El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Daily Reckoning Presents

The Attack on the Washing Machine

You can chart the course of human progress in terms of how clean our clothing is. In early times people used animal skins, had no change of clothing, and had no soap. By Adam Smith's day, soap had improved in quality, was produced industrially, and was becoming available to the common man.

In fact, the Industrial Revolution, which is usually discussed in terms of iron, steam, and factories, was actually all about bringing products like soap and underwear - previously only available to the rich - to the common peasants.

Only after WWII did electric automatic clothes washers displace hand- cranked machines. Then detergent replaced soap in the washing process, and competition resulted in much more effective products.

In 1956 the product Wisk was launched as the first liquid laundry detergent. And in 1968 its famous "Ring around the Collar" ads came along.

Other companies followed with products that were even better. Between the 1920s and the 1970s, washing clothes went from a grueling full-time job to a weekly activity that could be accomplished by young children.

Demographic researcher Hans Rosling has called the washing machine the greatest invention in the history of the Industrial Revolution. It liberated homemakers from boiling water and washing clothes. For women around the world, it makes the difference between poverty and prosperity.

Only two generations ago, nearly every mother in the world slaved at washing clothes. Today, no one in the developed world does this. Instead, they can read, do professional work, teach children, hold parties, and generally apply their time to building civilization. As Rosling says, "even the hard core of the green movement use the washing machine."
But government is working on systematically reversing these advances - attacking the washing machine's workings at the most fundamental level.

In 1996, Consumer Reports tested 18 models of washing machines. It rated 13 models as excellent and 5 models as very good. They found that with enough hot water and any decent laundry detergent, any machine would get your clothes clean.

In 2007, Consumer Reports tested 21 models and rated none of them as excellent and 7 models as poor; the rest of the models were rated mediocre. The old top-loading machines were mediocre or worse.

Consumer Reports found that in most cases your clothes were nearly as dirty as they were before washing. The newer front-loading machines worked better, but they were much more expensive and had mold problems, and you cannot add a dropped sock once the machine is started. None of the top-loading machines performed as well as a mediocre top-loading machine from 1996.

The government's meddlesome hand is at fault. Between 1996 and 2007 the government's energy-efficiency standards were dramatically increased. In order to meet those standards, manufacturers had to switch to the inferior front-loading washers, which are more "energy efficient," and to design models that used less water. Less water in the machine means the machine uses less energy to rotate the clothes with the water and detergent. It also means less rinsing, which is a vital component to getting clothes clean.

The result is that clothes come out of the washer still dirty. The easy stuff like sweat is mostly removed, but all the tough stuff, like grease and body oils, largely remains. Most people are unaware of this problem, either because they have an older model, they don't do their own laundry, or they are just oblivious to this type of thing.

Among those who face this problem, the answers are few. Some do multiple smaller loads with larger water levels, but of course this results in higher - not lower - energy and water usage. Others have tried to solve the problem by using more detergent, but this usually does not help - it can make the situation worse - and it reduces the durability of the machine - yet another inefficiency.

So there you have it. Politicians, environmentalists, and meddlesome bureaucrats have teamed up to dream up another attempt to serve the public interest. Left to its own, the invisible hand of entrepreneurial competition would have naturally made doing laundry easier, better, cheaper, and more efficient. Instead we have more expensive, more inefficient, and truly ineffective clothes-washing machines.

Then there have been changes to laundry detergent, which have in combination with the "energy efficient machines" led to a return of "Ring around the Collar."

The invisible hand of the marketplace is the foundation of a free society and the source of prosperity. The invisible fist of government is the foundation of plunder and the source of social problems.

If we chart social progress by clean clothing, it is clear that we are headed backward in time. But the trend is easily reversed with a small change toward laissez-faire.


Mark Thornton
for The Daily Reckoning

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cuba on the rise by Gary Scott.......

