Henri Matisse Notre-Dame, une fin d’après-midi 1902
End the Fed before it’s too late.
If interest rates and returns hit rock bottom, people have little reason to save, and investors little incentive to invest. Consumption increases at the expense of savings, and capital consumption sets in. Existing capital will be used up and not replaced. It might take a while for people to find out that a central bank monetary policy that pushes the interest rate to ever lower levels does not bring prosperity but is very damaging, even ruinous, for the future prosperity of the commonweal. Once investors realize that the economy is losing its strength, elevated asset prices, previously driven up by an ultra-low interest rate, will come crashing down. In the case of stocks, for instance, profit expectations are scaled back, and a downward adjustment of stock prices sets in.
Falling asset prices in general would hit hard consumers’ and corporates’ balance sheets. Their equity positions and credit standing deteriorate. Malinvestment comes to the surface, and the boom is finally turning into bust. The lesson to learn is this: The monetary policy of ever lower interest rate is not the solution to problems caused by a low interest rate policy in the first place. In the short-term it might look promising, but it is a way towards economic destruction. The longer the boom is kept going by central banks’ ultra-low interest rate policy, the bigger will be the ensuing crisis – as the economists of the Austrian School of Economics have pointed out in great detail a long time ago. Murray N. Rothbard put it succinctly:
“It is only when bank credit expansion must finally stop or sharply slow down, either because the banks are getting shaky or because the public is getting restive at the continuing inflation, that retribution finally catches up with the boom. As soon as credit expansion stops, the piper must be paid, and the inevitable readjustments must liquidate the unsound over-investments of the boom and redirect the economy more toward consumer goods production. And, of course, the longer the boom is kept going, the greater the malinvestments that must be liquidated, and the more harrowing the readjustments that must be made.”
No recession for 27 years.
Australia’s economy has slowed further, with GDP growth tumbling under 2 per cent over the past year. The economy grew at 0.4 per cent in first three months of the year, to be up 1.8 per cent over the year — the slowest growth since the September quarter in 2009. While the quarterly figure was a step up from the moribund 0.2 per cent growth in final quarter of last year, it still fell below market expectations. It was also much weaker than the 1 per cent growth recorded in the March quarter last year. Excluding the impact of population growth, GDP growth was marginally negative for the third consecutive quarter, further extending the so-called GDP per capita recession.
The result was dragged down by weak household spending, slowing further from last year and up just 1.8 per cent over the year, with households cutting back on their discretionary spending, particularly in new household items, recreation and hospitality. However, spending rose in non-discretionary, essential areas such as insurance, power and health. Household spending overall contributed just 0.1 percentage point to growth. The rapidly cooling residential construction sector was also a significant drag, with dwelling investment falling 2.5 per cent over the quarter having been at record levels in late 2018.
Part of me thinks Australia’s a testing ground. Another part wonders what the link might be to the economic collapse.
Police have raided the home of a News Corp journalist in what the media company has called a “dangerous act of intimidation” after she reported on a top secret government proposal to give Australia’s cyber spies unprecedented powers. Australian Federal Police officers presented Annika Smethurst, the national political editor of News Corp’s Sunday tabloids, with a search warrant on Tuesday morning. The warrant granted officers authority to access her home, computer and mobile phone. The actions are in connection to a story published in April 2018 which revealed internal government discussions about introducing new powers for electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate.
News Corp’s report included details from a top secret internal document proposing new abilities to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore threats by “hacking into critical ≠infrastructure”. The federal police confirmed the execution of a search warrant on Tuesday as part of an “investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information”. In a statement, the police said they would allege the disclosure of “these specific documents undermines Australia’s national security”. [..] 2GB radio host Ben Fordham also revealed on Tuesday that he has been contacted by Home Affairs this week about his reporting, with the department investigating how he obtained “highly confidential” information about asylum seeker vessels.
Smethurst’s story reported the top secret proposal as one that would for the first time allow the ASD to target Australians, as opposed to enemies on foreign soil. The use of the powers would be subject to approval from the defence and home affairs ministers.
John Lyons on Twitter: “AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.”
Police raided the offices of Australia’s national broadcaster on Wednesday over allegations it had published classified material, the second raid on a media outlet in two days, prompting complaints that the “outrageous” raids hindered media freedom. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said its officers carried out a search warrant at the head office of the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) in Sydney on Wednesday. That came a day after police raided the home of a News Corp editor, although the AFP said the raids were unrelated. “It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said in a statement.
“This is a serious development and raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press and proper public scrutiny of national security and defense matters,” he said. The AFP said the ABC raid was in relation to allegations it had published classified material and followed a referral from the chief of the Australian Defence Force and a former acting defense secretary in 2017. The ABC raid was authorized by a court and based on evidence that provided “sufficient suspicion that a criminal offence has been committed”, the AFP said in a statement. Marcus Strom, president of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance trade union, said on his Twitter account the two raids were “just outrageous”. “Police raiding journalists is becoming normalized. It has to stop,” he said.
