Finance, markets, business etc:
- Jeff Snider debates Joseph Wang regarding whether the Fed really controls the dollar.
- The Canadian dollar is decoupling from oil.
- Getting to grips with the lesser known commodity shortage emerging out of the War: the market for neon and helium. [This is a big deal because of how it impacts semi-conductor production. I was part of a discussion with the CEO of Renergen, a helium producer, on Feb 22 so I thought I would link to it here to archive his warnings about helium shortages back then. Go to 16.40 for the background gas talk and 21.00 for the neon/helium talk.]
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the international body charged with setting standards for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism best practice — has completed a strategic review of its policies. I was asked to moderate a RUSI panel discussing the main outcomes. [For me the big takeaways were: 1) The u-turn on earlier recognition that FATF rules could have unexpected bad consequences on human rights in nations that decide exploit counter-terrorism rules to suppress dissidents. 2) The escape of Londongrad from any grey or black-lists due to the structural composition of FATF. 3) The ruling on bearer securities in conjunction with efforts to increase transparency about beneficial ownership — because who knew bearers were still in operation? 4) The growing politicisation of FATF as a body. 5) The fact that sanctions are a political tool rather than an anti-criminal measure — meaning FATF may soon have to deal with some major moral conflicts, including the need to de-criminalise activities previously considered criminal, such as the funding of weapons, transport and other resources in the name of fighting Russia.]
From the “Fake News” zone:
- How did the war really begin? (Russell Brand looks into the events leading to the 2014 Ukraine revolution.)
- Steve Kirsch, inventor of the optical mouse, says the vaccines are killing more people than they are saving. [When Kirsch isn’t lobbying about vaccine side-effects or inventing optical mice, he likes to talk about improving financial settlement as CEO of blockchain fintech M10. I happened to moderate an online panel with him in October 2021. I don’t really have anything against him but I wasn’t entirely convinced he understood the difference between base money and the other M multipliers, despite operating a company called M10. Make of that what you will.]
From the energy markets:
- Extinction Rebellion are back. [I was listening to Julia Hartley-Brewer debating both a labour shadow minister and a climate activist about this topic this morning. Overall she did a good job at pushing back against the most egregious nonsense coming out of the green lobby, such as the idea that going full net-zero will somehow help increase our independence.But she missed some key points. The key reason why the renewable independence argument is insanity squared is because you have to have the capability to burn cheap fossil fuels to fund the renewable transition in the first place.
The green lobby’s inability to understand this basic fact amounts to total negligence in the best case scenario or intentional sabotage by whoever their primary financiers may be in the worst case one.
You simply cannot switch into renewables cold turkey overnight. And btw, it is CHINA that is the number one producer of solar modules. How’s that for independence? The rationale behind the natgas transition is simple. Moving out of the most polluting fossil fuels, such as coal and heating oil, and into higher intensity cleaner ones like natgas achieves an overall reduction in fossil fuel emissions — meaning progress is being made. If you shut off that reliable base supply and go into precarious renewable dependence, you run the much higher risk that when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow that you will have to burn coal, heating oil or, worse still, wood. That’s a step backwards not forwards.
The final bit of nonsense that keeps getting expressed is that we somehow don’t need our own dependable natgas resources because we have the ability to tap into a global market for LNG. Well guess what. Number 1, that market still needs investing in — something that has been stigmatised because of the mob attack on European oil producers. Number 2, LNG is far more energy intensive than pipelined gas due to the sheer liquefaction variable which expends energy in its own right. Insulating your home, meanwhile, is all very well but it’s going to do little to lower your household energy costs if there’s still an overall energy deficit in the country. Energy, unlike money, cannot be printed. It’s also massively inelastic. Why is this fact so difficult to understand?]
- An insightful background interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski in Le Nouvel Observateur from 1998. [Brzezinski admits the Americans wanted to draw the Russians into an “Afghan trap” by secretly funding the Mujahideen to trigger Russian intervention. He’s basically admitting to the plotline of The Living Daylights.]
- US abandons plans to transfer Polish MiG-29s to Kyiv. [I’m not entirely sure people are getting the significance of this story. Seems to me Washington was technically encouraging Poland (with the offer of shiny new US planes) to single-handedly trigger an escalation in the war by supplying the MiGs to Ukraine from its own territories. This would clearly put Poland in the direct firing line of Moscow. Poland’s rather clever counter offer was to transfer the jets to Germany and have another NATO member take the fallout risk. Seems Germany/US weren’t so keen to be blamed directly so the deal has unsurprisingly been squashed.]
- I got to ask the former US ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker — formerly a US special representative for Ukraine and famous for err, this incident — a question about financial sanction blowback. [I wasn’t very reassured by his reply to be honest. I’ll be publishing the transcript later today.]
- The Chinese are joining in in the Russian narrative about there being US-controlled bioweapons labs in Ukraine. [There’s some Kobayashi Maru going on here too. I’m told from a couple of sources that “our side” believes the Russians are pre-casting this “disinformation” so that they can launch a biological weapon attack on Ukraine and blame it on the US.]