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Truth: The First Casualty of Economics, Banking and the Ukraine

louvre

Dear Reader, I opened my eyes and stared at the hard packed dirt that substitutes for grass in Paris’s famed Tuileries Garden. I struggled to raise my head and peer over the lip of the Grand Bassin Octagonal. My eyes were greeted with the majestic view of the Louvre, basking in the warm early morning glow of the unseasonably hot sunshine that had Parisians reaching for their sunscreen in the middle of March. I struggled to overcome the explosions occurring inside my head, the result of the three bottles of Andezon, Cotes-du-Rhone Syrah [an impertinent, cheeky and inexpensive red wine] I had consumed after last night’s International Economic Symposium held at the uber-swank Hotel George V Paris.

My behavior was quite understandable and forgivable

Before you judge me harshly for drinking myself into a stupor and passing out in the Tuileires Garden let me share with you what the world’s greatest economists and bankers postulated about the current state of our global financial system, economic progress and political environment at last night’s meeting. I suspect, Dear Reader, that what you are about to learn will convince you that my behavior, rather than being deplorable was quite understandable and forgivable.  I will explain how the word ‘Truth’ is now merely hollow collection of letters with no meaning.

How to keep a straight face when discussing economics in public

The 415 attendees at last night’s meeting filled the Georges V’s captivating and majestic Salon Vendome to capacity. The topics for discussion for the conference were as follows:

  1. Global Debt and Money Printing,
  2. The Ukraine
  3. The Banking System
  4. How to score a cushy job as a talking head on a major media outlet
  5. How to get a tenured position at a university [with a decent pension plan]
  6. How to keep a straight face when discussing economics in public

It was the discussion of the first three points that caused me to reach for my medication

Obviously the majority of the conference would focus on points 4 and 5 and 6. Personal enrichment was always a ‘hot topic’ at these sessions. However it was the discussion of the first three points that caused me to forego my usual medication [American as Apple Pie, Jack Daniels] and reach for the cheeky French wine I mentioned earlier. [I was in Paris after all].

Something to be scraped of the bottom of one’s shoe

Dear Reader, as part of my commitment to be honest with you most of the time, I should clarify that my attendance at the conference was not as an invited guest. As you may know my career as an Economist/Journalist/Barista has had its challenges. My continued attempts to expose the lunacy and danger of our current economic and banking strategies had turned me into a pariah within the community of bankers and economists. I am shunned at all gatherings of financial luminaries. Rather than with a smile and a handshake, my fellow economists and bankers greet me with a derisory smirk. Generally, my colleagues make me feel as if I am something to be scraped off the bottom of one’s shoe. Last night, in order to attend the conference I had secured a temporary job with the George V as an usher. My assignment was to help the economists navigate the theatre style setting of the Salon Vendome and stagger to their seats. This simple task was made ever so difficult for the attendees as a result of the copious amounts of alcohol consumed at the magnificent dinner, sponsored by one of the many industry lobbying firms hoping to curry favor with the economists. While food had been served at the dinner it was clear that the attendees had found their sustenance in the libation the hotel provided.  One of the sommeliers indicated to me that 1500 bottles of  Emmanuel Rouget Cros Parantoux Vosne Romanee Premier Cru [1985, $800 USD/bottle] had been consumed at dinner.

It’s a Rich Man’s World

As I watched the world’s foremost economists stumble their way to their seats like a barrel of immature orangutans, I had no reason to doubt the sommelier. The lights dimmed, Abba’s classic hit ‘Money, Money, It’s a Rich Man’s World’ blasted over the sound system. [This particular song is the adopted ‘National Anthem’ of the world’s Bankers and Economists.] The keynote speaker took the stage.

My old friend and BFF Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre

Dear Reader, words cannot describe my stupefaction when the key note speaker turned out to be none other than my old friend and BFF, Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre. Gustavo is the esteemed Director of Global Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB]. Gustavo and I had significant ‘history’ together. For many years he had been my principal bookie ‘back in the day’ on Wall Street when I made obscene amounts of money selling all manner of noxious, toxic [triple AAA rated of course] subprime mortgage pools to unsuspecting investors. At the same time Gustavo plied his bookmaking from the comfort of his previously enjoyed 1995 Honda Civic, usually parked conveniently on Hanover Street to better serve his Wall Street clientele. Sadly most of my earnings were depleted by the compulsive bets I made with Gustavo.

Gustavo’s non–existent moral compass ensured that he excelled

In any event Gustavo’s life changed forever, when a senior member of the ECB, while in New York to visit his paramour placed, with Gustavo, a staggeringly large and incorrect wager on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup. The only way the debt could be settled was to offer Gustavo a highly paid sinecure with the ECB. Because Gustavo lacked morals, ethics, and the ability to discern right from wrong, it was decided that he would become the ECB’s Director of Global Statistical Creation. His job was to fabricate statistics that would support the fantastical and bizarre monetary policies being implemented by Central Banks on a global basis. Gustavo’s non–existent moral compass ensured that he excelled at his job. It was Gustavo who created words and terms like Ring fencing, quantitative easing, whatever it takes, ‘tapering’, to help put a benign spin on the actions of Central Banks.

Overture, Dim the lights, this is it, the night of nights [with apologies to Bugs Bunny]

A hush overwhelmed the room as Gustavo approached the microphone. [Well, to be accurate the sound of random snores indicated that a number of economists had succumbed to the effects of the libation they had enjoyed with dinner.]

How to pretend to believe what one is saying

Gustavo confidently began his presentation: Ladies and Gentleman welcome to the 2014 International Economic Symposium. Before I address the important issues of protecting our pensions, how to become a talking head on television and how to pretend to believe what one is saying when talking with the media, I am required to discuss some notional economic issues. This will ensure that our sponsors our able to claim the cost of this gabfest as a tax deduction. I ask your patience and indulgence as I discuss some economic matters before we get to the ‘good stuff’.

Profligate, permanent, ponderous and profuse

Gustavo moved on to next section of his presentation: He lectured to the economists: First on the topic of banking and the economy I am pleased to announce that Global Government Debt has now reached 53 trillion dollars. This could not have been achieved with your help. Had the leading lights of the economic community not been willing to suspend common sense and proclaim, in lecture halls, newspapers, interviews, books and on television that profligate, permanent, ponderous and profuse government debt was the road to permanent prosperity, there would have been a disaster. Internal studies completed by Central Banks indicate that had the world governments decided not to gorge themselves on debt, over 100,000 bankers and economists would have lost their jobs. It is a testament to your influence, and might I say, your keen interest in self-preservation that made it possible to avoid the devastating impact of bankers and economists losing their jobs.

I had become a ‘cautionary tale’

Need I remind you, that if any of you are tempted, by your conscience, or concern for the 99% or your base interpretation of right and wrong, to publicly expose the inevitable disastrous end game of global debt accumulation, you will be shunned, you will be an outcast, and you will be ridiculed, destined to rejoin the 99%. As he said these chilling words, his gaze turned in my direction, followed by the stares of everyone in the Salon.  A soft spotlight captured me in its glare as I leaned against the wall. Clearly I had become a cautionary tale for all economists and bankers. I was being used as a threat to the bankers and economists in attendance. Do as we say or you too, could become David Hague. Yikes! I must admit Dear Reader, this hurt me, but not as much as the Doobie I had been smoking while listening to Gustavo. When the spotlight captured me I had surreptitiously held the doobie behind my back. It was now burning my fingers. Mercifully the spotlight was finally shifted back to Gustavo and I was able to extinguish the remainder of the burning Sinsemilla.

Special mention goes to economists and bankers in Canada

He continued his remarks; you have all been outstanding in your ability to anesthetize the public into accepting runaway debt. Special mention goes to economists and bankers in Canada who were able to shift the public’s attention from a billion dollars wasted on a non-existent Gas Plant in Ontario to a debate regarding the  Mayor of Toronto’s pathetic yet ultimately inexpensive behavior .

This conference would be held in the cafeteria of a newly renovated Alcatraz or the Bastille

The second landmark event achieved recently was the Federal Reserve’s ability to run their balance sheet over 4 trillion dollars reflecting their leadership in the area of money printing. Once again, this milestone could not have been reached without your help. Had economists chosen the path less travelled and used their influence to describe in detail the inevitable consequences of runaway money printing we would not be here today. In all likelihood this conference would be held in the cafeteria of a newly renovated Alcatraz or the Bastille. Yesterday, the newest member of our banking elite announced that the Federal Reserve would remain accommodative  for a very long time. Kudos to Janet Yellen for acquiescing and acknowledging that money printing is not a strategy it is now a way of life. On behalf of the 1% let me simply say thank you.

Can you say ‘Risk on’

Gustavo smiled at the room as he announced the momentous news that margin debt, [based on figures released yesterday by the New York Stock Exchange], has reached an all time high . He observed, as you know ladies and gentleman the smartest minds in the world work in the financial industry. They have collectively recognized the genius of our approach to monetary policy. Not only are they willing to bet their own money but they are willing to bet other people’s money as well. They have finally heard our message that we Central Bankers have got their back. There is complete confidence in the banking system that we will inflate the market forever. Furthermore Wall Street understands that if there is a minor hiccup such as the notional ‘Financial Crisis of 2008′ we Central Bankers, and our acolytes in government will step in and bail them out. I encourage you to beg, borrow or steal [just kidding, he snickered] and invest all your money in the world’s stock markets. They are headed to infinity and beyond!

A huge roar of laughter overwhelmed the room

Moving on let me briefly discuss the Ukraine. As you know the Ukraine owes western banks around 65 billion dollars . Between the International Monetary Fund, European and American banks, much of this money was made available to the Ukraine in the last 6 years. The purpose of the loans was to help the people of the Ukraine. A huge roar of laughter overwhelmed the room. Everyone knew that the money loaned to governments never benefitted the people. It was stolen, siphoned, purloined, or dissipated by commissions, bribes, finder’s fees and just plain sticky fingers. All ‘the people’ were left with was the debt. One would need a team of archeologists to find any benefit enjoyed by the people of the Ukraine resulting from the vast sums of money borrowed on their behalf.

It would be problematic, to say the least

Once the laughter died down Gustavo continued, it is very important that we keep the World’s attention focused on the issue of ‘Democratic Process’ in Ukraine. It would be problematic, to say the least if the public ever realized that the only motive for caring about the Ukraine was to protect European and American banks. The virtuous loop of money travelling from banks and International Agencies to the Ukrainian Government, then to be siphoned from the Ukrainian Government’s pocket into the hands of the Oligarchs and thus back to the western banks in the form of deposits must be allowed to continue. Imagine what the impact on the stock market and the luxury housing market would be if this tsunami of money stopped flooding through our banks. The room collectively shuddered at the thought. Gustavo continued, what is occurring now is a classic win-win situation, the bankers win and the Oligarchs win. [I thought to myself, if you included the Ukrainian people it would be the classic win-win-lose situation, as the people of the Ukraine will be forced to live in penury for generations due to this ‘virtuous’ monetary and fiscal policy.]

Once again the audience erupted in laughter

The western banking community has observed with great consternation that Russia is attempting to unilaterally, undemocratically, reshape the map of this region by annexing Crimea. They are attempting to infringe on the sacred and sovereign territory of the Ukraine. We cannot condone such a gesture, which will ultimately disrupt the free flow of capital held by Crimean, Ukrainian and Russian Oligarchs into western banks. Once again the audience erupted in laughter and derision. Gustavo stifled his own laughter at his own  ‘Bon mots’,

Borders in Europe, like socks, are changed almost daily

He continued, borders in Europe, like socks, are changed almost daily. Borders in Europe have changed 2,308 times over the last thousand years. At the same time the Great Powers have imposed, changed and re-imposed borders throughout the world whenever their diplomats or geologists have discovered something of value. The hard part, as always is putting a palatable spin on the dislocation to ensure that members of the 99% will sacrifice their blood and treasure to achieve the required change. The peace, prosperity, freedom and tranquility enjoyed by Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent is a testament to the skill and foresight of the Great Power’s ability to wisely reshape the world. Throughout these tumultuous changes I am pleased to report that not one banker or economist ever lost their job or their fortune due to political upheaval. Once again you should be commended for your contribution to this singular achievement.

