Secret Memo Reveals US Was Aware Of Americans Killing Zimbabwe Lions; Only Concern Was Getting Caught

Over the past 3 days, it appears that the only thing Americans can talk about, whether around the watercooler, in the office or during prime time TV, is the tragic death of Cecil the Zimbabwe lion, and his “monster” killer, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. The reality, of course, is that despite engaging in the rather anachronistic pursuit of self-gratification through shooting at animal prey, in this case a bow and arrow, in a day and age of online apps and cyberspace, Palmer, a self-professed avid big-game hunter, did nothing illegal in his opinion having relied on local guides and was said to believe the hunt was legal.

“I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have,” Palmer said but by then the witch hunt was on: not only were crowds of people stalking out his office but investigators have knocked on the front door of Palmer’s house, stopped by his dental office, called his telephone numbers and filled his inbox with e-mails. There is even a petition, with over 155,000 signatures, demanding Palmer be extradited to Zimbabwe where he would “face justice” alongside his two guides who are already said to be in custody.

Not surprisingly, Palmer has prudently disappeared until tempers cool off and/or an arrest warrant is issued for his arrest.

In the grand scheme of things, this is yet another grand, and convenient distraction du jour for the US public to rally around with a cry of fake (or in some TV talk show hosts, almost real) indignation while preaching moral superiority (killing one lion is apocryphal but killing millions of hamburgers and pork burritos every year is, well, meh) while the US economy continues to disintegrate under everyone’s feet.

However, where this particular episode rapidly crossed the surreal threshold, is when news hit overnight that Obama administration officials are offering to help the Zimbabwean government investigate the high-profile killing.

Yes, the president would show the American people just what a humanitarian he is, and do what he does best: dispense “fairness” and “justice.”

Only… this being the US government, what really happened is another grotesque instance of unparalleled hypocrisy promptly backfiring.

Presenting “QUIET DIPLOMACY” SUSPENDS ELEPHANT HUNTING IN NATIONAL PARKS – FOR NOW” – a Confidential memo sent on October 23, 2008 by the current US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James D. Mcgee, to the CIA, and released by Wikileaks.

In it we read that, as usual, there is none more culpable of the recent event in Zimbabwe, which incidentally is and has been quite permitted by the local authorities as long as everyone’s palms are appropriately greased, than the US government, which years ago was fully aware that Americans were killing lions in Hwange National Park, but that its concern was not with the dead animals – no matter how hard the administration tries to feign empathy for the beheaded lion here and now – but with Americans getting caught in the act. As has just happened.

But first, here is some background on how legal local poaching, whether it is for lions or elephants is. From the formerly classified memo:

Meeting with poloff and conoff on October 10, Bown said that it was unclear “how legal” these hunting operations were, since it appeared the hunters had permits issued by Parks to kill the animals, despite the provision in the National Parks Act that prohibits commercial hunting.

Chinese Stocks Extend Yesterday’s Plunge Despite Regulators “Asking” Insurers To Stop “Net Sales”

Following last night's afternoon session plungefest (with ChiNext's biggest drop in a month), as it appeared the government experimented with 'free' markets briefly, regulators have “asked” insurance companies to be “net sellers” of stocks going forward. With margin debt dropping for the 4th day in a row (to fresh 4-month lows), Markit noted that accusations of foreigners short selling shares is “overblown” by Chinese market regulators and not the cause of a recent rout in the stock market, according to the SCMP. The requests and threats appear to not be working as CSI-300 futures open down 0.7%.

As a reminder, this is how things ended last night…

“Greed Is King” – What We Learned Talking To Chinese Stock Investors

Authored by J.J. Zhang, originally posted at MarketWatch.com,

Though Greece has dominated the news recently, its overall market impact has been surprisingly muted. Instead, the real market mover and shaker for the last couple of months has been China.

By now, many are familiar with the facts and numbers of the Shanghai market situation. But recent events have also shed a light on a less well known dynamic — the individual behavioral habits and viewpoints of Chinese market participants.

During a short stay in Shanghai a few weeks ago on unrelated business, I had an opportunity to witness the ground zero of the China market frenzy at its peak and its nascent plunge. Chinese retail investors make up 85% of the market, a far cry from the U.S. where retail investors own less than 30% of equities and make up less than 2% of NYSE trading volume for listed firms in 2009.

Combined with the highest trading frequencies in the world and one of the lowest educational levels, describing China’s market as immature is an understatement. As many readers know, mental irrationality is often cited as the No. 1 cause of poor returns.

Using the opportunity to interview some China market participants, both in Shanghai and elsewhere, here are a few observations of how they think and act — and the potential lessons that await.

Bubbles can be surprisingly predictable

During the housing bubble run-up and subsequent recriminations, a common excuse was the impossibility of predicting and diagnosing bubbles. However, bubbles can often be characterized by several irrational behaviors and metrics and the recent China bubble is no exception. Almost everyone in the financial industry knew the Shanghai market was in a bubble. Interestingly, from my interviews with everyday participants, they knew it as well, many agreed that the market was crazy and was likely in a bubble. It was not a question of if, but when, the bubble would pop.

Chasing bubbles in China isn’t new

An interesting counterpoint to the bubble awareness is that, frankly, Chinese participants are used to chasing bubbles. Whether a cultural phenomenon or something else, over the last decade there’s been a continual hopping of investment from one big money-making scheme to the next. Whether it was real estate a decade ago, gold half a decade ago or wealth-management products a few years ago, there’s a continual cycle of money rotation into the “hot” investment, with each failing eventually in some way. It’s simply stock’s turn. As one interviewee said: “The Chinese market is not for investing, it’s for gambling.”

