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12/5/09

The Bolivia Elections, as seen by the people who want to you be free-thinking and democratic in that special certain way

The title of this post is longer than the contents, as all I'd like to do is send you over to a magnifico article at Abiding, where the dude has had the intestinal fortitude to have waded through all the guff and nonsense written about tomorrow's vote by the media.

Duderino totally pwns Bolivian media coverage. Go over to see why.

Armen's superb rant

The Kouyoumdjian Weekly hit my mailbox this morning, and even by his high standards he knocked one out of the ballpark today with the rant. I've been given permission to reproduce here, so with no further ado here's the script. Excellent stuff.


LEAVE THOSE LEADERS ALONE!

And Tie Up Your Own Sharval!

By Armen Kouyoumdjian
kouyvina (AT) cmet.net


December 5, 2009


If you are disappointed that this is not a report about the first round of the elections in 8 days’ time, just be patient. The next one will treat the subject a couple of days before the polls, but I have to warn you that it will be mainly structural rather than topical. The only valid electoral analysis will be the one written after the January second round, when we know for sure who the winner is and what sort of congress he has to work with.

This week therefore, I am referring to a subject that has increasingly bothered me over a long period, and which is now getting out of hand. This is the propensity not only to criticize the way other countries are run, which anyone has the right to do (as long as they get their facts right), but without being a citizen of such places, actively working for the said government to be overthrown, if necessary by violent means. This ranges from virulent media campaigns to sneaky subversion and if all else fails, unashamed military action.

I know in advance that many people will disagree, accuse me of all sorts of hidden allegiances and agendas, and God knows what else. The only allegiances I have is to Truth, Justice and the Armenian cause. To those who disagree I say, please visit a Mexican village called La Chingada, which is in a region called La Punta del Cerro, and book a room for a long stay in a hostelry called La Chucha.

The “Sharval” I am referring-to in my subtitle is a type of light trouser worn by both sexes in many parts of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Its characteristic is that it is held in place not by an elastic band or a belt, but by a tie-up lace. In Turkey at least, when someone speaks out of order, it is customary to tell them to “tie up your own sharval”, meaning that make sure you are behaving correctly before criticizing others.

WHAT RIGHT TO INTERVENE? Interestingly, the subject of criticism coming from the man or woman in the street, the media, politicians and business leaders always tends to be “Leftist” or “Radical” regimes. These same people sitting in judgment obviously had no such qualms when unappetizing dictatorships were in power, committing the worst atrocities. A common butt of such criticism is “Islamic” regimes, though the problem goes much beyond that.

I was at a national celebratory dinner at an elegant Viña hotel, more out of obligation than enthusiasm. It was by no means cheap, and though we were in the same room eating the same food as the other guests, our party was given miniscule paper napkins, whereas other guests had proper ones, and they initially insisting on serving only Pisco Sour (to a group including many Moslems) as aperitifs.

However, it is not yet another expensively disappointing dining experience in Chile I want to talk about (I have touched upon the problem several times in the past, and concluded that it had no solution). One of the fellow guests asked me what party was in power in Armenia. Unflinchingly, I answered “the Corruption Party”. For her, that was irrelevant. “Are they Right or Left”? she insisted (a silly question to ask about a former Soviet Republic, but the lady, despite being wealthy, had no culture- Nie Kulturny- as the Russians say. Not only she did not find anything wrong with the fact that we were treated like second class citizens by the hotel, but she had never heard of Pol Pot, or the Peter Principle).

“What do you think of Chávez?”, was her next question. I knew it was a trap, but could not care less. “I am fed up of people always criticizing him without knowing anything about the country, his predecessors, and the present reality”, I answered. “I do not like him”, she said, “he is a threat”. “In what way do you personally feel threatened by Chavez?”, I asked. “Not me personally, but others are”, was her feeble explanation.

We shall talk more about Chávez later, but in a general fashion, who has the right to decide which person or party another country’s citizens elect or support, particularly in democratic elections? Coming from people who have never even visited that country, looked at a single newspaper published there, do some background research, etc..They take their view first and foremost from their own prejudices, and lean on that country’s voluble opposition who get a more sympathetic ear at home than abroad. How did you conclude that Iranian or Saudi women are in a majority unhappy wearing the veil or the Burka? From reading Persepolis by that promiscuous drug addict author Marjane Satrapi? How would you like it if the Iranian air force or the Taliban bombarded your wedding party, because they do not like the tangas worn by your promiscuous daughters (who in Chile, according to a study financed by the French embassy, are all penetrated by the average age of 14 years and 2 months), the ugly sight of their brassiere straps, their disgusting piercings and tattoos, not to mention their big bumsand ugly bare midriffs? Who are you to decide how they are going to run their lives in the Middle East, or in Caracas, Santa Cruz or Guayaquil? Have you talked to foreign Western women accompanying their husbands on postings to the Gulf, saying they never felt as cared and respected as women in their lives as during the time they spent there?

Despite all its failings which are soon bringing it to the level of a mediocre Third World country, at least there is some decency left in Britain. The current Chilcot enquiry is leaving no stone unturned in revealing how the Blair administration, lied, cajoled, threatened and even drove officials to suicide in order to join the US attack on Iraq.

Though I myself have only been there twice (when I was 7 months old the first time, and 5 years the second time), two branches of my family lived there for some 350 years, as businessmen, company executives, landowners and senior civil servants (my father’s eldest brother was Chief Executive of the Baghdad Electricity Company, and one of his cousins the Director of Exports at the Oil Ministry). None are left there now, but we have enough collective experience of the place to know when it was well run and when it was not. At least when I write about something, I know what I am talking about, and I do not get my sources from Rupert Murdoch’s publications or the Israeli embassy cheque books.

Let us now look at two specific cases of demonisation at two opposite extremes of the world: Iran and Venezuela.

