The killing of Cecil the lion by an American has apparently angered many Americans:
The White House has received close to 150,000 signatures by Americans demanding that the U.S. dentist who killed a popular lion in Zimbabwe be extradited there for trial.
The sinister nature of this event is spelled out (emphasis added):
Cecil was a subject of research and had become popular through videos showing him walking leisurely in the wild. The possibility that he was lured out of a protected national park to be killed as a trophy has enraged many Americans.
You see, Cecil was minding his own business, not really bothering anyone. He was vulnerable – living in a protected preserve. He was drawn into a trap, merely because he was a lion – not for any other crime. This has angered many Americans.
Kind of like what the FBI does with vulnerable Muslim men – individuals incapable of doing much more than tying their shoes are “lured” into a sting operation, giving the agency a “trophy” in their war on terror. Their only “crime” that attracted the attention of the FBI was that they were vulnerable Muslims.
Americans should be angered.
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.
After seeing “10 More Amazing Wonders of the Natural World”, which many contained places I had never even heard of, I was inspired to make my own list. This list differs from the previous in that it contains things which may not be stunning to behold, but are unique for their size, location, or natural impact.
The Door to Hell, as local residents at the nearby town of Darvaza have dubbed it, is a 70 meter wide crater in Turkmenistan that has been burning continuously for 35 years. In 1971, geologists drilling for gas deposits uncovered a huge underground cavern, which caused the ground over it to collapse, taking down all their equipment and their camp with it. Since the cavern was filled poisonous gas, they dared not go down to retrieve their equipment, and to prevent the gas escaping they ignited it, hoping it would burn itself out in a couple of days. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscalculation as to the amount of gas that was trapped, and the crater continues to burn to this day.
You can see it on Google Earth at 40°15?8?N 58°26?23?E
Mount Roraima is a pretty remarkable place. It is a tabletop mountain with sheer 400-metre high cliffs on all sides. There is only one ‘easy’ way up, on a natural staircase-like ramp on the Venezuelan side – to get up any other way takes and experienced rock climber. On the top of the mountain it rains almost every day, washing away most of the nutrients for plants to grow and creating a unique landscape on the bare sandstone surface. This also creates some of the highest waterfalls in the world over the sides (Angel falls is located on a similar tabletop mountain some 130 miles away). Though there are only a few marshes on the mountain where vegetation can grow properly, these contain many species unique to the mountain, including a species of carnivorous pitcher plant.
8 Meteor Crater – USA
Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater located approximately 43 miles (69 km) east of Flagstaff, near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States. Because the US Department of the Interior Division of Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of “Meteor Crater” from the nearby post office named Meteor. The crater was created about 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch when the local climate on the Colorado Plateau was much cooler and damper. At the time, the area was an open grassland dotted with woodlands inhabited by woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, and camels. It was probably not inhabited by humans; the earliest confirmed record of human habitation in the Americas dates from long after this impact. The object that excavated the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 50 meters (54 yards) across, which impacted the plain at a speed of several kilometers per second.
It’s been a couple years in the works, but Sturm, Ruger & Company has finally made the American Rimfire rifle available with a hardwood stock. Launched in the summer of 2013, the Ruger American Rimfire has been a runaway hit with shooters of all stripes.
Based on the Ruger American Rifle, the rimfire version uses common 10/22 magazines and like the centerfire model, was initially offered with a synthetic polymer stock. After what feels like a towering wait, the Ruger American Rimfire is now available with a hardwood stock.
The Ruger American Rimfire is the perfect starter gun. With single-shot magazines it can be used with beginner shooters, practicing the fundamentals with a bolt-action rifle. Down the road the rifle will continue to prove its value whether it’s used as a target shooter, plinkster or small game getter.
With the new hardwood stock the Ruger American Rimfire will attain a new status, as an heirloom rifle. With the timeless furniture and classic trappings this rifle, regardless of its low cost and availability, will be loved by generations.
Priced at $449 the wood-stocked American Rimfire should see real-world prices in the mid-$300 range. That comes with the full host of American rifle features from the adjustable trigger and Power Bedding system that free-floats the barrel. The barrel measures in at 22 inches long for a long sight radius.
The trigger is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds and the rifle sports a tang-mounted safety. It has a standard V-slot folding rear sight and a premium Williams FireSight fiber-optic frontsight. The receiver is grooved for a 3/8-inch scope mount and is drilled and tapped for number 12 Weaver mounts.
The stock is checkered along the pistol grip and forend and features a recoil-absorbing rubberbuttpad. The stock also has a pair of sling swivels for use in the field. Weighing in right around 6 pounds this rifle can be carried all day by even small and short shooters.
Reprinted from Guns.com.
- Perth Mint sees surge in demand and cannot keep up with demand
- “Our biggest restriction is the amount of unrefined gold we’re getting in from producers”
- Very high demand for Perth Mint coins, bars coming from Asia, U.S. and Europe
- U.S. Mint sees highest sales of gold coins in over 2 years
- U.S. Mint restrictions on silver coins due to very high demand
- Gold sentiment has moved from despondency to depression (see chart)
- Current negative sentiment despite strong demand is good contrarian indicator
Perth Mint Gold Bar (1 kilo)
Depressed prices have led to the usual market response, a surge in physical demand for coins and bars globally.This is confirmed in conversations we have had with our refiner and mint partners in recent days. There are growing shortages of supply of small coins and bars. This is resulting in delays in receiving bullion and indeed to rising premiums.Asian gold demand picked up this week keeping premiums robust and slightly higher in the world’s top gold buying regions.Treasurer for the Perth Mint, Nigel Moffatt has said that the mint has seen a surge in demand for physical gold since the price dropped below $1,100 per ounce.
In an interview on Bloomberg’s “First Up” show he said “Our biggest restriction is the amount of unrefined gold we’re getting in from producers”, adding, “everything we get in is going straight out the door as soon as we refine it.”
Moffatt says that the Perth Mint is seeing strong demand for kilo bars which go to Asia – particularly India, China and now Thailand – adding that traditional buyers in Asia tend to “stock up” on gold when the price falls.
There is also a huge demand for coins from individual buyers in the U.S. and Europe:
Gold “is going straight out the door as soon as we can find it.”
“Our only restriction on coin sales right now is the amount we can produce.”“We’d be selling more if we could find skilled press operators.”
Sales of Perth Mint Certificates remain robust and he adds that the Perth Mint has seen a lot of interest in its new Depository Online Service despite the fact that it has not yet been officially launched nor has there been any publicity for it.
Perth Mint Gold Nugget (1 oz) in GoldCore London Office (Bloomberg)
He points out that central banks are still accumulating gold despite the negative sentiment because “gold still has intrinsic value”. He does not see the price of gold dropping a whole lot further given the cost of production, although he believes that we may see a fall to $1000 before the price moves upwards again. It now costs on average around $1,000 to mine one ounce of gold.
Meanwhile the U.S. Mint has reintroduced its sales of Silver Eagle coins (1 oz) following a three-week suspension.
On July 7 The U.S. Mint was forced to suspend sales having exhausted its inventory which suggests there was either a shortage in physical silver blanks or of physical silver bullion that makes the blanks. However, they have placed restrictions on sales and sales remain “allocated” to wholesalers in order to maintain some supply.
The U.S. Mint is legally required to supply as much silver as is needed to meet demand. Their inability to do so shows demand remains very robust.
So far this month the Mint has sold 4.03 million Silver Eagles. In June total sales came to 4.8 million coins. There are reports that 2.6 million coins were sold this week alone. So, despite having not been available for three weeks, in July Silver Eagle sales are down only 17% on the previous month.
The U.S Mint is also seeing strong demand for Gold Eagle coins, especially one ounce, which – at 136,500 – is more than double the June figure and is the highest demand since the bear raid which saw prices fall in April 2013.
There has been an unprecedented barrage of negative publicity towards gold in recent weeks. This negativity is not supported in any way by the activity in the markets for physical gold where shortages are showing up despite falling prices.
We believe this to be a good contrarian indicator that gold’s recent bout of weakness is drawing to a close and that the bull market may be set to resume once the current period of weakness runs its course and the forces of supply and demand reassert themselves.
Shortages, delays in delivery and rising premiums suggest that the long awaited short squeeze may be developing.
This shows the importance of taking delivery of bullion or owning allocated, segregated gold coins and bars of which you can take delivery.
Reprinted with permission from GoldCore.
Hosting the Olympic Games isn’t as popular as it used to be. This week, Boston cancelled its bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics. The city was forced to cancel the effort in response to opposition to what The Nation called the “debt, displacement, and militarization of public space” that the Olympics brings to every host city. Basically, the taxpayers and citizens of Boston weren’t in the mood to foot the bill for an enormous party for the richest and most powerful plutocrats of Boston and the United States.
While the Olympic Games may have once been about sport and international camaraderie, they were soon transformed into monuments to crony capitalism. Peter Hitchens traces this transformation back to Hitler and Goebbels who made the Olympics “into a torch-lit and grandiose spectacle,” and the international Olympics committee has been fine with that ever since.
Today, the Olympics has become a way to score diplomatic points and showcase the wealth and influence of national governments. Indeed, it’s no wonder at all that the host cities of the Olympics have taken on a decidedly authoritarian flair with China and Russia rushing to make various bids. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will soon get to choose between Kazakhstan and China for hosts of 2022’s winter games. (Oslo, Norway pulled out of the 2022 bidding process after the taxpayers resisted the IOC’s diva-like demands for tax-funded perks.)
And it makes sense that more authoritarian and nationalistic regimes would make more successful bids for the Olympics. The less a regime has to listen to the people who pay the bills, the more likely they are to make those precious taxpayer-funded “guarantees” that the IOC demands from every host city.
The Ruins of Past Olympic Games
Meanwhile, the taxpayers in much of the developed world have gotten wise to the high costs and few benefits of hosting the Olympics. Many have seen these photos from the UK’s Guardian which show the state of the Athens 2004 Olympic venues in 2014. The billions of taxpayer dollars spent on facilities have all evaporated, and all that’s left is rusting stadiums and mud-filled Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The Greeks were told back then that hosting the Olympics would be their ticket to a new era of first-world prestige and economic success. Needless to say, such a rosy future failed to materialize. Even less time has passed since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but as these photos show, Beijing’s abandoned venues will have plenty in common with those of Athens in a few years.
And while Brazil looks forward to its own 2016 bid, the Brazilians already are getting a preview of what will become of all those Olympic venues. The World Cup stadiums, built just last year, are already massive white elephants, as Business Insider recently showed. One massive stadium functions as a parking lot for buses. Several more simply decay in the humid Brazilian air.
The High Cost of Sports Events
Meanwhile, serious researchers (i.e, not people who produce “impact statements” for the local chamber of commerce) have known for years that sporting events do not produce wealth for local economies:
“If you ever had a consensus in economics, this would be it,” said Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University. “There is no impact.”
“If every sports team in Chicago were to suddenly disappear, the impact on the Chicago economy would be a fraction of 1 percent,” said Leeds.
But huge sports events like the Olympics are far worse because they can shut down local businesses and require the militarization of local law enforcement for “security” purposes. Those who have had the misfortune of being near events such as these know that traffic can be shut down for days and businesses inside the security perimeter see customers disappear. Once the event packs up and leaves, local businesses see no benefits to compensate for the massive tax burden and debt that comes in the event’s wake.
Moreover, Journalist’s Resource has compiled a helpful list of serious studies on the impacts of mega-events like the Olympic games. Taken together, the studies reveal a distinct lack of economic benefit form hosting the Olympics and similar events. There is an enormous gulf between the grandiose promises of government officials ex ante, and the actual benefits that can be observed ex post. In these studies, we repeatedly see phrases like these:
- “The long-term economic legacy effects appear to be quite modest.”
- “The impact of national athletic success on happiness … is statistically insignificant”
- “The Beijing Olympics could only have limited impacts on the city’s brand.”
- “The results indicate it had no long term impact on trade or total employment.”
The Politics Behind the Events: Who Really Benefits
It should be no wonder that Brazilians — many of whom live without working urban infrastructure like reliable sewage lines — protested in 2014 to the use of billions of tax-funded reais on stadiums that would benefit a tiny number of wealthy Brazilians. Like the Norwegians, and now the Bostonians, the protestors know what these huge international sports events — the Olympics, especially — are really about. They’re about fun and prestige for the political class. They’re a playground for politicians and major business interests who will get the lucrative contracts to build stadiums, swimming pools, and posh buildings in which to party with the rich and famous.
For all their faults, the politicians of Norway answered to the Norwegian taxpayers and nixed their 2022 bid. Boston politicians were forced to do the same, although not before mocking the opposition as “ten people on twitter” and uttering the usual bromides about the supposed benefits of forcing the taxpayers to pay for yet another political vanity project.
After Boston was forced to finally pull out, The Nation correctly diagnosed the nixed bid as a “victory for activists and a loss for the city’s most entrenched business interests.”
Cronyist deals like the Olympics help remind us that there’s a big difference between support for free enterprise, and support for “big business.” Economic development corporations and business associations such as chambers of commerce are usually more than happy to squeeze a few more bucks out of the taxpayers if the money will go toward whatever the “business community” thinks should be subsidized at any given time. But, the entrepreneurs, employers, and taxpayers who lack lobbyists and pocketed politicians mean little to the business “leaders” who set policy.
Unfortunately for them, many educated people have begun to see through the scam. Glitzy shopping centers, stadiums, and global mega-events no doubt do wonders for the resumes of the rich and powerful. But those who pay for such things do less well.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
A lot of leaders in the tax protest movement have done jail time for their consistency. They did what they told others to do. They are now convicted felons with no money.
Some are still in jail. Irwin Schiff is one of them. He may get out in two years. He has been in jail since 2006. Are you ready to imitate him? Read this first.
Trusting laymen in the tax revolt movement are often unaware of just how consistently the IRS has gained convictions.
There are always exceptions, but the pattern is clear: juries normally convict. These protesters use arcane language and references to tax law cases that do not apply. It does them no good. These people jabber in jailhouse lawyer babble, and then they wind up in jail. They really do become jailhouse lawyers.
Juries convict. Despite the gurus’ confident appeals to case laws that do not apply and theories of tax law that do not apply, juries convict.
