Having admitted to entirely 'cooking the books' with its jobs data, it appears Australian authorities are going full kitchen-sink and 'allowing' all the dismally honest data out to the market (we assume in some desperate PR need to justify their next monetary policy experiment). Building Approvals fell 7.5% MoM in January, crashing 15.5% YoY (5 standard deviations below expectations) – the biggest drop since April 2012 (and the 3rd month in a row of declines).
This was below the lowest economist's estimate and was in fact a 5-sigma miss…
So why come clean now about the state of the housing bubble? As we noted when RBA admitted its fudged jobs data,
Simple: weakness in commodity prices "is far greater than people had been expecting,” Fraser said in earlier remarks to the panel. Australia is now "swimming against the tide" because of uncertainties in the global economy, he added.
Translation: "we need more easing, and to do that, the economy has to go from strong to crap."
And with the Australian economy suddenly desperate for lower rates from the RBA, one can ignore the propaganda lies, and focus once again on the far uglier truth.
Relatives are claiming details about the police shooting and killing of 24-year-old father of two Akiel Denkins that are damning to the police, including that Denkins was shot in the back while fleeing.
“I heard somebody say, ‘Stop, stop,’ then I heard, like, six shots,” Rodriguez said. “Then I heard the screams. Man, it was loud.”
The story also states the current outstanding warrant was for not showing up in court on an October cocaine possession with intent to distribute arrest.
The police so far are releasing few details, except that a gun was found “in close proximity to” Denkins’ corpse. They have so far said nothing about the gun being aimed or the officer feeling threatened, but then again they’ve said very little at all.
Somewhat ironically, as per this statement from the state branch of the ACLU, the Raleigh City Council was scheduled to discuss getting their police fitted with body cameras of the sort that can at least help settle the argued facts in situations like that—if not always make things better for police, or aggrieved citizens. According to that ACLU statement, rather than hitting the topic with added vigor, the Council chose to avoid it after the Denkins shooting.
We have a new wrinkle in the encryption fight between Apple and the FBI. In a drug case, a magistrate judge in New York’s Eastern District has ruled that Apple does not need to assist the feds in unlocking a person’s phone and that the All Writs Act does not extend to such a demand. From The New York Times:
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in New York’s Eastern District said in a ruling on Monday that the United States government couldn’t use a law called the All Writs Act to force Apple to hack into an iPhone that was seized in connection with a drug case. The government overstepped what the All Writs Act was intended for, the judge wrote.
“After reviewing the facts in the record and the parties’ arguments, I conclude that none of those factors justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will,” Judge Orenstein wrote. “I therefore deny the motion.”
The All Writs Act is the 1789 federal law that allows the courts to compel people and companies to assist in dealing with a legal matter, as long as it is not unduly burdensome, is not covered by current statutes, and the company involved is directly connected to the legal matter.
Apple has argued that invoking the All Writs Act is overreach. The government cannot force the company to actually create code to assist in the decryption of phone security. The judge here seems inclined to agree. The full order can be read here. It’s remarkably technically detailed, but one concern that I draw from the ruling is that the government essentially argued that All Writs Act can be used to order anybody to do anything on behalf of pursuing a legal case unless Congress passed a statute or regulation forbidding them from doing so or otherwise established rules. In short, because federal law didn’t explicitly say the Department of Justice could not order Apple to assist, that meant that they could. The judge was not fond of that argument:
If, for example the President sent to Congress a bill explicitly authorizing a court to issue the kind of order the government seeks here, and if every single member of the House and Senate were to vote against the enactment of such a law citing the kinds of data security and personal privacy concerns that Apple now embraces, the government would nevertheless describe the order sought here as permissible because Congress had merely rejected the bill – however emphatically, and however clear its reasons for doing so – rather than affirmatively passing legislation to prohibit the executive branch’s proposal. Yet in such circumstances, it would be absurd to posit that the authority the government sought was anything other than obnoxious to the law.
An even starker illustration of the absurdity the government’s construction produces is that it does not allow a court to deem an action beyond the AWA’s reach even if it is an exercise of authority that had formerly been available under a statute that Congress elected to repeal because it was persuaded on policy grounds to retract such authority from the executive. Thus, for example, if communications service providers were to persuade Congress that CALEA had imposed unreasonable burdens on them that threatened their ability to remain in business, Congress could make the choice to repeal that law – thereby removing the statutory obligation to provide certain types of assistance to law enforcement. And yet in the absence of a statute affirmatively prohibiting the government from requiring a company to provide such assistance, the government would read the AWA to nevertheless allow a court to order those same companies to provide precisely the same assistance to law enforcement that Congress had decided no longer to compel.
