Are Trolls Turning The Internet Into A Festival Of Hate?

Love Hate - Public DomainHave you noticed that people say some of the most hateful things imaginable on the Internet?  Earlier today, I came across a Time Magazine article entitled “How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet“, and it made me reflect on my own experience as the publisher of a number of prominent websites.  Over the years, I have often gotten to see what is really going on in some of the darkest hearts in our society.  There are people that come to my websites that somehow think that making crude sexual remarks about the wives and children of people that they have never met is perfectly acceptable behavior.  There are others that say incredibly vile things about people that have a different skin color than they do, and some people have a hatred for Christians and the Christian faith that is absolutely frightening.  I can’t understand why anyone would want to be like that, but apparently this kind of behavior is very widespread.  In fact, one Pew Research Center survey discovered that 70 percent of all 18-to-24-year-olds who use the Internet have experienced harassment at some point.

Sadly, the truth is that the relative anonymity of the Internet allows people to reveal what is really in their hearts.  For some people, the Internet magnifies the kindness and goodness that is in their hearts, but for others it does the exact opposite.  From the safety of their own homes, they endlessly spew speech that is so abusive that it is hard to imagine that the person spewing it is actually human.

These people are commonly known as “trolls”, and the following is how the Time Magazine article that I mentioned above describes these trolls

Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.

The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the “lulz,” or laughs. What trolls do for the lulz ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats.

Whatever happened to treating other people the way that you would like to be treated?

When did the Golden Rule go out of style?

As our society becomes more evil, hearts all over the country are growing cold, and one of the results is that the Internet is being transformed into a festival of hatred.  The same Time Magazine article detailed some particularly disturbing examples of troll hate

They’ve been steadily upping their game. In 2011, trolls descended on Facebook memorial pages of recently deceased users to mock their deaths. In 2012, after feminist Anita Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of YouTube videos chronicling misogyny in video games, she received bomb threats at speaking engagements, doxxing threats, rape threats and an unwanted starring role in a video game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. In June of this year, Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, quit Twitter, on which he had nearly 35,000 followers, after a barrage of anti-Semitic messages. At the end of July, feminist writer Jessica Valenti said she was leaving social media after receiving a rape threat against her daughter, who is 5 years old.

On a very basic level, the Internet allows people to reveal who they really are.  Unfortunately, we are finding out that a lot of us are truly vile human beings.  Some time ago, a team of Canadian researchers did some research on Internet trolls, and what they found out was quite alarming

They conducted two online studies with over 1,200 people, giving personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their Internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism.

They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite Internet activity.

It should be no surprise that our society is crawling with narcissists, psychopaths and sadists.  For decades we have been pushing God out of every corner of public life, and as a result we have seen a moral decline that is absolutely unprecedented in our history.

So what can be done?

Is there a way that the trolls can be stopped?

Some big websites have stepped up their efforts to ban people that are advocating hatred and violence.  For instance, the New York Times says that Twitter just suspended 235,000 accounts “that promoted terrorism”…

Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts that promoted terrorism over the last six months, as part of a continuing effort to keep people from using the social network for extremist causes, the company said Thursday.

“The world has witnessed a further wave of deadly, abhorrent terror attacks across the globe,” Twitter said in a statement. “We strongly condemn these acts and remain committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on our platform.”

And I definitely applaud Twitter for that.

But where does the censorship stop?  All too often, the definition of “extremists” goes far beyond violent terrorists.

Just consider what is happening during this campaign season.  Virtually all of the big tech companies have engaged in some form of “pro-Trump censorship”, and this was brilliantly detailed in a recent piece by Liz Crokin.  The following is a short excerpt…

I began looking into how strong the bias and censorship runs in these forums after I did an interview on the pro-Trump podcast, MAGAPod. The show’s host, Mark Hammond, was disappointed Apple wouldn’t run his show without an “explicit” warning. Hammond’s podcast didn’t contain content that would be deemed explicit under Apple’s policy, and most other shows in the News & Politics category aren’t labeled as such.