IRAN Since the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran thirty years ago, that country has been among the favourite whipping boys of the West. “Ayatollahs in the backyard”, as The Economist headlined just before the president of Iran visited Latin America, as if only American navy vessels and Hillary Clinton were permitted to come to the area. Things in that direction reached their paroxysm with the coming to power of president Ahmadinejad, who was recently re-elected after an election deemed controversial. If anyone bothered to follow closely the last few elections in Iran, they would have noticed a diversity of policies and options on offers among the candidates which the more-of-the-same Chilean (and other) electorate would love to have. Those “oppressed” women are much more present at top jobs, both in public and private life ( a former World Bank executive told me how the chief lawyer on the Iranian side, in a loan negotiation he undertook many years ago, was not only a woman, but also Armenian, which goes to prove that minorities even Christian ones, are not excluded).

Ahmadinejad may indeed sometimes be a loose cannon in terms of what he says and does, but this is no reason to lie about him. The attacks on the president and his country became more virulent after accusations that he denied the Jewish Holocaust. In fact, if you read his exact words, he did no such thing, but just to please the ignorant masses, let us assume that he did. We Armenians find that accusation fantastic in its partiality. What about all the countries (the USA, Britain, etc..) who join Turkey, itself shamefully supported by no less than Israel, and the Anglo-Saxon Zionist gutter press (such as The Economist and the BBC to name but two). Why isn’t world public opinion being “outraged” at the killing of over half our race 95 years ago, and instead suggesting (like the Swiss) to name a “commission to look at the facts” ? Where are the demonstrations by the Yiddische restaurant owners in Copacabana against the Turkish consulate, or do they only go out against Ahmadinejad?

Now to the second accusation against Iran, that of attempting to build a nuclear arsenal. Last year, at a talk he gave in Flacso, I gently cornered Mr El-Baradei on the matter of proof. He had to admit that he had been asked by others to find it, so far with nothing concrete. This does not stop others to continue lying. Some weeks ago, the dean of an obscure German university, who is also a political scientist, gave a talk at a Viña university. He described both Chávez and Iran as threats, insisting on the latter that the IAEA had discovered “proof” (it has done nothing of the kind). One wishes that when Israel illegally started building up a nuclear arsenal now amounting to several dozen warheads, the world had been so keen to stop them (and there, contrary to Iran, we HAVE proof).

Oh yes, the parallel accusation that Iran “threatened” Israel. Wow, what a sin. It does not matter that Israel not only threatened but destroyed both the economy and social fabric of Lebanon, starves the Palestinians, threatens Iran itself, but nobody says anything, even when they elect war criminals as leaders.

HUGO CHAVEZ In February 1989, a few weeks into his second presidency, the then head of the Venezuelan state Carlos Andrés Pérez (C.A.P.) had to face massive protests from the urban shanty town dwellers against high inflation and low salaries. He sent the troops against them and even the official admission is 276 dead (though to this day there are 2,000 disappeared from whom nothing more was heard again, a figure marginally lower than in the 17 years of the Pinochet regime).

During his first mandate, C.A.P. had managed to rob half the country’s wealth and he was now going for the second half, in the most corrupt regime the country had ever seen. Nobody mentions that when criticizing Chávez, who has democratically won all but one poll he has faced. Maybe because he cared for the less favoured among the population, always a sin among the local elites (viz. Arbenz, Allende, etc..) ? As a country risk analyst, I would be the first to admit that he has made many errors on the economic side. Too many hopes on the price of oil remaining high, and an over-extended fiscal commitment, with heavy reliance on debt whilst lending to others. A public services infrastructure falling apart, and a currency policy which has miraculously survived longer than logic would expect (though no Chilean is in a position to criticize another country’s handling of the exchange rate, when its own currency is subject to the vagaries of a team of manic-depressives).

All the above be as it may, the Venezuelans have elected Chavez, and will unelect him when they feel like it. It is not a job for the USA, the SOFOFA, El Mercurio or The Economist. A recent reportage by Chilean writer Rafael Gumucio, supported by my own findings on reading an opposition Venezuelan paper every day, reflect a free press and debate which Chileans have not seen in nearly 40 years in their own country. Public talk about politics is the national hobby, and on every week-end and holiday, roads and travel agencies are clogged with travelers going to resorts at home and abroad. The real threat to stability in the region is not Chávez but Colombia’s Uribe, with the millions of Colombian refugees of whom some 400,000 have escaped to Ecuador and Venezuela. As Gumucio writes,” this is neither a Socialist country nor a bloody dictatorship. But nobody wants to know what it is”. So, let the well-run Latin American countries tie up their own sharvals and let Chavez swim or sink on his own, but you have no moral, ethical or legal right to actively undermine his regime from abroad.

OTHER LEADERS Of course. Chávez is not alone as a regional whipping boy. Every time a country elects or reelects a popular leader who wants to change things, the missiles start flying. Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who is a shoo-in for imminent re-election, is just finishing a first term during which his country had the highest growth in 30 years, and government revenue as a percentage of GDP has risen by 20 percentage points (over double the US figure).

Ecuador’s Rafael Correa may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was quite impressed at a recent presentation their investment office gave in Santiago (less impressed by the Chilean businessman whose only worry as expressed during question time was the power of unions). His 42 % popularity is higher than Gordon Brown’s government. Paraguay is admittedly a mess, but then it has always been so. Uruguay’s second Frente Amplio government takes over a country which has managed even in 2009 to have positive growth and lower unemployment. Tie up your own sharvals.


Biking Caracas

Here's a very interesting eight minute youtube made by a friend who lives and works in Caracas, Venezuela. He bikes to work every day and just a couple of days ago decided to record his journey for posterity.




In the video you get English language comments popping up that explain more, too. A great way of experiencing what the better side of town called Caracas really looks like. You also get to see just how bad the famous traffic jams are (yep, they're bad).

Final note: If you're surprised about the high level of development in the city and the total lack of Wartburgs and Trabants on the street you've been watching too much Fox News.

