25 October 2016

Gold Daily and Silver Weekly Charts - Dollar Looking Toppy - Hell Freezes Over

The US dollar popped a bit higher today but then gave it all back in the afternoon.

That helped the precious metals denominated in the buckeroo a bit.

Gold managed to stick a close over 1270.  Another 20 points or so higher would be better still.

Silver was tagging along for the ride.   This is not a particularly active month for silver.

There was another disgorgement of their house gold position by Macquarie yesterday.  I have not gone back and added them all up, both the buys and the sells, but it looks from an eyeball estimate that they have been getting beaten up over that very public position they had taken, and have already given the greater part of it back.

Don't play poker against the house on their own table, and especially when they make you play with all your cards exposed, while they deal themselves from the bottom of the deck into a well hidden hand.

Have a pleasant evening.

SP 500 and NDX Futures Daily Charts - Waiting For APPL

Stocks were weak today, and mostly ending lower led down by consumer discretionary earnings reports.

Speaking of which, Pandora had a sloppy miss after the bell.

All the world waits for Apple. If it is notable I will update.

The American consumer is an endangered species due to over-harvesting by the pigmen.

Have a pleasant evening.

Christian Humanism: Love Is the Meaning and the Measure

“We are slow to master the great truth that even now Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by His hand, or eye, or voice, bidding us to follow Him. We do not understand that His call is a thing that takes place now. We think it took place in the Apostles' days, but we do not believe in it; we do not look for it in our own case.

God's presence is not discerned at the time when it is upon us, but afterwards, when we look back upon what is gone and over. The world seems to go on as usual. There is nothing of heaven in the face of society, in the news of the day.

And yet the ever-blessed Spirit of God is there, ten times more glorious, more powerful than when He trod the earth in our flesh."

John Henry Newman

People sometimes ask me, 'what exactly is this 'Christian humanism' which you talk about?'

It is what Jacques Maritain called a humanisme intégral.

It is to consider carefully, to mediate on, and then fully give oneself over to a continuing contemplation and observance of the deepest of all mysteries:  the awesome reality,  the immanent presence—  the implications of the Incarnation.

It is to understand the ennobling of the human condition in an overwhelming and all-renewing Divine love, not absent, or distant, or once upon a time, or waiting for us elesewhere, but even and ever here among us,  in this very moment, and acting on it.

If we have all other virtues and gifts and knowledge but not love, we are just a bunch of noise, hollow, spiritually inanimate, nothing, ready to blow away in the wind, a 'resounding gong or a clanging cymbal'. Love is faith alive and in motion; living love.

It is for the person to fully and continually immerse themselves in the love of their Creator, and to thereafter embrace Him and love Him, not in some purposeless and unproductive abstraction that bears no fruit, but by loving and upholding Him in all of His creation, and in His creatures as He made them.

Love is the meaning and the measure of our being, of being truly and completely human.

'Amen amen I say to you, whatever you did to even the least of these, you did to me.'

Because He is no absent God.  We can shut our eyes and our hearts to Him, but we cannot escape His presence.  We can see it if we but look for it in His way, not ours.  We can measure it if we use His measures, not ours.  And it permeates us, it gives us life both now and for always if we will have it, whether we realize it or not.  He is no absent God.

Love Is The Measure

Summary:  In the face of a world in turmoil–atom bomb tests, food shortages, impending strikes, destitution–an exhortation to “love as Christ loved, to the extent of laying down our lives for our brothers.”  This tells of a priest whose work made him “a perfect fool for Christ.” And says “we confess to being fools for Christ, and wish we were more so.” (DDLW #425).

We confess to being fools and wish that we were more so. In the face of the approaching atom bomb test and the discussion of widespread radioactivity is giving people more and more of an excuse to get away from the philosophy of personalism and the doctrine of free will; in the face of an approaching maritime strike; in the face of bread shortages and housing shortages; in the face of the passing of the draft extension, teen-agers included, we face the situation that there is nothing we can do for people except to love them.

If the maritime strike goes on there will be no shipping of food or medicine or clothes to Europe or the far east, so there is nothing to do again but to love. We continue in our fourteenth year of feeding our brother and clothing him and sheltering him and the more we do it the more we realize that the most important thing is to love.

There are several families with us, destitute families, destitute to an unbelievable extent and there, too, is nothing to do but to love. What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation, no chance, so far as we see, of changing them; certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them, and who wants them adjusted anyway?