Tax lawyers will not take these cases except for $200 an hour. The tax-protest gurus cannot afford lawyers. So, they defend themselves. Then the juries convict.
Let me give you an example. I wrote that the federal income tax is a direct tax on people. I received a flurry of emails. No, no, no; it’s not a direct tax. I had made a horrendous mistake. This was a big deal to these people.
Fact: some court decisions say it is a direct tax. Others say it isn’t. The law is scrambled. Here is a lawyer’s assessment.
My critics are unaware of this. But they see themselves as experts in constitutional law relating to taxes. They aren’t. They have been taught by a tax revolt guru who is withholding evidence, which is what these people do.
Tax protesters have one thing in common: they are poor as church mice. They are on the fringes of the division of labor. They barter. They work for cash. They do not own homes. They have no bank accounts. Their wives live in fear all their lives.
The public ones go to jail.
I beg of you: separate yourself from anyone who says that there is a secret magic phrase that will keep you from being stripped of your wealth by the IRS and a jury. Each guru has a different secret magic phrase. The magic phrases do not work in court.
The Internal Revenue law is clear: you are guilty until proven innocent. The IRS can assess whatever it says you owe, and initiate proceedings to collect. You must prove the IRS wrong.
You will pay a fortune to a lawyer — if one will represent you. Then the jury will convict.
Wikipedia has an entry on the ones who have gone to jail. Before you fail to file your IRS 1040, based on some incoherent mumbo-jumbo promoted on a website, see if the guru is in this article. Click the link at the bottom of this page.
If he isn’t, he is probably on this list.
For answers based on tax law to popular schemes out there, click this.
If you want more confirmation that these magic words don’t work in court, click this.
Any time that someone tells you about a tax protest guru who has the risk-free, can’t-lose strategy for not filing or not paying, ask him how many years he has not filed. You will find out that he always files. But he wants to see what will happen to you if you don’t file. You will test the waters for him.
By Dr. Mercola
One in four Americans over the age of 40 is currently taking a statin drug under the illusion that it will decrease their risk for heart disease.
Dr. David Diamond is a neuroscientist with a PhD in biology. He’s also a Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of South Florida and a Research Career Scientist at the Tampa VA Hospital.
He ended up investigating both diet and statins as a result of having to address issues with his own health, and his conclusions are very different from the current status quo in medicine.
Click HERE to watch the full interview!
Why Low-Fat Diets Are Ill Advised for Those at High Risk for Heart Disease
Fifteen years ago, when applying for life insurance, Dr. Diamond discovered he was at high risk for heart disease. It surprised him, as he’d been in good health, even though he’d gained about 20 pounds over the course of 15 years, and he had no family history of heart disease.
“When I looked at the blood test results, I saw why [I was placed in the high risk category],’ he says. ‘Triglycerides are recommended to be below 150 and even preferably below 100. My triglycerides were stratospheric at 750.
My high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is called the ‘good cholesterol’ and which you’d like to be above 40 or 50, was about 20 to 25.
That combination of extremely high triglycerides and very low HDL put me at about a 15 times greater risk for heart attack compared to someone with optimal lipids.
I really believed this was an anomalous blood test. I figured I would exercise more – and I’ve exercised all my life – and follow the recommended American Heart Association (AHA) diet, so I cut back on my fat.
In six months, I figured, everything would be back to normal. But after six months, the numbers were the same.”
He admits being completely ignorant of nutrition. The only thing he “knew” was that saturated fat is bad for you, that it causes heart diseases, and that cholesterol clogs your arteries — both of which he now knows are wrong…
After exercising and following the recommended low-fat diet for five years, his triglycerides were still in the 700-800 range and his HDL remained at about 20-25. Making matters worse, he’d gained another five pounds.
“Perhaps the worst moment for me was when my doctor sat me down and said, ‘Okay the time has come. You’ve done your best, but diet and exercise just haven’t worked for you. It’s time for you to go on medication.’ He recommended fish oil, niacin, and a statin.”
What Causes Elevated Triglycerides?
Before acquiescing to medication, Dr. Diamond decided to do some research on triglycerides. His doctor had diagnosed him with familial hypertriglyceridemia, a genetic disorder, but Dr. Diamond still wanted to read through some of the medical literature just to be sure he’d done everything he could before taking a drug.
“Well, the very first paper I looked at indicated that triglycerides are primarily produced from excess carbohydrates, particularly glucose and fructose,’ he says. ‘And as far as HDL levels, you see an association of low HDL levels in people who have high blood sugar.
There was an obvious connection of carbohydrates in the diet to triglycerides and HDL. I was astounded by this. This was the first of many epiphanies I’ve had while studying cholesterol, diet, and heart disease.
I figured that what I needed to do is not to avoid the fat; I should avoid the carbohydrates! I actually talked to my doctor about this.
And of course he said to me, ‘Well, you’re going to take a bad situation and make it worse, because by going on an Atkins-type diet, you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll have heart disease.’
Nevertheless, from a few studies that I read at first – and it has now become a few thousand studies – I’ve learned of the linkage between carbohydrate consumption, elevated blood sugar, and triglycerides.”
Reducing Carbohydrates Is KEY for Reducing Triglycerides
Counter to his doctor’s advice, Dr. Diamond dramatically reduced non-vegetable carbohydrates and ate as much saturated fat as he wanted. And what happened?
After stubbornly remaining at nearly 800 for five years, his triglycerides plunged to 150 — without any drugs whatsoever — and his HDL increased dramatically, from 30 to 50.
Indeed, I’ve treated many patients with high triglycerides, including people with levels upwards of 1,500-2,000, and I’ve seen patients’ triglyceride levels plunge in as little as five days when cutting out carbs and increasing healthy fat.
So the really good news about high triglycerides is that you can achieve rapid reversal by changing your diet.
“This had a profound effect on me,’ Dr. Diamond says. ‘I was indignant, really, and this sense of indignation grew on me. I really felt I had been deceived; that it’s the carbohydrates that we need to worry about, not the fat in particular.
The demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol — I realized it actually led me astray… To clarify, the good fats are the natural fats. When you’re talking about natural saturated fats, you’re looking at high-quality fats.
Partially hydrogenated fats – especially the unnatural oils like corn oil and soybean oil, which becomes heavily oxidized [when heated] — are very unhealthy.
It’s not that I eat fat with reckless abandon. I avoid those artificial vegetable fats and stay with the fats that are really high quality, such as avocado and olive oil. I cook with coconut oil.'”
This experience prompted him to develop a course at the University of South Florida called “Medical Ethics,” which teaches students how to evaluate flawed methodology in the science on nutrition and heart disease. In 2011, Dr. Diamond also gave a lecture on his experience and on the flawed advice we’ve been given on diet, cholesterol and statins titled: “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic”, which has gone viral with about 150,000 views. I’ve included it here for your convenience.
Deciphering the Truth About Dietary Cholesterol
Before his self-chosen re-education, Dr. Diamond firmly believed that dietary cholesterol clogs arteries and causes heart attacks. It was part of his medical education, but that too, he discovered, was all wrong. Your liver, to a great extent, actually controls the level of cholesterol in your blood. And while people with heart disease have cholesterol clogging their arteries, it’s not the consumption of cholesterol that causes it to accumulate there.
Clogged arteries are caused by inflammation in the arterial wall, and your body attempts to protect itself by packing cholesterol there. The question is, what causes the inflammation in the arterial wall? Key dietary factors promoting chronic inflammation are: sugar, trans fats, and oxidized cholesterol, which again is what you get when you heat partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a healthy saturated fat that is excellent for cooking, as it oxidizes much less than other oils when exposed to high heat. It tends to not promote inflammation; on the contrary, coconut oil has potent anti-inflammatory activity.
On a side note, a novel point about coconut oil that many are unaware of is that for those of us, including myself, who suffer from a genetic condition called beta thalassemia — or chronic low cholesterol, which can be quite harmful — coconut oil can be used instead of drugs to raise your cholesterol. Conventional medicine insists that high cholesterol is bad for your heart, but excessively low cholesterol can have very serious consequences, including an elevated risk of dementia, depression, and aggression. Low cholesterol can also cut your life short.
“For elderly people, someone over 60 years of age, high cholesterol is associated with better health and greater longevity. This completely surprises people. But people 65 years of age with a total cholesterol of about 300 will live longer than someone whose cholesterol is below 200,” Dr. Diamond says.
Interestingly, research has shown that vegetable oil consumption actually lowers cholesterol levels. Hence if you give corn oil to people who have heart disease, you would expect them to have a greater longevity and better health. Alas, that’s notwhat happens. A trial1 published in 1965 tested that hypothesis by giving men diagnosed with heart disease a couple of tablespoons of corn oil each day. Their health outcomes were then compared to men with heart disease who did not receive corn oil.
“After about three years, the results were absolutely crystal clear. The men who consumed the corn oil had lower cholesterol and twice as many heart attacks and deaths from heart disease compared to the group that basically ate what they wanted.
To me, this should have stopped any kind of belief that lowering cholesterol is good for you, and the paper explicitly stated that people with heart disease should not consume corn oil; it is unhealthy. And yet, the American Heart Association still recommends corn oil to people. Why? Two reasons: 1) it lowers your cholesterol and 2) the corn oil industry is a sponsor to the American Heart Association.”
Doctors Are Misinformed About Nutrition for a Reason
When Dr. Diamond lectures about cholesterol to physicians, they’re often astounded by what they learn. Unfortunately, their “educated ignorance” is not by accident. If studied carefully, you’ll find that the medical profession’s ignorance about cholesterol was crafted by careful design, starting over a century ago with the Flexner Report, funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, who wanted nutritional science to be excised from the medical school curriculum.
They were successful in this endeavor, and for the past hundred years, most physicians have been, and still are, nutritionally ignorant. The reason for this, if you haven’t yet deduced it, is because if you know how to heal with food, why would you prescribe drugs? What doctors are taught about nutrition in medical school is wrong. And it’s wrong by design to generate disease that increases profits for the drug companies, which are outgrowths of the chemical industry that the Carnegie and the Rockefeller foundations supported in the 1900s.
The Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk in Medical Research
Dr. Diamond recently published a paper2,3 together with Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. In it, they highlight the deceptive use of absolute risk versus relative risk in medical research. There’s a massive difference between the two, and it’s easy to confuse people with relative risks. Specifically, Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov emphasize that the way statin researchers have been presenting their data has been deceptive.
“This absolute risk versus relative risk goes back to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1984. Before the statin era, the drug cholestyramine, which is a bile [acid] sequestrant, can lower your cholesterol dramatically. The men with the highest cholesterol levels averaging about 290 were put on cholestyramine versus placebo.
After seven years and over $100 million spent, you had almost no incidence of heart disease and 95 percent of the men had absolutely no adverse effects. The first issue was: is high cholesterol unhealthy? The answer from this study is it’s not… But something funny goes on now when you have drug companies supporting this [cholesterol view] or people who have a goal that is not purely scientific.”
A typical heart disease study might last two or three years, and in that time, perhaps two percent of the people in the placebo group will have a heart attack. The actual incidence of heart attack is then two percent. In the group receiving the actual drug being studied, perhaps one percent of the people have a heart attack. The difference between the placebo and the treatment group is one percent — this is the absolute risk reduction. An absolute risk reduction of one percent means you need to treat 100 people to prevent the incidence of heart attack in just one person.
“Where people start playing games is in what’s called relative risk. When people publish these studies and they talk to the media, they don’t want to say that they have a one percent reduction of heart attacks. That doesn’t sell drugs very well… The difference, they say, is going from two heart attacks [in the placebo group] to one heart attack [in the treatment group], and that difference is 50 percent.
By reducing one heart attack in one person out of 100, using relative risk reduction you now can say that you have reduced heart attacks by 50 percent. That was the primary point of our paper: that this is deceptive and this is misleading people because when you talk to the doctors and you talk to the public, they have no idea that this has been a manipulation of the data to basically amplify the very small effects of statins,’ Dr. Diamond says.
It’s a statistical aberration. The reason it’s misleading is because people don’t know that you’re talking about the incidence of an adverse event across two groups expressed as a ratio. People assume that 50 percent means half of the whole population that’s treated.
People have told me that when they take a statin and when they see numbers like 30, 40, or 50 percent reduction, they almost feel immune from getting a heart attack. When I explain to them that basically, ‘you feel lucky that you’re going to be that one out of 100 that’ll have one less heart attack,’ then they don’t feel so emboldened. When I started talking about the adverse effects of statins, I’ve had many people stop taking their statins.”
Other Ways Studies Are Skewed and Biased
At the end of the day, what really matters is what your risk of death is: the absolute risk. According to Dr. Diamond, it’s quite common to see NO effect on actual all-cause mortality from the lowering of cholesterol. Now, some may say that even if statins only save one person out of 100, it’s still worth taking the drug. But this must also be balanced with the side effects, which include muscle pain, muscle damage (including damage to your heart muscle), and inhibition of the production of the coenzyme Q10.
This is massively important, as it not only raises your risk of heart problems, but also dementia. Statins also raise your risk for diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease and all cause of death. It’s also worth noting that “known” side effects can be minimized by the way you design the study.
This too is covered in Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov’s paper. One way side effects are hidden is by allowing participants to drop out of the study. Obviously, if people have side effects, they want to quit and remove themselves from the trial. But by excluding those who withdraw due to side effects, and looking only at the subjects that remain in the study to the end, you effectively only look at people who fared reasonably well on the drug.
“The other thing I find amazing is now that we’re looking at the next generation of the proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors, suddenly these statin researchers are talking about people who are statin-intolerant. They say as many as 20 percent of people who take statins are intolerant because of all the side effects. They’re coming out of the woodwork talking about side effects, because now, there’s another drug that potentially exceeds the statins.”
Another aspect of side effects that Dr. Diamond addresses in his paper is that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for cancer. People with a cholesterol level of 180 or below have a much higher risk for cancer than people whose level is 280. Statin trials typically do not run past four years, which is generally not long enough to detect increases in cancer.
Yet despite the short duration of the statin trials, you still find studies showing significant increases in cancer. For example, one recently published decade-long study showed that women who had been on statins had more than twice the rate of breast cancer compared to women who were not on statins. “I think there’s little doubt that low cholesterol in general and particularly statin-reduced cholesterol increases the likelihood of developing cancer,” Dr. Diamond says.
