Matthew Feeney on the Top 5 Foreign Policy Takeaways of 2013

This year may have provided the
Obama administration with plenty of lessons on website building and
fiscal fiscos, but 2013 has also highlighted trends, developments,
and lessons that will impact America’s foreign policy for the rest
of Obama’s presidency and beyond. Reason’s Matthew Feeney outlines
how the past year has brought attention to the different sort of
interventions undertaken to address Islamism, the moral hypocrisy
of the United States’ foreign aid policy, the growth of the drone
club, Africa’s role in the War on Terror, and the effect American
snooping can have on relations abroad.  

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/12/matthew-feeney-on-the-top-5-foreign-poli
via IFTTT

NSA Chief: “No Other Way” But To Keep Up Massive Surveillance

At
a congressional hearing yesterday, National Security Agency Director
Gen. Keith Alexander offered his views about the role of massive
domestic surveillance in a free society. Unsurprisingly, he voiced
support for keeping up with the controversial and
rights-compromising
work conducted by his agency.

The four-star general came before the Senate Judiciary
Committee, which was discussing the
USA FREEDOM Act
. The bill aims to end bulk meta-data collection
and establish checks on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
(FISA) court. Alexander issued grave warnings about the dangers
such a law would pose to America, and even attempted to elicit some
sympathy for the NSA’s methods. USA Today
reports
:

“There is no other way to connect the dots,” Alexander told the
Senate Judiciary Committee in a renewed defense of NSA surveillance
programs whose details were disclosed this year by former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden. “We cannot go back to a pre-9/11
moment.”

Alexander said the national security threat has been mounting in
recent months, and the “crisis in the Middle East is growing.”

“Taking these programs off the table is not the thing to do,”
Alexander said.

It isn’t Alexander’s first time defending the agency’s domestic
spying. But it is interesting, because for
years
 he made many public claims (some of which have been

called into question
to
give the impression
that no such surveillance of American
citizens happened on his watch. 

Deputy Attorney General James Cole also testified. He expressed
doubt about whether the bill would have any impact. Significantly,
The Guardian
points out
that this “was the first time the NSA or its allies
have suggested that its dragnets on American phone data might not
be stopped even if Leahy’s bill… passes through Congress.”

Several senators criticized the NSA’s action during the hearing.
Judiciary Committee Chairman and sponsor of the USA FREEDOM Act,
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
questioned
, “Do we really need to collect so much data on
Americans? Just simply because you can do something, does it make
sense to do it?”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said recent disclosures about the
scope of the NSA’s data collection “call into serious question
whether the law and other safeguards currently in place strike the
right balance between protecting our civil liberties and our
national security.”

Legislators aren’t the only ones pushing for greater constraint
on the NSA. As Reason‘s Ronald Bailey
highlights
, major internet companies recently wrote an open
letter to President Obama calling for reforms.  

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/12/nsa-chief-no-other-way-but-to-keep-up-ma
via IFTTT

WTF Charts Of The Day: Good, Bad, & Ugly

Sometimes you just have to laugh…

 

The Good – faith in this chart as being in anyway sustainable seems to beggar belief…

 

The Bad – especially as markets are already well into the ‘Euphoric’ stage of the cycle…

 

The Ugly – but firms have never (ever ever ever) been so downbeat in their guidance for the future…

 

So – you BTAFTH? The Shell game continues…

 

Source: Tobias Levkovich of Citi


    



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

WTF Charts Of The Day: Good, Bad, & Ugly

Sometimes you just have to laugh…

 

The Good – faith in this chart as being in anyway sustainable seems to beggar belief…

 

The Bad – especially as markets are already well into the ‘Euphoric’ stage of the cycle…

 

The Ugly – but firms have never (ever ever ever) been so downbeat in their guidance for the future…

 

So – you BTAFTH? The Shell game continues…

 

Source: Tobias Levkovich of Citi


    



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

Bavaria Plans To Continue To Ban Mein Kampf After Copyright Expires

The German state of Bavaria, which owns the
rights to Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, plans to
continue to ban the book after copyright expires in 2015.

According to the BBC,
officials in Bavaria will not be releasing an edited version of the
book as planned.

Of course, anyone is Bavaria can read Hitler’s drivel online,
and Bavaria’s prohibition is unlikely to stop anyone interested in
reading Mein Kampf from doing so.

Although the decision from Bavarian officials is unlikely to
stop Hitler’s work from being read, it does highlight Europe’s far
from ideal relationship with free speech.

In Germany, the Nazi Party is banned and denying the Holocaust
is a punishable offense.
Other countries
, such as Austria, Poland, and Hungary
also have legislation that punishes denial of the Holocaust.

Unsurprisingly, memories of the persecution of the Jews in
Europe under the Nazi’s still has the power to influence policy.
The Bavarian Science Minister, Ludwig Spaenle,
said
, “Many conversations with Holocaust victims and their
families have shown us that any sort of reprint of the disgraceful
writings would cause enormous pain.”