Cuba as Americans Shift Abroad
Many years ago an article about Ecuador entitled “Americans Shift Abroad” posted at this site.
The article said:  “60 million baby boomers will begin to retire in just a few years. Many of their pensions and social security will be severely squeezed by inflation, leaving these people with one of five options.
#1: Keep working
#2: Move to less expensive areas within the US
#3: Export their retirement
#4: Live in near poverty
#5: Die
This is why I also believe in Ecuador.  Imagine this.  60 million boomers will retire over the next 20 years. We boomers are the most spoiled group of consumers as a demographic class that has ever existed on earth. We were promised the world. We were given the world. Now the magic is about to disappear.
Assume that 10% of these will decide to move to less expensive countries. That’s 6 million people. Where is the most likely place to go? Eastern Europe offers great potential but are long distances from the US .
Canada is out…too expensive and too cold. Most people will head south.
Mexico stands to be #1, but prices there are rising quickly and there is a lot of anti-gringo sentiment. After all there have been numerous Mexican-American wars. The building of a fence across the border will not help either. Yet it’s still probably the place that will benefit the most due to location.
Cuba . By then will be ripe and good as well. A great place to be when you can assume no negative political circumstances. The low end Caribbean is also good except for those darn hurricanes that will put lots of people off…plus many water and transportation problems and the fact that few of the islands have a real infrastructure.
Security concerns have diminished American and Canadian interest in Mexico. We have seen many readers shift from Mexico to Ecuador.   So we have continued asking…”What’s next?”
Before I make this upcoming prediction… let me add that Merri and I are usually looking seven to ten years in advance.  We have been in Ecuador for 15 years, but the boom did not start until 2008.
We are pioneers usually in before the boom and out before the boom peaks.
With this in mind we have been keeping our eye on Cuba.
Cuba has low cost, low cost…. incredible access to the USA and offers some interesting services such as medical care.
Recent changes in Cuba have led us to start our research.   An April 16  2011 BBC article entitled  “Cuba President Raul Castro seeks 10-year term limits” reinforces this decision.
The article says:  Raul Castro realises Cuba’s communists “made real mistakes out of idealism”, the Cuban President Raul Castro has said top political positions should be limited to two five-year terms, and promised “systematic rejuvenation” of the government.
President Castro was speaking at the start of the first congress of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party in 14 years.
He said the party leadership was in need of renewal and should subject itself to severe self-criticism.
The proposal is unprecedented under Cuban communism.
Mr Castro, 79, made clear the limits would apply to himself.
He took over from his brother Fidel in 2008 and between them they have ruled Cuba for 52 years.
He acknowledged that “the confidence of the majority of Cubans had been tested, with regard to the party and the revolution”.
In his speech, Raul Castro said the limit of two consecutive five-year terms would apply to “the current president of the Council of State and his ministers” – a reference to himself.
There is no talk of political change inasmuch as Cuba’s rulers are going to allow other parties or hold more open elections.
However, I think they have seen what has been happening around the Arab world and are thinking it is best to be pro-active.
Very clearly, allowing presidents to stand for just two terms is a way they see of helping people get used to the idea that change is on the way.
Much of what he said concerned his plans to reduce the role of the state in the economy and encourage private enterprise.
It would take at least five years to update Cuba’s economic model, Mr Castro said.
Free education and healthcare would still be guaranteed, but mass subsidies of basic goods would be removed and social spending would be “rationalised”.
Mr Castro said 200,000 people had already registered as self-employed since changes were announced last October, doubling the number of Cubans working for themselves.
But he insisted the socialist character of Cuba would be “irreversible” and accumulation of property would not be allowed.
The general American public (US citizens wherever they live and non US citizens who are resident in the USA) cannot yet visit Cuba.
Journalists, government officials, those with relatives in Cuba, full-time professionals (including doctors, dental hygienists, environmentalists and actors) going to conferences or doing research, have been able to go to Cuba, under a General License.
Other activities that have been approved with a specific license include:
•    Humanitarian Travel
•    Free-Lance Journalism
•    Professional doing research or going to meetings that don’t meet the criteria for a general license.
•    Educational Activities – Long-term formal study programs.
•    Religious activities – i.e. seeing the Pope and proselytize.
•    Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions, and Exhibits
•    Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of information or Informational Materials
Rules are continually changing and one should stay current at the official US government site www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba.txt . This site is currently be updated to reflect 2011 rules.
We are working with a Canadian Chiropractor who is researching longevity and is visiting Cuba to check out opportunities and how medical tourism in Cuba may evolve.
These are early days… but so was 1996 in Ecuador.
Everything in the universe vibrates to a natural rhythm.  All reality runs in peaks and valleys, rises and falls. Great nations, strong concepts and beautiful ideals expand and wane.
Often nature’s waves are hindered by mankind… levees, laws and blockades contrary to the forces of nature.  Such blocks eventually create ruses… even floods of opportunity. We are fortunate that technology allows us to see and be mobile to follow such currents.
Ecuador enjoys a rising tide now.  If Cuba comes next, we’ll be prepared and hope we can help you be ready too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An End to Debauchery

Eric Fry reporting from Laguna Beach, California...
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!"
English readers will recognize this infamous phrase as, "Let them eat cake." Marie Antoinette supposedly uttered it. Two centuries later, another member of French royalty comes along to express the phrase in 3-D.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the putative "public servant" overseeing the IMF, has been conducting himself in the classic tradition of lecherous, narcissistic, self-indulgent 18th century monarchs. And in the grand tradition of serfdom, we American taxpayers, along with working stiffs from 186 other "member countries," transport the fruits of our labors inside the castle walls of the IMF. We are the ones who provide the capital that puts the "fund" in International Monetary Fund.