On June 18, Hammond talked to Sandra, a representative from Apple. She explained that, since the description of his show is pro-Trump, his show is explicit in nature—because the subject matter is Donald Trump. So, an Apple employee concluded the Republican presidential candidate is explicit.

iTunes has dozens of podcasts discussing Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler—none of which is marked explicit.

And of course it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Apple CEO Tim Cook is a huge Hillary Clinton supporter and recently hosted a $50,000 per plate fundraiser for her campaign.

So where do we draw the line?

On my websites, I try to let everyone have their say as much as possible.  I very much believe in the “marketplace of ideas”, and I very much believe that the interaction between light and darkness can produce some extraordinary results.

But that also means that I often allow people to say things that I find highly offensive.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do know that the problem is growing.  As our society continues to come apart at the seams, the hatred on the Internet will continue to increase.

The Internet is used for all sorts of horrible things, but it can also be used to do great things as well.  As the darkness rises, I would encourage all of us to choose to be lights.

In a world filled with hate, love is desperately needed.

So instead of responding to hate with even more hate, let us seek to become people of great faith, great hope and great love.

America: You Will Go Insane Because Of What Your Eyes Will See

Woman Eyes Water - Public DomainA cloud of madness is descending on America, and most of us are completely unprepared for the chaos that will be unleashed during the months ahead.  This morning, I was reading through Deuteronomy when I came to a phrase that really resonated with me.  In the Modern English Version, this is what Deuteronomy 28:34 says: “You will go insane because of what your eyes will see”.  As I read that, it struck me that this is precisely what America is heading for.  There are going to be people that have vast quantities of food and supplies stored up that are still going to blow their brains out when they see what happens to this country because they don’t have any hope.  Without hope, I don’t know how anyone is going to make it through what is coming.  If you think that the unrest and violence in Milwaukee are disturbing, just wait for a while, because much, much worse is on the way.

On Monday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee, and the National Guard was brought in but not deployed after another night of chaos made headlines all over the globe.  According to Fox News, 11 police officers have been injured by the violence so far…

Chunks of concrete and rocks hurled at police — and shards of glass from shattered squad car windows — injured seven officers, upping the two-day tally to 11 wounded cops, Police Chief Edward Flynn said on Monday.

Additionally, an 18-year-old man was shot and seriously injured, and officers had to use an armored vehicle to retrieve the man and take him to a hospital. Flynn said the city’s ShotSpotter system recorded 30 instances of gunfire on Sunday night, after 48 instances were recorded on Saturday.

It has also been reported that another police vehicle was set on fire late Monday night.  Authorities are desperate to avoid a third night in a row like this, and so a strict curfew has been put in place

After 10 o’clock your teenagers better be home or in a place where they’re off the streets,” Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Barrett made the announcement as tensions remained high in the Sherman Park neighborhood and police were out in force while the National Guard was on standby and ready to move in if necessary.

And that is one of the saddest things about this latest round of violence.  So much of it is being done by youngsters that are just kids.  Their minds have been poisoned, their emotions have been stirred up, and they are committing random acts of violence that would have been unthinkable for American teens to commit just a couple generations ago.

Racial tensions are constantly being fueled by many of our politicians and by the big mainstream news networks.  As a result, instead of coming together as a country and learning to love people no matter where they are from or what they look like, we have entered a time when people are literally becoming fearful of being around others that don’t have the same skin color that they do.  Just check out this quote from CNN

People are afraid of each other,” resident Reginald Jackson said last year. “Black people are afraid of the white parts of town. White people are afraid of the black and Latino parts of town.”

Just two days ago, I delivered an address down at Morningside that was all about love.  As a society, we have got to learn to love one another or we are simply not going to make it.

Since I am the publisher of several major websites, I get to review comments that people leave on the various articles.  Many of those comments never get published on my websites, and in a lot of those instances this is because they contain some of the most hateful racist language imaginable.

Every single person, no matter who they are, where they are from or what they look like, is of immense value.  When we decide to believe otherwise, we are making an absolutely tragic mistake.