What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute–the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor in other words, we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.

We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God– please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.

This is the month of the Sacred Heart, the symbol of Christ’s love for man. We are supposed to love as Christ loved, to the extent of laying down our lives for our brothers. That was the New commandment. To love to the extent of laying down our lives, dying to ourselves. To accept the least place, to sit back, to ask nothing for ourselves, to serve each other, to lay down our lives for our brothers, this is the strange upside-down teaching of the Gospel.

We knew a priest once, a most lovable soul, and a perfect fool for Christ. Many of his fellow priests laughed at him and said, “Why, he lines up even the insane and baptizes them. He has no judgment!” He used to visit the Negro hospital in St. Louis, and night and day found him wandering through the wards. One old Negro said to me, “Whenever I opens my eyes, there is Father!” He was forever hovering over his children to dispense the sacraments. It was all he had to give.

He couldn’t change the rickety old hospital, he couldn’t provide them with decent housing, he could not see that they got better jobs. He couldn’t even seem to do much about making them give up liquor and women and gambling–but he could love them, and love them all, he did. And he gave them Everything he had. He gave them Christ. Some of his friends used to add, “whether they wanted Him or not!”

But assuredly they wanted his love and they saw Christ in him when they saw his love for them. Many times I have been reminded of this old priest of St. Louis, this old Jesuit, when I have visited prisons and hospitals for the insane. It’s hard to visit the chaplains and ask their help very often. They have thousands to take care of, and too often they take the view that “it’s no use.” “What’s the use of going to that ward–or to that jail? They won’t listen to you.”

If one loves enough one is importunate, one repeats his love as he repeats his Hail Marys on his rosary.

Yes, we go on talking about love. St. Paul writes about it in 1 Corinthians 13.  In The Following of Christ there is a chapter in Book III, Chapter Five. And there are Father Zossima’s unforgettable words in The Brothers Karamazov–  “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”

What does the modern world know of love, with its divorces, with its light touching of the surface of love. It has never reached down into the depths, to the misery and pain and glory of love which endures to death and beyond it. We have not yet begun to learn about love. Now is the time to begin, to start afresh, to use this divine weapon.

Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, June 1946

24 October 2016

Charts For a Monday Evening - New Car Time - Is it Safe?

You may recognize part of tonight's title from the movie, Marathon Man.

It is just charts this evening.  And a personal observation.

I ran into an unexpected car problem that occupied quite a bit of time on Thursday, Friday, and today.   I took the queen out on a nice Autumn day for some test drives and tapped the rainy day fund for a new car purchase.  It really had not been planned.

In case you happen to own an older Ford Escape, or a Mazda Tribute, be aware that it may have a potentially dangerous mechanical condition that you may not yet fully understand.

Ford has put a literal 'band-aid' on a serious steering problem for some of the affected model years with a recall for 2001-2004 Escapes.  But some of the years after that apparently have the same problem and same component based on internet owner forums I have read and videos I have seen over the weekend.  Ford says they can buy the same band-aid for $90 if their cars are not covered by the recall.  But it is still just a band-aid.

The recall does not fix the problem, except in a Clinton-esque definition of fixed. It just theoretically gives you enough steering control to pull the car over to the side of the road after the subframe fails, ideally without a fatal loss of steering.   But after that it is not safe to drive.

Ford dealers seems to agree, and will only take the car in trade for $500, and will send it to a wholesale auction to junk it.  I cannot really blame them.  The car is not safe to drive.  And fixing the problem with genuine Ford parts is prohibitively expensive.

In order to truly fix the car one must have a replacement for the subframe and lower steering component for which a Ford dealer must charge about $5,400, of which only about $700 is labor from the dealer.  Ford corporate seems to have priced the parts for this repair at about 3 time the comparable market price based on an internet survey I made of other new parts providers for the same part number and also for very similar components for other vehicles.  Nice touch.  I thought only Wall Street knew how to really rip a customer's face off.

You might be able to get this done by a local mechanic if you can obtain a good part yourself either new or used, preferably from a Southern junkyard, for about $1700, or less if you have a full garage and can do it all yourself.  The subframe also cradles the engine and is not a casual repair by any means.  I hear it takes 6 to 10 hours depending on your experience and available equipment.