For what reason? So that the IMF can give some of our capital back to us if we get into financial difficulty. At least that's the stated rationale for this large-scale larceny.
Officially, the IMF functions to:
·                         Promote international monetary cooperation.
·                         Facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade.
·                         Promote exchange rate stability.
·                         Assist in maintaining a multilateral system of payments.
·                         Provide resources to members experiencing balance of payments difficulties.
Unofficially, the IMF operates to fund the debauchery of lechers, while also bailing out profligate nations who may or may not repay the bailouts. Under the IMF's existing quota, the US is the largest member, representing 17.75% of the pie. In exchange for this membership, the US has provided the IMF with about $58 billion. Furthermore, this allocation will nearly double, thanks to the IMF's "Fourteenth General Quota Review."

Armed with its hundreds of billions of dollars, the IMF scatters bailouts around the globe like pixie dust. But as it turns out, the Chief Pixie, Monsieur Straus-Kahn, has been inhaling unhealthy volumes of this dust, himself. (Let's call it an occupational hazard).

Not only did he receive a $441,980 salary last year as Managing Director, he also received a supplemental allowance of $79,120 to cover "expenses." Presumably, such expenses did not include items like $3,000-a-night suites at the Midtown Manhattan Sofitel - an outlay which would probably fall on the IMF's travel expense line item.

But however one wishes to account for this pixie dust, the source of it is no mystery. US taxpayers contributed about $532.50 toward Strauss- Kahn's hotel suite, not including incidentals like Evian water from the mini-bar or in-room adult entertainment.

Strauss-Kahn's self-indulgent extravagance might seem almost tolerable, were it not for the fact that the IMF is, itself, a financial deadbeat. In 2008, the IMF proposed selling its gold holdings to close a projected $400 million budget deficit. This proposal also included spending cuts of $100 million over three years and the elimination of as many as 100 jobs.

At the time, Dominique Strauss-Kahn heralded the proposal as "a landmark agreement that will put the institution on a solid financial footing and modernize the IMF's structure and operations. We have made difficult but necessary choices to close the projected income shortfall and put the fund's finances on a sustainable basis," said Strauss-Kahn, "but in the end it will make the fund more focused, efficient and cost- effective in serving our members."

Wasting little time, the IMF unloaded 200 metric tonnes of its gold hoard to India in late 2009, raising $6.7 billion in the process...and clearing the way for Strauss-Kahn to violate whatever stood in his path, be it a hotel maid or a taxpayer from 187 countries around the globe.

Here are a few final questions: Will we taxpayers also be financing Strauss-Kahn's legal defense? And will we be absorbing his future medical expenses?

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have more to worry about than a possible prison sentence," The New York Post reports this morning. "The IMF chief's alleged sex-assault victim lives in a Bronx apartment rented exclusively for adults with HIV or AIDS, The Post has learned. The hotel maid, a West African immigrant, has occupied the fourth-floor High Bridge pad with her 15-year-old daughter since January - and before that, lived in another Bronx apartment set aside by Harlem Community AIDS United strictly for adults with the virus and their families."

This is a tragic story, dear readers...on many levels. But at least one part of this tragedy could have a happy ending: Abolish the IMF.

The lessons of the post-2008 crisis are becoming as homogenous as they are numerous: The big helpful hands of financial bureaucracies are no help at all. These hands are usually wrapped around your throat. Abolish the IMF; abolish the Federal Reserve.

Let the free markets dispense credit based on credit-worthiness, period. And let the free markets price credit based on real-world risks, period. Then let the lechers who guide us, or the academics who misguide us, earn money in the private sector to finance their peculiar interests.

If the next time you walked into Starbucks, Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Ben Bernanke or Timothy Geithner were handing you your double latte, would the world be any worse off?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Bill Bonner on Osama Bin Laden and the world wide economic effect......

And more thoughts...Dow down on Monday. Oil below $100. Gold below $1,500. Everything seems to be correcting. How far will it go? Heaven only knows...and heaven ain't talkin'!

