No. 853: October Trade Deficit, December FOMC Meeting

(SGS Subscription required) • Re-Exploding Trade Deficit Suggested a Hit to Fourth-Quarter 2016 GDP
• November 2016 CPI-U Annual Inflation Could Break Above Near-Term Highs Seen in the Pre-Oil-Price-Collapse Environment of 2014
• Once Again, Market Expectations Are for a Looming Rate Hike
• Embroiled in Its Own Credibility Issues, FOMC Still Faces a Deteriorating and Unstable Global Circumstances

Milo Yiannopoulos Told Not to Speak of “Pizzagate” During Miami University Lecture

Submitted by Joseph Jankowski of PlanetFreeWill.com

During the introduction to his lecture at Miami University on Monday, Breitbart News journalist and technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos informed the crowd that he was unable to address the highly controversial topic of “Pizzagate” because he had received phone calls from Washington D.C. that told him “not yet.”

“We are going to talk this evening about a few things that are close to my heart,” Milo told his audience. “Although, I have one announcement to make which is that sadly when I announced I was going to be speaking about Pizzagate this evening, I got a number of phone calls with Washington D.C. area codes saying ‘not yet.’”

For those unfamiliar, Pizzagate is a wildly-popular conspiracy theory that centers around leaked emails from former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that some believe contain pedophilic lingo.

“Pizzagate subreddit was started by a group of Trump-supporting internet sleuths who were attempting to use WikiLeaks’ leaked Podesta emails to connect the Clintons and John Podesta to the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein,” Zero Hedge wrote of Pizzagate. “That said, when the Podesta emails failed to reveal a “smoking gun” linkage, the sleuths instead turned their focus to mulitple “pizza” references in Podesta’s emails which then led to the speculation that those “pizza” references must be code for something far more sinister.”

The Washington Post says the “Pizzagate” sleuths are convinced that the “secret headquarters of a child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and members of her inner circle” is located in the basement of a Washington D.C. pizza shop called Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria.

Yiannopoulos put out a flyer for his Miami speech on Monday afternoon which advertised that he would be addressing the conspiracy theory.

“I can tell you with no ego, this will be my finest show,” Milo wrote on his Facebook page.

It is currently unknown who called Milo and told him not to discuss the Pizzagate controversy but it might have something to do with the incident that occurred on Sunday when a man walked into Comet Ping Pong with a gun.

The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” the “Pizzagate” conspiracy.

Reports claim that Comet Ping Pong’s owner, James Alefantis, and his employees have been victims of continuous harassment from those exploring the theory that connects the pizza shop to child sex-trafficking.

Surrounding businesses have also said that they have been targeted by believers in the conspiracy theory.

While many of the sleuths say that their research as led them to believe that “Pizzagate” is real and not just some wild theory, there are some people who believe it has gone too far and now has become dangerous.

Dallas Mayor Files Lawsuit To Block Withdrawals From "Insolvent" Police Pension After "Run On The Bank"

Last week, Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings sent a scathing letter to the Dallas Police and Fire Pension (DPFP) Board demanded that withdrawals be halted immediately until the “solvency and actuarial soundness of the Pension System is restored.”  That said, the Mayor’s request was seemingly ignored as he has now filed a lawsuit with the Dallas District Court to force the pension board to halt withdrawals amid a “run on the bank.”

Within the suit, Rawlings notes that $500 million in lump-sum withdrawals have been made from the DPFP since August 2016 with $80 million of that amount being withdrawn in the first 2 weeks of November alone.  The suit continues on to allege that “this mass exodus of DROP funds amounts to a “run on the bank” and is exacerbating the financial peril of the Pension System as a whole.”

In performing these ministerial duties, the Board has a duty to ensure that programs, such as the Pension System’s optional Deferred Retirement Option Plan (“DROP”), which is not a constitutionally protected benefit (or “benefit” at all), do not impair or reduce the Pension System’s core constitutionally protected benefits, e.g., service retirement benefits. The Board is willfully failing to perform these ministerial duties.

 

The Pension System, which the Board oversees, is in the midst of a financial crisis. In early 2016, the Board was warned by its own actuary that absent radical change,the Pension System would become insolvent within 15 years—irrevocably eradicating the constitutionally protected service retirement benefits (and other constitutionally protected benefits) of police and firefighter personnel of the City and their beneficiaries.

