Louisiana Police Departments Offering “Home Visit” To Test Meth For Zika Virus

This is not The Onion, but an actual public safety notice issued by police in Louisiana. The Harahan Police Department is asking people who might have crystal meth in their possession to get it tested for the deadly Zika Virus by bringing it to their local police station

The invitation and warning was posted to the department’s Facebook page to spread awareness of the “threat” while offering “test” batches of meth “for free” at their department, and further advising all state residents possibly in possession of crystal methamphetamine to bring it to a local police department. 

And in what appears the most epic police attempt yet at uncovering and busting meth labs across the state, the department goes so far as to offer a home visit for “those not comfortable going to the police station.” The post is signed Officer Moody. 

The Harahan Police Department announcement adds to the dubitable offer:

For those not comfortable going to the police station, if you make the call, an officer will be glad to come to you and test your Meth in the privacy of your home. Please spread the word!

We can only imagine the paranoid and hilarious conversations to ensue among area meth producers and addicts. Perhaps police will have the “success” stories later posted online as well in the form of police reports and mug shots? 

It turns out that it is a tongue-in-cheek tactic to fight the dangerous drug epidemic involving the homemade ultra-addictive substance that came to greater national attention by the hit series Breaking Bad. Other police departments over the past few years have tried it, apparently with little to no results, though surely it gets a big laugh at police stations — especially on the rare occasion that someone just might actually bring their meth to police. 


For example, police in a small Michigan town once tried to same thing with almost the exact same post:

Bailey said he put it out as a joke, but said the post has drawn attention to crystal meth and other drug issues.

“Crystal meth is poison. It’s evil. Anything that will take a mother’s love from a child is a bad drug. Anything that will make a man lose custody of his children and not be able to see them is evil. Yeah, we’re going to combat it any way we can,” Bailey said.

Bailey said no one has turned in their meth, yet.

And another public “Zika warning” related to meth out of Ohio drew national attention years ago, but with no results, perhaps just a lot of laughs, per CNN:

Can meth really be a host for Zika? No, the virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Has anyone taken the police up on their offer? No.

So what, then? “Make a catchy post, people see it, people share it,” Assistant Police Chief Dennis Blankenship said.

Meanwhile, in Idaho

Nope…i’m not falling for it again.

Other past public notices have involved “testing Meth for Gluten” for those needing to go with Gluten-free meth. 

If the police are going to attempt to “fool” the public, we only ask that should they actually make a meth bust via a gullible dealer calling them for a “home visit” to a makeshift lab on some remote country property, that they film and document every moment of it for posterity. 

via RSS http://bit.ly/2CHnzYR Tyler Durden

Did The U.S. Military Just Admit Victory In Afghanistan Is Impossible?

Authored by Jared Keller via The National Interest,

In the week before President Donald Trump’s reported decision to abruptly withdraw 7,000 U.S. service members from Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander there all but admitted that the 17-year-old war there will not end with a military victory for the Pentagon.

“This fight will go until a political settlement,” Army Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the Resolute Support mission there, told CNN when asked whether the Afghan campaign against the Taliban had reached a stalemate.

“These are two sides that are fighting against one another, and neither one of them will achieve a military victory at this stage.”

In the same interview, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass concurred with Miller’s assessment, cautioning that U.S. and Afghan officials will face a complicated diplomatic situation given the Talian’s aggressive rejection of the current administration in Kabul.

“We have an opportunity today that we didn’t have six or 12 months ago to see if it’s truly possible to achieve that political settlement,” Bass told CNN.

“We don’t know if we’re going to be successful. We have to see if the Taliban is interested in responding to the deep desire of the Afghanistan people for peace.”

Bass isn’t wrong: Kabul’s chief negotiator had met with the U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 18, just days before news of a potential Afghan withdrawal broke. During his own confirmation hearing in June, Miller stated that the “military component” of the Trump administration’s conditions-based strategy is only necessary “to provide space for political progress.”

But with Trump’s reported plans to potentially remove all U.S. forces from the country by the presidential election of 2020, the prospect of an especially conciliatory Taliban now seems like a laughable fantasy without a robust, U.S.-backed Afghan security force to keep up the pressure on militants.

Indeed, Miller attempted to build up the performance of the ANDSF in his conversation with CNN.

“I like how the Afghan national security forces are performing,” he said.

“This is an Afghan fight. Resolute Support provides support, and we enable them, but make no mistake, the Afghans are in the lead.”

That statement came just weeks after the nominee to lead U.S. Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, told lawmakers that the ANDSF would essentially collapse in the event of a U.S. military withdrawal.

“Their losses have been very high,” McKenzie told lawmakers at the time.

“They’re fighting hard but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem.”

In response to news of the potential withdrawal, the Afghan government said in a terse statement it “will not affect the security situation in any way.”

Just days later, the Taliban killed 43 people at a government compound during a brazen daytime attack in the capital of Kabul.​

via RSS http://bit.ly/2QbNNXa Tyler Durden

Antifa Exposed: “Angry White People With Money” 

The National Review sent journalist Kevin D. Williamson deep into Portland for an on-the-ground report on the local Antifa scene, several months after the black-clad social justice warriors squared off with conservatives from the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer groups after Antifa crashed several permitted rallies. 

And while Williamson’s original story is a fascinating read, perhaps even more interesting is the post-article interview with the National Review’s Madeline Kearns. 

Via the National Review

Madeleine Kearns: Other than some local yahoos, what did you see in Portland that’s worthy of national news coverage?

Kevin D. Williamson: Portland is always Portland. I didn’t want to do the Thomas Friedman interview-with-the-taxi-driver thing, but the Uber driver who took me down to where the protest was happening was a Portland caricature, boasting about having been in SDS and talking about the revolution that he was sure was just around the corner. On the more normal political front, I spoke with a local union leader who gave me some pretty good insight on how the Trump phenomenon had radicalized her membership. The thing about places like Portland and San Francisco is that they aren’t nice. They have a reputation for being wooly and hippieish and silly, but they are in fact very angry places, full of very angry people. They are also highly segregated places in ways that the South and Southwest really aren’t. Angry white people with money make the world go ’round, apparently.

Madeleine Kearns: Do you think this behavior is a microcosm of polarized America? Or is it peculiar to certain environments, like what we see on college campuses?

Kevin D. Williamson: I think you get bad behavior where bad behavior is tolerated. In Portland, the blackshirts aren’t a tiny schismatic fashion. There were Democratic-campaign staffers standing out in front of Democratic-campaign events on Election Night chanting along with them.

Madeleine Kearns: You describe the police officers present as being “neutered.” How so?

Kevin D. Williamson: They watched crimes being committed and did nothing.

Madeleine Kearns: How do the police balance peacekeeping with First Amendment rights?

Kevin D. Williamson: There isn’t anything unpeaceable about the exercise of First Amendment rights. I don’t care for mass protests myself — a large crowd of people all facing one direction and chanting seems to me more properly part of a religious exercise than a political one. But if that’s your thing, then by all means go and bark at the moon. But when people start blocking traffic, pounding on the hoods of cars, damaging property, committing assaults, that’s a different thing. And I don’t think there’s really much of a First Amendment issue presented by policing ordinary crime when that crime happens in the course of a political action.