12/4/09

The Friday OT: Victor Jara; El derecho de vivir en paz (the right to live in peace)

It has to be Jara this weekend.



Victor Jara will be re-buried tomorrow afternoon in Chile. He's so famous in his home country that the Chilean national stadium is named after him but if you've never heard of the guy here a good report on him. It starts like this, click through for the rest.

Thirty-six years after his brutal death immediately following Chile’s Sept. 11, 1973 military coup, renowned folk singer Victor Jara will be remembered with a wake.

A recent autopsy confirmed Jara’s body was riddled by 44 gunshot wounds, including two bullets to his head. Jara’s corpse was disinterred recently and the autopsy carried out in order to verify an eyewitness account of his death. The witness, a former conscript, said Jara was originally victim of a fiendish game of Russian roulette imposed on him by an officer at the stadium where he was held. After shooting Jara in the head, the officer ordered two conscripts, including the witness, to shoot Jara repeatedly, said the witness.

CONTINUES HERE

Ni olvido, ni perdon.

Venezuela: Coming to you live from the world of toldyaso...

.....here's today's story about how Chávez "tones down rhetoric" and the parallel forex and bonds "jump". Of course, this rebound has nothing to do with the way the whole financial community tried its hardest to instill panic in all things Venezuelan, scare the crap out of people and rob them of their money, is it?

Compare what IKN said yesterday.....
Chávez isn't good at economics...we've been here before and seen how he's made these noises and backed off and made the noises and backed off again. This time won't be much different, as at some point in the next couple of days his financial peeps will quietly explain things to him and then the subject gets dropped...again.

...to the message today:

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s bolivar rose, rebounding from a 9 percent plunge yesterday, and the country’s dollar bonds gained after President Hugo Chavez toned down threats to nationalize the banking sector.

The bolivar gained 1.7 percent in the unregulated market to 6 per dollar at 11:14 a.m. in New York, from 6.1 yesterday, traders said. The yield on Venezuela’s 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 dropped 39 basis points, or 0.39 percentage point, to 14.29 percent, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The bond’s price rose 1.75 cents on the dollar to 67.75 cents after yada yada continues here


Seriously, these Venezuelan wolves in sheep's clothing con artists need to......

On the IKN32 menu

The IKN Weekly, issue 32, is out on Sunday. In it we have a brand new buy recommendation for a junior mining company currently exploring in Peru. There's also an overview of country risk for the whole region that looks at this difficult issue in form a slightly different angle and tries to get a better perspective that allows investors to gauge risk for any given company.

As well as those, all the usual updates on covered companies, political news that affects mining and market movements worthy of note.

Soft sell preview over. Mid-morning triple expressos served. The end.

Sheldon Heart Sheldon's Companies

The CEO pose

We're often snarky and scathing about blatant insider selling by company directors that care far more about their own back pockets than the wellbeing of shareholders, so it's fair dinkum* to note some significant insider buying today, point a finger at a director using his money to add stock in his companies and say "Good on yer, mate"*

So let's highlight Sheldon Inwentash, head honcho at Pinetree Capital (PNP.to) and w00t him with a "Hey dude..serious buying". Here's the latest set of filings....

Pinetree Capital Ltd. (PNP)

As of December 3rd, 2009
Filing Date Transaction Date Insider Name Ownership Type Securities Nature of transaction # or value acquired or disposed of Unit Price
Dec 03/09 Dec 02/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 20,600 $2.217
Dec 03/09 Dec 02/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 8,000 $2.150
Dec 03/09 Dec 02/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 116,500 $2.169
Dec 03/09 Dec 02/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 54,900 $2.224
Dec 02/09 Dec 01/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 68,700 $2.123
Dec 02/09 Dec 01/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 4,200 $2.142
Dec 02/09 Dec 01/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 103,000 $2.105
Dec 02/09 Dec 01/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 24,100 $2.143
Dec 02/09 Nov 30/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 8,100 $2.078
Dec 02/09 Nov 30/09 Inwentash, Sheldon Direct Ownership Common Shares 10 - Acquisition in the public market 91,900 $2.092


....but that's just brushing the surface really, as our hero Shelly has added a total 1,103,900 shares of PNP to his portfolio in November and December 2009 to bring his total up to 3,136,144. But wait! There's more! In the same period he's tacked on insider purchases in other companies where he sits as director or advisor or general moneybagman. The list includes 434,000 shares of Latin American Minerals (LAT.v), 830,000 shares of Mega Uranium (MGA.to) as well as other purchases in smaller stuff. So hats off to Sheldon for putting his money where his mouth is. Say what you like about the guy, but at least he has confidence in himself and his companies.

*I've come over all Australian today. No idea why.

News Roundup (we carefully floss out the bits that others try to ignore)


Great news for Canada's idiotic fringe: Don't waste your time with blogs, because now you can complain to AP about the coverage of Canadian mining companies killing Mexicans, too. Hey, there's nothing like showing your patriotism by sticking up for murderers and scumbags that happen to have the same colour passport as you, is there?

In any other country, it would be "successful economic recipe to continue" with praise and plaudits and laurel headdresses. But when it comes to Bolivia, the fastest growing country in the region gets "Morales to tighten grip on economy after vote" as its Bloomberg bullshit headline. I wonder why......

Those of you surprised that I'd criticize Chávez don't know your humble correspondent very well at all. The important part of LatAm politics isn't the leadership, but binary gringo mentalities never seem to grasp that fact, obvious though it may be.

Peru tax collection finally sees a YoY rise, with the November overall number up 2.3%. This is unsurprising if you take about eight seconds to look at a spot copper price chart, but for sure Twobreakfasts will claim it as some sort of patriotic breakthrough. So as nobody seemed to care much about the YoY figures January thru October, why should we suddenly care about the next set of numbers? Gauging Peru's growth in 2010 will be easier by comparing the macro figures to 2008, not 2009.

