Years of evidence and negotiated admissions on rampant money laundering, price fixing, insider trading, breach of trust and epic financial plundering of households, pensions, cities, states, trusts and foundations have all, so far, been widely tolerated. But incontrovertible evidence of flagrantly facilitating and profiting from systemic tax evasion may finally be a step too far… After all, it did take proof of tax evasion to finally jail Al Capone. It also took admission of tax evasion by Charles Mitchell under cross-examination by Ferdinand Pecora in 1933 to finally knock the head of City Bank from his undeserved position of privilege and reverence in American society. The statements by Credit Suisse today feigning remorse and insisting that the actors involved were rogue or fringe is utterly laughable on the evidence of secret elevators, offices and clandestine meetings with hundreds of bank officers over many years.
Another possible chink in the normal political forbearance on financial crimes, is that today’s hearing on the criminal activities of Credit Suisse is not taking place before the heavily funded, cozy colleagues on the Senate Banking and Finance Committee, but rather before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Homeland Security and Governmental affairs Committee. We shall see…
No one should be under any misunderstanding: rampant financial crimes are one of the most dominant issues undermining Homeland Security in our time.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) held a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations hearing on offshore tax evasion. Witnesses included officials from Credit Suisse Group AG and the Justice Department. Watch it live here.
As you listen to the session, keep in mind, that no effective or serious cross-examination can take place unless the questioners have already done their research in advance and know in detail the answers to the questions they put forth in the public hearing. Only in this way is it possible to hold witnesses accountable and elicit meaningful answers from those who routinely feign lack of direct knowledge on the topics in question. Senators who ask open questions and use the hearing to “learn” about the actors and events are useless at uncovering truth in this forum.
Nope not about the weather…home sales have fallen the most in the west–no polar vortex there.
Mortgage applications to buy a home fell last week to the lowest level in nearly two decades, according to a weekly survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The report is a clear sign of weakness in buyer demand heading into the usually busy spring housing season.
“Purchase applications were little changed on an unadjusted basis last week, but this is the time of a year we would expect a significant pickup in purchase activity, and we are not yet seeing it,” said Mike Fratantoni, the association’s chief economist.
“We’re in a critical juncture in housing, and it started when rates went up a small 1 percentage point back in June,” housing analyst Mark Hanson told CNBC on Tuesday. “We’re going from an investor-led housing market to an end user-led housing market, and that’s creating a lot of problems.” See: Mortgage applications at lowest level in 2 decades
That is a problem indeed. Since end-users (the masses) have been largely left out of economic “recovery” since 2008…they have very little ability to buy houses today, especially at now higher prices and higher mortgage rates. Who is going to provide the exit capital “liquidity events” for all the investors who piled into reality markets the past few years?
Even after 6 year of QE-extended recovery in US stock and high yield bond prices, deficits in public pensions continue to outpace all gains as cash-strapped states defer necessary reforms, and direct planned funding towards other short term expenses. One can imagine how much larger these deficits will be once the next bear market has had its way once more with now egregiously over-valued asset markets. See: Public Pension Tabs Multiply as States defer Costs and Hard Choices.
Central Banks were trying to bail out banks not pension plans with QE, but nonetheless, any hope for lasting ancillary benefit to pensions has not panned out. A temporary reflation in asset values has only bought an extension of misguided policies. For the pension plans at least, QE was a backdoor bailout that has not worked.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine this month reaffirms that plant-based diets lead to lower blood viscosity and lower blood pressure compared to meat-eaters. See the report here: Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure.
In interview on the findings, one of the study authors Dr. Neal Barnard explains that plant-based eaters have less viscous blood that moves through human arteries with less strain and pressure on the system. Cleaner fuel, more oxygen in the bloodstream, faster performance, less need for medications:
“It’s not uncommon for us to see patients at our research center who come in and they’re taking four drugs for their blood pressure, and it’s still too high. So if a diet change can effectively lower blood pressure, or better still can prevent blood pressure problems, that’s great because it costs nothing, and all the side effects are ones that you want, like losing weight and lowering cholesterol…
Take the fastest animals, take a stallion, they don’t eat meat or cheese, so their blood is not viscous at all. Their blood flows well. As you know a lot of the top endurance athletes are vegan. Scott Jurek is the most amazing ultra-distance runner in the world. That’s why Jurek says a plant-based diet is the only diet he’ll ever follow. Serena Williams is going vegan, too. A lot of endurance athletes are doing it.”
What of all that talk about needing protein? Where do plant-eaters get their protein to rebuild muscles and brain tissue?
“Well, the same place that a stallion or a bull or an elephant or a giraffe or a gorilla or any other vegan animal gets it. The most powerful animals eat plant-based diets. If you’re a human, you can eat grains, beans, and even green leafy vegetables. Broccoli doesn’t want to brag, but it’s about one-third protein.” See: Vegetarians and their superior blood.
This is an issue I have been worrying about for a long time. You would think it is extremely obvious and yet common sense remains the rarest of all commodities it seems.
“It would be difficult to live without oil and gas. But it would be impossible to live without water. Yet, in our mad rush to extract and sell every drop of gas and oil as quickly as possible, we’re trading precious water for fossil fuels.