 

Critically, this 15-year projection of insolvency was based upon two overly optimistic assumptions that the Board has now known to be incorrect for several months. First, the actuary assumed that the Pension System’s $2.7 billion in assets would remain stable, even though approximately 56% of these assets were composed of optional DROP funds, which have historically been permitted to be withdrawn in lump-sums upon demand (even though this option was used infrequently before this year). Second, the actuary assumed that the Pension System would achieve its targeted 7.25% return or more on itsinvestments for the next 15 years.

 

Publication of this looming insolvency scenario prompted some DROP Participants to withdraw their DROP funds in lump-sum, which created a “snowball”effect, leading a staggering number of other DROP Participants to withdraw nearly $500 million in optional lump-sum DROP funds from the Pension System from August 13, 2016 to present. Over $80 million of these lump-sum DROP withdrawals have occurred within the first two weeks of November 2016 alone. Over this three-month time period, the Board has knowingly allowed DROP funds to continue to be withdrawn at record levels even though it is aware that doing so is irreparably harming the Pension System’s solvency and liquidity.

 

Lump-sum DROP withdrawals for 2016 are now on pace to be over 15 times higher than their historical average. This mass exodus of DROP funds amounts to a “run on the bank” and is exacerbating the financial peril of the Pension System as a whole.

 

The DPFP contreversy comes as hundreds of police and firefighters have poured millions into “DROP” accounts in which they were guaranteed exorbitant returns of 8% while the pension board has proposed a $1 billion bailout from the city of Dallas. 

The city estimates that, as of November, 517 police and firefighters have DROP accounts containing more than $1 million. One, belonging to an unnamed first responder, has $4.3 million in it, city figures show. On average, the city estimates that the average DROP account contains nearly $600,000.

 

The controversy all comes at a time when the board has asked the cash-strapped city for a bailout over $1 billion. The board’s position is that they legally can’t stop the withdrawals, but the mayor disagrees.

Of course, this all begs the question of whether the Dallas Police and Fire Pension will be the first pension ponzi to burst?

Here is the full lawsuit filed by Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings:

Virginia Tech Snowflakes Unveil Definitive List Of Top 50 Microaggressions That Offend Them

Submitted by William Nardi via TheCollegeFix.com,

Be careful what you say at Virginia Tech. Chances are, it could be a microaggression.

Multiple groups at Virginia Tech have collaborated to collect “microaggression testimonials” from students, who came up with roughly 50 different expressions that offend them. The examples are currently displayed on the “Microaggressions: #hokiesspeakup” Facebook page.

While the campaign lasted through the Spring semester, several posters reminding student to watch what they say still pepper the campus today.

The grievances were collected at a series of weekly meetings hosted by the NAACP, the Muslim Student Association and Jewish Student Union. They can be categorized into several identity politics genres, including: disability, race, religion and sexual orientation.

micro2

Among the posters still hanging, at least three remain up in McBryde, an academic hall, telling students not to say “All Jews are rich,” refer to other students as “spicy latinas” for giving opinions, and not to shout “run n*gger run” at black joggers while passing them on the street.

“It should have been a campaign to promote common decency, but beneath the surface, it plays into their own scornful agendas,” Virginia Tech senior Nicholas Korpics told The College Fix.

 

“The minority groups on campus, especially within the leftist-queer community, have little to no intentions of reconciling with their ‘oppressors.’ They just want to isolate themselves and then say nasty things about people who oppress them.”

This is not the first time Virginia Tech has put up controversial posters. Earlier this year they came under fire after displaying messages that asked Christian students to check their “religious privilege.”

As for the 50 microaggressions collected at Virginia Tech, they include:

Disability

  • “Coworkers at another institution frequently tried to ‘diagnose’ people behind their back, and repeatedly described people with specific disabilities (that I share) as scary, dangerous, awkward, creepy, weird, ect.”
  • “Don’t call yourself that,” where that refers to me calling myself disabled.
  • “She’s so bipolar.” Disabilities are not insults.
  • “You have so much to be thankful for, you have no reason to be depressed.”
  • “You just need a positive mental attitude!” being told to people with mental illness or other disabilities.
  • A disabled person being told “You’re so inspirational” for doing an everyday task.
  • A non-disabled classmate viewing the R-word as just another swear word and including it in a poem.
  • Going to other campus social justice or diversity events, and them not being accessible [for disabled people].
  • Having to take a longer, less obvious route to get into buildings on campus.

micro3

Religion

  • “All Jews are rich.” I’m working to pay myself through college.
  • “Jew are just white people”… explain these communities who have existed for centuries.
  • There are many holidays to be observant of, and I may have to miss class. Please respect my religion.
  • When someone finds out that I’m Jewish and then asks if I was born that way.

