"We must learn the appropriate lessons from the disaster of Iraq. We cannot continue to invade countries, install puppet governments, build new nations, create centrally-planned economies, engage in social engineering, and force democracy at the barrel of a gun." - Ron Paul
I believe the title sums up everything pretty well..
First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities – toilet paper.
Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the government says it will import 50m rolls to boost supplies.
That was little comfort to consumers struggling to find toilet paper on Wednesday.
"This is the last straw," said Manuel Fagundes, a shopper hunting for tissue in Caracas. "I’m 71 years old and this is the first time I’ve seen this."
One supermarket visited by the Associated Press in the capital on Wednesday was out of toilet paper. Another had just received a fresh batch, and it quickly filled up with shoppers as the word spread.
"I’ve been looking for it for two weeks," said Cristina Ramos. "I was told that they had some here and now I’m in line."
Economists say Venezuela’s shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government’s controls on foreign currency.
"State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union," said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.
President Nicolás Maduro, who was selected by the dying Hugo Chávez to carry on his “Bolivarian revolution”, claims that anti-government forces, including the private sector, are causing the shortages in an effort to destabilise the country.
The government this week announced it also would import 760,000 tonnes of food in addition to the 50m rolls of toilet paper.
Commerce minister Alejandro Fleming blamed the shortage of toilet tissue on “excessive demand” built up as a result of “a media campaign that has been generated to disrupt the country”.
"The revolution will bring the country the equivalent of 50 million rolls of toilet paper," he was quoted as saying Tuesday by state news agency AVN. "We are going to saturate the market so that our people calm down."
Finance minister Nelson Merentes said the government was also addressing the lack of foreign currency, which has resulted in the suspension of foreign supplies of raw materials, equipment and spare parts to Venezuelan companies, disrupting their production.
"We are making progress … we have to work very hard," Merentes told reporters on Wednesday.
Many factories operate at half capacity because the currency controls make it hard for them to pay for imported parts and materials. Business leaders say some companies verge on bankruptcy because they cannot extend lines of credit with foreign suppliers.
Merentes said the government had met the US dollar requests of some 1,500 small- and medium-sized companies facing supply problems, and was reviewing requests from a similar number of larger companies.
Chávez imposed currency controls a decade ago trying to stem capital flight as his government expropriated large land parcels and dozens of businesses.
Anointed by Chávez as his successor before the president died from cancer, Maduro won a close presidential election on 14 April against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who refused to accept the result, claiming Maduro won through fraud and voter intimidation.
He filed a complaint to the supreme court, asking for the vote to be annulled, though that’s highly unlikely to happen since the court is packed with government-friendly justices.
Patience is wearing thin among consumers who face shortages and long queues at supermarkets and pharmacies. Last month, Venezuela’s scarcity index reached its highest level since 2009, while the 12-month inflation rate has risen to nearly 30%. Shoppers often spend several days looking for basic items, and stock up when they find them.
Fleming said monthly consumption of toilet paper was normally 125m rolls, but that current demand “leads us to think that 40m more are required”.
"We will bring in 50m to show those groups that they won’t make us bow down," he said
…I can actually see him saying this….
To most people who
don’t know anything watch the local news, Iran might seem like a threat. They’re building nuclear weapons, they hate America, they hate Israel and they are going to bomb us into oblivion.
Now let’s think about this for a second. Iran’s rial is going through hyperinflation. The people are starving. This isn’t North Korea. Iran has no Air Force or Navy. They have no way of sending a nuke to America.In short, they are no threat to us.
But sanctions are a threat to them. Maybe if we’d remove the economic sanctions Iran would prosper. Maybe if we let them have nuclear energy they would prosper.
We’ve blocked oil for Iran, and guess what…now the USSA is blocking gold. And even though The Ben Bernank doesn’t think gold is money, apparently others do. (Who could have guessed?)
With Iran’s currency already hit hard by European and Asian participation in the U.S.-led embargo of Iranian crude, Mr. Cohen asserted that his staff is broadening its efforts to include blocking the movement of pure gold into the Islamic republic.
"I can assure you that we are looking very, very carefully at any evidence that anyone outside Iran is selling gold to Iran," he said.
The remark came after Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and the Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairman, asked whether the administration was aware of recent reports indicating an uptick in the flow of gold into Iran.
"With its currency now in free fall, the Iranians desperately need gold," said Mr. Royce, who noted that a U.S. law authorizing the Obama administration to sanction anyone selling gold to citizens inside Iran does not take effect until July 1.
With existing U.S. law only allowing sanctions on the sale of gold directly to the Iranian government, Mr. Cohen told lawmakers the administration is keeping a close eye on the situation.