*** You remember those 5 big trends we mentioned yesterday? You don't? Well, we'll repeat them:

1) The Great Correction - in many of the advanced economies, but centered in America...

2) The continued rise of the developing economies...not just in Asia, but in Latin America and Africa, too.

3) The increasing scarcity of cheap energy, land, water and raw materials.

4) The decline (suicide might better describe it) of the American Empire.

5) The approaching end of the dollar-based world financial system.
The interesting, and frustrating, thing about these trends is that they all intersect in various ways at various times...setting up collisions that are as unpredictable as they are hazardous.

You'll notice, too, that the China story runs right through the middle of them, like a tanker truck through a pizza parlor. It is the central story to the rise of Asia and the developing economies. It is a large part of the reason low-priced commodities and natural resources are disappearing. The Chinese currency is almost sure to rise as the dollar-based world financial system comes apart. And China is also the likely successor to the US Empire.

We have neglected this theme for years - ever since we published (with Addison Wiggin) our opus on the subject, Empire of Debt. But the killing of Osama bin Laden reawakened our interest.

One of the few things we don't wonder about is why the feds killed Mr. bin Laden. It would have been far too messy and uncomfortable for them to put him on trial. After all, before he was America's greatest enemy, he was one of her greatest friends.

Yes, dear reader. Mr. bin Laden rendered much service to the US Empire, specifically to the US defense establishment. First, he set up Al Qaeda, with CIA help, to harass the flank of America's most powerful enemy - the Soviet Union. Then, when the Soviet Union fell, the defense industry was despondent. There was no longer any need to invest such a huge part of America's treasure on 'defense' when there was nothing to defend against.

With no plausible threat, the defense budget would have been easy prey for the budget hawks. But then, in their hour of need, like the Argentine generals coming to the aid of Maggie Thatcher's approval ratings, Osama bin Laden came to the rescue. At least, so it appears. We would have been very curious to find out more about his role in the 9/11 attack; unfortunately, the trial of Osama bin Laden was cut short by two bullets fired at close range.

Not that we're criticizing. If we were in a position of power, we probably would have wanted him to disappear too. The last thing anyone in the CIA would want to see would be Osama shooting his mouth off in front of the whole world.

According to The Atlantic magazine, bin Laden triggered $3 trillion of spending by the US. How much of that ended up in the pockets of defense contractors? One percent? Five percent? We have no idea, but even 1% would be a $30 billion windfall, probably about equal to the annual profits of all the world's automobile companies combined.

But now what? Osama is in Davy Jones' locker. And the US is headed to bankruptcy. Will the Pentagon and its suppliers go gently into that good night - of budget cuts and shrinking profits? Or will they rage...and find a replacement for Mr. bin Laden? China, perhaps?

Stay tuned.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prices of silver and other commodities herald a new crisis

