Bitcoin Now More Popular Than Obamacare

Much has been said about Bitcoin: an alternative currency; a “honeypot” scheme by the central banks and Feds to capture excess cash, punish the rebellious and track abusers of money laundering laws; a revolution against fiat. Perhaps one other word may be used as well: “distraction“?

 

 

(h/t @Not_Jim_Cramer)


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/XToGkEpLKtg/story01.htm Tyler Durden

City Government Prohibits Autistic Boy’s Therapeutic Pet Chickens

The Hart family found a way to
help their autistic toddler through animal therapy, specifically
with pet chickens. Now, their local city council in DeBary, Florida
– fully aware of the boy’s condition and treatment – is telling the
family that they have to get rid of their pets.

The Harts discovered the transformative effect chickens had on
their son, J.J., last year. The boy previously experienced long
bouts of silence and fits of anger. J.J.’s mother, Ashleigh, told
the
Orlando Sentinel
about the positive effects the birds have
had on her son, “he’s now going to a new preschool, and he’s able
to communicate much better. And it all has to do with the chickens.
He plays with them. He cuddles with them. And he runs around the
yard with them. … It’s made a tremendous difference.” 

The city initially cited them for a code violation, but the
Harts petitioned to be allowed to keep their pets
and DeBary city
council began a pilot program. The city
allowed chickens, though required a permit. Reports indicate that
the Harts and one other household, which was raising the chickens
for eggs, participated in program.

Yet, the council voted last week 3-2 to yank away residents’
privilege to care for these animals. Mayor Bob Garcia was among the
dissenting voices. He
expressed
to Fox News his view that “if we make
laws that take away rights of individuals, especially children,
those laws should be abolished. We should be protecting the rights
of individuals, not suppressing them.”

Council member Nick Koval saw the situation differently. “I
sympathize,” he assured, “but, we spend a lot of time and money
establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of the
citizens and taxpayers of this community. And I believe that they
[chickens] belong in agricultural areas.”

While some government officials insist that the flightless birds
harm the community, how much harm could the ban do to this
child?

“It could be devastating to him,” Dr. Emily Forrest, who
specializes in autism, explained that “children with autism are
extremely sensitive to changes in their lives.” Forrest added,
“it’s really sad for him that he has to stop because of a city
ordinance.” 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/10/city-government-prohibits-autistic-boys
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City Government Prohibits Autistic Boy's Therapeutic Pet Chickens

The Hart family found a way to
help their autistic toddler through animal therapy, specifically
with pet chickens. Now, their local city council in DeBary, Florida
– fully aware of the boy’s condition and treatment – is telling the
family that they have to get rid of their pets.

The Harts discovered the transformative effect chickens had on
their son, J.J., last year. The boy previously experienced long
bouts of silence and fits of anger. J.J.’s mother, Ashleigh, told
the
Orlando Sentinel
about the positive effects the birds have
had on her son, “he’s now going to a new preschool, and he’s able
to communicate much better. And it all has to do with the chickens.
He plays with them. He cuddles with them. And he runs around the
yard with them. … It’s made a tremendous difference.” 

The city initially cited them for a code violation, but the
Harts petitioned to be allowed to keep their pets
and DeBary city
council began a pilot program. The city
allowed chickens, though required a permit. Reports indicate that
the Harts and one other household, which was raising the chickens
for eggs, participated in program.

Yet, the council voted last week 3-2 to yank away residents’
privilege to care for these animals. Mayor Bob Garcia was among the
dissenting voices. He
expressed
to Fox News his view that “if we make
laws that take away rights of individuals, especially children,
those laws should be abolished. We should be protecting the rights
of individuals, not suppressing them.”

Council member Nick Koval saw the situation differently. “I
sympathize,” he assured, “but, we spend a lot of time and money
establishing codes and ordinances for the protection of the
citizens and taxpayers of this community. And I believe that they
[chickens] belong in agricultural areas.”

While some government officials insist that the flightless birds
harm the community, how much harm could the ban do to this
child?

“It could be devastating to him,” Dr. Emily Forrest, who
specializes in autism, explained that “children with autism are
extremely sensitive to changes in their lives.” Forrest added,
“it’s really sad for him that he has to stop because of a city
ordinance.” 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/10/city-government-prohibits-autistic-boys
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Immigration Detention: Getting Worse, Not Better

Melissa del Bosque
writes
in the Texas Observer:

A cause you can believe in.Back in 2009, the Obama administration
promised
reform of the massive, mostly for-profit U.S.
immigrant detention system. Immigrant advocates are still
waiting.

