The Wolf and the Lamb

David Galland, Partner, Casey Research

Dear Reader,

A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him.

He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me."

"Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born."

Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture."

"No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass."

Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well."

"No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me."

Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, "Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my imputations."

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.

–The Wolf and the Lamb, Aesop's Fables

Growing up in Hawaii as a Caucasian, or "haole" in the local parlance, there were any number of occasions where I was targeted simply because of my race. The hassles could start while surfing, where locals felt they had certain natural rights to the best waves, or pretty much anywhere at any time that a group of young Hawaiians felt the need to take some personal revenge for the hijacking of their islands. (And, in all fairness, their islands were hijacked.)

If there was no other casus belli readily available, for instance, daring to take off on "their wave," a perennial favorite was to kick things off by saying something along the lines of, "Hey, haole! Why'd you call me stupid?"

To which the set piece response would be, telling the truth, "But I didn't call you anything."

Leading, unavoidably, straight into the jaws of the rhetorical trap, revealed as the Hawaiian responded indignantly, "You calling me a liar?"

I barely remember the first time I was targeted by a Hawaiian using this particularly childish, but effective, form of fight-starting. But thereafter, upon hearing the opening stanza in the script and knowing that any response was futile, I cut right to the fight-or-flight response – the decision as to whether to start swinging or begin hot-footing it out of there, arrived at by a quick calculation involving the size and number of the Hawaiians involved in the tableau.

The point, as Aesop so simply put it, is that when the wolf has decided to eat you, pretty much any excuse will serve.

I mention this because in a recent essay, I discussed my personal definition of liberty as being, primarily, the ability to go freely about my business. The importance of that freedom to travel is that it encapsulates the freedom to move. For example, to a different political jurisdiction where you calculate you are more likely to be left alone to live your life as you please.

But this begs the question, "How do you know when it's time to move?"

After all, if you wait until the wolf is leering down at you and asking why you drank from its well, it's too late.

On August 16, there was a classic of the genre here in the Land of the Free when an ex-Marine, Brandon Raub, was dragged out of his house and stuck into a psych ward for posting ideas on his Facebook page that the government didn't much care for.

While some of his writing was certainly on the inflammatory side, the interesting thing about the case was that even though he was cooperative and had not broken any laws, his house was raided by police and FBI agents, and he was carted away in handcuffs.

When asked by reporters what charges Raub was arrested on, representatives for both the police and the FBI stated that he wasn't arrested but rather something-other-than-arrested, even though the net result was his being dragged from his property and locked up.

Fortunately, this week Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett tossed out the government's case against Raub, overturning an earlier decision, on August 20, that Raub should continue to be held against his will for psychiatric evaluation.

According to a press release put out by the Rutherford Institute, which helped free Raub, "Judge Sharrett dismissed the petition for involuntary commitment on the grounds that the petition 'is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.'"

So, has the Land of the Free finally reached the tipping point where the government is actively screening the ether for signs of recalcitrants, precedent to hauling them off in preemptive strikes á la Minority Report? Wouldn't that be a signal that maybe it's time to begin eyeing the exits?

While one would hope that Raub's case was a fluke, little more than an innocent misunderstanding, as this rather disturbing article on the always excellent Lew Rockwell website points out, a number of other individuals who have likewise done nothing wrong, other than tripping some sort of black-box algorithm for threat assessment, have similarly been hauled off on no charges.

As you'll read in the Rockwell article, owning guns and being an Army vet are surely components of the algorithm.

I want to believe that there is still a strong core in the judiciary of judges such as Allan Sharrett who will remain ever vigilant against the encroachment of the fascists, armed as they are with the latest technologies in their steady efforts to monitor, manipulate and cause the public to capitulate to their will.

I fear, however, that this is a false hope. Supporting a more negative interpretation of what's going on behind the scenes is an excellent eight-minute documentary that was recently posted on the New York Times website. It features William Binney, a former top-level programmer for the National Security Agency who turned whistleblower. What he has to say about the degree of government monitoring of the US population at this point is chilling.

But wait, isn't it illegal for the government to monitor private emails, phone conversations, web searches, private Facebook pages and so forth without a warrant? Ah, there's the rub. You see, as you'll learn in the documentary, warrantless monitoring becomes illegal only if someone physically actually listens to or looks at the stuff being logged. Recording it all and storing it for future reference, however, is perfectly legal.