In fact, the judge determined that if he were to accept the government’s argument here, it would potentially render the All Writs Act unconstitutional as it hands over power (to create laws and determine their limits) from the legislative branch to the judicial branch.
Tomorrow the fight will head over to Congress. Both Apple and the FBI will be making their cases to the House Judiciary Committee.
Don’t know why you should care about this fight? Read here.
The FBI tells us that its demand for a back door into the iPhone is all about fighting terrorism, and that it is essential to break in just this one time to find out more about the San Bernardino attack last December. But the truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack.
Apple has so far stood up to a federal government's demand that it force its employees to write a computer program to break into its own product. No doubt Apple CEO Tim Cook understands the damage it would do to his company for the world to know that the US government has a key to supposedly secure iPhones. But the principles at stake are even higher. We have a fundamental right to privacy. We have a fundamental right to go about our daily life without the threat of government surveillance of our activities. We are not East Germany.
Let’s not forget that this new, more secure iPhone was developed partly in response to Ed Snowden’s revelations that the federal government was illegally spying on us. The federal government was caught breaking the law but instead of ending its illegal spying is demanding that private companies make it easier for it to continue.
Last week we also learned that Congress is planning to join the fight against Apple — and us. Members are rushing to set up yet another governmental commission to study how our privacy can be violated for false promises of security. Of course they won’t put it that way, but we can be sure that will be the result. Some in Congress are seeking to pass legislation regulating how companies can or cannot encrypt their products. This will suppress the development of new technology and will have a chilling effect on our right to be protected from an intrusive government. Any legislation Congress writes limiting encryption will likely be unconstitutional, but unfortunately Congress seldom heeds the Constitution anyway.
When FBI Director James Comey demanded a back door into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, he promised that it was only for this one, extraordinary situation. “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message,” he said in a statement last week. Testifying before Congress just days later, however, he quickly changed course, telling the Members of the House Intelligence Committee that the court order and Apple’s appeals, “will be instructive for other courts.” Does anyone really believe this will not be considered a precedent-setting case? Does anyone really believe the government will not use this technology again and again, with lower and lower thresholds?
According to press reports, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. has 175 iPhones with passcodes that the City of New York wants to access. We can be sure that is only the beginning.
We should support Apple’s refusal to bow to the FBI’s dangerous demands, and we should join forces to defend of our precious liberties without compromise. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.
On the one hand, the country’s oil patch is dying a slow death in Alberta, where the worst 12 months for job losses in 34 years is contributing to rising property crime, higher food bank usage, and a rash of unsold condos and empty office space in Calgary.
On the other hand, if you were to take a look at real estate in Vancouver and Ontario you’d think you were looking at home prices for an economy that’s thriving.
In fact, prices in Vancouver have reached nosebleed levels. In January for instance, the average selling price of detached homes was an astronomical $1.82 million.
Here’s what that look likes like in chart form:
The madness has caused all sorts of abberations including the following listing which, outside of Silicon Valley anyway, represents what is perhaps the most absurd example of “greater fool” speculation since the Tulip Bubble:
That listing eventually sold for more than $100,000 above the asking price despite the fact that it’s clearly a rundown shack but as is always the case when dealing with speculative bubbles, things will invariably get frothier-er as evidenced by the fact that the home shown below just sold for a whopping $735,000,000 above the asking price, setting a new record.
“The house at 3555 West 1st Avenue was built in 1912, is 3,400 square feet and sits on a standard 33 x 120 foot lot without a view,” Vancity Buzz notes. “The selling price of $4.23 million is about $1.6 million above the lot’s assessed property value.”
For his part, real estate agent Brandan Price is incredulous. “For it to go over $4 million is remarkable. I had five offers,” he said. “These were local buyers just looking to make a shift who wanted to move into this area.”
“They were willing to sacrifice lot size to move into this area.”
Maybe, but things seem to be getting out of hand and part of the “problem” may indeed be demand from investors attempting to find a home for capital they’ve moved out of China. As Thomas Davidoff with UBC’s Sauder School of Business told Vancity Buzz: “These prices are getting pretty freaking nuts in my opinion.”
“As a proposition for someone who’s going to live in that house and what you’re getting for four million plus – that is a ridiculous joke and that is not something that’s going to work for people who just make a living in Vancouver,” Davidoff says.
Sorry Thomas, but you’re going to have to get used to it, because as long as the market expects a 30% yuan deval, Vancouver real estate is going to keep getting more “attractive”. Or, in other words, the Canadian real estate market is going to continue to be one of the world’s most attractive money laundering vehicles.
