Princes of the Yen

In this outstanding documentary, loosely based on Professor Richard Werner‘s book with the same title, we can not only better understand the post WWII japanese economic history, but also comprehend how “independent” central banks were introduced in Asia, first in Japan with the legal modifications induced by the 1989-1990 japanese stock market crash and, later, with the 1997 Asian Crisis, also in the “tiger” economies of South East Asia.

The documentary convincingly argues and documents, that modern central banking serves purposes and objectives that often have very little to do with the welfare of their own nations and a lot to do with projects of economic and social engineering and financial colonization by western financial institutions, most of them based in America. The often perverse role played by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is compellingly explained.

One of the strengths of the documentary is to explain with precision how the transformation of the social and economic structures of whole countries, and of successful ones by the way, are planned years, in the case of Japan, decades, in advance, how are economic crisis artificially created and how, when crisis finally break out, “independent central banking” and fire sale of domestic assets to foreign investors are systematically imposed on nations that lose their economic independence…forever.

The documentary ends with a warning to Europeans about the true nature of Europe’s own “independent” central bank: the European Central Bank (ECB).

0,1% > 90%

The increase in inequality in the western world is a theme that is increasingly discussed. Occasionally you come into a statistic that in a very simple way explains the degree of inequality that has been “achieved”. The Economist publishes this chart where it is easily visible that the top 0.1% of the USA population in terms of wealth owns as many assets as the bottom 90%. As the chart ends in in 2013, you can safely assume that the situation is now worse (or “better”)?

“The authors examine the share of total wealth held by the bottom 90% of families relative to those at the very top. In the late 1920s the bottom 90% held just 16% of America’s wealth—considerably less than that held by the top 0.1%, which controlled a quarter of total wealth just before the crash of 1929. From the beginning of the Depression until well after the end of the second world war, the middle class’s share of total wealth rose steadily, thanks to collapsing wealth among richer households, broader equity ownership, middle-class income growth and rising rates of home-ownership. From the early 1980s, however, these trends have reversed. The top 0.1% (consisting of 160,000 families worth $73m on average) hold 22% of America’s wealth, just shy of the 1929 peak—and almost the same share as the bottom 90% of the population.

Fracking Fraud

In Shale Fraud Created by Wall Street, The Burning Platform (TBP) analyzes and exposes some key facts about the “fracking revolution” that are usually hidden from the public due to, according to TBP, the hype fostered by Wall Street. As Shale Bubble reports, “the Reality is that the so-called shale revolution is nothing more than a bubble, driven by record levels of drilling, speculative lease & flip practices on the part of shale energy companies, fee-driven promotion by the same investment banks that fomented the housing bubble, and by unsustainably low natural gas prices. Geological and economic constraints – not to mention the very serious environmental and health impacts of drilling – mean that shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) are far from the solution to our energy woes”. USA energy independence will certainly not come from fracking.

Excerpts:

KEY FINDINGS, SHALE GAS

      • High productivity shale gas plays are not ubiquitous: Just six plays account for 88% of total production.
      • Individual well decline rates range from 80-95% after 36 months in the top five U.S. plays.
      • Overall field declines require from 30-50% of production to be replaced annually with more drilling – roughly 7,200 new wells a year simply to maintain production.
      • Dry shale gas plays require $42 billion/year in capital investment to offset declines. This investment is not covered by sales: in 2012, U.S. shale gas generated just $33 billion, although some of the wells also produced liquids, which improved economics.

KEY FINDINGS, TIGHT OIL (SHALE OIL)

      • More than 80 percent of tight oil production is from two unique plays: the Bakken and the Eagle Ford.
      • Well decline rates are steep – between 81 and 90 percent in the first 24 months.
      • Overall field decline rates are such that 40 percent of production must be replaced annually to maintain production.
      • Together the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays may yield a little over 5 billion barrels – less than 10 months of U.S. consumption.

KEY FINDINGS, THE FINANCIAL PICTURE

    • Wall Street promoted the shale gas drilling frenzy which resulted in prices lower than the cost of production and thereby profited [enormously] from mergers & acquisitions and other transactional fees.
    • Industry is demonstrating reticence to engage in further shale investment, abandoning pipeline projects, IPOs and joint venture projects.
    • Shale gas has become one of the largest profit centers in some investment banks, in direct parallel with the decline of natural gas prices.
    • Due to extreme levels of debt, stated proved undeveloped reserves (PUDs) may have been out of compliance with SEC rules at some shale companies because of the threat of collateral default for some operators.

Sovereign Default History

 

Today Argentina defaulted on its external debt for the 8th. time since 1800 AD. The Economist publishes this chart ranking countries on the criteria of how many times they have defaulted on their external debt in the last 214 years. Curiously both Germany and Portugal have defaulted 4 times. Nothing seems to last (or have been) forever.

 

Breakfast inflation

One of the least discussed and at the same time most important aspects of this economic crisis is the discrepancy between official inflation measures used by the FED, the Consumer Price Index( CPI) and, specially, Personal Consumer Expenditures (PCE), and the real inflation experienced by real people. One example of this last real inflation is the cost of a breakfast as measured by the Breakfast Beverage Index, that is at its highest level in 2 years. If you want to learn more about how inflation is mismeasured and misrepresented in the USA, visit Shadowstats.

Source: Bloomberg

All guns, not much butter

When thinking about the USA it is easy to fall for the idea that it is the wealthiest country in the world and that it would be difficult for people to hunger there. Reality is different. As the article published by Zerohedge illustrates, 21% of the USA population can’t afford food. In contrast, the USA accounts for 42% of the world’s military spending. Guns, but not much butter.military_spending_big.png

 

 

 

Brave New 1984

Zerohedge publishes a review of the 2 most well known dystopian books of the twentieth century, Brave New World from Aldous Huxley, published in 1932 and 1984 from George Orwell, published in 1949. The article by Zerohedge extensively quotes 2 previous articles, “Orwell, Huxley and the Emerging Totalitarianism” by Emmet Scott and  “2011: A Brave New Dystopia” by Chris Hedges. Chris Hedges appears most insightful when he states that “It turns out that Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.”

Some excerpts:

“The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.”

“We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. “

“The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.””

“The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.”

“The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. “