Beware of the Next-Gen Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
The next-generation drugs designed to lower cholesterol are the PCSK9 inhibitors, and according to Dr. Diamond, these drugs are virtually guaranteed to cause harm. At present, they’re not yet available on the market, but FDA approval is being sought. These drugs do not work in the same way statins do. An enzyme called PCSK9 causes a degradation of the LDL receptor that rebinds to low density lipids (LDL).
If you don’t have that receptor, the cholesterol stays in your blood. By blocking this enzyme, you end up with more LDL receptors on the surface of the cell. The LDL can unbind to the cholesterol and bring it inside the cell. As it brings more cholesterol inside the cell, you’re extracting the cholesterol from the blood, hence it’s very effective at lowering the serum cholesterol. Since the mechanism of action is completely different from statins, they won’t have the same side effects, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be ultimately beneficial for your health.
“Basically, you got a drug that’s relatively a ‘cure’ at this stage as far as mechanism is concerned. But what you’re going to end up with are these cells that are going to be chockfull of cholesterol, and that’s really unnatural,’ Dr. Diamond says. ‘The PCSK9 is this beautiful system in which you have balance. You bring the LDL into the cell, the LDL receptor disintegrates, and everything is in balance. This drug is going to take it out of balance.
You’re going to interfere with the functioning of the cells, because they are loaded with cholesterol that shouldn’t be there. Ultimately, it’s very likely that this will contribute to all kinds of dysfunctions… Brain cells are not supposed to be filled with cholesterol. They need the cholesterol, but they need it to be able to build new brain cells and build new connections, not to have those cells chockfull of cholesterol.'”
It’s Never Too Late to Take Control of Your Health
Twenty-five percent — or one in four — of Americans over the age of 40 are currently taking a statin. If you are watching this and you’re not taking a statin, congratulations. But it’s almost guaranteed that someone you know is on this drug. My slogan is “take control of your health,” and Dr. Diamond’s story demonstrates just how important this concept is. Even PhDs need to do their own research when it comes to their health. No one is immune to well-meaning but misguided advice from their doctors.
“I don’t give people any medical advice; I’m not a physician,’ Dr. Diamond notes. ‘I give people information. I make it very clear that people need to take their own health into their own hands… The problem we have is that if your doctor says you need to take a statin, it’s almost as if that’s been etched in stone. People are very resistant to changing their minds.
Now, when they actually hear me lecture — and I give full-day lectures; I cover about the brain, nutrition, and heart disease — once they’ve heard my lecture then they stopped taking their statin, because I go over all the data. I give the historical perspective as well as the mechanistic perspective.
But I’m very reluctant to talk to people, because it causes such conflict. Because after they talk to me, they go back to their doctor and the doctor says, ‘Well, what medical school did he go to?’ It’s the typical response. ‘Who are you going to trust? I’m your doctor.’ It’s a serious problem for people to know who to trust.”
Indeed, many people face real dilemmas when it comes to their health, because they’re unsure of who’s actually giving them the correct information. I would encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself, “is what I’m doing working?” If like Dr. Diamond you’ve been on a low-fat diet and exercising for ages and see no improvement, chances are you got it all wrong. The question then becomes, are you willing to try a different route?
From my perspective, there’s simply no doubt that conventional dietary recommendations are largely responsible for many of our current health epidemics, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In essence, the recommendations are converse to the truth. Most doctors recommend a low-fat, high-carb diet and artificially sweetened “diet” foods and beverages to lose weight and protect your heart.
In reality, this is a sure-fire recipe for insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. Many would lose weight and improve their health by turning the traditional food pyramid upside down as shown in my Food Pyramid for Optimized Health below, getting the majority of your calories from healthy fats, along with a moderate amount of high quality protein, and very little non-vegetable carbohydrates. Vegetables can be consumed without limits.
Sources and References
Early last month in “Crowdsourcing Police Brutality“, we highlighted an ongoing project at The Guardian which is attempting to tally the number of people killed by police in the US during 2015. Use of deadly force by authorities in America has become a hot button issue after several high profile cases involving the death of unarmed black suspects culminated in a night of violent protests in Baltimore.
In the wake of Baltimore’s “purge” (as April’s protests came to be known), two competing theories emerged about what effect the controversy has had on policing in America. We’ve outlined the two theories on a number of occasions, but for those unfamiliar, here’s a recap:
One theory — dubbed the “Ferguson Effect” — claims police are now reluctant to engage in “discretionary enforcement” for fear of prosecution.“Discretionary enforcement” of course refers to the use of lethal force in the line of duty and the implication seems to be that in light of recent events, law enforcement officers are afraid that their actions will be scrutinized by the public. In extreme cases, such scrutiny could culminate in social unrest, something no one individual wishes to be blamed for.
Casting doubt on the so-called Ferguson Effect is a report from The Washington Post which shows that US police are shooting and killing “suspects” at twice the rate seen in the past. More specifically, 385 people have been killed by police in 2015 alone. Unsurprisingly, minority groups are overrepresented in cases involving the fatal shooting of unarmed suspects.
Despite a notable spike in violence across Baltimore in the months since the riots and the persistence of violent crime in Chicago, the number of people killed by police across the country posted M/M declines in April, May, and June. In July, the trend was broken. Here’s The Guardian with more:
July was the deadliest month of 2015 so far for killings by police after registering 118 fatalities, according to the Guardian’s ongoing investigation The Counted, which now projects that US law enforcement is on course to kill more than 1,150 people this year.
The July figure brought an end to a steady decline in totals over the previous four months. After 113 people were killed in March, 101 died in April, 87 fatalities were recorded in May and 78 in June.
At least 20 people killed in July – more than one in six – were unarmed, including Samuel DuBose, who was shot by University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing in a 19 July traffic stop that has become the latest flashpoint in protests over the police’s use of deadly force.
Of the 118 people, 106 died from gunfire, making July also the first month of 2015 in which that number has exceeded 100. Two people died after officers shocked them with Tasers, two died being struck by police vehicles, and eight died after altercations in police custody.
Tensing had claimed DuBose dragged him with his car, but footage recorded by Tensing’s body camera refuted his account. The officer was charged with murder on Wednesday, when at a press conference the Cincinnati prosecutor Joe Deters called the shooting “senseless” and said Tensing “should never have been a police officer”.
Tensing, who turned himself in on Wednesday, was arraigned on Thursday and has been released on bail. On Friday it was announced by Deters’s office that two officers who appeared to reinforce Tensing’s false account will not be charged with any crimes.
For those who haven’t seen the body cam footage referenced above, here is the incident:
As a reminder, The Guardian’s effort stems from what it says is a generalized failure on the part of the US government to keep a “comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement” which it says is a “prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police.”
Again, we’ll leave it to readers to determine what it says about police accountability in America when other countries feel compelled to put a face and a name to hundreds of people whose deaths, if left in the hands of the US government, might have gone unnoticed or worse, undocumented.
Reprinted with permission from Zero Hedge.
Sheriff Doug Rader of Missouri’s Stone County complains that he is being“attacked” for a “patriotic gesture” – decorating his department’s patrol vehicles with the motto “In God We Trust.” By focusing on a largely symbolic controversy, both the sheriff’s defenders and detractors are ignoring a more tangible threat – the sheriff’s insistence, typical of his profession, that citizens render immediate, unconditional obedience to law enforcement officers as duly appointed ministers of violence on behalf of the divine State.
“Where’s our patriotism?” Sheriff Rader theatrically protested during a recent interview on Fox News. “Anytime anybody wants to be patriotic and make a symbol nowadays, they’re attacked…. We’ve come so far from 9/11, it just saddens me.”
Rader is correct in pointing out that many other law enforcement agencies display the phrase – which is the official national motto – on their vehicles. As legal commentator and retired Judge Andrew Napolitano points out, this practice is in compliance with Supreme Court precedents, even though it does prompt objections from proponents of strict separation of church and state (including some believers offended by the profanation of faith through association with the monstrosity called the state).
A more troublesome expression of the worldview that governs Sheriff Rader’s department is found on its official website. Prominently displayed on the introductory page is an inventive paraphrase of the familiar (and widely misapplied) verse from chapter 13 of the New Testament’s Book of Romans:
“For the `Policeman’ does not frighten people who are doing right; but those who doing [sic] evil will always fear him. So if you do not want to be afraid, keep the laws and you will get along well. The `Policeman’ is sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for he will have you punished. He is sent by God for that very purpose.”
Jessica White, her husband Jordan, and her father-in-law Donny can testify that it isn’t necessary to be “doing something wrong” to find oneself on the receiving end of state-consecrated violence inflicted by Stone County Sheriff’s deputies. Each of them is completing a three-year term of probation on charges arising from a May 5, 2012 incident in which they were beaten and arrested by deputies who had invaded their property without a warrant or probable cause.
The Whites, who live in Crane, Missouri, were returning from a basketball game when they saw that their driveway was blocked by deputies carrying out a traffic stop on a suspected drunk driver. They were allowed to walk up a forty-yard driveway to the carport, but ordered not to go into the house. Although they were not suspects, they were detained in the interest of that most important of all considerations, “officer safety.”
A few minutes later, two more deputies – Taylor Jenkins and Brandon Flack – arrived on the scene with a police dog. Without a warrant, probable cause, or consent, Jenkins and Flack swaggered onto the property to interrogate the Whites. Understandably, things degenerated very rapidly.
“As the deputy was making the arrest, two individuals from the … residence became loud and aggressive in an attempt to keep the deputy from making the arrest,” asserted an official press release fromthe Sheriff’s Office, which was issued a little more than a day later. “Those two individuals were arrested for interfering with an arrest, and resisting arrest.”
“Also a female from the residence who was watching the incident … walked up behind one of the deputies and struck the deputy in the back of the head,” continued the official account. “She was then arrested for Assaulting a Law Enforcement Officer.”
Given that this statement was issued by a law enforcement agency, it isn’t surprising that it is severely at variance with the facts, which were captured on video by at least two witnesses.
The SCSO statement conveys the impression that the Whites were trying to impede the arrest of the detained motorist, Thomas Barnett, who was the subject of a municipal warrant. The video documents that Jordan and Donny White became agitated by the uninvited and unwarranted intrusion of Deputies Jenkins and Flack and their weaponized canine.
Without cause or explanation, Jordan was thrown to the ground by the deputy, and then kicked in the genitals. After Donny loudly protested the assault on his son, Flack bellowed: “Get him, Jenkins!”
Seizing Donny, Deputy Jenkins snarled, “Get on the f**king ground!” and threw the man face-down on the cement carport surface.
Jessica, who at the time was an elected alderwoman in Crane, had been trying to reason with the deputies, only to receive vulgar verbal abuse in return. After seeing her husband and father-in-law brutalized without provocation, the small, petite woman intervened directly, striking at Jenkins in a desperate attempt to defend Donny. Flack grabbed Jessica and thrust her to the ground, wounding her leg and inflicting severe, lasting damage to her shoulder in the process. Neighbors looked on in horror as the deputies – acting in violation of use-of-force guidelines – used a Taser to inflict several prolonged “drive-stuns” on Donny, who was prone and handcuffed.
After the Sheriff’s Office issued its disinformation-laden press release about the incident,the White family’s attorney, John Dale Wiley, provided a detailed account of the officers’ abusive behavior to the Springfield News Leader. He also made public a video of the arrests. Two weeks later, deputies Jenkins and Flack responded by filing a lawsuit against the Whites and their attorney. The officers claimed that by exercising the right to publicize abuses and seek redress of grievances, the Whites had subjected their assailants to “defamation.”
The lawsuit accused Wiley of “intentionally, willfully, and maliciously distributing” defamatory statements through the media, and claimed that the Whites were “vicariously liable for the actions and conduct of their agent, servant, employee, and attorney,” who supposedly acted “in the reckless disregard of the rights of [the plaintiffs] to be free from being the victim of defamatory statements.”
Both Jenkins and Flack complained that as a result of the publicity they were “subjected to contempt and ridicule, and … suffered emotional distress, pain, and suffering.”
As Wiley pointed out, the injuries inflicted by the deputies were rather more severe than the hurt feelings they supposedly experienced.
“Donny White [was] subjected to a vicious prolonged Taser attack, despite being handcuffed and being face down on the ground,” declared the attorney. “The deputy [continued] his sadistic torture ignoring Donny’s cries begging the deputy to stop.” Eyewitness Levi Cook testified that the deputies kicked the shackled, helpless man in the face, leaving behind “a big pile of blood.”
Attorney Richard Crites, who represented Jenkins and Flack, insisted that the assailants were merely carrying out their divine mandate. Reciting from the catechism of Blue Privilege, Crites maintained that Ms. White had a moral obligation to submit to whatever her costumed superiors saw fit to inflict on her and her family: “She reacted because she was drunk. Alcohol and stupidity go like bacon and eggs…. I don’t care what Dale Wiley says, you don’t have an excuse to go up and hit somebody in the head that’s a cop.” (Emphasis added.)
Committing aggressive violence is the priestly prerogative of the police officer. Protecting one’s self or a loved one from such violence is an impermissible sacrilege.
Because they had defied commands issued by their heaven-ordained supervisors – and, in Jessica’s case, profaned the consecrated body of a divine emissary by coming to the aid of her father-in-law – the Whites were compelled to accept “Alford pleas” for charges including third-degree assault on an officer and resisting or interfering with an arrest. In September 2013 they were sentenced to two years ofunsupervised probation.
The incident involving the Whites occurred prior to Doug Rader’s election as Stone County Sheriff. Neither Jenkins nor Flack is listed on the department’s current personnel roster.
One of Rader’s first gestures in office was to issue a statement promising Stone County residents that he would protect them against a hypothetical gun-grab by the Obama administration.
Like the decision to place the motto “In God We Trust” on patrol vehicles, that promise was a facile symbolic gesture. He has yet to provide substantive assurances to Stone County residents that he will protect them from the proven threat of criminal violence on the part of his subordinates.
America long ago ceased to be ruled by a monarchy, and succumbed to a more invasive and violent strain of statism in which police officers are seen as “God’s agents on earth,” to borrow Max Weber’s unironic expression. Throughout the soyuz, police departments and prosecutors have been treating “contempt of cop” as a form of criminal blasphemy.
