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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Musings]

Still think you have "freedom" eh?  Still think you're the actual parents of your children, and that you should be the ones making decisions about their lifestyle and heatlh?  Or are you simply where all the liabilities reside for the decision to have them, while the choices belong to someone else -- you know, like a slave?

Police have rejected criticism of their search for a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour removed from a UK hospital by his parents against medical advice.

Ashya King was found in Malaga on Saturday and his parents arrested, following an international search.

His father Brett King defended his actions in a video posted on YouTube, saying there had been a "ridiculous chase".

Hampshire Police said medical advice was that Ashya was in "grave danger".

The parents, it turns out, wanted their kid to be treated using a therapy not offered by the UK's socialized medical services.  Specifically, they wanted to use proton beam therapy rather than what the UK wanted to use (effectively gamma radiation.)  The difference is that proton beam therapy is a more-targeted form of radiation than gamma.  Both are of the same general type, and there is much dispute as to whether proton therapy is as effective in specific cancers.  Then again there's plenty of argument over whether radiation therapy actually "works" (that is, does less harm and good) in these cases to begin with.

Brain cancer sucks, by the way.  The most-effective means of getting rid of a cancer is to (as you'd expect) cut it out with a knife.  That's often impossible when the growth is in the brain, and it's ineffective when the cancer has spread, since in that case you generally can't get it all, and if you don't get it all you've only changed the time before the inevitable -- and usually not by much either.

But this case, as with the case of Justina Pelletier, shows that the government believes that children are in fact their property.  Let us not forget that in Justina's case the state finally came to the conclusion that they were wrong and the parents (and their advocates in the medical system) were right.  That is, they effectively admitted to kidnapping her, in retrospect.

So who went to prison for that?  Nobody, and nobody will either.  Justina, after a year of this, actually had custody of her formally awarded to the state.  

And what is going to happen in this case?  The parents have been arrested and will be extradited back to the UK and, of course, have been forcibly separated from their child.

Doesn't this tell you exactly what sort of relationship the state recognizes -- or doesn't, as the case may be -- when it comes to your children?

We're not talking about a situation here where two parents disagree and someone has to make a decision of some kind (e.g. in the instance of a divorce.)  These are both cases where an intact family disagrees with what a state actor believes about a child born to that family.  As soon as that happens you discover that the state in fact has claimed ownership of that child.

That's utterly outrageous -- but it in fact happens every day and nobody has done a thing to stop it.

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2014-08-30 09:05 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 266 references

Gee, Fox News, the obvious is worth a report?

Fifty years after the “war on poverty” was first waged, there are signs a new offensive is needed.

Newly released Census data reveals nearly 110 million Americans – more than one-third of the country – are receiving government assistance of some kind.

The number counts people receiving what are known as “means-tested” federal benefits, or subsidies based on income. This includes welfare programs ranging from food stamps to subsidized housing to the program most commonly referred to as “welfare,” Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

A new offensive is needed eh?

How about actually launching one instead of pretending?

I'm quite serious.

See, I count some $2,239 billion as spent welfare and other social spending in the last year's Federal budget (this year is not quite done yet, but I suspect it will be higher by a hundred billion or two.)  CATO says that in many states sitting on one's ass pays as well as a $20/hour job.  The left says that if we raised the minimum wage then people would work instead of sit on their ass (really?

As millions still rely on government assistance programs, technology and automation have eliminated jobs many Americans used to do with a high school diploma. The challenge for policymakers is helping the economy adjust.  

Nonsense.  Technology did no such thing; indeed, it did the opposite.  Technology advances productivity which means you spend less time and effort in labor for a given output.  That's good, not bad, and the fruits of that progress should belong to everyone!

Those jobs cited still exist -- in China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.  They exist there rather than here because we destroyed purchasing power and played games with trade, labor, environmental and monetary policy, thereby making it possible and profitable for that sort of offshoring to take place.

If these firms actually had to produce here or pay wage and environmental parity tariffs they would produce here instead.  And if the law was actually enforced related to monopoly and cartel practices along with the special exemptions being removed in the medical and educational systems (among others) there would be no need for deficit spending at all and thus the destruction of said purchasing power would not have taken place.

We could reverse this, of course.  As I noted in my cited piece we could easily guarantee no citizen lives in poverty, we could remove the need and desire for Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, Social Security and similar -- since nobody would be in poverty.  At the same time we would have a $400 billion a year surplus, not one dime cut from military spending and we could cut all federal taxes by 30%!

It sounds impossible, doesn't it?  Well, it probably is -- to get all of that anyway, or at least as simply as I described.  

After all as I noted originally adverse selection sounds damn good when you just get a check for drinking beer, yes?  So yeah, I get it that we'd have to not do it quite that way, but here's the thing -- if we shut down the so-called "free trade" game, reversed the monetary destruction of purchasing power, collapsed asset (read: housing, among other!) and other retail prices and then deleted all those programs, what would be the result?