Madeleine Kearns: You’ve written that Portland’s mayor is partly responsible. In terms of policy — what do you think could be done?

Kevin D. Williamson: He might consider asking the police officers who work for him to enforce the law.

Madeleine Kearns: In what way were the anti-fascist protesters you saw fascists?

Kevin D. Williamson: They are the American Left’s answer to the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, down to the penchant for black shirts. They perform the same function: using violence and intimidation to silence political opposition and to terrorize the political opposition. “Fascist” is a notoriously difficult word to define, but they are as close to a textbook case as you are going to find.

Madeleine Kearns: You write that their “idol is the proletariat rather than the nation.” Could you please unpack that?

Kevin D. Williamson: Utopian political movements — and all totalitarian movements are basically utopian — love the world, except for all the people in it. They all are antiliberal and they all seek to degrade the individual and individualism. Their liturgy requires an object of adoration, and it’s usually the same object: the People, or, as American populists like to put it, We the People. For traditional nationalists, it’s the Nation in abstract and idealized form; for socialists, it’s always been the proletariat, who apparently are the only people included in the People. If you’re acting in the name of the People, you can brutalize persons. The interests of the People require a gulag, the interests of the People require a death camp, and if the people have to suffer for the People, then so be it.

Madeleine Kearns: You’ve noted that these “hooligans” do not always call themselves “Antifa.” How can we identify them if not by name? What are their defining characteristics?

Kevin D. Williamson: Their defining characteristic is a behavior, not an ideology or factional plumage. Violence is violence.

Madeleine Kearns: You quoted the Freudian-Marxist social critic Erich Fromm, who wrote in 1941: “Freedom is not less endangered if attacked in the name of anti-Fascism or in that of outright Fascism.” I wonder if you could say more on that, perhaps by responding to Herbert Marcuse’s idea in his essay “Repressive Tolerance” (1965) that “liberating tolerance . . . would mean intolerance against movements from the Right, and toleration of movements from the Left.”

Kevin D. Williamson: Marcuse is sometimes oversimplified. I’ve been spending a lot of time with “repressive tolerance” for The Smallest Minority, a book I’ve been writing on the subject. Like a lot of political thinkers, he is least understood by his admirers. What Antifa thinks, and what I suppose they think Marcuse thought, if they bother to think about that sort of thing at all, is that tolerating wicked political ideas is in and of itself repressive, and, of course, they believe that the Right is the home of wicked political ideas. Hence the slogans such as “No free speech for Nazis.” But I don’t think that they are really very much informed by Marcuse. I think that they have stumbled onto the Catholic conception of “scandal” and believe that allowing a bad example to stand in public will lead more people into sin.

Madeleine Kearns: For the purposes of your reporting, you were in and amongst the Portland mob. Did you get any sense of what might attract someone to join them?

Kevin D. Williamson: Loneliness. Almost none of this is really about politics at heart. Younger people have lives disproportionately involved with sterile social-media relationships, and relationships in the real world are increasingly informed by the social-media sensibility, which is one of mutual instrumentation. We could choose any metric of success and happiness we want, and we’ve settled on the crude quantification of love and human connection. The people suffering under that particular boot-heel don’t realize that they are wearing the boot, and that they have the power to take it off of their own necks at any time they want, that they can take a little freedom out for a spin and see if they like it. They don’t need a revolution. They need Jesus.

Madeleine Kearns: Is Donald Trump — in rhetoric or in deed — partly to blame?

Kevin D. Williamson: The Israelites had their golden calf. We have our golden toilet. Donald Trump is to blame for Donald Trump. That’s enough for any one man to bear.

Madeleine Kearns: You wrote, “Once political violence is out of the box, it is hard to put it back in.” Can we expect more of this?

Kevin D. Williamson: I don’t know. Technology and political liberalism (and, since this is for National Review, I think we can use “liberalism” in its traditional sense, not in the sense of “Durka durka liberals hate Christmas!”) both have the potential to amplify the individual. The same system that brings you Steve Jobs brings you Timothy McVeigh. Liberalism creates political conditions — tolerance, openness, freedom of speech — that can be exploited by illiberal forces. That’s the basic insight of Karl Loewenstein’s “militant democracy,” which also figures prominently in The Smallest Minority. Loewenstein and other advocates of what the Germans call streitbare Demokratie argue that the defenders of the liberal-democratic order must sometimes use illiberal and undemocratic means to defend that order from existential threats. This is the constitutional principle under which the Germans and Austrians do things that we do not generally do in the United States, such as ban certain political books or prohibit certain political parties. If the blackshirts understood their own political priors — and they do not; they simply are overwhelmed by hatred and revulsion, for themselves above all — then they would understand themselves as acting in theory under the principle of militant democracy. And that, of course, is why it is rhetorically necessary for everybody you disagree with to be a Nazi: Practically anything is defensible in a fight against Nazis. And that’s how we get to the kind of political rhetoric that insists that people who don’t want to use racial criteria in public life are Nazis, people who don’t think that abortion should be used as an instrument of eugenics are Nazis, people who want the top marginal tax rate set 3 percent lower are Nazis, etc. These are stupid times.

Madeleine Kearns: What’s the cultural antidote to Antifa?

Kevin D. Williamson: One of the lessons of Animal Farm is: You can’t reason a pig out of its pigness. T. S. Eliot once described the folly of “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.” And then he adds: “But the man that is will shadow the man that pretends to be.” Citizenship is hard work. Being a subject is a lot easier. That’s part of the allure of being a subject of a totalitarian state. Under totalitarianism, the state does all of the political work, and people are just livestock to be milked, shorn, and, occasionally, slaughtered. Some people are very comfortable being livestock and really embrace that bovine-ovine role with all they’ve got. People have the power to start being human whenever they want. But work, including the work of citizenship, is a means, and people have to decide for themselves that the end is worth the work. Right now, these blackshirts and their admirers and imitators are comfortable in their intellectual sties.

via RSS http://bit.ly/2RnrbaN Tyler Durden

What States Are Doing To Offer More Currency Competition In 2019

Authored by JP Cortez via The Mises Institute,

The destruction of sound money over the past century stems from actions at the federal level, but there are steps which states can take —and even have already taken —to move toward real, sound, constitutional money.

As state legislatures reconvene in the next few weeks, let’s take a look at the current state of play…

Since 2016, sound money has made a splash on the state level. According to the 2018 Sound Money Index, a new ranking of all 50 states on the extent to which they have implemented the pro-sound money policies, there are currently 38 states with an exemption of sales and use tax on the purchase of gold and silver.

Since 2016, legislators in 10 different states have introduced bills, seven of which were signed into law, to restore sound money by eliminating taxes on gold and silver within their borders.