Scott Boyler, a resident of Evans, New York, is a low-level registered sex offender who was convicted of attempting to receive child pornography. He was recently arrested and jailed for several days not for something he had received, but rather something he had posted online – comments critical of the local police in a website entitled “Lackawanna Police Corruption.”
One of Boyler’s recent posts described an illegal cell phone search conducted by an officer he identified as “Joseph `Pig Face’ Leo.” Leo filed a complaint against Boyler, who was arrested for “aggravated harassment.” That charge was quickly dismissed, as the officer most likely knew it would be. But it did lead to Boyler being incarcerated for several days as summary punishment for lese majeste. which was the objective. Boyler has filed a $1.25 million lawsuit.“
If the courts criminalize this kind of speech, there goes the First Amendment,” predicts Buffalo attorney James Ostrowski, who is representing Boyler. “It’s pure political speech that led to his arrest…. This goes back to colonial days when people got arrested for criticizing the king” – a personage who was supposedly wreathed in sanctity.
Meridian, Idaho resident Matt Townsend faces trial a spurious “witness intimidation” charge — and a potential five-year-prison term — for a Facebook post criticizing an officer who arrested him without cause. Roseville, California resident Dominic Ray Aguilar was charged with making a “terrorist threat” following a post suggesting that a police officer who had killed an unarmed man should likewise face a violent death.
The late Bob Foster, a businessman from Sunriver, Oregon, was hit with a stalking protection order by police officers as retaliation for his peaceful activism (most of which involved speaking out at meetings of the local home owners association). Santaquin, Utah resident Shawn Peterson lost his job as a short-order cook following a social media campaign organized by police unions targeting his restaurant in retaliation for a Facebook post in which Peterson criticized the police.
Only in a police state are people punished for criticizing the police.
The Asset They Love to Hate …
Back in the 1960s, Alan Greenspan wrote a well-known essay that to this day is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the present-day monetary and economic system (which is a kind of “fascism lite” type of statism, masquerading as capitalism) and especially the almost visceral hate etatistes harbor toward gold. Greenspan’s essay is entitled “Gold and Economic Freedom”, and as the title already suggests, the two are intimately connected.
What makes Greenspan’s essay especially noteworthy is that it manages to present both theory and history in a concise, easy to understand manner. There isn’t a word in it we would change. At one point, Greenspan provides a brief history lesson. Yes, the (relatively) free banking era in the United States in the 19th century involved fractional reserve banking and as a result, there were frequent boom and bust cycles. However, since there was no “lender of last resort” with an unlimited money printing capacity, these business cycles were sharp and brief, and the market economy quickly righted itself every time:
“A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World War I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.”
Alas, these relatively harmless business cycles provided interventionists with an opening to implement their central planning wet dreams, even though their ideas were based on what can charitably only be called appalling economic ignorance. This economic ignorance informs the monetary system to this day and we have nothing but contempt for these planners and their intellectual handmaidens.
We cannot quantify it with any precision, but we believe it can be taken as a given that they have retarded economic progress by an order of magnitude, for reasons of compounding alone. Based on historical data, we would estimate that average real annual growth would have been at least twice as large since 1913 than it has actually been if the economy had remained free. Compounded over more than a century, this is basically the difference between what we have today and the universe of Star Trek.
US GNP per capita in the decades before the establishment of the Federal Reserve: equitable and strong growth, unmatched before and ever since – in spite of fairly frequent boom-bust cycles click to enlarge.
As Greenspan notes:
“But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing a business decline — argued economic interventionists — why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely — it was claimed — there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913.”
At the conclusion of his essay, Greenspan makes clear why the welfare/warfare statists just hate gold with a passion bordering on hysteria:
“Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy’s tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government’s promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited.The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit.”
In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.
This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.”
This always was and remains true.
Bought Off Intellectuals
All the “justifications” for today’s system we hear from the supporters of the centrally planned fiat money dispensation are nothing but propaganda. This propaganda includes a number of historical lies (such as the old canard that “governments had no choice but to abandon the gold standard if they wanted to rescue the economy”), commingled with theoretical assertions that have been thoroughly refuted countless times.
One of the latter is that an economy allegedly cannot grow unless the money supply grows as well (the truth is that any money supply is as good as any other, and in a free market prices would simply adjust). Another is that central banks need to be able to apply their “scientific monetary policy” to make up for the alleged deficiencies of the free market. In reality, central banking and fiat money have slowed real economic growth to a crawl and have produced boom-bust cycles of ever greater amplitude. Something like the “Great Depression” would never have been possible without a Federal Reserve and two heavily interventionist governments coming to power in a row (first Hoover’s and then FDR’s).
The assertions listed above and similar ones are reiterated sotto voce by countless mainstream economists and the entire mainstream financial press at every opportunity. Hoever, this should be no surprise: The Federal Reserve has practically bought off the entire economics profession (incidentally, so have other central banks and assorted state-funded institutions).
“The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession
One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field’s gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll — and the rest have been in the past.
A Fed spokeswoman says that exact figures for the number of economists contracted with weren’t available. But, she says, the Federal Reserve spent $389.2 million in 2008 on “monetary and economic policy,” money spent on analysis, research, data gathering, and studies on market structure; $433 million is budgeted for 2009. That’s a lot of money for a relatively small number of economists.
In a free market, the market value of thousands of today’s hyper-specialized macroeconomists would be a tiny fraction of what they get paid by the State. In an unhampered free market economy, many of them would probably be forced to actually perform productive jobs. There would of course still be room for economists, but only the most committed and talented among them would could hope to receive funding. Absolutely no-one would bother paying for central planning advice or statist propaganda, that much is absolutely certain. Obviously these economists are highly unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them.
As Hans-Hermann Hoppe has noted in this context:
“There are almost no economists, philosophers, historians, or social theorists of rank employed privately by members of the natural elite. And those few of the old elite who remain and who might have purchased their services can no longer afford intellectuals financially. Instead, intellectuals are now typically public employees, even if they work for nominally private institutions or foundations. Almost completely protected from the vagaries of consumer demand (“tenured”), their number has dramatically increased and their compensation is on average far above their genuine market value. At the same time the quality of their intellectual output has constantly fallen.
What you will discover is mostly irrelevance and incomprehensibility. Worse, insofar as today’s intellectual output is at all relevant and comprehensible, it is viciously statist. There are exceptions, but if practically all intellectuals are employed in the multiple branches of the state, then it should hardly come as a surprise that most of their ever-more voluminous output will, either by commission or omission, be statist propaganda.”
Economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe – a strongly committed enemy of the State, as the following quote illustrates: “[The State is] an institution run by gangs of murderers, plunderers, and thieves, surrounded by willing executioners, propagandists, sycophants, crooks, liars, clowns, charlatans, dupes and useful idiots – an institution that dirties and taints everything it touches”.
Photo via libertarianin.org
Given that intellectuals have great influence – the masses typically follow their lead, whether consciously or not – we shouldn’t be surprised that this “viciously statist propaganda” has become a hallmark of the mainstream press as well. This brings us back to the topic of gold.
Premature Grave Dancing
Readers may have noticed that there simply is no other asset that provokes more intense hatred in the mainstream press than gold. When the gold price declines as it has done since 2011, the press is literally brimming over with Schadenfreude, grave dancing exercises and anti-gold tirades. The lengthy preamble above is an attempt to explain why this is the case.
Intense grave dancing – the poor fellow at the bottom is Mr. Gold
Engraving by Michael Wolgemut
Simply put, gold is the one asset that provides the most reliable indictments of central economic planning and the abominable monetary and economic system that has been forced on us by the etatistes. In spite of its innumerable failures, socialism and its close cousin, modern-day corporatism (i.e., crony socialism), remains highly popular with the intellectual class, as it provides it with influence and money beyond its wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, it is even more popular with big business. The handful of large corporations that are controlling the press these days are not exactly big fans of the free market and its unfettered competition either. Established big business organizations prefer to keep upstart competition suppressed by means of obtaining privileges from the State. One would think that business should be against the over-regulation that characterizes today’s bureaucratic Leviathan State. This is not the case: Since it harms small emerging competitors more than established businesses, they are actually in favor of it.
Needless to say, the most powerful industry of modern times, the fractionally reserved banking cartel, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the system and as such provides sheer unlimited funding to keep things right as they are.
When gold’s fall accelerated recently, we have seen an outpouring of doom-saying and thinly disguised contempt in the mainstream press that actually puts everything seen before into the shade. In a way this is surprising; after all, gold is a completely unimportant asset, right? Just think about this for a moment. If another currency, such as e.g. the yen, suffers a big decline, is it subjected to even remotely comparable vitriol in the press? Here are a few examples from the last week or so (with a few comments by us interspersed):
From Bloomberg (Bloomberg belongs to a limousine socialist, and is well-known for its pro-central banking/ pro-money printing and anti-gold editorial line. Some of the most ludicrous articles about gold ever published have appeared on Bloomberg):
Gold Slump Not Over as Speculators Go Net-Short for First Time – apparently Bloomberg’s authors have yet to hear about contrarian signals.
Gold Is Only Going to Get Worse (“Our survey shows a majority of traders and investors aren’t optimistic”) – indeed, Bloomberg seems to be blissfully unaware of contrarian sentiment analysis.
Good Luck Bargain Hunting for Gold Miners – naturally, gold miners are even more doomed than gold itself…
From the Wall Street Journal:
Let’s Get Real About Gold: It’s a Pet Rock – actually, as we have previously pointed out, it’s a door stop, not a pet rock. We should perhaps mention here what Jason Zweig, the author of this WSJ article, wrote in 2011 right at gold’s peak. From Mr. Zweig’s WSJ Article of September 17, 2011:
“Growing numbers of investing experts have been declaring that gold is a bubble: an insanely overvalued asset whose price is bound to burst. There is no basis for that opinion.”
With respect to gold miners (which since then are down by more than 80%) he opined:
“But there is one aspect of gold investing where it is possible to make rational estimates of value: the stocks of gold-mining companies. And, by historical standards, they seem cheap—based not on subjective forecasts of continuing fiscal apocalypse, but on objective measures of stock-market valuation.”
This is really a textbook example of how market sentiment works.
Study predicts gold could plunge to $350 an ounce (i.e., here come the extreme predictions, the inverse of the vast bullish consensus and the extreme bullish predictions that were made at the peak by gold bulls)
And all of this was finally crowned with the following pronouncement in the Washington Post:
Interestingly the author of this article, Matt O’Brian, actually gets one thing right, although his conclusion remains utterly wrong – he writes:
“When you think about it, a bet on gold is really a bet that the people in charge don’t know what they’re doing.”
That’s exactly what it is Mr. O’Brian. The wrong conclusion he comes to is this one:
”But economists do, for the most part, know what they’re doing.”
Yes, in some parallel universe perhaps. That people can profess such beliefs after the twin debacles of the tech and housing bust and after yet another giant asset bubble has been blown by these “economists who know what they are doing” is truly stunning. How blind and naïve can one possibly be? This article is a good example of statist propaganda. Our wise leaders know what they are doing! How can anyone doubt it!
Just to make this clear, we are not critical of people making bearish forecasts on gold. This is perfectly legitimate, especially as gold’s fundamental drivers have at best been stuck in “neutral” for much of the time over the past few years. Occasionally, gold’s fundamentals have switched to slightly more bullish, and then have quickly flipped back again to slightly more bearish, while its technical condition wasn’t much to write home about.
Gold primarily has vast bullish potential. The factors that are currently slightly bearish could very easily and quickly flip to outright bullish. Gold bulls have the laws of economics on their side: the greatest post WW2 experiment in global money printing on a grand scale is apodictically certain to fail and will likely result in one of the greatest economic busts of modern times.
Still A Contrarian’s Dream
We find the reactions in the press interesting for the following reasons:
Firstly, as mentioned above, we find it absolutely fascinating that gold is getting so much attention. Theetatistes are apparently truly afraid of gold. If it were up to them, it would probably still be illegal (just a guess, mind).
Secondly, we also find it fascinating (and a bit depressing) how woefully uninformed the commentary on gold generally is, and this does not only apply to gold bears, but to gold bulls as well. There is hardly any market about which more nonsense is written than the gold market.
We have discussed this at length in previous articles on this blog, such as “Misconceptions about Gold”. Robert Blumen has contributed two excellent essays on the theoretical background that explain how exactly the gold price is formed (in “What Determines the Price of Gold” and “Misunderstanding Gold Demand”). In a somewhat dated “Update on Precious Metals” we provided a list of the most important fundamental drivers of the gold price (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to the section Fundamental Drivers of the Gold Market). We should also mention Keith Weiner’s frequent “Monetary Metals Supply and Demand” reports, which delve into the nitty-gritty of whether or not the metals are moved by developments on the physical side or the actions of futures speculators.
In spite of all this information being available for free on the intertubes, we notice that even gold bulls are stillwasting time talking about things like jewelry demand and mine supply. Others keep going on about central bank buying and gold buying in China, often asserting that “demand evidently exceeds supply”, even in the face of a declining price. Demand and supply are always in balance. Price informs us about the relative urgency displayed by demanders and suppliers, and when the price declines, it indicates that the former aren’t sufficiently enthusiastic. The fact that gold moves from warehouse A (in, say, New York) to warehouse B (in Shanghai) has nothing to do with it.
Thirdly, we regard the excessive grave dancing, and the utter conviction with which gold is declared to be “doomed” as an outstanding contrary indicator. It means that a major trend change has to be very close. This is not to say that gold cannot fall further in the short term – technically it certainly continues to look weak, and the price attractor at $1,040-1,050 presumably still beckons. However, we believe that the long term outlook has greatly improved by the three waves of extreme bearish sentiment we have seen since 2013 (at the summer 2013 low, the late 2014 low and currently).
Even in the short term, it seems that chances are very good that a substantial rally will develop. For instance, the Daily Sentiment Index (DSI) of futures traders has recently fallen back to a record low of just 5% bulls on two consecutive occasions. A recent report by EWI contained the following chart illustrating the situation:
A similar message is conveyed by sentimentrader’s gold optimism index, an average of the most important gold sentiment surveys and positioning data, which we already shown in Bill Bonner’s recent article “Gold Miners, RIP”. Currently the “Gold Optix” is at its second-lowest level in history, undercutting even the low recorded in the year 2000, at the bottom of a 20 year bear market:
As might be imagined, other market positioning and sentiment data all convey a similar message: small speculators hold a large net short position in gold futures, managed money is net short gold futures, Rydex precious metals assets are close to “wipe-out” territory, closed end bullion funds trade at vast discounts to their net asset value, GLD keeps losing gold, etc., etc.