While Mr. Cohen acknowledged that U.S. authorities have “no question that there is gold going from Turkey to Iran,” he said that "in large measure what we’re seeing is private Iranian citizens buying gold as a protection to the falling value" of Iran’s currency, the rial.
Notice anything odd?
"I have a question for President Obama. Do you hate all wealthy people or just the one’s that aren’t your campaign contributors?" - Rand Paul
I suppose any American who owns anything else except the paper towel dollar is considered a terrorist nowadays.
That’s why gold bugs are being punished by the central banks.
Roughly a hundred pages of the Benghazi Attacks.
I’m pouring a
glass of bourbon cup of coffee and about to dig in here.
The question to ask yourself is this: Who do I trust, Eric Holder or your own judgment?
Now by no means do I believe that Bush was a good president, but for four years I’ve been trying to explain how Obama is even worse. I read something this morning that said, “Liberals will follow Obama to hell and when they get there they’ll blame the heat on Global Warming caused by Republicans.”
Hilarious, sad and true. When W Bush was president every blogger on Huffington Post was demanding that Bush be tried, but when Obama turns his back on his election campaign promises, the democrats turn around as well and make excuses for him. One word: hypocrisy.
Meanwhile all the republicans that followed Bush also agree with Obama on the NDAA, drone strikes and unconstitutional wars and invasions. Say what you want about the “wacko bird” neo-cons, but at least they’ll hold true to their frightening positions. It’s the democrats you should watch out for.
The government is a threat to us all. And I don’t care if he’s a charismatic, good looking African-American with Nobel
War Peace Prize winner. Any elected official is a danger.
(Reuters) - He may have been the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He may have written a book extolling constitutional values in a democracy. And he may have run for president on a civil liberties banner, pledging to reverse the legacy of George W. Bush.
But as U.S. president for the last 4-1/2 years, Barack Obama has faced accusation after accusation of impinging on civil liberties, disappointing his liberal Democratic base and providing fodder for rival Republicans as he deals with the realities of office.
News in the past week of the federal seizure of phone records from the Associated Press news agency and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative Tea Party groups, has intensified criticism already simmering over the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and aerial drone strikes abroad.
Asked at a news conference on Tuesday why the administration had not done more for civil liberties, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “I’m proud of what we have done” and emphasized the administration’s shift from Bush era harsh interrogation practices of terrorism suspects that had drawn international criticism.
When he took office in 2009, Obama promised to close the Guantanamo camp for foreign terrorism suspects, but it remains open with 166 detainees, many on hunger strikes in protest at indefinite detentions. Obama said last month he would revisit that pledge and blamed Congress for blocking his plan to close the camp, partly through restrictions on transfers of detainees.
The administration has defended its aerial drone strikes abroad, which have included targeting a U.S.-born terrorism suspect, as essential to the fight against al Qaeda and other militants in places such as Pakistan and Yemen.
On Tuesday, Holder defended the seizure of journalists’ records, saying it was part of an investigation into a leak that he called “very, very serious.” A law enforcement official said the probe is related to information in a May 2012 AP story on a foiled Yemen-based al Qaeda plot.
The phone records seizure was the latest in a series of crackdowns on leaks by the Obama administration.
Obama has disappointed some because of his background, and because he followed the Bush presidency that had responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001, with what liberal critics saw as a trampling of civil liberties.
"There were reasons to think he would be different," said New York University law professor Barry Friedman, who teaches constitutional law and has written about public attitudes on the law. "He seemed to be inculcated with constitutional values, because of his background and because of what he said during the campaign."
Friedman and other law professors acknowledge the Constitution is a text open to myriad interpretations and that, in situations such as the use of drones, a constant balancing of national security and individual liberties occurs.
Obama is also contending with a polarized political scene and clashes with Republicans.
Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe, a professor, mentor and longtime supporter of Obama, said his famous former student was facing the realities of being president.
Tribe wrote in an email to Reuters that on campus, “Barack Obama could live in a world unclouded by bureaucratic and political obstacles. As President, however, Barack Obama needs to impose his basic beliefs and priorities on the vast bureaucracy. … His failings, in my view, have much more to do with whatever he has permitted to take place under the supposed oversight of (individual Cabinet secretaries) than they have to do with his own constitutional understanding and commitments.”
When Obama won his place as the first African American in the White House, many Americans applauded another advance in the country’s long civil rights movement.
But while Obama has long presented himself as a progressive Democrat, he has not been known as a fiery civil libertarian.
His wont has been to assert the need for dialogue and consensus-building. In his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope,” he wrote: “The scope of presidential power during wartime. The ethics surrounding end-of-life decisions. These weren’t easy issues; as much as I disagreed with Republican policies, I believed they were worthy of serious debate. No, what troubled me was the process - or lack of process - by which the White House and its congressional allies disposed of opposing views.”
