July 14: Daily Contrarian Reads

Ten Problems with The Imperial City’s Anti-Russian Obsession

The U.S. mainstream media and Democratic Party politicians have built a major “scandal” out of accusing Russia of “meddling” in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win the presidency and possibly even colluding with his campaign to do so. The charges began as “allegations” but now are routinely asserted as facts. The Washington Post recently ran a long article claiming all the above plus saying the operation was directed by Russian President Putin himself and implying not enough has been done to “punish” Russia. The July-August 2017 edition of Mother Jones magazine features an article headlined “We Already Know Trump Betrayed America. Collusion? Maybe. Active Enabling? Definitely.” Is this effort to indict Russia and condemn Trump based on facts or political opportunism? Does it help or hurt the progressive cause of peace with justice? Following are major problems with the “anti-Russia” theme, starting with the lack of clear evidence.

Why The U.S. Stock Market is 66% Higher than it Should Be

In fact, my experience over the past 20 years and through each of the past two major asset bubbles (the internet bubble in 2000 and the credit crisis in 2008-2009), is that the unanimous identification of an asset bubble did not take place until after the asset bubble had burst. By that time, all of the major indices — the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, Nasdaq 100, and Russell 2000, — had already fallen. The result largely handcuffed investors to investments that were severely underwater. As luck would have it, though, after the credit crisis, the Fed’s policy-making body printed $2 trillion and, with that money, bought assets to prop up the economy and save investors from destruction. Largely, this perceived savior is probably why investors are so lethargic when it comes to the asset bubble that we are probably in right now.

Is Yellen Trying To Ride Into The Sunset?

Bernanke presided over the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. Greenspan had the 1987 crash, along with the 2000 DotCom bust. Volcker had the bond debacle of the early 1980’s and the subsequent Latin American debt crisis. For the past 35 years, every Fed Chairperson has been tested with some sort of financial event. Until now… Risk was back on baby! Speculators grabbed both stocks and bonds more quickly than your favourite characters die on Game of Thrones. But the absurdity of this chase could best be summed up from this great tweet from Gains, Pains & Capital…..

Red Ponzi Unhinged—-Even Beijing Can’t Stop china’s Rampaging Housing Bubble

The more China tries to rein in its roaring housing market, the more obsessed people get about buying. In February, with this southern megalopolis in the throes of a property frenzy, state banks raised mortgage rates. Then came higher down-payment rules for second homes and limits on owning multiple apartments. The result: Prices in Guangzhou continue to climb, and the market one town over has heated up…..“The harder the government tries to control the market, the more prices will rise,” Mr. Pei said.

Throwing a Curveball at ‘Intelligence Community Consensus’ on Russia

A January intelligence product has served as the basis for a series of Congressional hearings into the issue of Russian meddling into American elections—and has taken on a near canonical quality that precludes any critical questioning of either the authors or their findings. There is one major problem, however: the supposedly definitive assessment was not that which it proclaimed to be.

Good Work, Donald:  NATO Is On Its Death Bed

NATO died recently. Over the past few months, its decline was rapid. Its death has yet to be reported in corporate media. It died because, as principally a vehicle for US imperialism, it required US leadership. Once that fell into the hands of a cabal of incompetents, no NATO country was any longer willing to follow this capitalist class clown car into future military adventures to protect the profits of fossil energy tycoons. Its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Treaty sent US leadership irredeemably down the European toilet. At the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Trump’s isolation was on full display. Commentators in the French news media ooze unabashed contempt for antics of Cheetohead and friends.

Auto Time Bomb: Slowdown Coming Up, Manufacturing Has Peaked This Cycle

The Brookings Institute says Auto slowdown Flashes Caution Lights for Manufacturing Employment and Trump. A switch to self-driving, trends towards electric, and a glut of used cars are all in the spotlight.

The Russian “Agent” Who “Colluded” With Donald Jr. Didn’t Speak A Word Of English!

The Russian lawyer who penetrated Donald Trump’s inner circle was initially cleared into the United States by the (Obama) Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she embarked on a lobbying campaign last year that ensnared the president’s eldest son, members of Congress, journalists and State Department officials, according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews…..The sources also described their interactions with Veselnitskaya in the same way that Trump Jr. did. They claimed not to know who she worked for or what her motives were.  “Natalia didn’t speak a word of English,” said one source. “Don’t let anyone tell you this was a sophisticated lobbying effort. It was the least professional campaign I’ve ever seen. If she’s the cream of the Moscow intelligence community then we have nothing to worry about.”

VISA takes its War on Cash to US Retailers

We’re focused on putting cash out of business,” Visa’s new CEO Al Kelly said on June 22 at Visa Investor Day. Pushing consumers into digital and electronic payments is the company’s “number-one growth lever.” Visa has been dogged by the stubborn survival of cash and checks, despite widespread government and corporate efforts to kill them off.

Our Financial Buffers Are Thinning

The fragility of our financial buffers will only be revealed when they fail in the next crisis. While buffer has a specific meaning in chemistry, I am using the word in the broad sense of a reserve resource that absorbs the initial destructive impacts of crises or system overloads. Marshland along a sea coast is a buffer against destructive storm waves, for example……