The NCAA has determined that the Michigan football program was out of compliance with practice time rules under coach Rich Rodriguez, who incoming athletic director David Brandon declared would remain the school’s coach.Brandon announced the NCAA’s findings Tuesday, but stated that there were “no surprises,” despite the fact that the report stated that the Michigan athletic department failed to ensure that the program was complying with NCAA regulations.The university has 90 days to respond to the results and will appear at an NCAA hearing in August.The NCAA has been investigating allegations that Michigan players exceeded NCAA limits with practice time or other football-related activities.The allegations came about after the Detroit Free Press reported the claims of a handful of Michigan players who said the players exceeded the limits during practices and workouts in 2008 and 2009.The university conducted an internal investigation and is looking into self-imposed sanctions. The internal audit revealed that Rodriguez and his staff failed to file forms that kept logs on the amount of time players spent on football.Michigan’s report did not find issues of noncompliance. Brandon attributed the dicey situation to a “breakdown of communication.”Michigan has finished 3-9 and 5-7 in Rodriguez’s two seasons at the helm.
The last of six Ohio State women’s lacrosse players hospitalized for a rare but potentially dangerous muscle disorder is set to be released from the hospital at noon Wednesday, Christopher Kaeding, the head team physician for OSU’s athletic department, told The Lantern in an email. OSU assistant director of athletic communication Alissa Clendenen was not sure whether the six athletes would play in the team’s next game, scheduled for Sunday, but she did say in an email, “once released, players are not expected to miss any time because of their condition.” On Friday, six OSU women’s lacrosse players were admitted to the Wexner Medical Center at OSU to be evaluated after showing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, OSU assistant director of athletics communication Alissa Clendenen confirmed to The Lantern. Rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder that causes a breakdown of muscle fibers and releases a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream, can cause kidney damage and in extreme cases, kidney failure. Trainers evaluated the team for symptoms after one athlete complained of not feeling well, according to the release. None has kidney damage, according to media reports. The names of the six players have not been released. In January 2011, 13 football players at the University of Iowa developed the disorder after overexertion during a squat-lifting workout. A report cleared coaches, players, physicians and trainers for wrongdoing but recommended the strenuous workout that contributed to the hospitalizations be dropped from training. All 13 players made full recoveries. The women’s lacrosse team did not have games this past weekend. They next play at Canisius in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Redshirt-junior 1st baseman Josh Dezse celebrates with teammates after scoring a run during a game against Penn State April 12 at Bill Davis Stadium. OSU won, 7-0. Credit: Lauren Weitz / Lantern photographerThe Ohio State baseball team (21-15, 4-8) got back on track with a weekend series victory at home against Penn State.The bats woke up in a big way for the final two games of the three-game series — both victories for OSU — and coach Greg Beals credited the lineup change and the wind for helping out the offense.“When the wind is blowing, it really helps the mentality of the hitters,” Beals said. “And we’ve been talking mentality and maybe it took the wind blowing to get them going a little bit and get that mentality at game time to attack.”Sunday’s game began with the Buckeyes jumping all over the Nittany Lions’ sophomore pitcher Nick Hedge.After scoring a run in the first on an RBI single from sophomore second baseman Troy Kuhn, redshirt-junior first baseman Josh Dezse led off the second with a deep home run to straightaway center to put the Buckeyes up two.Sophomore third baseman Jacob Bosiokovic followed with a single and junior catcher Connor Sabanosh brought him home with a stand-up triple to center.With no outs in the inning and Sabanosh on third, the Nittany Lion coaching staff had seen enough and pulled Hedge in favor of senior Ian Parvin before Hedge could allow any more damage.The pitching change didn’t stop redshirt-sophomore shortstop Nick Sergakis from scoring Sabanosh with a sacrifice fly to center.Dezse continued his onslaught on the Nittany Lion pitching staff with another bomb to center in the third to put the Buckeyes up by five.“I’ve always thought I’ve had a good swing. I just think that circumstances are starting to line up. Couple sliders, wind was blowing out and was just able to square a couple up,” Dezse said Sunday. “I’ve always known that I got a decent swing if I make contact. I’m just not really thinking too much. Just going up and see ball, hit ball.”The Nittany Lions began mounting a comeback and tied things up by scoring two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth.The Buckeyes took the lead right back in the bottom half of the fifth, though, on a bases-loaded ground ball from Bosiokovic.They broke it open again in the seventh with four runs, including RBIs from Sergakis and Dezse, giving them a total of five and seven, respectively, for the weekend.“It’s really been the same approach that I’ve had all year. It’s just falling in my favor lately,” Sergakis said. “Every at-bat I go up there and I try and fight the pitcher. I don’t want him to beat me on a pitch and I want to put my best swing on it.”The Nittany Lions got one run back in the eighth, but the Buckeyes got two more in the bottom half to end the scoring and give them the series-clinching 12-6 win.Sophomore pitcher Jake Post earned the win and redshirt-senior reliever Tyler Giannonatti came on in the sixth to allow only the one run in the eighth before freshman Travis Lakins came in to close it out.Saturday’s tilt was all Buckeyes as senior pitcher Greg Greve threw a complete game shutout, allowing only four hits and walking just two.Despite his strong performance, Greve said it was just another game for him.