During the break there will be an open bar

Finally, let be briefly comment on our banking system before we take a two hour break. I am empathetic to the exhaustion you feel after I have required you to concentrate on economic matters for 15 minutes. During the break there will be an open bar. He continued, I am pleased to announce that 6 years after the so called ‘financial crisis’ we have achieved a 100% protection rate that back in 2008 was thought to be unattainable. Remarkably we have been able to ensure that not one banker or economist has been charged, fined, jailed, fired or inconvenienced despite the fact that under our watch we made 15 trillion dollars disappear.

This collateral damage is a necessary consequence of progress.

The net worth of the 1% has now exceeded pre-crisis levels. Sure there have been some wars, civil strife, famine, and unemployment as capital is stolen, misallocated, and wasted. This collateral damage is a necessary consequence of progress. We have been able to ensure that no new laws limiting banks behavior have been implemented.  Stress tests and capital requirements for banks have been completely eviscerated to accommodate bank behavior that enriches the banks in the short term and will require more bailouts in the future. Banks are ‘good to go’ as we prepare for the next crisis. Once again, give yourself a pat on the back. Your ability to foist absurd yet plausible rationale on all your public communication ensures that the public will willingly acquiesce to whatever the next idiotic iteration our policies espouse.

There would be an open bar

The audience leapt to their feet to provide Gustavo a standing ovation. Dear reader, I have attended enough of these meetings not to be fooled by the applause. They were not acknowledging the wisdom or insights provided in Gustavo’s speech. Rather the economists were expressing their enthusiasm and approval at Gustavo’s remark that there would be an open bar during the break.

Straight into the Bermuda Triangle

There you have it. Dear Reader the inmates have taken over the asylum. Our financiers, economists and bankers have set sail on a course straight into the Bermuda Triangle. That the ship will reach land some day is indisputable. That it will land badly is incontrovertible. The 99%, who seem to have adopted the Ostrich as their ‘National Bird’ would be well advised to ponder these matters to prepare for the consequences of our current economic policies.

I made my purchase

As the audience, energized by the end of the presentation and excited at the thought of an open bar jumped over chairs and tripped over each other to get to the bar I asked the sommelier where I could acquire some cheap wine. Following his directions I made my way to a local market and made my purchase.

It is only fun until somebody gets hurt.

With three bottles of wine in hand I settled into one of the comfy chairs surrounding the Grand Bassin Octagonal in Tuileres Garden. Our current economic and banking strategy reminded me of something our mothers used to say to us when we were growing up. [Usually in reference to playing with matches, scissors, darts or other sharp implements] Our mothers told us “It is only fun until somebody gets hurt.”  I thought about the future we were leaving our children. Maybe we can extend and pretend long enough to ensure the repercussions of our economic and banking strategies land on our children’s heads rather than our own. Perhaps we can ensure that it is not us but our children who are required to ‘pay the piper’. I consumed the wine, toasted the Eiffel Tower, visible in the distance and fell into a blissful sleep.

You have got to be joking! Bitcoin? My report from the World Economic Forum

davos

Dear Reader, I must apologize for my tardiness in filing my report on last month’s World Economic Forum   [WEF] in Davos. This annual gathering of the world’s best and brightest, society’s rich and famous, the powerful and the political, the lobbyists as well as many economists, groupies, and assorted riff raff [Yours truly would fall into the last category.] is, perhaps, the most important harbinger of the prospects for the global economy in 2014.  My reasons for being so late in filing my report will soon become apparent. I arrived in Davos, more excited than I had ever been in my career. A coterie of powerful bankers had retained me to make a keynote speech at the conference on the topic of Derivatives. They had agreed to cover my expenses and pay me handsomely for the opportunity to hear my thoughts on the subject.

Bitcoin: Friend or Foe?

However, when I arrived at the front desk of the opulent Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère I was summarily informed that my reservation had been cancelled. I was given a letter signed by a senior banker, whose name I will not mention, that indicated, that my presentation had been eliminated and replaced by a lecture entitled ‘Bitcoins: Friend of Foe?’

Oh my! No central authority or middlemen

It was not surprising that topic had made its way onto the agenda. Bitcoin could prove to be Main Street’s defense against doltish monetary interventions by Central Banks in the market. According to the ECB’s own research entitled Virtual Currency Schemes, October 2012. “The theoretical roots of Bitcoin can be found in the Austrian school of economics and its criticism of the current fiat money system and interventions undertaken by governments and other agencies, which, in their view, result in exacerbated business cycles and massive inflation.” Bitcoin according to its website is “a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money. It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen.” If John Lennon were with us today one wonders if he might not add another verse to his timeless song ‘Imagine’ . Imagine there are no central bankers.  You can see why the bankers, politicians and Wall Street would be terrified. Bitcoin is viewed as anarchistic heresy by Wall Street, politicians and bankers alike. It would put hundreds of thousands of bankers, regulators and politicians out of work. Bitcoin is thought to be more dangerous than the insurgents in Europe and America who hundreds of years ago had the temerity to suggest that democracy was a better form of government than a monarchy, dictatorship or oligarchy. Bitcoin would put control of the money back in the hands of Main Street. It would reacquaint the world with the meaning of the words ‘moral hazard and ‘caveat emptor’.

Those Rat Bastard bankers had hung me out to dry

Dear Reader I digress, back to my predicament. In addition to cancelling my presentation the letter indicated that my security pass for the entire conference had been revoked. I would not receive any reimbursement for my expenses. It suggested that I should leave Davos immediately to avoid being escorted out of town by the security guard who had magically appeared beside me at the desk. Dear Reader, you can’t imagine my vexation. Those Rat Bastard bankers had hung me out to dry.

I could not even afford the price of a Fasnachtsküchlein,

The money spent on my New York to Davos airfare would never find its way back into my pocket. [Well to be honest, it probably would find its way home as the check used to pay for the flight was now going to bounce higher than the CN Tower .]  I had no money and was about to find myself wandering down Davos’s main street, the Promenade, on a freezing cold winter night on my way to financial ruin. I was destitute. I could not even afford the price of a Fasnachtsküchlein, those delicious cookies served most frequently during Switzerland’s annual winter carnival. I certainly could not afford my airfare home. I had been counting on the huge payday that had been promised to me by the bankers to reinvigorate my finances as well as my journalistic career when I spent my last dime.

In fact it was Switzerland’s equivalent of Nevada’s famous Mustang Ranch

Dear Reader, I was down and almost out. I wandered through the bitter cold on a lonely road on the outskirts of Davos when I saw a wonderful sight.  A brightly lit building, with a tacky neon sign indicating that it was the Auberge du ‘Plaisir’, a Gentleman’s Club. In fact it was Switzerland’s equivalent of Nevada’s famous Mustang Ranch, the world’s most famous brothel. I realized that with the World Economic Forum taking place down the road they might be hiring. After a brief conversation with the Manager, a wise woman who recognized that my skills in high finance, banking, management and journalism were quite useless in the real world hired me to run the coat check room for next three weeks [room and board provided]. I got to work immediately.

The Auberge got very busy around 1 p.m. each day

Dear Reader, at this point you are probably thinking that while my story thus far has been intriguing, it has not provided you with any insights from the WEF that you can translate into profitable trading activity. Well, prepare to be dazzled. The Auberge got very busy around 1 p.m. each day. The attendees at the WEF would finish their sumptuous lunch and declare ‘victory’ on the day’s work. They would all pile in a cab and head down the road to the Auberge. Spotting an opportunity, when they checked their briefcases and coats with me, I surreptitiously picked the locks on their briefcases and read all the confidential documents contained within. Dear Reader you will not believe what I learned.

There was nothing to discuss

Surprisingly they all had a copy of the ‘Conclusions and Recommendations’ from the 2014 WEF. This document had been printed a month before the conference had even started. No wonder their work day finished at noon. There was nothing to discuss. The WEF was merely a façade for the world’s Central Bankers and the 1% to impose their vision of the economic future on Main Streets from Buenos Aires to Bombay and everywhere in between. Most importantly it was an opportunity to calm the masses that our leaders have everything under control. The notional ‘conclusions’ of the 2014 WEF are as follows: {from the World Economic Forum, Annual Meeting 2014, Executive Summary, Davos-Klosters, Switzerland 22-25 January }

 

I suggest you drink several espressos to help keep you awake

An excerpt from the summary reads: [A word of caution Dear Reader before your read this profound and brilliant summary of the thoughts of the world’s greatest minds I suggest you drink several espressos to help keep you awake as you read. Furthermore you probably should have some of your favorite remedy for an upset stomach to calm your queasy innards after you finish reading the excerpt. The realization that the world’s leaders in fact have not a clue as to how to guide us through the morass that is the global economy will leave you quite dizzy. Here is the excerpt:

 

Like you I had no clue what heterarchies means

“Profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces are transforming our lives, communities and institutions. Rapidly crossing geographic, gender and generational boundaries, they are shifting power from traditional hierarchies to networked heterarchies. [Dear reader let me save you the trouble of reaching for your dictionary. Like you and my ‘spellcheck’ I had no clue what heterarchies means, follow the link provided and prepare to be further confused] yet the international community remains crisis-driven instead of strategic in the face of the trends, drivers and opportunities pushing global, regional and industry transformation.

The conclusion is that the world needs to pause and consider the following:

– At an individual level, technological revolutions are changing the context for decision-making and disrupting our conventional learning processes.

– At an institutional level, a hyper-connected world requires systemic, integrated issue mapping to create coherence and overcome compartmentalized thinking.

– At an international level, the formal architecture for global governance was not designed for the interdisciplinary challenges and collective action problems of today. As a result, international cooperation has yet to fully enter the information age and capture its associated productivity gains.”

You have now joined a very exclusive club

Dear Reader you have now joined a very exclusive club. The club’s members are those individuals who actually read the Executive Summary from the WEF. It now includes you, me and the person who typed the summary. If I may take the liberty of providing you a précis of the aforementioned excerpt, in simple terms the most brilliant minds in the universe have concluded that the world is complicated. One can deduce from this excerpt that in the face of such complexity that the explication our leaders will offer will be that continued debt accumulation and money printing are the appropriate course of action. I guess to bankers all problems look the same. One must remember though, that, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail!

Agfok: A Gift For Our Kids

Dear reader now I will share a most shocking revelation. In one briefcase I found a ‘Top Secret’ directive indicating that the bankers and governments intended to add a new word to the English language. This addition was motivated by a recognition that the word ‘debt’ as defined by Merriam Webster implies something that is owed and will be paid back. This definition is becoming a very Inconvenient Truth for the world’s bankers and politicians. It has been proposed that the word debt be replaced with the word Agfok, [an acronym for A Gift For Our Kids] This would be a recognition of the ‘facts on the ground’ that the 52 trillion dollars  of global government debt will never be repaid. It will simply be a giant millstone we will tie around our children’s neck as we baby boomers depart this earth.

Convert the payroll of the world’s central banks from fiat currency  to Bitcoin

The next briefcase contained a copy of an email that had been sent to the Human Resources department of all the world’s central banks. The email was an explanation of the process required to convert the payroll of the world’s central banks from fiat currency  to Bitcoin. It appears that the central banker’s public protestations of confidence in the worlds monetary system based on Fiat Currency does not extend to our central bankers desire to keep their own personal finances in order.