It isn’t just in Milwaukee that violence is rising.  Over in Chicago, we just witnessed the deadliest day in more than a decade.  As I recently detailed on The Most Important News, there are at least 150,000 gang members living in Chicago today, and only about 13,000 law enforcement officers of all types to deal with them.  That means that the police are outnumbered by a more than 10 to 1 margin, and at this point shootings are up about 50 percent compared to the same time last year…

Last week the Chicago Tribune pointed out that nearly 100 people had been shot in Chicago in less than a week.  9 people were killed on Monday alone marking the deadliest day for the city in 13 years.  Now, with weekend data out, turns out the story is even worse.  For the week ended 8/13, a total of 110 people were shot in Chicago with 24 of them killed.  YTD statistics indicate the city is spiraling out of control with total shootings up to 2,621, a mere ~50% YoY increase, with 445 total homicides.

The ironic thing is that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the entire nation.  Obviously, what the liberal politicians have been attempting to do is not working.  The following comes from the New York Times

Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed.  Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

If unrest and violence are spiking this dramatically in places like Milwaukee and Chicago now, what are things going to be like when economic conditions start getting really, really bad in this nation?

During the months and years ahead, we are all going to see things that we never thought we would see happen in America.

In a world gone crazy, people are going to need hope, and that is why hope is going to become a larger and larger part of my message.

Hal Lindsey once said that we “can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

So let us all be a source of hope, because it is going to be in very short supply during the days to come.

Violence Erupts In America’s Heartland As Milwaukee Becomes The Latest U.S. City To Burn

Milwaukee Riot - YouTube ScreenshotThe city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin exploded in violence last night as the wave of chaos and civil unrest that is sweeping across America continues to intensify.  At this point, many of our largest cities have become powder kegs of anger and frustration, and a full-blown riot can be set off with a single bullet.  In this case, an armed suspect was shot and killed by Milwaukee police as he attempted to evade the police, and his death almost instantly set off pandemonium in the heart of the city.  America is being ripped apart, and much more violence is coming.  Decades of social decay and economic decline have fundamentally transformed many of our greatest cities, and tensions that have been simmering for a very long time are now being brought to a boil.  Sadly, it seems quite likely that we will see even more rage, hatred and divisiveness in the months ahead.

The sudden eruption of violence that we witnessed in Milwaukee last night was absolutely stunning.  Within just hours after the shooting of the armed suspect, fires were burning all over the city

Protesters clashed with officers in the hours after a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed an armed suspect during a foot chase. After an hours-long confrontation with officers, police reported that a gas station was set on fire. Police said firefighters initially could not get close to the blaze because of gunshots.

Later, fires were started at a bank branch, a beauty supply company and an auto parts store as scores of people gathered near the crime scene on the city’s north side, a grim Mayor Tom Barrett said at a news conference Saturday night. He said the unrest was driven by a social media frenzy urging people to gather in the area.

Of course police were one of the primary targets of the violence.  It is being reported that at least one squad car was set ablaze, and another had a brick thrown through a window.

One prominent Milwaukee city official is blaming racial injustice for the violence.  The following comes from CNN

City Alderman Khalif Rainey said the area has been a “powder keg” for potential violence throughout the summer.

“What happened tonight may not have been right and I am not justifying that but no one can deny the fact that there are problems, racial problems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that need to be rectified,” Rainey said. “This community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country.”

Rainey said Saturday’s violence was a byproduct of inequities, injustice, unemployment and under-education.

“Something has to be done to address these issues,” he said. “The black people of Milwaukee are tired, they are tired of living under this oppression, this is their life.”

Without a doubt, the suffering that is going on in our inner cities is intense.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted by decades of bad trade deals, and evidence of severe social and moral decay is all around us.

But no matter how bad things are, there is never any excuse for committing random acts of violence.  In addition to setting businesses on fire, it is being reported that rioters were trying to drag people out of their vehicles in order to beat them up.

How in the world does that solve anything?

Meanwhile, police all over the nation continue to be targets of violence.  In a previous article, I told my readers that the number of police officers that have been shot and killed this year has risen by 78 percent compared to last year.

Well, over the past few days some more officers have been added to the list.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNN report about an officer that was just shot and killed in south Georgia…

A police officer was shot dead while responding to a call of a suspicious person in south Georgia, authorities said.