“I try to approach the game the same each way. I want to go out there and give my team a chance to win,” Greve said afterward. “You try to do too much as an individual player, that’s when you start getting in trouble. Win as a team, lose as a team. Defense made some great plays for me and the offense really came alive, so that made my job easier.”Offensively, home runs by Dezse and Sergakis and three errors by the Nittany Lions gave the Buckeyes a much-needed 7-0 win.“This was very important for us after losing seven straight conference games,” Beals said. “We need to get back in good ways and Greve, our senior co-captain, grabbed the bull by the horns and shut them out today.”Friday night, the Nittany Lions took the lead early and pulled out a 5-4 win.The Buckeyes are next scheduled to play on the road against West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va., Tuesday at 6 p.m.
April 26, 2018 KUSI Newsroom SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — San Diego State University Athletic Director John David Wicker said Thursday the university’s proposed 35,000-seat Mission Valley stadium could expand to 55,000 seats to accommodate a future NFL franchise.The stadium would include 82 suites located among the field level, lower bowl sideline, upper sideline and five club sections. It would also feature 50 loge boxes with lounges.A perforated aluminum panel exterior “influenced by the sailboats found in San Diego Harbor” would change colors throughout the day, Wicker said.The site would also feature about 90,000 square feet of retail space, located near the stadium, which would serve residents, employees, students and visitors during non-game days.The proposed stadium is being designed by Populous, a global architecture and design firm that has designed more than 2,000 projects over the last 30 years, including Yankee Stadium. KUSI Newsroom, Posted: April 26, 2018 SDSU Athletic Director says proposed Mission Valley stadium could accommodate a future NFL franchise Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitter
Day three of the north-east festival at the Dilli Haat, kickstarted with the celebration of the harvest season. As the students of Meghalaya Union took to the stage, the drum beats announced the beginning of the harvesting festival. With the chorus singing the traditional harvest songs, the programme was inaugurated by Union Minister of DoNER Pawan Singh Ghatowar. The songs went on for the next ten minutes and was followed by a fashion show.The show was a collection of 34 garments done by designer Vianey B Nongram. This collection was a mix of both traditional and contemporary wear. On the runway one could see tribal attires from Garo, Hajong, Khasi, Jaintia, Pnar and Tiwa tribes. ‘The textiles are an important highlight of the show,’ said Nongram. She added: ‘The collections are from local textiles and fabrics like Ryndia, Ghara and Khyrwang to name a few.’‘What I have brought from Meghalaya is an unique mix of traditional and contemporary, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of the unity in diversity,’ said Nongram.
Sponsor Advertisement Avrupa Minerals Ltd. is a growth-oriented prospect generator focused on aggressive exploration for valuable mineral deposits in politically stable and prospective regions of Europe with a growing pipeline of prospects in Portugal, Kosovo and Germany.Company highlights:Alvalade Project JV with Antofagasta Minerals SA – Copper and Zinc on 1000 km2 project area in the Portuguese Pyrite Belt – 2012 exploration budget of US$ 2.5 million, all provided by Antofagasta, including 6000 meters of core drillingGold exploration in the Erzgebirge Mining District, Germany – 307 km2 exploration license in 1000+ year producing region of tin, tungsten, silver, base metals, and uranium – Increasingly favorable permitting and mining regulations, long mining culture, widespread known gold panning locationsCovas Tungsten JV with Blackheath Resources Inc. – 922,900 mt @ 0.78% WO3 (non NI 43-101 compliant) historic resource – Potential to increase the tungsten resource – New gold target on the projectStrong management including Paul Kuhn, CEO, previously involved with several discoveries around the world, and Mark T. Brown, Director, founder of Rare Element Resources Ltd.Low risk exploration strategyShare structure and cash on hand (12/31/2011):16.1 million shares outstanding; 23.7 million shares outstanding, fully diluted40% of shares held by insiders, family, friends, and long-term investorsApprox. C$ 500,000 cash on hand (consolidated Canada and Europe)Antofagasta has provided US$ 350,000 for all anticipated Alvalade JV expenses for Q1 2012.Please visit our website for more information. And so it begins…another precious metals rally in the making…at least that’s what the talk is on the Internet right now.Gold’s low print on Friday came about 2:30 p.m. Hong Kong time…and the subsequent rally was only ten bucks…and that came to an end shortly after 10:00 a.m. in London. From that point, gold gave back half those gains going into the Comex open.The rally that began at that point came to an end at its high tick of the day…$1,667.70 spot…just a few minutes after 11:00 a.m. Eastern time in New York…which was a few minutes after the London close at 4:00 p.m. GMT. But by the time that electronic trading was done in New York at 5:15 p.m…gold had slid back five bucks from that high.Gold closed at $1,662.80 spot…up $17.90 on the day. Net volume was on the lighter side…around 112,000 contracts.Silver’s chart looks more or less the same as the gold chart…but the rally during the Comex trading session in New York was far more substantial on a percentage basis…and the high tick of the day [$32.41 spot] came either shortly before, or just after, the close of Comex trading at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. From that high, silver gave back a bit of its gain going into the weekend.Silver closed at $32.24 spot…up 65 cents on the day. Net volume was pretty light…around 31,000 contracts.The dollar index traded mostly flat during early Far East trading, with the high tick [79.74] coming shortly after 3:00 p.m. Hong Kong time…less than an hour before London opened on their Friday morning.Less than three