Global semiconductor sales dropped 14.6% in April from April last year, to $32.1 billion, on a three-month moving average basis, the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization reported Tuesday afternoon. The three-month moving average in April has plunged 24% from the peak last October, thus continuing the deepest plunge in semiconductor sales since the Financial Crisis. In dollar terms, semiconductor sales plunged by over $10 billion in April compared to the pace in October 2018, the largest peak-to-trough dollar-drop ever. During the Financial Crisis, chip sales dropped by $9 billion from peak to trough.
But in percentage terms, the current plunge doesn’t quite measure up: 24% versus the 39% collapse during the Financial Crisis and the 45% collapse during the long dotcom bust. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said in its press release that sales, based on the data compiled by the WSTS, dropped in all major geographic regions in April (three-month moving averages compared to the same period last year): • Americas: -29.5% • Europe: -8.0% • Japan: -10.9% • China: -10.9% • Asia Pacific/All Other: -10.7
“..Rachel Maddow has lost 500,000 viewers who realized life is too short for her bullshit…”
According to Breitbart’s John Nolte, CNN’s primetime ratings suffered a 16% collapse in May – luring just 761,000 members of the resistance and captive airport audiences alike. Overall, the network’s total day viewers dropped to just 559,000. As Nolte points out, “Fox News earned three times as many primetime viewers (2.34 million) and more than twice as many total day viewers (1.34 million). What’s more, when compared to this same month last year, Fox lost none of its primetime viewers and only four percent of its total day viewers.” “Do you have any idea just how low 761,000 primetime viewers is…? How does a nationally known brand like CNN, a brand that is decades old, only manage to attract 761,000 viewers throughout a gonzo news month in a country of over 300 million?
But his is just how far over the cliff CNN has gone… CNN has lost almost all of its viewers, all of its moral authority, and every bit of trust it once had. Over the past six years, as soon as Jeff Zucker took over, CNN got every major national story exactly wrong, including… • Hispanic George Zimmerman: The White Racist Killer • Hands Up, Don’t Shoot • Trump Can’t Win • Brett Kavanaugh: Serial Rapist • The KKKids from KKKovington High School • Trump Colluded with Russia. And in every one of those cases, CNN got it deliberately wrong because CNN is nothing less than a hysterical propaganda outlet, a fire hose of hate, violence, and lies… -Breitbart
In a separate Tuesday article, Nolte notes that MSNBC’s top conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow has lost 500,000 viewers who realized life is too short for her bullshit. During the first quarter of 2019, prior to the release of the Mueller Report (which debunked the media’s Russia Collusion Hoax and proved Trump did not obstruct justice), Maddow averaged 3.1 million nightly viewers. Last month, after the release of the Mueller Report (which debunked the media’s Russia Collusion Hoax and proved Trump did not obstruct justice), she averaged only 2.6 million viewers. -Breitbart
Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, once a close aide to President Donald Trump, has agreed to turn over documents related to his 2016 election campaign to congressional investigators, a top Democratic lawmaker said on Tuesday. The agreement marks a step forward for House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler in investigations of Republican Trump and his inner circle, digging into the campaign, his turbulent presidency and business interests. Hicks, Trump’s former campaign press secretary, agreed to supply the documents from the campaign, despite a White House directive advising her not to provide the committee with material from her subsequent time at the White House.
She and former White House lawyer Annie Donaldson were subpoenaed on May 21 by the panel as part of its inquiry into whether Trump obstructed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Hicks’ attorney Robert Trout said in a letter to Nadler that Hicks would not hand over documents related to Trump’s time in the White House and his presidential transition period because administration attorneys believe the papers may be subject to a claim of executive privilege by Trump.
[..] The committee is seeking any material Hicks has on a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between campaign officials including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russians offering to help Trump’s candidacy. The subpoena also seeks documents relating to any payments made to Trump’s convicted former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen said Trump directed “hush money” payments he made for two women’s silence before the election about their alleged sexual relations with Trump.
Like he cares. Note that they have no instruments to punish him: “..he could potentially lose the right to make a victory speech in the chamber..”
Nigel Farage has been given 24 hours by the European parliament to explain in person his failure to declare lavish expenses funded by Arron Banks, an insurance tycoon under investigation by the UK’s National Crime Agency. The summons came just two hours before the Brexit party leader was spotted arriving at the US ambassador’s residence in London for a meeting with Donald Trump during the US president’s state visit to the UK. Last month Channel 4 News revealed emails, invoices and documents suggesting that Banks had covered Farage’s costs for a £13,000-a-month Chelsea home in the year of the Brexit referendum, visits to the US and a chauffeur-driven car. Should Farage fail to convince the parliament of his reason for not declaring Banks’s funding, he could potentially lose the right to make a victory speech in the chamber in July as head of his parliamentary group.
