December 22: Daily Contrarian Reads

The Dangerous Delusion of Price Stability

The major central banks’ vigilant pursuit of positive but low inflation has become a dangerous delusion. It is dangerous because the policies needed to achieve the objective could have unwanted side effects; and it is a delusion because there is currently no good reason to be pursuing the objective in the first place.

GOP Spenders Go Bonkers—-Disaster Aid Boosted To $133 Billion

House Republicans agreed Monday on $81 billion in disaster relief for areas hit by hurricanes and wildfires, the largest standalone aid bill in recent years, according to a document provided by a Republican lawmaker. The aid likely would be attached to a government spending bill that must be passed this week to keep the government open after Friday. The disaster spending is being pushed forward by Republicans from Texas, Florida and California who threatened to oppose the spending bill if hurricane relief wasn’t included.

Banks To Funds: How About Some Leverage With that Deal?

Banks are ramping up a business that was popular before the financial crisis—offering investors ways to lever up sometimes illiquid and complex investments to amplify their returns. Years of ultralow interest rates have pushed down returns across markets, making such strategies increasingly appealing to funds in Europe and the U.S.

The GOP Tax Bill—-And Endless Maze of Booby-Traps

…….But to get the bill through a closely divided Congress, Republicans made many of its pieces time-limited……..“It’s just the beginning. It’s a whole new chapter,” he said. “It’s built on unstable financial foundations and on unstable political foundations. And it was built in great haste.”

Even BOJ’s Massive Bond Buying Campaign Is Scheduled To Slow In 2018

The central bank will increase its Japanese government bond holdings by about 44 trillion yen ($392 billion) next year, according to the average estimate in the survey. That’s well below the BOJ’s 80 trillion-yen annual guideline and a considerable drop from the 61 trillion-yen increase that was seen in the 12 months through the end of November, according to calculations by Bloomberg.

Who Wants War with Iran — and Why?

Looming behind Haley was part of what was said to be an Iranian missile fired at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Though the rocket had Iranian markings, it was not launched from Iran, or by Iranians. Houthi rebels, for two years victims of a savage war waged by the Saudis — using U.S.-made planes, missiles, bombs and drones — say they fired it at the Riyadh airport in retaliation for what the Saudis have done to their people and country.

The Toys “R” Us Shocker—-Bankrupt Retailer To Close Up To 200 Stores Amidst Collapsing Sales

When Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 in September, capping an unexpectedly sharp collapse for a company whose bonds mere months earlier were trading just shy of par, the prevailing consensus was that once the company’s balance sheet is restructured, it would continue its existence without substantial operational changes and with largely the same number of stores and employees. However, in the first confirmation that the company’s collapse was much more extensive than just the result of excess leverage, Bloomberg reports that Toys “R” Us is considering closing at least 100 U.S. stores – and as many as 200 – in the face of weak holiday sales. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the store closures are coming after a sharp contraction in sales which declined 15% this Christmas-shopping season from a year earlier.

The Scary Void Inside RussiaGate

As no actual evidence for these allegations has been produced after nearly a year and a half of media and government investigations, we are left with Russia-gate without Russia. (An apt formulation perhaps first coined in an e-mail exchange by Nation writer James Carden.) Special counsel Mueller has produced four indictments: against retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national-security adviser, and George Papadopolous, a lowly and inconsequential Trump “adviser,” for lying to the FBI; and against Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates for financial improprieties. None of these charges has anything to do with improper collusion with Russia, except for the wrongful insinuations against Flynn.

The Deep State’s Gift To American—Never Ending Mass Surveillance

If this power-hungry cabal gets its way, the government’s power to spy on its citizens will soon be all-encompassing and permanent……“PRISM” lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. “Upstream” lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled “targets.”

Sorry Chump, You Didn’t Have It In Writing

At a time when the United States is convulsed by anti-Russian hysteria and demonization of Vladimir Putin, a trove of recently declassified Cold War documents reveals the astounding extent of the lies, duplicity and double-dealing engaged in by the western powers with the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990.