Meanwhile, computers armed with powerful software are scanning pretty much everything you do and using algorithms to stitch together relationships that could suggest a threat against the state… and linking anyone else in your social network into a tidy package ready to be picked up on cue.

Click here to watch the video, and you'll get the picture… and it's not a very pretty picture. Time to begin making plans to move? Hmmm, maybe.

Of course, as you watch this sort of thing, you should always ask yourself if the source has what is termed by social scientists either a "knowledge bias" or a "reporting bias."

As to the first, is Binney knowledgeable on the topic he speaks about? The answer can only be a resounding yes. For over 30 years, he worked for the NSA at the highest level, developing threat assessment algorithms designed to monitor foreign threats, before coming to the realization they were now being deployed domestically.

As for his reporting bias, does Binney have a reason to lie? Given that going public with what he knows puts him squarely in the sights of the wolf, it would seem he has every incentive to keep his mouth shut. While he may have some ulterior motive for making this stuff up, it doesn't leap quickly to mind.

Of course, monitoring your every interaction with electronics isn't the totality of the state's incursions against individual privacy. Just out is a story about the drones being deployed to monitor protestors at next week's Republican National Convention in Florida. Here's a telling quote from the drone company's director of corporate development, one Chris Knob Knott, as reported by Tampa Bay Online

"The convention is a great chance to showcase what drones can do for both military and civilian uses, Knott said.

"'They have a known and practical application with law enforcement and the military, but there are a number of other potential uses: search and rescue, tracking algae blooms or oil spills, highway safety, wildlife migration,' Knott said."

Heck, maybe Mr. Knob Knott's company should adopt the upbeat slogan, "Better living through drones!"

So, what's the point?

There are several worth mentioning.

First off, deep in the bowels of government – in the US and many of the other tottering sovereignties around the world – some sort of odd zeitgeist has been allowed to fester that has the bureaucrats seeing threats under every rock and in the heart of every citizen.

Given that these governments now have incredibly powerful computers and software, it is only natural they'll be deployed in the new "wars" against terrorists, drugs, money laundering, tax evasion, insider trading, <insert your choice of threat>.

The only thing that ever keeps any government  from going "all the way" in any war is an institutional acceptance of fundamental principles related to individual rights. For example, the right to privacy or to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Sadly, those principles have now been thrown under the statist bus.

For the time being, things will be just fine. Especially if you are a go-along-to-get-along sort of person, as most of us are.

Everything changes, however, the day that something approximating another 9/11 occurs. On that day, the knives come out and very likely, with the approval of the majority, stay out.

Worth spending a little time evaluating alternative residency options before that happens? Maybe.

Paradoxically, the US government is clearly targeting the veterans of its recent wars, the very same "heroes" it simultaneously salutes and honors at every public opportunity. That this targeting is going on will not be lost on the veterans who, after a tour or two of combat, will likely have developed some fairly highly attuned survival instincts. I don't think they'll much like it.

Especially those who, having seen friends and comrades killed in what will ultimately be exposed as a series of futile politicians' wars, feel an extra keen sense of betrayal. The government is probably not wrong, therefore, in believing that one of those veterans, their psychology damaged by the stresses associated with war, will turn out to be the agent of another attack such as that which went down in Oklahoma in 1995. Timothy McVeigh was a veteran of the first Gulf War.

Viewing this topic from a completely different perspective, absent the US government as anything other than a minor actor in the affairs of this country, almost none of this stuff would be going on.

Imagine how different the world would be if governments were limited to, say, keeping the roads in good repair, running courts whose sole function was to rigorously provide a level legal playing field, and maintaining a sufficient amount of police and military resources – but no more – to ensure a reasonable degree of internal and external security.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the path to a better future, the lambs, fearing wolves, invited the wolf to dinner.

Finally, it is worth paying attention to the point that it is not just individuals in our society that are at risk of finding themselves on the wrong side of a wolf looking for some lamb and not caring particularly much how it goes about getting it.

Even a cursory glance at the business news reveals case after case where some agency of the US government, or the EU or the UK, has coerced some large commercial concern into paying fines that run into the hundreds of millions. Whoops, there's one now – HSBC is being squeezed for an amount expected to be on the order of $700 million for money laundering, a government-created crime.

Did HSBC drink from the well? Does it matter anymore?