hours later…and a few minutes after 10:00 a.m. in London…the dollar index had fallen 50 basis points. Three hours after that…8:00 a.m. in New York…the dollar index had gained back 30 points of that decline…but continued to fall after that, closing almost on its low of the day. When all was said and done, the dollar index was down 43 basis points from Thursday’s close.If you examine the major dollar index inflection points against the major deflection points in gold and silver prices, you’ll find a perfect match but…as I’ve said for the last three days…the match is almost too perfect. It looks suspiciously like the same traders buying gold/silver and selling the dollar simultaneously…or doing the exact opposite…selling gold/silver and buying the dollar. There’s no lag time at all, as the inflection points in both are either simultaneous or within minutes…and the only people who would know the exact price direction of either the dollar index or the precious metals, would be those who are doing those trades at the same time.Talk about insiders gaming the system! I wish I was making their money.But, as I’ve said before, maybe I’m looking for black bears in dark rooms that aren’t there.Even though both gold and silver were up a decent amount at the open of the New York equity markets, the HUI opened flat…but began climbing from there…reaching it’s high tick a few minutes after 12 o’clock noon Eastern time. It held that level until about 1:45 p.m…and then declined a few basis points going into the close at 4:00 p.m. All in all, the gold stocks pretty much mirrored the gold price. The HUI finished up 1.74% on the day.Well, the silver shares were certainly the stars yesterday…particularly the juniors. It’s too bad that Nick Laird’s Silver Sentiment Index doesn’t reflect all that, but it still closed up a respectable 3.18%.(Click on image to enlarge)The CME’s Daily Delivery Report for Friday showed that 29 gold and 113 silver contracts were posted for delivery on Tuesday and, as has been the case all year, it was Jefferies as the short/issuer on all 113 contracts…and the Bank of Nova Scotia and JPMorgan were the long/stoppers…with 75 and 31 contracts respectively. The Issuers and Stoppers Report is worth a look…and the link is here.There were no reported changes in GLD yesterday…but an authorized participant withdrew a rather smallish 339,921 troy ounces of silver out of SLV.And, for the first time in a while, the U.S. Mint had a sales report worthy of the name. They sold 8,500 troy ounces of gold eagles…4,500 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes…and 275,000 silver eagles. Month-to-date the mint has sold 43,500 ounce of gold eagles…23,000 one-ounce 24K gold buffaloes…and 2,137,000 silver eagles.So far this month, silver eagles are up about 33% over February’s sales month…and gold eagle/buffalo sales are up 120% over the same period. I would agree with what Ted Butler had to say in one of his recent commentaries, that once this market turns to the upside with some real force behind it, we’ll see some daily sales that will make your eyes water, because the mint has probably been building up inventory over the last six weeks or so…and will be able to fill all orders regardless of size, as they won’t be constrained by current production levels.Thursday was another day of big silver inflows into the Comex-approved warehouses. They reported receiving 1,215,567 troy ounces of silver…and shipped out an insignificant 10,610 ounces. When they finally parked the forklifts on Thursday night, the five depositories held 135,850,575 ounces of silver. The link to that action is here.It suddenly dawned on me yesterday that maybe the reason that silver inventories are climbing at these warehouses is that Jefferies has been bringing in silver to meet its delivery requirements since December 1st of 2011. From then until yesterdays close, Jefferies has delivered 2,874 silver contracts on the Comex. That works out to 14.37 million ounces…447 tonnes…and that, dear reader, is a lot.The Commitment of Traders Report came in as Ted Butler expected…however I was hoping for a bigger improvement in silver, but regardless of what I thought, the improvement was pretty substantial, as the Commercial net short position declined by 3,505 contracts…or 17.5 million ounces. The Commercial net short position in silver is now down to 160.6 million ounces. That’s pretty low, but about 90 million paper ounces above its late-December absolute low.The ‘1 through 4’ largest Commercial traders are short 188.3 million ounces of silver…and the ‘5 through 8’ Commercial traders are short another 42.3 million ounces on top of that. Once you subtract all the market-neutral spread trades out of the Non-Reportable category, the ‘1 through 4’ Commercial traders/bullion banks are short a bit more than 43% of the entire Comex futures market in silver. That’s preposterous!!!For the second week in a row, it was gold that showed the biggest improvement, as the Commercial net short position declined by 25,550 contracts, or 2.56 million ounces. As of Tuesday’s cut-off, the Commercial net short position is now down to 16.6 million ounces. The ‘1 through 4’ and ‘5 through 8’ Commercial traders on the short side are short 11.4 million and 5.2 million ounces respectively. And once the market-neutral spread trades are removed, the ‘1 through 4’ Commercial traders/bullion banks are short 28.4% of the entire Comex futures market in gold. That’s equally as preposterous.Here’s Nick Laird’s up-to-date “Days of World Production to Cover Short Contract” chart that he designed at Ted Butler’s request over a decade ago. This shows all the commodities that are traded on the Comex in New York. Notice that the biggest short positions by the four largest bullion banks are in the four precious metals…and how silver stands out “Above the Crowd”…as they say over at Re/Max.(Click on image to enlarge)I got a monster e-mail from Nick Laird late last night…and thought all the charts, plus everything had to say in association with them, was worth posting….so here goes.“The gold oscillator is indicating that the latest move up by gold is a breakout.“There is good probability that gold has finished it’s decline and the next wave should be up and taking out the recent highs at $1,780.