Their desire was for relaxation and a happy ending to their day.

Dear Reader you are probably wondering why the guests at the Auberge were not complaining that the briefcases they left under my care were being mangled, bashed and broken into while under my protection. Fortunately they were all seasoned air travelers and were quite accustomed to any checked baggage being treated in this fashion. Furthermore the guests at the Auberge were all very relaxed after a hard mornings work. They did not want any stress or confrontation. Their desire was for relaxation and a happy ending to their day.

My spandex days were long behind me,

I looked up from my research and was startled to see a familiar face smiling at me as he asked me to take his coat and briefcase.  [Honestly he was not smiling he was doubled over in laughter]. Apparently the sight of me dressed in the uniform provided to me by the Auberge amused him. [My employer required that I wear only black spandex pants, shirt cuffs and a bow tie, a look made famous by the Chippendale Dancers]. I will admit that my spandex days were long behind me, but a job is a job.

A wild, reckless, huge and ultimately ruinous and incorrect wager

The familiar face was none other than my old friend, Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, the Director of Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB]. My relationship with Gustavo traced its inception back to my days on Wall Street when I specialized in packaging worthless securities into triple-A rated investment grade pools of money to be sold to anyone with a pulse. Sadly I spent the large sums of money I earned for providing this public service on myriad types of gambling including significant wagers with my favorite bookie who was none other than the man standing in front of me, Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre. His life began its rapid ascension to its current lofty position when a senior member of the ECB, while visiting New York, in a crack and alcohol induced stupor placed with Gustavo, a wild, reckless, huge and ultimately ruinous and incorrect wager on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup. The only way the debt could be settled was for the senior member of the ECB to offer Gustavo a highly paid sinecure at the ECB. Gustavo became the ECB’s Global Director of Statistical Creation. His job was to fabricate statistics on a global basis that would support whatever “strategy du jour” the world’s bankers and economists were proposing on any given day.

My good friend and former bookie was now a formidable force in the global banking industry.

It was Gustavo who had proposed inventing the word Agfok to replace the word debt. Gustavo’s high tolerance for alcohol, his connections to a constant supply of cocaine, his complete lack of ethics, his unlimited expense account, his skill with numbers and his love of La Dolce Vita made him an invaluable addition to the world’s central banking team.

You treacherous contract-cancelling cretin

As he regained his composure Gustavo looked as though he was going to make a snide remark about my new station in life. I spoke sharply, “Before you say one word you treacherous contract- cancelling cretin I would remind you that no individual earning their living working a coat check room ever caused a global financial meltdown, ruined people’s lives, depleted their savings, and debased the world’s currencies. It is honest work”. Gustavo smirked, “It was not my fault your contract was cancelled. You were not replaced with a Bitcoin presentation. Truthfully, the time you were allocated conflicted with the time the lobbyists at the conference were going to be giving out their swag and bling to curry favor with the attendees.

Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon 

No one would miss a chance to load up on trips, watches, jewelry and other assorted luxury items to hear you speak. He removed one of the three Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon  watches he was wearing. Clearly he done a ’victory lap’ at Swag and Bling party hosted by the world’s foremost lobbying firms. He handed it to me and said, “Here David take this as a token of my sincere regret at any inconvenience you may have suffered by the cancellation of your contract.”  I took his coat and briefcase with one hand and googled Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon on my Smartphone with my other hand. This trivial piece of bling was worth over a million dollars and Gustavo had three of them, [well two now]. His was so inebriated he surely did not know what he was doing.  I however was quite sober, and knew exactly what I was doing as I put the watch on my ankle. [Dear Reader, are you crazy? Do you think I am going to walk around with a million dollar watch on my wrist for all to see? I might just as well put a sign on my head and say ‘Rob me’. It would be safe on my ankle until such time as I could sell it.] “All right Gustavo”, I said begrudgingly yet with a smile, “I accept your apology”. While I tried to appear outwardly to Gustavo that my forgiveness was reluctant, it was hard to accomplish as my mind was doing the ‘dance of great joy’ at the financial salvation now adorning my ankle.

My ankles were now bedecked with matching watches

“So David, have you found anything interesting in those briefcases?” Gustavo asked. I found his assumption that I was plundering the briefcases both offensive and reassuring. Clearly he was still an ally. “David”, he continued, “If you discover any information that could help me compromise my enemies or frankly, provide the opportunity for some profitable blackmailing I will pay you handsomely for your discovery. I handed him a dozen smart phones that I had purloined over the last few days. “What do I want with a bunch of lousy cell phones David”, he growled. “Gustavo, Check it out”, I grinned as I took one of the phones and showed him how to review the stored photographs. His eyes lit up when he saw the ‘Selfies’ the hapless owner of the phone had taken of himself and his escort at the Auberge. All the phones have similar compromising images of their respective owners. He took off another Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon, handed it to me and thanked me profusely. My ankles were now bedecked with matching watches. I was beginning to feel like a man again.

Your stupidity is only exceeded by your naiveté

“David, I would love to chat with you but I have an appointment upstairs, put the cell phones in my briefcase. I will collect my belongings in an hour.” “Before you go Gustavo, can you save me some time? Can you just tell me if this year’s WEF has anything interesting to say to the world?” “David” he lectured, “as usual your stupidity is only exceeded by your naiveté. The main purpose of the WEF is to gather the world’s most influential people together so that the world’s most powerful lobbyists can explain to them the political and economic agenda for the upcoming year. The second purpose of the WEF is to reassure Main Street that the world’s leaders have ‘got their backs’ and are working to ensure their continued prosperity. This will placate and anesthetize the masses into a state of inertia whilst the world’s elite prepare for the financial cataclysm their leadership has made inevitable. The final purpose of this year’s conference was to put an end to all this talk of digital currencies.” He staggered up the stairs to his meeting.

I ended my brief career in the Swiss hotel industry

Dear reader I was still bristling with indignation at being called stupid and naïve. I was somewhat mollified by the fact that I wearing 2 million dollars’ worth of watches on my ankles.  I handed my bow tie into the Manager of the Auberge and ended my brief career in the Swiss hotel industry. I filed my report on the World Economic Forum and then headed off to Geneva to sell the watches. I was quite prepared to accept Bitcoin as payment for my extraordinary timepieces.

 

 

 

Canada puts the ‘funk’ in the word dysfunctional [and why you should care]

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Dear Reader, you probably said to yourself that the premise of this article is absurd and preposterous. Canada is a paragon of fiscal responsibility. It is a bastion of good governance in a confused world of financial instability. It is a shining beacon of democracy, the envy of the world. I would have agreed with you until I received a very disturbing early morning phone call from Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, the Director of Statistical Creation, at the European Central Bank [ECB]. My relationship with Gustavo LaFramboise-Pierre went back many years. He had been my bookie since 1980 when I began my career in the investment industry. His life took a significant turn for the better when a senior member of the European Central Bank [ECB] bet large and incorrectly on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup. The only way the senior member of the ECB could settle the debt was to offer Gustavo a high paying sinecure at the ECB. Overnight, Gustavo found himself living in Paris, with the responsibility of fabricating fictional statistics to support whatever policies were being propagated by the world’s central banks.  Whether the need of the Central Banks was to convince Main Street that ‘Perpetual Money Printing was a valid monetary policy or inveigle the world to continue to surmise that Japan, with a  national debt more than twice the size of its economy is anything but a failed nation state, Gustavo creates a veritable blizzard of data that purports to support whatever alternate reality bankers desire the public to believe. His prowess at inventing new words such as ‘tapering’, ring fencing, and ‘Euro Stability’ made him invaluable. Gustavo’s almost sociopathic desire to enrich himself personally outweighed any qualms he might have felt about perpetuating a fraud on the entire world. Hence he excelled at his job. His performance even had some very influential people encouraging him to consider politics. Gustavo clearly had the ‘Right Stuff’ to be a leader.

Why would the ECB care about Canada?

Gustavo sounded desperate, “David I need your help, I have just been handed a top secret report that expresses deep concern about Canada’s financial stability. The report indicates that Canada could default on its debt and trigger a global meltdown in the world’s debt markets”.  I laughed and asked Gustavo how much wine he had consumed with breakfast.” He was not amused. “I am serious David; this report indicates that Canada is on the edge of the abyss and ready to step off. I need you to do some research for me and help disprove this report.” Gustavo, why does the ECB care about Canada, isn’t that a little out of the ECB’s purview. Shouldn’t you be worrying about Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and France?” “David, if Canada’s economy has a meltdown and its debt becomes a problem, it will trigger a domino effect around the world. Canada’s meltdown would be catastrophic to the global debt markets. Europe would be dragged into the abyss”.

Standard consultants fee of $10, 000 [USD] per day to a maximum of $500,000”

I thought he was being preposterous but as a consultant to governments and their agencies I had a keen eye and I saw an opportunity to make some money.  I sounded sincere and indicated that I agreed that it was an important issue that merited analysis. I enquired delicately on the subject of remuneration.  Gustavo was quick to respond.  “We will pay you the standard consultants fee of $10, 000 [USD] per day to a maximum of $500,000”. [I always found it amusing that the ECB insisted in doing business in USD. Did they know something we do not know?]  Gustavo continued, “As usual I expect you to hire my sister and my son as your assistants and pay them each $2,500 per day.” I groaned, Gustavo always did this to me.

Game on

His son was 4 years old and had already accumulated enough money from these types of contracts to put himself through Harvard Medical School. His only contribution would take place if a client wanted the report done in crayon or finger painted. However that still left $5,000 a day for me so it was ‘game on’.

The crack of noon

Gustavo, this project will be difficult and time consuming but I will squeeze it in to my busy schedule.  I hung up and got ready to work. I went out my front door and took my neighbor’s recently delivered copy of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Newspaper, so that I could begin my research. Dear Reader I was not stealing the newspaper from my neighbor. My neighbor was a Member of Parliament. He never awoke until the ‘crack of noon’; I would return the newspaper long before then.  I sat down at the kitchen table, prepared my breakfast, [cold pizza left over from a party I had last week end], poured some coffee in my glass of whisky, [Jack Daniels, of course] and opened the newspaper to begin my research. Dear Reader we can, I am sure, all agree that in order for a country to step over the edge and into the abyss of the debt crisis six key elements must exist as a precondition to economic disaster.

Six preconditions for disaster

  1. A dysfunctional and inefficient government
  2. Huge government debt and deficits
  3. High household debt level
  4. A bubble formation in the real estate market
  5. A state of denial must exist in the country
  6. Corruption  must be pervasive  throughout all levels of government

This was going to be the easiest $500,000 [less expense] I ever made.  Canada is the world’s leader in good governance and efficiency. Everyone knows this fact except the anarchists at the ECB that produced the report that had Gustavo so upset.

Prorogation, there is a word you do not see very often

However I got a little queasy when I read the first headline in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national. The gist of the headline was that Ontario’s unelected Premier was considering calling an election to legitimize the Liberal party’s hold on power.  This curious circumstance was enabled by a little known aspect of Canada’s laws. In Canada, governments are allowed to suspend democracy at their leisure by using something called prorogation. Prorogation of Parliament, is usually activated by a ruling party when the ‘scandal du jour’ is proving to be too intense.  In Ontario democracy was temporarily suspended in 2013. A new premier was appointed by the ruling party without consulting the electorate. Only now, is Ontario’s unelected Premier considering scheduling a pesky and tedious election to see what the opinion of Main Street might be on this issue. Prorogation is an abuse of power . Prorogation should not be confused with Pierogi, [which as we all know is a tasty dumpling.]  Prorogation of Parliament is a procedure to discontinue the meetings of a legislative body without dissolving it. This would be akin to a publicly traded company shutting down its head office for 6 or 7 months to avoid explaining disappointing financial results. Ontario is Canada’s largest province. It owes 280 billion dollars, and its deficits are out of control. It is currently being lead by an unelected Premier.  Prorogation helped the ruling party in Ontario avoid difficult questions about corruption. The federal government was so impressed they decided to suspend democracy for a period of time by prorogation to avoid any oversight on their own corruption problems. Fortunately for both levels of government the outrage one would expect from the people did not occur as Canada’s ‘Main Street’ was transfixed’ by the chaos in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Like Ontario, Toronto is now governed by an unelected leader. The elected mayor had his powers suspended after, well it’s hard to describe, Dear Reader just Google Mayor of Toronto and any one of the following terms, ‘crack cocaine’, ‘drunken stupor, ‘rant video,’ ‘Jamaican patois obscenities,’ ‘drug lords’ ‘disgusting sexual innuendo’ ‘viral videos, and ‘drunk driving’. Any one of these searches will, I am sure describe adequately, the dysfunctional state of democracy in Toronto.

