Happy Birthday

Wed, Oct 8, 2014 - 6:34am

WARNING: This piece is a shameless attempt to distract you from the world of precious metals, finance, economics and geopolitics to draw attention to a ‘strictly human interest’ story. Please do not make ANY decisions, let alone investment ones, based on the information presented. This is purely for entertainment purposes.

Politicians and governments garner favor, popularity and support from their constituents in different ways.

Some favor populist measures, such as tax breaks or benefit ‘giveaways’ to citizenry, subsidies and social entitlements – be they cash transfers or fuel/food price controls. Thus it has been since at least the days of Rome (and erudite readers can no doubt point to much earlier instances), when panem et circenses (bread and circuses) became a part of everyday parlance.

When such measures prove inadequate to generate sufficient fervor due to, say, overwhelmingly deteriorating economic conditions, or when civil liberties and human rights are being systematically curtailed, or when war is deemed necessary (or all three of the above), the specter of an external, powerful enemy and its act of outrageous aggression and villainy almost magically materialize EVERY SINGLE TIME. Some 'fringe' students of history may even point to incidents where acts of sabotage and violence may have in fact been either carried out or 'gently encouraged to happen' by agents of various government actors. This in turn justifies not only immediate and extensive government (re)action -- but a mechanism by which this can be done to the cheering on by at least a tacit majority of the population.

But in the end, both of the above avenues are rather costly. Social benefits cost taxpayer money, wars cost lots of money AND taxpayer lives (though numerically this latter has gone through a deflationary bias in recent decades, at least on the Western side). Wars mean that energy supplies must be expended, geopolitical power must be put at risk. Even via close central planning and policies of total spectrum of dominance, wars introduce elements of chance and unintended or at least poorly controlled consequences. It is a great and mighty tool in the toolbox of the ruling bodies, but ultimately a resort for special, truly deserving occasions.

The method for influencing popular opinion with the greatest ROI, great scalability (to a limit), lowest cost of entry, fewest distortions of economic systems (unless so desired, of course) and lowest ratio of unintended consequences: pure, uncut and mainlined propaganda. This of course must also be liberally applied as part of BOTH avenues above, and so remains a constant garnish (some might even say determinant) of public discourse about the performance and likeability of governments.

One of the original tomes on the topic is a surprisingly short read, and its opening and closing paragraphs may sound chilling to some:

Page 1: “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

Last page: “Undoubtedly the public is becoming aware of the methods which are being used to mold its opinions and habits. If the public is better informed about the processes of its own life, it will be so much the more receptive to reasonable appeals to its own interests. No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership.

If the public becomes more intelligent in its commercial demands, commercial firms will meet the new standards. If it becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it to accept a given idea or commodity, its leaders will present their appeals more intelligently.

Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.” Edward Bernays: Propaganda (1928)

So it is with this lengthy preamble that I present to you what it looks like when efforts to sway the populace are executed with the most stringent care taken to safeguard shareholder return on investment in deploying funds. С Днем Рождения , товарищ Путин. Happy Birthday, Comrade.

"С Днем Рождения, Президент России" - поют "ХИТрюшки"

While most of the photos below are from Martin (aka George Malets?) -- (please take a moment to peruse the author's blog, many more can be found there), the story was also covered in Radio Free Europe, ABC News and even the WashPo -- along with any number of media outlets decrying the sheer cult of personality on display. Putinwear and iPutin at the GUM: "GUM always was and remains the greatest country’s store."

The 12 Labors of Putin and other neoclassical pop-art, as envisioned in a collection put on display by (impromptu) curator Mikhail Antonov:

Slaying the Terrrrrist of Nemea, fighting the Hydra of Western Sanctions (note the flag on the head already severed), and vanquishing the Stymphalian Birds of Syria:

Herding the SinoRussian Relations of Geryon

Taming the Cretan Bull of Crimea

But all that is really just a warm-up. Perusing the media, one may notice that lots of great impromptu events seem to have popped up across the nation. While a few folks may have had a chance to visit an art gallery near the Kremlin, presumably many more passed by this bridge in Moscow:

A huge banner depicting U.S. President Barack Obama wearing a T-shirt wishing Russia's President Vladimir Putin a happy birthday, hangs on a bridge in Moscow, October 7, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/NEWS AGENCY RIDUS

Not to mention these fine, spontaneous expressions of civic gratitude in cities across Russia:

Russia: These 7 cities graffitied 'THANKS' to Putin on his 62nd bday

“The graffiti on the facades of apartment buildings spell out the words: Sovereignty, Memory, Arctic, Strength, History, Safety, and Olympics. The first letters of these words (Suveritet, Pamyat', Arktika, Sila, Istoria, Besopasnost, and Olimpiada) also form the word thanks (spasibo) in Russian. Altogether they appeared on walls in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, and Sevastopol.

