lives and our society is creating the mess we have today.

Look at how our government is being bilked—because the Neoliberalist Paradigm is not “efficient”: It’s just looking to maximize ROI, that’s all. Contractors, when selling to the government, will maximize their ROI not by being “efficient”, but by selling more to the government. And if they can’t sell more to the government, then they will sell more expensively: $250 hammers, trillion-dollar planes—whatever it takes to maximize ROI. Thus why private contractors are being rational per the Neoliberalist Paradigm—and thus why private contractors are a complete disaster when working for the government, ultimately forcing us taxpayers to foot the bill for these “efficiencies”.

Likewise with other industries, and other sectors of our society: The Neoliberal Paradigm is being implemented where it has no business being implemented. And far from improving our lives, it is making our society more inefficient.

Consider health care, and the example of Mish Shedlock: ROI is being relentlessly pursued by all the participants in the disastrous American health care system. Insurers, Big Pharma, doctors, the big health care providers: If you analyze each and every one of the participants in the health care nightmare, as I analyzed Dr. G. above, you will find that each and every one of them is rationally chasing ROI—and the result is a complete mess. For obvious political reasons—if only to prove that they are trying to help people—the government is (inefficiently, ineffectively) sticking its nose in this tussle, creating even more inefficiencies, ultimately hurting the people even more.

I wrote about the results of the health care inefficiencies brought about by the Neoliberal Economic Paradigm here. It pissed off a lot of people, but no one refuted the data. The data can’t be refuted because it’s true. The data shows how the health care nightmare actively hurts the American people.

Apart from government and health care, the Neoliberal Economic Paradigm is being aplied to all sectors of our society—and its effects have been the same: High ROI which benefits the few, while destroying industries which benefit us all.

After all, it was the Neoliberal Economic Paradigm which destroyed American industry, in the guise of “globalization”.

It sounded so wonderful—“globalization” this and “globalization” that—but what it ultimately was was closing American factories and exporting manufacturing jobs for the sake of improving ROI, and leaving the American economy a hollow shell.

The whole point of “globalization” was the improvement of ROI by way of reducing capital, and/or reducing production costs. How was capital reduced and production costs lowered? By closing factories in America, and exporting whole industries to Third World and developing countries so as to exploit the cheap labor there.

Today, there is no healthy civilian manufacturing in America. The only heavy industries that are thriving are the defense industries—which by law have to be in America. All other manufacturing jobs? Gone—globalization took ‘em all. The third driver of ROI maximization took ‘em away. The only jobs left for the American working classes are low-paying, low-skill service-related occupations—especially health care.

This shit’s still going on, by the way: It’s no accident that the last five years have experienced anemic—not to say non-existent—growth. Profits? Oh they’re up—just ask the banksters or the health care industry. They’re ROI has been outstanding, as they cut and cut and cut costs—jobs. Outstanding last five years.

But real, honest-to-goodness, meat-and-potatoes growth?


There won’t be any real growth in America—not if we continue indiscriminately applying the Neoliberal Economic Paradigm. We have to realize that Neoliberalism is a tool—just like a lever, a gun, or a power drill: A great tool, but highly specialized, useful for only certain tasks, and very dangerous if misapplied to all tasks.

A great and noble tool—
but would you use it
to caulk tile?
Just in case it needs mentioning, economically, I’m a die-hard, hard-core conservative. Anti-bailouts, anti-progressive tax, anti-government subsidies, anti-targeted tax breaks, anti-free trade agreements—and as to the banks, fuck ‘em if they go broke: Arrest every last motherfucking one of the banksters’ sorry asses if they lose so much as a penny of depositors’ money. (As to social conservative issues, I’m cheerfully to the right of Attila the Hun: Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-affimative action. The only big social issue with which I differ from my conservative brethren is the death penalty, of which I have written about here; and I’m not opposed to the death penalty on principle, but rather in practice.)

Yet I recognize that the profit motive cannot be the only motive for a thriving, healthy society. In fact, the profit motive should be a subordinate goal, both for individuals and for society as a whole.

For individuals, satisfaction and happiness in life ought to be achieved through personal relationships, leisure, and work—not merely money. Money ought to be the byproduct of work, not the end in itself.

For a society, industries should be harnessed for the common good, not let loose like wild horses, fingers crossed and hoping for the best. Wild horses cannot pull a stagecoach—they might have the energy, but they certainly do not have the organization. This isn’t to say we should have managed industries—but we most definitely should have a coherent industrial policy, whose aim is to provide us with goals that we as a society can all agree upon.

As a conservative—as someone looking to live in a stable society with a reduced government, where extreme poverty is anathema, and yet where anyone can achieve their maximum potential irrespective of their birth or station—we should be reëvaluating our common good. Reëvaluating those things which Americans all agree are important, and worth protecting: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, freedom from want.

Unrestricted Neoliberalism is hollowing out the United States. We have a chance to turn it around—but we as a nation have to wake up to what Neoliberalism is, and is not: It’s a great tool—but it is not and cannot be an end in itself, and it cannot be applied to every situation.

If we do not put the reins on Neoliberalism—and put those reins on soon—then we as a society are doomed. And it will be reflected first in our economy—as we are seeing now.
In case you haven’t heard, I’m giving a web seminar on Thursday, December 19, at 8pm EST, called “What A Recession In 2014 Will Look Like”. Click on the link to check it out and sign up. —GL