The shooting occurred Saturday night after the officer, Tim Smith, got the call in a residential area in Eastman, special agent Scott Whitley of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations said.

While on patrol, Smith encountered the subject and exited his car. That’s when he was fatally shot, Whitley said.

And this is from a Fox News report about an officer that was shot and killed in New Mexico…

Two Ohio fugitives wanted for a murder have been arrested after authorities say one of them fatally shot a New Mexico police officer.

Dona Ana County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said Saturday that 38-year-old Jesse Hanes is suspected of gunning down Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez during a traffic stop Friday.

In addition, there was another very disturbing incident that just happened a few days ago in Arkansas.  When a suspect started shooting at police officers, one was killed, one was wounded, and a police dog named Kina that got hit and ran away was just found on Saturday

Police spokeswoman Kristin Faulkenberry told reporters the dog, named Kina, “was up and walking” when searchers found the animal Friday morning near where the shooting unfolded near Hackett, about 115 miles west of Little Rock.

The dog was shot and ran into a wooded area Wednesday when a man identified as Billy Monroe Jones opened fire on officers, killing Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper and wounding Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells.

Earlier today I talked to a friend of mine that works as a police officer, and he admitted that he and his wife do think about all of this violence that is being directed at the police.  I suppose that it would be exceedingly difficult not to.  Those that are serving their communities in this way are going to have a very tough time moving forward.  At this point every single law enforcement officer in the entire nation is a potential target, and they are just going to have to find a way to deal with this new reality.

America is more divided than I have ever seen in my entire lifetime.  Instead of learning how to love one another, hatred is growing by the day.

More chaos is coming, more violence is coming, and more of our cities will burn.

Things didn’t have to turn out this way, but thanks to decades of incredibly foolish decisions we will now reap what we have sown.

Why The Jobs Report Is Not Nearly As Strong As You Are Being Told

Jobs Unemployment Main Street - Public DomainHappy days are here again? On Friday, the mainstream media was buzzing with the news that the U.S. economy had added 255,000 jobs during the month of July. But as you will see below, the U.S. economy did not add 255,000 jobs during the month of July. In fact, without an extremely generous “seasonal adjustment”, the number of jobs added during the month of July would not have even kept up with population growth. But the pretend number sounds so much better than the real number, and so the pretend number is what is being promoted for public consumption.

Why doesn’t the government ever just tell us the plain facts? Unfortunately, we live at a time when “spin” is everything, and just about everyone in the mainstream media seemed quite pleased with the “good jobs report” on Friday. However, as Zero Hedge has pointed out, the truth is that the “unadjusted” numbers tell a very different story…

As Mitsubishi UFJ strategist John Herrmann wrote in a note shortly after the report, the “jobs headline overstates” strength of payrolls. He adds that the unadjusted data show a “middling report” that’s “nowhere as strong as the headline” and adds that private payrolls unadjusted +85k in July vs seasonally adjusted +217k.

In Herrmann’s view, the government applied a “very benign seasonal adjustment factor upon private payrolls to transform a soft private payroll gain into a strong gain.”

He did not provide a reason why the government would do that.

Every month, the U.S. economy must create at least 150,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth. According to the unadjusted numbers, we did not hit that threshold, and so the employment situation in this country actually got worse last month.

In America today, there are 7.8 million Americans that are considered to be officially unemployed, and another 94.3 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”.

When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

Rather than focusing on the headline “unemployment” figure, we get a much fairer look at the employment crisis in the United States when we examine the employment-population ratio. The following chart comes directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it shows that the percentage of Americans that are employed has never even come close to getting back to where it was just prior to the last recession…

Employment-Population Ratio 2016

Over the past couple of years we have seen a slight bump in this number, and that is good, but normally after a recession ends the employment-population ratio goes back to at least as high as it was before.  Unfortunately, this has not happened after the last two recessions.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The ratio always drops during recessions, but before 2001, it always climbed to higher highs during the recoveries. The 2001 recession and subsequent recovery changed this. For the first time, the ratio never fully recovered, never got even close to fully recovering. That was a new phenomenon: employment growth could no longer keep up with population growth.