(Click on image to enlarge)“On a larger scale, the impending move up – if it is strong enough i.e.. takes out $1,800 & then $1,900 – will then trigger a massive rise out of the triangle shown in the chart below.“This is indicative of a major rise coming in gold – something strong enough to take us up to the mid $2,000’s.(Click on image to enlarge)“The first rise up off the bottom was from $1,520 to $1,790 – a rise of 270 or 17.7%. We are now down at the retest level and should move up from here so a 270 rise up from $1,640 will take us up to $1,910.“We will in all probability see a larger rise here i.e. larger than 18%.“With that rise we retest the all time highs & break through. This will trigger the breakout on the Long Term Gold Oscillator giving us the buy signal for the next leg up to $3,500.“The last major wave up took us from $700 to $1,900 in 2.5 years. This major wave up should take us from $1,500 to $3,600 in 1.5 years.“So – a rise from here up to the old highs should occur in the next leg up. This should trigger the buy signal signaling a major move up to the mid $2,000’s. A pullback and then a continued rise into the high $2,000’s – low $3,000’s.“Another pullback and then the parabolic move up to the top of the leg in mid 2013 at around $3,500. This a possible wave structure for the major rise – a major wave comprised of several sub-major waves.“That will put in a wave up that will fit in with the e-wave chart…(Click on image to enlarge)“So expectations are for a strong move up to be continued by strong moves – large runs up with minor pullbacks moving the market up over 100% from low to high i.e. from $1,500 to $3,500. If it does take on this stance then it will be affirmative of the plotted advance speculated on in the chart above.“If it doesn’t then one can suspect that we are more likely to follow Martin Armstrong’s path for gold with a soft year this year as gold gathers strength to run up from 2013 through to 2017.“At the moment I prefer my version & believe that it has good chance to play out. What the market will depend upon is any manipulation that will prevent the above scenario from playing out.“But when I look at the last 12 years I see nothing that has impeded the price and amounted to much in stopping gold’s relentless rise.“So we are fast closing in on a position that if confirmed would mean that you should be fully invested in gold & ready for the rise ahead…and I still prefer bullion over gold stocks for this move up.“I’m still looking for a major bear market in equities & believe that this will weigh heavily upon gold stocks leaving few out performers.“However if we do get this equities correction then gold stocks will become a definitive buy.“So – exciting times ahead of us. – NickFrank Barbera’s The Gold Stock Technician report for Thursday had this to say in its opening paragraph…“This report is unlike any other report we have ever written, as the list of data extremes in the Gold Stocks has grown so rapidly in the last few days, that it is almost impossible to stress how potentially major a low we could be witnessing in the mining stocks at the current time. That a violent upside reversal rally, lies dead ahead, there can be virtually no doubt. Personally, I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Gold Stocks up 150% to 200% over the next 18 months coming off the current lows. There is now historical technical evidence in spades to support the case that we are watching the final day or two of what is likely another major secular low in the group, and a bottom which could easily kick start a major bull market advance. We feel there is very good chance that today was the closing low on GDX, XAU, and HUI. In the past, readings like those now present, have systematically led to major upside advances in the sector, and we see no reason to believe that past precedent won’t repeat again. In this report, which we believe will stand as a seminal update, we summarize our views right up front, and then provide a lot of historical charts to support the case walking down the long list of individual indicators which we track each day. For some, looking at a long list of charts, can be to taxing, and that is why we cut straight to the bottom line on this first page.”This is all well and good. I’m certainly of the belief that we saw the bottom on Thursday…but how things turn out in the future is…as Nick Laird pointed out in his comments…as always, in the hands of JPMorgan et al. Supply and demand fundamentals mean nothing when you’re dealing with a managed market.And as much as the wildly bullish part of me wants to believe both Nick and Frank…the ‘born in Missouri’ part of me says “show me”. Stay tuned.Here’s a chart from a Zero Hedge article that Australian reader Wesley Legrand sent my way yesterday. It need needs no further embellishment from me…and the link to the hard copy of the story is here.(Click on image to enlarge)These last three charts were sent to me by reader Phil Barlett…and shows just how much monetary pumping at all levels is currently going on at the moment. It’s already showing up in the real inflation numbers…and certainly before the end of the year, monetary inflation will be noticeable to all…even if official government figures don’t show it.(Click on image to enlarge)(Click on image to enlarge)(Click on image to enlarge)In his latest blog, reader Scott Pluschau points out that the Commitment of Traders short/long ratio for the U.S. dollar is now greater than 10 to 1. I would suggest that his short blog is worth the read…and the link is here.Since it’s Saturday, I have a huge list of stories for you that I hope you have the time to plow through in what’s left of the weekend.A “simple” question: Is the U.S. stock market a Bubble? Have the Fed and global central bankers prolonged the U.S. Credit Bubble sufficiently to the point of having again incited Bubble dynamics within our equities market? Sure looks like it. As we’ve witnessed repeatedly for twenty-odd years now, every government bailout/policy response to a burst Bubble ends up inflating fledgling Bubbles to full-blown Bubble fruition excess. From my point of view, U.S. stocks were, at the minimum, a “fledgling” Bubble prior to recent LTRO and concerted global central bank liquidity operations. – Doug Noland, Credit Bubble