Meanwhile, the NYT somehow thinks that Neshtor Kirchner still has some political capital and is "making a comeback". Total dumbass reporting showing an acute lack of knowledge of Argentina. The guy is finished but the PJ party structure props him up, end of story.

Chart of the day is.........

.....LME copper warehouse inventories:


Hateful, aren't I? All you want to do is to ignore things like "reality" and keep enjoying this bull run that WE ALL KNOW WILL NEVER EVER END and here's me prodding at your ribs with the pointed stick of Cu warehouse numbers again.

Elephant? Meet room.

Canary? Meet coalmine.


12/3/09

"You are the definition of moral hazard"

Below find the whole of Senator Jim Bunning's superb speech, as delivered straight into the face of Ben Bernanke today. I recommend you go over to Bunning's official website and leave him a note of thanks, or congratulations or something. What follows is must-read material and the truth well spoken.

Four years ago when you came before the Senate for confirmation to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve, I was the only Senator to vote against you. In fact, I was the only Senator to even raise serious concerns about you. I opposed you because I knew you would continue the legacy of Alan Greenspan, and I was right. But I did not know how right I would be and could not begin to imagine how wrong you would be in the following four years.

The Greenspan legacy on monetary policy was breaking from the Taylor Rule to provide easy money, and thus inflate bubbles. Not only did you continue that policy when you took control of the Fed, but you supported every Greenspan rate decision when you were on the Fed earlier this decade. Sometimes you even wanted to go further and provide even more easy money than Chairman Greenspan. As recently as a letter you sent me two weeks ago, you still refuse to admit Fed actions played any role in inflating the housing bubble despite overwhelming evidence and the consensus of economists to the contrary. And in your efforts to keep filling the punch bowl, you cranked up the printing press to buy mortgage securities, Treasury securities, commercial paper, and other assets from Wall Street. Those purchases, by the way, led to some nice profits for the Wall Street banks and dealers who sold them to you, and the G.S.E. purchases seem to be illegal since the Federal Reserve Act only allows the purchase of securities backed by the government.

On consumer protection, the Greenspan policy was don’t do it. You went along with his policy before you were Chairman, and continued it after you were promoted. The most glaring example is it took you two years to finally regulate subprime mortgages after Chairman Greenspan did nothing for 12 years. Even then, you only acted after pressure from Congress and after it was clear subprime mortgages were at the heart of the economic meltdown. On other consumer protection issues you only acted as the time approached for your re-nomination to be Fed Chairman.

Alan Greenspan refused to look for bubbles or try to do anything other than create them. Likewise, it is clear from your statements over the last four years that you failed to spot the housing bubble despite many warnings.

Chairman Greenspan’s attitude toward regulating banks was much like his attitude toward consumer protection. Instead of close supervision of the biggest and most dangerous banks, he ignored the growing balance sheets and increasing risk. You did no better. In fact, under your watch every one of the major banks failed or would have failed if you did not bail them out.

On derivatives, Chairman Greenspan and other Clinton Administration officials attacked Brooksley Born when she dared to raise concerns about the growing risks. They succeeded in changing the law to prevent her or anyone else from effectively regulating derivatives. After taking over the Fed, you did not see any need for more substantial regulation of derivatives until it was clear that we were headed to a financial meltdown thanks in part to those products.

The Greenspan policy on transparency was talk a lot, use plenty of numbers, but say nothing. Things were so bad one TV network even tried to guess his thoughts by looking at the briefcase he carried to work. You promised Congress more transparency when you came to the job, and you promised us more transparency when you came begging for TARP. To be fair, you have published some more information than before, but those efforts are inadequate and you still refuse to provide details on the Fed’s bailouts last year and on all the toxic waste you have bought.

And Chairman Greenspan sold the Fed’s independence to Wall Street through the so-called “Greenspan Put”. Whenever Wall Street needed a boost, Alan was there. But you went far beyond that when you bowed to the political pressures of the Bush and Obama administrations and turned the Fed into an arm of the Treasury. Under your watch, the Bernanke Put became a bailout for all large financial institutions, including many foreign banks. And you put the printing presses into overdrive to fund the government’s spending and hand out cheap money to your masters on Wall Street, which they use to rake in record profits while ordinary Americans and small businesses can’t even get loans for their everyday needs.

Now, I want to read you a quote: “I believe that the tools available to the banking agencies, including the ability to require adequate capital and an effective bank receivership process are sufficient to allow the agencies to minimize the systemic risks associated with large banks. Moreover, the agencies have made clear that no bank is too-big-too-fail, so that bank management, shareholders, and un-insured debt holders understand that they will not escape the consequences of excessive risk-taking. In short, although vigilance is necessary, I believe the systemic risk inherent in the banking system is well-managed and well-controlled.”

That should sound familiar, since it was part of your response to a question I asked about the systemic risk of large financial institutions at your last confirmation hearing. I’m going to ask that the full question and answer be included in today’s hearing record.

Now, if that statement was true and you had acted according to it, I might be supporting your nomination today. But since then, you have decided that just about every large bank, investment bank, insurance company, and even some industrial companies are too big to fail. Rather than making management, shareholders, and debt holders feel the consequences of their risk-taking, you bailed them out. In short, you are the definition of moral hazard.

Instead of taking that money and lending to consumers and cleaning up their balance sheets, the banks started to pocket record profits and pay out billions of dollars in bonuses. Because you bowed to pressure from the banks and refused to resolve them or force them to clean up their balance sheets and clean out the management, you have created zombie banks that are only enriching their traders and executives. You are repeating the mistakes of Japan in the 1990s on a much larger scale, while sowing the seeds for the next bubble. In the same letter where you refused to admit any responsibility for inflating the housing bubble, you also admitted that you do not have an exit strategy for all the money you have printed and securities you have bought. That sounds to me like you intend to keep propping up the banks for as long as they want.