by Maurizio d'Orlando


After rising for years, the price of silver, oil and other commodities has collapsed. This is not a good sign. A new crisis is in the making. In addition to its financial aspects, it involved public debt and an endless depression or hyperinflation. All this is connected to the price of gold and silver, which has been controlled for centuries by various groups, today by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Milan (AsiaNews) – The recent instability in world markets, especially the commodity markets that are so important for Chinese and Indian manufacturing, appears contradictory, even incomprehensible, given in its scope. Suddenly, the world economy appears to have completely changed. Fear of inflation now looks almost out of place. In one day, crude oil dropped by 10 per cent. Rubber, minerals and other raw materials declined from their historic highs. Stocks across Asia are starting to show signs of weakness and the yen lost ground. Silver also took a nosedive, plunging from US$ 50 an ounce to US$ 35 (later bouncing back a bit). What is behind this sudden volatility?
The end of the War on Terror
True, Bin Laden is dead and so is the so-called War on Terror. A collective sigh of relief could be heard across the globe as a clash of civilisation between secularists and Islamists appeared to be averted. One might suppose that this would be an element of economic normalisation and a change in direction for markets.
In fact, concern over international politics seems to have shot up, not gone down. Tensions in Arab nations continue, as does the War in Libya (despite rumours about an imminent truce), which Syria and other Arab autocracies and monarchies, Gulf included, are likely to follow soon. In other words, political factors at best cancel each other out.
From an economic point of view, no single factor seems to have changed for the better to justify a rosier picture, at least in terms of dreaded higher interest rates, and the possible collapse of financial (the bond and partially the stock) markets.
Despite all the efforts, economic data do not suggest any drastic change in the picture; the same is true for the public debt in Europe, United States and Japan. No real improvement seems to be forthcoming from China as far as real inflation and the strength of the financial system are concerned. Unemployment remains high in the West and so on.
The slight dip in US unemployment is certainly no major breakthrough since it is partly a function of the number of people who are too discouraged about finding a job that they have actually stopped looking for work. Economic growth is at best anaemic, at least in Western nations.
Despite the huge rescue package for the US banking system undertaken in the last few months of the Bush administration, which Obama continued and boosted (at an estimated cost of US$ 24 trillion) and which was imitated by almost everyone else (China, Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, etc.), despite the Obama “stimulus” plan in the first months of the new US administration (also imitated by China), and despite the Quantitative Easing 2 (QE2) of October 2010 by the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, good results are scarce.
What is clear is that fears over a new global crisis have not decreased but actually increased. As in 2008, the crux of the matter is financial. What is even more worrisome is the fact that the problem is no longer at the level of the banking system, but rather at that of the public debt. The derivative bubble, by far the greatest systemic danger, is also far from being resolved.
Whether the worldwide economic crisis is starting to find a solution or not is not the issue. In fact, many fears that we are the verge of a collapse. The main topic of discussion among the most attentive economists or those not compromised with a specific political project is whether we are moving towards a phase of deflation and a Great Depression (with lower prices for raw materials) or towards the type of hyperinflation that devastated Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Serbia. Such a dilemma would require a long analysis, and it is probable that the world economy might have to deal with both evils.
Beyond the dollar
Still, the diatribe between those who believe in the Great Depression scenario and those who think hyperinflation is the real threat does not go beyond a short-term analysis. It fails to see that the essence of the disaster is the pending systemic crisis, which will soon become apparent to everyone. As noted in the last paragraph of a previous article on the War in Libya, we are on the eve of epoch-changing turning point, at the end of an era that began with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The issue, however strange it might seem, is closely related to the value of silver.
Money, the value of the reserve currency, the dollar, but even more so the relationship between paper money and the gold and silver standards continue to generate heated discussions. Money underlies all economic activity—it is at the heart of the imperial system of modernity. It is thus hard to understand today’s economic vicissitudes without looking back at old historical events.
In 1648, the universality of the Holy Roman Empire and Western Christianity ended after surviving the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist 250 years later, in 1918, but the centuries-old monetary uniformity based on the silver standard began to crumble right after the Treaty of Westphalia. Forty years later, in 1688, another invasion took place in England, after William the Conqueror in 1066. It was funded by a group of anti-Catholic conspirators who brought to power another William, of Orange this time (who is still celebrated in Northern Ireland by local Orangemen for his victory over Catholics). One of the main players in the conspiracy was philosopher and politician John Locke. It included Calvinists, proto-Masons (the Rosicrucians) who backed Cromwell’s Revolution and Jewish bankers in Amsterdam (for example, the Machado and Pereira, Baron Lopes Suasso and other Dutch Sephardic Jews) who had connections with the Dutch East India Company). Other supporters include names that are still known today: John Churchill, ancestor of Winston Churchill, and Mocatta and Goldsmid of Moses Mocatta, which survives in Scotia Mocatta, a gold bullion bank that takes part in the London gold fixing.
