Liberty Links 2/2/16

Below are links to some of the more interesting and important reads I came across today, but will not be publishing on in detail.

Clinton, Rubio, Cruz Receive Foreign Policy Advice From Same Consulting Firm (The Intercept)

Fearing Lean Times, U.S. Companies Tighten Purse Strings (More recessionary signals for the U.S. economy, Reuters)

Britain Approves Controversial Gene-editing Experiments (Associated Press)

The Fed Wants to Test How Banks Would Handle Negative Rates (Bloomberg)

Denmark Extends Border Control on Border with Germany (Reuters)

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Another Real Estate Market Bites the Dust – Hong Kong Prices Plunge, Transactions Hit 25-Year Low

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A stunning reversal across various global real estate hubs which have served as focal points for both international investors and criminal oligarchs, has made itself clear over the past several months. I’ve highlighted plunging sales and prices in high-end London, a multi-month slowdown in Manhattan’s luxury market, as well as a burst bubble in mansion prices in various articles over the last several months. We now have another region to add to the list: Hong Kong.

Bloomberg reports:

In a city that saw demand propel property prices to a record last year, the estimate that transactions reached a 25 year-low in Hong Kong shows how quickly sentiment has turned.

Home prices have slumped almost 10 percent since September and monthly sales in January fell to the lowest since at least 1991, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd. Amid a spike in flexible mortgage rates this month and anemic demand for new developments, the low transactions volume for January is the latest evidence that prices have further to fall.

Talk about a reversal.

Developers are showing caution too, which could further weaken the outlook for the property market. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, two out of three government attempts to sell residential land sites through tenders since November failed after bids failed to match the minimum price.

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Bought & Paid For – 1/3 of All SuperPAC Donations Have Come from Wall Street

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So far, super PACs have received more than one-third of their donations from financial-services executives, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In the 2012 election, donations from the financial-services sector made up roughly 20% of the $845 million raised by super PACs, or political-action committees, and other independent campaign groups. In the 2004 election, Wall Street and other financial groups were responsible for just $2.4 million of the money collected by political-action committees.

The early fundraising data provides the most recent evidence that Wall Street is the single biggest driver behind the surge in spending by super PACs and other outside groups on U.S. elections.

– From the Wall Street Journal article: Wall Street’s Donor Role Expands as Money Flows Into 2016 Election 

If Wall Street knows anything, it’s how to hedge its bets. This is precisely why powerful financiers make sure they bankroll as many politicians as possible.

Indeed, when it comes to the 2016 Presidential race, the only two candidates who are not being funded by Wall Street are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This explains much of the horror exhibited by the establishment when it comes to the success of these two individuals.

While the influence of Wall Street money in politics is nothing new, what is notable about the current race is the monetary investment by these financiers is substantially higher than as recently as 2012. It appears many financial oligarchs see a pressing need to boost their spending this time around in order to protect themselves against the justified angst of the American public.

A very interesting article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal highlighted some the spending in detail. Here are some of the numbers as relates to those candidates still in the running:

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A Detailed Look at The New York Times’ Embarrassing, Deceitful and Illogical Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

The New York Times’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary consists of an unreadable, illogical piece of fiction. In this post, I will critique the paper’s position in detail, but first I want to take a step back and explain to people what I think is going on in the bigger picture.

In its endorsement of Hillary, the New York Times editorial board did such a sloppy job I can’t help but think it may have done permanent damage to its brand. Upon reading it, my initial conclusion was that the editorial board was either suffering from Stockholm syndrome or merely concerned about losing advertising revenues should they endorse Sanders. Then I thought some more and I realized my initial conclusions were wrong. Something else is going on here, something far more subtle, subconscious and illuminating. The New York Times is defending the establishment candidate simply because the New York Times is the establishment.

One of the biggest trends of the post financial crisis period has been a plunge in the American public’s perception of the country’s powerful institutions. The establishment often admits this reality with a mixture of bewilderment and erroneous conclusions, ultimately settling on the idea people are upset because “Washington can’t get anything done.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to corruption and serving big monied interests, both Congress and the President are very, very good at getting things done. Yes it’s true Congress doesn’t get anything done on behalf of the people, but this is no accident. The government doesn’t work for the people.

With its dishonest and shifty endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I believe the New York Times has finally come out of the closet as an unabashed gatekeeper of the status quo. I suppose this makes sense since the paper has become the ultimate status quo journalistic publication. The sad truth is the publication has been living on borrowed time and a borrowed reputation for a long time. Long on prestige, it remains very short on substance when it comes to fighting difficult battles in the public interest. Content with its position of power and influence within the current paradigm, the paper doesn’t want to rock the boat. What the New York Times is actually telling its readers with the Hillary Clinton endorsement is that it likes things just the way they are, and will fight hard to keep them that way. It is as much a part of the American establishment as any government institution.

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Thank You

A month ago, I published a post which asked readers to reflect upon the value Liberty Blitzkrieg has added over the past several years, and to consider supporting the site financially.