Even if all that were not true, the A.I.G. bailout alone is reason enough to send you back to Princeton. First you told us A.I.G. and its creditors had to be bailed out because they posed a systemic risk, largely because of the credit default swaps portfolio. Those credit default swaps, by the way, are over the counter derivatives that the Fed did not want regulated. Well, according to the TARP Inspector General, it turns out the Fed was not concerned about the financial condition of the credit default swaps partners when you decided to pay them off at par. In fact, the Inspector General makes it clear that no serious efforts were made to get the partners to take haircuts, and one bank’s offer to take a haircut was declined. I can only think of two possible reasons you would not make then-New York Fed President Geithner try to save the taxpayers some money by seriously negotiating or at least take up U.B.S. on their offer of a haircut. Sadly, those two reasons are incompetence or a desire to secretly funnel more money to a few select firms, most notably Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and a handful of large European banks. I also cannot understand why you did not seek European government contributions to this bailout of their banking system.

From monetary policy to regulation, consumer protection, transparency, and independence, your time as Fed Chairman has been a failure. You stated time and again during the housing bubble that there was no bubble. After the bubble burst, you repeatedly claimed the fallout would be small. And you clearly did not spot the systemic risks that you claim the Fed was supposed to be looking out for. Where I come from we punish failure, not reward it. That is certainly the way it was when I played baseball, and the way it is all across America. Judging by the current Treasury Secretary, some may think Washington does reward failure, but that should not be the case. I will do everything I can to stop your nomination and drag out the process as long as possible. We must put an end to your and the Fed’s failures, and there is no better time than now.

Monterrico Metals/Zijin at Majaz: The deadly trainwreck continues

Here's Reuters with the news of more deaths at the Rio Blanco/Majaz copper project in northern Peru. There's more to this story than meets the eye.

LIMA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Two people were killed and eight were injured on Wednesday as Peruvian police sought to apprehend a suspect in the November attack on a controversial mining camp owned by Chinese miner Zijin, police said on Thursday.

Authorities said they arrested two suspects for the assault last month that killed three workers at the Rio Blanco copper project, which has locked local communities and foreign investors in an environmental dispute marred by violence CONTINUES HERE.



What part of "This will never, ever be a mine" do you not understand?

Trading Post (quoted edition)


For other reasons, while revisiting a bit of Bill the Quill this morning I fell upon this quote from Timon of Athens (Act4 Sc3 L28-):
Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold!
...
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless th’ accursed,
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves,
And give them title, knee and approbation
With senators on the bench.
Kind of fun, no?

MAG Silver (MVG) (MAG.to) up 0.73% at U$6.90 despite dropping over 5% this morning. Solid volumes, too.

Fortuna Silver (FVI.v) down 2.3% at $2.16, but despite the small drop today it's just been upgraded to a $3.45 target price by PI Fincorp. DYODD, dude.

Eastmain (ER.to) up 12.8% at $1.59 on this PR, with very good looking met recoveries. Goldcorp on the lookout for its next victim?

TheNewCrystallex (EC.v) up 5.9% at $1.07. Who gives a shit if the company is run by thieves and is scamming you all...just give us the upmoves, right boyz? Dreadful stock.

Ventana Gold (VEN.to) up 1.5% at $10.34 and the fear/greed twostep continues...bit of greed winning out today.

Bolivia's election: Want a clue about who wins?

Well, how about the fact that Manfred Reyes Villa, chief opponent to Evo Morales in this weekend's vote, has bought airline tickets to the USA and is planning to fly out on Monday 7th December, one day after the election.

Here's the story linked, and here's the photocopy of the tickets bought by Manfred.

click to enlarge (got names and everything)

As the report points out, perhaps Manfred is in a hurry to leave because he's under judicial investigation in his home town of Cochabamba for illegal use of public funds. Nah...probably coincidence, that one......

Anyway, Evo leads 2nd placed Manfred by a mere 34 points in voter intention. The only question left is to wonder by how much Evo wins on Sunday.

Duty free scotch served. The end.

Meanwhile in Venezuela....

...Chávez proves he's a dumbass about economics and plays straight into the hands of the bankers. Once again, the variation on "I'm going to nationalize the banks" comes from Chávez, and once again all the financial community jumps on it hard to stoke up as much panic as possible. I mean, why should it be that the only time people take a Goldman Sachs analyst at face value is when he's saying something like....
“We should take his (Chavez's) statements at face value,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Alberto Ramos said. “It’s one of the key sectors of the economy that the government hasn’t yet taken substantial control of.”

...even though anyone qualified enough to work at the vampire squid knows that Venezuela can't possibly nationalize its banking system. For one thing, who's going to buy its debt afterwards?

Now for sure he might like to nationalize the banks, but Chávez isn't good at economics...we've been here before and seen how he's made these noises and backed off and made the noises and backed off again. This time won't be much different, as at some point in the next couple of days his financial peeps will quietly explain things to him and then the subject gets dropped...again. But until then, the bankytypes will milk this for all it's worth. We can see that today, as the bid/ask spread for the Bolivar Fuerte parallel rate moves from 0.2 difference to 0.4.

Thus Chávez, seeking to limit the financial speculation and profit margins of the Venezuelan banks (one of the most profitable banking sectors in the world, by the way) only manages to screw his people and add more % margin to the bankers' back pockets. He should stick to talking about the misiones, frankly.

Bolivia's economy: toldya so

CEPR has a new paper out called "Bolivia: The Economy During The Morales Administration" which tells you just how well Evo has done in his first administration.