As Reason’s Jacob Sullum
noted last year
when writing about Germany’s relationship with
Scientology, similar legislation banning Holocaust denial or the
publication of books like Mein Kampf would be
considered “unambiguously unconstitutional in the United
States”:

The same government that has targeted Scientology because of its
alleged threat to “pluralistic democracy” also uses that rationale
to justify bans on hate speech, Holocaust denial, symbols and books
associated with the Nazi regime, and ethnically divisive political
groups. All those policies would be unambiguously unconstitutional
in the United States, where the government is not allowed to
suppress opinions, religious or not, based on the harm that might
flow from them.

Laws against Holocaust denial and bans on books are illiberal
and should not be enacted. That said, it is worth remembering that
although the Second World War may have ended decades ago many Jews
in Europe recently reported a rise in
anti-semitism

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/12/bavaria-plans-to-continue-to-ban-mein-ka
via IFTTT

Fidelity Bans IRA Bitcoin Investments Days After Permitting Them

Following what we can only imagine was uproar following our discussion of Fidelity “allowing self-directed IRA holders to ‘invest’ in Bitcoin,” the company has very quickly reversed policy… As MarketWatch notes,

“On an individual basis, we allowed an investor to invest in that Bitcoin Investment Trust,” said Rob Beauregard, director of public relations at Fidelity, in a telephone interview Thursday morning.We are no longer allowing that.”

The firm is not commenting on why that was allowed, and added “reviews are going on.”

 

Via MarketWatch,

Fidelity Investments is no longer allowing clients to invest in the virtual currency bitcoin through SecondMarket’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, a representative for Fidelity told MarketWatch on Thursday.

 

 

On Thursday,  a Fidelity spokesman told MarketWatch that such investments are no longer allowed. The spokesman couldn’t confirm when or why the policy was changed.

 

On an individual basis, we allowed an investor to invest in that Bitcoin Investment Trust,” said Rob Beauregard, director of public relations at Fidelity, in a telephone interview Thursday morning. “We are no longer allowing that.”

 

He continued: “We’re not commenting right now on why that was first allowed. There are reviews going on, and we’ll make a decision at a later date. At this time, it is not available on our retail platform.”

 

SecondMarket maintained Thursday that certain Fidelity clients can invest in bitcoin through the Bitcoin Investment Trust. “It is only accredited investors [who] have IRA accounts that are eligible to invest through Fidelity,” SecondMarket’s Silbert said in an email.


    



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

Gold and Banking in Hong Kong

Hong Kong 150x150 Gold and Banking in Hong Kong

We’ve reported several times before that Hong Kong is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy gold. But the bottom line is that it’s getting a bit more difficult to do so.

At Redacted Gold and Banking in Hong Kong Bank, for example,they will now only sell a maximum of HK$120,000 (about US$15,400) worth ofgold coins to non-account holders. This is less than 12 ounces of gold.

Now, if you open an account at Redacted Gold and Banking in Hong Kong Bank, no limit applies. And, the good news is that anyone can still open a bank account with them. Redacted Gold and Banking in Hong Kong does not require Hong Kong residency or a Hong KongIdentity card to open a bank account.

But, you will need to show up in person to the bank with the following:

1.  Passport

2.  Proof of current residential address

I would also bring a driver’s license or other identity document that has your address on it, if possible.

The proof of current residential address can take the form of a utility bill – an electricity, gas, or water bill is best. But, a bank statement may also be accepted.

The utility bill or bank statement cannot be more than 3 months old. And the name on it must exactly match the name in your passport.

In terms of inventory, Redacted Gold and Banking in Hong Kong only has current-year Australian Kangaroo Nuggets from the Perth Mint. All sizes are available: 1 Oz, ½ Oz, ¼ Oz and 1/10th Oz.

According to the bank, it’s possible for customers to buy up to 100 coins without any problem. But stocks are limited, so several hundred coins at one time would be problematic.

Their prices are still good – about 4% above spot gold.

from SOVErEIGN MAN http://www.sovereignman.com/alerts/gold-and-banking-in-hong-kong-13283/
via IFTTT

Italy’s “Pitchfork Movement” Mapped

From Stratfor

Since Dec. 9, the Pitchforks Movement has been staging rallies across Italy, blocking highways and rail and subway stations and protesting in front of public buildings. The protests are relatively small, comprising a few thousand people in each city, but they are widespread, stretching from Italy’s poor south to its wealthy north. The Pitchforks Movement first gained notoriety in Sicily in January 2012 when a group of agricultural producers and trucking companies blocked highways on the island for nine days to protest rising fuel and fertilizer prices, a result of austerity measures instituted by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Originally, the Pitchforks Movement had a heavy Sicilian element; it criticized the central government in Rome and sought greater autonomy for the island. Over the past year and a half and for various reasons, the movement has expanded beyond Sicily. The Pitchforks Movement is part of a growing trend in Europe. As the unemployment crisis lingers, the traditional representative institutions — political parties and trade unions — are proving incapable of channeling social unrest. In turn, groups that originally represented specific sectors are increasingly receiving support from other parts of the population. In several European countries, such as France and Spain, these groups are gaining popular support and participation from already disgruntled youths, workers, retirees and the unemployed. The emergence of groups like the Pitchforks Movement will likely become more common, since the economic crisis in Italy is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Their biggest challenge is becoming coherent enough to produce a lasting impact.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/BsKzhFW3noo/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Italy's "Pitchfork Movement" Mapped