There’s no higher compliment to a writer than voluntary donations, and I want to thank everyone who participated for their thoughtfulness and generosity. It truly provides the fuel necessary to keep going, and the importance of reader funded support to independent media in today’s environment cannot be overstated.

In the event you missed that prior message and would like to contribute, please see the post: Support Liberty Blitzkrieg.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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Liberty Links 1/29/16

Below are links to some of the more interesting and important reads I came across today, but will not be publishing on in detail.

Chicago Police Deliberately Sabotaging Recording Devices (Must read of the day, Reason)

Ted Cruz Abandons Criminal Justice Reform on His Way to the White House (The guy has zero principles, a pure opportunist, Reason)

Four Billionaire Donors Help Cruz Rise in GOP Bid (Associated Press)

Ha Ha: Hillary Clinton’s Top Financial Supporter Now Controls “The Onion” (The Intercept)

Paul Krugman Unironically Anoints Himself Arbiter of “Seriousness”: Only Clinton Supporters Eligible (The Intercept)

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Former Citigroup Trader Explains How Wall Street Came to Own the Clintons and the Democratic Party

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Former FX trader at Citigroup, Chris Arnade, just penned a poignant and entertaining Op-ed at The Guardian detailing how Wall Street came to own the Democratic Party via the Clintons over the course of his career. While anyone reading this already knows how completely bought and paid for the Clintons are by the big financial interests, the article provides some interesting anecdotes as well as a classic quote about a young Larry Summers.

Here are some choice excerpts from the piece:

I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street.

That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.

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Elizabeth Warren Releases Blistering Report on Corporate Criminality – Singles Out SEC Uselessness

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I was really disappointed by Elizabeth Warren’s recent vote against auditing the Federal Reserve, but I’ve decided to forgive her following the release of an extremely powerful and important 12-page report on corporate criminality titled: Rigged Justice: 2016 – How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy. In fact, this may be the most meaningful report I’ve read since Princeton and Northwestern published a study proving the U.S. is an oligarchy.

The report encapsulates the meaning of public service, and demonstrates what U.S. Senators could be doing if they weren’t busy constantly whoring themselves out to the highest bidder. The fact of the matter is if Congress was filled with more individuals with the smarts, ethics and courage of Elizabeth Warren, this country would not be in the mess it’s in.

I know many of you will see that statement as an exaggeration, but it’s not. As I’ve maintained time and time again, the single biggest issue destroying America, the one that towers above all others, is the diminishment of the rule of law. Specifically, the fact that rich and powerful players in this country have amassed so much economic and political control they have created an untouchable class for themselves which is completely above the law. The definition of this sort of political arrangement is tyranny. As I noted in the piece, New Report – The United States’ Sharp Drop in Economic Freedom Since 2000 Driven by “Decline in Rule of Law.”

In my opinion, the U.S. is living on borrowed time. The entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive, and a lot of innovative things are happening in the tech area, but other than that, the U.S. economy looks very much like a third word oligarchy. From my perspective, we need to reinstate the rule of law at once. The bad actors amongst the rich and powerful will continue to feast relentlessly on the productive parts of the economy so long as they they are never held accountable for their crimes. Simply put: The rule of law must be restored immediately.

That is not an exaggeration. Nothing, I mean nothing, will get sustainably better in this nation until the criminals in charge are either jailed or their influence obliterated from the entire social and economic structure. Thankfully, Senator Elizabeth Warren sees this problem as the core cancer that it is. Don’t believe me? Read the opening paragraphs to her report:

Laws are effective only to the extent they are enforced. A law on the books has little impact if prosecution is highly unlikely.

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Political Editor at Bloomberg News Quits – Cites Inability to Properly Cover Michael Bloomberg

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If there was ever an election year that exhibited an overwhelmingly less favorable climate for Michael Bloomberg to indulge his Presidential fantasies than 2016, I haven’t seen it.

The fact that the man is even considering a run tells you precisely how delusional and disconnected he is from the social mood, and the obvious reality that the American public is gravitating to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders precisely because they hate people like Michael Bloomberg. The fact that he sees himself as some sort of “Independent” would be amusing if it weren’t so sad, and demonstrates a remarkable lack of self-awaeness that is characteristic of American billionaires.

As an example of his politics, Bloomberg’s two biggest political passions seem to revolve around whoring for Wall Street and being aggressively pro gun control. So he’s essentially a less charismatic version of Hillary Clinton, which is no easy feat.

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Meet Vigilant Solutions – The Private Company Storing 2.2 Billion License Plate Photos & Selling the Data

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Vigilant Solutions is a company that will be familiar to longtime Liberty Blitzkrieg readers. It was first highlighted in the early 2014 post, Department of Homeland Security Moves to Install National License Plate Tracking System, in which we learned the following:

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

The agency said the length of time the data is retained would be up to the winning vendor. Vigilant Solutions, for instance, one of the leading providers of tag-reader data, keeps its records indefinitely.

Fast forward two years, and “could easily contain 1 billion records” sounds trite compared to the reality. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, Vigilant Solutions has already has taken 2.2 billion license plate photos, and is adding more at a clip of 80 million per month.

From the Atlantic:

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