William of Orange replaced the legitimate constitutional king, the Catholic James II Stuart. As a usurper, he knew that he owed his power to those who funded his takeover, hence his nickname, “the bankers’ king”. Six years later, in 1694, after the “Glorious Revolution”, William of Orange paid off his debt by granting a private bank, the Bank of England, a monopoly over printing money without an obligation of holding gold reserves. This was the start of paper money with legal tender, a model followed by most other national banks, including the US Federal reserve.
A few years later, in 1717, when the first Free Mason lodge was created, an important and revolutionary event in the history of money took place, the most significant since the monetary reforms of the first Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. 
For nine centuries, the silver standard had been the basis of the monetary system. The Carolingian pound was the equivalent of a pound of silver. Given the highly decentralised nature of the Holy Roman Empire, the currency took on several names in different places. In France, it became known as the livre tournois because it was minted at the Abbey of Saint Martin in the Touraine region. Until recently, the term itself was still being used colloquially [1].
In 1717, as Master of the Royal Mint, Isaac Newton (better known as a physicist and astronomer, but also a member of a number of esoteric societies), unexpectedly established parity between the silver and gold standards. Eventually, silver money ceased to be a trading currency.
The reason for this was essentially political, part of a struggle with the Catholic Habsburgs, who had access to Latin American silver from Mexico and Bolivia (Potosí).
Since that time, the English-speaking world built an empire and came to rule the waves. Even Napoleon failed to undermine English dominance when he tried to impose a new universal monetary unit, the Franc.
Finally, it is worth to note that the introduction of opium in China by British merchants in the first part of the 19th century was linked to silver, which the Asian giant produced in great quantities.
Gold and silver markets
Controlling the precious metals market is key, for it is a reference for all other commodity markets and is closely related to the currency system. AsiaNews has looked at[2] the issue of the current international monetary system in the past [3], at least since the crises in Russia and Asia in 1998. It is clear that we are in a state of crisis. Last month, financier George Soros organised a conference of economists, a bit ambitiously called Bretton Woods II, to promote a new reserve currency in lieu of the dollar, to be issued by a super world bank, based on a basket of national currencies. In this context, and in light of the birth of the existing international currency system, we can understand the reasons for the recent, sudden changes in the value of precious metals, gold and silver, and their mutual relationship.
In the period of crisis and systemic transition that is currently underway, the relationship, not always obvious, between an instrument of exchange, currency, and other goods, becomes clearer. Even after the abolition of the residual convertibility of the dollar to gold on 15 August 1971, precious metals were still real money, an implicit basis [4] of reference, not only for commodity prices but also for all other goods. Controlling the precious metals markets was thus a strategic tool in controlling the economy. Through  its companies, the Rothschild family has always controlled gold and silver quotes, namely Goldman Sachs (GS) for gold, and JP Morgan (JPM) for silver.
How this happens, when prices should be determined by the interaction of supply and demand, in the contest of gold and silver, is not immediately clear and easy to explain. As primary actors, GS and JPM are not required to pay immediate for the quotes of their operations in the precious metals markets. Yet, they sell short gold or silver futures (which they do not own) and cash in right away. Thus, they can generate cash from transactions that are always successful and profitable, on stocks [5] and bonds[6] for example.
Upon delivery dates, few customers ask for the actual bullion. One of the reasons is that handing over the metal bars has been made artificially complex and the physical delivery always takes time. Another reason is that GS and JPM, through the purchase of relatively small quantities, can influence the value of precious metals on the only day that requests for the delivery can be made. This way, they can, almost always, either meet demands for bullion they sold without having any of it, or put off their unprotected positions to a later, more convenient date. Only in a few cases have they lost control of the situation. For instance, the system (Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and other central banks, NYMEX, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, even in the International Monetary Fund, but also old players like Scotia Mocatta) began to work in concert after a moment of confusion in the case of the Hunt brothers (over silver) and Ferruzzi, an agricultural commodity firm ran by Raul Gardini[7]. In both cases, the sinners had to pay a hefty price for rocking the boat, including bankruptcy and prison.
A troubled future
Today, the situation of silver bullion market bears many similarities with what happened to the Hunt brothers. Now as then, the system reacted the same way, demands for bullion deliveries jumped to the point that the COMEX (the old NYMEX’s replacement) saw its silver bullion reserves melt, finding itself hard-pressed to meet its commitments. In response, the margins for silver purchases were raised suddenly. This is why the value of silver dropped, creating market volatility, not because of  sudden collapse in the demand for the metal. In this case, the law of supply and demand did not play any role.
The demand for silver bullion is always very strong. There is no single player but a number of buyers upset by the scandalous behaviour of the banking system, who are concerned about huge government debt and deficits, as well as the underhanded action of those who, behind closed doors, are preparing a world currency to replace the US dollar, i.e. the tool that will shape the value of the work and sacrifices of billions of people in the world.
AsiaNews is only a news agency, without any claim to providing financial advice. However, this writer believes that this year, perhaps by this fall, we shall see COMEX become more or less insolvent over silver. It will be another Lehman Brothers fiasco, a crisis like that of 2008, but worse