In 2017, a quarter of all states without a sales tax exemption on gold and silver introduced new measures to eliminate the tax against the monetary metals. As states continue to make inroads on the sales tax issue, Tennessee and West Virginia are expected to introduce bills to remove sales and use taxes on sound money in 2019.

Wyoming has recently emerged as a leader on the sound money front. The state legislature overwhelmingly passed the 2018 Wyoming Legal Tender Act and thereby eliminated all tax liability against the purchase, use, and exchange of gold and silver inside the state.

Wyoming joined Arizona and Utah as the three states that have also eliminated income taxation on the nominal “gains” or “losses” experienced when selling metals, and Wyoming became the 22nd state to completely remove all sales and use taxes on the purchases of any kind of gold and silver.

Rising to a number two ranking in the Sound Money Index, Wyoming hopes to overtake Utah as the top state for sound money in the country with new legislation for 2019 that would begin to secure the state’s finances with an allocation to physical precious metals.

Wyoming’s state pension and reserve funds are among the most well-funded accounts in the nation, but because of their exposure to dollar-based investments, these funds – like almost all other pension and reserve funds across America — are nevertheless subject to significant risks. Securities, bonds, stocks, and other dollar-denominated assets carry high counter-party, inflation, and interest-rate risks.

To hedge against these risks, a group of Wyoming legislators want the state treasurer to allocate 10 percent of these funds in physical gold and silver. Arizona and Idaho may consider similar measures in the coming months as well.

Meanwhile, on the federal level, new efforts have emerged in Congress.

Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) introduced the Monetary Metals Tax Neutrality Act of 2018 to remove the federal income tax from the monetary metals. Mooney’s bill is necessary because the IRS has erroneously and unilaterally characterized gold and silver as collectibles and subject them to high taxes as though they were akin to artwork, baseball cards, and beanie babies. Subjecting constitutional money to a discriminatorily high long-term capital gains rate of 28 percent is unconscionable.

While there is still plenty of work to be done, the sound money movement continues to gain strength. More state and federal legislators are joining the battle to legalize sound money and reinstall it as the foundation of our monetary system.

via RSS http://bit.ly/2Qg90PN Tyler Durden

Millions Of Minimum-Wage Workers Will See Higher Pay In 2019

With fewer than 24 hours to go until 2019, millions of minimum-wage workers across the US are preparing for sizable boosts in their compensation thanks to wage hikes in 20 states and 21 cities – increases that were largely inspired by the ‘Fight for $15’ movement launched back in 2012 by fast food and retail workers in NYC.

The wage hikes will impact some 17 million workers across the US over the course of 2019.

The federal minimum wage has been stalled at $7.25 since 2009. At least 13 counties and cities will implement the higher wage laws immediately starting on Jan. 1, reaching or exceeding $15 an hour. The rest will gradually phase in higher minimums of between $12 and $15 an hour, NBC News reported.


In addition, eight states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Washington state – are phasing in increases that will eventually put their minimum wages at $12 to $15 an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project.

According to a statement published last week, NELP Executive Director Christine Owens said the increases would be a boon for hardworking Americans who “have little to show for it,” according to the Huffington Post.

“Working people are struggling to pay their bills, but they see that it’s the corporations and the wealthy CEOs who are getting the tax breaks,” Owens said. “It’s just not right. The American people believe in the value of work – and that workers deserve to be valued.”

One NELP policy director said that while these increases are tremendous victories for the workers, in high cost states like California, more wage hikes may be needed, while workers in low cost-of-living states will see an outsize benefit.

The complete list of states raising the minimum wage this year includes: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington and Vermont.

While economic equality sounds like laudable goal on the surface, it ignores the fact that by raising costs, employers will be incentivized to hasten their adoption of automation. As McKinsey warned in a study published one year ago, automation will kill 800 million jobs by 2030.

via RSS http://bit.ly/2Vp8RwW Tyler Durden

“Real” Witches Triggered By Trump’s Use Of “Witch Hunt”

Witches – those who follow the Wiccan religion, have their cauldrons bubbling over President Trump’s use of the phrase “Witch Hunt” to describe the ongoing Russia investigation which began more than two years ago. 

As the Daily Wire reports, CNN ran a segment last week to report that witches – who “tend to side with liberals,” don’t appreciate the plight of their fore-witches being compared to an endless investigation based on flimsy evidence of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – which has morphed to encompass everything from porn-star payoffs to nude selfies

David Salisbury, the author of “Witchcraft Activism,” called Trump’s use of the term “really disgraceful,” adding that “thousands of people were executed on suspicion of witch hunt.”

Amanda Yates Garcia, who is known as “the Oracle of Los Angeles,” said: “There are a lot to be offended by by Donald Trump, and I think his use of the term ‘witch hunt’ is very low on the list of priorities for most witches, but nevertheless, it does demonstrate his ignorance, as usual.” –Daily Wire

Fox News also covered the Witches’ bitching:

Trump does like to use the phrase a lot…

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Arizona Officials Insist That Dragging Migrant Children is Not Cause for Concern

Ofificals in Maricopa County, Arizona, appear unbothered after footage from a shelter captured vide of migrant children being trated poorly.

According to a report by The Arizona Republic, incidents involving three children and several employees led to the fall suspension of the shelter’s operations by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The newspaper released videos of employees dragging, slapping, and pushing children throughout the facility.

The compromising videos were obtained by sending an open records request to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The Sheriff’s Office maintains not only that the actions were acceptable restraint techniques, but that there was nothing in the footage that should bring about criminal charges. The state health department has not commenting on the videos.

Despite the lack of concern from local officials, the incidents have been referred to local prosecutors.

The deaths of two migrant children in federal custody this past month has drawn attention to the question of the conditions faced by migrants in custody. On Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted that Democrats and their “pathetic immigration policies” were responsible for the deaths of children on the border:

In the wake of the first death, Department of Homeland Security officials claimed that the main takeaway should be their need for more resources to accommodate family detentions. Others, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, blamed the death on a lack of accountability and a “culture of cruelty” at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Though the number of illegal border crossings is at a 10-year low, DHS officials have repeatedly stated that the current facilities were designed for “male single adults” and struggle to meet the needs of family detentions.

from Hit & Run http://bit.ly/2TiFWc8

Bernie Supporters Slam Beto O’Rourke’s Progressive Bona Fides but Mostly Ignore Pot, Immigration, and War

||| MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS/NewscomEven before Elizabeth Warren’s announcement today that she’s forming an exploratory committee about a possible presidential run, the 2020 Democratic shadow primary has been in full knife-sharpening mode. Supporters of the septuagenarian socialist Bernie Sanders have been attacking the progressive bona fides of vanquished Ted Cruz challenger and fundraising hearththrob Beto O’Rourke.

“What does Beto O’Rourke actually stand for?” wonders Zaid Jilani in Current Affairs. (Partial answer: The former congressman and city councilman from El Paso has “rarely, if ever, challenged the powerful.”) “We don’t need another photogenic media star with run-of-the-mill liberal politics running for president,” declares Jacobin‘s Branko Marcetic. “What we’re seeing is someone who’s a big step up for red-state Texas statewide and actually a big step down for where the majority of Democrats are nationwide,” progressive media grumpus Norman Solomon tells NBC. Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig summs up the O’Rourke-reticence:

I think the times both call for and allow for a left-populist candidate with uncompromising progressive principles. I don’t see that in O’Rourke.