Y'see, it's not just eejits with pissant blogs that say so; people with real live qualifications are down with the true economic miracle of South America. Here's the executive summary, go to the above link for the full show:

Bolivia’s economic growth in the last four years has been higher than at any time in the last 30 years, averaging 4.9 percent annually since the current administration took office in 2006. Projected GDP growth for 2009 is the highest in the hemisphere. It is worth noting that Bolivia’s growth for 2009 follows its peak growth rate in 2008. As discussed in more detail below, Bolivia’s 2009 growth is all the more remarkable in view of the size and number of negative shocks to the economy. These included falling remittances, declining foreign investment, the United States’ revocation of trade preferences, declining export prices and markets for part of the year and other impacts of the global recession.

During the last four years, the Morales government also faced serious bouts of political instability as a result of separatist political opposition movements and leaders that did not recognize the legitimacy of the elected government. This political situation had negative impacts on private investment as well as resulting in some capital flight.

The government used fiscal policy effectively to counter-act the impact of the world recession. The fiscal position of the government went from a surplus of 5.0 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2008 to a deficit of 0.7 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2009, a huge shift of nearly 6 percentage points of GDP. This is probably the most important policy move that helped Bolivia avoid the worst effects of the downturn, relative to the most of the rest of the region. It included an increase in public investment 6.3 percent of GDP in 2005 to 10.5 percent in 2009.
It is worth noting that this would not have been possible without the control that the government gained over its natural gas production and revenues.

Since 2004, government revenue has risen by almost 20 percentage points of GDP, as shown in Figure 5. (This is an enormous increase; for comparison, total revenue to the federal government in the United States has averaged 18.7 percent of GDP over the past 40 years). Most of this increase came as a result of an increase in the government’s revenue from hydrocarbons, due to increased royalty payments, the Morales’ government’s re-nationalization of the industry, and price increases.
Capital formation has also increased significantly, from 13.0 percent in 2005 to 17.2 percent in 2008.

In the last three years the government has begun several programs targeted at the poorest Bolivians. These include payments to poor families to increase school enrollment; an expansion of public pensions to relive extreme poverty among the elderly; and most recently, payments for uninsured mothers to expand prenatal and post-natal care, to reduce infant and child mortality.

Data on poverty and extreme poverty rates do not go past 2007, and do not show improvement for the first two years of the Morales administration. Data on inequality also go only to 2007; but there appears to be a reduction in inequality in these two years, with the Gini coefficient falling from 60.2 to 56.3.

Although the last two years of new programs will probably show some improvement when data is available, Bolivia has some of the highest extreme poverty rates and infant and child mortality rates in the hemisphere. The government’s social spending has increased only slightly in the last four years; this indicates that there is much more that needs to be done. With a greatly expanded resource base as a result of the government’s increased control over the country’s national resources, it should be possible to do better in these areas in the years ahead. With regard to future growth and development, the country is not financially constrained, and its success going forward would appear to depend more on its ability to successfully plan and implement development projects and increase capital formation, involving both public and private investment.


pretty, shiny stones


What you have to imagine are two people sitting opposite each other, both with a pile of things next to them. One has a pile of 20,000 smooth, pretty pink stones. The other has a pile of 20,000 smooth, pretty blue stones.

The first one says, "I'll swap 10,000 of my pink stones for 10,000 of your blue stones."

The second one says, "OK", and they do just that.

Then the first one says, "Hey, sell me one of your blue stones for a dollar."

The second guy does that. Then the guy looks down, sees the other 9,999 blue stones he has left and thinks, "Hey! I'm rich! If those are worth a dollar each, that means i have U$9,999. Cool!".

Then second guy thinks some more. "HEY! I got 10,000 pink stones too! I just swapped them 1-for-1 with the blue stones...they must be worth a dollar each, too! I got U$19,999 here...WAY COOL!".

So second guy decides to try and buy a few more pink stones. "Hey, sell me one of your pink stones for a dollar", he says to guy number one.

But guy one says "Nope...i want $2 cash for my stones."

Second guy says, "Not Fair!".

First guy says, "Yes it is...think about it. If you pay $2 for one of my pink stones, you can say that those 10,000 you already have are worth $20,000, not just $10,000."

Second guy sees the logic and buys a pink stone for two dollars.

So then the first guy says, "Hey, how much for another one of your blue stones?"

Second guy is catching on quickly and says, "Three dollars!"

1st guy: "DEAL!"

Then a third guy comes walking along. He sees the two friends having a good time and laughing with each other and says, "Hey, what you doing?"

1st guy: "We're selling pretty shiny stones. Want to buy one?"

3rd guy: "How much?"

1st guy: "Well, here's the deal. You buy one of mine for $5, but then he'll pay you $6 for the same stone as soon as we've done the deal."

3rd guy looks at 2nd guy and says, "Really?"

2nd guy: "Yep...you make a dollar, just like that."

So the three guys do the deal and 3rd guy is really happy. "Hey!", he says...I gotta tell my friends about this! Do you mind if I invite some other people to play?".

"NOT AT ALL!" say guy 1 and guy 2 in unison, smiling big, wide smiles.

Etc etc etc etc etc

And now a news release from today.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Seabridge Gold reports that it has entered into a non-binding Letter of Intent to sell all of its interests in certain Nevada exploration properties, including Seabridge's Castle-Black Rock Project, to Constitution Mining Corp. for consideration exceeding US$7 million consisting of: (i) staged payments of US$3.0 million in cash; (ii) a US$1.0 million convertible debenture; and (iii) 3.0 million common shares of Constitution Mining. Closing of the transaction (expected on or about January 22, 2010) is subject to completion of final due diligence by Constitution, regulatory approval and execution of a binding definitive agreement. A previous agreement to sell these properties to another party for US$5 million has expired.

The US$3.0 million in cash is payable as follows: US$200,000 immediately, US$800,000 on Closing of the sale of the properties, US$1.0 million on February 28, 2010 and the obligation to pay the final US$1.0 million will arise under a secured promissory note due on the first anniversary of Closing together with accrued interest at 8% per year.