The youth educational project, Net, organised the art events. “

A fanshop even opened in New York, apparently -- making the phenomenon truly global:

USA: 'Putin the Peacemaker' t-shirts go on sale in NYC

“Julius Kasinskis, owner of the 'Peacemaker Shop' (English): "It's all about the idea of people portraying Putin as a different person. And my idea of him is totally different of what I hear as common knowledge, especially in the United States. "

But the TRUE Pièce de résistance was (at least to me) truly remarkable. As a matter of fact, it was the primary reason for wasting your time with such a fluff piece of a post in the first place. I am literally left speechless, and would invite readers to propose analogies for similar celebrations that were (or SHOULD HAVE BEEN) held for imperial political leaders who so successfully and humanely pacified earlier 'tensions' in distant provinces, and brought prosperity to the grateful inhabitants of said lands.

(from Instagram account of the former anti-Russian guerilla-leader turned Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov)

100,000 People Attend Putin Birthday Parade in Grozny (more pictures here and here)

В центре Грозного прошло многотысячное шествие в честь дня рождения Владимира Путина

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Birthdays are naturally occurring opportunities to fortify and enhance the popular image of beloved leaders. I, for one, gladly welcome the fact that our wise and benevolent overlords/puppets statesmen have now grown to “present their appeals more intelligently”.

“CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller is the unofficial but widely trusted chronicler of data on presidential travels and other day-to-day White House goings-on, so we turned to his calculations.

On Aug. 8, 2014, Knoller tweeted that Obama had taken 19 vacations totaling 125 days so far while in office. Those numbers have risen a bit due to the Martha’s Vineyard vacation, but that’s still many fewer than George W. Bush’s 65 combined trips to his Texas ranch and his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine, which totaled 407 days at the same point in his presidency.” Tampa Bay Times - PolitiFact

“The visit to the forests of the Siberian taiga will be the first time in more than 15 years that nature-lover Mr. Putin has taken a vacation on his birthday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agency TASS.” – WSJ

About the Author


Oct 8, 2014 - 6:03pm
Alonzo Jazzberry
Oct 8, 2014 - 6:20pm

jerome, bollocks

My conclusion is that we live in an evil world, run by sociopaths, who use propaganda techniques and illegal acts to keep the populations subdued, and if unable to do so will resort to outright violent oppression.

That's very sad :(

There is no shortage of evil in the world, nor of sociopaths. To conclude, however, that the world is 'run' by sociopaths or 'is' evil is just depressing. That has nothing to do with whether or not it is true, of course, but it would suck if you believed it and it turned out not to be true, or to be an exaggeration. Perhaps I have been more fortunate than you to have encountered very little evil (and very few sociopaths) in my life. I am far more concerned with other human frailties (arrogance, incompetence, xenophobia) than evil or psychopathy, which I agree are much more conducive to conspiracies.

@Bollocks - I find difficult to decode what you are trying to say there, and how it relates to what I said. Maybe my fault.

Oct 8, 2014 - 7:12pm

Nobody said this would be easy

To conclude, however, that the world is 'run' by sociopaths or 'is' evil is just depressing. That has nothing to do with whether or not it is true, of course, but it would suck if you believed it and it turned out not to be true, or to be an exaggeration.

Just because one accepts that the world is "run" by sociopaths does not mean that one only sees evil. There is a lot of good on this beautiful planet, but a matrix has been put in place to scare the shit out of people until they live in blind ignorance of the evil that a few are committing on the many. The only way these sociopaths are going to be stopped is if enough good people have the nuts to recognize this evil and bring it into the daylight. I don't think it is fair to my fellow man to not expose this evil wherever and whenever I see it, even if some think I am a nutter. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, "You can ignore politics (sociopaths, bankers), but you can't ignore the consequences of ignoring politics (sociopaths, bankers).