We still have time to pick a politician with a bold, clear, distinctly progressive agenda, and an articulated vision beyond something-better-than-this, the literal translation of hope-change campaigning….

As for me, my cards are always on the table: I wish the Democrats would run a left-populist with sincere, well-attested antipathy toward Wall Street, oil and gas, welfare reform and war, who is willing to fight hard to win Medicare-for-all and drastically reverse our current course on climate change. I would love it if they came from Texas, but I would take one from anywhere.

This fight among the Very Online Left has some real-world implications for the majority of us residing outside the Democratic Party. Because if progressive is going to mean virtuous within one of the two major political factions in this country, it’s instructive to see which positions are prioritized under that description, and which are not. For instance, there are three non-trivial issues that go unmentioned in Bruenig’s piece: immigration, criminal justice reform, and the drug war.

||| ReasonThese are not incidental to O’Rourke’s political career. They’re central. While Ted Cruz was abandoning his criminal justice priors and taking populist potshots at his toothy challenger, O’Rourke was campaigning against mandatory minimum sentences, cash bail, and the “failed war on drugs.”

The latter position in particular separates the Texan from 99 percent of elected Democrats. At O’Rourke’s urging, the El Paso City Council in 2009 passed a resolution calling for debate and study of legalizing drugs. (Recall that at that time, Barack Obama, to whom O’Rourke is frequently compared these days, was making unfunny jokes about legal weed and initiating a vicious crackdown against state-legal medical dispensaries.) Two years later the city councilman co-wrote a book advocating marijuana legalization, then in 2012 he successfully primaried eight-term Democratic drug-warrior congressman and former Border Patrol officer Silvestre Reyes.

Bernie Sanders went full legalization in 2015—a big deal, given that he was the first truly competitive presidential candidate to do so. But considering the enormous damage that the drug war has inflicted on millions of Americans, particularly among the poor and minority communities that Democrats claim to champion, O’Rourke’s timelier leadership on the issue seems worthy of more than just a passing reference. Jilani’s piece, for example, puts a button on the drug-war conversation after a quick paragraph by saying that the victory over Reyes “may have been the last time O’Rourke waged a sustained campaign against the Democratic establishment,” even though the congressman continued swimming upstream against his own party’s drug policies upon arrival to Washington.

Immigration, on which O’Rourke has been (as Nick Gillespie pointed out yesterday) a welcome source of realism, also goes unmentioned in Jilani’s brief. Pro-Sanders writer David Sirota, who has been leading the anti-Beto charge from the left, does spend a paragraph listing O’Rourke’s immigration-related advocacy…then squeezes eight withering paragraphs out of a single vote for waiving polygraph tests on Customs and Border Patrol agents.

||| ReasonYou can see why Team Bernie’s attacks on Beto’s immigration policies would be either hopelessly strained or non-existent, given the 2020 Democratic political climate of opposing restrictionist Donald Trump. Sanders, after all, dismissed the idea of significantly raising legal immigration levels as “a Koch brothers proposal” in 2015, and he helped kill comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 on grounds that it would reduce wages for native workers. Coupled with his career-long opposition to international trade treaties (because, he says falsely, they amount to a global “race to the bottom“), Bernie’s Old Labor immigration skepticism has sounded rather Trumpy at times, even if the process of campaigning for president changed his emphases (as well as Hillary Clinton’s) on the issue.

O’Rourke, on the other hand, has been consistently pro-immigration and pro-trade throughout his career. “It’s in our interests to be facilitating trade and the flow of people, and to recognize the value of immigrant labor, whether it’s low-skilled, low-wage or the very high skilled, high-wage labor,” he told Reason‘s Mike Riggs in 2013.

O’Rourke’s pro-trade posture is a main part of the progressive brief against him, along with insufficient enthusiasm for single-payer health insurance, free college, and the Green New Deal. He is not as pro-regulation as his critics would like, and not nearly hostile enough to the oil and gas industries. And fair enough—all these positions are indeed deviations from modern progressivism, even if they sound more comparatively pleasing to a non-leftist’s ears. But what about, you know, war?

After all, O’Rourke was a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is a withering critic of both the Iraq and Libya interventions (“two incredibly ill-conceived regime change wars ”), opposed bombing Syria, and has consistently called on Congress to end the open-ended post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (“blank check for endless war“) and reassert its war-declaration powers. “Troubling, unconstitutional, to be at war in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen & Somalia, in addition to Afghanistan, w/out informed authorization,” he tweeted in 2017. “Why do we have such a hard time admitting the West’s role and culpability in the problems in the Middle East?” he wrote in 2016.

O’Rourke has many policies I disagree with, including some unearthed by his critics this month—voting for the awful FOSTA/SESTA law, for example. But by prioritizing economic policy complaints far above the life-and-death questions of war, human mobility, and the police state, progressives are adding to the suspicion that the beating heart of Bernieism is nowhere near the civil libertarian issues where libertarians and lefties overlap.

Reason interviewed O’Rourke in 2013, 2015, and 2018.

from Hit & Run http://bit.ly/2EZBlsb

“They Said It Could Never Happen Again?” – Global Stocks Suffer Worst Year In A Decade

The world’s central banks’ safety harness finally gave way and one by one the world’s markets started to plunge.

Global stock markets lost almost $12 trillion in 2018 – the largest market cap loss since 2008 (and second largest in history)…

In fact, from its highs in January, world market cap is down $20 trillion.

As global central banks ‘allowed’ their balance sheets to contract on an annual basis for the first time ever

But they said “It could never happen again” … fortress balance sheets and all, and yet global systemically important banks collapsed in 2008.

No corner of the world escaped unscathed.

Asia Ex Japan was the worst year since 2008 (and 2nd worst on record)


This was China’s 2nd worst year on record (2nd to 2008).

All the major Chinese markets were a mess.

The only major Asian market in the black for the year was India, where the BSE was ahead by almost 6 percent. 

Europe was a bloodbath with the Stoxx 600 down 13% in 2018, its biggest loss since 2008.

And as Project Fear kicked in, The FTSE 100 ended 2018 down 12% – also its worst year since 2008 – but Germany’s export-heavy DAX was even worse.

US equities looked unstoppable… until Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall.

… and December was a bloodbath (even with the last few days’ manic bounce):


And so, this is still the worst December for US stocks since The Great Depression.

Gold and bonds outperformed notably in December as stocks plunged.

But on the year, only the dollar survived unscathed…

This is the first time since the 1970s that the S&P 500 has slumped so much when earnings growth was more than 10%.

So what should retail investors do? Well don’t turn to the hedgies – Long-short equity fund performance in December is the worst since August 2011.

Bonds were all underwater on the year – despite a huge compression in yields over the last two months – with the short-end the worst performer on a yield basis.