Obama’s administration has sometimes come under fire for its efforts to control the message, leading to allegations of manipulation.
In the case of the IRS and Tea Party groups, Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley wrote to Steven Miller, acting IRS commissioner, on Tuesday asking for all records relating to the decision to reveal its mistakes at a meeting on Friday of an American Bar Association committee instead of to Congress.
Some analysts say that because of his background Obama has been held to higher expectations. “He was elected by a constituency that would expect him to be more sensitive to civil liberties,” said author Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Others say he is simply being judged by the standard all presidents should meet.
"I am certainly distressed by the latest revelations," Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on Tuesday. "I also think, honestly, that the fact that he was a constitutional law professor is much less significant than that he is now president. Every president has a duty to understand, appreciate and protect our civil liberties."
Asked about Obama’s record on civil liberties compared to other presidents, Shapiro said the ACLU did not do comparative rankings of administrations and that, in any event, it would be too early to assess Obama. Critics and other observers agreed.
"We’re living it right now," said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow of constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Even as he asserts the administration may have "overreached" its constitutional authority, he said it was hard to predict how Obama’s tenure will rank with past administrations.
"You never really know what’s going on behind the scenes until they leave office," Sabato said, adding that Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson abused the IRS, for example, by ordering audits of political enemies.
Sabato, who referred to other scandals including Watergate during Richard Nixon’s administration and the Iran-contra controversy during Ronald Reagan’s years, said: “Compared to prior presidents, we’re still in the minor-abuse league.”
(Reporting by Joan Biskupic; Editing by Howard Goller and Frances Kerry)
It seems the S&P 500’s recent strength is somehow comforted by the fact that the USD is riding high on its cleanest dirty shirt meme at 34 month highs but unfortunately for the Chinese (and their practical peg to the USD), things are a little less fun than in the old mercantilist manipulation days. The implicit benefit that dollar flows appear to be getting (via the wealth effect in the US stock market) is not there in China (lower equity ownership); in fact, the rising Yuan is drastically hurting them as despite export orders remaining in growth mode, the China Daily reports that "most exporters in the delta region have told us that the rising yuan value has led to a big profit decline." Of course, the exporters are calling for a weaker Yuan but as the nation struggles with an exploding shadow banking system, bubbles in real estate and credit, and inflation concerns it knows that any implicit effort to weaken the CNY will create a surge in capital inflows and fuel further imbalances. China remains in the middle of the ‘currency war’-driven inflation rock and ‘sagging growth’ hard place; and with two 91-day bill issues in the last week (in addition to repo) the clear signal (masked by export data fudges) is that China is much more worried about inflation than it is letting on (and has little ability to manage hot money inflows).
The rising value of the yuan has made it difficult for exporters in the Pearl River Delta region to make money, even though they saw an increase in orders in April, an industrial survey said on Tuesday.
"Exports from the delta region increased a lot last month, but exporters have found it hard to make profits given the yuan’s appreciation," said Xiao Feng, deputy general manager of One Touch Business Services Co, a Chinese provider of foreign-trade services.
"However, most exporters in the delta region have told us that the rising yuan value has led to a big profit decline,” said Xiao, without elaborating on how much profits have declined.
The People’s Bank of China last week set the daily reference rate of the yuan against the dollar at 6.1980, the highest in 19 years. Indicators show that capital flows into China have accelerated in recent months.
"Some companies have borrowed in dollars, converted them into yuan and bought into yuan-denominated assets, waiting for the Chinese currency to strengthen further. The inflows have brought about pressures for the yuan exchange,” Liu said.
With the introduction of measures to crack down on hot money inflows, there is a possibility of a weak yuan exchange rate in the near future
Zhang Zhenghu, deputy general manager of the overseas sales branch of Gree Electric Appliances, said the company had to increase the price of its products early this year because of the yuan appreciation
"Yuan appreciation burdens most Chinese exporters heavily. We had to increase the price to make a sustainable business profit in the overseas market,” Zhang said.
"Unusually cold weather."
No, I’m not shitting you. Read the report below. Now I’m pretty sure temperatures across the country fluctuate based on where their located geologically, but hey, I’m no weather man.
From the report
Industrial production decreased 0.5 percent in April after having increased 0.3 percent in March and 0.9 percent in February. Manufacturing output moved down 0.4 percent in April after a decline of 0.3 percent in March. The index for utilities decreased 3.7 percent in April, as heating demand fell back to a more typical seasonal level after having been elevated in March because of unusually cold weather. The output of mines increased 0.9 percent in April. At 98.7 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production was 1.9 percent above its year-earlier level. The rate of capacity utilization for total industry decreased 0.5 percentage point to 77.8 percent, a rate 0.1 percentage point above its level of a year earlier but 2.4 percentage points below its long-run (1972—2012) average.