None of the donations were declared to the European parliament despite the MEPs’ code of conduct stipulating that all members must declare travel, accommodation or subsistence expenses from third parties. The European parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, had referred the matter to a committee of five MEPs who act as watchdogs over the parliament’s code of conduct. They met on Tuesday to agree on an unusually short deadline for Farage to explain the failure to declare the expenses at a hearing in Brussels on Wednesday. Farage, who earns €102,000 (£90,000) each year as an MEP and received up to €700,000 from media appearances in 2014-18, told the Guardian that he had no intention of attending the hearing.
He said: “What is this but an EU kangaroo court where I am given 24 hours notice about allegations picked up from press stories? “I will not be attending at such short notice. And if they try to bar me from the building, who else gives voice to the thousands of people who voted for me? Is this democracy EU style? “I did not receive any private money for political purposes. This committee would better spend its time investigating the waste of public money by well-known MEPs.” A failure to attend the advisory committee’s hearing does not bring with it any sanction in itself…
What are the costs to Monsanto?
It looks like 2019 could be the worst year for U.S. agriculture in modern American history by a very wide margin. As you will see below, millions upon millions of acres of U.S. farmland will go unused this year due to cataclysmic flooding. And many of the farmers that did manage to plant crops are reporting extremely disappointing results. The 12 month period that concluded at the end of April was the wettest 12 month period in U.S. history, and more storms just kept on coming throughout the month of May. And now forecasters are warning of another series of storms this week, and following that it looks like a tropical storm will pummel the region. As Bloomberg has pointed out, we have truly never seen a year like this ever before…
“There has never been a spring planting season like this one. Rivers topped their banks. Levees were breached. Fields filled with water and mud. And it kept raining.” Many farmers just kept waiting for the flooding and the rain to end so that they could plant their crops, but that didn’t happen. At this point it is too late for many farmers to plant crops at all, and it is now being projected that 6 million acres of farmland that is usually used for corn will go completely unsown this year… “There has never been weather like this, either. The 12 months that ended with April were the wettest ever for the contiguous U.S. That spurred other firsts: Corn plantings are further behind schedule for this time of year than they have been in records dating to 1980 and analysts are predicting an unheard-of 6 million acres intended for the grain may simply go unsown this year.”
[..] In the end, we could easily see more than 10 million acres of U.S. farmland go completely unused this year. And please don’t assume that the acres that have been planted are going to be okay. In Nebraska, farmer Ed Brummels said that conditions are so bad that it is “like we are trying to plant on top of a lake!”… “It’s like we are trying to plant on top of a lake! Planting will be over soon as farmers continue to be frustrated with these very saturated conditions.”
“They are removing the lungs of our planet… ”
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil sped up in May to the fastest rate in a decade, according to data from an early-warning satellite system, as experts pointed to activity by illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under President Jair Bolsonaro. According to the Brazilian space research institute INPE, the DETER alerting system registered deforestation of 739 square kilometers (285 square miles) in May, the first of three months in which logging tends to surge following the region’s rainy season. That is up from 550 square kilometers in May 2018 and more than double the deforestation detected two years earlier.
“If this upward curve continues, we could have a bad year for the Amazon forest,” Claudio Almeida, head of INPE’s satellite monitoring program, said on Tuesday. “It will depend on how much policing there is in the next two critical months,” he added. The data adds to concerns from environmentalists who warn that Bolsonaro’s five-month-old government has dismantled conservation agencies, shown skepticism about fighting climate change and cut the budget to enforce environmental laws. Brazil’s environmental protection agency IBAMA, which has been starved of funds in recent years, lost authority when he took office in January, and the forestry commission was moved to the Agriculture Ministry, which is run by farm industry allies.
The sadness is deafening.
Urban expansion and hunting have pushed chimpanzees, humanity’s closest relative in the animal kingdom, into shrinking islets of wildness, top experts said Tuesday after a three-day meeting in Germany. All four sub-species of the African primate are threatened with extinction, with at least one – the western chimpanzee – declining in number by more than 80 percent over three generations. Forty chimp experts from around the world – with a combined 300 years of field experience – issued a collective appeal to save the only animal whose DNA overlaps with humans by 98%. “Over the decades that we have been working with wild chimpanzee communities, we have all seen our study groups become isolated,” they said in a statement.
“Chimpanzees are being reduced into living in forest ghettos.” The main threat to chimps and other large mammals is habitat loss. Africa still has large tracts of undisturbed savannah and forest, but these areas are shrinking rapidly due growing cities, mining, deforestation, and industrial agriculture. The continent’s human population of more than 1.2 billion is expected to double by mid-century, and could top four billion by the end of the century.