In short, everybody knows gold can only fall further and is positioned accordingly. If there is one truism about markets one needs to be aware of, it is this one: What “everybody knows” isn’t worth knowing. Naturally, all those who have maintained a somewhat positive view on gold in recent years (including yours truly) look like idiots right now – but there is considerable potential that assorted gold haters will be invested with this particular mantle over coming years. Don’t worry, we’ll needle them right back.
As we have already mentioned in our missive on the recent “Gold Panic”, when everybody in a market is looking in the same direction, it is time to pay close attention. Contrarians should really love the current juncture in the gold market. At the very least, a playable counter-trend move should be close at hand, and perhaps a long term turn is actually finally in the offing. After all, the market has by now finally more or less replicated the mid-cycle decline of 1974-1976.
Lastly, we are actually gratified by the fact that assorted etatistes still seem so preoccupied with gold. This is a sign that gold remains an important monetary asset, one that continues to stand tall as an indictment of central economic planning, socialism and corporatism in all its forms. Even after having declined by roughly 45% from its 2011 high, gold is still up by more than 3,000% against the US dollar since the latter was cut loose from its tie to gold by Nixon’s default in 1971. This means that even with gold under pressure for four years running, the dollar has still crashed by 97% against it since 1971.
There is little question which currency is more useful to preserving value and protecting savers and property rights, and which one is more useful for the depredations of a greedy and insatiable Leviathan State. Hence all the gold hate pouring forth in the mainstream press. It will be interesting to see what happens once the collapse of fiat money against gold resumes – especially as we think it will do so with a real bang.
What remains of the gold stash of the Bank of England
Photo credit: Caters News
Charts by: Wikipedia, Elliott Wave International, SentimenTrader
Reprinted with permission from Acting Man.
Maths education has been a hot topic of conversation recently, with the planned introduction of the English Baccalaureate and Shanghai maths teaching model among the elements creating discussion.
Steve Munby, the head of the CfBT Education Trust, wrote today that a “revolution” is required in UK maths education.
He said: The UK has a major problem with young people and maths. In this country, unlike almost every other industrialised society, the study of some form of mathematics is not compulsory for students aged 16-18.”
He added: “In England, most young people can opt out of maths after GCSE, and that is exactly what hundreds of thousands of them do, including many of our most talented students.”
At the end of June, a new survey of firms conducted by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) found that UK school leavers are the worst in Europe for essential skills.
With this in mind, the question is whether or not you think your practical maths skills are up to the test?
In September, the Department for Education will launch a new qualification that’s intended to make mathematics more meaningful for 16-18 year olds. It’s aimed at those who want to continue to study the subject post-GCSE level but who do not want to take a full A-level.
The Japanese company Nikkei has bought the Financial Times, and I wish them well of it. There can be few duller publications in the world, in whose pages, unless one is interested in share prices and the like, one seeks in vain for an item of interest, let alone illumination. I sometimes read it to help me get to sleep when it is handed out free on planes, and very occasionally I buy it and walk down the streets of my small town in England with it under my arm in order to give the misleading appearance to my fellow townsmen of mental and material substance. But, in fact, the FT is earnest rather than serious. The only frivolity it permits itself is its Saturday glossy supplement, How to Spend It (a title of quite outstanding vulgarity), which consists mainly of advising financiers on how to dispose of their surplus millions—that is to say their misappropriations of shareholders’ funds—on expensive trifles.
Nikkei has not bought the FT’s sister publication, The Economist, which, however, is also for sale. When I was living in a very remote part of the world I used to read The Economist from cover to cover, though it arrived two months late (communications in those days were not yet instantaneous). It made me feel that I was well-informed, if only in retrospect, despite my isolation. It was my window on the world.
Even then, though, I thought that it was dull and self-congratulatory, characterizing itself as of “the extreme centre.” I noticed that its reports at the front did not always coincide with the economic data at the back and that its prognostications were frequently belied by events—as, of course, most people’s prognostications are. Nevertheless, it managed to convey the impression that the disparities, insofar as they acknowledged them at all, were the fault of the events rather than of The Economist, and that the world had a duty to be as The Economist said it was and as it would be. The anonymity of the articles was intended to create the illusion that the magazine spoke from nothing so vulgar as a perspective, but rather from some Olympian height from which only the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be descried. It is the saving grace of every such magazine that no one remembers what he read in it the week before. Only by the amnesia of its readers can a magazine retain its reputation for perspicacity.
Recently, high-ranking officials at FIFA, the world’s governing soccer (aka “football”) body, were charged with corruption and fraud. The US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deeply involved in the case. Doug Casey weighs in on the real scandal… the one you’re not reading in mass media.
The truth be known, I really don’t give a damn about soccer. Nor do most Americans.
Indeed, until recently, all that most Americans knew about “football” was that Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey, to display a great physique, after she scored the winning goal for the US in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup playoff against China.
However, “football”, as it’s known to the 6.7 billion non-Americans on the planet, is revered by the rest of the world as a secular religion.
But now football, and FIFA, the sport’s governing body, is in the news because of an alleged corruption scandal. Let’s not discuss the details of who was bribing whom, and where all the money went, for two reasons.
First, that’s all over the Internet, and you don’t need me to repeat it here.
Second, and much more important, it’s really none of our business. Despite the fact that the FBI has taken it upon itself to prosecute at least 14 FIFA officials for corruption.
Why is it none of our business? Because FIFA is a Swiss association that’s been around over 100 years. All of its officers and directors are non-US persons. And about 99% of its players, officials, and spectators are non-American.
But that doesn’t matter. The FBI has decided to prosecute FIFA’s officials for corruption, and is successfully moving to have them all extradited to the US for trial.
Were FIFA officials treating themselves to huge salaries and expense accounts, and paying and receiving millions to decide where the World Cup should be played? Of course. Is that corrupt? We have to first define “corruption.” I devote a lot of thought to the subject here, and suspect you’ll find it of interest. But, essentially, corruption is about a betrayal of a fiduciary trust. In simple terms, it’s sticking your hand in a till that you’re supposed to guard for the interest of someone else.
Based on that, are FIFA officials corrupt? Their behavior is certainly unsavory and unseemly. Nobody likes people who take advantage of their positions to line their pockets. But they are actually less morally culpable than the directors and officers of many US public corporations who pay themselves scores of millions of shareholder dollars, often while running the companies into the ground.
And less morally culpable than politicians who dispense favors and contracts with public funds. Corporate directors and politicians have fiduciary responsibilities. FIFA, however, doesn’t have shareholders. FIFA is really only responsible to the 200-something countries that vote to elect its officials; it’s essentially a political body.
Its “stakeholders” (a morally loaded and highly problematical term that’s gained currency in recent years) are the fans who watch football. They’re happy as long as someone, anyone really, makes sure the games are played.
In other words, FIFA and the people who run it are at liberty to do as they wish with funds and favors. It may seem sleazy, that they allocate venues for the World Cup according to who pays the most (even under the table). But since the association doesn’t have a fiduciary responsibility, it’s not corrupt.
If corruption charges are warranted, it’s against the presidents of the countries that are members of FIFA. Any self-respecting president today leaves office as at least a billionaire. If anything, FIFA is a more of a co-conspirator, or even a victim, rather than a perpetrator. If even Mother Teresa was in charge of FIFA, I would expect her to do the same as the indicted officials, actually. She’d just spend the proceeds on bandages instead of parties.
The real problem is that the whole system is politicized, much like the Olympic Games. FIFA, and the Olympic Committee too, have turned sports into showcases for nationalism. Corruption is a necessary and inseparable part of politics.
The solution to the problem is to start a new sanctioning group, organized with new teams, players, and officials. Let them organize their own World Cup games wherever they wish, on whatever terms they wish. The fans can support whomever. It’s actually a non-problem. Maybe the new organization will change the rules so that they more closely resemble those of Rollerball. Maybe they’ll cultivate attendance by semi-pro football hooligans among the fan base. Who cares?
But wait. That’s where the US government, the world’s arbiter of morality, comes in.
What’s really scandalous about the FIFA affair isn’t the alleged corruption, but the US government’s reaction to it. Nobody, anywhere, seems to be asking how the US can not only unilaterally bring charges, but then extradite foreign citizens to stand trial in the US. And for things that aren’t even real crimes. Without a peep from anyone.
It’s part of an accelerating pattern that Pastor Martin Niemöller might have recognized in a different context. You’re likely familiar with his poem about the passive reaction to the Nazis and their aggressions:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
How might that poem read today?
First they sent a SWAT team to New Zealand to capture Kim Dotcom, a German national, for something that’s legal in both New Zealand and Germany, and I did not speak out — because I was not in the computer business. Then, they conducted drone strikes and assassinations and renditions around the world, and I did not speak out — because I was not a swarthy foreigner. Then, they invaded countries, from Granada and Panama, to Afghanistan and Iraq, and I did not speak out — because I believed we were always on the side of truth and justice. Then, they prosecuted the FIFA guys, and I did not speak out — because I couldn’t care less about rich guys making money from soccer. Etc. Etc.
Specific charges (brought under the RICO Act, an abusive monstrosity) are wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. Passive and thoughtless Americans accept these charges as if they were part of the cosmic landscape. But none of them are common law crimes.
“Wire fraud” is simply the use of electronic media to assist in the commission of an alleged crime. But why does that constitute an extra crime?
“Racketeering” is generally just a pattern of extortion. But you can’t have extortion without a threat of violence. How was FIFA threatening violence?
“Money laundering” is a very recently manufactured crime, generally the disguising of the source of funds. Why is that even a crime?
All of these charges exist only to make the prosecutor’s life easier. The fact that these things are being alleged is the real crime.
You might ask why is the US government involved at all in international soccer. FBI Director James Comey gave an Orwellian answer shortly after the indictments. Get a load of this:
If you touch our shores with your corrupt enterprise, whether that is through meetings or through using our world-class financial system, you will be held accountable for that corruption.
In other words, the Department of Justice’s indictment alleges that since a part of the alleged corruption may have been planned in the US — even if it was then carried out elsewhere — they are in charge. And the use of US banks to transfer US dollars gives them additional jurisdiction.
It’s a sign of how degraded the world’s moral climate has become that nobody even comments on the absurdity of all this, much less is outraged.
That the US government can get away with all this is analogous to the Haitian government arresting an American baseball player for violating one of their laws because the game is played with balls manufactured in Haiti. It’s likely the charges were brought because Russia was awarded the venue for 2018, and Washington wants to punish its designated enemy.
Well, fear not. This is all just, in relative terms, a tempest in a toilet bowl. Much more serious things are brewing. Not just ISIS in what used to be Iraq and Syria. Or China in the Spratly Islands. Or the separatist provinces in the eastern Ukraine.
Reprinted with permission from Doug Casey’s International Man.
The US still claims Russia bears some or all of the responsibility for the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 last July, however the Obama Administration still has not released any information to back its claims. Yesterday a resolution to set up a UN tribunal to investigate the crash was vetoed by Russia, which prompted the US to again suggest that Russia was behind the attack. What do we know and what should we know now that a whole year has passed since the tragedy? The Liberty Report discusses the issue with former CIA officer Phil Giraldi:
While the world can count dozens of important currencies, when it comes to top line financial and investment discussions, the currency marketplace really comes down to a one-on-one cage match between the two top contenders: the U.S. Dollar and the Euro.
In recent years the contest has become a blowout, with the Dollar pummeling the Euro into apparent submission. Based on the turmoil created by the European Debt Crisis and the continuing problems in Greece and other overly indebted southern tier European economies, many investors may have come to assume that Euro boosters will be forced to ultimately throw in the towel and call off the entire experiment, thereby leaving the Dollar completely unchallenged as the champion currency, now and for the foreseeable future. This is a stunning turnaround for a currency that was seen just a few years ago as a credible threat to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve.
Putting aside the fact that there are many important currency relationships besides the euro/dollar axis, economists, journalists, and investors have forgotten the 16-year history of the Euro and how the currency has survived and prospered after many had assumed it might be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The Euro was created in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty (which created the European Union) but did not come into being as an accounting unit (not a physical currency) until January of 1999. In the lead up to its launch, many had argued that the Euro would become the heir to the rock solid Deutsche Mark, the German currency that had risen to preeminence on the back of Germany’s post war resurgence, high savings rate, enviable trade balance, and post-Soviet unification. With German bankers in a firm leadership position in the European Central Bank and the European Union, many had hoped that the new Euro would adopt the virtues of the Mark. As a result, the Euro debuted with a value of 1.18 dollars. But the honeymoon was short-lived.
Almost immediately from the point it began freely trading the Euro began to encounter severe headwinds. The Russian debt default and the Asian currency crisis in the late 1990’s caused investors to sell assets in the emerging markets and seek safe havens in the dominant economies. This provided a crucial early test for the Euro. But the new currency failed to attract much of this fast flowing transnational investment flow. On the other hand, the U.S. markets and the U.S. Dollar were beckoning as extremely attractive targets.
In the second term of Bill Clinton’s presidency, America, at least on paper, looked very strong. From 1998-2000, based on Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) figures, GDP growth averaged 4.4%, which is roughly four times the rate that we have seen since 2008. The expanding economy and the relative spending restraints that had been made by the Clinton Administration and the newly elected Republican Congress resulted in hundreds of billions of annual U.S. government surpluses, the first such black ink in generations. Many economists comically concluded that the surpluses would become permanent (in fact they lasted just a few years). At the same time, U.S. stock markets were notching some of the biggest gains in their history. From the beginning of 1997 to the end of 1999 the Dow Jones surged by approximately 69%. The tech heavy Nasdaq, the epicenter of the “dotcom” bubble, rallied by an eye popping 294%.