I found out that the car was not road safe from a local mechanic who was changing the oil and happened to notice that the frame had separated and the steering control was compromised and could fail anytime.   I took it to the dealer and they confirmed that it was unsafe to drive.

Corporate Ford responds to this by saying that the recall had been performed in accord with the government NHTSA and will absolutely not do anything else, at all.  I like the dealership quite a bit and have bought three cars from them, but their hands are tied.  Without saying anything they were obviously ashamed.

The dealer performed this recall in 2014 and at the time it was still 'safe' but no one ever mentioned that it was not really 'fixed' and would eventually fail.  I guess safety is a state of mind when you get to define it.

I maintain my cars well, and drive them in some challenging situations like the bridges around NYC in heavy traffic and the BQE in rush hour.  I shudder to think of how I might have discovered this cheap definition of 'safety.'

The recommended solution for my car, which is very similar to the one in the first video, is to junk it with under 100,000 miles, or spend more than it is worth to properly repair it.  It has no other known problems.  It was one of my favorite cars and I tried to take good care of it.

A long time observer of the automotive industry called this 'the worst recall I have ever seen.'  Thank you Obama administration's Department of Transportation.  Good job guys.

And so today I went out and bought one of the three medium priced car lines that my mechanic friend said are easier to repair and of better quality based on his years of experience:   Toyota, Honda, and Subaru.

This is what happens when trust in a business-customer relationship has been abused beyond reason.  As far as I am concerned that company put my family at risk for a few hundred dollars in extra profit.

This has been my own personal experience.  Your own may certainly be different.  But it is good to be aware of these things.  And the media seems to be at best asleep, cutting back severely on real reporting, or at worst very selective about what it chooses to inform us about these days.

One can make a case that American companies had lost sight of the need for quality in their products through complacency and bad practices way back when.  But they certainly learned that lesson in the 1990's, or at least had discovered how to do it.  And many companies did.

Now, if major companies falter from quality, it is not because they do not understand how to do it.  No, it is because choose to do it.   Short term greed and and executive arrogance can provide a breeding ground for foolish institutional decisions, almost carelessly but nonetheless consciously. This most often comes from the top down, from those who are aloof from the actual business and see only the current quarter's numbers, but do not understand their own companies or their customers.

Could we have any better examples of this breakdown in corporate ethics and good governance than in the banking and pharmaceutical sectors?

There is a price, a set of consequences to be paid— always.  And it takes a very brave manager to stand up to that sort of group thinking in the executive suite.

As for the government, well, I think we all know by now what the problem is there, and have seen the bad behavior and very bad example that they are providing for so many.    Ignore the spin and the optics, and follow the money, and you will see very well where it leads. It may be ugly, but it is not all that complicated.  You just do not yet know what to do about it.

Have a pleasant evening.

23 October 2016

US Government Aggressively Clawing Back Its Own Soldiers Enlistment Bonuses Given In Time of War

A rational person might ask, why is the US government aggressively going after the soldiers themselves, who accepted a bonus to re-enlist and actually served again in a war, putting themselves in harm's way, in good faith?

If there was active collusion to defraud it should be prosecuted, but if not, why make the soldiers pay the price?

If there is a problem why are they not addressing it with the local government officials who may have offered the bonuses in error to achieve the ends demanded by the powers that be in Washington?

It is because the soldiers, who faithfully served their country and kept their end of the deal, are the most vulnerable. They are individually weak, and not equipped to lawyer up and fight back against legalistic injustice.

Does the US government really need the money from those soldiers? The bonuses obviously mean a lot to their lives and those of their families, but is just a drop in the bucket to the technocratic war machine.

It is because they can. When the going gets tough, the amoral pervert justice and go after the weak and the disabled and 'the other.'

You might be further tempted to wonder why the government does almost nothing to hold the perpetrators of all these massive financial frauds and corporate healthcare abuses we have been seeing for the past twenty year accountable in the same aggressive way, when it might be much more justifiable to do so?

Good question.

But it assumes that the powerful politicians in the government are inclined to watch out for you and your rights against the abuses of the powerful.

That founding principle of our government almost sounds quaint now, having gone by the wayside after decades of programs designed to make the weak seem like parasites, and honest working people to be fools who deserve whatever they get, as long as the self-proclaimed 'most deserving' get the most of it.