When the Great Recession hit, the ratio plunged from its lower starting point at the fastest pace on record (going back to 1948). The Fed’s efforts were all focused exclusively on bailing out bondholders, re-inflating the stock market, re-inflating the housing market, and generally creating what had become the official Fed policy at the time, the Wealth Effect (here’s Bernanke himself explaining it). This has re-inflated asset prices – many of them way beyond their prior bubble peaks.

But the Fed’s astounding focus on capital accelerated the already changing dynamics of the economy, at the expense of labor.

Even the Wall Street Journal admits that we are in the weakest “economic recovery” since 1949, and now there are lots of signs that we have entered a brand new economic downturn.  Here are just a few examples from Chad Shoop

  • Ford, GM and Chrysler — three of the U.S.’ largest auto companies — reported sales for July that missed estimates: down 3%, 1.9% and up 0.3%, respectively.
  • Delta Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world, said revenue fell 7% in July as part of its monthly performance update.
  • Macy’s, the biggest department store company, reported a decline in sales for July, leading to more aggressive markdowns and an industry-wide sell-off.

And lots of ominous signs continue to pop up on Wall Street as well.  For one thing, the Libor rate has surged to the highest level since the last financial crisis.  If you are not familiar with Libor, here is a pretty good explanation of it from Business Insider

The Libor, or London Interbank Offered Rate, measures the interest rate at which banks lend to each other at different durations, and its sharp jump was a harbinger of the financial crisis.

And according to that same article, the Libor rate is now the highest that we have seen since early 2009

In the past month, the Libor rate has spiked to rates not seen since the first quarter of 2009, the heart of the banking meltdown.

Not to mention, the spread between the Libor and the Overnight Index Swap rate, which tracks the lending rate from the Federal Reserve, has widened, another potentially worrying sign.

But of course I have been quoting facts and figures like this for months, and yet U.S. financial markets continue to hold it together.

There are literally dozens of parallels between the global financial crisis of 2008 and what is happening in 2016, but Wall Street continues to defy the laws of economics.

Of course it won’t last forever, but it certainly has been a sight to behold.

And I am certainly not alone in my analysis.  As I noted the other day, DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach is entirely convinced that stocks “should be down massively”…

“The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, ‘Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.’ That’s exactly how I feel – sell everything. Nothing here looks good,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.”

For the moment, investors continue to pay extremely irrational prices for stocks, and the mainstream media is just giddy about the state of the economy.

So let us enjoy this very strange period of stability for however much longer it lasts, but let us also protect ourselves from the horrible crash that will inevitably follow.

The Economic Collapse In Venezuela Is So Bad That People Are Slaughtering And Eating Zoo Animals

Black Stallion - Public DomainIf you were hungry enough, would you kill and eat zoo animals?  To most of us such a notion sounds absolutely insane, but this is actually happening in Venezuela right now.  This is a country where people are standing in lines for up to 12 hours hoping that there will be food to buy that day, and where rioting and looting have become commonplace.  So even though the U.S. economy is in dreadful shape at this moment, we should be thankful for what we have, because at least we are not experiencing a full-blown economic collapse yet like Venezuela currently is.

Black stallions can be some of the most beautiful horses on the entire planet, but things are so desperate down in Venezuela this summer that everything looks like food to some people at this point.  What happened at the Caricuao Zoo on Sunday is so horrible that I actually debated whether or not to share it with you.  Desperate people do desperate things, and when people get hungry enough they will do things such as this

Venezuela’s worsening food shortages had tragic consequences for a rare show horse last weekend, when a group of intruders broke into the zoo, pulled the black stallion from its cage, then slaughtered it for meat.

Prosecutors say the crime occurred in the small hours of Sunday morning at Caracas’ Caricuao Zoo, when “several people” sneaked into the state-run park under the cover of darkness and busted into the stallion’s pen. The horse, the only one of its kind in the zoo, was then led to a more secluded area and butchered on the spot. Only its head and ribs were left behind in a gruesome pile for zookeepers to find after sunrise.

Unfortunately, this precious animal was not even the first victim at that particular zoo.

A few weeks ago, pigs and sheep were the targets

Sadly, this horse wasn’t the first zoo animal to suffer the effects of Venezuela’s crippling food shortages. Some Vietnamese pigs and sheep were reportedly stolen from the same zoo earlier this month.