Bulletin, 23 March 2012Here’s a ‘blast from the past’ that you’ll recognize instantly. I can’t remember how many times in my life I’ve danced my brains out to this 1978 disco classic. The link is here. Enjoy!And so it begins…another precious metals rally in the making…at least that’s what the talk is on the Internet right now after Thursday and Friday’s action.I, like you, would really like that to be the case. But, as I’ve said ad nauseam in this column for years…it’s all up to JPMorgan et al. Will they be the short sellers of first and last resort when this rally starts to grow some real legs? Don’t know.We’re now below the 50 and 200-day moving averages on the all the precious metals…and once prices break over that level, the game will hopefully be on. At that point we’ll find out soon enough how these rallies will end.Of course there could still be some more down-side price action, but one has to wonder just how much more blood ‘da boyz’ can get out of these precious metal stones.This column has already gone on for too long, but before I sign off, I want to remind you one more time that with the precious metals and their shares still on sale…but for how much longer, nobody knows…there’s still the opportunity to either readjust your portfolio, or get fully invested in the continuing major up-leg of this bull market in both silver and gold…and I respectfully suggest that you take a trial subscription to either Casey Research’s International Speculator [junior gold and silver exploration companies], or BIG GOLD [large producers], with all our best (and current) recommendations…as well as the archives. Don’t forget that our 90-day guarantee of satisfaction is in effect for both publications.Enjoy what’s left of your weekend…and I’ll see you in this space on Tuesday.
Of course, even newer disruptive technologies, such as 3D printing, will, over time, begin to carve into the market share of Internet retailers – so that’s another interesting area for personal and professional study. Regardless, the nature of local businesses has changed, and it’s not changing back. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent work that Alex Daley and his team at Casey BIG TECH do in keeping subscribers up to speed on the latest big developments in technology and how to profit. At just $99 a year, with a full three-month money-back guarantee, it’s truly a no-brainer. Learn more and sign up today.) Three Reasons the Case for Gold Remains Intact While it’s nice to see gold bounce off recent lows and stage a rally of late, short-term price action is of little personal concern as I don’t trade the physical metals: I own them as a long-term insurance against further currency depreciation. In that regard, however, it’s worth periodically pondering whether the base case for holding gold – or any asset, for that matter – remains intact. Here are three quick observations on why I think the gold bull is still well intact. Reason #1: Opposition to Austerity Today it was announced that EU unemployment continued to rise into record territory, up to 12.2%. As this is a region-wide stat, you can safely assume that in the poorer member countries, and especially among the young and minority groups, the rate is easily twice that number. As a consequence, the odds of the EU adopting widespread austerity – i.e., significantly pulling back government spending – is just not going to happen. Supporting that contention was an article out of the Financial Times today, titled “EU eases hard line on austerity.” And I quote… “Brussels will on Wednesday give its clearest signal yet that it is moving away from a crisis response based on austerity, allowing three of the EU’s five largest economies to overshoot budget deficit limits and pushing instead for broader reform.” Likewise, looking forward to the near future here in the United States, as our own Bud Conrad did in the current edition of The Casey Report, shows that rather than moving into a period of easing demand on government expenditures, the aging baby boom bubble is about to greatly exacerbate the problem. On the other side of the podium, we witness social proof in action – the deep-seated human trait of unquestioningly modifying behavior in order to stay in sync with the actions of others around us. Which is to say that because we see everyone else going along like sheep, we go along too. Otherwise we might have answered Jabba’s ridiculous questions with something along the lines of, “Look moron, if you can’t read the identification card in your hand that confirms my name, or the ticket that confirms my destination, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.” But we don’t do that, because no one else is doing it. And sadly, if we did, then Jabba would press a button on his podium, and we’d fall into the Pit of Rancor (or whatever the equivalent is in today’s militarized Homeland Security system). I mention all of this because this scenario – and the underlying forces at work – when considered on the larger stage of the US, are equally evident. You have a bloated government degraded by its power, choking on its own neck fat (debt), foisting ridiculous and ineffective regulations and policies on a spineless public who has been trained through media and overt intimidation to toe the line, or else. Just as the TSA agent felt comfortable loudly joking about lording it over the passengers unfortunate to be in his queue, the US government feels comfortable ignoring principles, morals, and ethics that, until recently, pretty much defined the national character. And why not? Anyone brave enough to “see something and say something” – at least as far as government overreach is concerned – will, as the recent IRS and AP cases demonstrate, quickly find a target painted on their back. And so it was that we shuffled through the final security lines and onto our plane back to Vermont. The War on Bitcoin When I first read the government inquisitor’s comments on Liberty Reserve, my initial impression was that they were referring to Bitcoin. That’s because the terms used in describing the federal indictment for Liberty Reserve’s purported crimes read as if lifted from a Bitcoin sales brochure. Simply, the crux of the complaint is that the transactions through Liberty Reserve were designed to be outside of