Fortress Quebec

Thank goodness this was not happening in Quebec, Canada’s second largest province, whose debt issues are even worse than Ontario’s. Oh wait Dear Reader methinks I spoke too soon. Quebec’s only issue is that, like Spain’s reluctant province of Catalonia, Quebec’s government has separation as its main objective. To achieve this goal, Quebec’s government is pursuing an agenda that involves suspending the “Freedom of Religion” currently enjoyed by its citizens.  It has introduced legislation deceptively called, the Charter of Values . This legislation will ensure discrimination against individuals who have religious beliefs. This legislation is an attempt to secure primacy for the ‘pure laine’ of Quebec, by encouraging anyone who is not ‘pure laine’ to leave the province. The separatist Quebec government is attempting to secure ‘Fortress Quebec’ prior to the next attempt at separating from Canada.

By capable I mean not currently in jail

There is an understanding in Quebec that one must move quickly. Quebec’s  Charbonneau Commission, tasked with investigating government corruption is discovering abuse of power on such a massive scale that one wonders if there will be anyone left capable [By capable, I mean not currently indicted or not currently in jail] of governing the province. At least Quebec will not need to worry about Canada’s Senate interfering. Canada’s Senate, the people’s unelected body of sober second thought, tasked with the responsibly of protecting the people’s interest is currently the subject of myriad investigations relating to corruption, abuse of power, fraud, theft, stupidity and hubris.

How do you spell boondoggle?

I then googled boondoggles over a billion dollars in Canada and came up with a startling number of hits. Gun registry, E-health cards, energy plants, G-20 summit, Pan Am Games and I realized maybe Gustavo had a reason to be concerned. OK, so Canada’s governments are dysfunctional, corrupt and inefficient. One precondition met and five to go.

That was quick

Dear Reader I did not need to do any research on the second precondition, huge debts and deficits. By now we are all familiar with the global debt clock . Canada’s accumulated debt, when one considers provincial debt as well, is almost two trillion dollars and rising. Two preconditions for disaster achieved and four preconditions to go.

I owe I owe, It is off to work I go

I was no longer queasy I was distinctly dizzy. I reached for my cold pizza and took a long sip from the bottle of Jack Daniels as I viewed the next article. It related to the third precondition required for a country’s economic meltdown, high household debt. Canadian’s debt soars into the danger zone  screamed the headline.  Canadian’s household indebtedness is now worse than our American cousins debt level was just before they jumped off the subprime cliff and into the abyss. Canadians it seems have a very, dare I say it, American appetite for debt. In December 2013 Canada’s household debt reached a new record. The third item on our list, hopeless amounts of household debt, had been achieved. I placed a thick check mark beside it on my list.

Why are bubbles easier to identify after they burst?

I dipped my pizza in my whisky and turned to the next page. Surely there was some good news. Yikes, I thought as I looked at the next headline. Canada’s real estate market has been fantastic for the last few years. Prices have soared. There is no way that Canada’s real estate market could be a bubble that would soon burst. However the research and comments from Deutsche Bank stating that Canada’s real estate market was overvalued by as much as 60%  was shocking. There clearly is trouble in paradise.

I could make Gustavo’s son work for his fee

Canada’s real estate market was showing all the signs of a classic bubble ready to burst. It also occurred to me that I could actually make Gustavo’s son work for his portion of the fee. He could use his crayons and draw me a nice picture of a bubble bursting for my report. In any event, I put a checkmark beside the fourth precondition, a classic real estate bubble formation.

Don’t tell me I am in denial, I refuse to believe you

Gustavo’s sister, a psychiatrist in Ireland might help me with the fifth precondition for Canada’s economic Waterloo. ‘Denial’ is a very complicated issue. It is the reason that so many diseases and disorders are not treated. In order to get better one must first recognize the problem. If my AA meetings taught me anything it is that you must recognize the problem before you can fix it.  Imagine my consternation when I read the next headline. Canada’s debt problem, the numbers just do not add up . Canada’s debt [almost 2 trillion dollars] when one considers the additional burden of provincial debt is actually one of the most appalling realities in the world. Like governments around the world the Canadian government will proclaim to all and sundry that the problem will be solved within the next ten years.

You want your banker to laugh.

Dear Reader should you wish to amuse your banker, try telling your banker not to worry about all the money you owe them because you have a ten year plan, not to reduce the debt, but to simply stop adding to your debt at the end of 10 years. You can increase the volume of your bankers hysterical laughter by indicating that the cornerstone of your plan is to increase your income by 30% each year by, well, really, let us be honest, like most governments plans to solve its debt problem, your plan is just a dream, similar to Canada’s debt reduction plan.

My most recent AA meeting

My emotions as I read the article reminded me of the reaction of the audience at my most recent AA meeting when I announced that I had reduced my alcohol consumption by 10%. No words were said, but it was clear that everyone in the room was saddened, worried and disappointed with my declaration.  Unfortunately denial is still the main component of Canada’s economic strategy. [Dear Reader I appreciate your concern, it is possible that I have my own denial issues to resolve’] However I had to admit that fifth precondition for a country preparing to cross the ‘Debt Rubicon’ had been met. Denial was alive and well in Canada.

The Big Owe

Prior to my research I would never have believed that Canada had challenges with corruption. However, and I am not clear whether these items should fall under the category, as previously discussed of dysfunctional government or in their own separate category.  I knew now that corruption was not just an inconvenient truth; it was permeating the fabric of Canada’s democracy. From the senate scandals, the corruption inquiries on Quebec, to the abuse of power oozing though countless government boondoggles it is clear that Canada is “in trouble plenty.” Government overspending and corruption has existed in Canada for years. Even Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island is trying to see how far it can go in denying its citizens  ‘Freedom of Information’   There is a reason Canada, in addition to inventing the term ‘Eh’ [pronounced ‘A’] also invented the term ‘the Big Owe’ a reference to the ‘Mother of all Corrupt Boondoggles’, the  multibillion dollar construction and collapse [well sort of a collapse] of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.  [ The Big Owe ]

Ka-ching, significant paydays would be coming my way

While I was now thoroughly saddened by the fact that sixth and final precondition for a country’s sudden economic tailspin had been met. I must admit I was also a little excited. It was times like these that governments reach out to consultants for thoughtful research, analysis, and recommendations. I sensed there would be some significant paydays coming my way. I looked at my watch. I had been hard at work for almost an hour. My only challenge now would be to delay submission of my report for 49 days so that Gustavo’s sister, his son and I could collect the full $500,000 fee.

Wasting away in Margaritaville

I called Gustavo, he was almost incoherent. The luncheon he indicated I was interrupting was clearly taking place in the town made legendary, by a song extolling its virtues. Margaritaville is a popular destination for many bankers. He was quite drunk. “Gustavo, I just want to clarify something. If I do this research and find out that your internal report is actually correct will I still be paid?”  Gustavo, angry at being interrupted in the middle of his luncheon said, “David, if your analysis supports the findings of our internal report and indicates that Canada is quite possibly going to implode and drag Europe and the rest of the world along with it, you will not receive a penny. Are we clear?”  Crystal clear, I thought to myself, I can handle the truth. Gustavo screamed into the phone in exasperation, “We want an honest, in depth analysis that concludes that Canada is great shape and that there is no cause for alarm. Now stop bothering me and ‘Just do it’”. As Gustavo had not seen the inside of gym in 20 years I found his reference to the Nike slogan amusing.

I am a consultant not an idiot

Dear Reader, I am a consultant not an idiot. I must ask that you disregard and forget everything you have just read. I am putting the finishing touches on my report, that much to Gustavo’s delight will declare Canada as the world’s most economically stable and well governed country. You must view some of the facts that you have just read as rare exceptions [no matter how many times these exceptions occur.] Furthermore you must not ask yourself the following question? If Canada is in such precarious shape how many other countries that are believed to be stable, are actually staring into the credit abyss.

Move along, nothing to see here

Please dear Reader, if anyone asks you about Canada’s economic circumstances please just tell them to ‘move along, nothing to see here, just keep moving.’ I wiped the pizza crumbs off the newspaper, folded it neatly and returned it to my neighbor.

Aside

Sex, Drugs and Derivatives

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Dear Reader I recently returned from two weeks of ‘high level’ meetings with a group of Bankers [this is code for two weeks of subsidized debauchery with bankers] in Rome. As I sat at my desk, I was hoping to motivate myself to pursue a more chaste and pure existence. Unfortunately the Polar Vortex experienced by North America drained me of my good intentions. The bone chilling cold once again had me reaching for my trusty bottle of Jack Daniels for warmth and inspiration. My time in Rome had not been completely ‘wasted’, so to speak. I had secured a contract from the European Central Bank [ECB] to research the topic of Derivatives. I was to present my findings at the upcoming World Economic Forum  in Davos later this month.

One Quadrillion Dollars: Too Big to Understand

Dear Reader, please resist your natural instinct to click away from this commentary at the mere mention of the word ‘Derivatives’. I am acutely aware of the boredom and befuddlement that this word instills in you. At this point I would simply remind you that the derivatives market is estimated to exceed one quadrillion dollars.  [This stupidly large number is actually an accurate estimate of the size of the derivatives marketplace]. Despite the fact the derivatives market eclipses the market capitalization of the NYSE by an exponential factor, it is not discussed, reported or tracked because it is simply too complicated and opaque. The observation that derivatives can be compared to ‘weapons of mass financial destruction’  seems to be the beginning and end of any discussion on the topic.

Derivatives are a parasitic financial instrument

For those of you who are unschooled on the topic of derivatives, allow me to explain. Derivatives are abstract financial instruments, which, like parasites, can attach themselves to all manner of stocks, bonds, mortgages, commodity, debt obligations, currency exchange, interest rate fluctuations…in short, anything. Derivatives exist in the ‘twilight zone’ of the banking industry. Like black holes, their presence and massive influence are acknowledged yet the true influence on the global economy of this quadrillion dollar ‘event horizon’ is only theoretical. The near catastrophic disasters at Barings, JP Morgan and AIG are small examples of their destructive powers. However I will offer you Investorpedia’s more clinical definition. “A security whose price is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is merely a contract between two or more parties.” 

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, [ The Gambler ]

One might think of derivatives as a random game of online poker, you don’t know who your opponents are [your counterparty], you do not know if you will be paid [counterparty risk], you do not know if the game is legitimate, [lack of regulation], and your opponents are probably able to see what cards you are holding, [market domination by large banks]. As well, you are making bets that in many instances neither you nor your opponents fully grasp [complexity of the market]. With each wager you are potentially risking not only your current assets, but your future assets as well.  [Leverage]. In some cases you do not know how much you are betting. Imagine as well, that you play this game every day with trillions of dollars that you do not have. This is the global derivatives market.