LGBTQ

  • “I don’t understand why you can’t just be happy with your body.”
  • “Since you’re transitioning, does that make you [insert sexuality here]?”
  • “What’s your real name/gender?”—One’s identity and/or gender are what they say it is.
  • “Why can’t boys just dress like boys and girls just dress like girls?”
  • “Why can’t you just be gay?”—Gender identity and sexuality are not the same.
  • But gender is socially constructed, you don’t need to physically transition”—accept, don’t invalidate trans people’s experiences and wants for their body.
  • People correcting others for not using certain terms to describe me (e.g. “No, that’s a dudette”)—let trans people describe their own identities.

Race and Ethnicity

  • “When you underestimate my mental capacity based on my proficiency speaking English.”
  • Arriving at a house party and hearing, “Party’s over, too many n*ggers here, time to leave.”
  • Being asked if “there were pinatas” at my friend’s party.
  • Being asked to present the black perspective in a predominantly white class.
  • Being called an “angry black woman” when speaking in a stern voice or standing up for yourself.
  • Being in a room full of fellow academics and being told that you speak “very intelligently.”
  • Being the only person questioned at a party after the DJ’s IPod goes missing.
  • Being told that I am “so well spoken…for a Latino.”
  • Being told that I am a “Spicy Latina,” anytime that I give my opinion.
  • Jogging down the street and hearing “Run N*gger Run,” shouted from cars passing by.
  • Professors making condescending remarks about your undergrad because it was an HBCU.
  • Treating my hair as your own private petting zoo.
  • Virginia Tech students asking me what I plan to do with my degree “back home.”
  • When fellow Hokies tell me, “I thought all of YOU PEOPLE were good at basketball.”
  • When I tell someone about my origins and they reply with “Wait, you’re all not Mexican!”
  • When meeting someone for the first time, and the first thing they ask is if “English is my second language.”
  • When my white professors say “n*gger” thoughtlessly in class.
  • When people tell you you’re only at Virginia Tech because of affirmative action.
  • When school official state that, “people like you should stay home and not waste taxpayers dollars…despite scoring in the 90th percentile in nationwide exams.”
  • When white people claim to be “blacker than you” for knowing the words to a rap song.
  • When you tell people where you’re from and they automatically assume you’re from the “bad part” of that area.
  • When you think it’s humorous to ask me, “how do you say taco in Spanish.”

*  *  *

So probably better just to stay at home.

Our "Gaslight" Financial System

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Perhaps the ultimate gaslighting in human history is our current fiat money creation system that benefits the few at the expense of the many.

The terms gaslight and gaslighting are entering the political media lexicon, with partisans of both parties accusing the other side’s candidate of gaslighting in the presidential election. The terms refers to the 1944 film Gaslight in which Charles Boyer subtly manipulates the environment to cause Ingrid Bergman to question her memory and sanity.

Generally speaking, gaslighting has been used in the context of personal relationships to describe a manipulative person’s attempts to undermine and control their romantic partner.

As I understand it, gaslighting refers to a specific set of manipulative techniques:

1. Questioning, belittling, discounting and undermining our experience of places and events.

2. Overwriting our memory of events with false memories, again by undermining, questioning and belittling our memories.

3. Discrediting and marginalizing our definitions of self and identity, in favor of the manipulator’s definition of our identity and place in the world.

4. Using authority and “experts” to disqualify and discredit dissenting views.

5. Denigrate and deny our lived experience and memory by repeating the institutionalized authority-approved narrative of “what actually happened.”

6. Disorient, discredit and destroy dissent with a torrent of false statistics, false narratives, false accusations and false claims of our errors.