I don't know how one can look into the headlines from just this year, and not recognize that some sort of nefarious plot is playing out. Wars, pandemics, nuclear disaster, terror, militarized police, whistleblowers, missing airplanes, and on, and on and on... Just random bad luck that our wonderful leaders are working diligently to solve I am sure!

Bollocks, I got what you were saying about conspiracy theories, but I could care less!

Alonzo Jazzberry
Oct 8, 2014 - 7:49pm

@ag1969 - Just random bad luck

I don't know how one can look into the headlines from just this year, and not recognize that some sort of nefarious plot is playing out. Wars, pandemics, nuclear disaster, terror, militarized police, whistleblowers, missing airplanes, and on, and on and on... Just random bad luck that our wonderful leaders are working diligently to solve I am sure!

These are depressing headlines, no mistake, but I guess I don't seem them in the same light. I turn history back not even one chapter, and I see....

Wars? The last 50 years of US war combined, all that military might we have expended across the globe for better or worse, pales in comparison to a single week on the fields of Verdun. Pandemics? The total death toll wrought by Ebola is but a rounding error on the 1918 Spanish Flu. Missing airplanes? The ocean is deep and vast, it took two years to find the last one (AF 447), no doubt this one will be found as soon as we've forgotten about it.

So yes, random luck, but I don't see it as bad - personally I feel quite lucky to be alive in such an era!

The monetary policy experimentation worries me, which is why my friend pointed me here a few months ago, but all this other stuff I just don't get.

Oct 8, 2014 - 8:16pm


First of all, thank you for another excellent contribution- We genuinely appreciate the effort (and the time it takes to do this)! Outstanding, as usual!

Second, as an olden-times ZH fan who appreciates the connotations of the old rallying cry "Gold, Bitches!", I thought you would appreciate this:

In the thread on 2nd Ebola victim, one dude logged-on and just posted:

Run, Bitches!

I just love gallows humor.

Oct 8, 2014 - 10:01pm

Thanks all

Like I said, the parade in Grozny prevented me from letting this occasion go unremarked. It's kinda like Kurds or South Iraqi Shia celebrating Saddam's b-day, or Afghan tribesmen holding a Soviet commemorative day circa 1992. The only worrisome aspect in all this is the timing. Like athletes preparing for a major race, the peak fervor of nationalistic and, paternal adulation must be correctly TIMED to peak at exactly the right time. Is there an impending event warranting such preparation, or is this just SOP? @Pining - I SAW that comment on ZH and thought the same thing! @Alonzo - you clearly have not read much history. Or did, just refuse to acknowledge. Stick around a while, read more. At a minimum you'll be pleasantly bemused. Just out of curiosity, how low odds on a specific sequence of events would make you question their possible non-random distribution? Means, motive and opportunity + a little critical thinking. You'll get there.

Alonzo Jazzberry
Oct 8, 2014 - 10:30pm


you clearly have not read much history. Or did, just refuse to acknowledge. Stick around a while, read more. At a minimum you'll be pleasantly bemused. Just out of curiosity, how low odds on a specific sequence of events would make you question their possible non-random distribution? Means, motive and opportunity + a little critical thinking. You'll get there.

I am now keenly aware of how ignorant you believe me to be, so these condescending reminders are of little value. As far as your question: I know what all of those words mean (I use advanced statistics in my day job pretty regularly), but it's difficult discern what you are trying to ask. A sequence of events being of low probability does not preclude it from being random, the concepts are more or less orthogonal. As an example, a shuffled deck of cards is obviously random, but every deck is also of such low probability that the same sequence of cards has almost certainly never existed in the history of the universe.

Anyway, no need to be hostile. I was just giving my 2 cents.

Mr. Fix
Oct 8, 2014 - 10:32pm
Oct 8, 2014 - 10:52pm

OK I think Ebola needs to get

OK I think Ebola needs to get the Hitler or at very least Nazi tag. Abuse and overuse of something that serious lacks the thrill of an intelligent insult or argument and it's waaay overdone now.