The number of deportees hasn’t diminished and private detention
facilities continue to expand. Every year more than 400,000 people
waiting for hearings with an immigration judge are housed in
far-flung jails and grim detention centers across the
nation….

Last year, the nonprofit watchdog group Detention Watch Network
issued a report on
10 of the most inhumane lockups in the nation, saying they should
be closed immediately because of myriad human rights abuses. The
group sent a
letter
and a copy of the report to President Obama outlining
their concerns and calling for the closures….The 10 facilities
were identified as the worst in the nation by a coalition of more
than 320 immigrant advocate groups, community organizers, legal
service providers and faith organizations. Bob Libal, executive
director of the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership,
toured both detention facilities in 2012 and found detainees in
crowded unsanitary cells without adequate medical care or edible
food. Some detainees had been placed in solitary confinement for
minor infractions.

A year has now passed and not one of the facilities has been
closed. “The conditions haven’t improved at all,” Libal said.
“They’ve actually gotten worse.”

In the grand scheme of things, this is a small demand: not a
reduction in deportations, just better treatment on the way out.
(Read The New York Times
coverage
of that original Obama promise, and you’ll see
officials spouting love-me-I’m-a-liberal
lines: “Detention on a large scale must continue, he said, ‘but it
needs to be done thoughtfully and humanely.'”) It’s telling that
the administration hasn’t even managed that much.

[Via
Grits for Breakfast
.]

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/10/immigration-detention-getting-worse-not
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WTF Chart Of The Day: SBUX Edition

Of course, we are sure this will be dismissed by any and all stock pushers as perfectly normal and possible… but an hour of trading in SBUX in a 1c range seems a little too much for even the biggest efficient market believer…

This is SBUX – not a fucking penny stock!


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/6fuyLhtrHz8/story01.htm Tyler Durden

French Court Rules E-Cigarettes are a Tobacco Product, Even Though They Contain No Tobacco

le sighThe war on e-cigarettes continues across the
world. A licensed tobacconist in Plaisance-du-Touch, France filed a
complaint against an e-cigarette retailer that set up shop nearby,
complaining that the e-cigarette retailer was violating French
public health codes, including by advertising e-cigarettes. In
France only licensed tobacconists can sell tobacco products, under
a state-imposed monopoly, and they cannot advertise them.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, but no tobacco. Neverthless, a
French court agreed with the tobacconist, ruling that because
e-cigarettes were an alternative to a tobacco product, they too
constituted a tobacco product and the e-cigarette retailer
presented “unfair competition” to registered tobacconists. The
e-cigarette retailer will appeal the ruling, but France 24
reports
the decision may already have wide ranging effects
across the country:

“This sets a precedent that says that the sale of all
products for smoking is restricted to licensed tobacconists,” said
Bertrand Desarnauts, the lawyer for the tobacconist who filed the
complaint.

“This ruling implies that other sellers of electronic cigarettes
will no longer be able to sell them in stores or on the
Internet.”

According to figures from the French Office for Smoking Prevention,
there were 141 e-cigarette shops in France as of April 2013, but
experts estimate this number could rise to 300 by the end of the
year.

Commenting on Monday’s ruling, France’s Electronic Cigarette
Stakeholders Group (CACE) said the court’s decision could put 2,500
jobs at risk if it resulted in e-cigarette shops going out of
business.

It claimed that e-cigarettes are “a consumer product and not a
tobacco product” and accused the court in Toulouse of having
“exceeded its powers”.

There are 1.5 million users of e-cigarettes in France according
to the government, which is considering imposing the same bans on
the use of e-cigarettes as it does on actual cigarettes as well as
a ban on the sale of them to minors.

Reason TV sat down to discuss the growth of the e-cigarette
industry and the push for more regulations with the CEO of
e-cigarette maker NJOY, which you can watch below:

 

More Reason on e-cigarettes here

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/10/french-court-rules-e-cigarettes-are-a-to
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“The Stuka” – How The Fed Manipulates You Into Believing What It Wants You To Believe

Submitted by W. Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory

Up to the walls of Jericho
With sword drawn in his hand
Go blow them horns, cried Joshua
The battle is in my hands

      – “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”, traditional African-American spiritual

The Stuka

At the outset of World War II, the German Luftwaffe attached an ear-splitting siren – the Jericho Trumpet – to the Junker Ju-87 dive-bomber, commonly called the Stuka. Dive-bombers are wonderful tactical aircraft if you have control of the skies, highly effective against tanks, vehicles of all sorts, even smaller ships, but they simply don’t carry enough ordnance to be a strategic weapon. They can certainly help you win a battle, but they’re unlikely to help you win a war. By attaching the Jericho Trumpet, however, the Stuka became a psychological weapon as much as a physical weapon, striking fear in a much wider swath than the actual bombs. During the early Blitzkrieg days of the war, the Stuka had exactly this sort of strategic effect, crushing the morale of the Polish army in particular.