At the end of the day, more than anything – and completely contrary to why people want more government in the first place – a bloated, paranoid bureaucracy creates instability, insecurity and uncertainty.

And instability, insecurity and uncertainty, in turn, create a clamor for yet more government.

On its own, this non-virtuous cycle can only lead to a steady degradation in the rights of individuals and corporations. But should the constant meddling lead to a blowback such as 9/11, then the speed at which things degrade could be breathtaking.

Is it time to at least begin thinking about becoming familiar with other countries where the citizenry hasn't yet been trained to look to the government as the panacea for everything?

I know my answer. Do you?

(Re-reading those musings, I feel compelled to apologize to those of you who intend on staying put, no matter what. This entire line of discussion must seem very boring and maybe even inappropriate to you. I do make an attempt, though often fail, to not dwell on this theme. But it's not easy, in that literally every single day, we hear of some new encroachment by the government against individual Americans or groups of Americans.

For many Americans, the notion that their own government could become a real risk to society at large, or to themselves personally, simply doesn't compute. Let's hope that the trend turns out to be far more benign than it can sometimes appear. That truly is my fondest hope. Even so, in the meantime, I, for one, will continue to diversify across borders… just in case.)


Straws in the Wind?

Before getting on to a guest article of some importance to individuals trying to rebuild their retirement savings, a couple of straws in the wind.

"Blood gold." You've probably heard about "conflict diamonds," or "blood diamonds," as the media prefers to call them, and the efforts in recent years to ban them from world markets. Well, now there's a move afoot to ban gold and other minerals excavated from the Congo and, as appropriate, other conflict areas. It's hard to see how this could be effectively monitored, but that won't stop the bureaucrats from giving it a try… meaning more roadblocks in the way of mining companies and, who knows, maybe in time some sort of onerous restrictions on the buying and selling of gold? Here's the story.

Here comes QE3. Here at Casey Research, we've been steadfast in our view that even though the Fed will try to hold off on further easing for as long as possible, the government's ruined balance sheet – and the societal pressure for the politicians to continue spending at current levels – make further money-printing inevitable. In what looks to be a policy change, the minutes of the Fed's last meeting signaled a shift from a neutral stance on easing to one that makes it a certainty, and probably sooner rather than later. Here's just one of many stories on the topic.

Responding as one would expect, gold has had a very good week.

Return to a Gold Standard? Until this morning, I had missed the story that the Republican party platform for next week's convention may include as a plank the study of a return to the gold standard. I am very skeptical that the idea will survive to fruition, due to the number of hurdles it has to clear. Including in turn (1) making it onto the platform, (2) having Romney elected, (3) having the commission to study the idea actually constituted, (4) resulting in a recommendation for a return to the gold standard, and finally, (5) clearing the legislative process.

That said, I'll be watching the steps above closely, because once again tying the currency to an anchor of gold – or anything more tangible than political whims – would cause me to regain a measure of hope that things can be turned around here… and everywhere, because once the US dollar was "as good as gold" again, other nations couldn't help but follow suit.

Here's one of many stories on the topic.

And, no sooner than the electronic ink was dry on the announcements that the gold standard was back in play, the naysayers started firing up their engines. You know, because the current fiat system is working out so well and all. Here's one now.


Meet Dennis Miller

(not that Dennis Miller, the other one!)

As you can imagine, I come into contact with a lot of interesting people in this business.

Dennis Miller very much falls into that category. A former Marine, Mensa Society member (only geniuses need apply) and retired entrepreneur, Dennis woke up one day to find that his carefully laid-out retirement plans were upended by the Fed's decision to cram down interest rates following the crash of 2008.

One day he was living off his interest income; the next he was living off capital.

While many people his age – he's 73 – might have panicked or headed down to the local Burger King in the hopes of beating out a teenager for a minimum-wage job, Dennis sat himself down and got to work figuring things out.

First and foremost, where his plans had gone wrong and then, more importantly, how to make things right again. As part of the process, Dennis immersed himself in a number of advisory publications (including those published by Casey Research) and reached out to everyone he thought might have some answers.

Long story short, I ended up in Dennis' circle of contacts and we became regular correspondents.