In fact this is the Treasury market’s biggest monthly rally since Jun 2016.

And the yield curve collapsed further this year…(inverting in the 2s5s region)

And yields have a long way to fall if cyclical stocks are right.

While Treasuries were bid recently, corporate bonds were not… Junk bonds tumbled in December, for the worst month since Dec 2015.

And worst quarter for junk bonds since Q3 2015.

Investment Grade corporate bond prices suffered their worst yearly loss since at least 2002:

Meanwhile, the dollar rallied on the year to its best annual gain since 2015:

While all commodities ended the year lower, gold outperformed (and WTI did not):

Oil suffered its first annual decline since 2015, slumping more than 20 percent in a turbulent year that saw fears of supply scarcity turn to expectations of a surplus.

“We are most likely past the peak of this long economic uptrend,” said analysts at JBC Energy GmbH in Vienna.

While gold is down in 2018 in dollar terms, it appreciated against the yuan:

US Economic data was the most disappointing since 2008:

“Simply looking at the markets would suggest that the global economy is headed into recession,” said Robert Michele, chief investment officer and head of fixed income at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

“However, while we agree the global economy is in a growth slowdown, we don’t see an impending recession,” he added, looking at the Fed to provide a policy cushion.

“Already, commentary out of the Fed suggests that it is nearing the end of a three-year journey to normalise policy.”

And the market agrees that The Fed will cut rates more than hike them from here on out…

The question is – will the Fed’s policy error reversal crash stocks further amid a total loss of confidence in central command once again?

Finally, we note with a glass of champagne inches away from our hands, this will not end well for bond bears and if bond shorts are squeezed – what happens to stocks from there?

via RSS http://bit.ly/2Aq19tG Tyler Durden

2018 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead

One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2017, we admitted that perhaps as a result of too many conflicting narratives and outcomes, it was difficult to find a coherent theme of the key events that shook the world, and which you, our readers, found most interesting and notable.

  • 2017 was a year of continued populist upheaval and political shocks, twists, turns and unexpected outcomes, a continuation of the “unexpected” Brexit vote outcome and Trump’s shocking presidential victory, both of which forced many to re-evaluate what “expert”, “pundit” and certainly “opinion poll” means; it was also the year when the concept of “fake news” became ubiquitously used by the establishment to slam any reporting it disagreed with and to justify why it was so wrong about everything, yet which would boomerang and lead to an even greater collapse in mainstream media credibility.
  • 2017 was year in which class warfare in the US approached unprecedented levels with antagonism between races, genders, ethnicities, ideologies, age groups and incomes all approaching peak levels, and spilling over, literally, on the street as the US public was inundated with reports of ordinary citizens snapping and killing their peers in cold blood, of petulant students demanding conformity, and culminating with the deadliest mass shooting event in US history when a Vegas gunman killed 58 people and injured 851. His motives are still unknown.
  • 2017 was a year of perplexing market stability: despite daily news of political, geopolitical and social turmoil, the market ignored virtually any potential risks and chugged along ever higher, with volatility crumbling to an all time low as the VIX printed a record number of days in the single digits
  • it was a year in which the S&P closed far higher than many had speculated, and defied the doomsayers who predicted a crash after Donald Trump won the presidential election despite the ongoing pile up of various imbalances, thanks largely to an unprecedented credit injection by China which has single-handedly been the world’s biggest source of new debt creation since the financial crisis, as well as the now widely accepted support of central banks around the globe which injected a record amount of liquidity in 2017 and whose only mandate is to prop up asset prices or else risk another crash, a collapse in the pension system of an increasingly aging developed world, resulting in violent social upheaval.
  • it was a year in which the geopolitical situation outside of the U.S. continued to deteriorate, although as a result of non-US intervention in Syria, we also saw the end of ISIS even as the historic refugee crisis and immigrant wave that was unleashed as a result of Syrian proxy war would alter the ethnic and demographic face of Europe for years to come, while also unleashing a wave of terrorist events as governments across the globe sought to exploit the crisis for their own selfish reasons, while resulting in an even greater surge in Europe’s populist power
  • In summary, 2017 was a year of confused flux and of dramatic change: change which was largely amorphous and chaotic but which we said would crystallize over 2018, “in unpredictable and, sadly, violent ways.”

It did indeed, because while many of the trends observed in 2017 were taken to their logical extremes in 2018, it is difficult to say that 2018 provided much needed closure to many of the themes and narratives that emerged in the previous year and earlier, most of which played out in the political arena, where for the first time in decades, the non-establishment president of the world’s biggest superpower, a manifestation of the “protest vote” that had built up over the past decade, shook to the core everything that the world had taken for granted, setting the stage for a dramatic revulsion from widely accepted norms and principles.

As we had warned for years, the vast if silent majority, feeling snubbed and neglected by the political oligarchy and the world’s central bankers, decided to take the power back which they did within the confines of the democratic process, sending the establishment reeling, by rejecting years of legacy narratives by replacing decades of a failed, and flawed, political regime in the US with something… different.

And yet, looking back over the past 12 months, it remains to be seen if these changes will be successful and bear fruit, or if they will be a change for the worse. To be sure, the defeated forces of established powers refused to go gentle into that good night and created an unprecedented McCarthyism 2.0 narrative that desperately hoped to make Trump’s victory appear as the outcome of collusion with Russia, yet now – 24 months after the election and half way into Trump’s presidential term – we still await the much-anticipated Mueller report that is expected to definitively prove the president colluded with Moscow in some capacity.

It is also true that while many had placed high hopes that Trump would prove to be an agent of substantial change, the president initially doused such expectations as he rushed to surround himself with Wall Street “experts” and corporate oligarchs who promptly hijacked the post-Obama transition process resulting in… more of the same. As such it is hardly a surprise that the biggest legislative achievement by the Trump administration heading into 2018, was a tax cut that benefits corporations and the wealthy first and foremost, even as it adds trillions more to the already record US debt.

That said, changes within the administration did start to emerge as the year progressed, when Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor and former Goldman COO, resigned after repeated confrontations with Trump. Things only escalated from that point on as one after another prominent Trump advisor took the revolving door out of the administration, which saw the departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and National Security Advisor HR McMaster, and which most recently parted ways with both its Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, its Chief of Staff, John Kelly and Defense Secretary, James Matthis.

Some called it Trump “draining the swamp.” Others saw the accelerating departures as clear evidence the White House had become a sinking ship. Whatever one wanted to call it, the simple reality is that as we entered 2018, people had enough and wanted change. This, in the words of the established media, was called “populism”, and the transformation process which allowed it to take place was maligned under the umbrella definition of “fake news.”

It is also why in a popular snapback of displeasure against the Trump administration, the Republican party suffered a major defeat in the House during the midterm elections, even as the GOP preserved their majority in the Senate, resulting in what is guaranteed government gridlock for at least another two years.

And while few would call Trump’s domestic or foreign policies a resounding success, the president did deliver on what may arguably have been his most important task, and accomplishment: placing a second conservative Justice in the Supreme Court – despite an unprecedented campaign by the left to smear Brett Kavanaugh – and with recent news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s deteriorating health, Trump may achieve an unprecedented trifecta, virtually assuring a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for years if not decades.