Whichever side emerges victorious, both Republicans and Democrats should face up to a much bigger truth: Neither party as currently constituted has a real future. Fewer and fewer Americans identify as either Republican or Democratic according to Gallup, and both parties are at recent or all-time lows when it comes to approval ratings. Just 39 percent give Democrats a favorable rating and just 33 percent do the same for Republicans. Not coincidentally, each party has also recently had a clear shot at implementing its vision of the good society. If you want to drive down your adversary’s approval rating, just give him the reins of power for a few years.
Political pundits throughout the land are tripping over each other to compose the latest bland, uninsightful screed proclaiming the death of the Republican Party. This makes sense, because the primary purpose of a political pundit is to state the obvious years after it’s already become established fact to everyone actually paying attention.
Yes, of course, Trump winning the GOP nomination marks the end of the party as we know it. After all, some neocons are already publicly and actively throwing their support behind Hillary. While this undoubtably represents a major political turning point in U.S. history, many pundits have yet to appreciate that the exact same thing is happening within the Democratic Party. It’s just not completely obvious yet.
While it might sound strange, a coronation of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary will mark the end of the party as we know it. There’s been a lot written about the “Sanders surge,” and much of it has revolved around Hillary Clinton’s extreme personal weakness as a candidate. While this is indisputable, it’s also a convenient way for the status quo to exempt itself from fault and discount genuine grassroots anger. I’m of the view that Sanders’ support is more about people liking him than them disliking Hillary, particularly when it comes to registered Democrats. He’s not merely seen as the “least bad choice.” People really do like him.
The Sanders appeal is twofold. He is seen as unusually honest and consistent for someone who’s held elected office for much of his life, plus he advocates a refreshingly anti-establishment view on core issues that matter to an increasing number of Americans. These include militarism, Wall Street bailouts, a two-tiered justice system, the prohibitive cost of college education, healthcare insecurity and a “rigged economy.” While Hillary is being forced to pay lip service to these issues, everybody knows she doesn’t mean a word of it. She means it less than Obama meant it in 2008, and Obama really didn’t mean it.
Hillary is the embodiment of a sick and detested status quo. She stands for nothing, is nothing, and a vote for her all but guarantees both murder abroad and oligarchy at home. I think a large number of Bernie Sanders supporters understand this and won’t be going off silently into that quiet voting booth to commit ethical self-sacrifice despite the terrifying prospects of a Trump presidency. I think they’ll stay home, but they won’t sit there passively. They’ll be seething inside, and many will renounce the Democratic party forever. Many rank and file Republicans already came to such a conclusion years ago, which is precisely why the nomination was wide open for a man like Trump to capture. Democrats will do the same, and before you know it, political pundits will be tripping over each other to write about the death of the Democratic Party.
It’s not just the grassroots either. This civil war is has now gone all the way to the top, as evidenced by this weekend’s very public endorsement of Bernie Sanders by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Before I get into the significance of this move, let’s recap what happened.
A rising star within the Democratic ranks, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, cut herself off from the party’s establishment by resigning from her post as vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.
Her position with the DNC required her to stay neutral in the primaries, but she said that “the stakes are too high.” She announced her decision on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and made a video where she explained her reasoning.
Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, said she knows the cost of war firsthand. “I know how important it is that our commander-in-chief has the sound judgment required to know when to use America’s military power—and when not to use that power.”
In her endorsement for Sanders, she said America needs a president “who will not waste precious lives and money on interventionist wars of regime change,” presumably referring to the war in Iraq and strategy in Libya, led by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, both of which she has criticized in the past. Although generally hawkish in her foreign policy views, she is opting for the Vermont senator as a candidate who “will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.”
Now watch the video:
The importance of this move cannot be understated. In no uncertain terms, this gesture publicly exposes the weakness of the “Clinton brand.” She clearly isn’t afraid of Hillary or of any repercussions from the Democratic Party elite, a fact that is underscored by the fact she came out with her endorsement after he got pummeled in South Carolina.
But let’s take a step back and think about this in the even bigger picture. You don’t get to Congress by being a political imbecile. On the surface, this move looks like career suicide, particularly since Hillary is probably about to clinch the nomination. Recall, Rep. Gabbard didn’t merely endorse Sanders after a bruising loss in South Carolina, she stepped down from her official position with the DNC to do so. This isn’t merely a statement, it’s the equivalent of dropping a neutron bomb on the Democratic establishment. So why did she do it?
While I think she genuinely agrees with Sanders on key issues, the reasons she came out so aggressively is because she sees the writing on the wall. She’s playing the long game, and in the long game, Hillary Clinton represents a discredited and failed status quo, while Sanders represents a push toward paradigm level change that will define the future.
In summary, I believe this marks the beginning of an all out civil war within the Democratic party. A war that won’t be over until someone successfully does to the Democratic Party what Trump did to the GOP.