Early birds get the worms

This goes completely against most prudent and established norms. While the standard advice is to avoid “hot” bubbly assets, in China the experience has actually been to jump in early and fully instead. Many of the bubbles or “hot” investments mentioned earlier have in truth made many of the people I’ve talked to a lot of money. China real estate today is a poor investment but those who got in early doubled or tripled their investments. Similarly with wealth-management products, more people have benefited from their high-interest-rate payouts than have suffered. While the Shanghai market has dropped 20%-30% from its peak a few weeks ago, it still represents a 100% gain from a year ago and a 30% gain over the last 6 months. Those participants who jumped in early are still more than happy.

Greed is king

Despite recognizing it’s a bubble, almost everyone was still all-in on stocks. Why? Quite simply — greed with a dash of jealously. Seeing constant market gains in the news along with daily sharing and boasting from friends and family getting rich is simply too tempting and thus caution was thrown to the winds. Subsequently, this fueled a massive amount of equity exposure followed by leveraging and margin borrowing to go even more all-in.

But fear is the emperor

The only emotion more powerful than greed is fear. Almost everyone I talked to was still all-in on stocks but everyone had a foot halfway out the door, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble. While not uniquely a China problem — market drops are almost always more violent than the initial rise — in China, it’s several times more volatile. Look no further than solar-panel firm Hanergy’s Hong Kong listed stock, which lost 47% in one hour, or the numerous days the Shanghai market rose or dropped by 5% or more.

Moral hazard in government rescues is real

During the most chaotic moments of the financial crisis, bailout discussions always raised the specter of moral hazard. While it didn’t play a major role in the subsequent U.S. recovery, moral hazard in China is fast becoming a deep problem. Many market participants I talked to said they were confident in the Chinese government to step in eventually to maintain order and prevent mass panic. They know the government’s legitimacy relies heavily on economic progress and fear any contraction. So far, they’ve been right — the government has announced a never-ending stream of interventions over the last few weeks to stem the selloff and panic, with the latest being the implementation of a half-trillion-yuan fund to purchase stock and shore up the market. Of course, the question is: When does a problem become too big for the government to control?

Maturity takes time

Perhaps the last lesson I took away from my Shanghai experience: Maturity takes time. Just as kids grow from naïve adolescence to rowdy teenage years to eventual maturity, so will China and its market participants. While stocks have been a part of U.S. culture and wealth creation for several generations now, in China this is really the first generation where participants both have the money and the ability to invest in stocks.

Perhaps in another generation, after several years of painful lessons and surprising opportunities, it’ll look completely different.

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Donald Trump’s Soaring Popularity “Is The Country’s Collective Middle Finger To Washington”

Submitted by Paul Brodsky, via Macro-Allocation.com,

Donald Trump’s ascendance as the early GOP front-runner is symbolic of a greater global trend: growing pushback against institutional political and economic power.

To many centrist politicians and mainstream political observers, Donald Trump is a boastful, insensitive egomaniac spouting populist rhetoric. Whether such a characterization is true is not worthy of debate, which may explain why the rantings of enraged career political pundits have no impact on Mr. Trump’s popularity among Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across America. It seems no amount of ink or air time spent tarring and feathering Trump’s reputation sticks; in fact it seems to help Teflon Don in the polls, where he leads a crowded field of career politicians.

Donald Trump is a threat not only to the nattering nabobs in the press corps and the Republican Party. His day in the sun may be symbolic of a broader dynamic: the declining power held by historically powerful institutions. Ask yourself if Trump’s campaign is making a mockery of the political process or exposing the mockery that the political process has become. A not-insignificant percentage of Americans away from the coasts, are looking past his utter lack of decorum and political savvy to hitch their wagons to his outrage.

Let’s forget, for a moment, about our personal politics, preferred policies, and individual candidates we may be excited to elect. Are we supposed to forget that the Supreme Court, through its 2010 decision that corporate donors should be treated legally as individual donors under the First Amendment, effectively subordinated individual voters into mere supporting targets to which political aspirants have to appeal? Most importantly, are we supposed to nod our bobble heads in agreement with the heads of the national parties to choose a candidate they find acceptable based on which will appeal to the best funded special interests?

Is anyone really polling in favor of Donald Trump or is he conveniently filling the role of the not-so-quiet counterfactual?

I recently texted one of the premier Sunday morning political pundits with these thoughts and he texted back:

“That’s what I am arguing internally. This is the country’s collective middle finger to Washington.”

As an investment strategist and consultant observing our current global economy and markets, it is difficult not to extrapolate this sense of helplessness against powerful institutions. Tell us again why six years of central bank financial repression is serving the interests of the greater factors-of-production? As investors, should we care about widening wealth and income gaps that are clearly part-and-parcel with central bank policies devoted to maintaining asset values (see here and here)?

Should we expect free, democratic markets that create, form and price capital efficiently – not that treat financial assets as balance sheet collateral for credit?

Who can voters elect to again have an economy that puts producers over rentiers, or to have markets that price value? I’m sure it’s not Donald Trump (a rentier’s rentier!), but I’m also sure it’s not the heads of the Democrat and Republican Parties. Who can investors elect to keep the rentier thing going? Is that really what investors should want? It’s complicated.

Read more here…