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Historical perspective on Osama Bin Laden.......

And more thoughts...
What's Bill doing in China? Ah ha! He's just trying to keep up with things...take a look around...see for himself. Dear Readers are invited to join him for a drink in Beijing or Shanghai. Darius has details: darius.m.fisher@gmail.com

*** Times have changed. When governments sent out hit squads to kill someone, they used to keep quiet about it. But this time, Obama called a national press conference to claim credit. His poll ratings rose.

Rarely has a killing been such a crowd pleaser. There was dancing in the streets. It recalled the happy mob that kicked around Louis 16th's head or the crowd that spat upon Mussolini's corpse. Americans were jubilant. The newspapers were universally joyful and upbeat. "Mission accomplished," said the editorials.

Arms maker Berretta took out a full-page ad in the weekend USA Today to applaud the Navy SEALS who pulled the trigger. Beretta and other handgun makers typically apologize when their products are used to kill unarmed civilians. This time, they were using it to gain market share.

And feeling their oats, US officials decided to try to make it two for two, with a drone attack on a "terror suspect," in Yemen. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi survived, reported the Hong Kong paper.

Asked where in the Constitution the federal government was given the right to murder people, Eric Holder, US Attorney General, replied that this was certainly not murder. And not an assassination either. This was war! Osama bin Laden was an enemy combatant. US forces mounted an operation to kill him, as they might target an opposing general. Fair and square.

But if Osama bin Laden were an enemy general, his was a strange army. How many divisions did he have? Where were his warships? His aircraft carriers? His submarines? Where were his tanks? And his trained legions? He had no army. No navy. No marines. No air force. Not even a few praetorians guarding his headquarters. He was almost alone. No Swiss guards, no home guard; for there was no homeland to guard. And not a single troop carrier, for there were no troops and nowhere to take them. He had no tanks. No fighter planes. No bombers. No artillery. In fact, his most effective weapon was the lowly box cutter.

A fanatic with a box cutter can be dangerous; but he is no Grande Armée...no Wehrmacht...no Japanese Imperial Army. He is not a worthy opponent for the Pentagon, in other words; for there is no glory in picking on someone who's not your own size.

As the week moved on, glory turned to embarrassment. The terrorist was not armed. He didn't use his wife as a human shield. He didn't live in a mansion surrounded by armed guards. Instead, it began to look like the SEALS had gunned down a sick, broken old invalid.

But what an opportunity! Forget the messy court trials. Who knows how they might turn out...or what information they might reveal? The government spends a fortune trying to convict mobsters and drug pushers, for example. Why not just declare war on them, and send in hit squads? And now the SEC is laboring hard to convict a fund manager in the Galleon case. It would be so much simpler to label SEC violators 'financial terrorists' - and let drones take care of them.

But wait, we're missing the biggest opportunity of all. Other countries have done it for years; why shouldn't we? Instead of defeating political enemies at the polls, why not just say you are at war with them and take them out? Take Donald Trump, for example. Here at The Daily Reckoning, we are warming up to Mr. Trump. He is our kind of politician. Too rich to steal. Too dumb to lie. But he is surely a threat to the Republic. So why not call in a drone attack?

Why waste drones on Osama bin Laden? He posed no real threat to the government of the United States of America. Even in his own backyard, he was a loser. He was unable to take over a single woebegone, Muslim- drenched country in the Mid-East. There was never any question that he would be able to defeat the US.

Nor was he a substantial threat to the American people. For all his box cutters and suicidal followers, statistically - according to The Financial Times - he did less damage to Americans than accidents caused by wild deer. In the 10 years following the announcement of the War on Terror, as far as we know, he was not responsible for a single North American casualty. As a general, he was worse than any we ever heard of; even Sir Douglas Haig was not that bad.

Osama bin Laden didn't pose a threat to the US or its people; instead, the danger he posed was more like the danger of an interest-only, low- doc, automatically reset mortgage with a teaser rate. Bin Laden, in an early video address, announced his strategy. He could sucker the US into spending an enormous amount of money to combat him. He would not try to defeat the US on the field of battle; instead, he would lure the giant into expenses it could not afford.

And lo, it has come to pass just as the bearded one forecast. According to The Financial Times, the US has spent $2 trillion on the war against terror...or about a million times more than Osama bin Laden spent.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Gold and Guns.......

The New Arms Race

Consumers and Investors Seek Protection With Guns and Gold

Eric Fry

Reporting from Laguna Beach, California...

Even after last week's steep selloff in the commodities markets, the "Flight to Safety" trade is still on...big time. Gold may have retreated from its all-time high, but applications to purchase a handgun continue soaring to record levels.

According to the FBI, background-check applications for handgun buyers are on a record-setting pace so far this year. "In this year's first quarter," Bloomberg News reports, "the FBI's Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 4.25 million requests on prospective gun buyers - up 16% from a year earlier." If the current pace continues, the number of "gun checks" would hit a seventh straight annual record

America's gun-buying craze stands in stark contrast to the dismal trend of overall consumer spending. Bloomberg notes that spending on guns, ammo and other sporting equipment rose about 10% during the last 12 months - or more than four times the 2.5% increase in total consumer spending. Although spending on guns and ammo has been outpacing total consumer spending for more than a decade, the gun-buying trend has been accelerating during the last few months.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart CEO, Mike Duke, observes that the retail giant's "core shoppers" are "running out of money much faster than a year ago." Since many of Wal-Mart's core shoppers live paycheck to paycheck, they typically do most of their shopping at the beginning of the month...and less of it at the end. "Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month, even more than last year," Duke says. "This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern."