The US$1.0 million two-year debenture is due on the second anniversary of Closing and accrues interest at 8% per year payable quarterly. The debenture can be redeemed by Constitution at any time prior to maturity upon payment of US$1.25 million. If not redeemed, the debenture and any accrued interest are convertible by Seabridge into common shares of Constitution at US$1.00 per share.

Constitution's obligations under the promissory note and the debenture will be secured by the properties.

The 3.0 million common shares of Constitution will be issued as follows: 1.0 million common shares on Closing, and an additional 2.0 million common shares on February 28, 2010 but held in escrow and released to Seabridge on the third anniversary of Closing or upon confirmation that the properties host a measured and indicated gold resource of 1.0 million ounces or greater, whichever is earlier.

Constitution Mining is a publicly-traded exploration company with large holdings of alluvial gold deposits in the Gold Sands district of Peru. The Company is currently engaged in a program of pitting and test-mining to determine the feasibility of large-scale mining of this resource.

Seabridge holds a 100% interest in several North American gold resource projects. The Company's principal assets are the KSM property located near Stewart, British Columbia, Canada and the Courageous Lake gold project located in Canada's Northwest Territories.


As the old saying goes, two scams are better than one.

Tyler Bridges has left the building


And so farewell Tyler Bridges, recently sacked by McClatchy for being crap at reporting Venezuela. You will be missed by those who prefer stories that feed prejudices. The rest of us expect you to be just fine as you finally have time to concentrate on that novel.

Chart of the day is.....

.....the Year To Date Small Silvers Sweepstakes (new new update)

We're into the last month, the home stretch and all that jazz, so we'll crank up the frequency of our superduper silver sweepstakes til the end of the year (the last update was here on Nov 23). Who's gonna be champeeeen?

(click to enlarge)

Endeavour Silver (EDR.to) is still out there as numero uno, but it's now getting pressured for the top spot by Bear Creek Mining (BCM.v) which has put on a great spurt in the last week or so. Fortuna (FVI.v) still looking solid in the bronze medal position.

Down amongst the also-rans, MAG Silver (MAG.to) (MVG) has made up quite a bit of ground in the last couple of weeks with a 30% upmove on good volumes. I have a sneaking suspicion that MAG may still beat out our benchmark, the silver bullion ETF (SLV), once December 31st comes around.

ECU Silver (ECU.to) = Half priced GATA membership next year.

Message to Canadian viewers

The previous post (also linked here) was not meant to make you feel good. It was not an attempt at humour either, unless you think murder is funny. It was written to point out, very clearly, that Canadian mining companies are responsible for assassinations in Latin America and it's your problem if you can't live with that fact, not mine. Thanks for all the mails and anonymous messages and feel free to stop reading this blog. Any offended, bleeding hearts that can't face the truth about some of your fellow countrymen will not be missed.

UPDATE: I really don't want any more mails on this, not even from people who agree with me. Try living outside your comfort zone for once. Try mailing Blackfire instead. Or your parliament representative, perhaps.

UPDATE 2: Newswires now picking up on the story. It only took five days for them to care....

MEXICO CITY — The killing of an anti-mining activist by a motorcycle gunman has led investigators to question staff at a Canadian owned mine in southern Mexico, a spokesman for the company said CONTINUES HERE

12/2/09

Robin Williams said it best: Blame Canada

This man is dead

Nice, friendly, unassuming race, the Canadians. Never hurt a fly. Unless of course you threaten to block their mining operations and that's when people suddenly get shot dead by "unknown assassins". This from narcosphere news (by the way, there's plenty of coverage in Spanish language, but amazingly, incredibly, astoundingly the story has been ignored by EngLang media).

Mariano Abarca Roblero, one of Mexico's most prominent anti-mining organizers, was shot to death on the evening of November 27, 2009, in front of his house in Chicomuselo, Chiapas. He left behind a wife and four children. Another man was wounded in the shooting. The incident comes just days after Abarca filed charges against two Blackfire employees, Ciro Roblero Perez and Luis Antonio Flores Villatoro, for threatening to shoot him if he didn't stop organizing against Canadian mining company Blackfire's barium mine in Chicomuselo continues here.

Ventana Gold (VEN.to): We extract

Just time for another quickie before going to do other things, because by the looks of the mailbox there's a lot of interest in Ventana Gold (VEN.to). So here's a small extract from the article on VEN in IKN31 published last Sunday. I'm not going to give away the much of the text offered up to subscribers, but it's fair enough to give a lead and point them as to where DD is worthwhile.

Here follows an excerpt from the June 14 2008 Technical Report on the La Bodega property:

Surface rights within the property are held by various landowners. The company reports that it has signed exploration access easements with all the surface owners where drilling has been undertaken or planned to be conducted. Additional surface rights may be required to establish a commercial mining operation.

It’s a sure fire certainty that SMLB and/or Gelvez are the major names inside those “various landowners”. What we have here is a serious weakness, a chink in the armour of VEN and its position. VEN might be able to close on the option and secure that very impressive mienralization, but the topsoil (if you like) isn’t included in the deal, and if you’re prohibited from setting foot on the land, it becomes impossible to build a mine and dig the depths. Again, if you want to you can say it’s the leverage point with which SMLB is illegally and immorally blackmailing the poor, hard done by Ventana Gold. It’s just semantics anyway and makes no difference to the facts of the matter.


Disclosure: No position in VEN.to. Not long and not short. Best advice is 'avoid'. DYODD, dude.

PS: Semi OT- Congrats to PEZ for securing its land rights; overdue but welcome.

Chart of the day is.....

....the US dollar, daily candle.

If you look closely you might be able to see a tendency :-). But Dubai showed the dollar ain't dead yet, not by a long way. Keep the greenback front'n'centre on your screen, you cwazy daytraders.

Still on the road, btw.

12/1/09

On The Road


Your humble correspondent is unhere for the next two days (with maybe a post slipping through tomorrow if there's time and the will). Just talk amongst yourselves until then.

con permiso.....