Dozens of other zoo animals are slowing starving to death because there is no food available to give to them.  In fact, it is being reported that at least 50 animals have died from lack of food at one zoo alone

At least 50 animals have died in the last six months at the Caricuao zoo in Caracas, Venezuela, due to widespread food shortages that are affecting both man and beast in the socialist nation.

Marlene Sifontes, a union leader for employees of state parks agency Inparques which oversees zoos, told Reuters that the zoo lost Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds after the animals went weeks without eating. Others animals at the zoo are in danger of severe malnutrition. Lions and tigers, which should be on a carnivorous diet, are being fed mango and pumpkin just to get something in their empty stomachs, while an elephant is being fed tropical fruit instead of its usual diet of hay, the union leader said. According to one report, the big cats are being fed slaughtered thoroughbred racehorses from a nearby race track.

If what you have just read hurts your heart, let us not forget that it is not just the animals that are suffering.  There are millions of precious people down there that are living on the very edge of starvation as you read this article.

Earlier this year, one mayor came forward and admitted to the world that some people are so hungry that they are actually hunting “cats, dogs and pigeons” for food…

Ramón Muchacho, Mayor of Chacao in Caracas, said the streets of the capital of Venezuela are filled with people killing animals for food.

Through Twitter, Muchacho reported that in Venezuela, it is a “painful reality” that people “hunt cats, dogs and pigeons” to ease their hunger. People are also reportedly gathering vegetables from the ground and trash to eat as well.

The crisis in Venezuela is worsening everyday due in part to shortages reaching 70 percent […] six Venezuelan military officials were arrested for stealing goats to ease their hunger, as there was no food at the Fort Manaure military base.

With each passing week, the situation in Venezuela keeps on getting worse.

And even though the United States has made many of the exact same mistakes that Venezuela has made, most of us just assume that what is happening down there could never happen up here.

After all, we have “the greatest economy in the world” and we are “the wealthiest nation on the entire planet”, right?

Well, actually our economic infrastructure has been systematically gutted by free trade deals and we consume far more wealth than we produce.  We have artificially pumped up our standard of living by adding more than 1.1 trillion dollars a year to the national debt since Barack Obama has been in the White House, and one recent poll discovered that 62 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 saved up.

But don’t worry.  Instead of turning out like Venezuela, the mainstream media insists that the best days for America are right around the corner.

In fact, just today I came across a Business Insider article that insisted that soon our biggest economic problem will be that we won’t be able to find enough workers.

And Barbra Streisand is so thrilled that Hillary Clinton is going to be our next president that she launched into a rousing rendition of “Happy Days Are Here Again” as she kicked off her farewell tour in Los Angeles.  The following account comes from the Drudge Report

So long sad times
Go along bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times
Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again…

Streisand suddenly interrupted the lyric, realizing a Democrat was currently in the White House!

“By the way, I love Obama.”

Altogether shout it now
There’s no one
Who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

So what is the truth?

Are we going to end up just like Venezuela, or are happy days here once more?

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that we are not going to have to wait too long to find out…

Painful To Watch: This Is The Weakest U.S. Economic ‘Recovery’ Since 1949

Dollar Bending - Public DomainMost of us have never witnessed an economic “recovery” this bad.  As you will see below, the average rate of economic growth since the last recession has been the lowest for any “recovery” in at least 67 years.  And unfortunately, the economy appears to be slowing down even more here in 2016.  On Friday, I talked about how the U.S. economy grew at a painfully slow rate of just 1.2 percent in the second quarter after only growing 0.8 percent during the first quarter.  And last week we also learned that the homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level ever.  This is not what a recovery looks like.  Instead, it very much appears that a new economic downturn has already begun.

But don’t just take my word for how painful this economic “recovery” has been.  The following comes from a Wall Street Journal article that was just posted entitled “Seven Years Later, Recovery Remains the Weakest of the Post-World War II Era“…

Even seven years after the recession ended, the current stretch of economic gains has yielded less growth than much shorter business cycles.