It is all Greek to me

Alternately, as derivatives are often created as a form of insurance, think of them as an insurance policy in which you:

-Do not know the name, address or any contact information relating to your insurer

-Do not know if your insurer has the resources to pay a claim

-Do not understand the insurance contract as it is written in Greek

-Must rely on a shadowy third party [ISDA]  to decide what constitutes a claim. [Credit event]

-Do not know whether your insurer is itself vulnerable to the particular risk you have contracted with it to insure.

His moral lassitude allowed him to excel

Dear Reader I digress let me return to my narrative. The aforementioned lucrative contract was secured by two key factors. The first factor was my friendship with Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre  the European Central Bank’s [ECB] Global Director of Statistical Creation. My relationship with such an esteemed member of the ECB traced its roots back to Gustavo’s days as a bookie for Wall Street’s elite. I referred so much business to him we became very good friends. His station in life took a remarkable turn when a senior member of the ECB, while in New York on a ‘fact finding mission’ [this is code for visiting his favorite escort] made an outrageously large and incorrect wager on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the term ‘derivative’ is commonly used in sports betting!) The only way the debt could be settled was for the banker to offer Gustavo a highly paid sinecure at the ECB. Gustavo became the Global Director of Statistical Creation with the responsibility of making up statistics to support whatever fantastical and deranged policies Central Banks around the world were initiating. Remarkably Gustavo’s aptitude for numbers, coupled with his moral lassitude allowed him to excel at his job. I believe it was Gustavo who invented the term ‘Quantitative Easing’ as a benign euphemism for runaway money printing.

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’

The second factor that secured the contract for me was a chance remark I made as Gustavo and I enjoyed a ‘working lunch’, with several senior executives who represented many of the world’s largest banks. The working lunch was held at Rome’s exclusive Blue Moon Gentleman’s Club. As the featured dancer left the stage I happened to mention to the assorted luminaries that I had read an article on the subject of derivatives. The bankers looked at me with something akin to awe and reverence. Gustavo whispered to me that the topic of derivatives had been discussed in a recent conference call by the world’s bankers. The conclusion reached at that time was that derivatives were too boring and too complicated for bankers to grasp. Despite JP Morgan’s very public, expensive and monumentally stupid 5 billon dollar derivatives trading loss  bankers still choose to remain cocooned in a ‘Cloak of Ignorance’ as it relates to derivatives. The famous lament that where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise could easily be the mission statement of the global banking industry.

I had read a complete article, I was a ‘de facto expert’

Dear Reader I am not being rude and offensive in my remarks about JP Morgan. Surely you would agree with me that any large bank that loses $5 billion in derivatives trading is ignorant of the properties and risks of derivatives?  The fact that I had actually read a complete article on the subject made me a de facto expert on the topic. Gustavo, in an act of kindness, seized the opportunity on my behalf and pressed his colleagues to retain me to research the topic and make a presentation at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos. Thus I found myself preparing to dazzle the world’s financial elite with my insights into the risks and opportunities presented by the global derivatives market.  In a rush to complete the deal before the next dancer took the stage it was agreed that I would receive the standard banker’s honorarium of $5,000/hour up to a maximum of ‘whatever it takes’.

At $5,000/hr., you would surely not expect me to be brief

I sat at my desk, sipping ‘Gentleman Jack‘   while I looked out at the bleak weather that made Brooklyn so depressing in the winter. My TV was tuned to CNBC, as I waited for Wall Street to open. I put my crack pipe in its case.  Dear Reader like many of you [especially those of you who work in the banking industry], I have learned all too well, the dangers of mixing crack cocaine with whiskey on an empty stomach. [Have we not all indulged, to our regret, that particular venial sin  at least once?] I collected my thoughts and began to write my lengthy tome on the derivatives market. Dear Reader at $5,000/hr., you would surely not expect me to be brief.

Lions and Tigers and Bears [and derivatives] Oh My!

I do not want to frighten you. However I will share with you some facts about derivatives that will have you reacting as nervously as Dorothy did in the Wizard of OZ when confronted with the thought of Lions and Tigers and Bears. ‘Derivatives, Oh My’, will I suspect be the words that escape your lips.

Size of the derivatives market: 1 Quadrillion dollars

Size of Global Stock and bond markets:  175 trillion dollars

Who regulates the Derivatives market? LOL, Regulation is a ‘work in progress’ dominated by the big banks.

How dangerous are derivatives? They almost destroyed the world’s largest insurance company, AIG, as well as the global economy. Seriously, you don’t remember? Just Google the words AIG and collapse.

Have recent regulatory changes made the world economy less likely to implode from a derivative fuelled explosion? Actually as one might expect, thanks to regulatory enhancements that had to run the gauntlet of bank lobbyists   prior to their approval, the world’s economy is in more danger than ever from a derivatives inspired meltdown.

‘Duck Dynasty’ and ‘Real Housewives’ to the rescue

How much attention does the Main Street pay to the world’s largest and riskiest casino? [AKA: the Derivatives market]. If one were to Google the word derivatives, one will get 34 million ‘hits’. Alternately, if one does a similar search for the words stocks bonds and markets one will get 400 million ‘hits’. The 34 million ‘hits’ generated by a Google search of the word derivatives compares unfavorably with the 37 million ‘hits’ generated by a search of the term ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ , the 209 million ‘hits’ generated by a search of the term ‘Duck Dynasty’  or the 713 million ‘hits’ generated by searching the word ‘Sex’.  One must conclude that only when derivatives are discussed by random ‘Reality TV’ stars during in an interview conducted by Playboy Magazine, {Dear Reader, my prurient sensibilities will not allow me to provide a hyperlink to that particular site} will derivatives receive the attention they deserve.

Reality bites: Derivatives can only be discussed as ‘Fake News’

Where can one find insights and coverage of the Derivatives Market in the mainstream media? Is Fox News or CNN my best choice? Sadly Dear Reader your best choice would be The Daily Show . Despite the calamitous risk and obvious importance of this topic only the ‘Daily Show’ have dared to share information with the general public.  Given the outlandish and frightening risks derivatives constitute to the Global Economy, perhaps the supposition that derivatives should only be discussed in a ‘Fake News’ format is correct.

Derivatives: better suited for Ripley’s Believe it or not than the Wall Street Journal

How bizarre is the derivatives market? How is the concept of money for nothing propagated by the derivatives market? What is the difference between a chump and a champion in the derivatives market? Suffice to say that one is able to buy insurance in the derivatives market. One can then cause the insured event to occur by collaborating with a third party. All that remains is to collect the insurance proceeds. [To be clear the proceeds are usually in the tens of millions of dollars.] The derivatives market  makes the Ponzi-like money printing of the Central banks look like ‘Amateur Hour’.

Who needs ‘Crack’?

Dear Reader usually I needed a little help from my friend Mr. Crack to feel as paranoid and euphoric as I did at this moment. Paranoid, because it was clear to me that the derivatives market was truly a weapon of mass financial destruction. Euphoric because I knew that my research would make my ‘Derivatives’ presentation at the World Economic Forum a  groundbreaking ‘tour de force’ that would vault me to the forefront of ‘talking heads’ that pass for experts on mainstream media. Fame, fortune, a book deal and perhaps that elusive Nobel Prize would surely follow. My twenty minutes of painstaking research, had made me one of the world’s foremost experts on this complex subject. [BTW Dear Reader by reaching this point in my commentary, you surely now know more about derivatives than most bankers and traders on Wall Street. You should be quite pleased.]

David, you are an imbecile

I decided to reach out to my pal Gustavo and share some of my findings. I knew that it was 3:30 in the afternoon in Paris so I would be able to catch Gustavo just as he arrived for another day of work. “Gustavo”, I intoned, breathless with excitement. “I have uncovered some startling, controversial, and frightening information about derivatives. The luminaries and leading lights who attend my presentation in Davos will be utterly gobsmacked  by my revelations. The media will undoubtedly ensure that my findings go viral. The topic of derivatives will no longer exist only in the dark shadows of the banking industry. The danger that derivatives pose to the global economy will permeate the consciousness of Main Street.”. Gustavo sighed, “David, I do not know if you are stupid or naïve. Every September when you bet $1,000 that the perennially atrocious Toronto Maple Leafs   will win the Stanley Cup, I assumed you were simply ingenuous. Your comments today have convinced me that you are an imbecile. Let me assure you that those will not be the findings that you present at the World Economic Forum. Rather you will inform the world that derivatives are a financial instrument that is being used by brilliant and prudent financial professionals to mitigate risk and make the world a safer place.”

The ‘Truth Will Out’

“Gustavo”, I groaned, that would be a lie. I cannot in good conscience, sacrifice my integrity my honor, my core beliefs and my good name simply to placate Wall Street and the Central Banks. I have a responsibility to my readers on Main Street to inform them, to warn them, to prepare them for the likely financial chaos that derivatives will cause”. “Gustavo”, I said with iron willed determination, “the Truth Will Out”. “David”, Gustavo snarled, “If you change the tenor of your presentation and indicate that derivatives are the most benign form of financial instrument, somewhat akin to Treasury bills, we will double your fee”.

Move along nothing to see here

Dear Reader in summary let me say that derivatives are the most benign form of financial instrument somewhat akin to treasury bills. Gustavo’s immutable logic and persuasive argument was instrumental in helping me reach the correct conclusion regarding the risks to the Global economy posed by derivatives. So Dear Reader, move along, there is nothing to see here.

NSA inks landmark deal to share information with Central Banks

Dear reader put away your charts and graphs. Forget about fundamental and technical analysis. Ignore financial statements and trends.  The extraordinary agreement to share information between the National Security Agency [NSA], a host of European, Russian, Canadian and Chinese spy agencies and the world’s Central Banks will ensure that the only relevant force in Global Stock markets will be the trading activity of the world’s Central Banks. Thanks to the data gathering of the NSA and its subsidiary spy agencies around the world, the Central Banks will be privy to the most confidential conversations and communications from the boardroom, the bedroom and the trading floor. Central Banks will now be able to trade with inside information that could only be dreamed about in years gone by.

Market Assistance Directive [MAD]

In the past, only employees at the NSA, their friends and families were able to trade and profit using the confidential information captured in NSA’s confidential PRISM surveillance sweeping activities. The funds these individuals were able to devote to these insider trades were insignificant to the global markets. However this new agreement, [called the ‘Market Assistance Directive’ [MAD] will allow the Central Banks to use their unlimited resources to trade and profit based on inside information on an almost unimaginable scale.

Ask yourself one question

“Poppycock!” you say. “Balderdash!” you exclaim. Dear reader, I too shared your cynicism and disbelief regarding the possibility of such an agreement existing until I spoke with my good friend and trusted confidante  Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, Global Director of Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB]. Dear reader, before you click away in an indignant fit of outrage at the mere suggestion of this preposterous reality. I would encourage you to ask yourself one question. Would you or any of your trusted friends and honorable family members, if given access to inside information that would allow one to guarantee oneself untold wealth, without fear of legal reprisal, by trading in the stock market based on this inside information, would you or they turn the opportunity down? Dear reader, I thought so. Please continue reading.

It is the norm

Prior to the unique MAD agreement only the thousands of employees of the NSA and other security agencies, their friends and family, their political masters, paramours and twitter followers, have had the ability to use the PRISM surveillance capability to know every grain of inside information that exists in the world. Massive profits on their personal trading accounts are inevitable. It is a denial of human nature to believe that this activity is not only prevalent, it is the norm.