Because it was a propeller-driven siren, the Jericho Trumpet actually made the Stuka a less effective dive-bomber, slowing its air speed and making it an easier target to hit. This was a trade-off that the German High Command was happy to make so long as the Stuka maintained its mystique as a terrifying harbinger of death from above, but that mystique was shattered once the Royal Air Force started shooting them down by the dozens in the Battle of Britain. By the end of 1940 the Stuka was almost entirely redeployed from the Western Front to the East, and those planes that remained had their sirens removed. As Churchill famously said of the RAF, “never was so much owed by so many to so few,” and it’s the psychological dimension of this victory that is so striking to me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the military tides of World War II shifted in the West at exactly the same moment that the Luftwaffe took off the Jericho Trumpet and the Stuka lost its mojo.

Today the financial media – and the WSJ’s Jon Hilsenrath in particular – is the Fed’s Jericho Trumpet. Unlike the Luftwaffe, the Fed is not trying to inspire terror, but they are similarly trying to turn a powerful tactical weapon into a strategic weapon through psychological means. The Fed is now embracing the use of communication as a policy tool in a totally separate manner from whatever concrete actions the communication is ostensibly about, and they use Hilsenrath (and a few others) as a modern-day Joshua to blow the horn. The Fed is now playing the Common Knowledge game openly and directly, making public statements through their media intermediaries to tell you how ALL market participants perceive reality, even though in fact NO market participant has a clear view of reality. In the Common Knowledge game – whether it’s the Island of the Green-Eyed Tribe that modern game theorists write about, the Newspaper Beauty Contest that Keynes wrote about in the 1930’s, or the Emperor’s New Clothes that Hans Christian Andersen wrote about in the 1830’s – the strong public statement of what “everyone knows” creates a reality where it is rational behavior for everyone to act as if they, too, see this reality … even if they privately don’t see it at all.

Here’s the money quote from Hilsenrath’s article last Friday after the November jobs report, titled (self-referentially enough) “Hilsenrath’s Five Takeaways on What the Jobs Report Means for the Fed”:

MARKETS BELIEVE TAPERING ISN’T TIGHTENING: Markets are positioned more to the Fed’s liking today than they were in September, when it put off reducing, or “tapering,” the monthly bond purchases. Most notably, the Fed’s message is sinking in that a wind down of the program won’t mean it’s in a hurry to raise short-term interest rates. Futures markets place a very low probability on Fed rate increases before 2015, in contrast to September, when fed funds futures markets indicated rate increases were expected by the end of 2014. The Fed has been trying to drive home the idea that “tapering is not tightening” for months and is likely to feel comforted that investors believe it as a pullback gets serious consideration.

In truth, the shift in the implied futures market expectations of short-term rate hikes from late 2014 into early 2015 says nothing about what “The Market” believes about tapering. It says a lot about the enormous effort that the Fed is putting into its forward guidance on rates, as a communications policy replacement for its prior reliance on forward guidance and linkage of unemployment rates and QE (a mistake that I wrote extensively about at the time and is now universally seen as a policy error). The Fed, through Hilsenrath, is trying to tell you how you should think about tapering. Not by giving you a substantive argument, but simply by announcing to you in a very authoritative voice what everyone else thinks about tapering.

Hey, don’t worry about tapering. No one else is worried about tapering. You are totally out of step with all the smart people if you’re worried about tapering. It’s duration of ZIRP that matters, not QE. Don’t you know that? Everyone else knows that. Maybe you’re just not very smart if you can’t see that, too. Can you see it now? Ah, good.

This is game-playing in an almost pure form. It’s smart and it’s effective. The siren from above is starting to wail: if you react negatively in your investment decisions to tapering, you are Fighting the Fed.

The bombs are going to drop – increased forward guidance on rates and decreased direct bond purchases – but these policies in and of themselves are just tactical. What’s really at stake is the strategic meaning of these policies, the belief system that takes hold (or doesn’t) around the power of the Fed to create market outcomes.

Over the next three or four months we’re going to see quite a battle for the hearts and minds of investors, with both “sides” employing the Narrative of Don’t Fight the Fed. On the one hand you will have the Fed, with their Jericho Trumpet of Hilsenrath et al shrieking at you a new interpretation of the Narrative: ZIRP is the source of the Fed’s power, not QE, so tapering is no big deal. On the other hand you also have the Fed, but the Fed of the past several years and the way it has trained the market to believe that the portfolio rebalancing effect … i.e., the behavioral impact of QE that Bernanke has directly credited with driving up the stock market … is what really matters. And if that’s your reality, then tapering is a big deal, indeed. I’ll be monitoring all this closely at Epsilon Theory in the weeks ahead.