As a result, international money began pouring into the Dollar, taking the wind out of the sails of the newly launched Euro. The stretched valuations that had pushed up U.S. stocks to nosebleed levels failed to dissuade investors from piling in well into the mid-point of 2000. Not only had Wall Street spread the gospel of the new economy, where negative earnings and high debt no longer mattered, but many were convinced that the interventionist tendencies of the Alan Greenspan-led Federal Reserve would protect investors against losses.
As a result of these forces, the Euro first fell to below parity against the dollar on January 27, 2000 when it closed at 98.9 U.S. cents, a fall of 16% from its debut. After that psychological barrier was breached, the selling intensified. By May 8, 2000 the Euro traded at just 89.5 U.S. cents, an additional 9% decline in just three months. This prompted news stories like a BBC article entitled “Was the Euro a Mistake?” Top economists and investors began wondering if the new currency would last much longer.
The Euro’s reputation was further tarnished in September of 2000 when Danish voters rejected their country’s plans to adopt the Euro. The distaste shown by a small country widely considered squarely in the mainstream of Western European culture was a huge black eye for the Euro experiment. The pessimism sent the currency down another 6% in just one month following the Danish election, reaching what would become an all-time low of just 82.7 U.S. cents on October 25, 2000. At that level the Euro had fallen a full 30% from its debut valuation. It looked like game over. The Euro vs. Dollar was shaping up to be a Bambi vs. Godzilla scenario.
By the late 1990’s gold had been in a bear market that had lasted almost 20 years. As a result, investor sentiment for the metal, which had historically been considered a safe haven asset, was at an all-time low. As a result, many Europeans moved into the dollar to seek shelter instead. At that time gold was trading below Euros 300 per ounce (FRED, FRB St. Louis). Those who had exchanged their Euros for Dollars (when the Euro was 83 cents) would have seen those holdings decline by 50% over the following eight years. On the other hand gold nearly doubled in Euro terms over the same time frame. As this article is being written, gold is now trading at 1,000 Euros per ounce (even after the recent big drop) while the Euro hovers around $1.10. So Europeans who bought and held Dollars continuouslywhen the Euro hit its low in 2000 would be down 25%, but those who bought and held gold instead would have seen those holdings triple. (Past performance does not guarantee future results).
The bursting of the dotcom bubble in mid-2000 finally caused a decisive break with the investment trends that had predominated in the previous number of years (see my recent article “The Big Picture“). Just as the dotcom wealth began disappearing, taking the U.S. federal budget surpluses with it, the emerging markets began to recover, and the much-maligned Euro started getting some attention.
By January 5, 2001 the Euro had hit 95.4 cents, a stunning 15.3% rally in just over two months. And although the Euro zigzagged substantially over the next year and a half (with an early retreat in 2002, causing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to wonder whether the Euro was a “Doomed Currency“), by the second half of 2002 the uptrend was firmly in place, with the Euro reaching parity again with the Dollar by July 15, 2002, 30 months after it had fallen below that level. By April 22, 2008 the Euro traded at $1.60 to the Dollar, a price that represented a 36% increase over its debut level and a stunning 93% rally from its October 2000 low.
But when the Financial Crisis of 2008 reached full flower in August, September, and October of 2008, investors once again panicked as they had eight years before. In seeking a safe haven, they once again chose the U.S. Dollar (perhaps motivated by the low valuations then assigned to the greenback). As funds began flowing out of the Euro and into the Dollar, the Euro dropped rapidly. By the end of October the Euro only fetched $1.26, a 21% drop from its April high. But when the markets stabilized in 2009 so did the Euro. It essentially traded sideways against the Dollar over the next two years, reaching back to $1.46 by June 6, 2011.
When the European debt crisis really started grabbing headlines in 2011, with yields on sovereign debt of the so-called PIIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) widening to record territory in comparison to the sovereign bonds of Germany, scrutiny of the Euro came into question once again. The uncertainty over possible bailouts for European banks that were holding potentially toxic government debt was too much uncertainty for the market to handle. The pressure on the Euro was intensified by the slowing Eurozone economy. These forces combined helped to push the Euro down steadily during 2012 and 2013.
But the straw that really broke the camel’s back came at the end of 2014 when it became clear that the European Central Bank, under the new leadership of Mario Draghi, would finally succeed in short-circuiting the anti-bailout restrictions of the Maastricht Treaty and outflank the objections of the German financial and political establishment in order to bring full blown Quantitative Easing (QE) to the Eurozone. The QE program essentially involves creating Euros out of thin air in order to buy government debt and hold down long-term interest rates.
Expectations about European QE came at a time when most observers concluded that the U.S. economy was finally on track for a strong recovery in 2015 and that the Federal Reserve (which has already showered the United States with almost six full years of QE) had finally done away with the program and would begin raising rates for the first time in almost 10 years. Despite a languishing economy, the U.S. markets had once again delivered stellar returns, with the S&P 500 rising 64% between 2011 and 2014, doing so without ever experiencing a correction of more than 10%.
These movements provided a strong rationale for investors to sell Euros and buy Dollars. In the 12 months from May 2014 to May 2015 the Euro fell by about 20%. When it bottomed out at $1.05 on March 11, 2015, the Euro had fallen 34% from its peak seven years earlier. This revived the opinions that the Euro was dead and that the Dollar would be the only real reserve currency for the foreseeable future.
But what if the assumptions about a U.S. economic recovery and Fed rate hikes were wrong? Could observers be mistaken now about the trajectory of the Dollar vs. the Euro as they were back in 2000? While some had warned that the dotcom bubble of 2000 could end badly, very few understood how deeply the mania was the root of the economic expansion and how severely the final flameout would threaten the entire economy. Similarly, very few had foreseen the dangers that the housing and mortgage bubble had presented to the wider economy in 2008. The economic and market contractions in 2000 and 2008 might have been much worse if the Fed had not been able to cut interest rates by almost 500 basis points in the face of the crises. (No such options are available if the economy contracts today). In other words, complacency can be very dangerous, especially if there is no ammunition to combat a crisis if it arrives unexpectedly .
Confidence is the only thing that really undergirds modern fiat currencies. But confidence can be very ephemeral…disappearing as quickly as it arrives. The U.S. Dollar benefits from confidence that the Euro currency may just be unworkable, that the U.S. economy will continue to improve, and that the Fed will raise rates throughout the remainder of 2015 and into 2016. If these expectations are unfulfilled, there could be a Euro reversal.
When a trend remains in place for a while, people tend to think it will continue forever. When it reverses, the shock can be widespread. Just as currency speculators over-estimated the strength of the U.S. economy in 2000, I believe they are making the same mistake again today. But the U.S. economy is actually much weaker and more vulnerable now than it was in 2000. If the spell of confidence surrounding the Dollar is broken, it may also reverse the fortunes of other beaten down currencies. This could present a sea change in the global investment landscape for which wise investors should be prepared.
July 30, 2015
Usain Bolt has got nothing on Leonidas of Rhodos.
Born nearly 2,000 years ago, Leonidas holds the record as the greatest sprinter of all time, winning more Olympic titles than anyone else in human history.
At four straight Olympic games, Leonidas dominated all three sprinting events– the Stadion (roughly 200 meters), Diaulos (roughly 400 meters), and the bizarre Hoplitodromos– a 400 meter dash carrying 50 pounds of military gear.
Bear in mind that he competed at a time when there was only a prize for first place. Second place was first loser.
(And they didn’t hand out medals to all the kids just for participating.)
As such, Leonidas was a legend in his own time and was decorated accordingly.
Just like today, in fact, many ancient Greek athletes were rewarded by their city-states for an Olympic victory.
In Athens, the government would award prize money that was equivalent to about 500 sheep.
This was a highly coveted back then; livestock was considered a symbol of wealth and power, so a vast flock of sheep in Ancient Greece may have been the Maserati of its day.
I was particularly interested when I read this because I own some sheep in Chile; they cost the equivalent of about fifty to sixty US dollars in the marketplace.
It’s roughly the same price in the United States for young lamb and slaughter ewes (female sheep) based on USDA data.
But what really floored me was when I found out that the United States Olympic Committee hands out $25,000 in prize money to gold medal winners– roughly the amount necessary to buy a flock of 500 sheep today.
So over 2,000 years later, the prize money for champions is more or less the same.
Now, let’s consider which of these two is more valuable: $25,000 worth of sheep, or $25,000 worth of fiat money (paper currency).
Fiat money sits in a bank account earning a yield of 0.5%.
(Or if you’re really unlucky, you might even have the privilege of paying your bank interest like they do here in parts of Europe.)
Sheep, on the other hand, yield… more sheep.
Depending on breed, the typical conception rate for sheep is between 65% to 95%, with a gestation period of about 5 months.
So a herd can expand dramatically in a typical breeding season, producing meat, milk, and wool along the way.
Fiat money produces nothing. At least, not for you.
It remains in the hands of the bank where they make the most bonehead financial decisions with it, parking it whatever risky investment fad gets them the biggest annual bonus.
They’ll further act as unpaid agents of the government, freezing you out of your own savings in a heartbeat.
And if you request to withdraw your own money, they treat you like a criminal terrorist.
Now, I’m not trying to convince you to empty your bank account and go buy a flock of sheep.
The point is that productive assets stand the test of time. Paper currency does not.
Always remember that history is inflationary. And while there may be some aberrant years, holding cash will gradually erode your savings.
It’s imperative to make smart, long-term financial decisions. Seek stores of value that can stand the test of time.
In fairness, that’s easier said than done in an environment where every conventional asset class is in a bubble.
Stocks are at all-time highs. Bonds are at all-time highs (earning negative yields in some cases). Banks are perilously illiquid. Many real estate markets are frothy once again.
So it’s a tall order to find safety and stability– at least, within conventional finance.
Outside the mainstream, though, there are plenty of compelling options.
An heirloom Patek Phillipe wristwatch will likely be a much better store of value to pass on to your grandkids than the usual gift of a US government savings bond.
Productive real estate (including agriculture) can also be a much better alternative than letting money sit in a bank account. It’s like gold, with yield. And the added benefit of providing a place to stay, or even food on the table.
Privately held businesses can also be a great option as they can often be purchased at very low multiples on their earnings, generating instant yields of 40% or more.
And even though most stock are hovering at bubble levels, there are some deep value options available where you can buy shares of a well-managed, profitable business for less than the value of its net assets.
Reprinted with permission from Sovereign Man.
When do we get to exercise democracy and fire every factotum, apparatchik, toady and lackey in the state who has abused his/her authority?
Everyone lauds “creative destruction” when it shreds monopolies and disrupts private enterprise “business as usual.” If thousands lose their middle-class livelihoods– hey, that’s the price of progress.
Improvements in productivity and efficiency can’t be stopped, and those employed making buggy whips and collecting horse manure from fetid streets will have to move on to other employment.
This raises an obvious question few dare ask: does this inevitable process of creative destruction include the state? If not, why not? Aren’t the state and the central bank the ultimate monopolies begging to be disrupted for the benefit of all? If government is inefficient and unproductive, shouldn’t it be “creatively destroyed” in the same fashion as private enterprise?
The obvious answer is yes. Why should a monopoly (government) remain untouched by new knowledge and competition as it skims the cream from society to fund its own monopolies and grants one monopoly/cartel privilege after another to its private-sector cronies?
Under the tender care of the state, we now have uncompetitive, inefficient parastic cartels dominating higher education, national defense, healthcare insurance, pharmaceuticals and hospitals– to name but a few of the major industries that are now state-enforced cartels thanks to the heavy hand of the state (i.e. regulatory capture ).
Under the tender mercies of the state, prosecutors have a 90% conviction rate thanks to rigged forensic evidence, threats of life imprisonment (better to plea-bargain than risk years in America’s gulag) and other strong-arm tactics that presume guilt, not innocence. We have the best judicial system that money can buy, meaning you’re jail-bait if you can’t put your hands on a couple hundred thousand for legal defense and the all-important media campaign.
No wonder “we’re number one” in false convictions, innocent people rotting away in the drug gulag and overcrowded prisons.The citizenry are fish in a barrel for overzealous prosecutors and “get tough on drugs” politicos.
And for goodness sake, don’t get caught with cash–you must be a drug lord! Only drug lords have more than $200 cash on them at any one time. Once again, the state monopoly on force reckons you’re guilty until proven innocent–and in cases where your cash and car were “legally stolen” (a.k.a. civil forfeiture) by the state, that will cost you months or years and tens of thousands in legal fees to get your property back–unless you’re targeted for further investigation.
As I have described here in detail, the state can empty your bank account on the barest suspicion that you might owe more taxes than you paid . Due process and rule of law have been replaced withlegalized looting and harassment by government in America.
Ronald Reagan used to be called the Teflon president, on the grounds that no matter what gaffe or scandal engulfed him, it never stuck: he didn’t suffer in the polls. If Reagan was the Teflon president, the military is America’s Teflon institution. Even people who oppose whatever the current war happens to be can be counted on to “support the troops” and to live by the comforting delusion that whatever aberrations may be evident today, the system itself is basically sound.
To add insult to injury, whenever the US government gears up for yet another military intervention, it’s people who pretend to favor “limited government,” and who pride themselves on not falling for government propaganda, who can be counted on to stand up and salute.
I had the rare honor of serving as Ron Paul’s congressional chief of staff, and observed him in many proud moments in those days, and in his presidential campaigns. But Ron’s new book Swords into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity, a plainspoken and relentless case against war that ranks alongside Smedley Butler’s classic War Is a Racket, is possibly the proudest Ron Paul moment of all.
It’s been calculated that over the past 5,000 years there have been 14,000 wars fought, resulting in three and a half billion deaths. In the United States, between 1798 and 2015 there have been 369 uses of military force abroad. We have been conditioned to accept this as normal, or at the very least unavoidable. We are told to stifle any moral qualms we may have about mass killing on the question-begging grounds that, after all, “it’s war.”
Ron, on this as on a wide array of other topics, isn’t prepared to accept the conventional platitudes, and a recurring theme in his book involves speculating on whether, in the same way the human race has advanced so extraordinarily from a technological point of view, we might be capable of a comparable moral advance as well.
There is much in this book for libertarians and indeed all opponents of war to enjoy – for starters, a refutation of the claim that war is “good for the economy,” a discussion of the dangers of “blowback” posed by foreign interventionism, and an overview of the War on Terror from a noninterventionist perspective. But there is a profoundly personal dimension to this book as well, as we follow Ron’s life from his childhood to the present and the evolution of his thought on war. I’ll leave readers to discover these gems for themselves.