Statistics that would support whatever lunatic policies

But I digress; my conversation with Gustavo would enlighten me as to the New World Order that now permeates our capital markets and our global economy. For those of you not familiar with Gustavo, my friendship with such a highly placed member of the ECB executive traced its roots back to my days on Wall Street and to his days in New York when he was my bookie. His fortunes changed dramatically one day when a senior member of the ECB on a junket to New York placed an astonishingly large, incorrect and foolish bet on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup.  The only way the debt could be settled was for the senior member of the ECB to offer Gustavo an obscenely highly paid sinecure at the ECB. Gustavo traded Brooklyn and Fulton Street for Paris and the Champs-Élysées. He became the ECB’s Global Director of Statistical Creation. His notional job was to make up statistics that would support whatever lunatic policies were being proposed by central banks around the world. Gustavo’s complete lack of moral fiber coupled with his gift for numbers allowed him to excel at his job.

Truthfully I had left my home in New York to avoid some rather inconvenient lawsuits

I was in Rome on business, [well truthfully I had left my home in New York to avoid some rather inconvenient lawsuits from my banks and other sundry creditors relating to my inability to make payments on my credit cards, lines of credit, loans, mortgages, and overdraft fees.] In any event, imagine my surprise as I strolled down the Via Veneto when I spied Gustavo [I surmised that he was in town visiting one of his mistresses] exiting the Gucci store, laden with what appeared to be their entire inventory.

 We strolled to the uber-chic Rome Cavalieri Hotel

I greeted him with a smile and suggested we repair to the nearest bistro for a lunch and libation. I helped with his bags and we strolled to the uber-chic Rome Cavalieri Hotel  on Via Alberto so that we might feast at la Pergola, perhaps the finest restaurant in Europe. Dear reader, I had dined with Gustavo before. I knew that the meal would be charged to his expense account at the ECB. Today my empty wallet and penury would not prevent me from enjoying a culinary delight. We were seated at a prestigious seat by the window that offered us a magnificent view of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Gustavo’s legendary expense account ensured that we received premium service.

Have you won the lottery?

Gustavo, I enquired, “Have you won the lottery? You must have $50,000 of Gucci accessories in these bags?” “David” he giggled, “It is better than that”, he continued. “The central banks, thanks to an agreement with the world’s spy agencies, [this would be the aforementioned MAD agreement] we bankers are now privy to not only the emails  and phone calls of all the world’s politicians, business leaders, journalists, accountants, lawyers but to the innermost thoughts of every citizen who uses an electronic device for communication”.

We relegate to destitution any soul who dares to challenge us

“With this information we can use our resources to control the global markets. Now there is no trade, no event, no market information that we bankers do not know in advance. We can literally make as much money as we want. At the same time we relegate to destitution any soul who dares to challenge us. All we had to do to finalize the agreement was to promise to kick back 20% of our profits to the senior members of the spy agencies and 10% of our profits to their political masters.”

Remy Martin Black Pearl Luis XIII

I almost choked on my Remy Martin Black Pearl Luis XIII  Cognac as I digested Gustavo’s statement. Little did I know that this particular brand of Cognac that Gustavo had requested, was worth $30,000/bottle. [Oh, how glorious it must be to be a banker with an expense account.] However, as a frequent beneficiary of Gustavo’s largesse I guess I should not complain.]Gustavo” I exclaimed, “Do the words insider trading, market manipulation, extortion, thievery, invasion of privacy, immoral, illegal and just plain wrong not mean anything to you bankers?” “Don’t you read the papers David?” He replied.

You cannot put bankers in jail

“Bankers have been given immunity from prosecution for any misdeed or imperfection no matter how damaging it is to the markets, the global economy and society. HSBC ,  JP Morgan Chase , European banks , the list goes on. Banks are fined but no individual banker goes to jail.  How many times do bankers need to skate  on corruption charges before you get it through your thick skull that you can fine the bank but you cannot put bankers in jail?” Gustavo postulated.

Richer than King Midas

He continued, “We central bankers will share the data gathering efforts with the world’s commercial  or retail banks for a [big] fee. Our prudence will ensure that the inside information is shared fairly.” The profits the banks will make on these trades will guarantee their survival. Furthermore it will ensure the bank executives become richer than King Midas . It is truly a win-win situation.” I poked at the remainder of my appetizer, ‘scampi carpaccio with two caviars’, and eagerly awaited the first course, ‘liquorice consommé with sweet pepper cream and squid salad’. Gustavo had come a long way from his days making book from his car outside Madison Square Garden, I thought to myself. His notion of win-win was certainly unique.

There are two types of wealth in this world

“Gustavo”, I replied, “I don’t know where to begin. How does any of this help Main Street and the masses? This sounds like a conspiracy by the 1% to own the entire universe”. “I am glad you brought that up David” he slurred. [The effects of his overindulgence of the Cognac was starting to have the usual impact] “That whole silly Occupy movement and its childish 99% versus the 1% was our creation. The 1% is a phrase we coined to give us cover as we filled our pockets. You see David; there are two types of wealth in this world. The first is wealth created by innovators, creators, entrepreneurs, risk-takers, hard workers, savers: diligent, honest, principled, prudent, responsible men and woman”, Gustavo pontificated.

Bankers have ‘got your backs

“These remarkable people, as they created wealth also created jobs and enhanced their community. The world rightfully respects, celebrates, admires, encourages and emulates their efforts. The other type of wealth is created by creatures like me who scam, suck, pillage and plunder the public purse and Main Street’s wallets. We create nothing.  We central bankers and our commercial and retail cousins contribute nothing. We take what we can while convincing the masses that we ‘have got their backs.’  Can you believe that bankers are still able to pay themselves tens of millions of dollars a year after the damage they have done to the global economy?” Gustavo opined.

Consultants, lobbyists and other assorted leeches

His sermon continued, “If the public ever thought about it for a moment, their anger would not be focused on the notional 1% who accumulated their wealth the old fashioned way [They earned it] Rather the anger would be focused on the ‘10%.’ The scoundrels like myself: bankers, consultants, lobbyists and other assorted leeches who drain the public’s purse while adding to their own personal fortune”. I was quite taken aback. Candor, honesty and critical self analysis were not attributes I usually expected from Gustavo. I smiled at the waiter as he delivered my main course, a very appealing ‘soya poached fillet of beef with garlic dandelion and wasabi purée’. I continued my conversation with Gustavo by asking him why he was sharing all this information with me. Was he not concerned that I might publish some of this, clearly confidential, information? “David, have you heard nothing I have said, Bankers are immune from prosecution”. He said sardonically.

Unless you write your commentary in crayon and pass it out on street corners

He looked sternly in my eyes as he said, “Furthermore, unless you write your commentary in crayon and pass it out on street corners, either we or the NSA will become aware your attempt to undermine our dominance. We will simply disable your computer and delete your files. If you persist in inconveniencing us we will turn your file over to our ‘Blackmail’ department who will examine your life with a fine tooth comb, discover your secrets and threaten you with exposure unless you cease and desist.”

SPECTRE is in charge

Dear reader, like you, based on Gustavo’s insights, I could not help thinking that the players in our global capital markets were more reminiscent of James Bond’s nemesis, SPECTRE [SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion] than a functioning system for the free and fair exchange of goods and capital. I said as much to Gustavo as I had the first bite of my Caciocavallo Podolico . This cheese is the pride of Italy. At $500/lb, it has the same value by weight as silver. I would strongly recommend this taste sensation should you ever be dining with a banker and their expense account.  As I waited for his response, [he was busy talking to his broker], I gazed out the window at the Vatican and wondered if there might be spiritual salvation to guide us through the financial quagmire we had entered. I then remembered that the Vatican Bank scandals  indicated that there would be no guidance from that direction. [Oh please dear reader, curtail your disapproval. Just Google ‘Vatican Bank scandals’ and see for yourself.]

La Dolce Vita

Gustavo smiled at me as he hung up his phone. “I just made a million dollars in two hours based on information this new MAD Agreement’ provided me”, he boasted. “The best part is that because I have set up Trusts in tax havens   around the world I will not have to pay any taxes. Isn’t life grand?” I sighed as gazed through the window and watched a beggar appealing for donations from shoppers on the Via Veneto. I guess this is what ‘la Dolce Vita’  is all about?

How my time in jail helped me understand the Global Economy

Dear reader, I must apologize for the dearth of my commentaries that are my attempt to help us interpret the complex global economic issues that bedevil our return to a normal, stable sustainable, sensible, state of global economic tranquility. My recent incarceration [more on that later] has made access to a computer somewhat problematic.

I was overwhelmed by the absurdity

Truthfully I have tried many times in recent months to apply my limited intelligence and nascent journalistic skills to analyze the current state of affairs. Each time I sat at my computer and prepared to put finger to keyboard, I was overwhelmed by the absurdity of our situation.

Laughter, derision, horror, and medication

The 52 trillion dollars of global government debt accumulated on our behalf does not merit serious discussion. Laughter, derision, horror, and medication [Jack Daniels is my preferred medication] are the appropriate responses. Perpetual debt and money printing under the guise of Quantitative Easing or Euro Stability should not be analyzed as if it is a serious economic strategy. Even Sesame Street’s “The Count ” would tell you that perpetual money printing and borrowing is predestined to [spoiler alert] end in tears.

Plunder and Pillage, Pillage and Plunder, It is off to work I go, sang the bankers

In addition, society has deemed that an entire class of citizen is immune from prosecution and imprisonment. Sadly, this class of citizen is comprised of the world’s banking elite, who is now free to  plunder and pillage throughout the global economy and banking system without any fear of reprisal. This dangerous and calamitous reality is the banking industry’s equivalent of “Diplomatic immunity.”

Even less frightening than a ‘time out’

 

Dear reader, before you dismiss my conclusion as left wing socialist fear mongering I would encourage you to research the details of the 13 billion dollar fine  to be levied against J. P Morgan. Alternately, one might study the 1.8 billion dollar fine levied against HSBC. To be sure, money will flow from the shareholders of these firms into the regulator’s pockets but no banker will go to jail. This punishment is even less frightening than the ‘time outs’ I used to subject my children to when they misbehaved. There is no other conclusion that can be reached other than the fact that bankers can commit any crime they wish, in amounts that are obscene. Yet they will remain free to enjoy their staggering salaries and bonus payments. Their malfeasance contributes to the destruction or our capital markets, our economy and our way of life.

Dumber than a bag of hammers

Like any good economist I wanted to test my thesis that our current economic strategy was dumber than a bag of hammers. To do this I simply went to my local bank and explained my personal and rather desperate financial condition. I suggested that to ensure that economic growth returned to my household that despite my dire, depressing personal balance sheet, the bank should lend me $400,000 using the future income from my writing as security. This would stimulate my economy; allow me to undertake infrastructure improvements such as a new suit, acquisition of the latest I-pad etc. This deficit financing based on my negative net worth was a textbook version of the cure recommended by economists for the global economy.

Fortunately I always keep three credit cards in my shoe

Despite the current deficits I was running and the staggering accumulated debt I was carrying, it seemed logical that the bank would agree to my request. I was only suggesting an approach to my finances that was being used by governments around the world. Imagine my shock when the bank, after reviewing my financial statements, not only refused my request, but also had security frisk me and remove all my credits cards from my wallet.  [Fortunately I always keep three credit cards in my shoe so the loss of the 8 credit cards retrieved by security would not prove to be a major inconvenience.] Furthermore I was informed that my lines of credit were being called immediately. Payment was due by the end of the day. The entire $750,000 balance was to be repaid.

Words like fraud, counterfeiting, insane, idiot, drunk, were flying

I was not the slightest bit concerned. As an economist I knew just what to do. First I went next door and bought a mickey of Jack Daniels, poured it in my almost empty Starbucks Grande cup, downed the contents in one gulp and headed to the nearest Fedex print store. Using my knowledge of economics I placed a 100-dollar bill in the photocopier and asked for 7,500 copies. I then took my rather large pile of newly minted cash and staggered back to the bank. [Methinks I had had too much caffeine. I was quite unsteady as I walked back to the bank]. In any event, I sat down with the bank manager and gave her the $750,000 of ‘hot off the press’ cash, as payment in full of my debt. I sat there smugly waiting for her to give me the receipt.