This was how I became aware of his circumstances and how Dennis managed to salvage his retirement. Suffice to say that since the banks called in all his higher-yielding CDs in order to replace them with paper paying a negative real interest rate, Dennis has been a very busy guy. Today, his diligence and hard work has paid off with a strategically constructed, internationally diversified portfolio combining growth and income investments (one of my favorites is a Swiss conglomerate paying a hefty dividend in Singapore dollars) as well as inflation hedges.

And so it is that, rather than being a victim of the Fed's meddling in interest rates and its steady destruction of the currency, Dennis' portfolio has never been healthier and is now all but bullet-proof against the wanton moves of any one government. (Today, no portfolio is absolutely bullet-proof, sorry.)

There's more to Dennis than that, however. For one thing, he has a natural curiosity that, in combination with his clear intelligence and ex-Marine doggedness, compels him to dig in and figure out the answers to the considerable challenges facing others in retirement, or headed that way.

The list of topics he has tackled head-on include dealing with aging parents, dependent kids, the financial challenges faced by widows, long-term care and many more.

As a consequence of our correspondence, I became increasingly impressed not only by his intellect and fortitude but his ability to put his thoughts clearly in writing. And so it was that one day I casually suggested Dennis write down just how he saved his retirement. I didn't give the matter much thought until a few weeks later, when a fully formed manuscript for his book Retirement Reboot showed up in my email inbox.

Incredulous, I started reading through it and was very impressed at the quality of the information and the writing, and so sent the manuscript along to Terry Coxon, one of our best editors, and asked his opinion.

He wrote back with an enthusiastic two-thumbs up, and so it was that Casey Research decided to help Dennis publish Retirement Reboot, and to work closely with him to develop a service dedicated to helping people in or near retirement deal with the complexities of maintaining a high quality of life in a challenging economic environment.

The name of the new service, which you should be receiving more about in the mail soon, is Miller's Money for Life. In addition to a comprehensive but modestly priced monthly letter that tracks his latest investment moves and answers challenging questions such as mentioned above, Dennis has also started writing a free weekly e-letter, Miller's Money Weekly.

To give you a sense of Dennis' work, here's an excerpt from one of his recent columns…


Why TIPS Won't Protect You from Inflation… and Other Government Lies

By Dennis Miller

If the "World Snake Oil Salesperson Society" had a hall of fame, good old Uncle Sam would be a charter member. When it comes to smooth-talking folks into buying debt instruments, he's the slickest around.

And Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are one of his slickest gimmicks.

Here's how the federal government describes TIPS:

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are marketable securities whose principal is adjusted by changes in the Consumer Price Index. With inflation (a rise in the index), the principal increases. With deflation (a drop in the index), the principal decreases.

The relationship between TIPS and the Consumer Price Index affects both the sum you are paid when your TIPS matures and the amount of interest that a TIPS pays you every six months. TIPS pay interest at a fixed rate. Because the rate is applied to the adjusted principal, however, interest payments can vary in amount from one period to the next. If inflation occurs, the interest payment increases. In the event of deflation, the interest payment decreases.

When a TIPS matures, you receive the adjusted principal or the original principal, whichever is greater. This provision protects you against deflation.

Sounds like a surefire winner, right? If inflation goes up, you're protected; and if deflation occurs, you'll still earn interest on the original principal.

When TIPS were introduced in 1997, my broker suggested them to me. My response was, "Okay, I'm the lender, right? And the amount of the loan, the interest rate, and the time frame are fixed. The only variable is the size of the final principal payment based on the inflation rate determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and the borrower gets to keep score? I don't think so!"

Let's look at the details. Both the interest and principal growth are taxed. If the government calculates the inflation and pays out a net 4%, the investor must pay federal income tax on the income. That sure seems like a guaranteed way not to keep up with inflation.

And the picture gets even worse in today's economic climate. Continue reading

David again. As always, we're happy to let you try this new service for three full months to see if it fits your needs. If not, just drop us an email or call for a full refund of every penny, and keep Dennis' book, Retirement Reboot, just for giving it a try.

We can't make a fairer offer than that, so I hope you'll take us up on it. The work that Dennis is doing could be a financial life line for anyone looking at the horizon and wondering how they are going to cope in the years ahead. In fact, I suspect that even if you are set for retirement, you probably know a couple of people who would benefit from the book once you are done with it.

You can find all the information and a secure signup form here. Pass it along!


Friday Funnies

An 80-year-old Scotsman went to the doctor for a checkup.

The doctor was amazed at what good shape the old fellow was in and asked, "How do you stay in such great physical condition?"