Don't worry, such a question will never come up in all these political discussion having to do with cults of personalities, snarky remarks, and naughty diversions, while the real problems of the people are ignored.

The powerful are caught up in a credibility trap.  They cannot even admit what is wrong, because they are being so personally enriched by it.

Have you ever noticed how politicians who have been in the circles of power for years will either react to a questioning of the system as some act of pernicious disloyalty, or at best, speak about the very system in which they play a major role as something in which they are not even involved?

That is known as the 'CEO defense.'  Yes I was very well paid and given significant power and responsibility for running things, but honestly, I barely knew what was going on all around me.  

We will be seeing much more of this as time goes forward. The privileged few have an institutionally warped perspective, little sense of justice, and certainly no shame in pursuit of what they want.

It is a hallmark of a corporatized system drunk with power and arrogantly audacious, where the citizens and customers are prey for the new class of the elite who go to the same schools and share the same social rituals, world views, and class forms of language.   And you have to observe certain public niceties, certain tokens of allegiance, to retain access to their exclusive circles of power.

And if you don't like it, too bad, because those who can lawyer up the most and exercise the greatest political connections make the rules as they wish.

What is truth? Whatever they and their enablers and stooges say that it is.

How far will they go?   As far as they can.

This is what happens when a ruling elite rises up that views themselves and those 'like them' as entitled by their power to consider everyone else as things, items on a balance sheet, to be used and then discarded when they are done with them.

I can feel the moral arc of justice starting to bend low under these continuing abuses of power. And history has shown that there will be consequences.

But it might be too much to expect the changes to come from within the self-anointed ruling class.  They will view every crisis as just another opportunity to get more of what they really want: money and power for themselves.

Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war
David S. Cloud

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

But soldiers say the military is reneging on 10-year-old agreements and imposing severe financial hardship on veterans whose only mistake was to accept bonuses offered when the Pentagon needed to fill the ranks...

'These bonuses were used to keep people in,' said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran from Manteca, Calif., who says he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the Army says he should not have received. 'People like me just got screwed.'

In Iraq, Van Meter was thrown from an armored vehicle turret — and later awarded a Purple Heart for his combat injuries — after the vehicle detonated a buried roadside bomb.

Susan Haley, a Los Angeles native and former Army master sergeant who deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, said she sends the Pentagon $650 a month — a quarter of her family’s income — to pay down $20,500 in bonuses that the Guard says were given to her improperly.

'I feel totally betrayed,' said Haley, 47, who served 26 years in the Army along with her husband and oldest son, a medic who lost a leg in combat in Afghanistan.

Haley, who now lives in Kempner, Texas, worries they may have to sell their house to repay the bonuses. 'They’ll get their money, but I want those years back,' she said, referring to her six-year reenlistment...

Read the entire story here.

21 October 2016

Gold Daily and Silver Weekly Charts - All For One, And None For You

"But there is a sort of  'Ok guys, you're mad, but how are you going to stop me' mentality at the top."

Robert Johnson, Audacious Oligarchy

The US dollar continued powering higher today, which is not good at all for the real economy but certainly serves the global purposes of the financial class.

Gold and silver held their own against this, and a continuing decline in stock market volatility as measured by the VIX.

The deliveries were notable only for gold, as Macquarie continued to offer up their house account gold claim checks position, taken up largely by the bullion bank Nova Scotia and the 'mystery customer' at JPM.

Macquarie certainly painted a big target on their back with that position taken on the Comex.  If I were of a mind to acquire gold I probably would not do it at that venue, even for a trading position.  But that's just my opinion, and I could be wrong.

The last two days were taken up with my exploration of the mysterious ways of the US car makers.  They are not quite at outrageous as the financial and health sectors, but they are working on it.  It seems as though we are entering some phase of peak corporatism from the oligarchy grown increasingly audacious.

The punters are betting that Hillary will be the next President, and the media has certainly come to bury Trump.  I am mulling over what that might mean for investment strategies.   She certainly 'knows the ropes,' but the big issue is what are her priorities?  Mussolini made the trains run on time, but he was truly a swine for all intents and purposes, more than most people realize.

I don't like to assume the worst, and like to give a new President at least a month or so to tip their hand with their appointments, especially in the economic and financial areas, but it seems that recently assuming the worst has not been that bad of a bet if you are not in the ruling elite.

Have a pleasant weekend.