In terms of average annual growth, the pace of this expansion has been by far the weakest of any since 1949. (And for which we have quarterly data.) The economy has grown at a 2.1% annual rate since the U.S. recovery began in mid-2009, according to gross-domestic-product data the Commerce Department released Friday.

The prior expansion, from 2001 through 2007, was the only other business cycle of the past 11 when the economy didn’t grow at least 3% a year, on average.

This entire seven year stretch has come while Barack Obama has been in the White House.  After more than seven and a half years, he is solidly on track to be the only president in U.S. history to never have a single year when the U.S. economy grew by at least three percent.

And unlike many presidents, he has had two terms in which to try to accomplish that feat.

One of the industries that had been doing fairly well during this recovery was the auto industry, but now in early 2016 they have found themselves struggling too

Now, the auto sector, which has propped up GDP growth for years, is slowing down. For the first six months, total car and light truck sales, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17.5 million vehicles, are lagging behind last year by 100,000 units. Over the first half, fleet sales to rent-a-car companies and big fleet buyers were up industry wide. But retail sales fell 2%.

All over the corporate world, earnings are down.

In some cases, they are way down.

It is being projected that this will be the fifth quarter in a row when corporate earnings have declined, and even mainstream analysts are now admitting that it is “evident” that we have entered “a global slowdown”

“Earnings season in the U.S. confirms the overall macro picture that we have. We have a global slowdown. It’s evident in all of the major economies,” said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, on a Bloomberg podcast.

Of course I have been saying this exact thing for the past 12 months, but a lot of people have tuned me out because the stock market in the United States has been doing so well.

But the stock market is not an accurate barometer for the real economy.  It never has been, and it never will be.

If stocks accurately reflected the health of the U.S. economy, they would have already crashed really hard a long time ago.  At this moment, stock prices are completely disconnected from economic reality, and this has many of the most respected names on Wall Street scratching their heads.  One of them is Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital.  Just check out what he told Reuters on Friday

Noting the recent run-up in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index while economic growth remains weak and corporate earnings are stagnant, Gundlach said stock investors have entered a “world of uber complacency.”

The S&P 500 on Friday touched an all-time high of 2,177.09, while the government reported that U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter grew at a meager 1.2 percent rate.

“The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, ‘Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.’ That’s exactly how I feel – sell everything. Nothing here looks good,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.”

If you follow Gundlach, you probably already know that he has been dead on accurate with regard to the financial markets over the past couple of years.

So when he says that the stock market “should be down massively” and that it is time to “sell everything”, we should all take him very, very seriously.

All throughout history, a huge decline in corporate earnings has almost always resulted in a huge decline in stock prices.  As Jesse Felder has noted, “we have never seen a decline in earnings of this magnitude without at least a 20% fall in stock prices” during the last 50 years.

To any rational observer, it is quite obvious that stock prices should have already started collapsing quite some time ago.

And to a large extent this has already happened around the planet, but here in the United States stocks continue to defy the laws of economics.

But at this point it isn’t going to do much good to warn people about this.  Those that could see the danger coming have already pulled their money out of stocks, and most of those that want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that things are somehow going to be different this time are not likely to be persuaded this late in the game.

In the end, we should all be grateful that this absurd financial bubble has lasted for as long as it has, because stability is much more pleasant than instability.  The U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system have enjoyed a prolonged period of stability that has defied all the odds, and let us hope that it lasts for at least a little while longer…

Deutsche Bank Profit Plunges 98 Percent As The Outlook For ‘The World’s Riskiest Bank’ Darkens

Crash Arrow Down - Public DomainThe biggest and most important bank in the biggest and most important country in Europe continues to implode right in front of our eyes.  If you follow my work regularly, you probably already know that I issued a major alarm about Deutsche Bank last September.  Subsequently, Deutsche Bank stock hit an all-time low.  Then I sounded the alarm about Deutsche Bank again back in May, and once again that was followed by another all-time low for Deutsche Bank.  And then I warned about Deutsche Bank again in early June, and you can probably imagine what happened after that.  Over the past year, this German banking giant has literally been coming apart at the seams, and in so many ways it is paralleling exactly what happened to Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

Today, we got some more bad news from Deutsche Bank.  Compared to the exact same period last year, profits were down 98 percent.  A nearly 100 percent drop in net income spooked a lot of investors, and Deutsche Bank shares got hit hard on Wednesday.  Of course Deutsche Bank shares are already down by more than half over the past 12 months, and the financial sharks can smell blood in the water.