From Stratfor

Since Dec. 9, the Pitchforks Movement has been staging rallies across Italy, blocking highways and rail and subway stations and protesting in front of public buildings. The protests are relatively small, comprising a few thousand people in each city, but they are widespread, stretching from Italy’s poor south to its wealthy north. The Pitchforks Movement first gained notoriety in Sicily in January 2012 when a group of agricultural producers and trucking companies blocked highways on the island for nine days to protest rising fuel and fertilizer prices, a result of austerity measures instituted by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Originally, the Pitchforks Movement had a heavy Sicilian element; it criticized the central government in Rome and sought greater autonomy for the island. Over the past year and a half and for various reasons, the movement has expanded beyond Sicily. The Pitchforks Movement is part of a growing trend in Europe. As the unemployment crisis lingers, the traditional representative institutions — political parties and trade unions — are proving incapable of channeling social unrest. In turn, groups that originally represented specific sectors are increasingly receiving support from other parts of the population. In several European countries, such as France and Spain, these groups are gaining popular support and participation from already disgruntled youths, workers, retirees and the unemployed. The emergence of groups like the Pitchforks Movement will likely become more common, since the economic crisis in Italy is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Their biggest challenge is becoming coherent enough to produce a lasting impact.


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/BsKzhFW3noo/story01.htm Tyler Durden

30yr UST Auction Post-Mortem

Today the treasury sold 13bln 30yr bonds (re-opened the Nov-2043 issue).

After yesterdays fireworks following the weak 10yr auction, tensions were high going into today’s 30yr bond auction.  Going into the auction, the 30yr bond had been outperforming on the curve all day (which is surprising on a 30yr bond auction day).  The belly/front-end of the curve saw decent selling, but the 30yr did not (again, very surprising for a bond auction day).

Going into the auction, the wi 30yr (“wi” = “when issued” – which is what we call a bond before it is auctioned) was trading 3.89%.  The 5yr and 7yr points on the curve were trading near the lows of the day (the 30yr bond was trading 97-18 @ 3.89%….and the low price pre-auction had been 97-12…so we went into the auction pretty close to the low).  The auction priced 97-10+ @ 3.90% (so, a 1 basis point tail = 1bp cheaper than where the bonds were trading in the secondary market going into the auction).

(30yr UB bond futures vs inverse DX futures – the purple line)

Now, this is the exact same type of result that we saw at yesterdays 10yr auction (1bp tail) but the lead up to the auction was entirely different, and the price action post-auction is also completely different.  Yesterday, the market rallied right into the auction and went in right near the day’s high. Today, the mkt sold off pre-auction, and we went in close to the lows (the 30yr bond was strong on the curve…but outright price was still lower on the day – especially if you look at the belly of the curve).  Yesterday, the auction tailed 1bp, and the mkt sold off like a banshee.  Today, the auction tailed 1bp, and the mkt hasn’t really gone anywhere…the mkt is going sideways in-between the auction stop price and the pre-auction price.  This is VERY RARE for a 30yr auction.  The result is almost always a big surprise one way or the other.  I was saying before the auction that the entire mkt felt very weak, which indicated a tail was coming.  Since i went into the auction short and was bidding to cover that short and get flat, i was hoping for a much larger than 1bp tail.  The result of only a 1bp tail was a “meh” result (i still made a trading profit, but i was hoping for more).  For a 30yr bond auction, i would consider a 1bp tail a practically “screws” result…and that explains why the mkt is just chopping sideways since the auction..this means the mkt was perfectly positioned, everybody is happy and nobody exited the auction with too many or too few bonds from the result.

If you are wondering “what next?”  Well, next week the US treasury is auctioning 2yr, 5yr and 7yr notes.  This is unusual (these auctions typically take place in the last week of the month) but the holiday calendar has pushed things up.  This may partially explain the weakness in the 2-7yr part of the yield curve.  Also of concern to the belly and front-end of the curve is the article recently published in the NY times talking about Fisher’s views of forward guidance.  His comments on forward guidance were very “indecisive” regarding the front end of the curve, where the mkt has experienced and was expecting the more reliable “lower for longer” mantra.  This combined with the auctions next week are both reasons for the front end of the curve to sell-off…and so it has.  There are significant sums of money invested in the front of the US treasury curve for carry and roll-down, so these developments and next weeks FOMC meeting wil be very important, as is usual.

If you would like to see my thoughts on the UST market intraday as well as see my actual trades in real-time, then i would suggest joining my private twitter feed.  The signup link is on the top-right of my blog.

http://govttrader.blogspot.com/


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/2mS32GRTIG8/story01.htm govttrader