Oct 8, 2014 - 10:56pm

Harvey's Up! (TFMR)

Harvey's Up! https://www.tfmetalsreport.com/comment/625126#comment-625126

  • Mark O'Byrne (Goldcore): Hardly a day goes by without a headline on the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa and now in Spain and in the U.S. With more than 3,500 deaths and about 8,000 reported cases, it is one of the most severe disease outbreaks in recent years. So far, there has been little attention on the financial and economic consequences of a pandemic. Global economic growth remains weak and vulnerable and the global financial system remains very fragile. The ebola virus has the potential to be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Stocks and commodities fell globally today due to concerns about the spread of Ebola and declining economic growth. Precious metals bounced from near multi month lows. Airlines led the sector lower, having come under pressure from the spread of the Ebola virus to Europe. Shares in travel companies including budget carrier Easyjet, Iberia owner International Airlines Group and cruise company Carnival are down for a second day after a Spanish nurse in Madrid became the first person outside Africa to contract the deadly Ebola virus.
  • Goldcore on End of Chinese Holiday: Chinese bullion investors are back after their week-long National Day holiday and initial signs are that Chinese demand remains robust. Gold jewellery sales rose 106% at Hangzhou Department Store, at Tianjin stores gold and silver jewellery sales rose more than 40% according to data from the commerce ministry reported by Reuters. However, there are no overall jewellery sales figures available.
  • The bounce higher in gold and silver in recent days is encouraging from a technical perspective. Gold may have seen a triple bottom which is a strong technical signal which often signals the reversal of a recent downtrend and can often occur prior to a resumption of a bull market. It is too early to call the bottom as in. Prudent buyers will continue to accumulate through dollar cost averaging into bullion.
  • Tom Braithwaite and Tracy Alloway: The world's biggest banks have agreed to tear up the rulebook on derivatives to make it easier to resolve a future failing institution like Lehman Brothers. People familiar with the matter said 18 bank "dealers," ranging from Credit Suisse to Goldman Sachs, have agreed to give up the right to pull the plug on derivatives contracts with a crisis-stricken institution. Several months of complex talks involved regulators and asset managers but were led by dealers under the umbrella of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. US regulators, who have previously condemned the industry's crisis planning as inadequate, had demanded banks come up with a plan to stop their counterparties terminating derivatives contracts in the event of a crisis. The banks portrayed the success of the talks as a rare positive example of industry collaboration. ISDA is due to announce the agreement to change its "protocols," which govern the $700 trillion market, in the next few days. They will take effect from January 1, 2015.
  • Bill Holter: QE by the major western economies can be looked at as the inflation rate going higher. In both Europe and Japan, the money supplies are increasing, their currencies are dropping in value and "stuff", all stuff costs more. The problem is that both central banks (as is also the Fed) are pushing on a string and cannot get already overlevered borrowers to borrow more or spend much of the credit the central banks are creating. There are also other problems the strong dollar brings with it. It makes our production of goods (what's left of it) more costly and thus less competitive, it makes dollar denominated debt more difficult to carry and it also lowers any profits made by U.S. companies as the foreign currencies earned are worth less. A stronger dollar that moves as fast as it had recently also has the potential to set derivatives off balance and as derivatives are now larger than the system itself ...a danger to the system itself. Remember this, ANY big moves in a short period of time have the ability to bankrupt holders of derivatives and the "chain" is only as strong as the weakest link. Should a large Japanese, European, U.S. or other bank become insolvent because of losses in the FOREX market, they ALL will become insolvent in a very fast "financial virus" or chain reaction type of event. The U.S. economy and financial system have become a mirage, and, as such, we will see another round of new, bigger and badder QE once the realities begin to set in. Creating new dollars via credit is the only tool left in the Fed's bag of tricks.
  • UMIT BEKTAS (Reuters): Turkey's president said on Tuesday the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani was "about to fall" as Islamic State fighters pressed home a three-week assault that has cost a reported 400 lives and forced thousands to flee their homes. The prospect that the town could be captured by Islamic State, who are now within city limits, has increased pressure on Turkey to join an international coalition to fight against the jihadists. Islamic State wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its grip on the border area and consolidate the territorial gains it has made in Iraq and Syria in recent months. U.S.-led air strikes have so far failed to prevent its advance on Kobani. Turkey said it was pressing Washington for more air strikes, although President Tayyip Erdogan said bombing was not enough to defeat Islamic State, and he set out Turkey's demands for additional measures before it could intervene. "The problem of ISIS (Islamic State) ... cannot be solved via air bombardment. Right now ... Kobani is about to fall," he said during a visit to a camp for Syrian refugees.

Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
Mark 13:34-35 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:



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