Likewise, Ron relates some little-known stories of war. In one, it’s two weeks after D-Day, and Captain Jack Tueller decided to play his trumpet that evening. He was instructed not to do so: his commander explained that a German sniper had still not been captured from the day’s battle. Figuring the sniper was a frightened young man not unlike himself, he played the German song “Lili Marleen.” The sniper surrendered to the Americans the next day.
Before being sent off to prison, the sniper asked to meet the trumpet player. He said, through tears, “When I heard that number that you played I thought about my fiancée in Germany. I thought about my mother and dad and about my brothers and sisters, and I could not fire.”
“He stuck out his hand and I shook the hand of the enemy,” Tueller recalls. “He was no enemy. He was scared and lonely like me.”
Another story takes place just before Christmas 1943. Charlie Brown, a 21-year-old farm boy from West Virginia was on his first combat mission as a pilot when his B-17 was seriously damaged over Germany. With half his crew dead or wounded, he was struggling to get his plane back to England when a German fighter came within three feet of his right wingtip. But Franz Stigler, the German pilot, did not fire. Instead, he simply nodded, pointed, and flew off, allowing Brown to make his way back to England.
Some 46 years later, the two men met again. Brown finally got to ask Stigler why he had been pointing. Stigler replied that he was trying to tell Brown to fly to Sweden, which was closer. But since Brown knew only how to get back to England, that’s where he went.
The two men became close friends, even fishing buddies. Stigler said that saving Brown’s life was the only good thing that came out of the whole war for him.
You won’t be surprised to learn that in addition to human-interest anecdotes like these, Ron spends time in Swords into Plowshares linking central banking and war, one of his perennial themes over the years. It isn’t for nothing that again and again, countries abandoned the gold standard when they went to war.
We rarely pause to consider what that tells us. If they needed to abandon the gold standard to go to war, that means the gold standard was a barrier against war. Of course, the ease with which governments could abandon the gold standard serves to remind us of the need to separate money and state altogether, and that the state cannot be trusted to maintain a sound money standard.
As always, Ron is at his fiery best when he unleashes on the neoconservatives, whose every overseas fiasco becomes a justification for still another fiasco six months later. He invites us to consider a typical remark by neoconservative Michael Ledeen: “Paradoxically, peace increases our peril, by making discipline less urgent, encouraging some of our worst instincts, and depriving us of some of our best leaders.”
Note that it is peace, according to Ledeen, and not war, that encourages our worst instincts. This was the view of Theodore Roosevelt, loved and admired by progressives and neoconservatives alike, who considered prolonged peace a deplorable state that made a people flabby and otiose.
Neocons complain when libertarians describe them as “pro-war” – why, they favor war only as a last resort, they assure us, and only because there are bad people in the world – but how else can we describe the views of Ledeen, who to my knowledge has never been publicly taken to task by any other neocon?
(Perhaps my favorite of Ron’s collection of ghoulish neocon quotations, though, if only for its obliviously Orwellian quality, is George W. Bush’s remark from June 2002: “I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”)
Meanwhile, the American people have been indoctrinated into a cult of the veteran, whom evangelicals blasphemously compare to Jesus Christ, and whereby everyone is expected to salute, applaud, and offer ostentatious thanks for the veteran’s “service.”
Here, by contrast, is Ron:
“Service” in our military to invade, occupy, and oppress countries in order to extend [the] US Empire must not be glorified as a “heroic” and sacred effort. My five years in the Air Force during the 1960s did not qualify me as any sort of hero. My primary thoughts now about that period of time are: “Why was I so complacent, and why did I so rarely seriously question the wisdom of the Vietnam War?”
Ron calls upon the peoples of the world to resist their governments’ calls to war and to refuse to take part in violent conflict. “If the authoritarians continue to abuse power in spite of constitutional and moral limits,” he writes, “the only recourse left is for the people to go on strike and refuse to sanction the wars and thefts. Deny the dictators your money and your bodies…. The more this is a worldwide movement, the better.”
This is why Ron is such a fan of the song “Universal Soldier,” which he asked singer Aimee Allen to perform at his dramatic Rally for the Republic in 2008. The man who enlists in the military and simply goes along with the prevailing current of opinion is the universal soldier. If he refused to “serve” and to fight, there could be no wars. Even Ron, a flight surgeon who never fired a shot, looks back on his time in the military and asks himself: why did I not resist? Why did I go along?
Needless to say, few among our political class – people who, generally speaking, have rather more to repent of than mild Ron Paul – reflect seriously on their moral choices, or rebuke themselves publicly.
When people read Swords into Plowshares generations from now – and they will – they will marvel that such a man actually served in the US Congress, and defied every campaign of war propaganda right on the House floor. But what’s great about Ron is not just his honesty, but also his constant intellectual growth – with the passage of time he has become an ever-more radical champion of freedom. His evolution is especially plain in this book, as you’ll discover for yourself.
One of the most important things Ron accomplished in public life was to show that it’s possible to oppose war without being a leftist. He likewise explained that a foreign policy of peace and nonintervention was a central, indispensable feature of the message of freedom, and not just an odd personality quirk of Ron Paul – as the many people who said “I like Ron Paul except his foreign policy” seem to have believed.
Bernie Sanders pretends to be antiwar, but as usual with socialists, a closer look shows he doesn’t really mean it. But even if he did, as a socialist he simply wants to point the guns at different targets – the undifferentiated aggregates like “the rich” to whom he urges his followers to direct their uncomprehending hate. Ron, on the other hand, is calling on us to put the guns down, and for peaceful interaction both between nations and among individuals.
It is a position most people had never heard of before 2008, since election campaigns are all about grabbing the machinery of state and pointing its guns at whatever group the eventual victor despises. But Ron captured the imaginations of millions of intelligent young people, whose brains hadn’t yet been deformed by an American political culture designed to deprive them of humane possibilities.
Ron turns 80 this month, and shows no sign of letting up in his life’s work of truth-telling. Wish Ron a happy birthday by joining us for a celebration in Lake Jackson on August 15, and by reading this extraordinary book.
Odds are you are not crazy about grocery shopping. Regardless, we have to eat so here are a few things to look for or to avoid during your grocery store recon.
If you are cruising for women, shopping at a major grocery store between 7 and 10:00 PM (nighttime for the clock impaired) is a good time. Most single working women are doing their shopping in this time frame and guess what? a good portion of them are actually cruising for guys-because this is the same time frame in which single guys shop for groceries.
At one time years ago, many major cities actually had “sort of” date night shopping once a week where men and women would shop for food-and each other. Store promotion of this was strictly word of mouth of course.
Okay, assuming you are “just” after food, let’s begin with the basics. In nearly all grocery stores they have special lighting over the produce and meat departments. These specialized (sort of blue) overhead lights in the produce departments help accentuate the green color in the greens in that section. The stores also have a different wavelength (warmer light) light to accentuate colored veggies like apples, etc.
While here with the lighting the stores will have specialized red wave length lights help accentuate the red color of meat in the above the meat counter. Grocery operations have known for decades that women, who do most of the grocery shopping, look for the brightest red meat (more on this later).
So if you want an accurate color read for the particular item you are looking at simply shield the item from the special lighting and in the meat section just remove the (packaged) product a few feet from the meat case lights.
All this lighting stuff is legal and proper marketing much as are the special wavelength lights in jewelry stores that accentuate diamond’s colors and brilliance.
Grocery stores are nearly all computer designed for the best sales. Why not, they are not cheating you, just maximizing their sales, so no sniveling on your part.
For the last 40 years most stores shelves have been “set” by computer systems based on sales, inventory and much more. The system will tell them which shelf, how many linear facings (can/box fronts), how stacked, what shelf, how high and where in the particular section to position that inventory.
If it is a sale item, the system will tell them all of the previous information and also what regular priced item to have near it because store management knows there is a purchase bleed from the sale item to full priced items. Many companies actually pay the grocery store (lot of money if it is a big chain) a special display payment to promote their items in the store up front and on end caps (end of aisles).
The flow and aisle design of grocery stores is of course very carefully designed to run a shopper past every possible product they can while they search for what they really came in the store for. Even those with shopping lists will do some spontaneous purchasing-especially men! We buy fun stuff!
If your store has a last day bargain meat section-shop the hell out of it. That meat is NOT going to be recycled into ground beef nor is it allowed to be donated-the next day when expired, it is thrown out! Expired dairy items may be donated to charities by the stores, and they usually are too because dairy items have a “longer grace period” after the official expiration date than does meat. The discounted meat section is a bargain!
What about reddish brown or non-blood red meat? Back in the day when shoppers knew what the hell they were doing, meat that was blood red just was not desired. Smart shoppers looked for darker red meat. This was and is meat that had some aging to it where friendly bacteria made it more tender and flavorful and where you were not paying for liquid blood which is basically red water.
Properly aged meat is generally dryer and more concentrated and much richer in flavor. And, for what it is worth, the close out sale meat is a better deal as it has some in package aging to it. The flavor is much better than the day’s recent bloody looking red meat that most shoppers are more attracted to and the meat is more tender than its fresh on the shelf counterparts. Generally, shoppers past 65 year of age will look for the darker and older meat; they remember the way meat was once sold decades earlier.
As recent as just 30- yeas ago most beef in most grocery stores had been aged for 14-21 days or sometimes longer. Nowadays the meat you may buy may have come from an animal killed the day before, if that old. Custom meat shops may have aged meat, and it will cost more since there is some waste involved in the aging process, but the flavor is much better as well as more tender.
Some packaged hams (most all) and packaged bacon will have extra salt water injected in the product-a normal “flavor enhancing” procedure. This makes them heaver and you end up paying for expensive salt water. This can also apply to some turkey and chicken products, but not like it does for hams and bacon. You will notice the bacon most as copious amounts of steam and water emerge when cooking. Buy thicker sliced fresh sliced bacon for the best deal, even though it will cost more-it is still a better buy.
Being food quality paranoid, packaged frozen fish is always suspect. We simply will NOT buy fish that is farm raised; they put all kinds of “stuff” in that food chain. Many fish that are actually cold water fish (like North Atlantic Salmon) are now farm raised in warm and hot climes in the south and even further south in Central America, etc. The mushy flesh and off flavor just suck compared to fish wild caught from their own real world wild environment. We aggressively avoid foreign raised, caught or processed “fresh/frozen” fish.
We will buy wild caught U.S. and Canadian fish like cod and salmon. Catfish are a warm water fish and fare a better even if farm raised in the U.S. or Canada, but not elsewhere. Just read the label for the source.
Some “fresh” fish in store fish counters including crab and shrimp is actually from the same fish in the packaged frozen counter. The store will remove it from the package, thaw and sell it in a display case. Not illegal, but you will not know the source unless you ask, and unless they are liars, they will tell you the source of the fish and if it was previously frozen. Recently there has been issued some type of warning regarding shrimp for the 2015 season.
Produce is fairly easy to purchase. Brown is bad unless it is a kiwi or plantain. Soft or bruised is bad. Buy hard, bruise free, well colored, firm fruit and veggies and let them ripen in your residence, then you know. Lettuce and other greens are best not aged! Buy fresh and eat them soonest. When looking at produce, examine the whole thing if you can. Buying a great looking apple and later finding the worm hole or fungus on the other side is really ugly. Fully inspect your produce before purchasing.
The heavier the head of lettuce the better, same for garlic-lettuce is generally sold by the head and not the pound-which makes the heavy heads a better buy as they will have more leaves. Watch cauliflower for lots of short cut stalk a result of bad trimming and of course when sold by the pound you pay for the inedible trimmings you cut off and throw out. This alone can make up nearly half the weight of the cauliflower.
Cauliflower steamed (boiled) and once completed, stick some thin sliced Swiss or provolone cheese (sliced thin) on it using toot picks to hold it in place while it melts. This is good stuff.
Many big chains have gone to second grade produce to keep from having to raise prices, because produceis one area where shoppers tend to remember last week’s price. While it may taste decent second grade produce is full of bruises, bruises, odd shapes, tree rubs, split pits (peaches and apricots) and much more that does not allow them to make grade one and in some cases not even make grade 2.
Lessor cherries will have lots of little bumps, wrinkled skin, odd shapes, some splitting, etc. Grapes will be soft and mushy. The heavier the orange the better-more juice, and yes more expensive as oranges are sold by the pound, but light weight oranges are like eating paper-generally due to some sort of freeze damage.
There is more to this but hopefully we have raised your awareness of grocery shopping. Always look at the unit or per-pound price when shopping, especially cheeses-we will have more on that particular subject shortly, look for it as that is a sort of serious ripoff.
When you are ready to prepare that best meal for your special person–use the good stuff–then again learning to cook might help!
A bit of store layout psychology:
Back in the 1920s and earlier shoppers simply gave a shopping list to the store and the store personnel would fill the list for the shopper to pick up at the cash register. At that time store many aisles ran across the store. Then, probably the Safeway chain, realized that they could sell more food easier if they let shoppers (almost always women) do their own shopping.
But the crosswise aisles made women feel uncomfortable as it created canyons of shelves and hid them from the front windows and viewing by store personnel. Soon all stores ran the aisles as they are today so that the windows and front of the store could viewed down the aisles-no more dark canyons hidden from view-women felt more secure for self-shopping.
Grocery carts are much larger nowadays than 30 years ago. Again the psychological ploy is to have shoppers buy (fill) more items. The large carts psychologically promote more buying, larger purchases and bigger sales.
Of course in store wall colors, overall displays and lighting and how produce and other displays are set matters in a well run store. Remember, the stores are not forcing you to buy anything, they are simply trying to maximize their sales and profits. The store is not your enemy or competitor. What they are doing is legal, proper, and good marketing and so is your knowing about it so you can make smarter buying decisions.
August 6, 2015, is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a civilian city that had minimal military value, despite the claims of President Truman when he announced the event to the American people.
The whole truth of what the Nuremburg tribunal would later help define as an international war crime and a crime against humanity has been heavily censored and mythologized ever since war-weary Americans in 1945 accepted the propaganda that the bombings were necessary to shorten the war and prevent the loss of a million US soldiers during the allegedly planned November 1945 invasion.