Correspondent C.D. suggests gaslighting can be applied to the entire financial system. Here are his comments in reference to last week’s post Beyond Income Inequality:

Do Wallerstein or Picketty (or any mainstream economists) ever talk about larceny via extortion, fraud, artifice, forgery, false pretense, and conversion, among other types of theft? Do they talk about interest-bearing, debt-based money? If they don’t, I think they’re missing two gargantuan pieces of the puzzle.

Nations have lost trillions (in today’s money) from theft/larceny since the 15th century and have paid many more trillions in interest…..often to the same criminals who stole these vast amounts of money. Economists that don’t look at these things are like a business owner who just looks at his costs and sales without looking at the employees who are fudging their time cards and stealing money from the till and then wonders why he isn’t making any profit.

It seems to me that only crimes committed on a small and moderate scale are punished; the large crimes are rarely punished. Indeed, people venerate various systems that systematically plunder whole nations and give it a name that ends in “ism” and then the big players in the system are protected and even lionized.

We have a fundamental problem with dishonest weights and measures…. in this case, money/currency. What would happen if someone was using false scales to buy and sell grains? They would go to prison (hopefully). What happens when someone uses pieces of paper that are used to measure ones work/time/effort (money/currency) where there is built in scarcity and an inexorable decline in the value of the that paper due to its debt-based, interest bearing nature? Well, they get to live high on the hog and hire people at banks, government, and universities, who then convince everyone that this paper is good and provides security and prosperity.

The convincing of people to accept this system is a form of gaslighting done by psychopaths. We have been gaslighted so much in our lives, most people can’t imagine what life would be without it.

We are bounced from one extreme to another where the “isms” fight over who will steal from whom and how much, all the while, the thieves at the top (who often develop the theories that become “isms”) get more and more at the expense of the rest of us. If you have not done so, I urge you to research the concept of gaslighting. I think it will help you in further understanding why things are the way that they are.

Thank you, C.D., for an eye-opening application of gaslighting to our entire money/financial system. I have addressed the role of centrally created and distributed money many times, for example If We Don’t Change the Way Money Is Created and Distributed, We Change Nothing (December 24, 2015).

Exposing the racket at the very heart of our money is one key topic in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology & Creating Jobs for All.

Here’s the reality: our currency (money) is created at the top of the wealth/ power apex, by central and private banks. This money is borrowed into existence, so somebody (either taxpayers or borrowers) must pay interest on the new money.

None of this money is created at the bottom of the pyramid where the 99.9% live. You want some new money? You’ll have to borrow it and pay interest.

Our entire money system is a “trickle down” racket: the banks and financiers can borrow unlimited sums into existence, and some of this “trickles down” to the 99.9% via mortgages, auto loans, etc., or perhaps a few service jobs if a corporation that’s close to the money spigot expands operations in the U.S.

But as I have explained many times, most recently in Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform, those close to the new money spigot can outbid everyone else for income-producing assets, and scoop up the national income without hiring even one more worker.

The “crazy” alternative to the money only benefits the .1% racket I propose is to create money at the bottom of the pyramid when someone performs useful work in their community. In my view, it makes sense to create new money when useful labor is performed, not when a bank or financier needs nearly-free money to buy assets or issue credit cards carrying 23% annual interest rates.

Labor-backed crypto-currency sounds “crazy” until the whole money-only-serves-the-top-.1% system collapses under its own weight. When all the “money” that’s been created to serve the central and private banks vanishes in a financial supernova–a possibility considered “impossible” by the mainstream, along with rising interest rates and inflation–then what is “crazy” and “impossible” change rather radically: the “impossible” becomes not just possible but inevitable, and the “crazy” suddenly makes perfect sense.

Perhaps the ultimate gaslighting in human history is our current fiat money creation system that benefits the few at the expense of the many. We’ve been manipulated into believing this is the only possible monetary system and the only possible financial system.

Not true. Wake up, people. There are other ways to create and distribute new money, and other ways to arrange a financial system to serve the many rather than the few.

The status quo apologists will of course angrily deny this reality (see above graphic). Their own place at the trough requires them to defend the indefensible. Their denial and anger are indicators of gaslighting and their own sad acceptance of servitude.

*  *  *

For what it’s worth, my copy editor reckons Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition) is my best book. It is, if nothing else, highly relevant to today’s economic/social schisms. Join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.