To be fair, Trump had another accomplishment in 2018: this was the year when the US economy decoupled from the rest of the world – if only briefly – as both the US economy and stock market grew at a remarkable pace for much of the year, even as the president waged an increasingly bitter trade war with both China and the rest of the world, and which brought China’s economic growth to the lowest in modern history while sending China’s stock market crashing. The counterargument is that this remarkable decoupling from the est of the word, and the impressive GDP growth in the US economy, was only possible thanks to Trump’s unprecedented fiscal stimulus which while providing a brief tailwind, will result in trillion-dollar budget deficits in coming years, a massive increase in US government debt, and could potentially risk a debt crisis should foreign and domestic investors balk and refuse to fund America’s profligate ways. Indeed, it was an inflationary and interest rate scare in October – coupled with Chairman Powell’s “long way to neutral” comment – that the defining moment for US capital markets in 2018, as it clearly delineated the two phases for US stocks: one of gradual ascent for the first nine months of the year, culminating with the S&P’s all time high hit on September 20, followed by a brutal selloff which has left countless traders dazed and confused as markets realized that the Fed may be tightening into a recession, and only recent comments by the Fed Chair have suggested that the Fed’s numerous rate hikes forecast into 2019 may in fact be zero.

Meanwhile, after a year of record low volatility largely on the back of 2017’s record $2.5 trillion in central bank liquidity injected at a time of the first coordinated global recovery in over a decade, 2018 was a mirror image from the very beginning, when a violent January meltup in stocks resulted in February’s violent VIX explosion as the “negative convexity” emerging from a record high vol gamma suddenly spontaneously combusted to destroy volatility sellers and overnight wiped out the universe of inverse VIX ETFs, leading to the first S&P500 correction since the Shanghai Accord of 2016. It wouldn’t be the last one, because while many optimistic pundits said not to dwell too much on it, the VIXtermination event of February 5 was merely a harbinger of the market chaos that would emerge toward the end of the year.

Another problem, as so many banks hinted across the year, is that some suspect that the sputtering global economic recovery may be the result of central bank liquidity which starting right about now, is finally being withdrawn after a decade of liquidity injections. And, as a record $1 trillion in global liquidity is pulled from the system by central banks which now realize they have created a massive asset bubble, the outcome could – according to countless skeptics – be dire.

Of course, 2018 is the year when in addition to a renewed focus on monetary stimulus, fiscal policies were great again, so to say, if only for the time being as Trump’s $1 trillion fiscal stimulus boosted the economy just as wage growth and inflation finally rebounded and the job market reached a critical point where there were more vacant jobs the unemployed workers; it is this stimulus that prompted Fed concerns about overheating late in the summer and culminated with Powell’s famous speech that “we’re a long way from neutral at this point” which as we noted correctly at the time “Fed Chair Powell Hints He May Soon Crash The Market.” We were correct, as just after that speech, the market tumbled into a historic swoon which briefly dipped into a bear market on the day before Christmas, when as a result of massive hedge fund liquidations saw the worst Christmas Eve on record for the stock market. Previewing just this outcome last year, we said that “it would be ironic if Trump’s greatest legislative achievement in 2017 is also the catalyst for the next American recession” and looking ahead, it has become a virtual consensus that a recession is looming, the only question is whether it hits in 2020 or as early as late 2019. Ominously, the market has already priced in the end of Fed rate hikes in 2019 and expects the first rate hike – a coincident indicator of a recession – to take place in early 2020.   

And speaking of our year ahead outlook exactly one year ago today, we also said that “one of the biggest questions facing 2018 is whether this transition from monetary to fiscal policy will actually take place, and how smooth this a handover will be. For now optimism and hope prevail: global markets closed 2017 at an all time high with volatility just barely off record lows.” Needless to say, the handover has so far been anything but smooth as the fading effect of fiscal stimulus – and China’s inability to stimulate its own economy crippled by what is already a record high debt load – coupled with what is now a net drain on global liquidity by central banks has led to what has been the most turbulent stock market since the financial crisis, and resulted in the worst drop in global stocks in the past decade.

And speaking of China’s economy, in addition to the ongoing debate of fiscal and monetary stimulus, the biggest geopolitical event of 2018 was almost certainly the ongoing trade war between the US and China which has escalated to the point where virtually all of China’s imports (and US export to China) are or soon will be subject to tariffs, crippling global trade flows and forcing producers on both sides of the Pacific to seek alternative supply-chains. Should Trump and Xi fail to find an amicable resolution to this ongoing trade feud, we fully expect the trade war narrative to dominate capital markets in 2019, resulting in even more pain for stocks as globalization suffers its latest hit. Meanwhile, China’s economy continues to undergo an unprecedented slowdown, trapped on one side by deteriorating diplomatic relations with the US, and on the other limited by how much organic credit growth Beijing can inject to stimulate what is already an economy that is laboring under an unprecedented debt load.

Continuing on the themes from the prior year, 2018 also demonstrated how dominant the political narrative has become when it comes to finance and capital markets. For all those lamenting that relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog (which sadly also includes every tweet from Donald Trump), why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political “narrative” has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case. After all, none other than the president rejoiced publicly at every new all time high in the S&P and, conversely, has been uncharacteristically silent during the recent sharp drawdown.

The reason for Trump’s recent self-imposed radio silence on all things market is simple: after declaring the S&P500 a “massive bubble”, Trump had pivoted to the point where he would take daily credit for the market’s record highs. And, as we said last year, “eventually, the time will come for Trump to pay the piper.” That time came in the fourth quarter of 2018 when the S&P, along with most other developed markets tumbled as suddenly what had worked for years, no longer worked, and the one dominant strategy of the past decade, namely “buy the dip“, finally failed and was replaced with “sell the rip.”

But if one had to summarize the dramatic market shifts in 2018 as simply as possible, it is that in the past year, and really just past three months, we observed a dramatic reversal in which traders, who had habituated to a world where nothing wrong can ever again happen, finally remembered – violently – that adverse newsflow and negative events have consequences, and that in a world where central banks no longer provide training wheels, one must take risk to generate return, something which most hedge funds had forgotten and as a result suffered the worst year for the “2 and 20” industry since 2011.

Another problem with this habituation that “no news can ever again be bad news” was that – as we said in our 2017 year end review – it was no longer clear what the market may or may not have priced in, absent hope and expectations of central bank intervention to arrest any future selling episodes; central bank intervention which in 2017 hit all time highs and numerically amounted to over $15 trillion in cumulative liquidity injections. And, as we said in December 2017, “with a major shift now taking place away from monetary and toward fiscal policy, the “assumption of hope” will be tested in 2018. Perhaps violently.”

That violence was on full display in the fourth quarter, and especially in December when volatility exploded and when the Dow moved by triple digits on no less than 13 days, leaving traders shaken, shocked, and paralyzed.