Importantly, this psychological battle is taking place entirely within the larger Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence. If the QE meme wins the day and tapering ends up hitting the markets hard … well, it’s Fed balance sheet operations that determine market outcomes. If the ZIRP meme wins the day and tapering is a non-event … well, it’s Fed forward guidance on rates that determines market outcomes. Either way, it’s a Fed-centric universe. Forever and ever, amen.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/Dy9e8Zu7mQk/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Volcker Rule Passed By All 5 Regulators

All five regulatory agencies put to a vote and approved the Volcker rule on Tuesday, supposedly, as The WSJ reports, ushering in a new era of tough oversight that drills to the core of Wall Street’s profitable markets and trading businesses. As President Obama just ordered via Bloomberg:

  • OBAMA SAYS VOLCKER RULE WILL MAKE FINANCIAL SYSTEM SAFER

Of course, now the various regulators line up at the trough demanding more funding to cover all the details of all the pages of all the new laws that all of the banks will now have to address on all of their trades…


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/-VKcxHkq76w/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Chinese and Vietnamese Communists Helped Persuade Mandela To Liberalize Markets

In the wake of the news of Nelson Mandela’s
death some people predictably hastened to remind us that despite
his status as a symbol of peace, reconciliation, and freedom
Mandela had associations with groups that were not
sympathetic to capitalism
and were hardly afraid of committing
acts of violence. Comments criticizing Sen. Ted Cruz’s Facebook
post
 after Mandela’s death in particular were
widely reported
.  

Over at The New York Times
DealBook
, Andrew Ross Sorkin notes that while Mandela may have
believed in the nationalization of industries after his release in
1990, his attitude towards markets did change, ironically thanks in
part to talks with Chinese and Vietnamese communists at the 1992
meeting of the World Economic Forum:

But as the five-day conference of high-level speed-dating wore
on, Mr. Mandela soon decided he needed to reconsider his long-held
views: “Madiba then had some very interesting meetings with the
leaders of the Communist Parties of China and Vietnam,” Mr. Mboweni
wrote, using Mr. Mandela’s clan name. “They told him frankly as
follows: ‘We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises
and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communist
Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation
movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?’ ”

“It was those decisive moments which made him think about the
need for our movement to seriously rethink the issue,” Mr. Mboweni
said.

Mr. Mandela’s push toward free markets opened up his country to
become the fastest growing in Africa and eventually brought in
billions of dollars of investment from large companies outside the
country. Barclays, for example, acquired Absa, South Africa’s
largest consumer bank, in 2005. Iscor, the country’s largest steel
maker, was sold to Lakshmi Mittal’s LNM in 2004. Industrial and
Commercial Bank of China bought a big stake in Standard Bank, South
Africa’s largest financial services company, in 2008. And Massmart,
a South African supermarket chain, sold a majority stake to Walmart
in 2011.

After former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received hostile
reactions to a personal statement he made expressing his
condolences to South Africans and Mandela’s family following
Mandela’s death he wrote
a response
in which he addressed Mandela’s connections to
communism and armed struggle. In the statement, Gingrich rightly
asks those who criticize Mandela’s actions before his imprisonment
on Robben Island to consider not only how they would have acted in
the same situation but also how some of the Founding Fathers
behaved in response to British tyranny. Gingrich’s response was
praised by
Jim Antle
at The American Conservative, who wrote:

The Founders’ sins are worthy topics of discussion that should
not be whitewashed out of American history. But neglecting the
context of the times, the specific injustices they fought, the
institutions they built, and the principles they imperfectly
embodied is ideologically motivated malpractice.

Similarly, it is right to point out that many fawning Mandela
obituaries ignore the injustices he tolerated himself, his kind
words for terrorists and dictators, the violence of the ANC toward
blacks as well as whites, even the sins of post-apartheid South
Africa and the virtues of the country before it was transformed.
But any reference to these things that neglects or minimizes the
injustices of apartheid is woefully incomplete—and unlikely to
result in a meaningful dialogue about the very facts such
contrarian commentary hopes to expose.

Too often prominent political figures are lazily characterized
both during their lives and after their deaths, whether it is
calling Obama a “socialist,” Thatcher a “fascist,” or Tea Partiers
“anarchists.” It’s a shame to see Mandela, a praiseworthy as well
as imperfect man, being given similar treatment.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/10/chinese-and-vietnamese-communists-helped
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