The Police were called!

Once again the reaction was not what I anticipated. Security returned to the office. Words like fraud, counterfeiting, insane, idiot, drunk, were flying and everyone seemed to be getting most agitated. The police were called!

I had a pulse and thus qualified for a car loan

Imagine my surprise, when just prior to their arrival the banker took me aside. She suggested that despite my impending incarceration the bank would be willing to lend me the money for a new car. This would be done through their sub-prime, 10-year term, and no documentation, NINJA car loan program that has become the backbone of the recovery in new car sales in North America. “How could I possibly qualify for a car loan?” I asked. She held my wrist in a professional manner, confirmed that I had a pulse and thus qualified for a car loan. I signed the papers for the car loan just before I was placed in handcuffs to become a “guest of the state” [again].

The Smartest Guys in the Room had returned

As the police cruiser made its way to the station I reflected on what I had learned from this experience. Clearly adding more debt to solve a debt problem was not a viable solution. In addition it was apparent that money printing was, in fact, illegal and certainly not an acceptable response to a credit crisis. Finally as I discussed with the police officers in the front seat what kind of car I should buy with my new car loan, it occurred to me that perhaps our financial system was in fact being run by ex Enron employees.  The Smartest Guys in the Room had returned with a vengeance. However, this time it’s different. ‘The Smartest Guys in the Room’ now enjoy immunity from prosecution.

Some economic deviations that would not necessarily be positive

The well meaning, seemingly endless debate and analysis of the relative merits of QE, government debt and ultra low rates simply serve the purpose of obfuscating the issue. It leaves ‘Main Street’ hopelessly confused. The debate implies that there are a number of possible outcomes to our global economic strategy ranging from success to benign anomalies and, yes, perhaps some ‘economic deviations that would not necessarily be positive’. [The last phrase is how the media would spin complete unmitigated disaster, for the consumption of my fellow unwashed masses.] 

Defrauding any poor soul who has the misfortune of shaking a banker’s hand

 In simple terms the high-minded debate between Harvard educated economists and Wall Street titans encourages us to suspend common sense and believe that wise people are in charge and looking out for our best interest. It allows people to get up in the morning and believe that good times are just around the corner. The fact that our global banking system pays billions of dollars in fines every week for lying, cheating, stealing, laundering, and defrauding any poor soul who has the misfortune of shaking a banker’s hand does not seem to enter the public’s consciousness. This leaves us with a criminal class running our banking system and Harvard educated economists telling us to just keep printing and borrowing money. Only a complete idiot would believe that this reality would ensure “a chicken in every pot”. However a sentient individual might recognize that this reality will ensure, as our current economic strategy exhausts itself, that the 99% made famous by the long forgotten ‘Occupy Movement’ will be lucky to have dog food in their pot. My economic and financial experiment at my local bank proved unequivocally and conclusively that the economic strategies employed by our leaders are just plain stupid.

Cut through the fog

Dear reader I apologize for my blunt, uncouth, common, insulting and unimaginative use of the words “just plain stupid”. My choice of words was an attempt to be unambiguous. It is my hope to cut through the fog created by Wall Street and the world’s economists around the subject of money printing, perpetual debt and immunity from prosecution.

The Dirty Dozen

I sat in the holding cell with 12 other miscreants whose crimes ranged from fraud, philandering, pimping, Ponzi scheming, robbery, theft, infidelity, and drug dealing etc., and waited for charges to be laid. I joined the lively conversation. As is the norm in these situations, the conversation in the cell indicated that everyone was innocent. There had simply been a misunderstanding. I told them I was going to be charged with possession, assault, extortion, loan sharking, armed robbery and counterfeiting. The first five charges were simply an attempt to build up my ‘street cred‘. This would ensure that I would not become the subject of unwanted attention from the more sketchy individuals that were sharing the cell with me. As I listened to the conversation I added up the collective damage that these 12 reprobates had done to society. In total, this ‘Dirty Dozen’, had allegedly stolen 6 televisions, 10 cartons of cigarettes, sold 10 pounds of marijuana, passed some bad checks, and been involved in 3 barroom brawls. The total economic damage to society was nigh on 30 thousand dollars [plus my attempted $750,000 swindle.] The total potential sentence for the group as a collective was about 300 years.

A Harvard Scheme

I could not help but wonder why there were no bankers or economists in the room. Surely laundering billions of dollars of drug money like HSBC or attempting to make personal profit while destroying financial institutions and the global economy might also merit some time spent as a “guest of the state.” Surely all Harvard educated economists who preached perpetual money printing and eternal debt as an economic action plan should join me and my “Dirty Dozen” companions in this cozy cell. The world rightly punishes those who perpetuate Ponzi schemes. Harvard educated economists have scammed the world into believing that ludicrous amounts of debt and money printing is actually a strategy. Let us call this strategy what it is, A “Harvard Scheme”, the Ivy League’s equivalent of a Ponzi scheme.

His statistics would prove the efficacy of whatever lunatic policies were being instituted by central bankers

Finally it was my turn to make my one phone call. I reached out to my good friend Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, Director of Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB] who was the only person I knew with experience dealing with charges of fraud and counterfeiting.  For those of you not familiar with Gustavo I should explain that his current lofty and influential position with the ECB could trace its roots back to his time as my ‘bookie’ and as a significant ‘bookie’ to members of Wall Street’s elite. On a visit to New York, a senior member of the ECB placed with Gustavo, an astonishingly reckless, large and incorrect wager on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup.  The only way the debt could be settled and avoid a difficult and painful meeting with Roscoe, Gustavo’s “Director of Collections” was to offer Gustavo a highly paid sinecure at the ECB. Gustavo’s life changed forever. His job as Director of Global Statistical Creation was to make up statistics that would prove the efficacy of whatever lunatic policies were being instituted by central bankers around the world. Curiously Gustavo’s experience with numbers coupled with his complete lack of morals, allowed him to excel at his job. It was his suggestion that Mario Draghi refrains from dissembling and simply tell the world that the ECB would do “Whatever it takes” to save Europe [or at least save the bankers and the 1%].

A four-day drunk in a five star hotel

“Gustavo”, I pleaded’ “I am in trouble again. I need you to use your contacts and get me out of jail.” I gave him a brief synopsis of my predicament and awaited his response.  I could hear him moan as he tried to clear his head. I knew that he was at an important meeting of central bankers to discuss the effect to date, of their efforts to stimulate the economy. Naturally this meant he was on a four-day drunk in a five star hotel with 30 other equally inebriated central bankers. “David” he slurred, “How many times do I have to tell you that you are an idiot? You cannot keep abusing our friendship like this. Just because you know a few secrets about me that I would rather not become public don’t think you can keep calling me to rescue you from your own bad judgment”.

I helped him score some cocaine when we were in Davos

I laughed at his sanctimonious protestations. “A few secrets Gustavo, you must be kidding. Do I need to remind you that I know enough about you to put you away for 1000 years?”  “OK David lets remain calm. What do you need?” he replied. “Gustavo, I need you to call the Central Banker whose job it is to ensure, on a global basis, that all charges, in whatever jurisdiction, for any form of financial malfeasance directed against individual bankers are dropped. I need you to get the charges against me dropped. “David, the individual in charge of that area, as you can imagine, is incredibly busy. However as it happens, I helped him score some cocaine when we were in Davos at the World Economic Forum, so he owes me. I will make the call”. Half an hour later, our jailer opened the cell door and called my name. He apologized profusely for any inconvenience I might have experienced. I was impressed that they offered to give me a ride home. As I sat in the cruiser I called Gustavo to thank him. “No worries David, It was my pleasure. I cannot talk for long though”.

I have been assigned to the shelter in Gstaad

He continued, “Central banks around the world have just been handed a report on the Cleanup work being done at the Fukushima nuclear reactor. All the worlds’ central bankers and Ivy League economist are being transported to nuclear fallout shelters until the cleanup is completed. I have been assigned to the shelter in Gstaad, Switzerland. Thank goodness, it is a five star shelter. It is chaos here.”  I sighed, this sounded like more of Gustavo’s incoherent drunken rambling.  “What in the world are you talking about Gustavo?” I asked.

Glow in the dark

“David, as it turns out, money printing, perpetual debt and too big to jail does not matter anymore.” According to this report, the Fukushima reactor cleanup has about a 1% chance of success. The disaster two years ago pales in comparison to the consequences of the slightest mistake occurring during the clean up operation. Any amount of failure will irradiate Japan, its neighbors, and the Pacific Ocean.” “Slow down Gustavo, this sounds ridiculous”. I responded. “David” he replied somberly, “This might be the last time we speak. Just Google “Fukushima cleanup danger” and read for yourself. The reactors are a massive pile of hot radioactive, burning waste. The crippled reactors are creating hundreds of tons of radioactive water each day. Most of the radioactive water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean. We are talking about enough radiation to make the world ‘glow in the dark’.  Furthermore there is a reasonable chance the reactors will simply blow-up during the clean up phase.

All bankers and economists will be evacuated to the protection of bunkers

The decision has been made, to ensure the world’s survival after Fukushima blows up , that all bankers and economists will be evacuated to the protection of nuclear fallout bunkers. This serves two purposes. First if Fukushima blows up, there will be enough bankers and economists alive to kick start the global economy as it recovers from the radiation. If it does not blow up, the bunkers will protect the bankers and economists from the rage of the 99% when the perpetual debt, and money printing reaches its inevitable end state, which is of course global economic collapse.”

Everyone will be most relieved to know that our bankers and economists will be safe

“Well Gustavo I am sure that everyone will be most relieved to know that our bankers and economists will be safe in the comfort of their bunkers. What about the rest of us?” I asked.  Gustavo responded, “David we had to make difficult choices. There simply is not enough room in the bunkers for everyone. Bankers, Economists and uber models were the only groups that could be accommodated.” The police car was pulling up in front of my house.

Now you understand the global economy

I said to Gustavo, “So if I understand things correctly Gustavo, either the global economy will collapse under the weight of the criminal behavior of our ‘Wizards of Wall Street’. Or it will crumble thanks to the ‘Sesame Street’ guidance given to us by Ivy League economists, and their ‘Harvard Scheme’. [I felt badly after I said that. It was really quite unkind of me to insult the good work done by the Sesame Street team] Perhaps it will be the imitation of the Weimar Republic disaster that is the current strategy of our central bankers that proves to be the catalyst that sends us over the abyss. And, if I understand correctly Gustavo, even before these rather gloomy scenarios reach fruition we are all likely to be irradiated by the disastrous impact of the clean up at Fukushima? Gustavo replied, “Exactly David, now you understand the global economy.”

My Excellent Adventure at the Federal Reserve Headquarters

Dear reader, I was afforded a most extraordinary experience recently that has given me unique insight into our global financial and political systems. I intend to share my experience with you. However, I caution you, that the information I gleaned from this experience will be disturbing. What you are about to read will forever change your view of banking, politics, economics and money. Read on, if you dare.

Hobnobbing with all the world’s leaders

Little did I know as my day started, that by midnight I would find myself inside the Federal Reserve  building in Washington D.C., hobnobbing with all the world’s political leaders, Central Bankers, assorted luminaries from the financial industry, powerful lobbyists, as well as all the world’s Nobel Prize winning economists.

Overcome by ‘Irrational Exuberance’

I was in Washington on business recently; well truthfully I was in Washington to appear in court to face charges that related to a New Year’s Eve party at the Canadian Embassy that, shall we say, was overcome by ‘irrational exuberance’. At the end of the party I was invited by the local police, to return to DC in the summer, to face charges of being drunk and disorderly. In any event I awoke the day of my trial, late in the afternoon, to a beautiful summer day. The police officer who woke me up me was most polite as she explained that I was not allowed to sleep at the foot of the Washington Monument. Clearly she was not familiar with the financial challenges of being a writer. My decision to sleep outdoors was part of my attempt at the frugality that was necessary until royalties started pouring in from my, as yet, underappreciated, undiscovered writing genius.