Well, first, all that production would have to come back here.  That means jobs.

Second, capital asset prices would collapse.  That means rents and prices for housing collapse, which in turn means you don't need nearly as much to live on.

And thus we'd get rid of all that social spending and people would have to get off their ass and go to work.  But there would be work, including unskilled work.  Yes, it wouldn't pay a lot, but it would pay enough.  It used to, and it still should -- and will if we quit allowing certain industries to rip us off wholesale.

As just one example medical pricing would collapse by 90%.  Doubt me?  Go ahead; not only do you have Japan as an example there was a doctor on CNBC the other morning who is taking cash only and getting a lot of Obamacare patients despite not taking their insurance.  Why?  Because his full price is so much less than what the so-called "others" want for the same thing that it is actually cheaper to come to him for medical services than to pay the deductible and copays with your Obamacare policy!

What nobody asked on that segment, which appalled me, was this: Why do you need medical "insurance" at all if you can pay cash for less than your deductible?  Exactly what are you paying a premium for in that instance?  The answer is "nothing"; you're in fact being robbed!

We have answers available folks -- there was in fact just one missing question from that segment on CNBC, just as there is one missing here in the story from Fox News.

The fact is that the only reason we have those "programs" is for the grift and fraud conduit they enable.  They're not intended to actually help people at all, nor do they.  They are simply a means of throwing you a cookie while you're starving as a result of everything else that's going on, and America plays along because most people believe they can get enough of the grift for themselves to stay ahead.

Reflect a bit on that and let me know if you really are getting ahead -- or whether that's just another lie.  If you find it to be the latter, and I believe you will, isn't it time to stop lying to yourself and demand a change?

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2014-08-25 10:38 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 387 references

Consider this rather-broad topic: How close to perfect does your life have to be for you to be happy?

It sounds like a rather odd question, but it isn't.  Think of your daily life and how many decisions in this general vein you take.

How close to perfectly-manicured does your lawn have to be?  There is an enormous difference in personal cost, whether you spend the time or you spend money, between a "perfect" (or nearly-so) lawn and one that is a couple of inches too long and somewhat ragged for three or four days out of every couple of weeks.  It could be three to five times as expensive in either time or money to have one over the other.

How close to "neat as a pin" does your household have to be?  Again, there is an enormous difference in personal cost between "lived in" and "picture-perfect."  The latter could easily require, for many people, the hiring of a maid -- the equivalent of putting an hour a day, every day, into cleaning.  Double that if you have one or more kids, incidentally.

How close to perfect does your experience in a restaurant need to be?  If the food is great and the drinks nicely-made and to your liking, and you're with someone you like, if the waitress forgets about you toward the end of your meal and you wait 15 minutes for the check what did you actually lose?  Let's assume you didn't have a business meeting you had to be at; you were headed home afterward.  Did you really lose by that or did you gain another 15 minutes with someone you enjoy?

How close to perfect does your car have to be?  You "need" a new one every 2 or 3 years?  It'll cost you twice as much to operate it, on balance including insurance and depreciation, as something older.  Of course it looks nicer and has bluetooth and all the other pretty-pretty things -- but does that define your happiness?

Think about it folks.  You make thousands of these decisions every single day.  There are people who have an utter ****fit over the position of the toilet seat, or whether the TP roll comes off the front or back.

How much of your own "happiness" -- or rather, the lack thereof, is about the unobtainable?  How much of that drives your "need" for "more" and thus, at the same time, leads you to acquiesce to what's going on around you, such as what I talked about in my Sunday missive?

I had quite a reputation as a five-alarm bastard in business when I ran MCSNet and it was deserved.  I don't apologize for that; business is business, and you never get anything you don't negotiate for or place on the table as an expectation.  I don't think anyone else should apologize for it either in that context.

But do you really want to run your personal life that way?  These choices make an enormous difference between going to bed with a smile and not, between being*****ed off and disappointed and being content, bemused or even pleased.

Consider this perspective -- are all those imperfections really imperfections at all?  Or are they like colors in a photograph?  We all say the grass is green and the sky blue, but anyone who shoots pictures (or worse, video!) as a serious hobby or more knows that's an oversimplification and not the case.  Indeed, you can take two different cameras and shoot the exact same thing at the same time in the same light and the colors in the image will be slightly different.

It's easy enough to call one of those pictures "right" and the other "wrong."  You can even be technically accurate in doing so; hold one up against the original subject and it is closer than the other.  But given that photography is, for the most part, an art, is that a correct view?  

That depends on your perspective and goals, doesn't it; is your goal a perfect rendition or is it to produce something that pleases you -- or your client?  

Whether removing a building from the background of an image is "wrong" after the picture is taken depends entirely on your perspective; for a portrait it almost-certainly is not, while if you're a reporter it almost-certainly is! 