the central banking system and anonymous, and so were conducive to the laundering of money. It seems hard to argue that government prosecutors, in their attack on Liberty Reserve, were taking great pains to frame the argument for going after Bitcoin next. The champions of Bitcoin immediately rallied behind the BC flag, touting the fact that unlike the operators of Liberty Reserve, Bitcoin is a massively distributed system with no obvious individuals readily available for perp-walking. Now, I know I will sway no one with my comments – Bitcoin has that sort of dedicated followers – but, in my opinion, having laid hands on the people behind Liberty Reserve, the governments will now publicly crush their bones as part of deterring the average person from wanting anything to do with Bitcoin, or, for that matter, any other non-sanctioned e-currency. Moreover, I suspect it is the first shot in a wider campaign to scare away heretofore vocal and visible champions of Bitcoin, the “thought leaders” that have been so helpful in Bitcoin gaining market share. Is publically advocating the use of Bitcoin the equivalent of publically advocating a money laundering service? Could such an advocacy result in your arrest and confinement? Don’t know… maybe you’d like to push the outer edge of the envelope and find out? (Do criminal defense lawyers accept bitcoins? You could find that out, too.) Regardless, I think it is as certain as certain can be that the government is preparing to wage war on Bitcoin – and that will scare off merchants who accept Bitcoin, or who were contemplating it. While individuals may be able to fly below the radar, merchants who need to advertise their willingness to deal in bitcoins offer up a fixed target. Okay, I suppose you could get away with it on Silk Road, but for demand for Bitcoin to grow – very definitely a driver of its value – it needs distribution. With regular folks and merchants alike deciding the risk is not worth the possible reward of dealing in BC, demand and prices will be capped. While it’s hard to tell how Bitcoin will ultimately fare… I think the right questions we as possible consumers of the e-currency have to ask is, (a) whether its value is intrinsically linked to its ability to operate in the open, and (b) whether it can withstand a full-on government assault. And never for a minute lose sight of the fact that the government defines the rules. If your permanent government file might be amended to flag you as a possible anti-government revolutionary solely for visiting a Bitcoin-related website, would you take the risk? Though I certainly appreciate the effort to launch an alternative, anonymous currency – I see Bitcoin as V.1. in that regard and very much susceptible to being mugged by the monetary mafia running this joint. Maybe I would buy some solely for entertainment purposes, but for anything resembling real money, I’ll take things more tangible. The Changing Face of Main Street Living in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Argentina very much changes one’s priorities. In my opinion, for the better. For instance, given the lack of big stores and easy access to consumer goods, you quickly come to understand what you actually need to live a good life… fresh food, basic transportation, good friends, and, as a real luxury, domestic help. In the US, by contrast, it is easy to become convinced that a fulfilled life requires the latest in an unceasing river of electronic gadgets, fancy cars, etc., etc. Case in point, I deliberately only took a small wardrobe to Cafayate – a handful of shirts, a couple of jeans, underwear, socks, etc. As the place is very informal, as there’s no need for cold-weather gear, and as we have a maid that washes five days a week, there’s never a risk of running short of anything. Only on returning to the States did it dawn on me just how much “stuff” we have accumulated over the years, starting with a large closet overflowing with clothes for every occasion… much of which I almost never wear. Then there are the toys and electronic gadgets and other clutter, each piece of which I had become convinced at one point or another that I simply had to own – but now that I do, for the life of me I can’t remember why. But that’s sort of the point. In the US, especially, exceptional marketers are supported by technology that makes shopping ridiculously easy. Thus, once you become convinced you simply must own something, the thing almost falls into your lap. That is very much not the case in a small town in Argentina or, for that matter, thanks to the anti-trade stance of government there, in the big city either. Yet, yesterday, needing a new headset for my computer (I left mine in Argentina), I stopped in at three local retail stores of the sort that would typically be expected to carry headsets and was surprised that not only they didn’t carry them, but that their inventory of anything at all was positively skeletal. In each case, the clerk apologized and offered to order it for delivery later in the week. Given that I am entirely capable of logging onto Amazon and choosing from a seemingly limitless array of headsets, I politely declined and, on returning home, did just that – ultimately selecting a pair from over 63,000 offerings with the help of a convenient rating and review system. As a result of this experience, I was reminded that the very nature of commerce in the US has gone through a profound shift over the last decade. No longer can mom and pop hope to set up shop on Main Street and successfully sell anything other than items appealing to instant gratification (ice cream, prepared food, candy bars, wine, etc.), or services related to existing goods (dry cleaning, car repair), or services related to navigating the complex society (accounting, legal). Pretty much everything else falls under the purview of the online merchants or the mega-box stores that can afford to carry a big enough inventory of reasonably priced products to compete with the online sellers. In time, even the big-box stores won’t be able to compete with infinity, however. Interestingly, though, online sales are still only about 5% of total retail sales in the US. This despite the latest surveys that show that, across all demographic groups, about 41% of the public prefer shopping online. Which, of course, means that 59% of the people prefer to do their shopping in stores. To me this feels like the sort of crossroads that must have arisen during the early adoption of the “horseless carriage”… when a majority of people, when asked, would have sworn by old Betsy and vowed to never change. It feels like opportunity to me, as the creative destruction of the Internet moves inexorably forward. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before widespread changes in the tax structure stop giving the online retailers a tax advantage over local merchants, but all that will accomplish is to cause consumer prices to rise. That still cannot address the distributed merchandising model such as used by Amazon that means if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, one of their tens of thousands of affiliated merchants will. Young people in America face the real challenge of finding a way to succeed in an economy on the downslope, where government regulations and labor-related costs make employees a liability and not an asset. I think Internet retailing is one of the few real bright spots, convinced as I am that it is still in its infancy. Dear Reader, When last I wrote, it was from my favorite place in the world, Cafayate, Argentina, as I prepared to return to the United States for the Northern Hemisphere summer. Leaving off, I was positively brimming with the health and vigor of life lived large in the big-sky country of the Argentine outback. Unfortunately, immediately upon arriving back in the US, I was laid low by a high fever, exacerbated by a week-long absence of the sun, and topped off with a spell of freezing temperatures and even snow… this at the end of May! Today, a week and a bit later, I’m mostly recovered though still periodically hacking like a TB patient. Other than a single afternoon, the sun has put in sporadic appearances, and the forecast for the next three days is more of the same. Ugh. Given the backlog of work that has built up during the transition back north, compounded by the unexpected bed rest, I don’t think I’ll get stuck in any particularly long or complicated themes today, but instead plan on sharing some briefer observations that have come to mind since my return. Human Nature One of the advantages of flying into the US via Asunción is that relatively few Americans traveling to the Southern Cone include Paraguay on their itinerary. I’m not sure why, but when mentioning my tangential affection for Paraguay to an American, I invariably get the same sort of look I imagine would be given on announcing I enjoy vacationing in the rougher parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Regardless, unlike traveling from Buenos Aires, which is hugely popular among Americans, a US citizen arriving at JFK airport from Asunción has the “US Citizens Only” line pretty much to themselves. While it is irksome to have any institutionalized interference in one’s travels, in fairness, the processing back into the US as a citizen is mostly painless, a quick question or two followed by a “Welcome back.” Thus welcomed, we had to gather our bags, change terminals, and recheck in for the continuing flight to Burlington, Vermont, the nearest big city to our home here. As the bags took a surprisingly long time to spew forth onto the luggage carousel, the leisurely connection time we had allowed for was greatly diminished, resulting in something of a scramble in order to make our connecting flight. Thanks to the AirTrain at JFK, once we had bags in hand, we made solid progress before once again getting hung up in the “baggage drop” process at JetBlue where the line was both long and slow. In Argentina I have become comfortable with patiently waiting in lines; however, back in the Land of the Efficient, I found my stress level rising thanks to the uncaring inefficiency. To wit, even though the line was well backed up, the airline had only two people working the counter, and one of those was tied up with a problem case (there’s always at least one). Thus what should have been a quick and painless operation dragged out for the better part of thirty minutes. Finally, with our flight time rapidly approaching, it was time to run the security gauntlet, stepping into a rope chute leading, side by side with another chute, to a podium whence a TSA operative was charged with checking the tickets and credentials of passengers. While one should give credence to differences in metabolic functioning – people process body fat more or less efficiently, leaving some people effortlessly thin while others have to fight a constant fight against weight – the only conclusion one could reasonably draw in the case of this particular TSA security officer was that he had long ago given up any pretense of dietary restraint or physical activity more strenuous than lifting cupcakes to his lips. As a result, rather than sitting in his high chair at the podium, he pretty much enveloped it with unflattering rolls of body fat cascading droopily over the side of his belt and dangling, jiggling, to the level of his seat. The idea that this was “America’s first line of defense” would have been somewhat funny if we hadn’t been in such a hurry and hadn’t known that to proceed, we first had to bow and scrape to his satisfaction. Even so, I’m a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy, especially when it comes to getting along to my flight, so I waited patiently for my turn at the podium. Which gave me about ten minutes in relatively close quarters to watch this first responder in his dealings with the public. Encouraged by the presence of a bland-countenanced female TSA officer who was standing nearby in order to observe him, I guess as a trainee, the human roadblock cavalierly split his attention between her and the two streams of passengers, one on his right and one on his left, that met up at his podium. The conversation went something like this… Jabba the TSAHutt (turning to his female trainee, but loud enough for us wannabe passengers to hear): “Oh, sometimes I get in a devilish mood, like now. So I ask people annoying questions such as…” (turning to the nondescript woman waiting on the right side of the line, taking her ticket and ID in hand and examining it)… “So, what’s your name?” Waits for her