Judgment Day

I arose, dusted myself off, and headed to court to face my ‘Judgment Day’ when my phone rang. It was none other than Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, the director of Global Statistical Creation at the European Central Bank [ECB]. My curious connection with a senior member of the ECB management team traced its roots to my time on Wall Street when Gustavo was my principal bookie. His fortunes changed in a most dramatic fashion when a senior member of the ECB placed a staggeringly large and incorrect wager on the outcome of the 2010 World Cup. The only way the debt could be settled was to offer Gustavo a highly paid sinecure at the ECB. My friend and former bookie, Gustavo, thus became the Director of Global Statistical Creation at the ECB, responsible for making up statistics to prove the merits of whatever deranged monetary policy central bankers around the world were instituting.

Thirty days behind bars

“David my friend”, Gustavo said breathlessly, “this is your lucky day”! I am not sure I agreed with him as I was probably going to spend the next thirty days behind bars as an apology to the citizens of Washington for my drunken behavior.  “David” Gustavo continued, “Tonight is the first annual meeting at the Federal Reserve in which the world’s Central Banks spell out their plans for the world for the next 12 months. Every world leader, central banker, financial wizard, economist and major industrialist is required to be there. My date for tonight has had to cancel as her husband has returned early from his fishing trip. You can be my date tonight”.

More press coverage than a Royal Wedding

“Gustavo” I responded, “What in the world are you talking about? You make it sound like the Central Bankers are summoning the world’s leaders as if they were school children to be admonished or rewarded for their behavior. “Furthermore, Gustavo”, I offered, “I have heard nothing of this on the news. This alleged meeting would receive more press coverage than a Royal Wedding”.

In Swimsuits: the media will not be able to resist, You Betcha!

“David”, he replied, “The Central Bankers are cognizant of the risk of this secret meeting becoming public knowledge. That is why they have made arrangements to divert the public and the media. They have arranged with various media outlets to run back to back marathons of ‘Celebrity Rehab’ ’, ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ and say ‘Say Yes to the Dress. This ‘Realityfest’ will ensure that 100% of the public are distracted. As if that is not enough, the bankers have arranged for Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and Sarah Palin to hold a joint press conference at which time they will, while wearing swimsuits, discuss their views on fashion, politics, and family values. CNN and FOX and every other journalist in the world will be drawn to that press conference like ‘flies to honey’. Other than you, there will be no journalists in Washington tonight to report on this meeting. You will have an exclusive. This is your big chance to be famous. Swing by the ‘Watergate’ at 7 and we will head to the event together.”

The word surreal does not even begin to capture what was to follow

Dear reader, it was at this point my ‘Excellent Adventure’ started to get a little weird. Gustavo’s fortuitous call meant that I would be inside the Federal Reserve building shortly, attending the most extraordinary gathering in history. In preparation I drained one my flasks of ‘Jack Daniels’, and headed to the nearest ‘Goodwill’ store to purchase a suit for tonight’s festivities. I arrived at the Watergate promptly at 7. After enduring Gustavo’s derisory comments about my ‘previously enjoyed’ suit, we climbed into Gustavo’s limousine and headed off to the Federal Reserve building for the night’s entertainment. Dear reader, the word surreal does not even begin to capture what was to follow.

Central Bankers would be announcing the names of the leaders who would be allowed to remain in power

As we entered the ‘Grand Hall’ I was overwhelmed to see so many famous and powerful people. Obama, Merkel, Hollande, Krugman, Rogoff, they were all there. There were hundreds of powerful leaders crowded in the foyer waiting breathlessly for the Central Bankers to finish their meeting in the boardroom. The agenda I had been handed indicated that tonight the Central Bankers would be announcing the names of the leaders who would be allowed to remain in power for the next 12 months. They would tell all the attendees what kind of food retirees would be allowed to eat this year [food for dogs or food for humans]. They would be detailing the demographics of who would be allowed to purchase a house and who would be allowed to remain in a house purchased and mortgaged in previous years. The Agenda also indicated that they would announce the fiscal policies and budgets for each of the G-20 nation.

A nod and a wink

Dear reader, before you reject that the notion that Central Bankers had in their power, the ability to make and enforce such grandiose edicts, ask yourself this?  Who controls the governments of Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal? Who has the ability, with a few well chosen words to increase or decrease the investment income of retirees  and determine whether they can afford to shop for their sustenance at a Piggly Wiggly or a Petsmart? Who controls the interest rate on the world’s mortgages and has the ability with one press conference to either open the door to home ownership for millions of people or force millions of people to give the keys to their house back to the bank? One interest rate announcement has the ability to do so much damage to an economy that all incumbent politicians would find themselves swept up in a wave of ‘Throw the Bums Out’ protest. Who, with a nod and a wink, and some freshly printed money can decide whether a government can increase their debt and deficit in order to afford the next and greatest trillion dollar weapons system that will be used to defend their crumbling infrastructure, declining educational institutions and rapidly deteriorating ecosystems? The answer, dear reader, sadly, is that our Central Bankers control all of these decisions and much, much more.

On with the show this is it!

No more nursing and rehearsing our parts, on with the show this it! Suddenly the doors to the conference room opened, Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi stepped out. Initially there was silence in the room as they walked to the podium. Mr. Draghi, of course walked the obligatory three paces behind Mr. Bernanke.

Bring it on

Then some side doors opened and 100 cheerleaders with their pom-poms  made out of shredded Dollar bills and Euro notes flooded the room. They guided the audience in a raucous cheer for Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Draghi. Sadly the cheerleaders were not the stunningly attractive, athletic and talented stereotypical cheerleaders made famous in the movie ‘Bring it on’ . The cheerleaders were actually members of the financial industry who had volunteered to perform their routine at this event. Gustavo and I were beside President Obama and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin. Although they looked a little awkward at first they were clearly getting into the spirit of things.

The National Anthem of Central Bankers

Mr. Bernanke stepped up to the microphone and intoned. “Welcome to tonight’s meeting. We will start by singing the national anthem of Central Banks”. As music stated blaring over the speakers everyone put their hand over their wallet and started to sing ABBA’s smash hit, ‘Money, Money, it’s a Rich Mans World’  . Apparently the song had been adopted by the Central Bankers as their National Anthem. In any event everyone seemed to know the words and I was almost deafened by Presidents Putin, Hollande and Obama’s full throated rendition of the song.

You have got to be kidding me?

As Mr. Bernanke started his speech with the usual blather I noticed that everyone in the audience had their Blackberries out poised and ready to hit speed-dial. I asked Gustavo why everyone was clutching their Blackberry in such a manic fashion. Gustavo whispered, “Everyone wants to be able to call their broker in case Bernanke gave some indication on what musings about the direction of interest rates he intended to offer the markets over the next month. Fortunes could be made with this information”. I looked at Gustavo, ‘You are kidding me, right? He just winked.

‘When Central Bankers want your opinion they will give it to you’

I spied a door that indicated that it was the location of the Federal Reserve’s Accounting and Investment department. I needed some fresh air and a ‘wee dram’ . I decided to take a peek inside the centre of the financial universe. Dear reader I was not shirking my duty as a journalist by exiting the room in the middle of Mr. Bernanke’s speech. As an experienced journalist I knew that after the press conference I would be handed a ‘Press Kit’ that would include a summary of what was said. In addition it would include the spontaneous opinions and analysis I permitted to express on what was said. The press kit saved journalists a great deal of time.  As the saying goes, ‘When Central Bankers want your opinion they will give it to you’.

His name was Vincent

I opened the door to the Accounting and Investment department expecting to see a huge room filled with hundreds of screens wired to massive super computers. Imagine my absolute shock when all is saw I was a small room with some dusty boxes. There was a gentleman at a desk furiously pulling the crank on an antique adding machine. The name on his desk plate indicated that his name was Vincent. He looked up slowly; he appeared to be just shy of 110 years old. “May I help you?” he offered. “Oh sorry to bother you Vincent, I just needed some space. It is very crowded in the other room” I replied. “No problem” he said, as he squinted at my name tag. “David, I don’t get a lot of visitors here”. “Vincent”, I asked, “if I may be so bold, I cannot believe this is all there is to the Federal Reserve’s Accounting and Investment department.” He responded, “David, there is not really an accounting and investment department here anymore. After Roosevelt in 1933  and Nixon in 1971   gave the Gold Standard its collective ‘Coup de Grace’ we here in the Accounting and Investment Department realized that it was not necessary to keep track of money any more. Governments around the world were finally free to just print whatever amounts of money they needed. Why bother to keep track? As long as the world believes the phrase ‘Full Faith and Credit of the U.S. government’ we can print as much money as we want.”

Statistics that would baffle and confuse even the most sophisticated

Vincent continued, “The hard part has always been making up numbers to satisfy those in the public like that tedious and irksome man Ron Paul, who actually think bookkeeping is necessary for the Federal Reserve. Fortunately our subsidiary in Europe, the ECB, hired a brilliant statistician, Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre, who now produces prodigious amounts of statistics that would baffle and confuse even the most sophisticated mathematician or accountant. He is amazing and has made my job so much easier. All I have to do is balance the Federal Reserve’s books for the time period leading up to 1933 and then I can retire. I should be ready to start my retirement in about 10 years.”

I stood between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and David Cameron

I offered Vincent a sip from my flask which he gladly accepted. I thanked him for his time, wished him a happy retirement and returned to the Grand Hall to listen to Mr. Bernanke’s closing remarks. I stood between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, and listened to Mr. Bernanke. I reflected on what Vincent had said. There was clearly no point writing an article about my experience tonight as no one would believe me. Furthermore for at least the next two months, the media’s attention was going to be focused like a laser to provide the world with ‘wall to wall’, 24/7, analysis of the aforementioned Kardashian/Hilton/Palin press conference. Tonight’s event would not merit even a mention by Anderson Cooper .

Fear and Loathing

As Mr. Bernanke wrapped up his presentation I could not help mentioning one undeniable fact about Mr. Bernanke’s and Mr. Draghi’s speeches. I am not sure if I mentioned this before but both Mr. Draghi and Mr. Bernanke, except for their black knee socks were completely naked. I snickered as I casually pointed this out to Vladimir and Gustavo. I indicated that I thought it would be quite amusing to bring this to the attention of the audience. They looked at me with fear and loathing. Gustavo, the traitorous swine, surreptitiously kneeled behind me on his hands and knees. Then Vladimir Putin and David Cameron pushed me hard and made me fall over backwards, over Gustavo’s body. Their excellent execution of this classic schoolyard bullying technique left me dazed and confused as I lay on the floor.

The Emperor has no clothes

Before I could gather my thoughts, Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, President Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper grabbed my limbs and carried me struggling, to the exit. I looked into their angry faces as they hauled me toward the exit. It occurred to me that perhaps, the Central Bankers, and the members of their management team, the worlds politicians, were not quite ready for someone to say that  ‘The Emperor has no clothes’ . They handed me into the care of DCs finest who quickly determined that an impatient judge had issued a bench warrant for my arrest based on my non-appearance at court earlier in the day.

A ‘Guest of the State’

I recognized the kind officer who had given me my ‘wake-up call’ this afternoon at the Washington Monument. I smiled at her and said, “Well, at least I will be sleeping indoors tonight”. I was to be a ‘Guest of the State’ again. The officer seemed somewhat sympathetic to my plight so I continued, “Would you please contact my good friend Gustavo Laframboise-Pierre and ask him if he would be so kind as to arrange for my bail”. My excellent adventure was over.

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