Of course, the reason that the United States wasn’t sanctioned like Germany was for the Jewish holocaust was that America was the victor and the occupier and thus it was in charge of making and enforcing the rules in the New World Order.
The United States military ambushed the equally defenseless Nagasaki City three days later with the second atomic bomb to ever be used against a civilian population (that no longer had any military value to Japan). “Fat Man”, the plutonium bomb named after Winston Churchill, was detonated before the Japanese leadership fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima.
<<<Lies my History Teachers Told Me>>>
My high school history teachers all seemed to be ex-jocks who weren’t athletically talented enough to make it to the majors. The main chance for them to continue playing games for pay was to join the teaching profession and coach high school athletics. American history was of secondary importance in many small town high schools but it hardly made the list of interests for coaches, who reluctantly accepted the job; and so my classmates and I “learned” our lessons from some very uninspired, very bored and/or very uninformed teachers who would rather have been on the playing field.
In my coach’s defense, the history books that they had to teach from had been highly censored in order to promote patriotism; and so we “learned” that most everything that the “noble” British colonizers and “honorable” US empire builders ever did in the history of warfare was self-sacrificing, democracy-promoting and Christianizing – and that everything their freedom-seeking, revolutionary colonial victims did was barbaric, atheistic and evil. Anybody who resisted colonial oppressors was treated as a terrorist.
It was from these history books that we learned about the “glorious” end of the war against Japan via nuclear incineration. Everybody in my high school, including myself, swallowed the post-war propaganda hook, line and sinker.
<<<50,000 American soldiers deserted or went AWOL during WWII>>>
Of course, I now realize that my classmates and I, just like most other Americans (including the volunteer or conscripted members of the military), have been naïve victims of “lies our history teachers taught us”. In their defense, those teachers had been misled in their own schooling by equally mis-informed teachers who got their information from a variety of dis-informers who wrote the books: and those authors were the war- and empire-justifying militarists and assorted uber-patriotic pseudo-historians who had been duped into believing the myth of American exceptionalism.
Not included in that group of true believers were the 50,000 WWII American soldier-members of the “Greatest Generation” who, in many cases, logically and understandably deserted or went AWOL during their war service, a reality that has been conveniently censored out of our consciousness.
<<<The First Casualty of War is Truth>>>
One of General Douglas MacArthur’s first acts after taking over as Viceroy of Japan was to confiscate or otherwise destroy all the photographic evidence documenting the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He imposed total censorship over journalists who wanted to report to the world about what had really happened at Ground Zero, again proving the old adage that “the first casualty of war is truth”. Embedding journalists in the US military so that only America-friendly reportage happened wasn’t the original idea of General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf in Gulf War I.
Back in 1995, the Smithsonian Institution was preparing to correct some of the 50-year-old pseudo-patriotic myths about the Pacific War by staging an honest, historically-accurate display dealing with the atomic bombings from the Japanese civilian perspective.
Swift, vehement and well-orchestrated condemnations directed at the Smithsonian historian’s plans to tell unwelcome truths about war came from right-wing pro-war veterans organizations, the GOP-dominated Congress at the time, and other militarist groups (such as Newt Gingrich’s paymaster Lockheed Martin, one of many war-profiteering merchants-of-death multinationals whose profits and products depend on Congressional and Pentagon largesse). Gingrich actually threatened to stop federal funding of the Smithsonian, thus forcing it to censor-out all of the contextually important parts of the real story. And so the pseudo-patriotic myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to be preserved to this very day.
<<<Historical Illiteracy in America is Endemic>>>
We historically-illiterate Americans are blocked, again and again, from learning historical truths about the American Empire – and the control that the military and multinational corporations have over it. Anything that might shake voter confidence in – or incite grassroots revolution against – the unelected ruling elites, the Pentagon or the conscienceless transnational corporations (that control our two major party politicians, the mainstream media and the “invisible hand of the market”) is verboten.
The Smithsonian historians did have a gun to their heads, of course, but in the melee, we voters failed to learn an important historical point, and that is this: the war in the Pacific could have ended in the spring of 1945 without the need for the August atomic bombings, and therefore there might have been no Okinawa bloodbath that senselessly doomed thousands of American Marines.
And there would have been no need for an American land invasion of Japan in November. Indeed, in the 1980s, released top secret records revealed that the contingency plans for a large-scale US invasion (planned for no sooner than November 1, 1945) would have been unnecessary.
To the victors go the spoils, and the American victors were the ones running the war crimes tribunals and thus also determined the content of my history text books.
<<America’s Leaders Knew that Japan was Searching for ways to Honorably Surrender Months before Hiroshima>>>
American intelligence agencies, with the full knowledge of President Roosevelt’s and President Truman’s administrations, were fully aware of Japan’s search for ways to honorably surrender months before Truman gave the fateful order to incinerate Hiroshima.
Japan was working on peace negotiations through its ambassador in Moscow as early as April of 1945, with surrender feelers from Japan occurring as far back as 1944. Truman knew of these developments because the US had broken the Japanese code even before Pearl Harbor, and all of Japan’s military and diplomatic messages were being intercepted. On July 13, 1945, Foreign Minister Togo wrote: “Unconditional surrender (giving up all sovereignty, including the deposing of Emperor Hirohito) is the only obstacle to peace.”
Truman’s advisors knew about these efforts, and the war could have ended through diplomacy by simply conceding a post-war figurehead position for the emperor (who was regarded as a deity in Japan). That reasonable concession was – seemingly illogically – refused by the US in their demands for unconditional surrender, which was first demanded at the 1943 Casablanca Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill and then reiterated at the Potsdam Conference between Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Still, the Japanese continued searching for an honorable peace through negotiations.
Even Secretary of War Henry Stimson said: “the true question was not whether surrender could have been achieved without the use of the bomb but whether a different diplomatic and military course would have led to an earlier surrender. A large segment of the Japanese cabinet was ready in the spring of 1945 to accept substantially the same terms as those finally agreed on.” In other words, Stimson knew that the US could have ended the war before Hiroshima.
<<<The Unreasonable Demand for Japan’s Unconditional Surrender Prolonged the War>>>
After Japan officially surrendered on August 15, 1945, MacArthur allowed the emperor to remain in place as spiritual head of Japan, the very condition that forced the Japanese leadership to refuse to accept the earlier, humiliating, “unconditional surrender” terms.
So the two essential questions that need answering in order to comprehend what was going on behind the scenes are these: 1) Why did the US refuse to accept Japan’s only demand concerning its surrender (the retention of the emperor) and 2) why were the atomic bombs used when victory in the Pacific was assured?
<<<The Factors Leading up to the Decision to use the Most Barbaric Weapons of Mass Destruction in the History of Warfare>>>
There are a number of factors that contributed to the Truman administration’s fateful decision to use the atomic bombs.
1) Investment. The US had made a huge investment in time, mind and money (a massive 2 billion in 1940 dollars) to produce three bombs, and there was no inclination – and no guts – to stop the momentum.
2) Revenge. The US military and political leadership – as did many ordinary Americans – had a tremendous appetite for revenge because of the Pearl Harbor “surprise” attack. Mercy wasn’t in the mindset of the US military, the war-weary populace or even of average American Christians and their churches. The missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki were accepted as necessary, with no questions asked, by most of those folks who only knew the sanitized, national security state version of events. Most Americans wanted to believe the cunningly-orchestrated propaganda.
3) A “use it or lose it” mentality and scientific curiosity. The fissionable material in Hiroshima’s bomb was uranium. The Trinity test bomb (exploded on July 16, 1945) and the Nagasaki bomb were plutonium bombs. Scientific curiosity was a significant factor that pushed the project to its deadly completion. The Manhattan Project leaders were curious. “What would happen if a city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What would happen if plutonium was used?” Now that the war against Nazi Germany (the original intended target) was over, the most conscientious scientists felt that the bombs should not be used against civilian targets.
4) “Orders are orders”. Actually, the military decision to drop both bombs had been made well in advance of August 1945. Accepting the surrender of Japan prior to their use was not an option if the experiment was to go ahead. It should be obvious to anybody that the three-day interval between the two bombs was unconscionably short if the purpose of the first bomb was to force immediate surrender. Japan’s communications and transportation capabilities were in shambles, and no one, neither the US military nor the Japanese high command, fully understood what had happened at Hiroshima. (It is a fascinating fact that the Manhattan Project had been so top secret that even MacArthur, commanding general of the entire Pacific theatre, had been kept out of the loop – until July 1)
5) The Russians. Stalin had proclaimed his intent to enter the war with Japan 90 days after V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945), which would have been two days after Hiroshima was bombed. Indeed, Russia did declare war on Japan on August 8 and was advancing eastward across Manchuria when Nagasaki City, the center of Japanese Christianity, was incinerated.
Certainly Russia was still feeling the sting of humiliating defeat and the loss of territory from the disastrous Russo-Japanese War of 1905 when they were beaten by upstart Japan. Elephants and ego-bloated nation-states have long memories, especially when they lose an argument, lose a fight or are embarrassed in public. Witness the 150 year old enduring promise from segregationist devotees of the Confederate flag like Dylan Roof, the KKK, and the White Citizen’s Councils that “The South Will Rise Again”; or consider the rabid right-wing, sociopathic NeoNazis all around the world in their devotion to Adolf Hitler and their symbol of fascism, the Swastika.
The US didn’t want Japan surrendering to Russia and thus sharing the spoils of war. Russia was soon to be one of only two world superpowers – and therefore a future enemy of the United States. So the first “messages” of the Cold War were sent by the US to the USSR on August 6 and 9, 1945: “Stalin, stay away from Japan’s carcass. We own it. And besides, we have the bomb.”
Russia didn’t receive the spoils of the Pacific War that they had anticipated, and the two superpowers were instantly mired in the multi-trillion dollar stalemated nuclear arms race and the multitude of proxy wars that regularly risked the total extinction of humanity. What also happened along the way was the moral bankruptcy of both of the paranoid super-power nations that insisted on fighting the stupid cold war, a war that was fueled by war-profiteering corporations and borrow and spend economics.
<<<The Reality for the Innocent Casualties of War>>>
An estimated 80,000 innocent civilians, plus 20,000 weaponless young Japanese conscripts died instantly in the Hiroshima bombing raid. Hundreds of thousands more suffered slow deaths and disabilities from agonizing burns, radiation sickness, leukemia, anemia, thrombocytopenia and untreatable infections. The Japanese survivors and their progeny suffered a fate similar to the survivors and progeny of America’s “Atomic Soldiers”. (Atomic Soldiers were those soldiers who were exposed, in the line of duty, to the hundreds of nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s or to the depleted uranium that the US military used in the two Gulf Wars.) Each of those groups were afflicted with horrible radiation-induced illnesses, congenital anomalies, genetic mutations, immune deficiencies, cancers and premature deaths, still going on to this very minute.
(Another shameful reality that has been covered up is the fact that 12 American Navy pilots, their existence well known to the US command prior to the bombing, were instantly incinerated in the Hiroshima jail on that fateful day.)
<<<Military Myths That our Teachers Taught us>>>
So the official War Department-approved, highly censored version of the end of the war in the Pacific was added to an ever-lengthening list of myths that we Americans have been continuously fed by our corporate-controlled military, political and media opinion leaders. In the process, the gruesomeness and cruelty of war has been cunningly propagandized so that we consumers of information see only the glorification of American militarism.
Among the other censored out realities include what really happened in the US military’s participation in the destabilize-and-conquer campaigns and coups d’etat in Ukraine, Honduras, Venezuela, Libya, and bloody invasions and/or occupations of Korea, Iran, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, the Philippines, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc. This list doesn’t necessarily cover the uncountable secret Pentagon/CIA covert operations and assassination plots in the rest of the world, where some 150 “sovereign” nations have been coerced into allowing the building of American military bases (permission lavishly paid for by bribes or threats of economic or military sanctions).
But somehow most of us still hang on to our shaky “my country right or wrong” patriotism, desperately wanting to believe the cunningly-orchestrated myths that say that the war-profiteering corporate elite (and the politicians, military leaders and media talking heads who are in their employ) only work for peace, justice, equality, liberty and “making the world safe”, not for democracy, but for predatory capitalism.
While it is true that the US military has faced down the occasional despot, with necessary sacrifice from dead and incurably-wounded (in body, mind and spirit) American soldiers and veterans, more often than not the rationalizations for going to war are the same as those of the “godless communists”, the anti-American “insurgents” and “freedom fighters” who just want us Yankees to go home where we belong.
August 6 and 9, 1945 are just two more examples of the brain-washing that goes on in all “total war” political agendas, which are consistently accompanied by the inevitable human death and destruction that is euphemistically labeled “splendid slaughter”, “collateral damage” or “friendly fire”.
<<<What Happened to the Humanitarian, Peace-loving America That We Used to Know and Love?>>>
It might already be too late to rescue and resuscitate the (mythical?) moribund humanitarian, peacemaking America that we used to know and love. It might be too late to effectively confront the corporate hijacking of liberal democracy in America. It might be too late to successfully bring down the arrogant and greedy ruling elites who are selfishly dragging our planet down the road to destruction. The rolling coups d’etat orchestrated by the profiteers of what I call Friendly American Fascism may have already accomplished its goals.
But I suppose there is always hope. Rather than being silent about the destabilizing conflicts that the war-mongers are provoking all over the planet (with the very willing assistance of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the weapons industries and their lapdogs in Congress), people of conscience need to start learning the whole truth of history, despite the psychological discomfort that they may feel (cognitive dissonance) when the lies that they had been led to believe can’t be believed any more. We need to start owning up to America’s uncountable war crimes that have been orchestrated in our names.
And so the whistle-blowers among us need to rise up in dissent, go to the streets in protest and courageously refuse to cooperate with those sociopathic personalities that have gradually transformed America into a criminal rogue state. Like Nazi Germany or Fascist Japan, rogue nations throughout history have been eventually targeted for downfall by its billions of angry, fed-up, suffering victims who live both inside and outside its borders. That fate awaits America unless its leaders confesses their sins, honestly ask for forgiveness and truly promise to join the peace-loving human race.
Doing what is right for the whole of humanity for a change, rather than just doing what is profitable or advantageous for our over-privileged, over-consumptive, toxic and unsustainable American way of life, would be real honor, real patriotism and an essential start toward real peace.