A recent report, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress”, shows the severity of the problem. Alberta and B.C. are among eight North American regions examined in the study by Ceres, a U.S.-based nonprofit advocating for sustainability leadership.
One of the most disturbing findings is that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is using enormous amounts of water in areas that can scarcely afford it. The report notes that close to half the oil and gas wells recently fracked in the U.S. “‘are in regions with high or extremely high water stress’ and more than 55 per cent are in areas experiencing drought. In Colorado and California, almost all wells — 97 and 96 per cent, respectively — are in regions with high or extremely high water stress, meaning more than 80 per cent of available surface and groundwater has already been allocated for municipalities, industry and agriculture. A quarter of Alberta wells are in areas with medium to high water stress…”
See: Trading water for fuel is fracking crazy.
In our time of few worthy leaders, Pecora is a character to admire. The title does over-reach a little in its claim that Pecora’s work helped change American finance forever. Our current ongoing financial crisis proves that it did not. The behaviors and actors–many of the exact same abusive tricks and institutions (JP Morgan and Citibank-then “City Bank”) and a captured Congress–have all been up to the same antics today as they were in the 20′s and 30′s. Remarkable deja vu. But the story of Pecora proves that the extractive forces of financial fraud and oppression can indeed be overcome when good people are prepared to take a stand and insist on restoring the rule of law on bankers.
In The Hellhound of Wall Street, Michael Perino recounts in riveting detail the 1933 hearings that put Wall Street on trial for the Great Crash. Never before in American history had so many financial titans been called to account before the public, and they had come within a few weeks of emerging unscathed. By the time Ferdinand Pecora, a Sicilian immigrant and former New York prosecutor, took over as chief counsel, the investigation had dragged on ineffectively for nearly a year and was universally written off as dead.
The Hellhound of Wall Street provides a minute-by-minute account of the ten dramatic days when Pecora turned the hearings around, cross- examining the officers of National City Bank (today’s Citigroup), particularly its chairman, Charles Mitchell, one of the best known bankers of his day. Mitchell strode into the hearing room in obvious disdain for the proceedings, but he left utterly disgraced. Pecora’s rigorous questioning revealed that City Bank was guilty of shocking financial abuses, from selling worthless bonds to manipulating its stock price. Most offensive of all was the excessive compensation and bonuses awarded to its executives for peddling shoddy securities to the American public.
Pecora became an unlikely hero to a beleaguered nation. The man whom the press called “the hellhound of Wall Street” was the son of a struggling factory worker. Precocious and determined, he became one of New York’s few Italian American lawyers at a time when Italians were frequently stereotyped as anarchic criminals. The image of an immigrant lawyer challenging a blue-blooded Wall Street tycoon was just one more sign that a fundamental shift was taking place in America.
The Federal Reserve’s massive bond buying and near-zero-interest-rate monetary policy has set up the stock market for a big fall, said Jim Grant, founder and editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. Here is a direct video link.
“Ferdinand Pecora, the savvy immigrant from Sicily who became a Manhattan prosecutor with a memory for facts and figures that proved the undoing of a Wall Street banking world gone berserk with greed and fraud.
In the early 1930′s, during the Great Depression, and under threat of subpoena, one tycoon after another, including J.P. Morgan Jr., was hauled before the Senate Banking Committee and grilled by Pecora, the committee’s chief counsel…
The revelations of the Pecora hearings and the public’s anger led to sweeping reform, reining in the high-handed, free-wheeling banking industry. Those reforms stabilized our financial world for half a century, until the titans of finance and friendly politicians began to dismantle them…”
In April 2009 after the stock market had collapsed by 50% once more, Bill Moyers spoke with economist Simon Johnson and Ferdinand Pecora biographer and legal scholar Michael Perino about the stark similarities of the 1930′s and our present times. Sadly, 5 years of QE and bank bailouts since 2009 have only served to stall necessary reforms and embolden destructive behaviors in the banking system. The discussion remains entirely on point to present times. The same players, same acts, same frauds…bankers are nothing if not consistent and predictable. Here is a direct video link to PART 1 and here is the link to PART 2.
The Aussie dollar may slide toward the low 60 U.S. cent area in 2015, Deutsche Bank AG said in a report this week. Of course, the downtrend has been running now since global manufacturing peaked last in 2011, but recognition is finally reluctantly spreading through the analyst community. As my firm has been highlighting for the past 4 years, in the aftermath of the credit bubble, diminished demand and strong global supply of commodities are continuing to weigh heavy on exporters. See: China Iron Ore Makes Insight Aussie bear; Deutsche Bank sees 60s
Although Canada is often strangely ignored in this discussion, the loonie has traditionally tracked closely with the land down under’s dollar as shown in Cory’s chart below. Mid 60′s would be secular support for the C$ as well.
“An explosive critique about the investment industry: provocative and well worth reading.” Financial Post
“Juggling Dynamite, #1 pick for best new books about money and markets.” Money Sense
“Park manages to not only explain finances well for the average person, she also manages to entertain and educate, while cutting through the clutter of information she knows every investor faces.” Toronto Sun