Another assumption that will be tested in the coming year is whether “China no longer matters” for US markets, something which was certainly not the case in 2018. Back in 2015, US futures would swoon the moment the PBOC announced even a modest drop in the Yuan. On the other hand, for much of 2017 and 2018, US equities could care less what Beijing did, how high NPLs among Chinese banks rose, how pervasive corporate defaults in China became, or what the future held for China, and its $40 trillion in financial assets. We have a nagging suspicion that whether or not the US manages to avoid a recession in 2019, and the business cycle is now so long in the tooth the current expansion is now the second longest in US history, any global shock will ultimately come out of Beijing, regardless of whether Trump and Xi manage to find a common language and put the trade war between the two nations aside.

Still, while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some closure, dramatic changes in 2018 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in dramatic, often violent and unexpected ways – from the unprecedented obsession with everything Trump does, says and tweets, to “populist” upheavals in Europe and around the developed world, to renewed capital flight out of China. Perhaps these non-stop changes is the reason why 2018 was another record year for Zero Hedge, which recently crossed 5 billion cumulative page views since inception, just over five years after hitting our first 1 billion pageview milestone.

As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website – which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either), and has never spent one dollar on marketing – a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine.  Which also brings us to another amusing topic: that of fake news, and something we – and others who do not comply with the established narrative – have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, we find it a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world – is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from “dangerous, fake information.”

To preserve its counter-establishment aura, it goes without saying that the current administration should overturn this blatant attack on the First Amendment, and let people decide for themselves what is and isn’t fake news. If anything, it is the conventional, mainstream media, most of which is owned by a handful of corporations with extensive ties to the government, that demonstrated on many occasions in 2018 that it is the primary creator and distributor of “fake news”, something which has not escaped the broader US population the majority of which no longer has trust in the conventional news media.

In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2018 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to find an entry point, and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earnings itself the derogatory “fake news” condemnation.

We are grateful that our readers – who hit a new record high in 2018 – have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn’t “fake news.”

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Before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our no longer that brief, almost 10-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year.