11/30/09

Trading Post (sneaking suspicions edition)


Riverside Resources (RRI.v) up 25.5% at $0.69 on good volumes and making my day. We're in a market which will eventually reward the good companies, the trick is to identify them early and then just wait. RRI is highly regarded by peers and seems to be on a good thing in Az. I own.

Fortuna Silver (FVI.v) up 1.5% at $2.01. This one was up further at the bell, probably because 'hot hand' analyst at the can of corn, Nicholas CampbellSoup, reco'd it with a $4.75 price target before the bell today. Message to CampbellSoup: Take more care with your templates next time, as you left the word 'Silverstone' in there, dumbass.

Ventana Gold (VEN.to) down 2% at $9.57 and the most interesting fear/greed battle of the day out there. Relatively low volumes (compared to Friday at least) suggest that fear is winning out. We did a whole feature in yesterday's IKN Weekly on the travails at VEN, the conclusion being that the company has a significant problem. I just wonder how long it'll be before that problem is recognized, because we're not talking directly about the legal action here. DYODD. Disclosure: Not long, not short. Best call "avoid".

ECU Silver (ECU.to) down a penny at 68c. FWIW I covered my short this morning. Ridiculous stock run by out and out crooks and liars for dumbass people. Half priced GATA next year.

Salazar Resources (SRL.v) down 8.3% at $1.10 on very low volumes. If it weren't in Ecuador it'd be one helluva stock to own. Mind you, if it weren't in Ecuador it wouldn't have those prospective VMS rocks, either. So if one clapping hand falls in the jungle, would a crouching tiger make any sound? YOU BE THE JUDGE!

Election results

In Uruguay, as expected José Mujica won the run-off and will be Uruguay's next President. From the same party as the very popular President Tabaré Vasquez, Mujica made a good, conciliatory acceptance speech last night which included:
"Remember on this night of celebration fellow citizens that are sad and who are our blood brothers. There are no winners or losers. We have just elected a government that is not the owner of the truth and who needs everybody."

That works for me. I still have my reservations about the guy because his abrasive, straight-shooting style is bound to ruffle feathers on the international scene sooner or later (I've heard him in Spanish, you'll soon get the English translations coming your way) but as long as he keeps his electoral promise and is the continuation of Tabaré's governmental line, Uruguay should be ok.

So in Uruguay the President Elect says there were no winners or losers. Meanwhile in Honduras everyone lost.

If you didn't know ECU Silver (ECU.to) was a total insider-feeding scam previously......

....then today's evidence makes it clear to anyone with a working IQ level. This morning, ECU silver (ECU.to) announced its inevitable private placement, with the intention of raising $10.8m by placing 13.9m units made up of a share at 72c and a half warrant at 90c (that adds to the mountainous warrant overhang already at that price).

Ok, fair enough, we knew that it was going to happen. But the brass neck of these people is astounding once you keep reading this morning's PR: Here's an extract:

ECU Silver Mining Inc. (TSX:ECU) ("ECU") announces its intention to issue 13,900,000 special warrants ("Special Warrants") by way of private placement at an issue price of $0.72 per Special Warrant for aggregate proceeds of $10,008,000. A number of large shareholders of ECU plus certain institutional investors have agreed to subscribe for all the Special Warrants.

Stephen Altmann, President of ECU, stated that "This financing is fully subscribed, in large part with existing key shareholders, which is testament to the confidence of our loyal shareholders in ECU's focus to grow the company.

Errr, no, Altmann...it's testament that the company is a scam and rapes retailers for all they're worth. What this scumball is saying to the world is that "a whole heap of shareholders had inside knowledge that we were going to run a placement at 72c, so we gave them ample time to unload their shares on you poor innocent saps and then reload the same positions (with an extra half warrant) at a much lower price." Here's the last 10 days of action in the stock...

...and we can see how the stock has been sold down and down to the PP level by those who knew what price ECU was going to raise cash at. Not only that, but if we look back at the most recent pump move to the upper 80s to 90c range, between November 9th and November 18th (the top of the price range) there were 10.6m shares traded.

I WONDER WHO HAD THE FORESIGHT TO SELL THEIR STOCK AT 18C ABOVE THE LATEST PLACEMENT PRICE, WISTAR?

If the OSC doesn't act on this blatant illegal frontrunning scam it will be condemned forever.

Chart of the day is....

....the gold/silver ratio.

So what would you like for lunch today? A plate of fear or a plate of greed? Faites vos jeux, mesdames et messieurs......

11/29/09

The IKN Weekly, out now


IKN31 has just hit the streets (well...the mailboxes actually) and includes a report on a small copper junior in Peru, analysis of the risks facing Ventana Gold (VEN.to) going forward and talk about space aliens blowing up the moon.

Venezuelan financials

For those of your versed in the language of Cervantes, this report from America Economia comes highly recommended. It covers the financial system in Venezuela, the exchange rate system from a micro and macro viewpoint, the role of the parallel dollar market, the Central Bank, PDVSA and all related matters.

It's good, solid, balanced reporting that has something for everyone, from the 101 level to the expert insider. Refreshing to see an article based on facts when it comes to the subject of Venezuela's economy instead of the usual soapbox idiocy. Good job AE.

Correct Mish

Mish nails arguments about war, the US economy and the continuation of ridiculous policies from Bush to Obama in this post today. Here's how it ends, but go read the whole thing. Highly recommended, solid argument.

War mongers want war but they do not want to pay for it. Sadly, Obama, Bush, Pelosi are all alike. Thus, Congress and the Administration is committed to having military idiocy and domestic idiocy at the same time.

God do we ever need a balanced budget amendment and a sound currency. We should not fund a damn thing unless we are willing to raise taxes to pay for it. Virtually no one but the war mongers and the military beneficiaries would be in support of raising taxes to pay for this monstrosity.


That The Hawaiian was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is the most insane thing I've heard in ages. As Albert E said:
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.


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