"I am Scottish and I am a golfer," said the old fellow, "and that is why I am in such good shape. I am up well before daylight and out golfing up and down the fairways. I have a wee glass of whisky, and that's it."

"Well," said the doctor, "I am sure that helps, but there has to be more to it. How old was your dad when he died?"

"Who said my dad died?"

The doctor was amazed.

"You mean you are 80 years old and your dad is still alive? How old is he?"

"He is 100 years old," said the old Scottish golfer. "In fact, he golfed wi' me this mornin', and then we went to the topless beach for a walk and had another wee dram, and that is why he is still alive. He is a Scot, and he is a golfer, too."

"Well," the doctor said, "that is great, but I am sure there is more to it than that. How about your dad's dad? How old was he when he died?"

"Who said my Grandad is dead?"

Stunned, the doctor asked, "You mean you are 80 years old and your grandfather is still living! Incredible, how old is he?"

"He is 118 years old," said the old Scottish golfer.

The doctor was getting frustrated at this point: "So, I guess he went golfing with you this morning too?"

"No. Grandad could nae go this mornin' because he is getting married today."

At this point, the doctor was close to losing it. "Getting married! Why would a 118-year-old bloke want to get married?"

"Who said he wanted to?"

Old Chinese Proverb:
Confucius say, "If you are in a book store and cannot find the book for which you search, you are obviously in the...

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Thought for the Day…

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Beware the Gas Grill

David again. Until a couple of months ago, I had never owned an outdoor gas grill. Instead, when there was meat to be cooked – outside of the kitchen, that is – I used the positively Neanderthal method of cooking over an open fire pit. As this entails chopping wood, starting fires and so forth, we didn't cook out overly much. Usually only on special occasions accompanied by friends and a glass or two of wine.

But then, on a whim, I bought a modest-size and pretty inexpensive Weber Grill on Amazon. Within a couple of days, it showed up at my door, and in no time at all, I had it set up and ready to go.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I was impressed. Before, I had all the toil and trouble of getting a fire started in the fire pit, lugging the food up and down the small hill in the back where the fire pit is located, and constantly worrying if the coals were flaming up too high or burning too low. With the new gas grill, however, grilling up a great-tasting steak on the back porch was as easy as turning a couple of knobs to the desired heat level.

With the passion of a convert, I constantly commented to the family unit how foolish I had been not to have bought one of these things years ago, decades even. To which my wife smiled knowingly and encouraged me in my new passion for grilling by buying me books and magazines on the topic.

So far, so good. Until the other day, after a long day at the desk, I headed upstairs where I was promptly pointed to platter of raw chicken with a side of vegetables in need of grilling. The dime dropped.

"Hey, wait a second! This is like the fifth time this week I've cooked dinner! Whatever happened to the good old days?"

"Oh, you mean when I was the kitchen slave?" my wife answered coyly.

Not having a good reason for why I shouldn't pitch in more with the cooking chores, other than that my wife is a far better cook than I, I set about cooking the chicken. And continue cooking at least half of the dinners each week.

So, guys, let this be a lesson to you. If you don't own a gas grill and don't like to constantly be called on to do the cooking, don't get one.

To the ladies: If your husband is the sort who, out of sloth or perceived cultural norms, prefers to minimize his participation in the culinary chores, buy him a gas grill. He'll never see it coming.


And Finally…

The schedule and registration for the next event at La Estancia de Cafayate have been published at www.LaEst.com.

The dates of the Cafayate Adventure event that kicks off the official summer season in this special little wine-growing town in northwest Argentina are November 5-10.

As always, it will be great fun in the company of great people, in a truly spectacular setting. In addition to a number of social events and activities, such as the always popular al fresco lunch shown here, Casey Research will once again host a half-day investment conference featuring Doug Casey and friends.

More on the event in the mail soon (including a "film festival" of short videos shot at La Estancia), but as there are only a limited number of slots available, you might want to reserve your space now by clicking on the link at www.LaEst.com or by dropping Dave Norden an email to let him know you're interested in attending. He can pencil you in and answer any questions you might have. His email address is: dnorden@LaEst.com.

As my family and I will be in residence in Cafayate from November through May going forward, we'll see you there!

And with that, I'll sign off by thanking you once again for reading and for being a Casey Research subscriber.

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research

Aug 24, 2012