Uncovering the truth in cover-up allegations

For a detailed review of the known ties between Russia and the Trump cabinet see:  Why it’s so difficult to investigate Trump’s Russia ties.

While conflicts between Trump-cabinet business dealings and their role as government representatives are no doubt rife, it’s proof of any cover-up efforts that is likely to define outcomes here.  See:  In Trump’s firing of James Comey, echoes of Watergate.

Legal arguments ahead will turn on some of the precedent held in the Watergate proceedings.  No doubt there are also some, (perhaps many?) who would like to tell what they know:

“There could be another “Deep Throat” whistleblower at a high level in government or another massive leak of top-secret documents or the Russians could be up to more mischief. Any any of those things could speed up or delay or even kill any investigation. The truth is out there somewhere.”

For an entertaining refresher on how public disclosure of Watergate activities finally overcame institutional subterfuge, we re-watched All the President’s Men on iTunes last night. The film still holds up.  Human behavior is timeless.

Two reporters trail the Watergate burglary to the doorstep of the White House. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star. Three Academy Awards(R) went to this true suspenseful story. Here is a direct video link.

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Not buying the bull

Oil markets are selling-the-news of an OPEC cut extension agreement this morning. Try as they might to tighten supply, and pump up prices for their upcoming Aramco IPO, OPEC is facing structural headwinds:  a world awash in supply and weakening demand thanks to new alternative energy technologies and greater efficiency. The more they agree to hold down output, the more others pump.  This chart offers a glimpse of just the US production response to OPEC and Russian cuts since last November.  Not to mention of course, all the other non-OPEC global producers like China, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Brazil and many more. (chart source Bloomberg via zerohedge).

In a world of aging boomers, stagnate growth, high debt and excess capacity, everyone is increasingly eager to raise cash through exports–not just of crude, but of pretty much everything.  The result is structural and stubborn deflation in the price of goods (accelerated by weakening export currencies and racing technological advancement), falling corporate sales/revenues, weak wage growth and lower tax receipts.

In all these circumstances, we should expect to see a mounting global urge to raise liquidity by cashing out of low and negative yielding, long duration assets like inventory stockpiles, commodities, equities, real estate and the riskiest bonds.   This chart of the commodities index (CRB) and the US 10-year treasury yield (TXN) confirms the trend of slowing demand and deflation since the global growth rate hit a cyclical and secular peak in 2006.

The verdict is clear: central banks and product sellers like OPEC–and the financial sales force–can forecast and talk up higher prices everyday, but they can’t sustain them all on their own.  Macro trends are in charge here, and they are just not buying the bull.

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Danielle on The Financial Survival Network

Danielle was a guest today with Kerry Lutz on The Financial Survival Network, talking about recent developments in the world economy and markets.  You can listen to an audio link of the segment here.

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A reflection on human evolution

This speech reminds about the progress and evolution that thinking people should aspire to everyday. Not just in areas of systemic bias like racism and sexism, but also in areas like new energy, transportation and food systems that better serve life on earth.  The status quo must be continually opened for review.  When the will is weak, we should imagine how we can explain to children today and in the future, why we personally, chose not to help.

The city of New Orleans has elected to pull down Confederate monuments from its public spaces. With the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee this week, that task is complete. The proposal brought near endless debate, and vitriolic outcry from the monuments’ defenders. But in a remarkable speech shortly before Lee’s statue was removed, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared with astonishing moral and historical clarity that these were not monuments to some bygone way of southern life implied by believers in the Lost Cause. They were symbols of white supremacy, and of the systemic oppression of human beings.  See:  New Orelans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s remarkable speech about removing confederate monuments.

Here is a direct video link.

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Factory farming of animals major threat to human life

This month the World Health Assembly elects the next Director-General of the World Health Organization(WHO) and over 200 experts in health, medicine, biology, policy and climate research have signed a letter urging the WHO to acknowledge that factory farming of animals is a major impediment to the health of not just the animals and our planet, but global human health.   The letter (which you can read in full here) includes a series of policy recommendations:

      • Ban the use of growth-promoting antibiotics in animal farming and provide incentives to meat producers to dispose of antibiotics and animal waste in ways that prevent environmental contamination.
      • Stop subsidizing factory farming.
      • Adopt nutrition standards and implement education campaigns that warn of the health risks of meat consumption.
      • Finance research into plant-based alternatives to meat.

    See: 200 Health and science experts have powerful message about factory farming.

  • The most powerful thing individuals can do to be part of the solution?  Stop buying the products that come from animal factory farming.  In general that means avoiding fast, big box, mass produced food.  It’s pretty simple.
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“Unlucky” economy and taxpayers in Canadian debt mess

Housing with related finance and spending have driven some 84% of Canadian GDP over the past 7 years, as prices leapt and domestic buyers prostrated themselves on credit.  By province, the impacts were greatest in the largest growth centers–BC and Ontario–as shown here.  However as Alberta and Saskatchewan are now discovering, what debt fueled frenzies give, they also take back in the mean reversion period.  More payback is coming.

Meanwhile, as more information is revealed in the Home Capital story, there is more evidence of industry wide fraud, reckless practices and wilful blindness by institutions and regulators alike.  See In Home Capital’s Mortgage Mess: blame the “unlucky” brokers:

Between 2013 and 2016, suspected instances of fraud among mortgage brokers jumped 52 percent in 2016 from five years prior, according to Equifax, a consumer credit and research firm. Nearly two-thirds were from Ontario.

While insiders apparently call the brokers who got caught submitting fraudulent information not criminals but just “unlucky brokers”, in truth it is the Canadian economy and taxpayers who will end up paying for this dark chapter of rampant speculation and credit abuse.  While some are downplaying the risks by saying defaults are still low, we should consider that the country is not yet back in recession, and the stock market has not yet entered the next bear market.  Once that gets underway, as in 2008-09 and 2001-02, we will discover where all the debt bombs are buried.  Only Canada got off light in the last two global downturns, this time, we are unlikely to be so “lucky”.


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