This troubling trend is not just a Wal-Mart thing. As a retailer that averages 140 million shoppers per week to its US stores, Wal-Mart's "concern" is also the American economy's concern. Wal-Mart is, as CNNMoney puts it, "a barometer of the health of the consumer and the economy. Wal-Mart has struggled with seven straight quarters of sales declines in its stores."

Maybe that's why Wal-Mart announced last week that it would resume selling guns and ammo in many of its stores - ending a five-year hiatus. (Handguns will not return to Wal-Mart shelves, but rifles and other "long guns" will, according to a recent press release).

Your California editor is not certain that America's "gun boom" (pun only partially intended) means something, but he suspects it doesn't mean nothing. Roughly 14 million Americans - about one in twenty - tried to buy a handgun last year. Another 16 million will shop for a sidearm this year. These 16 million folks certainly do not share identical motives for their purchases, but they do share an identical objective: to arm themselves. They are buying handguns in record numbers because they are feeling uneasy in record numbers.

It would be easy to dismiss the "gun boom" as an irrelevant cultural curiosity...if it
wasn't so seemingly relevant. Investors are also "arming themselves" in record numbers. They are buying gold and silver and oil and almost any other commodity under the sun. At the same time, they are also unloading US dollars in exchange for almost any other currency under the sun. The Norwegian kroner, Swiss franc, Aussie dollar and Canadian dollar are all trading near all-time highs against the US dollar.

Something serious is going on here. America's economic recovery may be much weaker than advertised, while her economic vulnerability may be much greater than widely believed.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Obama and Osama

*** Osama bin Laden....
Most of the world heaved a sigh of relief when the world's most wanted man was gunned down. Apparently unarmed.
But here at the Daily Reckoning, we were neither relieved nor revenged. We were uneasy. It did not particularly concern us that another world improver was dead; what bothered us was that there were so many left alive. Many of them -- terrorists and terrorist-fighters -- may now be throbbing to commit even larger acts of improvement.
*** Our old friend Doug Casey has more thoughts on Osama bin Laden's killing.
"The whole thing stinks, from top to bottom. You'd think that if they knew where he was, they would have gone out of their way to take him alive -- at almost any cost. Think of the information he would have had! But instead they seemed to go out of their way to kill him, which impresses me as incredibly stupid and counterproductive... Unless they don't want him talking.

"After all, Osama said several times that he had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. But Bush used him, and 9/11, as the casus belli for Afghanistan. It would have been interesting to know who Osama thought was actually behind 9/11.

"Then, after killing him, they dump his body in the Arabian Sea, using the excuse that he had to be interred within 24 hours as a Muslim, and it wasn't possible to bury him because they didn't want to create a shrine. As if they go out of their way to bury every Muslim they kill within 24 hours... I suspect that, in fact, they leave most bodies as a treat for the dogs and the crows. We'll now never know whose body that was. Or exactly how he was killed.

"So now, in any event, all the physical evidence has been disposed of. It's unclear to me if they also executed everyone else in the house -- excuse me, "compound," as any house government agents attack automatically becomes a compound -- where they took him. I suspect everyone was executed. Witnesses are never convenient.
"I have a question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies -- Who watches the watchers? I thought it was ironic that Putin of Russia -- who's undoubtedly put out quite a few orders for hits in his day -- evidenced outrage at the way the U.S. government is trying to kill Gaddafi, now that it seems expedient. I have it here -- Putin said: "Who permitted this, was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, no matter who he is?"

"And he's right. I find it shocking that the U.S. government just takes it upon itself to kill people now, without even a show trial like Saddam got. Of course the government has always had professional killers in its employ -- but it at least had the decency to deny their existence. Now it brags about them, and parades them. It's always had secret prisons too -- but now it's quite overt about Gitmo and renditions and torture.

"Don't get me wrong. I believe Osama is dead -- whenever he died. And I'm glad he's dead. I don't like the things he believed in, especially his especially puritanical version of Islam. But this is not the way these things should be handled. At least not by a supposedly free country."
Bill Bonner,
for The Daily Reckoning