to answer, “And where are you going today?” That he already has the information directly at hand is part of the joke, which he acknowledges by turning back to the female trainee and winks, “See?” Moving at the speed of a slow glacier, he dragged the farce out for all it was worth, constantly pausing to make quips to the trainee, then leisurely turning back to ask the travelers similarly ludicrous questions, pausing every minute or so to stop a line and command people to step back away from the podium – even though if anyone encroached on some invisible line, it was by an inch or two as far as I could see. But he was having a grand old time, yakking it up with the emotionless TSA trainee (if she was getting the humor, she wasn’t showing it, but that didn’t seem to register with him), and treating the public like slow-witted children. I vividly recall the expression of a distinguished older couple in their seventies as they made their way slowly towards the TSA joke… er, joker. Written across their faces were a litany of emotions from anger and thinly disguised disdain to embarrassment that America had come to this. The husband visibly gritted his teeth when Jabba shoved a mitt in front of his wife’s face when she, too, came too close to the imaginary line separating the public from his official podium and said in his best imitation of a real cop, “Back away from the podium!” Finally, mercifully, it was our turn, which meant we might still make our flight. Like everyone else, I had to reply to his nonsense questions that had nothing to do with anything, then stand by while he similarly grilled my children. “What’s your name? Where are you traveling? Are these your parents? How old are you?” Then it was on to the backscatter X-ray machines, assuming the humiliating hands-over-the-head position, leaving us with only a couple of minutes to spare to make our already boarding flight. Now, I mention all of this not just to gripe about how degraded the travel experience in America has become – and it’s nothing like this anywhere else I have traveled in the last decade – but as a lead-up to a quick comment or two about human nature. You see, while the whole “show” was grating, the TSA officer was acting entirely in sync with human nature. For starters, he was showing off to a member of the opposite sex. Hasn’t that been a primary driving factor behind the actions of men since time immemorial? In addition, he was clearly imbued with the power that members of America’s security apparatus find so attractive. Everyone likes power, but for a person who has let themselves personally degrade to the point where he’s just a couple of Sloppy Joes away from drowning in his own neck fat, the TSA is pretty much the only job in the world that he can hold down with minimal effort and that offers power as a perk. But the psychological aspects run deeper than just that, because in the same way that white trash attempts to boost their ego by looking down their nose at Mexicans or blacks – this particularly poor specimen of humanity is able to find some modicum of self-respect in harassing and humiliating others, and being able to do so without fear of blowback. And thanks to the stultifying and downright stupid policies of the Fed, hand in glove with the government, over the last couple of decades, the aging population has been left horribly unprepared for their retirement, and hugely at risk to the next leg down. This from the Washington Post today… From the peak of the boom to the bottom of the bust, households watched a total of $16 trillion in wealth disappear amid sinking stock prices and the rubble of the real estate market. Since then, Americans have only been able to recapture 45 percent of that amount on average, after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to the report from the St. Louis Fed released Thursday. In addition, the report showed most of the improvement was due to gains in the stock market, which primarily benefit wealthy families. That means the recovery for other households has been even weaker. “A conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified,” the report stated. And this… The Fed is spending $85 billion a month to lower long-term interest rates and stimulate the economy. It has also kept short-term interest rates to near zero. That has helped push stock markets to record highs, while home prices have jumped by the most in seven years. Consumer confidence is at its highest point since February 2008. Officials hope those factors will eventually result in more consumer spending power. Here’s the full article. So, in essence, the stock market, which the Post actually conflates with the economy, is being propped up by the Fed… as is the housing market. So, riddle me this, what happens when the Fed stops spending $85 billion a month? The answer is as clear as it is obvious. The Fed can’t stop QE, or if it does, it can’t stop it for long. This effectively leaves only one option to government policy makers – competitive currency devaluations of the sort that Japan is now pursuing. This despite the clear implications to the future of the fiat currencies. I thought the following, from Bloomberg earlier this week, pretty much says all that needs to be said on the situation… Koichi Hamada, an economic adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told South Korea to adjust its own monetary policies if officials are concerned at the effects of a yen weakened by unprecedented easing. “Each country can take care of itself through its own monetary policy,” Hamada, 77, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. South Korean officials “shouldn’t blame the Japanese central bank, they should demand the Korean central bank have a proper monetary policy,” he said. South Korean exporters such as Hyundai Motor Co. stand to lose ground to Japanese rivals because of the yen’s 20 percent slide against the dollar in the past six months. The currency’s decline is adding to the risk of deteriorating relations between the nations, after South Korean Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok said last month that the weak yen is a bigger economic risk than North Korean threats. In other words, it’s every country for itself. Buy gold with confidence. Reason #2: Declining Global Gold Production