There are times to go to war in one's personal life; if you're being abused and/or harmed, have at it.  That's not only justified it's what you should expect, including from those around you that you claim as "friend" or better.  But if you do it every day, internally or externally expressed, whenever something isn't either "perfect" or "excellent" you're going to spend a lot of days (and at least as important if not more-so, nights)*****ed off and unhappy.

I choose, for myself, to look at the 15 minute delay in the restaurant as having another 15 minutes with someone I enjoy, albeit at a bit of a personal cost in that I might have had those 15 minutes for a date with my pillow instead.

Yeah, it's still probably worth a docked tip line on the check, and it might be worth speaking with a manager.  After all, the next guy behind me might have a business meeting that he's late for, even though I did not.  And I will certainly intervene to prevent it if that delay will mean missing the start of the play or concert we are headed to.

But it's not worth wrecking my day, just as it's also not worth wrecking my day if the grass is a bit long, there's a speck of dirt on the car or my house is lived in rather than picture-perfect and there are a few coffee grounds on the kitchen counter.

Choose wisely; you only get one life and there are no "do overs."

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I've posted a handful of locked-comment Tickers lately (yes, I still do add features once in a while to the software, and this is one of the recent additions -- the ability to pre-lock a submission so it's read-only.  Fancy that.) and have had a couple of people ask via an invite-only BBM channel I set up "what's dat."

Well, here's part of it.

Derivatives that helped inflate the 2007 credit bubble are being remade for a new generation.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is offering a swap contract tied to a speculative-grade loan index that makes it easier for investors to wager on the debt. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is planning as much as 10 billion euros ($13.4 billion) of structured investments that bundle debt into top-rated securities, while ProShares last week started offering exchange-traded funds backed by credit-default swaps on company debt.

Here we go again.

At their core these instruments are frauds because they are essentially counterfeiting of the currency.  So are "ordinary" loans the way banks actually make them, along with government deficit spending.

We don't call it counterfeiting nor do we prosecute it as counterfeiting, but we damn well should because that's what it is.

These "instruments" spring up when you can't find enough suckers, er, borrowers for conventional counterfeiting.  You thus are compelled to obfuscate things to a greater and greater degree, along with piling leverage upon leverage.  It's a scam because the person on the short side of the trade doesn't have to post up enough actual money to cover the position.

If you remember back in 2007 I put forward a simple solution to all this chicanery: No off-exchange, "private" derivatives or other instruments -- everyone has to post margin in actual funds every night.

See, you and I have to do that.  If I trade on margin my account is balanced every evening against the value of whatever I have open, and I had better have the available securities or cash on deposit to cover anything that's underwater.  If not then my phone rings and I get the dreaded margin call, demanding cash right now, by wire, "or else" (with the "or else" being the liquidation of my positions.)

But we don't enforce that across the board.  We still have properties in the "marketplace" that banks are holding and not selling ("Zombies") because they can't get a bid for the amount of the outstanding note on the property.  By refusing to sell they are claiming the property is worth more than any offer they can receive for it, which is a factual fraud; anything is worth only what you can sell it for to an arms-length buyer at that instant in time!

This is an out-and-out scam because the liability on the other side of the balance sheet is a known figure and yet to mark the asset to the market means that the institution would have to have the difference in real funds either as retained earnings, proceeds from sold equity or actual funds borrowed from someone else.

Business cycles are not something new and neither are the risks associated with them.  The frauds are not new either, but the reason we keep seeing them is that they go unpunished; alleged "enforcement", "regulation" and "supervision" are nothing more than a bad joke.

Back in 1998 I saw the same things building at an outrageous rate.  It took another year and change before it all blew up, but the outcome wasn't in question.  The only question was whether you could withstand the blast if you were in the middle of it, or whether you could get to minimum safe distance first.

Likewise, in 2007 the same crap was blatantly apparent if you decided to actually look.  Washington Mutual's "decision" to pay dividends with money they did not have, claiming "earnings" that were in fact capitalized interest and paying some of that out to shareholders, was just one of the more-visible aspects of this.  The firm failed and "nobody saw it coming" simply because nobody cared to look.

Now we're seeing the same thing, and what Bloomberg argues in this puff piece is that it's happening because of "central bank repression."  Nonsense; it's happening because there is no demand for ordinary counterfeiting-by-lending at a level sufficient to keep the fat guys in slop at the trough so they invent ever-more-clever means of robbing one another by claiming value that does not actually exist.

The problem with these sorts of schemes is that like all oscillations fed with energy during each swing the amplitude gets worse in each following iteration.  2000 was kinda crappy, 2007/08 was awful and how far out from that last event are we now, with an even higher amplitude bubble having been inflated from the last time?

That's what I thought.

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2014-08-09 21:17 by Karl Denninger
in Musings , 375 references


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