  • In 20th spot, with just over 600,000 page views, was a question affecting a company that investors either love or hate: Tesla. Elon Musk got in a lot of trouble with the SEC in 2018 after tweeting, without reason, that he had “funding secured” for an LBO deal, only for it to emerge that he was merely hoping to “burn the shorts” and force a short squeeze. Well the shorts enjoyed a brief moment in the sun as TSLA stock tumble, only to rebound after the company’s best quarter yet. However, questions have emerged when people asked “Why Are “Thousands” of Teslas Sitting In a Field in California?” prompting questions if Musk is merely stashing away excess inventory in order to represent ongoing strong ongoing demand for the Model 3. This, along with many other questions involving Tesla and its ongoing viability will hopefully be answered in the coming year.
  • In 19th spot, with just over 650,000 page views was a troubling report about the ubiquitous presence of big brother when “Police Raided The Home Of Man Who Posted Pictures Of His Mushroom Dinner On Facebook” in which we described the story of a man who posted photos of his homegrown morel mushrooms on Facebook, and which led to a visit to his home hours later from law enforcement apparently investigating possible use of psychedelic mushrooms. Increasingly, social media is becoming a giant privacy liability, as many around the world have learned in a year of scandals for Facebook and its peers, when it emerged that there is no such thing as “privacy”, and one’s data is sold with impunity to the highest bidder.
  • In 18th spot, with over 667,000 page views, was the latest story of economic collapse out of that Latin American “socialist paradise” – Venezuela – which as part of its ongoing hyperinflationary disintegeration succumbed to another round of “Chaos After Maduro Announces Massive 95% Devaluationwith the new FX Rate Tied, paradoxically, to the country’s Cryptocurrency. While the endgame for now officially bankrupt Venezuela is clear, the biggest question is just how much longer will the people tolerate Maduro at the head of what is now the worst instance of hyperinflation in world history, with Venezuela’s hyperinflation of 1,000,000% now surpassing even that of the Weimar Republic.
  • In 17th spot, over 687,000 readers were shocked to learn that in parallel to what Trump has dubbed the biggest “witch hunt in history”, the “DOJ’s Inspector General Horowitz Found that FBI, DOJ Broke the Law In Clinton Probe” and has refers to prosecutor for criminal charges. President Trump has repeatedly accused the DOJ of a campaign to spy and discredit his presidency, and has claimed that the “Russian collusion” is just an ongoing attempt to distract from the real story: the coverup of alleged crimes of Hillary’s email server. 2019 will provide some closure on this matter with the Mueller investigation expected to conclude early in the year. What happens next, and whether Trump is impeached as a result, remains to be seen.
  • In 16th spot, readers shifted their attention to yet another political crisis, this time in South Africa, where “As Land Confiscations Loom, South Africa Rules 300,000 Gun-Owners Turn Over Their Weapons.” While the South African economy was relatively stable in 2018, this may not persist next year especially if, as the ruling party has decided, white landowner lands are to be expropriated, potentially resulting in a nationalization of private assets. And since such an act may be accompanied with mass weapon confiscation, some see in current events in South Africa a preview of the worst case scenario for any developed nation in which the government becomes too powerful and seeks to pander to a specific group of voters.
  • In 15h spot, with just under 690,000 page views, was a surprising and in fact shocking admission by the Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who admitted in a CNN interview that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and those in his orbit. Meanwhile, instead of focusing on potential abuses by the prior administration, the US media and public dutifully follow every twist and turn in the most contrived narrative, that of Vladimir Putin somehow winning Trump’s election for him, which of course has been a recurring sideshow for the past two years, mostly meant to “explain” why Hillary Clinton lost an election which every expert said she was assured of winning.
  • In 14th spot, with over 738,000 page views, was the latest troubling development in Sweden, which in recent years had become a haven for immigrants with dire consequences for the local population, and which in mid-August was “burning”, after “Migrant Gangs Unleash Coordinated Fire-Bomb Rampage Across Multiple Cities.” And amid public calls for tougher policies on crime and immigration, 2018 saw yet another populist anti-immigrant party, the Jimmie Åkesson-led Sweden Democrats, storm the polls in the country’s September election, in the latest slap to Europe’s legacy establishment, an outcome that was only made possible, ironically, thanks to Angela Merkel’s liberal “open door” policies.
  • In 13th spot, over 787,000 readers were shocked to learn that a photograph of two migrant children sleeping in a cage at an ICE detention facility which quickly went viral on the net, and which served as the focal point of outrage du jour at President Trump’s immigration policy, had in fact been taken under Obama, prompting hilarious responses from blue checkmarked liberals, such as CNN’s Hadas Gold, who deleted her previous outraged tweet saying “Deleted previous tweet because gave impression of recent photos (they’re from 2014)”
  • The 12th most popular post of 2018, with over 804,000 page views, belonged to the Democratic Party’s rising socialist icon – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who had been on an intense media junket since her upset primary victory over establishment Democrat Joe Crowley. The socialist phenom had told the Washington Post “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family — mother from Puerto Rico, dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your Zip code determines your destiny.” Except that Ocasio-Cortez grew up in one of the richest counties in the United States, Yorktown Heights a wealthy suburb of Westchester County. There has been a lot of cognitive dissonance within America’s Democratic Socialists ever since.
  • More than 886,000 readers tuned in on November 7, when the midterms revealed that a significant portion of America had grown disenchanted with Trump/Republican policies and as a result the House flipped to Democrat control with a sizable majority even as the GOP retained control over Congress (and the all important Supreme Court decision process). The resulting gridlock assures that even less will be done for America’s middle class in the coming two years than was done in the prior two years.
  • In 10th spot, with over 935,000 page views, readers were amused to learn of the fall of one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-Trump resistance, prominent lawyer Michael Avenatti, who had risen to resistance defending porn star Stormy Daniels and staged a furious campaign to discredit Trump’s latest pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanugh, only to see it backfire as “Michael Avenatti Turns Radioactive As Liberals Blame Porn Lawyer For Kavanaugh Confirmation” after many of the allegations from his client Julie Swetnick proved to be false, thereby discrediting much of the anti-Kavanaugh grassroots campaign, in the process also scuttling any hopes Avenatti may have had to run for president in 2020.
  • In 9th spot, over 964,000 readers were amazed to learn of a “modest proposal” floated by the Chicago Fed, which in May unveiled its “solution” to Chicago’s pension problem: as we reported, an “audible gasp” was heard from the audience when a speaker from the Chicago Fed proposed levying a special property assessment they estimate would be about 1% of actual property value for 30 years. In other words, the Fed had just floated to “confiscate wealth from current owners because they will pay, whether they stay or not, through an immediate reduction in home value.” While Wirepoints said that “It surely ranks among the most blatantly inhumane and foolish ideas we’ve seen yet” it may be a harbinger of the proposals the Fed will implement during the next financial crisis, especially if the Fed is unable to cut rates to negative or launch a new round of QE.
  • Nearly 1 million readers were surprised to learn, or perhaps not, that as diplomatic relations between Washington and Moscow deteriorated sharply in the spring, Russia – which had repeatedly warned it would pursue dedollarization, had quietly liquidated virtually all of its Treasury holdings, in the process setting off a sharp spike in Treasury yields. Indeed, from $96 billion in March, Putin shrank his US Treasury holdings to just $9BN in May, converting the bulk of the proceeds into gold and Chinese yuan. The bigger question remains: will China do the same?
  • 1,147,000 readers may have been wondering if we were joking or not when we reported that “poop patrollers” in San Francisco make a cool $185,000 a year in salary and benefits. Alas, it was not joke, but merely the latest in a string of shocking revelations exposing how deep San Francisco’s crisis of vast amounts of vagrant-generated feces covering its public streets actually runs. It was also the 7th most popular article of 2018.
  • And speaking of San Francisco’s homeless problem, the 6th most popular article with over 1,167,000 page views was our report that “terrified” San Francisco tourists were shocked to find aggressive vagrants, discarded needles and dead bodies. “Is this normal or am I in a ‘bad part of town?’ Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces, screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder scene. Wife is scared to leave hotel now,” a Reddit user wrote in shock. Meanwhile, despite its homeless crisis, San Francisco remains the city with the biggest real estate bubble in the US, courtesy of the unlimited dollars flowing through the Silicon Valley Venture Capital mecca.
  • In 5th spot, with over 1,240,000 page views, a troubling report involving California’s unstable geological foundations found that “California Was Hit By 39 Quakes In 24 Hours As Scientists Warn Of “Movement Along The San Andreas Fault“.” As we wrote at the time, when you live in an area that sits along a major earthquake fault, it can be easy to forget the potential danger if nothing happens for an extended period of time. But the danger is always there, and for many California residents the rattling that we witnessed was a clear reminder of that fact. The good news is that so far “the big one” has yet to strike.
  • In 4th spot, with 1,380,130 page views in 2018, readers were amazed to learn, at long last, that the CFO of the Clinton Foundation admitted to investigators that the charity had widespread problems with governance, accounting and conflicts of interest, and that Bill Clinton has been commingling business and personal expenses for a long time. In other words, confirming what for years the mainstream media has slammed as, you guessed it, “fake news.”
  • The third most popular article of 2018, with almost 1.4 million page revealed even more reader fascination with events in South Africa, where popular politician Julius Malema, aka “the Hitler of South Africa”, was recorded saying that “we have not called for the killing of white people. At least for now. I can’t guarantee the future.” It is unclear what will happen in the future if and when Malema does order the killing of white people.
  • In late April, in response to an incident in which a Philadelphia manager called the police on a pair of black men who were sitting in A Starbucks store without having purchased anything, the contrite coffee chain announced that as part of its “inclusiveness” training, it would allow vagrants to use the coffee chain’s bathrooms as they please. So, perhaps it wasn’t surprising, that with over 1,465,000 page views, the second most popular post of 2018 were the furious responses Starbucks employees to “becoming the world’s biggest public toilet” as yet another attempt at virtue signalling imploded spectacularly. 
  • And speaking of “spectacular backfiring”, it is perhaps appropriate that the most popular article of 2018 was what happened in September when the head of the California Democratic Party called for a boycott of famed burger chain In and OUt after a public filing revealed that the company had recently donated $25,000 to the state’s Republican Party. The result was that instead of a boycott, a torrent of customers came to their favorite restaurant and bought extra food, resulting in a blockbuster revenue day for the private hamburger chain. Nearly 2.1 million readers got a chuckle out of that one.

* * *

With all that behind us, what is in store for 2019, besides our tenth year anniversary in just ten days of course?

We don’t know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don’t try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of everything: we leave the predicting to the “smartest people in the room” who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in the last three years, which destroyed the reputation of the conventional media and the professional “polling” and “strategist” class for ever. We merely observe, try to find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and oftentime crazy world, and then write about it.

We do know, however, that after $16 trillion in liquidity has been conjured out of thin air by the world’s central banks, and the tens of trillions of credit money created (and misallocated) by China – a country which was the world’s growth dynamo for the past three decades and which is now not only rapidly slowing down but engaged in a trade war with the US (there is a saying that shooting wars usually follow trade wars) – the entire world is floating on an ocean of excess money, which for one more year almost succeeded in masking just how ugly the truth beneath the calm surface is. Now, as the Fed hiking and actively shrinking its balance sheet and the ECB set to join in just a few days (with the BOJ not too far behind), as the liquidity tide starts to come out in earnest, those swimming naked will finally be exposed, especially if as we expect, the handoff from monetary to fiscal policy is far more volatile than what the market currently prices in.

The question we have: how far will the tide be allowed to recede before central banks step in again, or as has become topical recently, how long before Trump’s displeasure with the falling market finally manifests itself in a change among the Fed’s top echelons.

We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone’s guess. But, as we have promised – and delivered – every year for the past nine, we will be there to document every aspect of it.

Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2019, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2018 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day – on most occasions with a cynical smile – helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that the system is reduced to (ab)using each and every day just to keep the grand tragicomedy going for at least one more year.

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