Just like Lehman Brothers in 2008, Deutsche Bank is essentially in panic mode at this point.  They recently announced that they will be closing 188 branches and that 3,000 workers will be losing their jobs.  But this could just be the beginning of the layoffs at the bank.  According to some reports, the bank could cut up to  35,000 jobs by the year 2020, and CEO John Cryan recently admitted that they “may have to accelerate cost-cutting measures“.

What makes all of this even more alarming is that Deutsche Bank is widely considered to be “the most dangerous bank” on the entire planet.  The following comes from a CNN article posted just today entitled “The world’s riskiest bank is in trouble“…

What is going on with Deutsche Bank?

Germany’s biggest lender was dubbed the world’s riskiest bank by the International Monetary Fund last month, just as one of its U.S. businesses failed a Federal Reserve stress test.

Its shares are down 45% this year, and on Wednesday it said second quarter profits were wiped out by a 98% slump in earnings. The stock fell 2.5% in Frankfurt.

The primary reason why Deutsche Bank is “the world’s riskiest bank” is because of the mammoth derivatives portfolio that is possesses.  It currently has 42 trillion euros of exposure to derivatives, which is an amount of money about 13 times the size of the entire German economy.

When Deutsche Bank finally goes down for good, it is going to be “the shot heard around the financial world”, and it will be a disaster many times greater than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.  Just consider what Jeff Gundlach had to say about the bank earlier this year

“Banks are dying and policymakers don’t know what to do,” Gundlach said. “Watch Deutsche Bank shares go to single digits and people will start to panic… you’ll see someone say, ‘Someone is going to have to do something.'”

As I write this, shares of Deutsche Bank are sitting at just $13.63, and many experts are having a very difficult time finding any reason for optimism.  In fact, Edward Misrahi has stated that the bank is his number one short trade, and Jim Collins says that “it is just impossible” to recommend buying shares of Deutsche Bank even at this depressed level…

As an equity analyst, it is just impossible to recommend shares of a bank that is not growing revenue. So really, Deutsche is an untouchable, and the stock market is trying — to the tune of a 58% decline in DB’s market value in 12 months — to recalibrate Deutsche’s market capitalization to the true value of its assets net of liabilities. That’s a painful journey.

I don’t mean to just pick on Deutsche Bank.  Certainly there are a lot of other major banks around the globe that are also teetering on the brink right now.  Just take a look at Italy.  Basically their entire banking system is in the process of melting down.

But the utter collapse of Italy’s banking system won’t have the same kind of worldwide impact that the collapse of Deutsche Bank will.

Unlike some of his predecessors, CEO John Cryan is being honest about some of the struggles that Deutsche Bank is going through right now, and he admits that they may need to be “more ambitious in our restructuring”.  The following comes from Business Insider

Cryan said in a statement (emphasis ours):

“We have continued to de-risk our balance sheet, to invest in our processes and to modernize our infrastructure. However, if the current weak economic environment persists, we will need to be yet more ambitious in the timing and intensity of our restructuring.”

He said something similar in a note to employees (emphasis again ours):

“Here I would like to speak plainly. If this weak economic environment persists, we will need to be still more ambitious in our restructuring. We will do everything in our power to accelerate the measures we have already planned.”

Yes, I know that the stock market in the United States has been setting all sorts of all-time record highs lately.

But that doesn’t change what is going on in the rest of the world one bit.

The financial crisis that has been gripping Europe, Asia, South America and most of the rest of the planet since the second half of last year is accelerating.

And it is inevitable that the U.S. is going to be experiencing some very real pain in the not too distant future as well.

So even though things may seem a bit quiet this summer in the financial world, the truth is that there is a whole lot going on under the surface.

Deutsche Bank is one glaringly obvious example of this, but there are many others all over the globe.  And not too long from now, the dominoes will begin to fall very rapidly.